by Steve Soule
I was twelve years old when my parents split up. We were all shocked. There was no fighting, at least none that we heard or saw. Not one hint to the four of us, my two older sisters and younger brother, that this was a possibility and yet there we sat as the walls crumbled all around us. Mom and Dad groped through the darkness for the right words as we cried and hugged and acted just like a family would in a time of sadness and loss.
And then Dad left and Mom stayed.
I knew I wasn’t a Lost Boy of Sudan or a homeless Romanian orphan nor was I neglected or abused. I was just another middle class American kid from a broken home. And like any scar it healed over time, just like Mom said it would. But it left its mark and when I think back to my childhood it is there, splitting my memories into the before and after of that divisive event.
It’s hard to say what would have been different had our family stayed intact. I was right on the precipice of becoming a teenager and all of the physical and social and emotional change that accompanies that. Having Dad leave was just one more heavy thing to deal with amongst the adolescent jungle of things to deal with. I do know that becoming a parent, and now a parent to teenagers, has given me the gift of understanding myself and my roots a little better and I see that much of what I know about being a man, I’ve learned from women.
I watched as my Mom guided four children through those murky and turbulent waters of young adult life. She got up with us every single day, made sure we ate something and sent us out into the world with a hug and a kiss. She made sure we continued to have a relationship with our father even when it surely involved added levels of stress and pain for her. When I came home too late she would be up worrying and she would be up the next morning, no matter how tired. And while all of these things are motherly in nature she somehow carried each of them out while playing the role of both parents. She was firm and level headed with us but if she made mistakes it was always on the side of kindness and leniency rather than heavy handedness. My Mom taught me how to take a punch. My Mom taught me how to stand up and be there. Be there every. damn. day.
My relationship with my older sisters changed the day our parents said they were separating. We no longer fought about the trivial things that previously seemed so important. As Mom worked full time as a nurse to support us they took over the needs at home. They watched out for us, made food, did dishes, cleaned house and made sure we pulled our weight too. We opened up to each other. They let me know that I wasn’t alone and that they would always be there. They are still there.
So, armed with a loving family behind me, I was released into the wilds of the world. Here I learned that I still had so much to learn. Coming from a hard working, hard living, paper mill town in Maine my edges were pretty rough. I burned through some relationships making plenty of mistakes along the way. My twenties were spent exploring and adventuring and getting hurt and healing and by the time thirty rolled around I pretty much knew I had the world figured out. It was then that I met Amanda Blake. From this woman, that became my wife a year later, I continue to learn things each and every day. She embodies so many of the things that I recognize from my Mom and sisters and yet she is powerfully unique. She refused to take my old school silence as a solution to a problem and from her I have learned to communicate. Not only to understand her position but to understand my own and to advocate for myself with passion. Amanda never chooses the easy path over the correct path and with all that she asks of me, she is willing to give it back and so much more. She is a tireless worker and an inspiring creator and collector of beauty. She is home.
All of this is not to say that I have not been blessed with admirable and loving men in my life. I have had many, and my father is at the top of that list. But these women … their combination of strength and love teaches me more than what it means to be a man. It has taught me how to be human.
I’m a Dad now, five times over. Now it’s my job and my pleasure to try and teach these kids what I have learned through all of this living. But, I find that they are equally my teachers of course and this is how it continues to grow.
This is how love grows.
Steve Soule lives in an old Maine farmhouse with his wife, Amanda, their five kids and his mom. The homestead allows him to wear a variety of hats from farmer to gardener to forester. He has been known to write from time to time for Amanda's publication, Taproot Magazine, as well as her blog, SouleMama. But most of his time is spent with his children as their days and lives unfold together, as family. Steve considers himself a very fortunate man to be a father, a son, and a husband under one roof.