Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.

— Winston Churchill

The Faces of My Husband’s Life

I was going through pictures from last week’s Mother’s Day party and I was struck by how this photo represents the chapters of my husbands life.

Allow me to introduce The Brothers.

From left to right:

Son #2, Shawn, is a 24-year-old, kind-hearted, political junky working in the financial services industry. He’s an American, born and raised in Metro Atlanta with a Portuguese dad and Jewish-American mom. He’s soft spoken with a wicked intellect. He’s one of two good things that came from his father’s turbulent second marriage, and he’s just starting to emerge from his cocoon to discover the man he wants to be.

Son #3, Aaron, is a four-year-old mommy’s boy who’s only been out of diapers for eight months. He’s certainly American, and he acts like an only child even though he’s one of five. Having a child together was more about me becoming a mom than about my husband being a father, but some turn-of-events are delightfully unexpected, and for the first time my husband is experiencing extreme hands-on fatherhood.

Son #1, David, is a 35-year-old, bad-ass motorcyclist who works in a bar. He’s Portuguese, or is he South African? He’s certainly not American. He grew up in Johannesburg with a Latin mom and Latin dad in a time and culture where parenting was best done with a heavy hand, and male chauvinism was quite acceptable. He’s the ultimate boomerang kid and he’s responsible for my gray hair and most of his father’s baldness. He’s survived his parent’s divorce, his father’s second marriage, and now he’s surviving me. He’s sadly alienated from his mom, and although he’s only nine months younger than I am, he’s very much my child, and the self-proclaimed baby of the family. He is the link between his father’s past and present.

They look little alike, these brothers, (though they did all inherit their dad’s ears, poor lads, and I’m wondering if Aaron will have that nose), but their lives are as different as their faces. I’m not talking about how siblings grow up, make different choices and lead different lives. I’m talking about the kind of differences attributable to generational divides, different cultures, different religions, three different mothers, and three very, very different growing-up experiences.

Their different faces represent my husband’s journey from a terrorist-fighting Portuguese army sergeant who settled in Mozambique after his tour and married a friend instead of a lover; to a young dad who packs his family into a VW Beetle and flees to South Africa, running from death and destruction at the hands of a liberated colony. His journey from being a Coca-Cola guy who creates a vertical career trajectory for himself but puts it all on the line and moves to America in pursuit of a love affair that never should have become a marriage; to a middle-aged corporate executive who spent more time traveling the world than at his family’s dinner table, a man who threw himself at his career to avoid the abusive second marriage he’d chained his heart to until the pain, frustration and self-hatred lead him to yet another torrid love affair, this time with a woman 27 years younger than he is. Their faces represent my husband’s life. The heart aches, the joys, the mistakes and the celebrations. They represent who he was, who he hoped to be, and finally, the amazing man and father he is.

I love their different faces, the stories that surround their lives and all the lessons they’ve taught my husband and myself. We’re a better, stronger family because they are brothers.

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