Tomorrow evening, Rob leaves for his third business trip in three and a half weeks. And I had to look at the calendar just now to confirm that it's only been about three weeks, because it seems like he's been coming and going in taxis, on planes, forever.
My sense of time is all out of whack when Rob is gone. On the phone with my dad, I'll start a cute-kid anecdote - "The other day, Westley--" - and realize that "the other day" was really only yesterday. Though it seems like a week ago. Two weeks, even.
When I'm on my own with Westley, time slows down, or stretches out. Somehow, there's more of it; an hour is longer than 60 minutes. But of course there's not enough time to get everything done. I tuck Westley in, say goodnight, and then look around the house. So many things need attention, the same as always. But now more than ever, my head fills with adages and cliches: "If you want something done, do it yourself." "A woman's work is never done." "I'll rest when I'm dead." (Because if I rest now, I'll just have to make breakfast in a dirty kitchen tomorrow morning.)
I fill the days with as many things as I can, both to amuse Westley and also to keep my mind off the slow, stretched-out passage of time. We go to the grocery store in our old neighborhood, because they have a little rooster tchotchke on the deli counter that Westley likes to look at. I drive home the long way, so we get to hear more music in the car. We sit together and read stacks and stacks of books. Books for days.
As I'm caring for Westley solo, I'm intensely aware that I am lucky. My partner will come home. I have a partner who is alive and involved and awesome, with whom I share a home and a bed and a bank account and a life. This alone-ness - this on-my-own-ness - is completely temporary.
I am in awe of people who do this alone, all day every day. Or even all day most days. It's such a relief to me, during my most difficult days at home, to remember that I'm not really in this alone. Under normal circumstances, regardless of what it feels like, my husband is at work (20 minutes away), and will be home for dinner. Not having that parenting partner, that second adult within "hey-can-you-come-home-for-lunch"-calling distance, slows down my internal sense of time more than anything else.
And it's not just my clock that takes a beating. Rob's first comment, after arriving home late Saturday night and spending all of Sunday morning playing with Westley, was, "He's bigger and has so many more words than the last time I saw him!" And today I noticed my husband's hair looking grayer than (I think) it did a week ago.
Temporary or not, single parent time just takes longer.