I was a child of divorce
. I mean it... not in the 'oh my parents got divorced and I'm devastated - I'll never be the same - poor me'
kind of way, but in the manner that it was a given
, a law of nature. You can track the decades through our family albums not only by style
of dress, but by the men who grinningly pass through those plastic
volumes. Strange how you have a ceremony for a wedding
to welcome someone in to your family, white wedding veil
s and cake
and bad suits, but their exit is akin to sneaking away in the night when rent is due on the double-wide
. There's no goodbye party, no fare-thee-well... just absence. Turn the page, they're just not there any more, and pretty soon, mama's wearing a nice, but blue dress, with a flower
in her hair, next to a new man in a bad suit.
The women in my matriarch
al family (my grandmother's four daughters, and their daughters after them) exchange husbands like defective refrigerator
Sometimes they were right
to get rid of them, well righteous, that is to say. The men were low-down cheating swindlers
or abusive distant husks with hearts of coal.
Sometimes they were wrong
, and devastated the men that loved them out of nothing more than boredom
because though they hit all the right buttons, they didn't hit the wrong ones. In other words, they just didn't provide them with what they needed to be the perfect dysfunctional
pair - these were the 'too nice' nice guys, the good guys that everybody liked
And sometimes, they were indifferent
. Their love turning off - for whatever reason - like a switch
, because one day, they woke up, and they just didn't love their husbands any more... They had changed.
That's what happened between my mother and my father. He came home to say that he was going to quit his very decent job (in a long line of very decent jobs disposed in just the same manner) and start a lawn mowing business. And my mother, who I think loved this man like she's loved no other, instead of going through the motions...I put this pot-smoking loser through college to get his MBA for this? Here we go again, now I'm the sole breadwinner....This is Kansas, you only need to mow the lawn for five months outta the year for chrissake!
She felt nothing.
No despair, no hope, no love, no hate, no anger, no passion. She just didn't care any more and she told him so, and he said... 'Ok, that's it... I'm outta here.'
I remember it somewhat differently. I remember them having an argument about strawberries, how he was supposed to pick some up from the store, and my father forgot. Then, he said... 'Ok, that's it... I'm outta here,' kissing the top of my three-year-old head and hugging me goodbye. Too bad what I felt wasn't 'nothing.'
Last year at my son's birthday party
was the first time in my memory that I have witnessed my mother and father really interacting with one another. Whenever he came to visit, or I went to visit him they did not move past the basic pleasantries. To see them together for the first time in over two decades at my son's party was like watching waves breaking on the sand, or a perfect sunset
, or whales
surfacing in the Atlantic. I was mesmerized. Their witty repartee
was breath taking, like the finest Jackie Chan
fight sequence. The energy played back and forth between their eyes like an electrical storm
and their body language spoke of a sexual tension
in them like I've never seen. It struck me, of all the things that I had thought about... and long since gotten over
, being a child of divorce; the abandonment, the insecurity, the loss, the being glad I was, the wishing I wasn't... I had never once considered what I had missed out on when it came to who they were together, good bad or indifferent.
Because I was their child, and I loved them separately, but together they were so magnified, it was blinding.