We live in the Midwest, but “home” for us is New England; I grew up in Rhode Island and him in Connecticut. Our wedding was at a beautiful historical landmark on the RI coastline, so you can imagine my stress and anxiety as the storm made its way up the coast and eventually hit our “home” just 3 days before our wedding.
A dedicated reader of wedding blogs, I had always hoped to share a beautiful narrative shortly after our wedding. I thought I would be sharing details of our crazy week, during which we drove 800 miles one way in a rental car, re-routing our normal path just to stay north of the storm. I was going to share that, despite the horror and devastation on the East Coast, miraculously all of our plans went off without a hitch and all our friends and family were there to share in the most special day. The sunset at the ocean-side country club was one to remember that night, because aren’t the skies always breathtaking after a storm? I hoped to make a beautiful statement about how the “storm of the year couldn’t keep our love apart.” It was going to be lovely, really.
But now, the tears flow uncontrollably as I mourn the death of a marriage. A marriage that was, for all my years, the role model marriage. My dad recently flew out to visit us and told me that he and my mom, after 33 years of marriage, are divorcing. I will spare you the details, but I will share that those details are ugly, filled with infidelity, second chances, forgiveness, and repeat offenses. After growing up with a truly perfect happy family, I am now watching the one marriage I thought to be perfect crumble before my eyes.
To be clear, this isn’t about me. I am a mature, married woman, and sure, I am devastated by the fact that our nuclear family will not travel together again, nor share holidays together, nor share in the joys of my future children together. Despite that, the majority of the pain I feel is my mother’s.
I find myself grasping at straws to find words of comfort because what do I know? I have been married for all of 45 days, and I certainly cannot provide marital advice. However, I have had to remind my mother of the things she so clearly taught me, and I think I’m getting through to her. “Be sure to follow a strong career path, because you never know when you will have to provide for yourself.” “Take time to self-actualize, and know when you put your needs before others.”
Maybe she forgot that there are so many things she taught me about how to become an independent, free-thinking, self-actualized woman. I know my mom will be okay, because despite the fact that she is completely devastated, heart-broken, beside herself, insert-all-other-possible-
While this isn’t about me, I can’t help but struggle with my self-identity in the midst of this ugliness (that’s the best word choice, I swear). I have always found my self-identity in my heritage, my family, my name. The pride I had to be an Italian immigrant’s daughter, some would say, drove my entire life’s path in terms of my educational pursuits, career choice, and hobbies.
Now, all I can feel is that my identity is tarnished, stained, even…dirty. I had given Chris such a hard time about the name-changing situation, as it was important to him that I have his name and important to me that I keep mine.
How do I keep a relationship with my dad, who has always been present, supportive, loving and generous to not only me, but also my mother, his family, and his community? He says that our relationship doesn’t have to change, that he will always be my dad. But how do I love my dad and hate what he has done to our family? Part of being a good father to me was being a good husband to my mother, and he has broken that, irreparably.
As I look through the professional wedding photos that have been touched up and squeal over making our wedding album, I have to look at my parents’ faces and know that they “played house” for the last time to give me and my husband the wedding of our dreams. I have to imagine my mother’s heart, tearing to pieces as she heard me recite my vows knowing her husband had broken theirs. The yellowed lace of her wedding dress, wrapped around my bouquet, takes on a whole new meaning. We danced all night in the very place they celebrated their wedding reception, which will no longer be a joyful memory but perhaps a sorrowful one. And I can’t help but feel guilty for having the best day of my life, the birth of my marriage, as my parents were planning the funeral for theirs.
I know, deep down, we will get through this devastation. I know my mom will move on, and one day find someone who will thank my dad for divorcing her. I know I do not have to let my dad’s choices define my identity. I know that just because I always dreamed of a happy marriage like my parents’, it does not mean that mine will have the same fate. I know all this to be true, but I’m just not there yet. For now, I will sit and stare at the sky, the raindrops mixing with my tears, and wait for the clouds to pass. I hear the skies are breathtaking after a storm.