My parents divorced when I was seven years old and — other than bringing my sister and I into this world — it is the single greatest thing they ever did for us as a married couple. And they did do it for us as much as for themselves. That is as clear to me now as the absence of warm, soft focus, memories of the four of us together. There aren’t any of those, you see, and there never would be, but eliminating that expectation early on saved us all. From what? I’m glad I don’t know.
My mother remarried a couple of years later. He was German with a thick accent I struggled to understand, that ate tomatoes like apples and offered them to me with complete sincerity. I wrinkled my nose up at him, at the tomatoes, at his intrusion on the life I had with my mother and little sister. In time I came to understand the accent, but it would be years before I understood the man behind it.
My teenage years were rife with the kind of ruthless and brutal outbursts that can only come from a hormonal, angst-ridden, adolescent girl and he was frequently on the receiving end.
“You are not my father.” I told him as often as I could. Thank God he never listened.
If somewhere out there is a list composed of difficult things, blending a family is certainly at the top. I think the trees on my college campus swayed with the sigh of relief he must have heaved when I finally left for college.
I returned four years later, degree in hand, married and six weeks pregnant. Our relationship was less strained now that I no longer lived under his roof. For the first time in years there was a cease-fire, but the distance between us remained the same.
And then I laid my sleeping newborn in his arms. The gap closed by 19.5 inches that day and now, five years later, I can hardly believe it ever existed.
My son adores his grandpa. His whole face lights up when I turn the car toward his house. It is a bond beyond bloodlines and birth certificates and watching the two of them together has healed a wound in me I now realize was self-inflicted.
How to accept love and to return it unconditionally. Add that to the ever-growing list of things Anders has taught me.
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