The first time I lost Jesse was when I left his dad. I don't think Jesse ever really forgave me for that, even when he found out why I left. I don't mean that there was any secret, just that his dad finally started treating Jesse the way he'd treated me. I didn't know what was wrong with his father. I just knew I couldn't tolerate it any more. Nothing I said or did changed anything. I never knew, when I came home back then, who would be there: was it the nice Jaimie, the loving one? Or the jealous, angry, irrational one who believed that the only reason offices existed was so people could cheat. Who would berate me for not getting a full time job when he refused to work, then berated me for being gone at work when I should be home with the kids. Of course he still wasn't working. I could go on with the litany. Throwing a chair at me. Throwing newspapers, whatever was handy. Shaking me so hard my contacts flew out and bruises in the shape of his fingertips formed on my arms. If I showed them to him, he'd laugh and say I bruised too easy.
And yet, when I decided to leave, I didn't believe he'd use the boys against me.
Years later, when he was 18 and his father had disowned him for no real cause, Jesse told me I should have sucked it up and stayed, because I was a mother and that was my job. I wonder if he ever realized what he was saying. I tried to explain. I tried to apologize for all the stupid things I did wrong when I was trying to escape with him and his brother, and failed. Failed him. But all he wanted was for me to say I was wrong to leave his dad, and I could never say that. I told him so. I wish that had been enough for both of us. A beginning of forgiveness. All I've wished for since is his forgiveness. Can the dead forgive?