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The Elephant in the Room

Wednesday, February 06, 2008
So it was a very bad day in early January (a dark, rainy Sunday, if I recall) that my family sat down for dinner and my parents announced that they were, after just over 30 years of marriage, getting a divorce.

This came as quite a shock to me, and I left dinner pretty upset about it.

I've seen my parents a couple times since then. Going to "the house" feels strange; they still refer to each other as "mom" and "dad" when I'm around, and it's like nothing's really changed, yet I know that these two people - the two who raised me and shaped me into the person I am today - are going to be going their individual ways soon. They're still living together for the time being (until they can get independently established) and they're going to try to remain friends, but it doesn't seem to process in my mind that they're not always going to be home.

No more Thanksgiving dinners.

No more Christmas mornings.

No more birthday barbecues.

Perhaps my brain doesn't know how to process it. They've been together literally my entire life (plus nine months - I was a honeymoon baby!) and it's like waking up one morning and having my hands on the opposite arms: they still function, but it feels really different. It's going to be so hard thinking of them as "Mom of Mom" and "Dad of Dad" instead of as, for instance, "Mom of Mom & Dad".

I've spent a lot of time thinking about marriage and divorce since then. I've already experienced both, of course, so the process isn't new to me. I guess I just figured that after 30 years, why not stay together? What's to be gained by separating?

Looking back, I can see that they've had problems for a while. As I noted, I was a honeymoon baby. (Legend has it that it was on a beach in the Caribbean, but I digress.) But even before I came along, their dating and engagement periods were quite short. How long did they get to know each other and spend time together before it became "sacrifice time" in order to support a family? How many dreams did they each give up when I came along? Looking back, I can see that when my younger brother and I left the house, they didn't have a lot to fall back on. Few, if any, common interests, and I saw that manifest itself as frustration time and time again.

How do you live with someone you share only friends with?

I know that I don't know what the future will hold. I know that I hope they can part amicably, and be able to see each other socially. (If nothing else, my brother's wedding is coming up!) I hope that they can stay the same people that I've known and loved my whole life, and I hope that I'll be able to treat them the same.


Blogger Julien Chambers said...

Oh man, I'm sorry to hear that. My prayers are with you and your family as you go through this rough time.

12:42 PM, February 07, 2008  
Blogger The Infinite Jester said...

I'm speechless.

4:48 AM, February 09, 2008  
Blogger Laura said...

We talked about it already a bit, but I wanted to offer you my condolences.

at least they are being friendly about it.

9:44 AM, February 09, 2008  
Blogger Kay said...

What an adorable kid you are, Burton. Wouldn't every gal like to have a brilliant son (or a couple of them) who can pick up on the subtleties, weave the abstractions, and come to an incredible insight: the pending divorce is ALL YOUR FAULT. Should I let you linger in the sentiment for a while?...Hugs to you,love...Mommy dearest

10:51 PM, February 27, 2008  
Blogger Burton said...

... and my mother wins the award for "most awesomest comment ever. " Thanks for the kind words, mom. I'm choosing your retirement home. :)

8:27 AM, February 28, 2008  
Blogger joy said...


I have been close friends with your mom since our college days in N.C. Since you attended the U of O, I was also friends with you during your college experience. I also consider your dad a friend. Your family is experiencing a year of changes- graduations from grad school, a marriage, and sadly a divorce. What is important to remember is something that never will change- the love of close friends!


1:18 AM, March 29, 2008  

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