Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore?

When I was fifteen years old my dad lost his job. Tried as he could to find a job in Rochester, the only positions he could land were located in Kansas City, San Francisco, or New York City. He took the year long commitment in California, hoping that after that time something would open up closer to home.

But it never did. And for five years my parents endured their own long distance relationship. As far as I knew, there was no mention of divorce or separation. They simply made it work. I went through my formative dating years under the bizarre and misinformed assumption that a happily married couple could remain just that way, at first cross country and later cross state. “We’ve never really had to work at our marriage,” my dad once told me. He looked at my mother. “Right? Have we?”

“Well, it was really tough when you got cancer and you had to go through the radiation.”
“Were you going to divorce me when I got cancer?!”
“Well, no! I just mean that it strained our marriage.”
“But that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean we’ve never talked about getting divorced.”

But I knew that was a lie. After the fourth year of my father’s weekly six-hour commute from New York City to Rochester (every Friday there, every Sunday back), my mother sold the house in Rochester and moved to New York so they could finally live together. She was miserable away from her friends and family in Rochester and suddenly the word divorce hovered around that house like a ghost. But it came with melancholy, not malice. “Sometimes I think your father would be better off without me holding him back,” my mom would say. And my father would say quietly, just to me, “If it wasn’t for me, your mother could still be in Rochester. And happy.” But divorce was just a far away, simple solution that no one would ever capitalize on. They could never be without each other, for better or for worse.

I never realized how this affected me or my views on relationships until I started to examine what I have with the LDC. What’s so wrong with long distance? With the way I grew up, I may never know.


JRenee said...

Wow. This was a heavy one. I am happy to see you writing about this part of your family. It is a big part.

Lauren E. said...

I totally thought of you when I wrote this! You got to see so much of this first hand. Never realized how much it affected me until I started really examining my emotional stuff.

JRenee said...

Really good to examine.

MP said...

I have similar examples in my life and so I find myself wondering why long distance is assumed to be the death knell for any relationship. Never having actually been in a long distance relationship (but facing the very real possibility soon), I don't quite know whether to be optimistically inspired by the good examples, or to be depressed and scared by the bad. This gets filed under good, and I may refer to it again from time to time.