My parents separated over 18 years ago and since that time, my younger brother and I have seen three marriages between them and one more divorce. We’ve gotten six step-siblings, lived in seven houses, and many times struggled with finding a place in our parent’s new world.
We were told all the right things, things that you don’t understand at 4 and 9. We never thought it was our fault or that we had caused the marriage to end. We never considered that we were capable of breaking apart our family. We were 9 and 4 and had parents that loved us as much as any parents have ever loved their children. They were parents who would have died for us without blinking, parents who went without to give us things we didn’t need. They were great parents, but they couldn’t figure out how to put aside their anger for one another, their hate, and so even though they would have died to give us life, they never figured out how to live to give us something greater.
As we grew up, we saw this and it touched every part of our life. We couldn’t have parties together, because they couldn’t be in a room with one another. Graduations were tense, and though neither parent ever asked, we always felt the silent urging to pick a side. And we usually did.
Through my teenage years, and many after, I settled in the comfortable place that was complete misery. In my head was the idea of the ideal family. A mother and a father, a brother, a dog, somewhere you returned when you wanted to go home, a place to take your children. I looked at cousins, and friends for whom “going home” was so simple, and felt anger and resentment. And because I thought I lost something, I mourned for a life I would never know.
I didn’t belong to anyone.
I didn’t belong anywhere.
To my mother’s family, I would always be “Mike’s daughter.” To my father’s, I was, “Lindi’s.”
I stewed in a constant state of teen angst, fueled by reading too much Sylvia Plath until the year after high school, while on a road trip with my older sister. We were laughing about something I don’t remember. The windows were down as we sped down the interstate and I looked at her sitting beside me, her blond hair whipping around, completely oblivious, singing a Dixie Chicks song at the top of her lungs, and I was struck with the realization that if my dad hadn’t married her mom, I wouldn’t know her. She wouldn’t be the person who I shared inside jokes about the family with, or memories of vacations, and disastrous holidays. She wouldn’t be my sister. I thought about all that we’d done and imagined all we would do, and suddenly felt sad, not at the thought of my parent’s divorce, but at the thought of having a hole in my heart where she should be.
It is the same with my Dad’s wife, my second mom. It is the same with my brother. They’re mine and I am theirs, as it was meant to be.
It took many years, but as I began to grow and look at life with new eyes, I saw how lucky I was to be given so many people to love and to love me, so many people to visit and call, so many who feel love for my children, so many places to call home.
My parents did a lot of things wrong when they got divorced, and I know that to this day it haunts them. But my continual prayer is that one day they will be able to see that what they gave us is so much more than what they took away.