Like most people these days, my parents are divorced. I’m 32 and my parents haven’t been together for 22 years. It was very strange the day that I realized they had been apart longer than they were together, but it is what it is. Today I want to talk about the experience of watching my parents’ relationship deteriorate from the perspective of a 10 year old.
Growing up I had a pretty great childhood. I have an older brother (3 years) and parents who liked to be fairly involved. They enrolled my brother and me in baseball every season, we would go camping almost every weekend, and we loved going to the drive-in to watch movies. Things started to change when I was 8 or 9. My parents seemed to fight all the time. By the time I was 10, my parents had gone through 2 “Trial Separations”, one time my dad left, and the other time, my mom. It was very strange; I didn’t have any friends going through anything similar. I didn’t have anyone to ask what was happening or why. Divorce may have been common in 1990, but it wasn’t to a 10 year old. Sometimes the arguments scared the hell out of me. One time in particular, I remember my dad screaming into the phone. It was my mom on the other end, I don’t know what she said or maybe she hung up, but my dad slammed the receiver so hard, he smashed the phone right through the glass coffee table. I was terrified.
I specifically recall one summer day, I was sitting in a grass field with my back against a chain-link fence. My parents were in the midst of their second separation and I was daydreaming. Like most little boys I was up to mischief. Beside me laid a piece of string, about 30 feet away at the end of that piece of string, it was tied to a small stick on its end. That stick was propping up an upside-down cardboard box and under that box was an apple smeared with peanut butter. You guessed it; I was trying to trap a squirrel. Anyway I digress, as I awaited a victim to take the apple I was picking blades of grass. I’d turn it upside-down and with both hands I would slowly split that blade until it was two pieces. I repeated it over and over, thinking about how my mom and dad must be growing apart. I didn’t understand why it was happening, but I understood what was happening. It was frustrating, I remember thinking how no one thought I was old enough to “get’ what was happening, it was one of those moments that I said to myself “Don’t ever forget this feeling when you’re an adult. You need to remember what this feels like when you interact with kids in the future”. To this day I haven’t forgotten it, and I always think about it when I talk to kids or if I’m spiltting blades of grass.
A few months later, my mom moved out. This is where my story takes a different path than most. Most kids stay with the mother and the father is the one who leaves, except in this case, my mom left. She went and moved in with her mother for the time being. Coincidently enough, her best friend also split from her husband. I didn’t really think much of it, until a few years later. There were many signs, but I never really saw them, until the day my dad told me. He sat me and my brother down and told us our mom was a lesbian, not in those exact words but that was the message. It’s amazing I remember certain events in my life that seem so small, and yet something that big, I just don’t remember. It all added up though, my mom only had gay friends, she only listened to music by gay artists (KD Lang, Melissa Ethridge) and she hadn’t even gone on a date with a guy in years. There are other signs, and I don’t want people to think that I assume if you have gay friends or listen to gay artists, then I must think you’re gay, because I don’t.
Sadly, to this day my mom has never come out to me. She’s never had a boyfriend in 22 years, but she has had a few “girlfriends” and we’re at the stage where it is assumed, but never discussed. I don’t ask and she doesn’t offer it up. It’s very sad because it doesn’t bug me and I’m worried she thinks I’m ashamed of it. I really think she’d be happier if she just came out. I’m not about to confront her either because it will seem like an attack, I figure when she is ready, she will say so. Unfortunately, until she does, there will always be this cloud of deceit over our relationship, always lies to cover up what he’s been up too. I wish there was something I could do that would lessen the mood, but I feel like I just need to wait for her to come around, I’ve waited 22 years already.
By the way, I never caught the squirrel. It did work with a chipmunk once when I was camping but that didn’t have a good ending so I won’t talk about it here, maybe some other time.
Keep your head up and your nuts covered
Reblogged this on Sappho speaks and commented:
From the perspective of a son of a lesbian who hasn’t yet come out to him.
It must be hard having that elephant in the room. Wouldn’t there be a gentle way to broach it? I remember my Dad asking over dinner “so, how gay are you?” I nearly choked on my mash potatoes but it opened the communication and when I finally figured out I was gay it was easier to talk to my parents.
Why not ask her… “Mom, why have you never told me you’re gay, because you know I love you and it doesn’t matter right?”
Human relationships are funny sometimes. You are waiting for her to come to you, and I would bet dollars to donuts she is waiting for you to come to her. It’s really hard to come out to someone, especially your child who has only known you as straight. You don’t want to lose their love, no matter how ridiculous that sounds. Even if you both “know” what’s going on, if it’s not been talked about, I bet she is feeling like you wouldn’t love her if she said it out loud to you.
I wish you the best of luck with the situation and hope something happens for you both soon.
By the time I was 13, my parents went through three trial separations. My dad moved out both times. The first time (I think I was 7 or 8), he moved to a basement apartment somewhere in Toronto. I have fond memories of getting to eat Corn Pops for breakfast or really any sugary cereal that I wanted as my mom never let me or my sister stray too far from Shreddies (although, as an adult, I now know, that Shreddies also has a fair amount of sugar).
The second time (I must have been around 11), my dad went to a hotel (so he said… I have other ideas.) I have to say that I was relieved because the arguments my sister and I had to endure, all the while pretending we didn’t know what was going on, were becoming too much to bare. However, he came back.
From then on, the arguments got worse and worse. Then one day, (I’m 13 years old) which was actually the morning of New Year’s Eve, I heard my mom on the phone in her bedroom. Door closed. I don’t know what made me do this, but I picked up the phone and listened. It was the husband of the woman with whom my dad was having an affair. I was devastated. I then learned it was multiple affairs with multiple women over many years. I felt sick. Other people cheated; not my own father. I remember acting angry at him that day and he said to my mom, “She knows something.” To this day, we have never discussed it, but I know that he knows I know. I got over my anger very quickly, but I still see him differently. He’s not the superhero I once thought him to be.
The final time he left, he decided that I was old enough to receive a proper explanation. Like me, my dad has an easier time getting stuff out on paper so he left me a letter and I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. I found it in my bathroom sink. I almost wish I could post it here. (But this is your blog; not mine!) To this very day, I haven’t shown anyone that letter. I never even let my sister see it. I am three years older and am supposed to be her protector. I wonder if my dad even remembers that he left it for me. Anyway, I keep it in this little locked box underneath my bed. At least from having that letter left for me, I knew my dad finally realized that I understood what was happening. I will never forget what it feels like to have people dismiss troubling situations while pretending they are non-existent. This is something I will constantly be aware of as I raise my son. Kids are always smarter than you think they are. Sometimes they are even more aware than the adults around them.
Parents need to be straight with their kids. Like you said, if they are not, there will always be a cloud of deceit hanging over the relationship until you do.