This blog has mainly focused on the fun parts of my life as a child – the good memories. Those who know me in person know that my childhood wasn’t always sunshine and roses. Our family – like most families – had our share of troubled times.
During my childhood, I remember that my father worked incessantly. He ran his own business, had plenty of hobbies and was always being sought out by potential clients, friends and family for free legal advice. He would literally spend hours on the phone – we always had two phone lines in the house – one just for him because he was on the phone so much. Other than the time we spent with him in the car in the mornings when he would drive us to school, we did not spend much time with him. He worked long hours and was not home often. I suppose it was not a huge surprise to me to find out that my parents were filing for divorce. I was 12 and I will never forget the moment when my mother broke the news to me and my older brother (my sister had just left for college) that we were moving out of the house and my father was staying behind. We moved from the tiny town of Washington, back to the “big city” of Lafayette and our lives dramatically changed. We went from living in a small town in a historic home on 3 acres to living in a busy neighborhood in an older, simple home with avocado green appliances from the 1970’s.
To add to the complexity of the situation, I soon found out that I had a half-sister. My father quickly re-married. He and his new family remained in our previous family home for a short time before moving out. It was odd to visit and see my younger sister living in my old room. That house never felt like home again to me.
The divorce was a signifcant blow to our family, but it came with some positives. For the first time, my father began to value the time he spent with us and even began to seek out quality time with my brother and me. He seemed to miss us now that we no longer shared a home with him and he took a greater interest in our lives. My mom went to class in the evenings and my father would take us to dinner on those nights that she was gone. Right after the divorce, there were times when we didn’t want to visit with him, but he fought to see us. He would even go as far as demanding that we spend time with him. In the end, his persistence paid off and it sent a message to us – time with us was important to him. He valued having a relationship with us and I am thankful that I felt valued to him. I can’t say that I felt especially valued when we all lived in the same house together and he spent all of his time working late and/or on the phone with his various friends/family and potential clients.
I also grew closer to my mother as a result of the divorce. She and I became a support system for one another and I learned how to be an independent woman through watching her. She set such an example for me as a young child and I am thankful for that every day. I also was able to see my mother’s true character as she navigated through difficult situations brought on by the divorce from my father. She handled those difficult situations with grace and dignity and set a great example for a young daughter at an impressionable age.
Just when our family began to return to “normal” again – both parents were re-married, we had grown accustomed to splitting time at each parent’s house for the holidays and we were blending our family of step and half siblings quite well – my father died of a massive heart attack. It was two days after Christmas – he was young (in his mid-50’s) and it was unexpected. I’d spoken to him earlier that night and we were planning to meet for lunch the next day. I was stunned to hear the news from my older sister later that night. The next few weeks were a fog as we trudged through the funeral, meetings with lawyers and difficult discussions. As the dust began to settle, I began to feel as though we were re-living the divorce from 10 years prior as we were left to clean up a messy family situation with my father no longer there to be the mediator between his wife and the older three children from his first marriage. My step-mother was in a position of power and my father’s three older kids were left feeling defenseless. It was a very difficult situation to be in and I was angry with my father for leaving us with such a mess to sort out. Even 10+ years later, it is still painful in many respects and I still feel scarred from his absence in my life. Just when I think I’m past the grief, something will pop up to remind me of him and I immediately start to miss him again.
That being said, these two very difficult situations truly shaped me into the person that I am today. Both experiences have changed how I think and I feel that I have a different perspective on situations that I encounter in my life. No matter how dismal a situation may seem, there’s always a positive outcome and a lesson to be learned. It’s all a matter of perspective. The best part is that YOU get to choose the perspective.
The divorce strengthened my relationship between me and both of my parents. When my father died, I was so thankful that we had a healthy relationship and I knew how much I meant to him. My father’s death reminded me to value the time I have left with my mother. It also gave me the courage to leave Louisiana. Perhaps I was trying to run away from my pain, but it also led me to meet my wonderful and loving husband. I’ve experienced living in a large metropolitan city, I’ve learned from other cultures. I’ve expanded my horizons. I am a better, more diverse and more open minded person as a result.
That being said, no matter where I go, I will always consider Louisiana as my home. If home is where you heart is, Louisiana will forever be my home.