Yesterday at Billy Coffey’s site was a post called The luckiest boy in the world.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Mr. Coffey’s writing, but that particular post struck a nerve with me. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s the sad and all too real story of how children are often made to suffer for the poor choices their parents make. And while I’m sure it wasn’t Billy’s intention to paint all children of divorce as irrevocably damaged, as a child of divorce myself, I took it very personally. In the comments I wrote the following:
I was one of those lucky kids, too. Fortunately not lucky enough to have 3 bedrooms. I had one room, at my mom’s house. The divorce was difficult for everyone but in my case, I think I’m a better person for having been raised by a mother who showed me how to choose to live with honor and dignity, to do the right thing even when others around you choose not to.
I spent the day with my mother on Thursday. This woman of small stature and enormous strength. By today’s standards she might be considered old fashioned. Her marriage did not end because of “irreconcilable differences” or some other fancy term that means two people don’t love each other anymore. My father left her.
If a single mother of four who had spent the previous 17 years raising children and being a housewife doesn’t paint a grim enough picture, consider that 18 years earlier, when she announced to her family her plans to marry an American serviceman, they completely disowned her. She has had no contact with any of them since. With the exception of the four of us kids, she was completely and utterly alone, with no job and no hope for the future.
As a woman from a very proud family richly steeped in Japanese tradition, honor and dignity are written into her DNA. She would never remarry. By her way of thinking, you marry once. She had been dishonored by one failed marriage, she would not dishonor her family and herself by choosing badly again.
This is the woman that is my mother. A woman who worked first as a waitress in a high end Japanese restaurant and later as a deli manager at two major grocery chains. She never took food stamps or any kind of government aid, even though I’m quite sure she qualified for it. I never remember being in want. She worked long hours on her feet all day then sewed and altered clothing to make ends meet. She’s suffered heart break that she didn’t share with us so as to not speak poorly of our father.
So when she tells me (as she did today) that she’s proud of who I’ve become, it is the ultimate compliment. I am who I am because of who she is. And I pray I can be the kind of mother she was and is to me to my own children.
Not all children of divorce live their lives as victims. Some of us are stronger for it, because we had a parent who didn’t allow their circumstances to dictate whether or not they did the right thing. They did right thing despite their circumstances.