Chapter 17: Since I Last Saw You
“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger
than the causes of it.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
January 29, 2012
Ali shook her head back and forth. “I’ll be in Italy.”
Isaac searched his calendar for another possible date. “April 14th?”
“I can’t say for sure if I’ll be back by then.”
“There’s an all-day manager’s meeting scheduled for that day,” Ali said apologetically.
“Ali, I don’t see any other possible dates for us all to go to the Tulip Festival together. In the fifteen years we’ve been together, we’ve only missed the festival once, and that was before Zoe was born. She’ll be really disappointed; really disappointed.” Isaac’s exasperation was beginning to show.
“I know, but it’s not as if it’s all my fault. Your race schedule interferes with our family time as much as my work schedule does.”
“That’s not true, and you know it,” said Isaac. “Besides, that’s only during the summer months and I don’t have any control over the dates. You do have some control over your travel schedule.”
“Some is right, but not much. Why do you always make it sound as if I purposely plan to mess up our family time? I’m so tired of being cast as the villain. Stop trying to make me feel guilty about being good at my job,” Ali protested.
“It’s not being good at your job that’s the problem, it’s being gone for your job that’s the problem. My God, the Tulip Festival is two months away and your calendar is already full! You travel more every year and I’m tired of taking up the slack here at home. Zoe is almost ten years old now. She needs her mother. If I thought she only needed one parent, I’d ask for a divorce.” Isaac’s voice was rising with each new allegation.
“Is that what you want? Do you want a divorce? Sometimes I think you want me out of the way so there’s no one to prevent you from sucking Zoe into your thrill-seeking pastimes.” The tone of Ali’s voice matched Isaac’s note for note, becoming shriller and louder with each question and accusation.
“I know you, Isaac. I know you can hardly wait until she’s old enough to jump out of planes with you. You’ve already got her climbing the rock walls at REI and the Fun Center. It won’t be long before she’s begging to climb a real mountain with you.”
“And what’s wrong with that? Why is it wrong for Zoe to crave some adventure? It’s never hurt me!” Isaac challenged.
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting adventure, but it’s our job as her parents to make sure that she stays safe and doesn’t take unnecessary risks.”
“We’ve always disagreed, Ali, on the definition of ‘unnecessary’ risk. I say that taking risks is what makes life worth living. You’ve always been satisfied to be an observer, getting your thrills vicariously—usually through me! You want to keep Zoe in a corner and pack her with cotton so she never gets so much as a scratch!” Isaac was waving his arms for emphasis by this time. The scorn in his words was almost palpable.
Ali inhaled sharply and was about to retaliate with more angry accusations when she looked Isaac squarely in the eye and fell silent for fear of what she saw there. It wasn’t a fear of any physical threat. Isaac had never, and would never lift a hand in anger; she felt certain of that. Rather, it was fear of the disconnection she sensed between them that made her stop. Her sudden silence gave Isaac a chance to pull back and collect himself as well.
How had they come to this point? This was a familiar argument. Why did it seem so much uglier and more serious this time?
Finally, Ali looked at her watch and announced matter-of-factly, “I have to go.”
“I know,” Isaac said flatly. “What time is your flight?”
“Do you need a ride to the airport?”
“No. A coworker is picking me up.”
Their conversation was now devoid of emotion.
“You realize we haven’t resolved anything?” Isaac said.
Looking downtrodden and feeling dispirited, she confirmed his question with a nod of her head as she left the room.
The word “divorce” still hung in the air, as if it had been hoisted up a flagpole in the middle of the room and left flapping in the wind.
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Posted by Alice Kuder, January 12, 2014