Celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary recently, someone asked, “Did you guys ever think you’d make it this far?”
As a flight attendant/pilot couple, we’re well aware our odds of marital success are lower than the dismal average. So we take pride rather than offense when such questions arise. But my lungs deflated when my husband replied, “Personally, I can’t believe she didn’t bail the second I started flapping my jaws about my past.”
I forced a smile. But for someone from a cohesive family, including parents who will celebrate their 52nd anniversary next month, enduring a childhood rooted in abandonment and abuse is anguish I will forever struggle to comprehend.
* * *
Mothers are supposed to hurl themselves in front of speeding trains if it means saving their children — right??? But what if you’re a mistake, whisked from your birth mother to an adoptive mother who subsequently opts for “children of her own,” leaving you in the hands of a broken man when you’re just seven? And what if this sole parent turns to the bottle to satiate his anger and to you with raging fists when liquor fails?
My husband needn’t ponder — this was his childhood. And the hardship didn’t end there.
As is frequently the case, the booze triumphed and rendered him an orphan at twenty-three. He pursued his flying dream relentlessly, but the major airlines required a medical history he lacked. In searching for this, he discovered a clerical error: His birth name had been left visible in the adoption records — a unique one, courtesy of his Czechoslovakian mother.
He was twenty-six when he found her. Living with a man in his early thirties, she was terrified that the sudden appearance of her secret son might result in yet another failed romance. After meeting him, she interacted sporadically before vanishing again. As a parting gift, however, she shared his father’s identity — and the uncanny addendum: He was also an airline pilot!
Optimism skyrocketing, he couldn’t wait to meet his genetic blueprint. Unfortunately, their relationship was doomed from the git-go. Dad was married to a younger woman who couldn’t stomach my husband’s existence — forget subjecting her pre-teen children to such a scandal.
* * *
I’m ashamed to admit, the first time he told me his (less cheeky) version of the story, I quickly located my nearest exit. Don’t get me wrong, I was smitten from the start. He was (and is) my bona fide flyboy in shining armor — and yet?? Even now, in those unguarded moments when I spy a darkness in his eyes I can’t seem to brighten, inadequacy looms:
What if I make a mess of the love he’s gone a lifetime without
Letting him down like countless others?
What if I inadvertently poke holes in an already battered soul
Because my heart is too small?
What if I’m not worthy of the gem that he is?
Then he pulls me into his resilient embrace
Thumping a tune of
And I know
* * *
♥ I dedicate this to every person struggling with family or abandonment issues — particularly during the Holiday Season. I know how hard it is to open your hearts and let another in, but please know that what you’ve endured doesn’t define you. You prove this time and again with your steadfast attitudes and successes. YOU are precious gifts, inspiring others to overcome obstacles while finding the courage to forgive and trust again. And I, for one, am oh-so-grateful for your presence on this earth! xoxo ♥