It’s been the better part of a year since I wrote Divorce Part 1. Feel free to read it now if you’re new to my stories or if you just want to get re-grounded for this next account. In Part 1, I wrote about the big night, the night my dad left the house, the night he tried using me against my mom by trying to get me to leave the house with him. Writing the story forced me to think through the details and now with my being much older and mature, I now see things for what they really were. I’ve come to a few more conclusions, (or conjectures), about my dad and this time period.
After my dad left the house, of course he had to figure out where he would live. The first place he lived in I remember being a duplex on Heaton Street in Hamilton. One of the most odd memories I have is of the second or third visit there; we were introduced to his girlfriend, Mary Ann. Had she been his girlfriend while he was married to Mom? I suspect so, but it is of no consequence today. She would one day later become his wife. Dad had a fold out sofa that turned into a bed and there, lying on the bed, was Mary Ann wearing nothing but a bath robe, (thus, the use of the word “odd”).
Ok, so this is a memory I think I’d rather not have – Mary Ann, still relatively young and attractive (yuk), lying propped up on one elbow, robe open at the top showing significant cleavage and leg. Dad proudly introduced us to his new ‘friend’ Mary Ann. Mary covered herself a bit and sat up, smiled and said hello to us. This is such a weird, standout memory for me, that I don’t even recall my siblings being with me, but I’m certain that they would have been. I remember thinking later in life that this was an immature act. Was Dad thinking that I, (as the oldest), would report what I’d seen when we returned home to Mom, to make her jealous? It’s the best rationale I could come up with. Well, I didn’t.
Mary had a little girl who was Lori’s age. Actually, Mary’s past is a bit of a mystery for me and it should have been a red warning flag for Dad, but I don’t think he was using his best judgement. (In a rare private moment of honesty, one day when they were fighting, I asked him why he even married Mary or why he just doesn’t leave and his response was, and I quote – “Rob, at this point it’s a Hell of a lot cheaper just to put up with it”). I wish I had more facts because I’d love to be able to write a whole tale about her. We knew that she had at least one additional child ‘somewhere’. It was never discussed though in my presence. How old was she, where did she live and why the hell did she not live with her mother; very strange.
Mary had a brother who lived in Hamilton. His name was Frank. Frank was a few years older than I and I used to play softball against him occasionally years later. He became a rather decent guy, but I can tell you – when he was a high-schooler, he was one bad ass. I don’t know if he got into much trouble, but I can tell you that guy could fight. I would not have wanted to tangle with him. I personally saw him take down a guy much bigger than he one day at the city pool. Frank had jumped into the deep end and the guards were whistling signals for everyone to get out for one of the routine breaks. Frank was making his way slowly to the edge and some hotshot pool guard whistled again directly at him and told him to get out. Frank had been making his way to the edge but when the guard addressed him, Frank’s response was to begin treading water and he simply said, “why don’t you come in here and get me out”. Maybe these two had a history but the guard’s response was “why don’t you come here on the sidewalk and we’ll talk about it”. To which Frank replied, “oh, we’re not going to talk”.
And it moved very quickly from there. Frank very quickly pulled himself up out of the water and maybe, just maybe things might have ended with just words exchanged, but the guard made the mistake of putting his hand on Frank’s arm. Frank quickly brushed it away, punched the guy a couple of times in the face and then wrestled this bigger guy down in the grass where he proceeded to knock the crap out of this big guard until a couple of older adults pulled him off. Mental note made – don’t piss off Frank.
Dad would come over to pick us up about once a week, sometimes on the same timing he needed to bring over the child support checks, ($10 per kid per week). We’d go over and make the best of things, trying to find things to do or to play with. Often we could get up some kind of a card game. Dad loved to play card and board games. After he learned to play chess, he’d often want to engage me in a game. I was a halfway decent chess player, but honestly, the game moves too slowly for me and I get bored with it. Dad moved around a little bit before landing on Lexington Avenue on the west side of Hamilton.
Seasons came and went and both my mom and dad found a new partner and both were married. Mom found a great guy and Dad found…well, Dad found Mary Ann.
