My Broken Home

I was a grown man when I learned my parent’s were getting a divorce. One would assume I had plenty of life experience from which to draw on in order to cope with the sudden changes….but age does not always predict how well you will “manage” the unforeseen events in your life.
This past summer I was at a writing seminar in Minnesota, and we were working on complete metaphors — where your writing appears to be all about one thing, when it is really about something else. I found myself alone one night, writing about my experience with my parent’s divorce. I was sitting at a desk, crying uncontrollably as I wrote out in a story so much of what I have tried to hold back. It was a cathartic and freeing experience as I continued the process of understanding, reconnecting, and moving forward.
Whether good or bad, I rarely share personal struggles that cannot be wrapped up in 300 words – which would explain why my fingers have hovered over the “post” button for 20 minutes. I only pray it will be helpful to someone else just as it was helpful to me.

“By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” Apostle Paul

broken home

Our Chevy Malibu galloped up Interstate 65 through Indiana as the landscape rolled out into flat, open spaces. The hills faded away, leaving us with crops and fields and rows and barns. We were pressing toward the prize of this 14-hour trip – home, to Illinois, to my home. I was told my home was unfixable now – that years of neglect had left professionals with nothing to work with and it was time to find another home; I knew that to be impossible.

I had memorized every square inch of that house; I knew it’s story, it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses. I even knew the places that needed repair and reinforcements. This was not the sort of thing you paid much attention to as a child, but in retrospect you can see the signs of dysfunction just below the surface – a crack here, some mold there, left without attention anything is liable to decay and brokenness. But I could fix it, I just needed to walk around the old neighborhood, stand on the porch for a while, then I could see what needed to be fixed, explain what to do next, and save this house – save our house.

The next morning I slipped out of bed, meandered around my children asleep in piles of blankets on the floor, and drove off in my car alone.

I made my way toward Bel- Aire Subdivision – turning left on Kathy drive, right on Ardith, and then another left on to Anita. I decided to park down at the end of the street and double back to the house. I stepped out of the car and in to the cold, damp, heavy morning air. Before me an intrusive strip mall complete with nail salon and a dollar store, disfigured the field that played host to so many afternoon ball games. I walked the sidewalks, now broken by extreme temperatures, bleeding out weeds and dandelions. Houses looked small and lifeless; fences bowed; what once was the neighborhood you wanted to live in now became the neighborhood you drove through, to get to the neighborhood you wanted to live in.

Lost in the memories of a former life, picturing friends, remembering adventures, recalling neighbors long since departed, I stumbled upon 136 Anita Drive. I stopped frozen to the pavement, afraid to move any closer. This used to be the home I knew, but what stood before me was only a house – sagging and strained under the pressures of life. The grass and weeds conspired to take it over. The shutters hung loose and the roof had long since peeled its protective skin. The thoughts and questions in my head mixed with the cry of my heart and spilled out of my mouth. “With a little work this could’ve been saved” I informed God. “Why did no one fight for this house – it was worth fighting for!” Tears patiently repelled down the grooves of my face and on to my t-shirt. I knelt down to feel the grass one last time. I climbed the steps to the front porch and sat for a moment, fearing I was the last one to say goodbye, to walk away and to move on.

The cool wind picked up again, nudging me from my grief, and reminding me that my children would be awake soon. So I stepped down from the porch, followed the path of the sidewalk onto the driveway, where another sidewalk was waiting to show me the way back to my car, the way to move forward.

Arriving at the room, I kissed my children on the forehead and pulled the blankets back up over their tiny bodies. I slipped back under the covers, slid over to my wife’s side, wrapped my cold arm around her warm body, and held her close. She stirred briefly; I kissed her gently on the temple and whispered, “it’s worth fighting for” then slowly drifted off to sleep.

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11 thoughts on “My Broken Home

  1. A very stirring reminder that marriage is worth fighting for. My brother’s wife left him and filed for divorce almost a year ago, breaking up their family. That affected our extended family so much, we all grieved so much for that broken family, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have your own family broken. What a blessing that you have a healthy marriage and family yourself now.

    1. Thanks Amy. While I feel I am in a good place now in regards to my parents and moving forward, it is interesting how one writing assignment could bring out ideas and feelings I thought were well behind me. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Sometimes the house is just too far gone to save, but I still lived in my parents abuse, alcoholism, affairs, and abandonment. If only they would have divorced, but they stayed married till they died. I can’t but wonder if they didn’t thrive off of this existence.
    But, did they know they left six broken children in their mess.

    1. I cannot imagine the hurt and brokenness Aunt B. At least in my situation I have so many good memories to reflect upon. I am thankful that even with that horrible experience you are leaving a new legacy for your children that will impact generations to come. If there is one thing I’ve learned from this is it is that you cannot assume to fully know what people are going through — those getting the divorce or those dealing with its effects. I am thankful to God who is continually in the process of mending together that which is torn.

      Thank you so much for sharing

  3. This is a touching a gripping missive – on many levels. I just found your blog through UBC and will continue to check back for future posts.

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