The other night I was surfing through YouTube when a link caught my eye. Back in 1976 a series called Family debuted. It focused on the lives of a family in Pasadena. Nancy, the 25 year-old daughter had dropped out of school four years previously to marry a young millionaire. Willie, the son in his late teens had dropped out of school and wasn’t sure just where he was headed. And then there was Buddy, played by Kristy McNichol. She was an adorable little tomboy about twelve years old who was in a hurry to grow up.
I recall watching the pilot for this series when I was in San Diego visiting my parents in February of 1976. My husband and I had come down for ten days. He went back to Winnipeg and I was in no hurry to go back. Instead I decided to stay with my parents for a while. And I’m glad I did as less than a year later a massive heart attack took my dad from me.
Growing up I was always daddy’s little girl. In his eyes the sun rose and set on me. So I could really identify with Nancy who was also the apple of her father’s eye. My dad was always there for me. I could talk to him about anything and everything. While he didn’t always agree with my choices, he was never overtly critical or judgmental.
That February, a lot of our discussion revolved around my marriage. I had married young at the age of twenty-one, as had several of my friends in the summer of 1973. The difference was that after not even four years, I was the only one still married. And sadly, I was not happy in my marriage. In reality, I had consulted with a divorce lawyer only six months after I had married. I was advised to hang in there as any relationship takes time and effort in order to be successful. But it was now close to four years and not much had changed.
My dad was in an awkward position at that time. With failing health, it was in his best interests that both my husband and I remain active in the family business. After all, it did provide all of us with incomes, and in the future would also provide for my mother when he was gone. And yet he understood that I was unhappy. This time it was just not possible to come to a solution whereby we would both be completely satisfied.
When my dad died, there was nobody to fill that void in my life. I had lost my best friend. I had no-one to confide in and I was more distraught than ever. I was overwhelmed with grief and overnight was thrown into a role of running a corporation, something that a degree in psychology and sociology had not prepared me for. And my marriage was still a struggle as well.
And then an unplanned pregnancy turned into the greatest blessing in my life. A second pregnancy followed and I soon found myself living my life vicariously through my children as the years sped by. These were the happiest years of my life. I volunteered in programs my children were involved in and never missed a band concert or a graduation. My days were busy and I felt fulfilled.
But suddenly my children were all grown up and had moved out on their own. Once again I had a huge void in my life. My husband and I had become strangers. We had grown so far apart that there was no hope of reconciliation once we separated. In fact, we had become bitter enemies who communicated through lawyers until the divorce was final.
I reflect on those episodes of Family and I envy Nancy as she had the strength to walk away from an unhappy marriage. I wish I could have jumped through the television screen and warned Buddy not to be in such a hurry to grow up. I wonder if Kate and Doug would still be married today once they became empty-nesters.
But at this point in time I identify most with Willie. I too am struggling to find a direction in my life right now. I thought I had one, but somehow it has once again changed and I’m unsure of what to do next. While I am basically content, I feel like there is still something missing. So it’s off to the beach to contemplate life again……………