From the day he packed his bag and walked out of the door, my mother never said a negative word about my father. Not once did she bait me into conversations about what a horrible person he was or dove into sordid detail about their finances. I didn’t know anything other than he was remarried and that he came to see me just about every other weekend. He also had us for two weeks during the summer. Not once did she ever get into how badly he hurt her nor did she ever feel the need to discuss his poor parenting skills.
Instead, my mother had the dignity and grace to recognize that my relationship with him was none of her business. She knew that it wasn’t her place to say those truths to me because I loved him. I loved spending time with him and looked forward to when he would pull into the driveway or park out front. And when he would see me becoming emotional, and made the decision to go on with my sister instead of me, my mother just held me as I cried. She never said that he was horrible person.
She had every right to. My father enjoyed anything that fit into a skirt. He didn’t have patience to deal with children and their emotional outbursts, especially mine. On days when he had little patience to begin with, he would do exactly what I have outlined above – tell my sister to get in the car and left me home. I would watch the red taillights go down the driveway through tears. What had I done this time? Why couldn’t he take me? Didn’t he understand that I missed him so much and wanted to see him?
My childhood is full of moments like this where I was never quite sure if things would work out as planned or how I was told they would. He would be consistent enough to get my hopes up only to crush them in such an unpredictable way. I was a young girl who felt like someone else’s trash to begin with, and this was plain abusive. Each time I was abandoned, my mother was right there comforting me and reminding me that I was wanted by someone. Not once did she tell me that he was a poor excuse of a father.
She never said anything like that to me until after he disappeared without a trace. She waited until I was old enough to understand who he really was and what he was really like as my father. She waited until I was old enough to come to my own conclusions, instead of being coerced into believing something that was based on opinion or her own pain. I learned that he wasn’t sure if he wanted me and that there was tension prior to my adoption. Other revelations included his serious gambling habits, examples of selfishness and attempts at keeping my mother under his control. He wasn’t abusive but he wasn’t supporting of her ambitions to obtain a Master’s degree, or anything else that benefited her.
Today when something happens that frustrates me she reminds me of who he is so I don’t get too upset or hurt by his actions. That’s as far as it goes. It doesn’t go into phrases that include statements like “You’re better off without him.” When my father remarried, the visits became less. Apparently, this happens more with fathers than with mothers. According to the American Psychological Association, kids do better when they maintain close contact with both parents. They also go on to say that Research suggests that kids who have a poor relationship with one or both parents may have a harder time dealing with family upheaval.”
So basically, my mother was ahead of her time. Thank God she was. When a parent stops contacting their children, they can’t help feel abandoned. And feeling abandoned doesn’t go away with age. Instead of looking at my emotional outbursts and blaming me, my mother knew that it was me acting out how I was feeling. It didn’t make my unacceptable behavior acceptable, but the ‘adulting’ was put on the adults. It wasn’t put on my shoulders or my sister’s. I wasn’t blamed for being what I was at the time: a hurt betrayed girl who was frightened that she was unlovable.
In Melissa’s case, take this and times it by ten. The separation behavior still continues and a recent example is her half brother, stepmother, brother and sister all went out for dinner. I will give you one guess as to who wasn’t there and her name starts with “M”. I have been thinking all afternoon about this. Maybe it’s because others are still going to hold grudges and not deal with the entire family as a whole. Maybe it’s the whole transgender thing and the obvious fact that if their father were alive, he probably would have physically killed her. Maybe I am just a mind-fucking asshole. Personally, I don’t consider a dinner a ‘family’ dinner if the entire family isn’t present. Best part about this was the fact that I messaged this woman and told her that we would love to see her if she was visiting in Plymouth. Wow.
So why do I care about people I have never met? Well, for one it hurt the person I love. At one point today she laid down and I could see the pain in her face. She wanted to do what she normally does when she is feeling overwhelmed. Reason number 2, it also showed me that you are not over past transgressions which were fueled by both sides, by the way. Part of being a grown up in a situation like divorce, is you don’t force the children to take sides. You just don’t. It doesn’t matter if they are adults at the time of the divorce or not. And this goes a thousand times no if the child was a transgender adolescent girl who thought she was going crazy and had no idea where she fit in but she knew she had to hide so she became this angry young man who couldn’t stand being alive.
And the answer to all of this is….let’s all go out to dinner and not tell or invite Melissa. Because she’s sober. Because she is finally being happy and true to herself. Because it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient. The answer is not a simple “You’re better off without them”, because it doesn’t address the pain being intentionally left out brings. The answer is we have our own life, our own family and surround ourselves with people who truly love us and not give us lip service.