My father has always had a tumultuous time with women. Being such, my brother and I have had the experience of being raised in a few blended families. As is true with most experiences, it was both a gift and a curse.
My parents divorced after 15 years of marriage while I was six and my brother was twelve. My father retained custody of both my brother and I.
After accepting the divorce was happening and moving away from our mother to St. Croix, my dad soon began a relationship with a woman from the island. When she moved in with our family, she brought along her daughter, who would become my new 2 year old sister. I had a new family now. Just like that.
Kids adapt – especially military brats. To adapt is normal and to be expected. All the kids around us were the same. New places – new bases – new countries – new students – new faces – new friends – new people – new teachers – new schools – new houses – new apartments – new addresses and new phone numbers. And every now and again, new mothers. That’s how life was. It was normal.
There was so much constant change, you didn’t know what was supposed to be static. It was life as we knew it.
My new Crucian mother loved my brother and I the same way she loved her own daughter. She helped to raise us in her own unique way. As a new family, we experienced life in St. Croix, Colorado, and even Germany together. It was a new life indeed, and I experienced life as the middle child. All the way until her and my father split during my junior high years.
I still call her my mother to this day. She still loves me as her own flesh. And my sister will never be anything less than. I love them both dearly.
My father’s third and current marriage, brought me another new ready-made family during my high school years, this time with a new older brother in the mix. Up until the time our parent’s married, he had been an only child being raised by a single black mother.
He had a history of rebelling. We got along great.
I remember taking a car ride with my newest mother, while I was around 15. I remember her talking as I was blankly staring out of the passenger window.
“I had this idea that I was going to be the perfect little mother for you. That I would try to connect to you on that level, and we could do so many things with one another. And then I realized that you’ve spent most of your life simply with your father. That you don’t need a perfect little mother in your life. You have a life. And you’re still going to go to your dad for everything you need just like you would have if I wasn’t here. But if you ever need me for anything at all, anything at all, just know I’ll will always be here for you from this day forward.”
I was looking at her by the time she finished.
“Thank you,” I said.
Over 17 years later, she has kept her word. Undoubtedly, she is my mother as well, and has done more for me than she probably knows. I love her dearly.
From the pain of divorce, I have gained a multitude of other family members who genuinely care and ask about my well being. Who can genuinely ask for more than that out of life?
Unfortunately, through the pain of divorce, I never learned how to fully open myself up to accept all of that love. To be open is to be vulnerable to loss and pain. I don’t know if I’ll ever be that open again. Scars are scars. They change the landscape. The sense of loss after losing the relationship I had with my biological mother changed me as child and those changes have rippled into my adult life.
Those changes are now simply a part of my makeup, and more than likely shielded a lot of the pain I felt when my new brother committed suicided a few short years again. I still love and hurt for him dearly.
At the age of 33, with my own son, and my own marriage, I still thrive directly from my ability to adapt to life changes. I also feel I have an untouched part of my soul and psyche I’m afraid to let get affected again, and I don’t know if it’s something you truly ever get passed. I just hope for my family’s sake, it’s not the part of me they need to thrive.
As a result of my rather large extended family footprint, my son has an outpouring of love from so many sources, I can’t help but to think my past pain is the source of his current blessing.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
BMWK: If you grew up in a blended family, how did it contribute to who you are today?