A Child of Divorce – Part Two

By October 5, 2017 August 19th, 2019 No Comments


So what happened?

My father tells me that the first ten years were their good years. The photographs from then support this. The love is in their eyes.

There’s no turning point, just the evolution of conflict. A merry-go-round that never ends. You can feel the nuts and bolts coming undone but nothing stops spinning long enough to see that the center cannot hold.

It wasn’t so much specific incidents as it was the flurry of reactions. My mother was hungry inside, something couldn’t be satisfied. She needed to feel, to control, to fill that hole in her soul. My father distanced, regrouped, he remained aloof.

They never screamed at each other. It was the tension that I have always remembered. The tension would fill the house until it choked you. It never fully went away. It retreated into corners and cupboards, and if you stumbled upon a hiding place it was as if a bomb went off, leaving you gasping for air.

Loaded words. Sideways glances. Mouths set in a hard line. Deep breaths. Nothing went over my head. I felt like it was my fault that I could not deliver a message to bring peace back to the home.

As I got older, I started to put my finger on what I was seeing. These fights had no resolve, it seemed like they came from a place that extended further than the other.

From the outside looking in, my parents had a good marriage. I think they had even convinced themselves of that. This had become their normal.

Before I left for college, I was packing my belongings while struggling to breathe through the tension when it hit me. I was watching them be eaten alive by the past. Eaten alive and they didn’t even know it.

My mother had a troubled family history. She was a beautiful, intelligent and spirited woman but she had her demons. When his father died, I think my father was never given room or comfort for his grief. He learned to quiet everything inside. They were hardwired to collide.

None of it had anything to do with the other. They were being eaten alive by the pain and heartache of their tiny beginnings.

I left for college two days early. I slept in my car in the school parking lot before campus opened. The realization was too much for my heart to contain.

I knew that my leaving would change their dynamic. They had passed off as good enough for so long because I had been the buffer, the common goal. I couldn’t bear to see the coming collapse.

It took one year.

“I’m getting out of the marriage. We’re destroying each other.”

My father looked so much older. Had it really been just 12 months?

“I know, Dad. It’s okay.”

He looked at me and I saw that despite his emotional exhaustion, there was a ghost of shock in his expression.

He really thought they had kept up the “good enough” front well enough to shield me from their problems.

Children know. Adults lie well, especially to themselves. But children know.

The divorce was ugly.

I knew it was coming and it had come, but the reality of watching the entire foundation of my childhood be dismantled was genocide of the soul.

My father left the house he built.

He hung up the phone.

It’s been ten long years since our American Dream ended. I won’t be foolish enough to say “If only” or “what if”. It was their marriage, but it was my world. And my world fell apart.

There are many things to take away from this story.

This is a story of a “good enough” marriage.

Is it good enough for you?

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