Family Friends

October 22, 2012

My kids frequently ask me “Why don’t we have any family friends like So-and-So?” Today, as I told this to my friend, not a “family friend,” I choked up. Of course, lately I tear up over a lot of things, but this particular question by my kids underscores for me how isolated we are, how much we’ve lost. it makes me angry and sad at the same time. We used to have family friends, I tell them. When you were little we had friends. We went out with other couples a few times a month. We were invited to holiday parties and birthdays and barbecues. We invited friends to our home and they would bring their children and everyone was happy, or so it seemed. Even before I knew my husband was an alcoholic, I began to dread these gatherings. His behavior, which in my naivete I did not attribute to drinking, changed. When he had an audience, he became louder and obnoxious. My husband wasn’t funny, but he thought he was. He wasn’t witty or clever. He was sometimes just mean. At other times, he was overly affectionate, grabbing me and kissing me, sticking his tongue in my mouth in front of other people, showing off and claiming me as his own. When his alcoholism became fact, he no longer would drink in front of me, but at parties, he would sneak off and drink with others because they did not know his secret. Eventually, I stopped accepting invitations and became more and more isolated. How could I maintain friendships with people when we were keeping a dark secret? The secret was not that he was an alcoholic. The secret was that our perfect little family was not so perfect. We had three beautiful children, a nice house, cute pets, vacations, horses, private schools,… and yet every morning I woke up in fear. I smiled at my neighbors and other parents at school and pretended everything was fine. I felt like a fraud. I cried in my car and wiped the tears away before I picked up my children from school and practiced smiling in the rear view mirror.

Last December, the children and I moved into our new house. It is the perfect house for entertaining, with large open rooms and beautiful views of the sun setting beyond the trees. There are no bad memories of yelling or swearing or scary drunken footsteps coming up the stairs. This house has good energy. And so my children ask me, “When are you having friends over?” “Let’s have a party.” They want to fill the house with life and love. For Christmas, the children had chosen gifts for me, bowls for dips, dishes to hold nuts and olives and crackers, encouraging me to have a party. I’ve had a few of my friends over, and of course, my family, but not “family friends.”

I will get us family friends, I tell them, but I’m not sure how.

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4 Responses to “Family Friends”

  1. StrongerMe said

    You describe it all so well. I went through all of those same things with social gatherings. It even spilled over into my personal relationships with friends. We had many “couple” friends, and once a month, the wives got together to play a game and have dinner. It was my lifeline at first. Adult interaction without drama. Talking about kids. I felt alive. As my home life continued to deteriorate, these gatherings were difficult. They were all still discussing school and vacations and my world was falling apart. I wasn’t part of the discussion. My burdens were too great. My husband was an abusive, alcoholic, gambler. How did that fit into this world? I finally opened up to them, but it brought pity, and then eventually, they forgot. And I was once again cast into the loneliness of this life. After the divorce, I stopped meeting the group. I had changed. I was in control of my messy life, but I still carry a huge burden that they could never imagine. Nor would I wish for them to imagine.
    My closest friend now is someone that went through divorce the same time that I did. She has a son the same age as my son. I think that God puts people in our lives when we need them. We are as close as family, and it really served a dual purpose. My kids got to see that they weren’t the only ones with divorced parents.
    I have other new friendships that have formed based on having kids the same age, and I have to say that these new friends that I have know me and are more significant and meaningful than any of the other friendships that I had BEFORE. Back when I was pretending to be someone that I wasn’t.
    Friends will come and you will fill the house. And it will be more better than before.

  2. After writing this, I felt a little guilty, because I felt like I had forgotten some friends that have been there for me, but for the most part, I would not let them. Part of my journey is going to be reconnecting with these friends, and thanking them for their love and support, even if I was not able to see it at the time. I was too busy keeping my head down.

  3. Susan Gilbert said

    Invite the Gilberts over. We count as family friends! xxxooo

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