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These Are My Parents

These are my parents. That’s my little brother in the middle.

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This photo was taken during my brother’s graduation from law school last year.

These are my parents with me and my younger brother.

Christmas 2006

This photo was taken in Manhattan a few years ago.

We’re smiling. Or at least we are mostly smiling save for my father who does this half-smile thing because he’s a curmudgeon. But this isn’t about just how grumpy my father is, this is about my parents.

On the day before my first day of kindergarten, when I was just four years old, my father left. Or my mother had him leave. I’m still unsure of the details and was only told as much as I’ve told you, fairly recently. As an adult, of course, when able to comprehend the fragility of adult relationships. The part about my father leaving probably came up during a conversation about how parents are human and make mistakes. They aren’t infallible or perfect but they try their damndest for their children.

It’s a message – couples, parenting, their links, the imperfections –  that can only be communicated by parents to their adult children when everyone is far removed from weekends back and forth and complicated custody schedules. It’s only now, as I read story after story of couples – couples who seemed absolutely in love from the outside – breaking up. And then I read how unsure these parents are about their decision to separate when it comes to their children. What will happen, how their child or children will react, what happens when two people can no longer be together but have these amazing, beautiful, adjective, adjective children to care for? I can only read their words and sense their fear and say that in my personal experience, as a child of divorce, it can be OK. I’ve survived it and moved on and have loving parents who would have been terrible as a couple. But I can only see that now as an adult myself.

I cannot tell you how I felt in 1988, as I don’t remember. But I can say that I remained blissfully unaware of the pain my parents undoubtedly went through to get to the place where they are now. This place where they have moved on and have thriving adult children. One where they can be seated next to one another at graduations and parties and dinners. A place where the residual hurt has long since washed off because in this present, things are OK.

Do I wish that there had been blogs in the 80′s so that I could read their stories? A little. I would like to know but they – my parents – are both guarded people so I wonder how much would have been written in the first place. What I can say is that we were and have always been loved and their priority. This I do know. I can also say that I appreciate the work they did for their children. The Christmas mornings where my dad came to help open presents, trips to Syracuse and Manhattan just for the fun of it, Easter dinners at my father’s apartment some 10 miles away. I’m sure it was difficult  - and now I see them as two people who you’d never imagine getting past the third date – but they did for their children. And for that I am thankful.

So, every time I see a post by a parent wondering if it will be OK, or if they’ll ever be able to sit side-by-side at graduation next to a person they no longer feel as if they know; or if they’ll ever be able to get past the hurt, anger and pain of right now, I want to say yes. Probably, most likely, if you try your damndest, it will be yes.

And 20 years later, these parents will be the recipients of a post such as this one and with the following words: I get it; you were better apart than you were together and I thank you for all that you did.

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Keep the conversation going with Heather Barmore at Poliogue: The Art of Political Dialogue, Twitter and Facebook.

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