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A Cold Meal of Acceptance by Shirley Alcott
 

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  • I got home at 5:40 after a small bit of shopping. I bought good ingredients because I like to cook. Just this morning I made a wonderful ground bison, cabbage, sweet potato and hot pepper hash spiced with cumin. The empty pyrex container was in the sink along with a rinsed out wine glass. They made me sigh. Sure, there were other dishes too, from my 14 year old daughter who comes over midday after school because I live close to the high school where she goes and her dad teaches. But it was his dishes that made me feel ever more tired.

    It was my first day back at work after five weeks of disability and I was exhausted. Though I don't have many complaints for all I have been through of late. It sounds overwhelming but was mostly felt as one thankful moment after another. Late January I had had a double masectomy for early stage breast cancer. The recovery and healing went without a hitch, and I had so many wonderful friends and family around to help, and wonderful long sunny days to myself in my beautiful home to heal and recenter. As a working professional, I had a good disability benefit, and top notch insurance that allowed me some of the best medical care. So have very few complaints. About the only one being those dishes and all they represented.

    Back 8 months ago, two months before my cancer diagnosis, I made the difficult move out of the family home my husband and I shared for the last 13 years, away frm our 20nyears of marriage and into my own place. Every action on my part, before, during and after that move was aimed at keeping things amicable so that our three children wouldn't suffer much from the failure of our relationship. And all that amicableness, every boundary I didn't set, every anger I kept to myself, a well worn pattern from our marriage, led to him feeling completely at ease in my new home, free to eat and drink whatever he could find in my fridge or cabinets during his daily drop-off of our daughter to my house, free to leave dishes in the sink, wrappers on the counter, lights on. The list goes on.

    The hash I made in the morning was to be my dinner. My alone-no-kids-tonight dinner. How do I say "Please stop feeling so at home in my house." to someone that I need to stay on good terms with? It is in my nature to give a stranger my last dollar if they need it, to stop and always listen when my kids need me to, and to always extend the branch of healing and hope to those I am in a relationship with. And we will continue to be in a relationship as our kids bind us together for life. All that is okay. I don't begrudge him the food he ate and the wine he drank, but only the permission he did not ask and the dirty dishes he left behind.

    I ate cold leftovers from further back in the fridge and formed the conversations in my mind of how to confront him. But they always ended the same; his hurt, his anger, his totally missing the point, his cool politeness and side remarks to the kids, their uncomfortableness and defense of him, my frank but stern explanation to them (the first round of course had been about money), and the sadness that would settle on us all.

    As I finish my cold meal alone on the couch, I know I will not say a word to him. Instead, I reach out in the large empty space I call home, my home, to find more acceptance.
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