was my parents’ anniversary although they eloped in March if that same year (1951) in March, so they could, you know…
38 years later a bitter divorce that wreaked havoc in the regulated insanity of the Walker lineage. We lost our family home, which everyone always said hit me the hardest because well, I spent the most time there (I was a kid, we had 22 acres, which I explored with dogs, a horse, various rescue birds and a vibrant imagination for inventing stories of what I would tell Merv Griffin if interviewed on his talk show. This got me through endless chores. It was the country. It was the 70s-80s. When parents handed out chores like they were non-negotiable. Because they actually were.
My father just died in March and my mother (who recalled the date but didn’t seem happy that I did) cried for a few days, she said, until she was over him (again). It was, as I mentioned, acrimonious. I still don’t know exactly when it went wrong but looking back I can patch work an idea of my mom’s meltdown caused initially by debilitating back surgery, my dad’s frustration with her martyrdom and passive-aggressive manner of not communicating (he never forgot how she took a sledge hammer to a wall to say she was giving my brother a bigger room – I was not there but as he tells it, it was a direct affront, a real F-U directed at him. Sledgehammer to dry wall. To prove a point?
Who knows. All I know is like all good kids of the generation x years (read Doug Coupland & the Harvard Center & university of Michigan) born from 1961-1981, we had the sinking feeling (due to being wee tots I. The 70s – Nixon & coming of age with the promises of trickle down while deregulating our “safety” with that actor, the aw-shucks voiced cowboy, alien-referencing UN speaker, astrology-consulting wife influencing when to use the red phone, Reagan, who some still eulogize but his presence was more solid than his economic and social policies and how they shaped where we are today. A lot of bullshit. Trickle down theory: pure hogwash.
But those were our leaders. They lied. They were manipulating the world to a view that is purely propaganda and power, an evil swill. Now things are more complicated. We all feel these assholes have wasted enough time of our time lying and positioning with slogans and logic that always fails because our politicians are no longer “of the people” (if they ever were) but purely pawns in some sick and twisted agenda from either fucked up humans (Rothchilds, Illuminati, The various committees of white men who run things for what end I don’t know cause it’s not money- unless it’s holding on to vast fortunes which have been amassed by taking advantage of others) or some far worse inter-galactic blob (in my nightmare, it would be the Borg from Kathryn Janeway’s ship-perfectly evolved parasites so desperate for what we humans have–but so lacking in actual feeling, which is the thing that humans have.
So with all this in mind, picture a girl at the height of her optimism about life and love and family, leaving home for the first time on a grand adventure when her father leaves her mother for a woman he’d fallen in love with – over seven years.
Okay, so…she was at my graduation? Alright, so her daughter was tragically a suicide. That never leaves a person. But we needed you too and you kind of couldn’t be in both places at once so it felt like you gave up on mom when she was more pain in the ass mode than the woman who stood by you through poverty, medical school, who eloped with you so you could sleep together before your church wedding, who I know you were happy with for many years. Before you grew apart. Resented each other. Stopped communicating in any real meaningful way-it was the 80s. You talked about seeing a marriage counselor. But you didn’t go. Except as a token gesture if that.
The disillusionment I felt (I had thought they were getting along better! Had made it through a right patch! Of course! Dad was having a torrid love affair with a woman who he did love–but who didn’t have any of the “problems” my mom had which were basically familiarity breeds contempt – unless both people have the same commitment to emotional honesty and working on their own shit, not blaming the spouse for this, that, tit, tat. Years of listening to your parents shit talk about the other is something I would like to skip next time around. If we are reincarnated after all. I would like to go straight to the good life on easy street, for the record. Used up all my hard knocks passes this go-round, fella.
You begin to believe you alone can fix a broken marriage. In its theoretical form-meaning you will NOT do what your parents did four months after you began your adult life and decide to be selfish and tell you at 5 am in Australia that Dad was leaving Mom and his mistress’ husband (in process of becoming ex-husband) had called Mom to say: your husband is having an affair with my wife
You say, at 22, 23, your whole life of love before you: well I won’t do what my parents did wrong.
You read Harville Hendrick’s getting the love you want and other such tomes on how not to fuck up your lives like your parents.
And then you set out to fuck it up in entirely new ways, and discover the meaning of overcompensation.
1951-2015 August 25
My adopted parents married 64 years ago. My father just passed away a little over 5 months ago. My mother still believes he got some perverse pleasure out of his double life. I know it wasn’t about that at all. He wasn’t trying to hurt her or us. He wasn’t even really thinking of us (or anyone but me as he waited til his youngest was out of the nest to implode the family farm) and was drawn to a woman who was cloyingly approving of his every action and word (annoyingly at first, the glad-handing and overly effusive can-do-no-wrong was laid on a bit thick but I got used to it, just “had to take my saccharin” as my diabetic grandmother used to say over effusively constant complimentary ass-kissing sweetness.
I adored my father but by God when his mistress comes along and says he is perfection in the flesh, it gets a bit hard to take. Sickening sycophantic unctuous wheedling to get the good doc to contribute quite substantial support to a family grieving the loss of one of their own.
I felt like to get anyone’s attention around here, what? Do you have to kill yourself? Because all my “warning signs” were unheard and I was on my own (in terms of family mentorship on things emotional and my prospects as a woman who “was just gonna get married anyway” so why should he pay such exorbitant costs for a college when our state school was just a good.
I was a good girl. All I ever did was obey. Unless I was doing something bad (once in a while – you can’t really help it, all that pent up perfection bottled up, so much pressure to keep up the idea you have of what you are supposed to be – but very few clues on how to get there and quite a few misleads from fucked up adults who give a lot of bad advice at very impressionable times.
To say I knew my mother would be her slightly bitter and eternally broken-hearted mother would scoff at the mention of the anniversary is accurate but I had hoped (no idea if it got conveyed – she is stubborn, as always!) to get across that I was thinking about her on her anniversary – because this is the first year he hasn’t been around and all we have left are the memories we carry of him-and I’d like hers to find their way back to the good. Not sugar-coated and not denial but it’s been long enough I think or I hope not to carry the hate from hurt around. It’s a tall order. She was married at 19 for 38 years. That’s a big chunk of your soul – the wonder of youth and the way you love then – you never recover when someone just walks out.
I would like her not to regret marrying him because then I wouldn’t be in their lives and I can’t imagine two better parents for me.