August 2nd, 2011 § 27 comments

I thought they would always be together. I thought it would be until the end. When I look back over the things I’ve written about my parents, a constant theme is always how I can’t imagine them without each other.

And yet, this week, my mother moved into her own condo and began her life apart from my father.

Their dynamic just was not working anymore; six months shy of their 50th anniversary, they’ve decided to separate.

I’ve known for a few months, and the children know now too. In fact, as I write this, my parents are (together) spending a week with Paige and Colin as they do each summer. Nothing, even the decision to move forward apart, comes in the way of that this year.

I’m still a child. Their child.

I’m learning that no matter how old you are it affects you; age is not a protective shield against the hurt that can accompany such changes. Now 42, I have two generations to consider: my parents and my children. At the moment my parents’ health is good; I’ve written before about my mother’s stage III cancer diagnosis six years ago (she is in remission). But I confess, even on their healthiest days I play the “what if” game. I feel I need to always be thinking about the future, making sure I have an escape route. Like a stewardess pointing with a flourish to an exit in the forward cabin, I need to show myself that there is always a way out, a plan should something go wrong.

Even in the face of truly excellent health we’ve learned that life can change in an instant; after all, Clarke’s mother was perfectly healthy when she was killed in a car crash almost two years ago. I did not have a “what if” mentally written for that circumstance– how could I? But I have seen the way a tragedy can change a life in a split second. I think my confidence in what the day will bring has been shaken; I no longer believe that the day shall end as it began, life bookmarked in its progress.

I love my parents dearly; I am as close to them as a child could be, I think. We laugh, we talk, we share. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But the fact we are so close means this new chapter of their lives affects me deeply. How can it not? The very foundation of home life I have know my entire life is gone. I’ve been married for fourteen years; I am not a naive child who thinks wanting to make it work is enough.

And so, I program my phone with my mother’s new contact information; she gets her own entry now. I order change-of-address cards for her, and return address labels. Information now needs to go to two places. Anecdotes about the children need to be recounted twice rather than hearing my voice echo on speakerphone in the kitchen.

I support their decision– how could I not? I want them to be happy, and to achieve this goal they must live apart. But my knowledge that it’s what is best doesn’t make the bitter pill any easier to swallow.

I know a lot about grief and loss. I know that it takes time. This loss is something I’m dealing with, and will continue to, day by day.

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§ 27 Responses to Separation"

  • Laura Lump says:

    I’m with you, Lisa. You know that.

  • Chris Alexander says:

    Sending love to you. I imagine that your support of their difficult decision means the world to both of them.

  • Lindsey says:

    I am sorry about this loss, this loss of something you assumed was sturdy and forever. I am sure they both appreciate immensely the way – with what I now know is your characteristic grace – you are moving forward even though you never wanted to walk this road. Sending you love. xox

  • Anonymous says:

    If you’re comfortable doing so, I hope you write about this subject – from different perspectives. From my parents divorce to my own, I never recovered from either of them. You have the knack for words that may someday help me understand what happened in both cases. I am sorry that you and they are going through this.

  • Greg says:

    Thank you for having the courage to tell us and to write this. I am sorry for both you and them, but, at the same time, wish everyone happiness.

  • Joe Cascio says:

    Perhaps it’s too personal a subject to discuss, but you didn’t say much about how their separation made you feel.

  • Very difficult time for all involved. Your friendship, love, and support for your parents will help in the road ahead.

  • It’s a hard situation to deal with. I feel for you. My parents divorced when I was a young adult; I’m 42 now, & some days it’s still hard. But you’re strong, & being up-front about their separation with your family can only be for the good. Hang in there – I’m sure it’s not easy for you right now.

  • Becky says:

    My parents were divorced when I was 11. I remember it being very weird and sad, I got over that after a few years. It was nice, it was normal to share with them seperately. Then, when I was 24, they decided to get remarried, yes… to each other. It was weird and it was happy and it was confusing. I was so accustomed to them being individuals that I now had to retrain myself to them as a “couple”.
    Divorce is sad and strange and weird… as yes, sometimes it is completely necessary. I’ve thought about my own childhood through divorce and I’ve thought about you during these last couple of months with this as I try to guide my own children through my divorce from their father.
    Thank you for sharing yourself here, as you always do, with your great big caring heart that is so full and so beautiful.

  • rachel says:

    this must have been so hard to write. to think about. to say. ever since you first mentioned this I have been playing the what if game in my head and I just can’t imagine it. You keep saying how could you not be supportive and how could you not try to be be happy for them, and that is because of what a loving and understanding person you are. I would expect you do have feelings you are trying to squash and add the fact that you have been through such horror that simply having your parents alive may seem more important than your own personal grief. so sorry you have to go through this. i’m here for you and i care.

