Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Legacy of Divorce

Last night we watched Mrs. Doubtfire.  It is a movie I have seen time and time again.  It is often one of the Saturday afternoon movies playing on some random cable channel.  While we were flipping through the Netflix selection, we had it narrowed down to Mrs. Doubtfire and Ghostbusters.  Parker picked that "not a ghost movie," so Robin Williams dressing as an old lady it was!  I love this movie, I always have so I wasn't worried about sitting with Parker and mr watching it after a busy afternoon.  Towards the end of the movie Parker fell asleep so mr and I were chatting more than watching.  The ending monologue, spoken by Mrs. Doubtfire on her show came on.  I remembered then why I typical skip the end of this movie....that monologue makes me cry.
"Dear Mrs Doubtfiire - Two months ago my mom and dad decided to separate." "Now they live in different houses." "My brother Andrew says that we aren't a real family any more. Is this true?" "Did I lose my family?" "Is there anything I could do to get my parents back together?" "Sincerely, Katie McCormick."

Oh, my dear Katie. You know, some parents get along much better when they don't live together. They don't fight all the time and they can become better people. Much better mommies and daddies for you. And sometimes they get back together. And sometimes they don't, dear. And if they don't, don't blame yourself. Just because they don't love each other doesn't mean that they don't love you. There are all sorts of different families, Katie. Some families have one mommy, some families have one daddy, or two families. Some children live with their uncle or aunt. Some live with their grandparents, and some children live with foster parents. Some live in separate homes and neighborhoods in different areas of the country. They may not see each other for days, weeks, months or even years at a time. But if there's love, dear, those are the ties that bind. And you'll have a family in your heart for ever. All my love to you, poppet. You're going to be all right. Bye-bye. 

It is rare that I think about my parent's divorce. Obviously there are times that I talk about it with other people who have had similar situations or if I need to clarify who exactly Pat and Lilia are in my life. But actually thinking about my life before their divorce, during and after.....I don't think about it. There isn't really a reason to. That last part of the movie though, it hit a part of me that I have buried. It took me back to a time that I watched that at my mom's house shortly after they split up. I can't trust my memory 100% but I think she rented it without fully knowing what it was about, but needless to say, it was a cry-fest.

 Last night it was as though I was 13 again. It was painful. mr asked me something about my parent's spliting up, whether it was my mom or my dad. With the emotion that I was feeling from relating to that final quote and him asking my specifics about it, I transformed further into the memory of new pain. I know there are so many instances that went into the reason of my parent's divorce but I don't honestly know who finally said, this is it. I hope/feel/believe that they tried to reconcile. I don't really ever want to know a truth that is different from them trying their absolute hardest to stay married. There was counseling. For them. For us. For each of my sisters and I. Yes, I need to think/hope/believe that they did try their hardest. It is impossible to believe that it was an "easy" decision for either of them. It had been 23 years. While talking to mr about it, he mentioned that he could never see each of my parents being a couple. I get what he means. How could he picture it? When a relationship ends and each individual grows and moves on without the other person, no one can ever imagine those individuals made a couple-ever. When he said that, internally I was defensive. But then it was hard for me to remember too.

If squeeze my eyes tight, I can picture a kiss that I witnessed on New Year's Eve at my cousin's wedding. It was the first kiss that I witnessed and remember with passion behind it. I remember hearing the mailbox open and close on the front of the house right before my dad put his key in the door after a day of work.  They would go to their room for about a half hour and preferred to have their time together.  I remember being in the camper in Florida and my dad jumping in the door scaring the shit out of my mom, she smacked him hard in the arm for that. It is hard to think of the memories I have of them being a couple and not just my parents. I realize now, that is what makes me cry. I have done a very good job at burying my emotions that I still have from being a child who lives with divorced parents. I am good at burying emotions. I am good at looking beyond them. I probably developed this skill when I was a teenager and perfected in my mid-twenties. But right now, it is fresh again. I saw my sister today and when I told her about my tears last night, she didn't seem surprised that it made me sad or that I cried. I wanted to fall into her arms and bawl.  I also wonder how it affects her.  How it affects Lauren.  I know Lauren doesn't remember very much if anything before they separated.  She was turning 10, I wonder if she has any memories of them as a couple at all.  Jen was 16 when they separated.  I know she knew more about what was happening at the time than Lauren and I.  I have never asked either of them how it made them feel.  I guess that I have always assumed it felt the same for all of us but it couldn't have.  I wonder if they cry about it sometimes too.  It isn't a taboo conversation, but honestly, who would want to talk about it when we see each other a little as we do?

As much as I can act as though it no longer affects me, it obviously does. My life changed dramatically when I was almost 13 and no matter what, it will never be the way it was before. My few and distant memories will go even further away until I can no longer remember any example of my parents as a couple. As the five of us intact.

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