What You Took Away; What I Get To Remember
The privilege of walking into my daughter’s room just now and giving her a hug and a kiss, is something I never thought I would lose, in my lifetime. But divorce changes all that. Sure, the relationship had been deteriorating for years or months, even if I’m not the one who asked for the divorce, or consulted a lawyer. BUT… You took my kids from me, effective immediately, no discussion. The minute you walk out of the marital home, you’re life changes forever.
Three summers ago I stepped out of MY house for the last time. It became, “Your mom’s house,” from then on. And I knew that I would not be good in the house alone, so I left it without fighting. The kids needed some security in this amazingly unsecure world we were thrusting on them. There was a cover story, “That Dad was sick and taking some time off at Aunt A’s house.” But it was done. There was no returning or repair for that summer of despair.
The happy thing I have to report is this Summer, while trying and destabilizing at times, has been the best Summer yet. The closest I came to being depressed was struggling with a sore throat that took over a week to heal. And I was kind of ready for the down time. I’d been running and jumping pretty fast all summer.
And in our routine, Summer means I get my kids on Thursdays AND Fridays every week. (It helps the ex-y with the child care bills, and gives me an extra day of kid time.
I was chatting with another dad the other morning. We were waiting for our daughters to get inside the gym where they were counselors at a gymnastics camp. He said, “It doesn’t matter if they are off playing games, something about knowing they are in the house, is comforting.”
One of the most spiritual moments in my life was the first couple times I stood in my newborn child’s room and watched them sleep. Something about those moments affirm why we are here, and why we as adults keep working so hard to provide a better life, even when things get really hard. In those earliest parenting bedside prayer and answer sessions I felt, somehow, that the life I would provide for my kids would be less traumatic than my own.
And today I understand it more than ever. I don’t take a single moment with my kids for granted. I am transformed when they are around. I cook. I rouse. I wrestle. I take them on errands, I walk down to the lake and swim. I listen to their stories. I tell a few of my own. And while their mom is missing, it feels nearly complete. It’s the closeness and the joy I take in holding hands, or putting a hand on my son’s shoulder while he shows me his latest computer game creation.
I am Dad.
When my father walked out of the family home (as my mom tells it, she had given him an ultimatum about his drinking, and he chose the booze over us.) everything went to shit. Christmases suddenly became very sparse and un-festive. And he really withdrew further into drinking and eventually married a woman, a much younger woman, who liked to drink as much as he did. But the end result was my happy/unhappy home was dumped out and crushed and my father vanished into his own dark pit.
We had visits. I went to dinner at his house once a week. But he was bitter. And his bitterness inflamed his drinking. And my mom and I had to develop a communication system about how I could call her to come get me when my dad was too drunk to drive. I remember sitting on the floor of his living room, watching Ba Ba Black Sheep together. He was remarried and the Mexican house keeper made the most amazing chopped up french fries for dinner.
And we tried talking about stuff. But he was heading towards oblivion most of the nights, and since he didn’t have to cook, it was easy for him to slip into the comfort of his pouring and adoring wife.
The last time I recall spending a Thursday evening over there, I was in 8th grade. He came home a bit early so we all decided to swim in their pool. I was thrilled he was going into the pool. It almost never happened.
And in the horseplay that seemed so rare and exciting my father grabbed me and started holding me under water. I’m sure he was euphoric with both drink and exercise, but he didn’t let go. And in a final effort to free myself I kicked him in the balls and swam away from him as he released me. I called my mom and went home without having dinner.
And that touch is something I know will never happen with my kids. I’m not a bitter divorcé. In fact, I’m framing myself as a single parent for now. And I do occasionally wrestle and horseplay with my son who enters 7th grade in a few days. And the thing I know, even in my loneliness and feelings of separation when they are gone, is that I am a great father. And I will continue to be a positive and loving force in their lives as long as I live.
I can see the benefits of my divorce from time to time too. I have time to restart my live performances as a musician. I am rarely exhausted. I am learning to cook. But that moment, every so often, that comes up when they are not under my roof, that wish to return to the quiet newborn’s room and know that things are going to be okay, I don’t forget or ignore that moment either. I am grateful my ex-y and I have done such a good job at pulling our marriage apart while remaining good co-parents.
In the beginning moments of the divorce I did not know if is was possible to remain friendly. And even as we struggle a bit with money issues (now divorced) I know we are both doing the best we can. And our children together are thriving, even with two homes.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff pages
- Easier To Be Quiet
- The Divorce Whisperer
- Of Course You’re Not Happy With Me, We’re Divorced
- Love and War; It’s all Here – Seeking Love and Peace
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)
image: i love my father as the stars, yvette, creative commons usage