A Beautiful April Day
edited: Friday, January 25, 2002
By stephanie a dispoto
Posted: Friday, January 25, 2002
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Growing up with the guilt of divorce -- a guilt that no adult should ever place on a child.
I remember looking around my Father's house that April day; it seemed so cold, so impersonal. Not a single photo of my siblings; our children, his grandchildren. The pictures on the walls, above the fireplace and in the formal dining room did not represent a life I ever knew. It was as if, in order for him to accept this life he chose, he would have to erase all the memories and anything that represented his existence prior to 1976.
Unfortunately, that would include me.
It would take almost 25 years before I realized it was not my fault, that I was not responsible for my parents divorce. In 1976, when I was 16 years old, my father told me that he was divorcing my mother and leaving us because he had fallen in love with another woman. He had already bought a new home in another town. "Don't you think I deserve to be happy after all I have done for you?" he asked? I automatically thought I had done something wrong to cause their break up. He would stay if he were happy. The worst part is, no one ever tried to tell me otherwise. I had become a scapegoat to be used as a substitution for their guilt.
I can still remember my Father asking me to help him move a few items to his new house. That way, I could meet his new partner. I didn't know I had the right to say no, because it would, it DID make me feel uncomfortable. My parents had been married for 27 years; I didn't know how to handle this! I was still his daughter though, so I did it. That Saturday, I arrived at his house, about 15 minutes before he did. I knocked on the door and "she" opened it. I was firmly told he wasn't there yet and was told to wait on the porch. She shut the door. So I
waited. When he finally arrived, I was allowed back into the house, and introduced to this new person in his life. My Father and I proceeded to unload a few boxes. I had a strange feeling; it was as if someone was shooting daggers in my back. I turned around and this woman, this woman my father said he was in love with, gave me a look I would encounter throughout the next 24 years. I tried desperately in my mind to think of something, anything to get me out of there. After putting the boxes in the foyer, Dad excitedly showed me around the house, ranting and raving about how "she was a wonderful cook, decorator, business woman, blah, blah, blah". I knew I was going to be sick if he kept elaborating about her accomplishments. Sick, because he never complimented me about anything I had ever done. Anything I would ever do.
Remembering these memories on this beautiful day in April caused a pain deep in my heart. Over the next 24 years, there would be so many confrontations about how "we" were ungrateful" how "we" had no respect for my Father, how "we" took from them, it became a sad, but running joke about her going through menopause - every 2 weeks.
I will never forget the famous "Aftermath of the Thanksgiving Day Massacre" as I refer to it these days. I turned and looked at my father's chair, the one he had sat in, the one all Father's sit in,to either fall asleep, or, as in this case, have the "serious" conversations. Well, not exactly a conversation, because that takes at least two people. This chair is the one where we were talked "at", not "to". The year was 1998, and I had been "summoned" to his house one Sunday afternoon. The reason? I would soon find out.
The previous Thanksgiving, I had been invited to his house for dinner. I attended with my 2 daughters; my husband could not come with us because he had to work that day. Well, it turned out that "she" was angry because my husband had not come with us. There was no excuse, according to her. I looked at my Father, in that big leather chair wondering, what is going on? Four months later, I am being yelled at because my husband
had to work on Thanksgiving? And then, the explosion. She started screaming at me for anything I had done, hadn't done, the neighbors did, the dog did -- it was like I was in a deep hole and couldn't get out, let alone get away from her screaming. I looked at my Father. He wouldn't look at me. Why did he have me come here to listen to this tirade? I then realized how much she hated me. And I finally understood why. She was so jealous and insecure of any love and affection my Father felt for us that in order for her to feel self-value, she had to devalue others. Yet, my Father never told us he loved us. No emotions were ever displayed. Never helped any of his children. He and his wife helped her family out, their friends, and yes, there have been many times when I felt hurt because he wouldn't help us; like when we had to go on welfare because my husband had lost his job. Like when we couldn't afford food and were facing eviction. We survived; We will always survive. It is never an easy situation, but it will be handled should it ever happen again. He rarely would visit us, visit my beautiful daughters, his granddaughters, whom I am so proud of. That hurt. One dream I had always had, like so many girls was for my Father to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. They couldn't attend my wedding at the Courthouse because they had to work. Oh yes, my Father owned his own business.
I let her have her "breakdown", and amazingly, kept my cool until she finished. I then looked at my Father and told him I would not stand here and take this abuse. If he had any issues he wanted to discuss with me, could we go somewhere else to talk? She would not allow it. He didn't say anything, this man whom I adored, my Father who never paid attention to me, who criticized me, who never once said he was proud of me, nor that he loved me. I then said to my Father, "I love you. Whatever problems you may feel are present, let's just put them in the past and work on today." I was still that 16-year-old girl willing to do
anything to get her Father's attention. He said he would talk to me later. She told me she had alway's hated me.
I had to be the adult and bite my tongue. He then called me back before I left and whispered, "You know I love you Stessie". He hadn't called me Stessie for years.
Remembering all of this when I last saw him, all of a sudden I had to leave. I told my husband we had to get out of there. The tears almost blinded me. I know now my Father loved me.
I looked around me. It was a beautiful April day.
The day of my Father's funeral.