A different sort of anniversary
“Our therapist thinks we should get a divorce, but we can’t afford it.” My mom certainly has a way of sugar coating things. This little nougat of information was almost as awesome as when she told me, “Don’t make the same mistake I made,” regarding her decision to marry my dad.
Oh, so this post is about my parents’ “marriage” but you might come out understanding a little about my attitude toward love and dating and why, maybe, I am a little bit totally damaged in that regard.
From a very young age, we are all taught that divorce is “bad”, or at the VERY least, completely discourages if at all possible and avoidable. But from almost as early an age, I knew my parents weren’t happy. I got mad at my mom for provoking and enabling my dad, and mad at my dad for being a dick to my mom. Then one day I surprised my mom while she was eating with her friend. They were looking through a book, shuffling it away as soon as I arrived. But I saw it. I saw the title: “Emotional Abuse.”
I was livid. Fuck her for saying my dad abused her. She didn’t know abuse. I saw abuse on TV and my dad didn’t do that. And how dare she tell her friends such lies. How dare she?
All these years later, I wish I had been right. I wish she had been wrong. I wish they had been lies. But I’ve seen it now. I’ve seen what he does to her. The criticism, the mental and emotional games. The power plays, the insults. Making her feel like an idiot. Making her feel like she didn’t do enough. Making her feel like she wasn’t good enough.
So about 6 or 7 years ago I started asking her to leave my dad. I told her, you don’t even have to get a divorce, just leave. Come live with me. And I was always rebuffed. “I like your father,” she would tell me. After 30 years, I guess “liking” him was as good as could be expected. But I persisted. Every year on their anniversary I ask her again, “Why don’t you just leave dad?” And every year I got rebuffed. Until this year.
This year, for the first time she didn’t say no. She said, “I guess people my age do it all the time.” Yes, mom. They do.
While I was at the CC’s house this weekend, I brought it up to her mom. Her response: “You know, we’ve all offered her help if she wanted to leave. Your cousin said your mom could live with her.” Like a brick to the head, I was caught off guard and hurt. They knew. They all knew. It’s one thing, I suppose, to know that my parents’ marriage is doomed. To hate my dad sometimes. It’s an entirely different thing to know that other people hate him, too. That other people have been working as hard as I have to save my mom. To salvage her life. To give her the opportunity to find happiness and maybe even love.
I am as conflicted as I could be: What child wants to see her parents divorced? But what child wants to see her parents miserable. It’s one thing to know my dad is slowly killing himself, but as he kills himself physically, I see that he is killing my mom’s spirit, too. Why go down alone when you can bring everyone else down with you?
I love my dad. He has every good intention in the world toward everyone else, except my mom. And what a model that is for me. What I have learned is to be independent enough that I’d never be obligated to anyone, any man. Just as the last guy I dated. I violently resisted any attempt he made to do anything for me, any opportunity he had to make me feel indebted. He had no malicious intent in trying to be wonderful, and yet I raged against it all. I will never, ever be what my mom is: stuck.
So today is the day I ask my mom, yet again, to leave my dad. I ask with hope, and yet I fear that one day the answer will be “yes”.