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