This is going to be one of those busy weeks around here with Thanksgiving and children coming home and my youngest son turning 8 years old, so I am taking this single opportunity that I have to write about what I am thankful for this year. Because I am now twice divorced with six children from the first marriage, and one from the second, all of the holiday arrangements can get cumbersome. Who is going to be where and when takes a lot of time to pin down. Being flexible becomes more important than ever.
Until two days ago, it looked as if my adult kids–the ones who will be home–might have to try to stuff themselves with two Thanksgiving dinners only a few hours apart. I was grateful that my meal would be first so that they would have some room in their stomachs for all of the delights I had in store for them. However, on Saturday, my first husband and his wife invited us over to their house for Thanksgiving dinner. My youngest son was thrilled with the idea, and even if I had to give up complete control of the meal, it made perfect sense to accept the invitation on the one condition that I get to bring a lot of food.
When I left my first husband I told anyone who would listen that, “He will never change.” Guess what? I was wrong. He has changed quite a lot. So have I, for that matter. I got sober and grew up. He made changes that I know were hard for him so that he could have a better relationship with our children. I admire him greatly for all of the work that he has done that has so hugely benefited our family. I think he admires the changes that I have made, as well. Because we both cared enough about our kids to make some huge changes, we have been able to forgive each other, and we have both healed to the point where we can get together as a family with our kids, and his wife’s kids, and my little boy, and other new people thrown into the mix. I still think this confuses some of our adult kids a bit, but they are adapting, like it or not.
I realized today that these big family gatherings would not have been possible ten years ago. We were both still extremely stuck in our own garbage. I got rid of the drinking and a whole lot of other things. He gave up a lot, too, including a wife who did not support our family as a whole. His wife now has a heart big enough, and an ego healthy enough, to open her arms to everyone. As confused as our adult kids may be at our fairly recent hospitality towards each other, I know they are learning a lot even if they are not aware of it right now.
They are learning that even grown ups have to do some growing up before there can be health in the family. They are learning about forgiveness that was a hard-fought battle with huge benefits. They are learning that people can change if they have courage enough, and they are learning that healing is possible even after a bad ending. They are also seeing that, even though they are all grown up now, that their father and I will support them forever as a unit. There is no tug of war anymore, unless, of course, his wife will not let me make the gravy like she did last year, then there might be a battle for the whisk. 😉
My little boy adores his “Uncle Garth” and Holly and since he spent six months of his life living in their home while I was in prison, they are a very important part of his family. It took an awful lot of people coming together, and a huge amount of love coming from all directions, for my little boy to have come through that experience as healthy as he did, and for that, I am very grateful. I am grateful to all of my children, especially my youngest daughter who was his primary caregiver, and to my first husband and his wife and her kids, because they all played a big role is caring for my little boy.
I am so grateful for healing and forgiveness and for reconciliation as it works the magic that brings all of our families together on one day to celebrate growth and love and caring and support. My introvert kids will survive the event, and we will get together the next day, just us as a smaller unit, to celebrate my little guy’s birthday. It is having the best of both worlds all in one love packed weekend. We are all having to give up a little something to open ourselves up to something much bigger and far more grand.
This kind of love and compromise and healing and forgiveness is a rare thing, and I know that. I also know that they are right (whoever they are) when they say, “Never say never.” I am so grateful for the kindness, love, flexibility, and generosity of this big, messy, cobbled together family. The blessings that come from healing and forgiveness are almost too big for words, so I will use just three. Thank you, Lord.