Friday, January 25, 2008

And There is Still Just One

The last week of January is always a hard one for me. In addition to the frigid weather, and the cabin fever which often accompanies it, the dark nights which come on so early, and the predictable inability to get out and run the route I have often trudged through our neighborhood due to the ice on the streets, the last week of January also presents an anniversary which is always accompanied by complex emotional baggage. It's a place I don't like going in my memory.

January 25th is the anniversary of my parent's separation. It is the anniversary of the day when I was in 5th grade and was met at the door on an unseasonably warm and damp January day by my parents, still dressed in their work clothes, who sat me down in the orange shag-carpeted and wood-paneled family room and told me that my father would be moving out. It is the anniversary of the day when I ran upstairs to my room with my trusted Shetland sheepdog, Misty, and locked the door. It is the anniversary of the day that despite my mother's begging me to open the door, and my father's sobs, a sound I had never heard before and hope to never hear with such force again, I curled up in a ball with one hand covering my ears and one hand clutching the ruff of Misty's neck as I sobbed my own angry tears. And refused to allow anyone in to comfort me.

When you are an only child of parents who have divorced, even when the divorce was a good divorce, a healthy divorce, even when the divorce presented new life possibilities which allowed wonderful step-parents into your life who nurtured you far more than you ever could have hoped, there is still a strange anniversary which you seem to mourn alone. There is no one to share the grief that comes with being the sole survivor of the shipwreck of your parents marriage. No one I can call today and remember the details of the story, no one to confirm whether my memories are accurate, no one to ponder over the nuances of the what-ifs.

I don't usually share this anniversary with my parents, because it isn't really their story to tell, and it simply is what it is, and there is no going back, no change that can be made. My mom and dad have their own stories to tell of that time in our lives--stories of what led them to make the decision to dissolve a union, a decision which must have been wracked with questions and guilts and sadnesses all their own. They both must have wrestled with how to do what was best for me, with what this meant for me, with how they could accompany me in my grief while maintaining their own sanity in an insane time. I remain committed in my belief that remembering this anniversary is not about placing blame or desiring that they feel remorse. It is a day when I need to sort through my own reflections, when I need to scour the insides of my own heart again to create a fresh perspective.

This is a day when I stand alone without siblings, without even the presence of that Shetland sheepdog who has long been gone, and reflect on how this pivotal event has shaped and changed me, for the better, and occasionally, rarely, for the worse. I am the sole survivor of this particular and common family tragedy.

But while it is a day of solemn remembrance for me, it is not a day without hope, for the relationships I have with each of my parents is richer, I believe, than it may have been had they stayed married. And the step-families that entered my life have made me a more whole person, I believe, than I would have been without each of their unique imprints on my being. And now there is a little person who has two extra grandparents, and a host of extra family, who love him.

And he will not know what it means to be alone. Not if I can help it.


Jill Davis Doughtie said...

This is so sad and beautiful.

Lois said...

What a poignant, painful memory! I weep for that little fifth grade girl in her distress, and I rejoice with the mature young woman who can now say that God can bring forth good from what at the time seemed to be intolerable grief and pain. Thank you for sharing this, dear Contemplative Chaplain. Lois

yeb said...

wow. thank you so much for posting this. truly, thank you. i'm on my way to being a stepmom of a six year old, and this gives such raw insight into that world.

AnneDroid said...

I'm so glad my random browsing of blogs this evening led me to yours, and to this moving posting. Thank you for sharing this. As a prison chaplain I find that broken relationships are a part of many offenders' lives - their own or their parents' relationships. You've given me an added insight into the pain. Ax