About a month after I joined the Boy Scouts, my patrol and I launched into a three-day camping trip in the wilds of northern New Jersey. Because there were seven of us, the three of us newbies had to sleep in a humongous, three-man Baker tent. Because it was made of canvas, with grommets of pure lead, that thing weighed somewhere between 40 and eight million pounds. And because I drew the short straw, I was the lucky soul who had it lashed to his backpack for the hike into camp.
Considering all the unnecessary stuff that an 11-year-old Tenderfoot might think he'd need for two nights in the woods, my pack weighed just a little less than I did. And when we finally reached the clearing and that pack slid off my shoulders, I floated around for half an hour as if gravity had been repealed.
That's almost exactly how I feel right now: Sweaty and breathless, but free. And only a little concerned that something will leap from the bushes and eat me.
I'm sorry I couldn't write publicly about this past year and a half, and I wish I could tell you all how much your comments, e-mails, voice-mails, DMs, IMs, Morse Codes, carrier pigeons, and smoke signals meant to me. And when I say me, I mean us. Because all four of us will have to get through this and transition to what's next. There's no "bad guy" here, as one of my wife's commenters wrote. There's just two people who have realized they're better off apart, and who above all else want to do right by their kids.
Ever since Robert looked over my shoulder and asked, "Daddy, what's 'Laid-Off Dad'?," I've tried to pay at least some attention to the boys' dignity. It's entirely possible that one day my sons will be able to read these posts, after they scrape them off the underside of some decaying server-cache-thingy. And when they do, they'll see that, when Mom and Dad split up, hundreds of well-wishers--friends and strangers alike--expressed their love, their support, and their confidence that we'll all be okay.
Every divorcing family should be so lucky.