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Award-winning writer. Seamstress in recovery. Decorating addict

Renovating a Family

Illustration by Missy Chimovitz

Christine Kalafus | Longreads | December 2019 | 14 minutes (3,666 words)



There’s an art to giving bad news well. Think it out carefully. Choose the appropriate moment. Most of all: Don’t screw it up and make things worse.

I sat on our kitchen counter while my son stood sipping his coffee and I told him his father had an affair. The news of the affair was old — 17 years, four houses, and one renewal of wedding vows old. But telling my son about his father’s affair was urgent, the way testing our house’s main beam for termites before moving in had been urgent.

My husband’s affair had been the first in a series of betrayals. As we began to rebuild our marriage, I became pregnant with twins. The betrayal by my usually healthy body wasn’t the pregnancy — it was the aggressive breast cancer I developed. Cancer in my right breast growing with the babies, undetected until three weeks before they were due. One day of operations: A C-section, a lumpectomy, and a tubal ligation were like a series of crashing waves. But only until the real water came, a long winter of steady downpours on top of snow, on top of everything. Our basement repeatedly flooded, as if the house wanted us out.
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