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I picked up the key – my key – to the apartment my son and I would soon call home.

I tried to figure out just what I could take. If I took too much – or the wrong things – I feared the price we’d pay.

I made the reservation for a U-Haul, knowing that I didn’t have the money to pay for it, but that it was the only option.

I learned that my son had been suspended from school, on moving day – inappropriate language. I was hoping to protect him from the process of moving but now he would have to help.

I had $74.87 in my checking account that had to cover the U-Haul, gas, food, laundry and basic needs for the two of us for six days.

I was terrified.

I grieved the life I thought we’d have. The family I so desperately wanted.

I was convinced that he would see his abuse was the problem. That he’d seek help. That he would change. That we would be the family I knew we could be.

364 days ago …

The emotional damage I allowed him to inflict on my son became vividly clear within days of the move.The realization of just how damaged I had become would materialize much later.

It hasn’t been easy. Not a single day. I’ve tried to make the impact on my son minimal, but he has often had to do without.

I’ve had to apply for financial assistance to help offset the cost for him to attend church camp and youth fall retreat, sharing very personal information with complete strangers so that they could judge if we were worthy of their money.

I’ve had to file for bankruptcy, facing the public embarrassment of admitting I could not meet my financial obligations.

I’ve had to get food from a food bank, more than once – waiting in line for hours with those people – hoping I wouldn’t see anyone I knew, but never being quite that lucky. Feeling waves of humiliation and shame each time and never telling my son.

Many days I’ve felt like a charity case – a project for someone – not quite human.

Although we remain married, I suspect he will eventually find someone else who is prettier – smarter – more concerned with the image and the things so important to him.  When that day comes, I’ll be faced with the reality I’ve been avoiding – even denying.  The reality that confirms I wasn’t enough for him, and will never be enough for anyone – just like he told me years ago.

364 days ago …

It was the right thing to do.  It was the only thing to do. But I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t do it for myself.  If it weren’t for my son I’d have never left.  I still believe that I don’t deserve any better. That settling is my only option to combat a life of loneliness.  But my son?  My son?  He deserves better.

I wish I could have done it for me.