When I was little, I believed families were forever. Mothers took their medication as directed and never left their babies behind. Fathers found jobs and paid the rent on time. I believed sisters would care for each other, never battling and competing for what little love remained. I believed daughters could shoulder their mother’s burdens and ease a parent’s hopelessness and despair. I thought families would continue to love each other even in the midst of shattered glass and barricaded bathroom doors. I believed that hatred and rage would subside someday.
Alone, I found a friend whose warmth and loyalty was contagious. We became a cult of togetherness, cutting classes and passing notes. We tried to erase our small town lives, parking outside liquor stores in skimpy dresses and scoring rum from middle-aged men. Together we paraded around high school dances, debated the virtues of feminism and consoled each other through heart-wrenching love affairs. I believed we would grow old together. I believed she was my new-found family. I thought friendship staked on loneliness was a foundation that would last.
I married at 22, believing that being with anyone would be better than being completely alone. I ignored his suspended license and the back taxes he owed. I overlooked the occasional slurred speech and staggering walk, the lost jobs and the dilated pupils. I believed he was tired, overworked, distracted – anything but addicted. I created a fantasy that only someone who has spent her entire life perfecting could pull off so convincingly. My denial was limitless, a hole so vast and dark I was sucked in and soon gasping for uncontaminated air. Until, one frightening and bleak afternoon, a strange clarity suddenly descended. Finally, I could see beyond chaos and betrayal to the possibility of something different. That night I packed a bag and walked away from the madness and the precious lies I had clung to for so long.
Today I believe in second chances. Even third and fourth if that’s what it takes. One more chance to regroup and get it right. One more opportunity to forgive the people I love. One more therapist if the last one wasn’t so great. One more husband if the first one didn’t work out so well. One more attempt to have the family I always dreamed of, to be the mother I longed for. Today I have a husband so patient and kind it stuns me. Today there are two curly-haired toddlers, giggling, jumping and wrestling for hours. Tonight they will climb into bed, with their books and blankets, begging for one more kiss. Tonight I will creep into their rooms and watch them sleep and believe whole-heartedly in a family that endures.
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