For my entire life I have lived what most people would call an unorthodox life. Some would maybe even call it dysfunctional, and that is true. Honestly, I would not have it any other way. Don’t get me wrong, looking back there a few things that could’ve been improved upon, but as Dawn said, our childhood, albeit challenging, made us who we are today, and overall, we all turned out pretty okay.
In the beginning it was difficult for Bruce to understand me, my family (parents, siblings)….us. We didn’t fit into any of the stereotypical norms in any way. Growing up, our home was always chaos (at best). Of course, there was our own large brood of kids running the neighborhood. Our cousins would often stay for a few weeks (those that lived far away) and some would come and hang out for the day (those that lived close). Then we would throw in a smattering of friends, some best friends, some new friends. Regardless, there was rarely a time that our house wasn’t overflowing with people. That was our “norm”.
When I met Bruce I remember that we would be sitting on the couch and we would be watching TV and my younger siblings would literally be crawling on me. I could totally zone them out and still watch the show. Bruce was completely overwhelmed. He would always ask me how I could even focus with all the chaos? I always answered, “what do you mean?”, to which he looked at me like I had 3 heads.
He would also come over in the evening only to find my younger siblings sleeping all over the floor. We had grown up always making make-shift beds from blankets and couch cushions, and we always slept together on the floor. It was always interesting navigating the heads, arms and legs as you made your way to the other side of the room.
After we were married and through the years, I continued to be close to my family. I would travel home often, sometimes a couple weekends every month if my work schedule allowed. My boys grew up with Roxy’s kids who were often at mom and dad’s house. Driving home I would always ask my boys (when they were young), “who’s going where?”. Darek would always answer, “g-ma Madeline’s”. Dari would always answer, “Crazy g-ma’s (aka, g-ma Shirley)”.
Also through the years, I had my younger siblings come and stay often. I loved it! They came and hung out with my boys and watched them for us most every summer! What a blessing!
That was (a very small tidbit) my life. That was our life.
Chaos around every corner.
Of course, given that as a family we also had some challenges and dysfunction, I was probably too involved for all of my life, and definitely throughout my marriage. The lines often greyed to where my “loyalties” lied. I had grown up the oldest girl, and with that came the role of second mom (behind a mom, who I do love very much but had her own challenges, demons and issues with alcoholism). It also made me dad’s “right hand girl”, which often drove a wedge further between my mother and I. Nothing intentional, just how it was. But because of this, Bruce and I often butted heads about my very involved role in my family. Truly, a very legitimate issue on his part. Over time, this became a driving force in mine and Bruce’s relationship eventually deteriorating. Don’t get me wrong, we were never “fighters or screamers” and overall, we rarely squabbled. Instead what happened is that he would voice his concerns and issues, and I being Anderson, said little back and internalized it all. I was angry often, as I felt trapped between my “old” life and what was supposed to be my “new” life.
Me: What do you want me to do?
Bruce: Put our family first…..
A reasonable request, but one that I could not accommodate without feeling as though I was abandoning my siblings. After we lost dad and then mom, we were even in a more desperate situation. Lonny had yet to establish himself and Chad was barely out of high school, with a daughter and girlfriend. They all moved in with us. Bruce was stressed often and I dreaded coming home from work most days knowing that he would be unhappy. Again, Bruce’s position was all but understandable, and it is not that he didn’t care for my family, he did immensely, but for our entire marriage they were front and center, and he was confused at that.
We reached an impasse, and a breaking point that not even marriage counseling could overcome.
We divorced and it definitely didn’t feel good, but I was exhausted with everything. Being Anderson, we internalize and when that strategy fails, we walk away. We are not quitters, we just don’t understand conflict and how to sort through it.
I moved out even before Chad did but eventually Chad and I would rent a house together, and Lonny moved to the cities, readying himself for independence.
