Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mommy's Project 52:29 Family

I've been really trying to figure out how to exemplify 'family' in this little corner of the cyber world.  One of the things I've always been cautious about is writing/blogging with much detail about specific instances or people in my life.  I mean, it is the internet, anyone can read it, right?  So where do you draw the line?  How do you balance opening up about your life and those in it, with anonymity for those you write about?

I don't use my kids' real names, or the names of others I write about.  That's my first point of focus. I also don't write about each and every thing we do or say.  I'm sure others who blog can relate on some level.  So one thing that I've touched on once or twice, but never gone into detail about is my family.  My parents and sister and me.  My, what some might call "broken", but really isn't, family.  It's something I've wanted to write about, thought about writing about, have even started writing about, but, never went through with. 

It's not necessary to bore anyone with the typical, "I had a pretty normal childhood" kind of stuff, it's not like I'm telling my life story.  It's really the story of my 20's.  It seems like ages ago and like yesterday, all in one.  It's funny how something that nearly destroyed you to the core could become such a piece of you and something that you are able to look back at with little more than matter of fact consideration.

To lay it all out there, my father walked out when I was 22 and he never looked back {read: he found "greener pastures"; a.k.a. another (loosely termed) woman}.  I haven't spoken to him in over 15 years.  To put it in the kindest way possible, he defines the term, "douche" when referring to a human.  Sure, there are idiots, tools, and even assholes, but this individual surpasses all those terms and goes right to douche.  Crass?  Perhaps.  Fitting?  Hell yes.

Before you go thinking that this is some feminist, bitter, angry entry, don't go yet.  It's not.  Stay with me.

When I met Hot Dad, I had been single for the better part of two years.  I'd suffered a terrible heart break and decided that relationships weren't for me, and I spent the next couple years taking care of me.  After the break up of my family four years earlier, the end of the relationship I'd had in college, and then this break up, I set out to be good to myself, find out what made me happy, and focus on not having a boyfriend.  I needed to heal myself, I didn't need to add more baggage to the complete set I already carried.

I played softball, went out with friends, tried to endure life with the roommate I had at the time, and eventually found a more suitable situation rooming with a friend.  I was fine.  I proved to myself that boyfriends aren't everything.  I could make myself happy, and I learned what I needed to do so.  Free time, freedom, just being me, and not having to worry about someone else.  Honestly, it was two of the best years of my 20's.

In June of 1998, I agreed to go into the city with one of my guy friends from softball and this guy I met through the guys I played softball with.  We decided we would go and watch the Bulls win game 6 of what would end up being the final championship of their six-peat (which they clinched two nights later).  I'd never been downtown for any of the previous championships, and looking back, it was one of the most electric nights I've experienced.  To say it was awesome would put it to shame. 

So, this new guy and I saw each other pretty consistently after that night.  It wasn't intentional, it just happened.  I invited him to go places with me.  To parties.  To hang out.  He did the same.  It was effortless.  It worked.

Then I realized that eventually I'd have to reveal the story about my fallen apart family which became stronger and more powerful after it fell apart, like a kingdom invaded, destroyed, and rebuilt.  I wasn't ashamed, but I didn't want to have to tell the whole story again.  How does one convince someone that your father really threatened to sue you?  That he really didn't try to win your trust, or your confidence in him after he broke your heart, the hearts of both his daughters?  How do you explain that you'd sooner jump off a building without a bungee than talk to your father?  How do you convince someone that you're OK with all of this, you really are?  Why put yourself in that position?

Slowly stories began to surface, facts emerged, and eventually, this guy knew that the Douche was not someone he ever wanted to meet.  This guy knew that Douche had totally blown it, and wasn't worth any of our time.  This guy didn't judge me for it, he didn't try to convince me, "But he's your dad", and he didn't try to make me believe things that weren't true.  He accepted me, my family, and all its broken pieces, and acknowledged that my family wasn't broken at all.  There may be pieces that don't seem to fit where people think they should, but, for us, they fit just right.

So, this guy and I continued to develop our relationship, and one day he asked my mom for her blessing to take my hand in marriage.  She offered that if he thought Douche should be there, she'd do what she could to send that message and try to get him to acknowledge it.  This guy said no.  Douche isn't in the family, he doesn't belong.

So this guy and I married.  I quickly began to realize how selfish I'd been by feeling like it was a burden to have to tell the story of my family.  I began to realize that mine wasn't the only family whose pieces don't necessarily fit together the way other people think they should.  While the pieces of my family didn't fit in some ways, his didn't fit in others.  Together, though, we seemed to fit perfectly.

Soon, this guy and I had our first baby, Ethel.  We became Hot Mama and Hot Dad.  A few years later, we had our second child, Fred.  Our family grew.  We were our own family.  The four of us.   

I look at the four of us and I see such magic in the kids' eyes.  I recall times with each of my parents, and I share those times with my kids.  The Muppet Show, family vacations, playing in the back yard with the neighborhood kids.  Laying against my father's chest when my ears would hurt.  Resting my head on my mom's shoulders.  Now, Hot Dad and I are the parents.  Wait, when did that happen? 

My kids are old enough to ask questions, but, they know they've never met my father, and never will.  They have heard the stories I've told them about the fun times I remember with my father.  They know they have one grandparent, my mom.  They know they are loved by their parents and grandmother.  They will most certainly ask questions as they get older, and I'm prepared to answer them.

I am strong.  I am able.  I am a wife and mother.  I am better off for what I went through when my father left.  It's totally his loss.  He missing out on a pretty great family (if I do say so myself).  It's one thought that brings a smile to my face.  I don't know that I would be as strong and confident as I am today if it weren't for my parents' split.  I believe that I learned more about myself from that experience than just about any other.  I have come to embrace it.  It's part of me, it's part of who I am.  It's my history, I can't escape it.  I'm able to talk about it.  Talk about progress.

Today, while small, our family is strong.  There may not be many of us, but, we're happy and that's what matters most.  In the end, isn't that what really matters?