“The _________ family is coming. And so are the _____________’s. Oh, and… Erin and her kids.” The words came out awkward and trailing. As if she said it quickly/softly enough, no one would notice the difference. But, I did.
She didn’t say family. She left out the line, “the Hecker family.”
The absence was obvious. A Freudian slip, maybe? A subconscious statement? Or a social affirmation of what family is?
I remember the first day that I didn’t wear my wedding ring. I was in Kansas, visiting family and escaping the pain. I went because I didn’t know where else to go. What else to do. I had always believed in marriage. I wanted it to last, to grow old. I wanted to relish in old memories and inside jokes. And not in a fluffy, meringue kind of way. I wanted it to work in the hardest of ways.
But marriage takes two. Two people who both choose each other.
At least a good marriage. (I know a few marriages that look less like love/companionship and more like obligation and tiredness.) And sometimes, marriage is better off left alone. After years of keeping it on life-support, it’s time to let it slip away. The hope of it waking up from its coma transforms into an acceptance that it’s okay to say good-bye.
I took off my ring. I chose divorce. For me. For my kids.
I was ashamed at first. I felt the eyes of judgement. Worse, I heard the words of judgement. People, particularly Christians, felt the need to condemn me. Or, the need to convince me that I was making the biggest mistake of my life.
I still chose divorce.
I still do.
And I didn’t choose it lightly. Just because marriage is hard, doesn’t make divorce easy.
But now I don’t fit the mold. Especially, the Hobby-Lobby-framed-Christian mold. My kids are shuffled between households and expectations. They have two churches and celebrate double holidays. They have to keep the peace between their parents who couldn’t. Instead of being a part of one family, they now have two.
Do we look like a typical family? Two parents, two kids, one dog, a white-picket fence? No. But, we are still a family. We. Are. Still. Family.
And while the divorce signaled the end of one thing. It’s also the beginning of another. A new life. A new chapter. A family, redefined.