Til Reality Do We Part…
If they’d stayed married, tomorrow my parents would be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.
As I write this, tears.
Fifteen years ago, I was a child, hugely pregnant with my second child, Austen. The other children were nothing but hopes. Dad came to stay with us. I made meatloaf.
Divorce–and I say this with all my being–sucks.
It is a ripping of the fiber of a family. A renting of the one thing that should never be rent. A betrayal to everyone involved.
You promised. Remember? In sickness and in health. Remember? Yes. But the vows never speak to the other things. The little things. The not-so-little things. The layers of misunderstanding. Of tiny hurts laid upon tiny hurts. Of things said that can never, ever be taken back. Of a love that started so strong that was, one cell at a time, rendered impotent.
Mom. Dad. Why couldn’t you make it work??? Why didn’t you just call it what it was? That you didn’t understand how to make love work, but that you would never, ever leave each other? How could you walk away, taking the forks and writing explanations on 3X5 cards? Wouldn’t a good fight, a good makeup session have made it all better? Don’t all marriages go through dry spells? Times we shout words we don’t mean, or, worse, words we do?
I’ve spent my life trying to make amends. To make sense of it. To fill the gaps. To be a person worth loving. Working my fingers to the bone with it at times.
And I have failed miserably.
Loving is this way, I’ve come to understand. Not one high after the other. Not mending hurts with scripted apologies, followed by hot sex and happily ever after.
Love, as I reminded my little brother right after his wedding, is tender. Ever so weak, it is a sapling,reaching toward the heavens in the hopes of what the future will bring. Time, words, circumstances blow cold winds on that tender thing. It’s a miracle any of us survives.
This year marks fifteen years since my parents split. In that time, I’ve raised a daughter, and a son, almost to adulthood, four other children not yet so far. Late at night fears assail me: What have I taught them, by my example, of love? Of the relationship that is supposed to mirror Christ’s with the Church? Tear-stained prayers usually end in sleep, a blissful release from the realities of that answer.
Marriage is hard. Even for those of us who enter it with everything on our side. It’s hard, at best, to take two fallen humans, put them together 24/7 and say, OK, do this thing. And don’t mess up. Don’t raise your voice, even when you’re up for the 15th time this night. Don’t lose your cool even when all six of your babies are throwing up at the same time. Don’t snap at each other when finances are tight. Don’t bite each other’s head off just because you lost the house.
When I was nine I wrote a list of how a wife should act. Reading it now, I laugh at its naivete. What did I know of life at nine? But I judged, nonetheless.
Fifteen years later, I’m done with that. Yes, I’d give every tooth in my head for them to have stayed together. I grieve the fact that I only ever saw them together with my first child. By the second (and third and fourth and fifth and sixth), they were already apart. I grieve the fact that my kids have no memory of them together.
But I also know that life–and love, if it’s real–is hard. It doesn’t always turn out like a fairy tale. I have a friend who once said to me, “Your family is the most messed up family I have ever heard of.”
Most likely so.
But I love them. Oh how I love them. Those parents who just couldn’t make it work. My two beautiful sisters who have so suffered from the ripple effect. My two brothers, so tall and handsome, trying to be men, husbands…one, a father to four young ones of his own. God, oh God, give us grace.
This messy, ugly, ‘dysfunctional’ family, however scarred, however wounded, is mine. Everything I am, or hope to be, is because of these two parents who struggled along for thirty years, in large part on my behalf.
Yes, I’m sad they aren’t still together. But more than that, I am grateful. Grateful that they held on as long as they did. Grateful for the heritage of faith (yes, faith) they gave me. Grateful for the years of security I did have, for them pulling together, however stiffly at times, to pull off my teenage years, my wedding…
Thank you, Mom. Thank you, Dad. Thank you for doing the best you could. Thank you for holding on, keeping the faith, being strong.
It may not be a storybook ending, but, as I told my friend, it us our story. Ours.
Messy. Messed up. Broken. Bathed in tears.
And God will use it, as He does all things…for His purposes, however He wishes…making beauty of ashes.
Sola Deo Gloria.Posted by wholemama | 355 comments