I can still feel the cold, granite, custom-made tiles underneath my bare feet. My mother picked them out because she loved the way the sun reflected off of them in the afternoon.
I can still hear the faint hum of the air conditioner turning on throughout the house. My mother liked to keep the house at a cool 72 degrees so that she could walk around wrapped in her favorite fur blanket.
I can still see the look on my father’s face as I stood, confused, astonished, and broken in front of him as a woman I had never seen before ran out of my mother’s bedroom.
I bet you think you know the ending to this story. I bet you think you’ve heard it before. The young daughter catches her beloved father cheating on her perfect mother. She runs and tells her mother who then files a divorce. The young daughter and her two siblings now split time between their parent’s houses constantly battling over who they will spend Christmas morning with…
…but that’s not this story.
This is a story about stories. Stories that can shape us and the stories that can break us and the stories that can define our existence. There is a story about a young girl who caught the man she idolized, admired and treasured beyond compare, not only cheating on his wife, but breaking every promise he had ever made to her and to his family. But this is the story of a daughter who chose to keep the story to herself and not let it define anyone else’s life but her own.
I caught my father cheating on my mother on June 30th. It was as if time stood still. I remember the woman running past me out to her car that I assume was strategically parked at least two houses down. She didn’t look dumb. Then again she was in my house, with my father, in the middle of the afternoon as the sun reflected off of those granite tiles, so maybe she was. I never found the courage to follow her, but I bet she drove a silver home-wrecking BMW with tan interior and a voice activated navigational system. She looked like she would have one of those, but who knows. I remember the looks on my dad’s face. It was a fluid transition from surprise to confusion, to fear, ending finally in defeat all in a matter of seconds. A play of tragedy was displayed before me. I was the audience.
I guess I should have prefaced this story with the idea that my father and I were best friends. We did everything together. I told him about my boy troubles and he counseled me with dignity and integrity like any good father would. Ironic. Using the word integrity in the same line as a cheating father.
If I have learned anything it is that life is not black and white. Life is a mix of light greys and dark greys and medium greys and whole bunch of color if you can find it. This was one of those dark grey moments that looked like black until I got really close and realized that this was not about me. It wasn’t even about my father. This was about a story. A story that would define my mother forever, and even worse, it was a story that would define my younger brother and sister for the rest of their lives. I wouldn’t let their story be that of a broken family.
I made a choice. A choice that many would not understand, much less agree with. I chose to inhale what could have been the destruction of a family, letting it slowly disappear inside of me while I stood on the granite, custom made, tile floors as the air conditioning hummed in the background. I chose to instead allow the story of a perfect family and a loving husband to continue being written in the chapters of my mother and siblings’ lives.
My story is different than theirs, but that is okay. Wouldn’t you shield the people you love most in the world from a broken and destroyed story if you could? Or maybe you wouldn’t even know what you would do until the story is running past you in black lingerie and you are forced to make the decision of what story you will let define you.