Itís Christmas Eve and I am home alone, and probably will be home alone tomorrow.
Donít get me wrong, when Iím away from my family all year, I love having them here for the holidays. I adore my grandchildren and love my children, miss seeing my sister on a regular basis, and would enjoy seeing my niece now and then. But truth be told, this year Iíve dealt with so much that my best gift would be peace on earth Ė or at least within the confines of my apartment, even if only for a few hours.
My exís family invited me to their home for Christmas dinner tomorrow, and Iíll probably go. Despite the problems I had when married to my childrenís father, this is still the kidsí family; and when I divorced hubby #2, hubby #1ís family asked me to take his name back. This is his parents, not just my children (who also asked, by the way.) Whatever ill feelings were there before hubby #1 died, it did no one any good to hold a grudge and it made it much easier on all concerned if we buried any hatchets. Now and then you see a splintered wooden ax-handle sticking out of the ground, but in general itís all good. It helped that hubby #1ís second wife took their little girl eight years ago and never let her see her paternal family again. I canít blame his wife Ė she had more than enough reason to walk away and never look back after Duane died Ė but her doing so caused an attitude adjustment toward me.
Whatever my personal feelings were, I always let my ex and his family know that they were welcome to see my children and welcome in my home to do so if need be. Before he died, ex-hubby #1 and his second wife borrowed my car to visit her sister in the next state. Her sister died just a few months later, her husband (my ex) a few months after that.
What always boggled my mind was the people who criticized me. No, my ex didnít support his children. No, I didnít think that was okay. But what did I gain by keeping my children away from their father and his family? What would I have achieved by having him jailed for non-support? Would it endear me to the kids? Would it get me child support from a man who was destitute and by then disabled?
I have never regretted my decisions when it came to that. While being in the same room after our divorce was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me, my children had a solid emotional foundation, knowing that when it came down to it, mom and dad would still stick together. There werenít any power plays and the kids were encouraged by all sides to bond with the extended family Ė his second wife had two children previous to their marriage. His baby by second wife hasnít been back to see anyone, but my children talk to their half sister regularly by phone. (She lives several states away, too far to drive there given time and monetary constraints.)
Thatís not to say it was all a bed of roses, but we definitely did divorce much better than we did marriage.
And when ex-hubby #1 died at the ripe old age of 37, my children could look back with positive memories of their daddy. He was a drug addict when I married him Ė though I was too naÔve to have a clue at the time Ė and an addict when I finally left him thirteen years later. But after I left, he went through rehab. I think he could be considered successful, because he was a very different person sober than high or drunk. I will always be immensely grateful that my children had the opportunity to know him that way, instead of remembering him as a drunken, strung-out bastard who hit their mother and sold their food to get his next fix.
Unfortunately he had done too much to his body already. There was a triple bypass at the age of 33, and he died within four years of rehab. With one triple bypass behind him, there was nothing more that medical science could do to duct-tape his heart together. Part of it might still have been avoided Ė he still smoked cigarettes, even after the bypass, and those were what ultimately tipped the scale against him. The doctorís words, if not verbatim.
I still donít love the things he did to me or what the early years did to my children. I canít forget sending my kids to school in the snow without coats and with holes in the soles of their shoes, because their daddy couldnít hold a job and took what little I made to get his next fix. His rehab doesnít erase being left alone with a two-week old baby and three younger children, in a house with no water and no food and no heat in the winter, no phone for emergencies, no car, and strict orders not to ask anyone for help because it might embarrass his family. (I guess the wife and children didnít count as family.) It doesnít make up for the bruises beneath my clothes while I smiled into the mics at work. It doesnít undo the destruction to my self-worth and self-respect, doesnít pay for the years of counseling my children have gone through, doesnít undo the scars where our oldest daughter took up cutting a few years ago, and doesnít fix the thousands of other little and not-so-little things that still persist and will likely be with us all of our lives.
But all these years later, Iíve finally found a measure of peace with it, knowing that while I canít undo those things, I can finally risk looking forward.
For all of the world in turmoil this Christmas season, I hope that you can finally find your own measure of peace.
Before - After
In the grander scheme of things, no soul can truly be replaced. Each one of us has a place in the universal tapestry. We each contribute our own color and texture. When one thread is snipped too soon, it distorts all the threads around it. Other lives can unravel and tear. If the wrong thread is ripped away, the whole fabric of life becomes dangerously fragile.
- LeiLani, aka Radiogurl aka Bright Opal (1957 - )