I don’t have to tell you that you’ve let me down. You know that. We haven’t had a good conversation in almost a year, because it was a year ago that I began to see you differently.
When you told me that you spent Christmas day with her, I said nothing. Maybe I nodded. I’m not sure. I felt a switch go off. You could barely get the words out, and I can still see you sitting there with your head in your hand, your fingers covering your mouth. Your eyes said so much. They said more than I could bear to hear. I watched them search my face for expression, the steely blueness made me shudder.
It had been 2 months since we found out about the affair, and it was only days before you would leave the house. In the 2 months interim I never saw you try to piece our family back together. Did you apologize? Admit that you were wrong?
Though I will never really know what went on between you and my mother in your 30 year relationship, it pained me that your four children weren’t worth at least one last try. After all that you had ruined for Troy, for us, for the woman you swore to be there for in good times and bad, you couldn’t even pretend to give it one last try?
I knew the day we found out that you had no intention of turning back. There are moments that I cannot blame you. Having an ill wife and providing for her and four children largely on your own is no picnic. But she didn’t sign up for this either, none of us did. Her sister, her brother, her friends, her children, HER.
There is a security I have lost since that October, the feeling that as a family, we were invincible. You brought me up to believe that as long as we stood beside each other, everything would work itself out.
My senior year of college, I took a memoir writing class. At that point, it wasn’t a question who I would be writing about. This
In fact, my father rarely complains about anything. He practically ignores illnesses until they get the best of him. He does all the yard work when there is no one to help him, and sometimes when there is. He fixes all the things that break down in our house, but besides a few not-so-nice words he shares with that particular appliance or creaky door, we never heard him complain. My mother of course heard a lot more than we did. On those days when Dad was outside doing yard work on his own she would remind us of the golden rule. “Always treat others the way you want to be treated.” My mother called it ‘their’ rule, which I eventually learned was plagiarized slightly from Confucius. But even after I knew it was stolen, it always worked on me, partially because it had become so ingrained in me, and partially because I agreed.
My father lives this rule. I’m not saying he’s a saint, and he’s no Ghandi, but he always thinks of other people, the bigger picture. He likes to know the people he is buying from or working with. He refuses to use the self-check-out lines at grocery stores, reminding me that I wouldn’t have had a job in high school if these were always around. When I am in disagreement with my mother, a sister, or a friend, he explains the situation from their perspective, whether he agrees with them or not. When I feel like the world is crumbling, he’s able to pull me back and let me take in the moment from
“You’re a Dalphond,” he says, “We get through. It’s what we do.”
Reading that makes me feel like a fool! How naive and ridiculous I seem! How far you have fallen from that pedestal that I so childishly put you on. You really were my hero. In so many ways, I looked up to you. When I dated someone, I held him to standards you had set. I remembered the stories Mom told me about how you always opened a car door for her, about the single rose that would be waiting for her in the seat.
You could make anything, fix anything. I loved saying that together we built the entertainment center in the rec room. I boasted that you designed and built our house, that we painted it ourselves. It amazed me that you could create things with your hands and be so incredibly smart. You inspired me to be able to do everything. Why be good at just one subject, when I could be like you? Good at everything it seemed!
It was rare that I crossed you. Not because I feared you, but because I couldn’t bear the thought of letting you down. I studied and got good grades, went to school, went to church. I sang in the choir, I taught CCD. I didn’t follow the crowds. I swore off drugs, alcohol, sex. For awhile anyways, I’m not 16 anymore. You told me it was wrong, that I would be a better person if I didn’t do any of that, that I would make you proud. In some way, it was detrimental. I was a judgmental little brat in high school, too pious to succumb to teenage mischief, too judgmental to understand those that did.
Yet I have always held onto the belief that everything happens for a reason. I’ve always taken the time and done things when it was the right time for me, not anyone else. I just wish you’d taught me to be more accepting, although eventually I found my way there.
I love you and though I’ve found acceptance in this situation, I can’t reconcile who you were with you are showing us you are. The way you’ve even handled this divorce, and your children within it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not donning my mother with a halo either. You both have been childish, selfish and manipulative.
This divorce has torn us all apart. But I think it will take you years before you truly understand the damage you have caused. Maybe you will never understand the pain you caused your wife or your son. Whether intentionally done or not, by using the one daughter that talks to you as your personal telescope into our world, you tarnish her relationships with her mother and siblings. I am happy for her that she has reconciled the way she feels about both parents, perhaps she is a bigger person than I, but I am sorry for her because the tightrope she walks creates a riff in her relationships with us.
On the one hand, I am grateful to know that no matter what you think of a person – they are always capable of what you would lease expect. I don’t know if I’ll ever marry, for fear that he would do the same to me as you have done to her. But I know that I won’t be afriad to fall in love, because after all. I have an incredible extended family, all because the two of you fell in love.
Remember when I told you the story of you and mom dancing disco in the kitchen. I still remember her hugging you next to the counter and you saying, “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”
I also remember you saying, very quietly, “I don’t remember that.”
No. I guess you don’t.