Big Love

Thoughts about peaceful partnerships, family, love and kindness.

Twenty-some years ago, my mother-in-law and I were having a conversation and one of the things she said to me was "Family is everything."   I nodded and smiled and agreed.  I did believe family was important and was lucky enough to be part of a loving and slightly quirky family.  However, I was still in my self-absorbed busy with two young children stage of life and didn't have much perspective about the depth of her words.  I didn't realize that soon life was going to  "smack me upside the head" and in doing so would help me learn the importance of family.

Not long after our talk, my relationship with my husband, Mark, started to unravel.  Even with everything we tried, we couldn't find a way to stay together.  We separated and the following summer were divorced after sharing almost twenty years together.

During the next couple of years, it was my extended family that held me up.  I learned to do that thing about just putting one foot in front of the other .Now do it again.  It was a tumultuous sad time for us all. We didn't always handle things well but we somehow muddled through it. 

When the dust began to settle, we had some choices to make.  Our family was never going to be what we had once hoped but we still had those unraveled threads and wanted to somehow weave them back together in a way that would work for us all. 

My Mom and her 3 kids on her 90th birthday.  She is our role model on kindness and love
It was my extended family that modeled the way that would best support our children in the years to come.  Even when I was hurt and angry, they never once said an unkind word about my soon to be ex-husband.   They supported me in every way possible, but they also continued to love Mark and include him as part of our family.

Their unwavering kindness to him showed me that we could still be family even though we were no longer married. As Brenna and Logan's Dad, he would always be not only included but welcomed and loved..

As we began again to be kind to each other, we found that our common love for our children was really all that mattered.  We continued to make progress with an open invitation for Mark to come and stay with  family members or with us when he visited. The kids also visited him but he could come more often if he had a place to stay without hotel expenses. This also allowed  him to be part of their daily lives and know their friends.. The kids could see that we all still respected and cared for each other.

Was it easy?  Oh, hell no.  But we kept at it and in time it did get easier and we all enjoyed being able to celebrate birthdays and holidays together as often as we could. 

 Recent Christmas gathering with some of the family ~ Mark always brings the best wine!

I remarried a caring, big-hearted, sometimes silly and always tall man who also had children. He brought even more big love into our lives. Broc is kind beyond measure and adores all of his kids including the two that came into his life when he met me.  His graciousness and respect towards Mark was one of the main reasons we have all been able to stay close.

Both Broc and Mark worked long hours at challenging jobs to pay child support, health insurance and travel expenses to see the kids. In spite of their difficult schedules, both remained as involved as they could with phone calls and visits  Sometimes issues came up that required their immediate attention. One in particular that jumps out is a situation where Broc's  daughter was having some serious difficulties with an issue back in Texas.  We lived in Florida but he still  found the money to get a ticket and left work in the middle of meetings to fly out to support her through it. Mark made similar choices to be there for our kids. The distances we lived from each other made it harder but neither of them ever gave up trying to be the best Dad they could be to their children.

A few years back, I wrote about the two dads.  Lots of cute photos in that post!

Our commitment  to put the kids first became not only something we aspired to but something that helped us all learn more about forgiveness and love and what family truly means. It meant that none of us lost the important relationships we had with all the grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and step-siblings.  It meant that we could all go visit grandparents in another state because they realized that we were all comfortable with being friends and were helping to raise our children together.  I ended up with two wise and loving mother and father-in-laws that I adore.  As I look back now, I am so grateful for the special times we were able to share because we chose to be inclusive.

This past Christmas with Mark and cousin Corey

Did some people think it was crazy and weird?  I'm quite certain they did.  Turns out though, that it worked.  Big love just leads to bigger love.  Kindness ripples out in the most unexpected ways.

In the past year, we flew Broc's oldest son, Tyler, and his fiance, Lauren, here for a visit before they left on their adventures in China.  Then in December, I surprised Broc for his birthday by flying his son, Drew, here for a few days.  Nothing brings Broc as much joy as being with his kids.

Next week,  Mark and his lovely fiance, Gretta, are going to be in the Asheville area doing some mountain biking and will spend a night with us.   That means family coming to visit.  We'll make food together, share good wine that Mark will bring :), laugh, tell stories and play games.

It doesn't get much better than that.  I am so grateful to have them all in my life.

Broc gave out these painted rocks to his booth visitors at Big Love Art Show that he and Brenna did a few years ago

 Thanks so much to those of you following and those who just happened upon Hummingbird Haven.  I'm so glad you stopped by!  Wishing you big love  in your unschooling journey.


Bill said…
Bravo nicely done, good words well written. You have still got that talent. Good job my friend.
Sandra Dodd said…
Gail, I'm glad you're willing to share your situation, and I hope it inspires other families to choose peace over antagonism.

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