In fairness, I loved him for well over a decade, but there are certain things love cannot survive. Or rather, there are things love can survive in small doses, things that upon first inspection appear innocuous, but that can build to a level of toxicity when administered on a continuous basis: coldness, lack of affection, exacting standards I could never meet.
"Andy, make that kid stop crying! Make her stop, or I will!"
I never thought he'd hurt the children. Even on the one occasion when he lifted our infant daughter from the crib and dangled her over the stairwell of our house by her ankles, I didn't think he'd drop her. Not for real. And yet I'd had to talk him down. "Hand me the baby. Go back to bed."
He pivoted until the child no longer hung over the stairwell, and I quickly snatched her into the safety of my arms. When he went back into the bedroom and turned the fan on full blast, I just stood there in a state of shock. He loved our daughter. Why would he do that?
Thank God she was too young to remember!
Today is Mother's day, and I am thankful for my children. They are alive. They are healthy. They are happy. This speaks volumes to the resilience of my kids and to the many friends who have reached out over the past few years. It is a credit to caring teachers and to conscientious therapists.
It isn't a credit to my brothers, unfortunately.
Growing up in a religious home that claimed to be all about family, I really believed blood was thicker than water. I was close with my brothers. It took me years to tell anyone the story about the stairwell, and when I finally did, my older brother was the one who heard it.
"Let it go," he said.
I was still married then.
Instead of stepping into my shoes, my brother launched into a defense of my husband's actions. Unfortunately, this pattern held. After the divorce, my older brother stopped returning phone calls. My younger brother, who asked for details during the separation, responded to my honesty by saying sexual consent wasn't a thing in marriage. And that marital rape wasn't real.
Since leaving my husband, my brothers treat me differently There is no texting. My phone calls aren't returned. And landmarks like my birthday or Mother's day or Christmas are punctuated only by a foreboding silence. I no longer feel like I ever had a family.
It was a boy's club.