The Slide Years: Last Family Photo

By Eilene Lyon

The Slide Years is a series in which I select an image my dad took from 1957-1982 with Kodachrome slide film, then I write a stream-of-consciousness essay – a sort of mini-memoir.


There’s something so prescient about this picture, taken at Christmas time in 1980 or 1981. As far as I know, it’s the last picture of the five of us together as a family. From the brick fireplace in the background I can tell it is the house in Cleveland Heights. I was a freshmen or sophomore at the University of Cincinnati that year, so I was the only one not living there at the time.

My dad and older brother, Steve, have faint smiles, but no one else looks particularly festive. (Don’t you just love Dad’s Guatemalan jacket – a size too small?) I don’t recall having any inkling that there was anything amiss between my parents at the time – just their normal level of antipathy towards one another. It would be another year or two before they announced their intention to divorce.

My brothers tended to gravitate in Mom’s orbit, while I did in Dad’s. Perhaps that’s why my siblings and I took the split in different ways. They were absolutely crushed at the thought of our parents not being together any longer. Conversely, I hoped they would finally find the happiness apart that they couldn’t seem to find with each other.

They decided to use an arbitrator to settle the matter amicably, but afterward, it hit Mom like a sucker punch and she flipped out for a while, damaging property and acting out in anger. My brothers tended to steer clear and when I came home for visits, it would fall on me like a ton of bricks.

The worst of it came when she found out that my brothers and I had agreed to participate in my Dad’s upcoming wedding, just four months after the divorce. In retrospect, I wish we had not done that. It had to seem cruel and traitorous to Mom.

Divorce is downright common, but every one leaves wrack in its wake. My siblings and I struggled to find durable, loving relationships. We all married fairly late. I was 37, my brothers, in their mid- to late-40s. That may have been just as much a result of growing up in an unloving household as from the break-up of it, though.

On the upside, once the three of us decided to make the leap, we’ve stuck by our mates for the duration. Fingers crossed!

25 thoughts on “The Slide Years: Last Family Photo

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  1. I am so sorry that you and your siblings went through this. No marriage is perfect, but staying when you are making not only yourselves miseraable but also your children isn’t good for anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How bittersweet to revisit the time when that photo was taken. You were all together, yet not happy.

    I am wondering, are the decorations on the wall from Guatemala? They look very similar to Mexican crafts made with yarn, symbolizing God’s all-seeing eye.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic post, Eilene. Thanks for sharing such personal memories. Recently my husband and I were talking about how fortunate we are during this stay-at-home order that we actually like each other. Even in normal situations, living with someone you don’t love or respect must feel like a prison, now it would be magnified.
    Good for you and your brothers taking your time building relationships. That was smart!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Christi. Yes, it must be horrible for some couples right now. I think domestic violence is on the rise. We’re very fortunate here. We have space and enjoy the time we spend together and apart.

      Like

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