D brought pictures of the day Katie was born, and every piece of paper associated with her birth. He saves things from their reconnection, too. For example, he has the receipt for the Diet Coke and Hot and Spicy Cheez-Its he brought to their first meeting. (N told him she loves them.)
Before we left for the restaurant, Katie asked me not to cry. She said tears would make D uncomfortable, that he's not like N (who cries rivers along with me every time we meet). I didn't expect it to be a problem--for some reason, I don't feel quite as emotional about D as about N.
To our great amazement, D was the one whose eyes filled with tears as we looked through the photos and talked about Katie's birth. It's clear that reconnecting with her means a lot to him.
By the time we left, D felt like a member of our extended family, someone I'll look forward to seeing at family gatherings and whose life I will be connected to forever, if somewhat distantly.
Sunday was the graduation ceremony and dinner. Bill and Kathy made it through traffic faster than we did, and they saved seats for the rest of us. Stephanie (Katie's oldest friend, who is part of our family) and Craig sat between them and me, but we leaned across to speak a few times.
The ceremony itself was two very long hours interrupted by the thrilling 15 seconds when Katie walked across the stage to receive a faux diploma.
Afterward, we gathered at a restaurant. Bill and Kathy and Craig's mom (his dad wasn't feeling well and couldn't be there) were at the table when we arrived. The order in which we approached the table made it logical for me to sit next to Kathy. Katie and Stephie caught my eyes in a little panic, but I shook my head, smiled, and took my seat. Anything else would have been awkward, and I'm all about the peace these days.
As I took off my coat and settled my belongings, I thought, "How would you act if you didn't know her history?" I literally felt years of antipathy take a seat in the far back corner of my consciousness, leaving room for other, more generous thoughts. It's not like I no longer remember how unkind and unfair she's been to my children for 16 years, but I've stopped carrying those memories like a weapon. I simply don't need to be right about her anymore.
Her actions have created the relationship she has with the kids. That really is their business, not mine. My business is helping make these situations more comfortable for everyone. I smiled at her and said, "Katie tells me you've been having trouble with your back. How are you doing now?" We were off and running in a two-hour conversation that included genuine laughter and shared memories.
When we parted, Bill and I shook hands. I thanked him for splitting the tab with me, and we agreed to talk after the holidays. Kathy hugged me and wished me Merry Christmas.
Let me say that again: Kathy hugged me and wished me Merry Christmas. It's true that I'm making a huge effort here, but it's equally true that they are rising to the occasion.
We've come a long way from the time when Kathy stormed out of Parent's Night because I sat down at the table beside Evan, a long way from the time
See? I'm still struggling. I almost wrote out a list of some of her more egregious transgressions over the years. Like any other practice, peace is an on-going mission.
I'm working on it.