Brooms in the Closet
by Grahame Turner
I can remember the day with so much clarity, yet also, so few details. I can remember staring out the window at a tree in utter disbelief at my father's announcement. I can remember my parent's darkened room, and the family lounging on their bed in the pale light of day as the impact of the statement waited for realization. I can still recall the size, shape, and even the carpeting of the room, but if anyone asked, I could only ever sum up my father's decision in one word: divorce.
He claimed the reason to be that he and my mother fought often; my sister and I never saw it, though. When he was around, he and I never really developed a depth in our relationship-he was a workaholic, and still is-I rarely saw him at things I did, unless my sister was also involved. The loss wasn't of a relationship, or opportunity for one, but it was more a jarring blow to our family image. Suddenly, we weren't the "corn flakes" family my mother would sometimes joke about, consisting of mom, dad, big brother, and little sister. The identity we had as a "normal" family was gone.
Time passed, as it very fortunately does. My father moved to Philadelphia, after a brief stint in Boston. He was now with another woman, BJ, who we all knew from his days at Lotus Development, my sister and I couldn't ever remember what she looked like until we met them at the New England Aquarium. On the weekends, Dad would often fly or drive up from Philly to visit, take his kids to a hotel, eat a meal with us, sometimes throw in a visit to a Boston Museum, and then return us to our mother. This was never a great departure, normally with my sister, Samantha, and I both in tears within minutes of returning home. I even remember one time when we asked him to sleepover and even offered him my sister's spare bed, while I'd sleep on the floor, at the time, we felt snubbed; in reality, he had to be back at work in the morning.
I can recall sitting on the stairs below my parent's old bedroom with my sister and mother after being dropped off on one weekend, I remember making a comparison that completely captured my feelings as well as, likely, those of my sister and mother. I said that my father was treating us like brooms in a closet, taking us out when he needed us and returning them to the dark when he was finished.
I know I'm not the first child to go through a divorce, nor will I be the last, with the divorce rate around 50% and climbing. Looking back in a recent conversation, I began to see a pattern in my life. I've always been really lazy, and quite apathetic, but there are times when I amaze myself with my own capacity to do nothing. There are countless activities in my life that I have begun, but later quit simply because I was too lazy to continue working for it. The trombone I began to forget almost as soon as I entered Junior High, my Community Ed karate class I stopped after getting one belt. I quit soccer and blamed a mild injury, when in retrospect, it was probably something more: no longer would my father be there to film my sister and I at games. He seemed too busy for anything that I had going on. I left the boy scouts, not that I was going religiously anymore--the other kids were vicious with the teasing, he never even showed up to the meetings towards the end. It seemed that there was little point, and even today, if I don't take to an activity like a fish to water, I'll lose interest; unfortunately few talents seem to come naturally, or perhaps I simply don't believe I have any.
Having conquered the dimension of feelings, it was almost as if I had a new goal, the discovery of my self. The big question was whether or not there was any quality in my self worth befriending. My mother was constantly trying to tell me that I was a great person, and worth knowing. Throughout the entire time, she was an inspiration; after my dad left she decided that she would do everything in her power to give Sam and I the best lives possible. However honest she was, no amount of repetition would make me believe this. Aren't all mothers viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses? There were the friends I had to rely on from school, but I knew all of them from before the divorce; this somehow exempted their opinions as well.
Years of counseling, self-searching, retrospect, and simply maturing have helped, although, there aren't many cures for complete lack of faith. Counselors worked to help me to understand and accept the fact that my father wouldn't be living at the house instead elsewhere and with another woman, they endeavored to prevent me from sinking into the same shell father hides his own emotions in. Hopefully those efforts, on top of my experience will prevent me from realizing my worst fear: a divorce of my own. I can't ever promise, not even to myself, that I will never make the choice, but I'm going to take every action to prevent it.
I guess that one could blame my father's upbringing for the way he acts, and ultimately to affect his choices. I haven't had many conversations with him about his childhood outside of very recently when he told me about his early duties in the school's church meetings. My mother filled some of the details of his history, so that I could understand better where he was coming from. My father was the eldest of all his all male siblings, his father (who had died just long enough after my birth to know me, but for me never to remember him) worked for some branch of the British military, and would daily return home, get a beer from the fridge, and head to bed, my grandmother and I haven't really ever seen eye-to-eye, but we have the love and understanding common to most far-off relatives. She would return from her daily activities not having a conscious husband around to set the world to rights with, so my father, the eldest member of the family became the one to complain to. Both his descended and original families have some dysfunctions, which leads me to think that my father did his best not to emulate the mistakes of his father, in the same way I'm aiming to improve on his methods. He likely also has some of the similar confidence issues that I have for similar reasons. Years of my Grandma's complaints likely wore on him, until he became afraid to allow people into the deepest places of his self, including himself. In some ways, I'm glad that my stepmother seems to be nearest to the door of the heart.
I can remember one of the first times I was spending time with a friend and didn't doubt his motives. I remember that with about the same clarity as my father's departure. I was at my friend Tyler's house, in the kitchen, sitting at their table there. We'd eaten some kind of snack from the pantry, washed his dad's MG outside in the early winter, and he was talking about what he had been through in the fall months. It was the kind of conversation two best friends would have. I remember sitting at their table, almost in shock as I realized "Whoa! This guy likes me!" He began talking about his various girl troubles as I wondered why I hadn't noticed this in my other friends. Driving home later on, it was as if the walls my own self-doubt had erected were crumbling, as if the seven-minute drive would leave a permanent trail of dust between the houses.
Long before noticing anyone even remotely liked me, my father had returned to Massachusetts, married BJ, and settled in North Andover. I still visit him on some weekends, but the majority of my time there is spent on my computer, sending instant messages to my friends. It's during those days, when I've spent more time online than connecting with my father or even sleeping, when I have to question myself. Did I waste the weekend? Did I miss my opportunity? Am I retreating into a computer-based shell of my own?
I've been told that the ending leaves some things unresolved, but that that is fine, because there is still resolution to be sought. Any thoughts?