After a handful of months, I noticed that Bruce would get Madi (our niece and Chad’s daughter) and more often, he was finding ways to spend time with them. Also over time, Bruce and I started to hang out more together and do things with the boys, like watch football games, etc. We had always been friends, that was easy for the most part. But finally, we had reached this point where we could understand each other better.
Also, Bruce realized that the family that had once drove him crazy, he now missed.
Most likely, it was simply that after years of chaos and transition, a ‘quiet life’ seemed contrary to what had become his everyday life previous to the divorce.
Eventually, we decided to reconcile and live together, but it wouldn’t be “just us” because honestly, I don’t think we even know how to do that 🙂
Last night, I walked in the door tired from a LONG day at work, we are busy there and everyday is an OT day. As I walked in the door I was attacked immediately by my dynamic greeting duo known as Elsa and Zorra (okay, okay, happy to see you too, now go LAY DOWN!). I also immediately heard giggling from the basement and I knew that the “wonder twins” (aka, Bella and Nolan) were together again! I was bone tired but I heard it and I smiled! I looked around my kitchen to a 3/4 cleaned kitchen; dishes in dishwasher but pans soaking, and I smiled also (yep, cleaning job via the men). I checked in on Darien, who is hanging out with us for a couple weeks before he moves into his new apartment in the cities (he’s currently crammed into my little office, hence also the reason my blog writing mojo has been affected this week). He was on the phone and I asked how his 4th day of work went, “good” (typical Dari response, one word). Darek came downstairs, “hey mom, how was work, we left the food out for you!”, as he ran back upstairs! I smiled, ‘oh Darek, ever the worrier, checking in quick’. I made a protein shake, went down to chat with Bruce for a minute thinking that the giggling right outside his room might be driving him crazy, but he didn’t seem fazed. We talked for a bit and then I went out to talk to the kids. Nolan was trying to pull off a plastic tag from his shorts that somehow must’ve gotten overlooked. I offered to pull it off and he gladly let me, the WHOLE time never missing a bit of conversation with Bella and giggling as we worked to remove the tag. Again I smiled. Gosh, I love these kids SO much, and they LOVE each other SO much! As I started back upstairs, I peeked in Chad’s room and saw him on his computer engrossed in something. No need to say anything, I went back upstairs. I cleaned up the pots and right as I was going to head to bed, Chad came up and we spoke for a few minutes, a nice conversation. It was almost 930 and I was was more than ready to lay down.
Me: Okay y’all, I’m heading to bed.
As I walked up the stairs, I smiled.
I am FOREVER explaining to people it seems my very unorthodox life but I LOVE this. Everyday I believe that I am so blessed to really have it all. Two great boys who are now men. A husband who is my best friend. And a family that I am involved with on every level. Even my siblings that live farther away, we check in often via text. I wish we could see each other more often, but life is busy.
Darek (last night): Why don’t you talk to Dawn and Roxy more?
Me: We do, EVERYDAY, we have a running text! (I thought OMG, if you only knew. We have a group text with just the sisters and then one with Pam, poor Pam…..some days she opens her phone to 50 missed texts!)
Darek: Why don’t we see them more? You guys used to always spend time together….
Me: <silence> (TRUTH> Yes, we have done that more in the past but everyone has busy lives and their own families. Dawn will be coming soon and Roxy was just here.
Darek: What about Lonny and Randy?
Me: I just talked to Lon a couple days ago and Randy and I text often.
Darek: Hm, ok.
I never realized just HOW much my boys noticed and anticipated my family.
The best part is that Bruce is at a really good point with my family and our living situation.
He recently said that he loves where he and Chad’s relationship is at right now. It’s very comfortable and they deeply respect one another.
Going forward, Chad and Ally are pivotal in our comfort level that if/when something happens to Bruce and I, they along with Darien will always be instrumental and supportive in helping Darek.
I always say that life is funny, sometimes in a “haha” way and sometimes in a “hmm” way. It is amazing how often life comes full circle. Family is what you choose it to be.
Some call this chaos, I definitely call this MY family.