After awhile, Dad’s visits became a little sporadic. Often times too he would come over, spend 5 minutes chatting with us boys and then take only our sister Lori with him. Lori was his favorite, but he also explained to us that thee wasn’t much for us boys to do at his place, however Lori could play with Lisa Ann. Lisa was Lori’s age and was the child Mary had (the one we could see and touch). I remember a few times Dad did this and my brother Mike getting very upset about it. I didn’t like it either, but I was not vocal about it. I’d have to say that my anger can be passive most of the time. I mentally logged it and it went in as another strike against Dad. In his case, I just figured it was par for the course. The older we got, the more times only my sister was picked up.
As time passed, I felt the communication with my dad becoming more and more one-sided. For example, the entire 5 years that I lived in Louisiana, I wrote 2 letters, neither of which were answered. Every telephone call made from there too, was by me. Don’t get me wrong, there was some fun at his house. If we had a card game going, (for example), we had fun, especially the 4-person games of Pitch. (There will be an entire story about this game one day). I’ve mentioned this before and I’ll say it here; my dad seemed like the kind of guy who was fun to be around if you were his friend. Perhaps I needed more and perhaps he couldn’t give it, or perhaps I just didn’t send out the proper signals.
A few years after I got my job with P&G, we were discussing various topics. Dad was extremely ‘anti management’. I don’t recall what we specifically were discussing, but I remember trying to offer up a different perspective on whatever topic we were discussing. At a point, I guess he realized I was a manager. I just assumed he knew. I mean, I worked in Finance and he knew I got my job after getting my degree, but he stopped in mid sentence, looked at me and said, “are you part of management”? To which I said, “well, yes, I’m a manager.” And instead of acting proud, he rolled his eyes and remarked, “for crying out loud”. After that day, he talked to me differently, almost as if he was assuming he knew my opinion on any given subject.
(Sigh) I feel some of these stories make me come across as being more angry than I really am. Maybe I’m just too analytical, but I didn’t want a “friend”; I needed a father. Maybe if I had just been direct and told him I needed him to not be my friend, but to be a father, maybe he could have risen to the challenge. Maybe, but I doubt it. Through everything, my mom never bad-mouthed Dad. I like to give my mom some credit on this point. I suspect she sensed the divorce was a little tough on us in different ways and she tried to stay neutral between Dad and us kids, not wanting to cause a riff. I have always felt that life should be a learning process and that we should grow to become sentient beings, learning from our mentors and role models, good and bad. I have some good memories of my dad, but the memories that stick out the most are, well, not so good.
My dad deserves credit though. Because of him, I am kind to animals. I would never ditch a child’s pet. Because of him, I never whipped my children with a belt or switch, (and certainly not for feeding another child). Because of him, I encouraged my boys to participate in team sports. Because of him, I encouraged my boys to try their hands at a musical instrument. Because of him, I never used certain words. Because of him, I tried to control my anger. Because of him, my boys had an option to attend college. Because of him, I loved my boys and more importantly, I displayed my love. Because of him, I made a pact with myself to never get divorced. Because of him, I send postcards to my sons and I make certain that I take the initiative often to open a line of communication. Because of him, I know the importance of showing support to my children in all of their choices. And because of him, I know the importance of being a positive role model for my children.
Because of him, if I am dying I will reach out to my children, not for sympathy, but simply to share my love; and to tell them that I am proud of them.
The pictures below are from my front yard. I love these 3 young California Redwoods. Occasionally I will stand in between them and imagine I’m in a redwood forest. These trees are young and strong. Though they stand much taller than our home, they are still relatively young. Like my boys, the whole of their lives stretches out before them. There will be storms which will try to take them down, just as there will be trials for my boys. I’m hoping that we, (my wife and I), have made their roots strong for if we did, they should withstand everything tossed their way – just as these redwoods will survive for hundreds of years.
I don’t think my boys read many of these stories, but maybe they will one day, perhaps when I’m gone. So boys, this final thought is for you – most of the major decisions made during my life were with you in mind. Even though you’re older now and we don’t speak to each other everyday, know that I do think of you every day. I love you and I’m proud to be your father.