Since my parents divorced when I was a young teenager, we rarely had the whole family together…Until my daughter was born. Every year for her birthday everyone came together. Mom and her spouse and his family, Dad and his spouse, my husband’s mom and her father, and my twin brother and his family. We always had two birthdays for her. The “family” party and then the “friend” party. Some years it was combined, friends and family. I always thought it was so cool to have everyone get along under one roof. Mom’s husband and my dad chatting. Dad’s wife and my mom chatting. Everyone coming together for my daughter.
When she turned 16, my twin brother, who bought our lakehouse when my mom remarried, offered to have her party there. I still remember sittting back watching everyone. My brother taught her how to wakeboard. Everyone said how she was just like her mother, learning so quickly. My mother in law was there with her dad, grandpa John. My mom’s husband’s mother was even there. Everyone cheering for my daughter out behind the boat. I have a video that I discovered on the computer today. Everyone together by the water laughing and having fun. My daughter out on the water that I had grown up skiing on. My brother’s step sons encouraging my daughter. I saw how much everyone loved my little girl. They all really loved her. I watched the video a few times. Then I scrolled through each of her birthdays and looked at my entire family there.
We had large numbers before. Every year, tons of family for my daugher’s birthday party. We are down to 1 family member other than my husband and me. So the table may only be set for 4 but it is 4 strong. My family left. Every single one of them left. This year my daughter turned 20. Instead of being sad that my family was gone, I felt blessed to have the 4 of us. True love stays. And if that means you are down to only a handful of people that are authentic, unconditional, and steadfast, then celebrate.
My family weren’t thinking when they chose to leave me. They didn’t realize that leaving me, meant leaving my daughter too. My daughter that they loved far more than they ever loved me. That is until the one day they would have let her down too because their love fit into a mold. Had she married an African American man, or been gay, I’m sure she would have been kicked to the curb like me. One of my cousin’s choices was “too dark” so I already know how that would work out. Maybe my daughter was spared later hurt. I can imagine they kick themselves for that oversight, not realizing they’d lose her by leaving me. Although I wish my daughter were surrounded by a huge family to love her, because she deserves that, she will be better off without a family loving her conditionally. And that is how my family loved…conditionally.
I look at the pictures of that lake where I was molested my entire childhood. I look at the video of my family who left the moment I broke the silence of that abuse. They almost broke me. My daughter was in the hospital that weekend. They sent her flowers but no one came to see her. Their pride kept them away. I hurt for my daughter’s loss some days. But most days I celebrate what we have. You can grieve what you’ve lost but you have to balance that with celebrating what you have.
We are currently 4 strong. My husband, his mom, my daughter and me. That video I watched of my daughter’s birthday haunted me a little today. To see those smiling faces and know the ugliness that they were capable of, the ugliness lying just beneath, is unsettling. It still blows my mind thinking that the family, my family, just left. I let them go, but watching the video just reminded me again of the strange world I had been living in before. A world where my daughter was most definitely loved, but for me, I don’t really know anymore. Real love doesnt leave. A mother’s love is not supposed to stop.
So now, we are only 4, but we are strong in our bond. It is something I celebrate and cherish. Birthdays are small now. But I know everyone sitting around my table is committed in unconditional love. What more could I ask for.