It doesn’t matter if you’re 3 years old, 13, or 22; when your parents call you and your siblings down to the family room because they “just want to talk to everyone,” you intrinsically know something terrible is about to happen.
“I’m moving out,” my dad said, with tears brimming in his reddened eyes. He was doing his best to maintain his composure. His face looked hardened, as if he was trying to come across as sure and steady, though under the surface he was clearly far from it. My mom sat next to him, silently weeping.
What does that mean? Are you getting a divorce? When are you moving out? What happened? Why now? I’m out on my own now, but where will Colin and Maddie live? I vaguely remember my parents assuring us they were just separating for now, that everything would be amicable and “normal.” We would always celebrate Christmases and birthdays and graduations together. We would still be a family.
Those things never happened.
My parents had a rocky marriage for as long as I can remember. And for as long as I can remember, they were deeply committed to staying together and giving my siblings and me an example of a marriage that doesn’t end in brokenness. My dad’s father died when he was 4 years old, and my mom’s parents divorced when she was 21. They longed to provide us with the stable, whole family that neither of them had growing up.1