Moose doesn’t have a traditional family. He doesn’t have the connected home life I dreamed of while he grew in the warm embrace of my womb. I imagined his father and I holding hands at our 50th wedding anniversary as he spoke of how we taught him how to love. How we showed him what soulmates and respect were. My dream will never come to fruition. Now that I reflect on the past twelve years of my life, trying to make sense of this truncated marriage, I realize that dream never had the chance of being a reality, even if his father had stayed. Instead of my fantasy, the reality of what he would have learned is an unhealthy, unbalanced relationship. He would have witnessed how much of myself I surrendered. How the more I begged for love, the further it moved away. He would have also seen the more I craved that love, the less I liked myself. The less “me” there was.
It is difficult to grasp the awareness that the relationship you cherished most wasn’t what you thought it was. It is difficult to reflect on what you accepted and what you looked past, thinking it was an acceptable sacrifice. But you must reflect. You must stare down that truth. You must grow. You must adapt. And all of those things, I am in the process of. Some days it is like shoveling endless piles of shit, but I strap my rubber boots on and handle the tasks at hand. But all days- I enjoy my life.
Let’s be real about the last statement. I don’t enjoy all days. Some days my heart crumbles in my chest. Some days I am locked in battle with my mind. Some days I am more exhausted that I can accurately describe. It is more than physical or mental- it’s fatigue of my soul. But even in those days, I go to work and I laugh with my dad. I come home and I get a hug from Moose that makes the stars align and my world make sense. I make that kid laugh- the most potent, joyful sound to ever grace my ears.
A few weeks ago we were joined on our excursion to the pumpkin patch by my best friend J and our friend H. We explored the field for the perfect pumpkin. Moose made a quest to sit on as many pumpkins as possible once he realized that picking a pumpkin up wasn’t in the cards for him. We laughed and pet pigs while consuming popcorn and fresh pumpkin ice cream. Moose highly enjoyed the ice cream. And watching the chickens. We enjoyed a hay ride and Moose mooing at the baby cow. It was a day I will cherish the memories of.
As our affair came to a close, I carried my exhausted toddler to the car as H graciously lugged my equally heavy pumpkin. I leaned over to J and thanked her. I thanked her for accompanying me on my family adventure since I didn’t have a family. In return, she entwined her arm in mine, pulled me closer, and said “you have a family, it might not be conventional, but we are your family”. As I type this, just as the day she uttered the words, emotion rolls into my throat and moisture blurs my vision.
Throughout the process of my marriage ending, I see the ruins of my former life. The future plans cancelled before even having a chance to live. Friends that have either chosen sides or faded away for lack of how best to handle the situation. Weekends that I don’t see my child’s face or feel his weight in my lap. But through all of that, I have seen friendship and compassion in a way that I didn’t recognize before. I have seen the people that love me create the cocoon that I so desperately needed.
I have realized the beautiful tapestry that is my tribe.
Moose may not have a mother and father that live in the same house. I may not have the partner that I thought. But we have so much more. Moose is surround by an abundance of love. Love for him- and love for me- that is not quantifiable. He may not learn love from his father and I’s union, but he will witness sacrifice, love, protection, and loyalty from our tribe. These individuals have helped sculpt me into who I am and they are already tattooed on Moose’s heart. J, in her infinite wisdom, couldn’t have said anything truer to me than those words that day. We have a family. It is unconventional, strong, beautiful, and more then I could have ever created in my dreams. Our tribe is that of which stories are written, symphonies composed. We are loved for who we are, not what they hope for us to be. It is raw, honest, and true. Our family is magnificent and I could not love it more.