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April 16, 2010
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It was like my worst nightmare. Everything I had feared in the past months, everything I had prayed would not happen was coming true before my eyes. I felt numb and paralyzed, with all my emotions trapped inside my chest. I felt things that I did not recognize, alongside the anguish, guilt, fear, and overwhelming sadness. I couldn’t speak, I could only sit there and let the cold, wet tears stream silently down my face as I listened to the very words I never wanted to hear. Even though I had seen this coming for a long time, I was stunned. Some small part of my naïve ten-year-old self had thought that maybe, if I could just wish hard enough, this day would never come. Yet here it was, despite my best efforts. I closed my eyes, held on to that numbness, and tried not to feel the pain that was lurking just around the corner.

My parents had always made a good couple. They loved each other very much; far more than I could understand at the time. It was the middle of my 5th grade year when they sat me down with my brother, and told us that they had decided to separate. The events leading up to that point were caused by things that I am only beginning to figure out, five years later. I remember how the stress in my household was a tangible thing, how every day it seemed like there was something else for my parents to fight about. I could see my blank expression that so barely concealed the emotions just beneath the surface, always mirrored in my brother’s eyes. He took to yelling at my parents when they fought because he hated it so much, and this generally made things worse. Usually he was told that they were merely having a “discussion”. Sometimes this was true—we had become so sensitive to arguments that we reacted to anything resembling one. More often than not, however, these small discussions expanded into something more as my parents grew more agitated, and then it would finally explode into a full-blown clash.

Once, I even asked my mom if she and my dad were going to get a divorce. It was right after the worst conflict I had ever witnessed. Since then, the memory has been partly blocked so that I only remember bits of it. It was terrifying and unreal. I recall that a wooden stool was smashed to bits and the silverware drawer was pulled out and flung around. I can still hear the fragments of wood splitting apart and hitting the granite tabletop, and see the forks and knives flying across the room before clattering to the floor as my parents vociferated. My mom came in to calm me down after I had run into my room, and I asked her if she and Daddy were going to get a divorce. She assured me that they were not, in a tone that suggested that I was being silly. I didn’t feel silly. I felt scared.

Things only seemed to get worse as the months progressed. I had become used to the rollercoaster that my life resembled. One day would be stormy and bleak, and I would sit in my room listening to the muffled voices emanating heatedly from the kitchen. The next day I would wake with the warm and comforting smell of waffles all around me like a familiar embrace, I would taste the fresh-cut strawberries’ sweetness floating across my tongue, and I would know that this was the apology; this would be a good day. The highs were far fewer than the lows, however, and I had started to feel like a small, helpless bird buffeted by the waves of two opposing storms moving in on each other. I was a casualty in every battle. My futile attempts to resolve issues that were not my own always ended badly. I had no one to talk to; my brother was never one to discuss things like this. I was alone in a vast world of doubt.

Then came the turning point in my life, when I was informed of the separation. That single, solitary day was pivotal for my existence, and I will always remember it. People say that the night is always darkest just before the dawn. This is how I think of it now. When I heard the news of their separation, I thought that it meant my life was still plummeting downward into an abyss I did not want to face. As I came to find out, though, it meant just the opposite. My parents took their time; they always said that they didn’t want to rush into anything. But as soon as my mother had her own house and we were settled into our two separated but parallel lives, everything got better. There was no more fighting, and there were no more angry words that no one meant to say. The stress was limited to the fact that colossal changes were happening, and we didn’t quite know how to handle it.

Slowly, gradually, my days turned sunny again. I could see how this change had steered our family onto a better course. My parents became close friends more than anything, and over the years their relationship as friends has solidified so that we have a whole family, even though their divorce was finalized last spring. I have no false inklings that any of this was my fault, as I have been assured that this is not the case from the beginning. My parents maintain the best friendship that I have ever seen between two exes, and I cannot ask for more than that. My time is split evenly between the two of them. I have a comfortable, easy routine. I have come to realize that this change, which was brought about in my darkest hour, has made me stronger, wiser, and healthier in ways I could never have imagined.

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