You get divorced after a dozen years of marriage, the adoption of one black feline, and the creation of two small humans. It is, as expected, horrible for all involved, but especially for the children who can no longer see you in the same room without their stomachs knotting.
You are opposing ends of a magnet. When one is present, the other must not be within shouting distance, not that there was ever much shouting. Still, it becomes a calendar of conflicting schedules, and payments due, and avoidance. It is the avoidance that is the most difficult, as you see the children adapt to a life of either/or.
Then a point when righteous indignation seems to no longer fit. It is too heavy to carry through the day, not to mention the nights, and you let it slip. You admit your complicity, though only to yourself. Too many years have passed. It’s all so exhausting.
There are new relationships, new spouses, less time to stoke the past. Still the children are like trees split at the base.
Eventually, dramas and traumas occur in each of your separate lives for which a supportive hand is offered. A child’s engagement— the final break in the wall. Shared meals follow. Then a new Thanksgiving tradition, one that includes all. The children, adults now, relieved to be free of their knotted stomachs and their dual lives.
And then one night you are in a hospital waiting room and the child you share is struggling to give you a grandchild. The old news is gone. There is only joy.
The family has shape-shifted again.