I sat in my living room last night crying, alone. J was working late and I was fishing through old pictures from my childhood. Last Christmas, for my brother and I, my mom scanned and burned a disk of all of our family photos from when we were growing up. I don't think I had actually looked at it all until last night.
It made me sad for the way things were and for the way things never were.
My parents split up the summer I was 20 years old. It wasn't a huge surprise then, mostly because they had not been on speaking terms for at least a year prior to then. I was somewhat removed from the situation, and easily able to play the idealist because I was off to college already, not living in the thick of it. I never really thought it would happen "for real" because we were always the perfect little family. We took road trips, had movie nights, and always stayed home on Sundays to spend time together. SO many of my friends had divorced parents, and my brother and I could never understand it. We were that family.
Both of my parents confided in me about the situation while it was coming down. Partly because I'm the oldest, and have been mature far beyond my age since I was a child, and partly because since we were such a tight knit family unit, they didn't have alot of outside friends. I became the landing board, but also found myself trying to take care of my brother, and help shield him from what was happening. He took it the worst, I think.
Maybe I just never processed the whole thing.
I only broke down once over the divorce, and it was not a "real" breakdown. I was at a house party with a few friends, and was inevitably drunk as the time period suggests, and some poor guy who had probably just been trying to get in my pants got cornered and unloaded on. Don't get me wrong, he was totally sweet about it and very understanding and empathetic to my situation, but I feel sure it was not what he had planned for his evening.
Other than the one time, I never addressed it before last night.
As I scrolled through those pictures, looking at myself as a child, I remembered things I had forgotten. Places I've been and people I've met that have all but disappeared from my life. I saw myself much as I see myself now- making the same faces, giving the same looks and exhibiting the same mannerisms... all from a tiny little person that I used to be. It was sort of surreal.
I remembered my grandparents, how they were and how they are now. My Papaw mostly, who passed from Alzheimers around the same time my parents split. He was always so jolly and BIG. He was the big man of the family and could pick you up and make you feel like a child, no matter how old you were. He suffered a long and tedious deterioration over the course of about 10 years, so I never really got to know him as a person. I looked through these pictures and saw him deteriorating physically like a reflection of his mental state. But he always loved us. Even when he couldn't remember our names anymore, he still remembered he loved us. I miss him for what he was to me as a kid, and for what he could have been to me as an adult.
There were photos of my little brother (3 years my junior). He was about the cutest thing I've ever seen, and just FULL of laughter and mischief. He was a ham, and he knew it! Of course, I was only 3 when he was born, but much as silly little girls do, I wanted him to be my baby. I loved on him all the time, and he may have been close to 5 before I ever let him get a word in edgewise. We are still very close, but things will never be quite the same as they were when we were kids. That, of course is another blog, but we both certainly had to grow up that year, and I know it was tough for him to reconcile it all... even as we clung to each other through it.
The thing that made me the saddest was seeing how happy our little family once was... all I could think about was that we are never going to be that way again. Seeing my mom and dad as young parents, smitten with their children and congealing as a whole family together. I've not seen that look of happiness in my dad since then, and I so long to be able to go back to the way things were.
I know I've been rambling for quite some time, but it all really overwhelmed me at once. It was in those moments of recollection by myself that the impact of their split hit me in the face for the first time.
My own children will never know my parents that way. My husband doesn't even know them that way. They will always be Grandma and Grandpa separately, but with the same last name. We will never again have holidays, family dinners, or vacations together. I will never get to see them hugging and loving each other as they look at my children and see their baby girl reborn. I will always have to divide my time and the time of my own family, and never will we all make plans together.
I cried for the simple fact that no matter what I do, or where I go, or how much my own life may change, I will never ever have my family again. All I'll have are the happy memories tied up in a CD full of photos from a life I can barely remember.