The question was recently posed to me, “What would your life have been like and who would you be had your parents not divorced?” My gut reaction was that I wouldn’t be as strong as I am today.
I was two when my parents separated, three when they got divorced. My dad had missed my mom’s entire pregnancy and my birth because he had been in the Navy and they had sent him to the Persian Gulf. My mom was 23 years old and working as a waitress when they divorced. My dad was 25 and a security guard at K-Mart. She wanted to pursue a career in nursing. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do. She got impatient and asked for a divorce.
It was just me and my mom for about a year before she met my step dad. I was young, but I remember that year. I remember just having each other and how strong we felt. And then Tom came into our lives with promises of a secure and stable future. He had just been hired on with our local fire station. He was enamored by my mom’s beauty and taken with our story. He wanted to save her. She wanted to be saved.
My dad slowly disappeared from my life, but never altogether, which made it worse. He came and went for a few years and then he married my step mom and they had two more kids together. That was the end of our relationship for a long time.
Tom and my mom got married six months to the day that they met and got pregnant with my brother a month after they were married. It was around that time that Tom, who I claimed as my new dad, started getting loud and angry with me. It progressed into spankings with wooden spoons and belts. I’d have to sit in the corner for long stretches of time, with my forehead against the wall. Once I forgot to give the dog water and as a punishment I had to go the day without drinking. I was eight. I remember going to the bathroom and drinking from the bathroom sink. I was in trouble at least a few times a week, devoid of a voice and scared shitless. He would yell at me and tell me to get out of his sight, he couldn’t even look at me, and as I turned to walk away, he’d kick me for good measure.
There were times that I would overhear my mom and Tom fighting. Once, knowing that I was listening to their argument, he yelled out to me “Sarah, pack your bags!!! You and your mom are leaving!” Twice in my high school years he sat me down and told me they were getting a divorce. Every time I thought they were separating, I felt relieved. I felt like he was finally cutting us loose from his grips. I didn’t know what would happen to my brother and sister, but I knew I would find a way to see them.
Going through such a huge loss and an unfortunate gain at such a young age has made me who I am. It’s given me my good traits and my bad. I know that I can endure a lot because I carried an immense pain with me as a kid and I made it through that. I’ve had to realize that you can feel two things at once about a person- the world is not black and white. I can feel grateful to Tom for providing me with a home and a brother and sister, but I can also feel mistreated and upset. I’ve realized that relationships can be rekindled. My dad and I have a great relationship, even though it didn’t truly get the chance it deserved until I was about 20. These lessons have taught me that people are broken and even when we are trying to do our best, we hurt those around us.