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I'd never again find my parents standing side by side on the porch, waving to me as I pulled into the driveway. Parents expect us to shrug off their split, as if the breakup of our family should no longer concern us because pieces of our adult life are in place. I told him about an article I'd read about divorcées contracting sexually transmitted diseases—one of our more awkward conversations.
Looking back, it seemed as if Mom and Dad had been faking it—which cheapened all my childhood memories. I've come to envy young children going through a divorce. Mom expected me to talk negatively about Dad with her. Ten minutes later the phone would ring, and it would be Dad. On the stereo in my dad's studio apartment is a photograph of me and my sisters in the same battered silver frame it was in when it was in our living room.
They Skype often, he visits frequently, and he continues to talk about her with the same infatuation.
When I ask him if he still loves her as intensely as he did before, he tells me, yes. And now, to me, he's a whole new kind of inspiring.
Nothing tested me more in my adult life than my parents' divorce. I had moved out of my childhood home to attend college several years before.
I can say that now without feeling embarrassed or weak. I had a great job, close friends, a relationship—all of the things that should make you feel rooted.
Case in point: Not only did I have to cope with the fact that his new girlfriend was half his age, but also that he was considering moving to Thailand with her. Now, he wanted to be committed to himself—spending some quality time on his own terms.
Despite the oceans between them, they've maintained their relationship.You might accept and forgive one aspect of your parents' divorce, but then something else happens—maybe Dad asks you to meet the woman he's dating—and you have an entirely new set of circumstances to deal with. She is around my dad's age—I'd worried that she would be a young tart. We start arguing and I say, "I just don't think you're much of a mother to me anymore." A year earlier I'd promised myself I'd never say things like this to her again. When we get back home, we settle on opposite sides of the couch. But I guess this isn't about accepting that my parents are no longer together.Dad is giddy when I walk into my aunt Junie's house one evening two years after the split. She makes a quick U-turn in the middle of the highway and nearly gets us killed. At some point, I realize, the way Mom acted during the divorce became the real source of my anger.He'll fly overseas at a moment's notice, calling from the airport to say a quick goodbye. If she was using him, it wasn't for the little money he had. She made him laugh, she was smart, she challenged him. More than a decade earlier, he and my mother had gone through a messy divorce.
He flutters from job to job, never really explaining his reasons for leaving, constantly finding himself in unlikely circumstances. They'd been madly in love for many years, but their marriage ended in screaming matches and arguments over money.
Mom begins yelling—a new habit since she and Dad split—about how I was never on her side. After thinking I'd finally reached a plateau of forgiveness, I'm right back to where I started, as angry as I've been time and again in the months before. "Donna, this is my middle daughter, Brooke." We say hello. I want her to ask me about my writing or my recent trip to Africa, but she doesn't.