Last week, Corinne, my wife, and I were walking on the beach. There was little chatter, both introverts, we are more than comfortable in our silence.
The day was gorgeous. The sun was bright, the sky was blue, and speckled with creamy puffs of whip-cream, creatively changing shapes above our heads. The water’s ebb and flow teased our feet, and the air smelt salty, crisp, and clean.
Glancing at my feet, I noticed a perfectly rounded shell, and my first thought was, “Gosh, that would be a perfect home for a hermit crab!”
That one thought took me back some 17 years ago…and not to a happy place, but to a place of anguish within my heart. Who knew I still carried such intense emotion on my sleeve…and that it could be just as raw as the first day I experienced it.
Seventeen years ago I divorced my husband of eighteen years. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my life. It went against everything I had been raised to believe…it went against the faith that I had clung to all of my life, but I was gay, and I could live the lie no more. At the age of 36 I told my husband, a good man, the truth I had known from a child.
We had two beautiful children, that we loved with all of our hearts. The time came when I had to tell them I was moving out. That moment is by far, the hardest moment of my entire life. Their brokenhearted cries haunt me still. Sometimes it is so strong that I can do nothing but breakdown and weep.
Now, you may be wondering how the perfect hermit crab, habitat…the shell…could awaken such painful memories. Here’s why…
It had been several months since I had moved. My husband and I had agreed to joint custody. The week would be divided between us. We loved our children so much that we agreed to not “bad-mouth” each other in their presence. Our common goal was to make this transition as easy as possible. So, even though there was much anger and hurt between us, we chose to support each other for their sake. Every three to four days they would stay with me, and the other three to four days with their dad.
On this particular day, they were coming to stay with me after a trip to the beach with their dad. The door burst open and my son came inside with an expression of excitement and a handful of shells.
“Mama, look! I found these for my hermit crab,” I heard him say.
Now, if you know anything about hermit crabs, you’d know that as they mature they outgrow their shells, so, it’s very important to have bigger shells close by for such an occasion.
I looked at the beautiful shells he held in his little hands, and I wanted to cry. His hermit crab had died while he was away. Once again I had to tell him something that was going to hurt, and as I did I watched his face fall from happiness to helplessness. Witnessing this transformation my heart ached , and I hated myself because I couldn’t protect and shield him from the pain I saw in his eyes.
Seventeen years later, I stood barefoot on the beach, my heart breaking at the sight of the perfect shell.
It will always be there…sitting upon my sleeve…and I deserve it.