Tonight we filled out the divorce paperwork.

I had asked that we do it, and K. came over at three (well, 3:20; he was late) to see the kids, so after they went to bed, we planned to sit down.

It was hard watching him with the kids today. He was passive and not especially impressive, lounging on sofas and chairs and deferring to me whenever I was around, but he was reasonably nice. Thing One seemed happy enough to play with him. At one point I suggested he take K. upstairs to play with the train tracks, and he excitedly said, “Dad, we can go upstairs! Mom says so! Let’s go do that! Mom says we can go!”

Odd, but not exactly discouraging. At least Thing One is making progress. Of course, he did say a bit later, “Now Daddy’s going to go home to his other house and you can read me a book!” when it was K. whose “turn” it was to do so, but there you are. Really, the adjustment is probably less jarring for him than it is for me; K. used to work four nights a week, and though the kids would see him a lot more in the late morning/early afternoon, he was barely present on those four days/nights. Now he’s over here two afternoons a week (the last three weeks) and he’s definitely nicer to them, certainly nicer than in fall ’08, just before he moved out, when he was frequently spanking Thing One and calling him an “asshole” and seemed put out by the children more than anything (he doesn’t seem overjoyed to see them now, but at least he’s not actively annoyed).

Anyway, I don’t know what I was expecting. I had been crying on and off some of the day. I was sitting there filling out form after form and wanting to ask “Why are we doing this? What happened?” — not rhetorically — but K. had expressed his impatience and irritation, and had done that thing he does where he first tries not to clean up any of the kids’ dinner mess (from the dinner I cooked and he served them) and then, at my reminder that we would have room after he cleaned up, had done at exceedingly half-assed job — but I knew that to ask those questions was pointless and probably counter-productive. So I bit my tongue and we filled out paperwork and I sat next to the man who’d promised to love and honor me for the rest of my life and thought how easy it is to let go of promises that no longer seem convenient.

He didn’t dispute anything. We filled it out (mostly). He left. I finished wrapping the presents (Thing One has two birthday parties to attend this weekend) and icing the cupcakes (Thing One’s allergies mandate that I bring egg- and dairy-free alternatives to such occasions). I thought about how I learned in the country mandated parenting class that such expenditures (birthday presents, music and sports lessons, field trips, after-school activities, etc.) were not part of the child support and how, really, K. should contribute to them, but how he probably wouldn’t because he would not see that by not contributing he was limiting his son’s activities; he would only see that he wasn’t with Thing One at the parties and so any presents or treats were immaterial.

In other words, for K. things are ending. He’s signing this papers — and disputing nothing, really — and he’s done.

For my children and me, things are just beginning.

I wish it would stop hurting so much. I try to be philosophical. I try to believe that things are better this way. But mostly I hate having to live in a world where your husband, the person who was your main support and confidant and safety, can betray and abandon you so totally. Having to live in this world is a hell I never imagined. Having to see his vague impatience and total lack of regret or compassion or empathy, having to see him not seem to care about anything but his exit strategy, having to clean up his mess and look at his impassive face without shaking him and crying, “what happened to you? What happened to us?” — this is more painful than anything I could have imagined.

Having to understand that I can never again take refuge in his arms when I feel this way, nor offer him mine, is still worse. Having to think about the break of faith with my own promise and desire to forsake all others that I will inevitably make in order to continue living is equally bad.

And having to do all this and watch him so often neglect and withhold and fail to respond to his children, watch him show up late and cancel and gradually let his time be eroded, and realize that he is teaching them that a father is someone who has better things to do, is more painful even than that.