Thankfully my early years were peaceful and trauma free. I consider this my saving grace considering the future that was ahead. Sure, there were undercurrents of tension between my Mom and Dad but they both played their roles perfectly. My Dad was passive and my Mom was always in control. Partially due to the power and control dynamics in our home, my Mom was the primary caregiver. I became much more bonded with her. And then there was just the natural pull towards my Mom. She was warm, nurturing, spontaneous, creative and fun. Children gravitated towards her. There were many times I became jealous because Mom was so good with other kids, and they liked her too. I was also always with her. Even when she worked, I often got to join her. For a while she worked at a preschool which I attended with her. And when I was school age, she worked as a summer camp counselor for a few years. I was fully a Mommy’s girl. We were bonded like a Mother and Daughter hope to be. I loved my Dad, too but he was more of a mystery to me. It wasn’t until the divorce that Dad and I forged a stronger bond than we had ever shared before.
Mom’s employment had become more and more sparse. It seemed she couldn’t keep jobs for long. She went back to school for a semester or two, but didn’t stick with it. She also tried opening up a gift shop at Flower Power. She had creative ideas, but lacked the business sense and ability to ground her ideas into reality.
Dad had become more and more resentful of her inability to keep a job, as well as not keep up with normal responsibilities in the home. My Dad was by no means traditional, but since Mom was not working he expected her to do her part with keeping the house tidy. We didn’t have a dishwasher and Mom would keep dishes at the sink for weeks. Dad would try to help, but she insisted that she was going to get around to it. The lack of tidiness became less of a nuisance and more of a concern. It became obvious that there was much more going on than simply Mom not wanting to clean.
Dad would stuff his feelings until he couldn’t take it anymore and then blow up. I don’t remember them fighting while married, but I do remember the fight that changed our lives forever…
It was the summer between third and fourth grade. I was eight years old. We had just arrived home from a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. My Mom was obsessed with trips to the beach, so we usually went a couple times a year. These trips always stressed Dad out because he felt we couldn’t afford them. They began fighting in the car on the trip home. My memory fails to remember what the fight was about, but I remember the energy being intense. When we arrived home I went to my play room. To cool down, Mom decided to go for a walk in the woods. She often went on walks, and often if she needed to clear her mind. This time Dad wasn’t willing to wait on her to apologize. As my Mom walked, Dad began hurriedly packing things into the back of his little blue Toyota Tacoma. I watched from our front porch. I realized exactly what he was doing and was fully aware that his intention was to leave before Mom arrived back from her walk. After packing, Dad came to where I was sitting on the porch. Initially he tried to keep his composure, but that quickly dissipated and tears began to stream down his face. It was the first time I ever saw my Dad cry. It was also the first time I remember connecting with him on a deep emotional level. As he cried, I cried. I wasn’t mad. I felt like I understood why my Dad was leaving. The only thing I remember Dad saying is ‘This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do’ and he apologized for leaving me. The rest of the memory is fragmented. I remember he felt full of guilt and complete exasperation. It was as if he was carrying the weight of the past 10 years of marriage on his back and all he wanted to do was break free. He had reached his limit and wasn’t willing to carry it any longer.
I watched as my Dad drove away, knowing that my life would never be the same. I felt an overwhelming sadness, and then went numb.