  • Liza says:

    Having been there, I so understand what you are going through. But I imagine it is more difficult when young children are a part of the mix. The weight on you must be enormous, since you are close to them both. Thank you for sharing, and I send a big strong hug your way.

  • Erika Robuck says:

    That detail about repeating stories twice instead of on speaker phone really made an impression. I’m so sorry for your loss, because divorce is a death, and I wish you all healing and peace as you work through this kind of grief. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Ann Gregory says:

    Thank you for sharing this part of your life. I know it hasn’t been easy for you.

  • Mary Helen says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about this, Lisa. I don’t care how old you are, this kind of change IS a major shift and I’m sure it’s difficult to adjust. I wish you grace and peace and I sincerely hope that it’s easier to deal with than you worry that it will be.

    I really appreciate how you share all the raw edges of your life with your readers. We love you and support you through it all. I cherish the chance to try and be a fraction of the comfort to you that you have been to me.


  • Kim says:

    I have thought a lot about you and your parents (and me and my parents) since you first shared this. Your honest accounts and reflections always make me think. Sending lots of deep sighs.

  • avidreader78 says:

    My parents divorced when I was 5 and oddly enough I have to say I almost prefer it that way. I am sorry that everyone involved has to go through this…..and just shy of 50 years :/ hugs!

  • avidreader78 says:

    And by prefer it that way I mean…that it happened when I was 5, not that it happened overall

  • Wow. So evocative and insightful. There seems to be a trend towards older couples making the decision to separate but who would think it would be our parents? You are wonderful in supporting and accepting their decision despite the loss and sadness experienced. As you suggest so much will be redefined in your interactions with your parents. Selfishly, I hope that you continue to post as things develop as only you can. This is another front on which you can be helpful to so many. Thanks for baring your heart and sharing this. In some ways it might earmark a new beginning/opportunity to know your parents in new and surprising ways.

  • Being just shy of 50 years married, there is no doubt that your parents thought long and hard about the decision. I don’t care how old you are, it effects you. I hope they both find happiness in their new lives apart and remain good friends. It’s hard to see how they couldn’t after spending so much time together. Big hugs to you and the kids.

  • Alana says:

    I am stunned – both by your grace and wisdom, and by the thought that after almost 50 years together, separation is the best option for your parents. You’ve made me realize that there is an unwritten rule in my head that at some point in time (30 years? 40? 45?) a marriage will only be ended by death. Perhaps naive on my part, certainly hopeful, and now fully exposed for me to look at.
    Wishing you all strength and love as you move into this new place.

  • OpinionsToGo says:

    I found the news of your parent’s divorce shocking…really shocking. And then, shock turned to sadness. And now, I can’t help but think about all the birthdays and
    holidays ahead and, my heart breaks for eveyone! It’s all gonna work…YOU WILL MAKE
    IT WORK!!

  • Stephanie says:

    I can only imagine how you feel. I was 21 when my parents said it was over, and I was in my senior year of college and felt like I had no place to go. Who picks sides at that age as to who you want to live with and couldn’t afford to be on my own. It is difficult, my mom was also diagnosed with breast cancer as my parents were divorcing. Life was a blur then. Today 5 years later things are better. As time goes on you find a new “normal” best of luck to you and your family on this new chapter of your life.

  • denise says:

    Oh friend. I understand. My parents’ divorce, 20 years ago, still rankles me at time. My in-laws (as you know) have just divorced after 45 years of marriage.

    It’s hard.
    It changes everything.
    It’s a loss, and, as you point out, it deserves to be grieved.

    Sending love. And patience. And the knowledge that you’ve got others (me!!) out here who can and do sympathize. Any time, my friend. Any time. xoxo

  • Erika Morris says:

    I am so sorry to hear this news. I can only hope that it means something better for your parents, who are brave to forge new paths as mature adults. But for you I weep. My parents are still together but, as they approach 50 yrs together too, I know there is much water under their bridge. If they were to split, it would create a deep emotion chasm for me and my siblings even though we are “mature adults” ourselves. Stay strong in the graceful manner we admire you for. Our thoughts are with you from 2 doors away.

  • Laura W. says:

    I am sorry to hear about that. However, it seems that your parents have thought long and hard about their separation, and seem to be handling it maturely and gracefully — visiting the grandkids together, for instance, shows they still have a lot of respect for each other, and for you, and for them. My thoughts will be with you.

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