Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Family Portrait

I am a scrapbooker. It’s an addiction. But, no matter how much I do it (and have done it for over ten years) I am never caught up. The other day I was working on layouts from a family cruise that we went on back in 2001.

My dad took us. He took us all—his mother, his aunt, all his children, all his grandchildren—on an 11 night cruise to the deep Caribbean. One of his brothers also came with his wife and children. At the time, my husband and I only had one child, his daughter TK. She was about 8. It was a wonderful vacation filled with visits to beaches, and ruins, and jungles, with giant blue butterflies and slippery stingrays.

One of the things I love best about cruises is formal dinners every night. I love dressing up. Look at us, lol, we look like the Addams family.


There is another photograph, a family portrait taken of the whole group of us together. It was that particular picture I was scrapping when a thick sadness overwhelmed me. I wanted to print all the names vertically on vellum paper to stick next to the photo. As I was staring at the faces, typing the names, it struck me how broken and gone my family is.

The greats and grands in the photo have since died. I adored my grandmother, and I still miss her. But, old ladies dying in their nineties is not the sad part. Divorce is the sad part. There are people missing that I loved. They were my family and they are no more. And because the wife is gone, so are her children. I showed the picture to my sons and neither of them could name half the people in it.

If that picture had been taken ten years earlier, there would have been a different step-mother for me and a bunch of other step-siblings. Going back even further, there would have been still another step-mother, another aunt, and different cousins... Divorce has divided me from my family since I was a year old and my parents divorced. My paternal grandparents are divorced. Every one in my parents’ generation (both sides) is divorced, some more than once. My generation on my side and on my husband’s has not gone untouched by the disease. I wonder what the family picture looks like ten years from now. Will my children still have all their aunts, uncles, and cousins? I doubt it, and my heart breaks just thinking about it.

We scrappers joke around that if you piss us off we will crop you out of our layouts. Ha, in this family, we divorce you out of our layouts.

I hate divorce. I hate how it breaks apart families, unit by unit, until there is nothing left but scraps in a photo album.

Tomorrow I will have a lovely dinner with my family of seven, and one set of grandparents. Our kids have three sets total, and that is not going to change for them. They will never have to learn to love a new grandparent or to forget a discarded one. Only the natural circle of life will separate them from their grands. For that, I am thankful.

I admit though, I am jealous of you who have generations of intact families. You are out there right? You do exist?


heather said...

Divorce is so sad. But intact families do exist. My grandparents (who never divorced) had 4 children who are all still married and had 16 children. Of those 16 grandchildren all have married (but one) and in that group there is one divorce (my oldest brother) but no children were involved in that marriage.

TUC said...

Wow, Heather, that is awesome. Family parties must be huge and super entertaining.

jisun said...

No one in my or hubby's family is divorced either (nearly no one--there are two divorces out of nearly 20 families), but I must say, it doesn't necessarily translate into a directly higher proportion of happiness. And just 'cause you're married, doesn't mean that people always show up for family gatherings. Hence, we still have the incomplete pictures. ;)

jody lynn said...

So timely as I celebrate holidays the second year after divorce. The pain is still fresh and I miss my in-laws, my children are late teens but still sad. Divorce: the gift that keeps giving.

krlr said...

As my dad's third (3rd!) marriage ends, I've decided divorce doesn't break apart families, it just prunes off the extraneous people who are only friendly because you happen to have people in common. Meanwhile my other "family", the friends that fly across the country to visit and love my children on the 363 days that aren't Christmas and birthday, stick around without legal obligation and show up "Grandma".
Man, do I sound bitter or what?
Condolences on YOUR losses though. It really is a massive mind fuck.

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