“I’m not ready to cut him off,” she said softly, but with conviction.
She looked up at me from the table and said, “I just couldn’t live with myself if something happened to him.”
That was it. That was all she needed to say. “I just couldn’t live with myself,” in that moment, was our version of a safe word. It stopped the conversation cold. And it’s not like we had ever talked about this phrase or agreed to it as holy, but as soon as it was uttered, it was as immutable as a wedding vow. My thinking was that if Joyce couldn’t live with herself because something happened to him, even if it was his own fault, after I’d forced the issue, then she might struggle living with me, or worse, not be able to live with me. And, after all we’d been through, not only with Lucas but with both our other two sons, I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to us. I needed there to be an us. No matter the cost, no matter the pride-swallowing, no matter the concessions I might need to make, there needed to be an us.
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