I Know Love … Can Mend
Editor’s note: This week on the Tiki Tiki, in honor of Valentine’s Day, five writers finish this sentence “I know love…” Check in for their beautiful, inspiring essays.
I know love … can break your heart into a million pieces when you least expect it. Every time I hear Corazón Partío by Alejandro Sanz, I relive the fateful day my mom left my dad after spending more than 30 years by his side.
I was in the Dominican Republic producing an undercover investigation about botched plastic surgeries. I’ll never ever forget my dad’s broken and barely audible voice over the pay phone in the hotel’s lobby.
“Se fue,” he mumbled. She’s gone.
A few weeks before my trip to Santo Domingo, I had come home from work and was about to sit down to dinner with my parents and my sister when, out of nowhere, my mom dropped the bomb. While she would always love my Dad, she said, she was no longer in love with him and so she was leaving him.
My sister, who’d recently gotten divorced and was back at my parents’, dropped the bowl of salad she’d been holding and it came crashing down — just like our whole world. My mom went on to say more stuff I’m sure no one paid attention to, and my father just sat at the head of the table with the most despondent face I’ve ever seen. If I close my eyes, I can still clearly see this whole scene as if it just happened yesterday and not 13- years-ago.
My parent’s love story could have been taken out of a novela: the young, naive and very beautiful secretary falls in love with her much older, well-to-do and very successful boss. Only problem? He’s already (unhappily) married. Eventually, my dad leaves his first wife and moves to South Florida to start his new life with my mom, away from all who disapprove of their love.
While I remember some major fights between them as we were growing up, I can’t really say any of them pointed to doomsday. In fact, back in 1990 — seven years before their divorce — my mom and dad renewed their vows in an intimate ceremony I’ll treasure forever. My siblings and I always felt blessed that, despite what we saw around us, our parents had managed to not only stay together, but they always seemed so in love.
My initial reaction was to blame my mom since she was the one leaving behind my dad and their life together. I “suffered” for him because he was old (there was a 22 year difference between them) and his chances of redoing his love life were next to none. My lack of experience in love made me think she ought to stay with him for better or for worse. Her departure seemed like the most selfish thing to do.
And, maybe it was, but it was something she needed to do.
It took me a very long time to understand that. I had to grow up a lot, mature a bit, and live a little to understand that it was wrong for me to try to find someone to blame. I first had to accept that besides being my parents, my mom and dad were, first and foremost, just a regular man and a regular woman who’d once fallen in love and decided to forge a life together… until their cycle of love came to an end.
My mom was right by my father’s side when he passed away seven years ago. We all were. I was surprised to see her there and, at first, I thought she was doing it for us, her three grown children. But when she asked us for some privacy the night before he died, I understood she was just a woman who needed to make peace with and say goodbye to the man she’d once loved so intensely that she’d left her life and family behind to follow him despite everyone’s objections.
I know love can break your heart, but it can also mend it.
Roxana Soto is a journalist, mother of two and co-founder of Spanglish Baby, a website for raising bilingual and bi-cultural children. She is a Peruvian native who lives in Colorado.