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The Same but Different

About a week or so ago, my mother-in-law called me at work. I'd only spoken to her once since my husband broke the news to her and his dad, and though it took every fiber of being, I picked up. I didn't trust myself to call her back, despite knowing it's not really fair to punish her by association. She'd called to thank me for sending pictures from the first day of preschool, but within, oh about 1 minute 27 seconds, she transitioned to "Our Problems." She asked how things were going ("Well, they're weird.") and then told me that my husband had described things as "the same but different."

Which of course is his way of answering his mother's question without actually conveying any information, which is of course why she was calling me. But after we got off the phone, I realized that maybe he was saying a lot. Things are exactly the same but different:

Same: He's here when I get home from work (he still picks up the kid and brings her home from school four nights a week) and then promptly departs. Prior to moving out, he almost always found a way to disappear (upstairs, to the garage, on the computer, to the store) upon my arrival so I ended up spending most evenings alone as I do now.

Same: When we talk, we focus on Miss Monkey 99% of the her day went; what she drew; what funny thing she said.

Same: It's still easier not to make eye contact.

Different: There's no more pretending that everything's ok. No more fakey smiles and half-hearted questions about my day, and no more wondering if this is just a rough patch that will pass.

Different: This is a relief.

Different: Having to answer the question, "When is Daddy coming back?" (Does "tomorrow" or "Monday" actually count as an answer? Because it feels like a complete lie.)

I suppose over time the list of differences will get longer, and the sames shorter. I just have to hope that they'll evenutally add up to something happier and whole.