The Other 50 Percent

My paternal grandfather and grandmother, each holding my father as a baby.

My parents visited us last week. They understood my need to curl up in a ball and hide from the world, but countered with their need to see and hug their middle child, and offer what comfort they could. While helping with household chores and making meals to fill my freezer, they listened as I voiced some of the thousand-and-one things I have yet to understand about what happened and why. We also spent a lot of time in silence – the kind you can only have with people who know you well.

In between my sobs and the silence, I asked my father about his parents’ marriage. I knew his parents had married and divorced twice before my father was old enough to live on his own, but, selfishly, I’d never asked what that was like for my grandmother or my father. The first time they divorced he was too young to remember much. The second time around he was the only child still at home and got to see it all. By the time he was done, I felt like building a shrine to my grandmother and hoped that some of her strength might my remain in an untapped corner of my genes.

It’s comforting to hear stories that parallel your own, especially ones with happier endings than what you can envision for yourself. In the month I’ve spent trying to comprehend this cruel plot twist in a story I was certain would end much differently, I’ve had friends from almost every period of my life reach out and share their darkest chapters with me. High school friends I haven’t talked to since graduation, coworkers from three careers ago, seminary colleagues who I was acquainted with, but couldn’t say I really knew – all of whom endured plot twists of their own and lived to tell their tale.

My older son keeps mentioning the statistic, “50 percent of marriages end in divorce these days,” adding, “I guess we’re part of that other 50 percent now.” In my attempt at making something out of this mess, today I’m celebrating the renewed friendships and deepened relationships I now enjoy with the “other 50 percent.”

I remember this happening the first time I miscarried. Women I barely knew and some I thought I knew well, suddenly entrusted me with stories that would never have come up in everyday conversation. Our shared misery provided that shift in conversation that allowed us to cut to the chase, without worrying about pleasantries or social graces.

It’s a bittersweet blessing, to be sure, but I’m celebrating what I can. So, here’s to the other 50 percent. Thanks for the welcome.