I believe in family. A startling statement, for me. My father divorced three times. As did my mother. Unless you don’t count her third marriage, which turned out to be a sham since her groom was married. I had so little faith in marriage; I refused to have “until death do us part” in my ceremony. My minister said, “as long as love shall last.”
Reared in poverty and neglect, in a home devoid of love, against a backdrop of drunken brawls and verbal abuse during the Cold War, I thought if human beings destroyed themselves, perhaps the universe would be better off. I set out on a self-destructive path and even considered suicide.
Things changed when I met my husband. Thomas is a kind man. While he is not perfect, dogs and children do gravitate toward him. He is my hero. He saved my life and gave me two daughters. Our loving, nuclear family reincarnated this lost soul.
My younger daughter once told me that people thought it strange that she and her sister got along so well. Because of my background, I tolerated little fighting. I often pulled the car over and made the two of them stay out until they resolved their issues. I did not have to resort to humiliation or physical punishment.
Furthermore, I helped my husband coach our daughters and myself to be kind. For example, it was my idea that if one of us missed a meal, we would blow that person a kiss. It may sound corny, but what a contrast to my first environment where everyone lived in a state of being on guard. Just as their opposites, thoughtfulness, empathy and humanity can be taught.
For example, one of my neighbors never fails to bark at his dog that barks at me on my nightly walks. The dog’s behavior never changes. Once when the man’s small grandson was visiting, the boy reacted to his grandfather’s anger by hitting the dog on the head with a full can of soda. I discussed this incident with my daughters. We talked about better methods for dealing with the dog. I stopped speaking about our own dogs as annoyances and started speaking about them as friends. The dogs responded, as did my girls.
My elder daughter stunned me once by asking me how I knew how to be such a good mom. There is no secret, I told her. I just responded to being loved.
Leo Tolstoy said, “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” While unhappy families instigate all kinds of problems, I believe in family. Had I acted on earlier inclinations, I would have missed out on a wonderful family. Happy families, even families of choice, are alike in that they engender good people. Good people offer redemption for those of us that come from unhappy families.
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