This I Believe

Melissa - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Entered on March 14, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: parenthood

I used to encourage my mother to divorce my father. I was five years old, she was 39 and unhappy, and I was in no condition to be giving marital advice. I loved my father and mother equally, but it was obvious that they did not love each other. My mother would say to me, “I’m not happy with your father,” and me being the logical five-year old that I was, I would say, “So divorce him.” It was for this reason that I believed my parents did not love each other.

My parents did not sleep in the same bed when I was growing up. When I reached the age of eight and began to have friends sleep over, the million-dollar question would be, “Why don’t your parents sleep in the same bedroom?”

“My dad snores too loud and my mother is a light sleeper,” I would reply. This excuse worked for a good portion of my childhood, but there reached a point when my deception could no longer fool my friends.

By the time I reached high school, my parents became embarrassingly comfortable fighting in front of my peers. They would often explode into random outbursts over such things as credit cards, the checkbook, and the cleanliness of the house.

After these fights, my mom would stay up late, drinking, crying sporadically throughout the night, and my dad would drink his four cans of Blatz, eat dinner, and go to sleep early. There was no communication between them, and I could no longer hide the fact from my friends, or myself, that my parents did not love each other.

When I turned eighteen and moved out on my own, my family went through some life-altering changes. My only sibling, Aaron, was struck by a car and killed at 21 years of age, and my father, who had triple bypass surgery, continues to struggle with heart-related complications. The loss of my brother caused a tremendous amount of pain in my family, but through it all, my parents remained together and stronger than ever. Now that I am a young adult, I can reflect on my parents’ relationship and see them in a way I could have never comprehended as a child.

My parents still fight and argue about money and the status of the house, but something is different. My parents support each other with unconditional love, a love unlike any other I have seen. At my brother’s funeral, I witnessed them together, receiving regrets and sympathies side by side. Regardless of sharing the same bed, they have shared their lives, raised two wonderful children, and got by the best they could.

My parents have been married for 37 years and even though they do not formally recognize their anniversary, I can, for the first time in my life say, “I believe my parents really do love each other.”