The nurse handed me the phone. “Mom,” I said. My voice was shaking, but not from the pain, which I was still in, despite the first doses of painkillers already beginning to take effect. “I’ve,” my voice cracked, “I’ve been in a bad car accident.”
My mother started to shriek at me over the phone. “What were you doing out so late? I thought you were sleeping. Why are you always getting into trouble?”
I sat in silence on the other end of the phone, letting my mother rage. I knew all of it wasn’t directed at me but rather the frustration she may have felt since she left over the divorce.
My mother had grown up with money, and when she married my father, a schoolteacher, I don’t think she actually knew what she was signing on for. So when she met the man who would eventually become my stepfather, a cardiologist and father of his own kids, my mother thought divorce would offer her a better life. By the looks of things, it appeared as if that would be the case.
My father, on the other hand, was devastated. When he got married to my mother, he intended it to be for forever. When my mother walked out, leaving him a single parent, he became depressed and retreated from life.
My older brother and I were pretty much left to fend for ourselves. It didn’t take long before I began sneaking out of my bedroom window almost every night to hang out with my boyfriend and his friends, who were usually up to no good.
When my grades started to slip and my friends shifted to those who lived on the proverbial wrong side of the tracks, my mother, in a better late than never attempt at parenting, insisted I come live with her and her new husband across town. What my mother didn’t count on was that I would become yet another problem in her new life which was already filled with problems.
My stepfather was a workaholic, and my mother, who had fled her own children, now had to take care of someone else’s. As for his money and the better lifestyle that a doctor’s income was supposed to provide? It was eaten up quickly by the number of mouths he had to feed, which included his two ex-wives, six kids from two marriages, and now my mother, me, and occasionally my brother. The divorce had not brought my mother the new life she had anticipated. She soon became bitter and chose to hold onto her resentment until the end of her life.
My mother’s dissatisfaction with her situation, and me, was evident on my call from the emergency room, and only increased when, during my months-long recovery, my father showed up at the hospital week after week bearing smiles and stuffed animals alongside his new girlfriend. Divorce didn’t bring my father the life he had anticipated either. Though he went through a difficult period of mourning when my mother left, he met the love of his life and eventually married her. He was never happier.
Following the accident, I went back to live with my father, who was now able to provide a more stable environment for me. I graduated high school and left for college a few months later.
Even though I went on with my life, the irony of my parents’ divorce never left me and lived in the back of my mind for years until my first marriage to Jim began to unravel. After years of discord, I finally made the difficult decision to leave him. Our son was a toddler at the time, and I believed we could both provide him a more peaceful existence if we lived apart.
Initially, it seemed as if I was right, and for the first few months of our divorce, my soon-to-be-ex and I got along well. However, once I began to date, our friendship almost overnight transformed into battle against me happily moving on without him.
A bitter custody battle ensued, which lasted well into my son’s childhood, causing collateral damage to all of us in one way or another. For me, it was debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, which I was only eventually able to control after I committed to a daily Christ-centered meditation practice.
No, my divorce wasn’t what I expected and was a lot harder than I anticipated it would be. I’m certain my mother and father felt the same way, though for different reasons. But these were the choices we, and they, made at the time, the choices that felt right.
Even knowing what I did, which was that divorce is a journey into the unknown, a truth that was reinforced for me during my own divorce, I wouldn’t change a thing. An uncertain future, filled with possibility, is far better than being able to predict tomorrow based on yesterday.