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Nothing tested me more in my adult life than my parents' divorce. I had moved out of my childhood home to attend college several years before.
I can say that now without feeling embarrassed or weak. I had a great job, close friends, a relationship—all of the things that should make you feel rooted.
Yet when my parents announced they were separating, I felt as if the world had collapsed in on me.
There was the realization that home would never be the same.
Two summers after my parents separated, I visit home for a week. Before arriving at Aunt Junie's I imagined either I would immediately hate my father's girlfriend and refuse ever to see her again, or I would love her. To see Dad kiss another woman is like watching a scene from my very own version of The Twilight Zone.
Mom and I take a drive out on the east end of Long Island where I grew up, stopping at farm stands and antiques shops. As I sit talking to her, I realize Donna lands somewhere in the middle. Two years into the divorce I still avoid spending time alone with Mom.
On the way home we talk about Mom's recent forays into dating. I'm not sure what I've said wrong, but the comment turns a quiet conversation loud. In the car one afternoon, Mom talks about her shirt not fitting right, how she wants to go to Europe this fall.I'd never again find my parents standing side by side on the porch, waving to me as I pulled into the driveway. Parents expect us to shrug off their split, as if the breakup of our family should no longer concern us because pieces of our adult life are in place. I told him about an article I'd read about divorcées contracting sexually transmitted diseases—one of our more awkward conversations.Looking back, it seemed as if Mom and Dad had been faking it—which cheapened all my childhood memories. I've come to envy young children going through a divorce. Mom expected me to talk negatively about Dad with her. Ten minutes later the phone would ring, and it would be Dad. On the stereo in my dad's studio apartment is a photograph of me and my sisters in the same battered silver frame it was in when it was in our living room.I've had to train myself to stop comparing my relationship with that of my parents. Mom went to Europe for the first time this past fall. They're both doing things they never would have done together. My things—stuffed animals, books, prom dresses—were packed in boxes in the basement. But the sight of Dad futzing around the yard made everything feel right again.If John and I get into an argument, it doesn't mean our relationship is doomed. I can see now that I knew the muted version of who they were. Even though I put my parents' divorce behind me, I don't have to completely let go.