What it really meant

The day is still scratched into my memory. Dave and I were sitting in the den (do we even say the word den in this century?) on the pull out sofa bed. It was pulled out because that’s where dad was sleeping. We were watching The Brady Bunch and cutting pictures out of catalogs – a favorite pastime of mine. I cut my finger with the scissors as Dave and I were discussing what we were about to be told. We knew Mom and Dad were about to call us downstairs to tell us something we didn’t quite understand. I was in second grade and Dave was in kindergarten. There was a big word for what they were going to tell us but we didn’t know what it was. When they finally brought us into the kitchen they told us they were going to get a divorce (that was the big word) and we would be living with mom and would visit dad. There had been fights – lots – so we knew it was coming but we were still too young to really get it.

To us it meant Dad wasn’t at our house anymore. It meant telling friends dad worked late because we were the only ones with divorced parents and we didn’t want anyone to know. It meant Wednesday night dinners of pizza and greek salad at the Metro diner or beef and broccoli at the local Chinese restaurant. It meant double birthday and Christmas presents even though Dad still came to the house on our birthday and Christmas. It meant every other weekend at Dad’s house sleeping in sleeping bags and then eventually on a pull out couch. It meant roller skating in Central Park every other Sunday and trips to Tower Records and Barnes and Noble in the Village after our skating. It meant only seeing our friends every other weekend and hoping we wouldn’t be missing anything too fun while we were with Dad. It meant many girlfriends and three new wives that somehow my mom included in all of our milestone events. It meant lots of worrying about my dad not showing up to get us or even trying to kidnap us (weird I know but I was 8!).

In later years it meant not being able to order the standard school picture package because our dysfunctional family had too many grandparents. It meant traveling to four different homes for Christmas holiday celebrations (Justin’s parents were divorced too.).

My mom and dad made a promise that they would not live more than a mile away from each other while we were young. That forced them to be involved in each other’s lives even when my mom probably wanted to tell my dad and the wife du jour to take a hike. That forced us to have very few issues with the whole divorce thing. I think any of the issues I have from my childhood would have been there regardless of the divorce – thanks Dad!

My parents, my mom especially, did us a huge favor. And as I get older and see my friends deal with divorce my perspective changes, I realize how hard and how rare what they did for us was. So, thanks Mom! But, please Mom, keep pretending you don’t even read my blog. It’s easier for all of us.

8 comments on “What it really meant

  1. Emily K on said:

    Wonderful post. Your parents obviously worked hard to live their separate lives but to put you first in their logistics. I wish all people who divorce would do the same for their children. I have a brother who is a single dad and who stays in the city for his daughter. He would much rather be in the country, but he chooses to be a part of her life as often as possible even beyond the visitation agreement. I admire him tremendously for that.

  2. I have spent the last few days thinking about double vacations that were a product of the divorce. Yesterday I drove from Pittsburgh to Sault Ste. Marie, MI. We drove over the Mackinac Bridge with Mackinac Island to the right, I could see the Sheppler’s ferry going across. I saw the Soo Locks in Paddle to the Sea. Not too different from being picked up at the Howard Johnson’s on Route 80 south of Erie and driving to see cousins in northern Michigan.

    Your memory of the “pre-conversation” is a lot clearer than mine, I guess that is a product of your age at the time. I remember being told in the kitchen, where we stood, and who we each hugged first.

    I just wanted to put my two cents in…thanks mom and dad for all your efforts to keep everything normal in a situation that could have been anything but.

    Good thing mom doesn’t read this…

    • The vacation thing does stand out too. I remember being called down into the kitchen and I remember the hugs too. And maybe you forgot some of our adventures because I’m not sure I would say everything was normal! :)

      I am very happy you put your two cents in and am confident Mom can’t find the comments!

  3. Julie,

    Isn’t it amazing how indelibly some memories are
    etched in our memory, yet how mercurial memory can be too. My brother and I have had very different, though equally valid memories from that time in our childhoods. Divorce really seems to shock one into early maturity, at least that was my experience. Thnx for your post.

    • Thanks for your comment! You are right about the early maturity. My brother and I also grew very close because we were a team in a way other siblings weren’t.

  4. Pingback: A wart filled with worry | Julie's Odyssey

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