I’m 25 Years Old and My Parents Were Divorced Last Year
In this open column submission, Miriam writes a personal piece that retells the dramatic turn of events as she was faced with the divorce of her parents at the age of 25.
Words by Whiteboard Journal
I think my brother and I kind of see it coming, ever since the repeated fights and how it escalated into something more awful, more frequent, and more upsetting each day.
I remember being afraid to come home and finding out that my parents have just had another fight.
I remember text messaging my brother to ask whether our parents have gotten into yet another argument and thus making the atmosphere at home feels unsettling.
I remember spending Christmas at an apartment with my mother because my parents got into a fight and mom decided that they needed some distance.
I remember coming home and finding out that my mom had planned to go back to Philippines, and what could an elementary school student do but cry, knowing that her mom would leave her? And then we both cried.
I remember family meetings gone wrong, where we were supposed to talk with a cool head but instead, we were shouting and crying and being angry with one another.
I remember bursting into tears on an ordinary day back in Junior High School, my classmates panicked and clueless as to why I suddenly broke down and cried.
I remember wanting to bail from my college graduation when my parents had initially planned to have a divorce, which fortunately did not happen, yet.
And I remember the three of us celebrating my parents’ anniversary (my brother and his wife were still abroad), and how relieving and strange it felt to see them reach yet another anniversary. It feels like they barely made it.
Looking back, I realized how I was constantly in fear of witnessing my parents’ marriage came to an end. It’s as if I grew up with the subtle hints of their marriage tearing apart bit by bit, which I tried to push away but stays in the back of my mind.
Or perhaps it was like a ticking bomb: with each passing day, something that was so trivial could even trigger it, and every time I saw them fighting, I used to say to myself “perhaps this is it”. At one point I even thought that they decided to stay together just for the sake of us.
Even so, it’s not like my brother and I was deprived of love from our parents. In fact, I have plenty memories of us being a happy family. I even dare to say that my childhood was a joyful one, with little to no tragedy or life-changing event.
It’s strange how the me from the past considers her family to be a perfect one, not knowing what life has in store much later on.
We even had serene months and years before things take turn for the worse.
Like when Alma and my sister-in-law lived with us, and mom and dad barely fight.
Or the time when we went to Sydney to visit my brother who’s pursuing his Master’s Degree.
If only I knew that that was our first and last vacation abroad as a family.
Then the fights resumed, and it was such a mess.
My parents kept telling me their side of the story, and I couldn’t figure out the truth nor judge objectively beyond their own version of the story.
Neither did I know what to say, who to believe, or whose fault it is that brought us into this mess.
I remember feeling alone and not having someone that I could talk to.
I remember how I couldn’t talk back when my brother called to check up on me, or when dad called and explained the process that was about to unfold, because I know I’ll burst into tears.
I remember trying to hold myself from sobbing because I was already in the office and people would see.
I remember wetting the sofa at the co-working space because the tears won’t stop because I realized that this was it, that things are beyond repair.
At that moment, my mind was jumbled and my thoughts became noisy. Various scenarios came into mind.
We would need to sell the house. I would have to support mom from now on. The cats would be too many to handle if there were only the two of us. Mom would revoke her Indonesian nationality and come back to the Philippines. We would all live on our own.
And then the questions; How am I going to take a Master’s degree now? Who will look out for them when my brother and I were too busy with our own lives? How can I support the both of us with such little salary? Who’s gonna accompany my dad and make sure he’s okay? Who’s gonna help mom with the house chores if I were to go on a vacation with my friends? How will mom earn a living if she decided to stay in the Philippines? How can I take care both of my parents when they’re old and retired and no longer have each other?
And even though I’m not a religious person, God knows I always include them in my prayers, that I pray for my parents to never got into such fights again, that they get to keep their marriage until death parts them, but I learned it the hard way that not all prayers are answered, even the one you are most desperate for.
I used to think that if they do get a divorce when I am older and more mature, at least I could handle it better and I would know what to do. But it was nothing like I had imagine it to be, and all I did was cry. It’s like, I haven’t put my life together, but my world is falling apart.
It is now painful to look at my family WhatsApp group, a space where we used to exchange news – be it important, sad, exciting, trivial – as well as photos of our cats and Alma. Of all the WhatsApp groups that I have, it was our family’s that had to be abandoned.
It is now painful to look at our family photos, a trace of the good life we had together as a family, sweet in my memories but gone forever. And it’s equally painful too to read each caption, of the way I describe our family outings, like the monthly grocery shopping, the birthday dinners, the movie nights, the swimming pool visits, and the far-away ones like when we visited my father’s hometown in Tuban, or our first official vacation to Bali, and our last vacation to Sydney.
The split caused so many changes, which manifested in both tangible and intangible things, to the point that I had trouble figuring out what could possibly stay the same. Even the love that I have for my parents feels complicated now.
So 2020 has been an awful year for me, not only because of the pandemic but because both our homes and hearts were broken.
I know that I’m not the only victim of this fallout, that it’s mom and dad who took the hardest decision and suffered the biggest hit. We then spent the following months processing and trying to accept the situation, slowly and privately. But as soon as the anger receded and agreements were made, I think we’re gonna be okay, and time will make it less painful.
Someday, I hope that each of us will be able to find peace and forgiveness, and perhaps might even come to realize that there was no other way. And I’ll pray to God that my parents will be able to find happiness again.