Saturday, August 27, 2011


Have you ever watched your children on a carousel? Watched their faces light up with joy while you stand aside and watch?

That's kind of like what parenting is like when you have not been parented. It's watching your children experience life in a way that you never have. It is being separated from them in something so basic and fundamental that it is the basis of your whole adult life.

In this house, and in our family, I sometimes feel very much the outsider. I am the only one here, in these walls, that does not know family as a safe place. I don't know mom or dad as a word of safety or shelter. I have never run to my parents for advice, for love, for strength. I envy them this feeling of a broad sense of love. Of a depth and breadth to the world of those who care deeply for you. They have so much more than I have ever had, and I don't begrudge them of it, but I can say that at times it makes me feel very much alone.

My mother's picture hangs on the wall. My daughter has no idea who she is. My father sits in a lonely nursing home. He's never met Sam, and Lily doesn't remember him. My communication with him is stilted and one sided.

My husband's parent's voices are as familiar in this house as my own. They call daily. The children know them, have spent time with them, and love them fiercely. And as my husband says, they are my family now. I believe that. But the knowledge does not heal.

I can't explain how I feel in the moments when Sam and Lily talk to their grandparents. I feel ashamed that mine cannot and will not do the same. I feel joy that my children are so loved. I feel small and pained and...broken. I feel pitiful, and hate myself for the feeling.

I don't want to be envious of what Mark and my children have. I want to be happy for them. And I am, in many ways. But sometimes it feels as if they are in a great boat leaving harbor, and I am skirting their path on the shore, waving and calling. We are all going the same direction, and to the same place, but having two very different experiences.

This nis a daily challenge for me- to parent in a way that I can be proud of. To give of myself in ways that I was never shown. I am making it up as I go along, with no road map and no manual. And I feel as if I have done a decent job muddling through most times.

But there are days like today. When the aftermath of a hurricane pulls through, and phone calls fly back and forth. None for me. And when the computer shows faces that smile and my children wave and sing and smile back- but none of those faces are my family. Days when I feel like the ground after the storm- wasted, littered, and overwhelmed.

Days when I put pen to paper to write a letter to my father, while the voices of my husband's parents call out through the phone into the walls of my house, striking me at just how different our experiences of life are and always will be.

So I will walk along the shore while those I love take a different journey, and see the way in a different light. But I will be grateful for the glimpses I get of their path, and of their lives with a circle of family much broader than my own. I will watch, I will call, I will wave, and I will try to be at peace with my viewpoint here, on a different land.