Putting Together The Pieces
I was quietly playing in my bedroom the day my mom came up the stairs and told me to pack some clothes.
She spoke in a hushed voice, with a quickness to it that told me to act fast.
My four year old brother was asleep. So was my dad.
I grabbed my full bag and eased through the saloon style door that separated my brother’s room from mine and watched my mother shove his socks and underwear into a paper bag. He was still sleeping when she scooped him up over her shoulder.
"Come on," she whispered. "We’re leaving."
We made it out the door and into the car, thinking we were in the clear - that we hadn’t woken him. But as the last of the doors shut, I saw him.
My dad threw open the front door and bound out in a rage onto the front porch. I remember the look on his face. He looked afraid. He was flushed.
And then he started screaming.
Yelling at my mom for her to stop, to come back. Asking her where she was going. Where she was taking his children. All of us were crying.
I heard the tires slip on the rocks as my mom reversed out of the driveway and sped down the road.
We went to my aunt’ house. She hugged my mom. My dad called on the phone, and I remember her picking it up. She said my mom didn’t want to talk to him and not to call again.
That’s all I remember.
I wasn’t surprised when I parents separated. In fact, I welcomed it. Mostly.
I was sick of the yelling. The slamming of doors that woke me from my sleep late at night. I was sick of hearing to my mom cry.
I was sick too, of walking so carefully around my dad, fearful of stepping on a landmine. There were so many things I could do to set him off. Talk too much, squirm too much, not answer correctly, say something silly, spill something on the counter, fall down and hurt myself (being careless and/or clumsy).
When my parents split, I thought I was escaping all of that. What I didn’t realize though, was that my mom would be the only one escaping it. My brother and I weren’t able to.
We went over to my dad’s house every other day and alternating weekends.
His temper seemed worse, and I’m sure it was.
Due to their separation, he was forced to sell the dream house he had just finished building and filed for bankruptcy. He moved into Gull Run Apartments after living on a beautiful lake with a log home, ski boat and intact family. I see now that he was a broken, resentful and depressed man.
I was in 5th grade, and the only one of my friends who’s parents weren’t together. That was a lonely feeling. No one understood.
But I continued to remind myself of the good things that came of their divorce, perhaps to a fault.
See, I was so preoccupied with what a relief it was that my parents wouldn’t be fighting anymore and feeling happy for my mom that she “made it out,” of such an uphappy marriage, I heavily suppressed my own feelings.
In sixth grade, I suffered from constant stomach aches. My mom took me to the doctor to no avail. Every scan showed there was nothing physically wrong with me.
Finally my dad came over one day, sat down next to me on the couch and told me I had to go to school. He told me he knew there was nothing wrong with me - that it was all in my head. I had to force myself to keep going. Even if it was hard.
So I did. I kept going. And it was hard.
Through my teenage years and later into early adulthood, I found it all too easy to blame my father for everything.
He was to blame for my parent’s relationship. He was to blame for my insecurities. Everything that went wrong was as a result of his temper, lack of patience and mood swings. I was unhappy and it was all his fault.
I began cutting myself when I was 15. I blamed that on him too. So much so that I told my mom I didn’t want to see him anymore. I couldn’t be around him without feeling like something was really wrong with me.
So I stayed at my mom’s house while my brother, then 9, continued going to my dad’s house.
I watched as Dad’s car pulled into my mom’s driveway. He didn’t get out, he’d just honk the horn. My brother would say goodbye, sometimes pausing to ask if I was sure I didn’t want to come. I didn’t go. But I cried every time.
When my mom asked me why I hurt myself, I couldn’t give her an answer. I honestly didn’t know.
Now, nearly 6 years after I’ve stopped inflicting harm on myself, I’m just beginning to unravel the reason.
During my years of teenage angst and rebellion, I often spoke of my disenchantment with monogamy and domestication. The “picture perfect family with a great home surrounded by a white fence,” was my arch enemy.
I told myself it was because I was an artist. That I just wanted something different from the cliche.
It is what we want most that we so often push away, right?
Years later, as the mother of two gorgeous children with an amazing, attractive, talented and smart partner, I am living the dream.
The dream that I thought was impossible. The dream I wanted as a child that I had lost all hope in.
That’s just it: I had lost hope.
When my own family fell apart - when my parent’s dream caved in - I began to think it was an impossible feat.
My self esteem was low. Then my friend’s parents started separating too. When my mom met and married someone I couldn’t stand, what could I trust marriage worked? How could I trust anyone?
So I rebelled from domestication. Moved 3,000 miles away with a woman and flew my freak flag high.
Three years later I moved home, underweight and tired.
I was tired of living a lie.
I wanted to live the dream life. One that I wasn’t sure existed.
That Christmas, I met Eric, and for the first time, I felt a flutter of hope.
Could it be? That I could have it? Maybe…just maybe…I thought. If I can have it with him.
And now here we are. A few potholes in the road, but we’re good. I am healing. Coming to some deep understandings. Listening to my heart and communicating better.
I am secure.
By that I mean, if Eric and I reached the lowest of lows, it could never be worse than breaking up this family. That I know.
So much of my confidence has been restored with that one fact. I rise each day with that knowledge in the back of my mind.
I’m living a life of example, showing my children what it looks like to be a whole family, and piece by piece, a whole person.