Follow Your Light
This is a story, not very unique. You've heard this one before and it's really easy to dismiss it because. . Well about 50% of people in the USA deal with this. (not an actual statistic). It's about a young adult who's parents finally divorce.
Except, it's not all that simple because my parents didn't just "finally divorce." My father was living a double life.
I suppose you can say this story started 7 years ago, or 16 years ago or if we really think about it, this story began 40 years ago. My parents married 40 years ago when my mother was just 18 years old. My parents were young and in love, they had dated for a couple of years while growing up in Brooklyn. Though marriage at a young age was common at that time, there was an underlying pressure of my alcoholic grandfather that was the catalyst of my mother's sudden future.
I was born 12 years later, my parents had a daughter and son before me and together we were a family of 5. I grew up in a brownstone in Sunset Park, we went to church on Sundays, Toy'R'Us on our birthdays and bike riding in parks. Both of my parents worked hard and while I rarely saw them fight, through my father's "just because" gifts to my mother, there was something just below the surface, waiting to one day explode.
My father was constantly working "overtime" without any compensation. When he was late to come home or had to go into work, I remember my mother saying "I don't know why you go to work if you're not going to get paid for it." He would respond so convincingly, "I know, I know but these guys need me." After all, he was a supervisor and these things "had to be done."
One night, 7 years ago, while I still lived at home, my mother had enough. She came into my room, teary-eyed, "Mandi, I'm leaving." She wouldn't tell me where she was going, I followed her into her room and when she walked away for a minute I tried to hide her packed bag that sat on the bed. She came back, "where is it?" I said, "no, you're not going, you can't." She calmly said "I have to go, I'll be okay but I have to go."
I didn't ask any more questions and I watched my mom walk out. I was already grown, 20 years old but I felt hurt. You see, I didn't feel abandoned, I felt hurt for my mother. That night my father came home and asked where my mother was, I didn't see either of them for a week because my father had left right after her, he didn't "go after her" he left after her. When my father didn't make much effort to bring her back home, she knew something was up. She just didn't know what, she also didn't want to be too hasty.
What I know now but didn't know then was that my mother hired a private investigator a week later. She moved back into my house and for awhile it was a female household. Some days we cried and some days we laughed. We took up salsa classes and went to happy hours. My mother had always been one of my best friends but through the first few months, we bonded stronger than ever before.
Finally, one day right before our salsa class began she broke the news to me. My father had been living a double life for the last 10 years.
If that betrayal wasn't enough for one woman to handle, there was more. My father worked with 4 of my mother's family members, which were her 2 sisters and their husbands. They knew for years that my father was seeing another woman, who also worked with them but they had never spoken a word of it to my mother. My mother who devoted all of her time to her work as a registered nurse and her family now had virtually no one to turn to.
This is where it gets worse for this young adult, that same place of work where my father was having an affair with the woman who worked with him and the family that knew about it, well I was going to school there to be an X-ray tech. Days would go by and I was worried about seeing any of them in the halls, my day would just be ruined if I saw them. What did this woman even look like? I didn't know, I knew the description of her but never saw a photo. As I tried to study, I thought she could be here in this room, watching me and I wouldn't even know.
The hospital became a nuisance for me but I pushed through, as best as I could, it wasn't until I made a decision did things get better. I decided there would be no one who could have enough to control to make or break my day. They say a grudge is like holding in poison and expecting the other person to die and I finally to spit out that poison.
And my mother? Well, I think she had spit out her poison long before I did because she was looking younger and better than she ever had in all those years with my father.
I remember sitting down across from my father asking him "why?" I asked him why wasn't he man enough to leave when he wasn't happy. I asked him why he decided to put my mother's life in jeopardy when he had unprotected sex with both his mistress and later my mother. Why did he put his own life in jeopardy when he got a vasectomy at such a late age for this woman? Why he chose her over my family time and time again every time he said he was going to work, those times he left us on holidays to be with her. Why did he break up our family?
I promise you, there wasn't a reason good enough. Even after he cried, even after he was put into the hospital because his health was deteriorating in front of our eyes, nothing would ever be a good enough reason to hurt my best friend so deeply, to hurt who I thought was his best friend so deeply, my mother.
My mother, as a nurse and a wife, had been taking care of my father since he was a teenager. He had developed diabetes and she was always making sure he was eating right, getting the fluids that he needed and keeping healthy. When she left, that all came to a screeching halt and neither my father or his girlfriend could manage to keep him healthy.
It had been about a year since my mother had left and now my father was expecting a baby with his mistress. He was 54 years old, in and out of this hospital and expecting his "change of life" baby. I finally broke, while I wouldn't truly ever forgive my father I put my feelings aside only in large part to my mother being as strong as she was. She had forgiven him, she was an angel and she had met someone new and special.
I sat my father down and asked him if he wanted to see his new child grow up the way he saw my siblings and I grow up.
"You're not young and you don't take care of yourself, your baby is going to grow up without a father if you don't get your shit together" I told him one day.
This was the moment that I stopped hating my father and started to lead with sympathy. Because it isn't easy being torn between two people that you love, I was evidence of this. My mother also pushed me to speak to my dad and to have a relationship with him despite his infidelities. I found strength in my mother to love him
In the last 5 years, there are times when I see him often and times I don't see him for months. After I showed up for him that day to help him get his life in order he appreciated my support and has proven to be grateful. I've since accepted his family as my own family. At times I'm reminded how different life could've been. Sure my parent's marriage could've ended in a civil manner but it had to end.
My family has tripled in size and I have an amazing step-father now who makes my mother the happiest woman on the planet. So maybe this road could've been easier, a little less rocky but this is our road and we're here making it work.
I don't know what you're struggling with or if you'll meet someone hurting but this message is for all of you, you'll be okay, you'll be great but it's your decision to make. Lead with sympathy, follow your light and you'll be alright.