By early 2000, therapy or not, my husband and I lived on different floors.
We were perfect housemates. The distancing resulted in less violent arguments, which was good for everyone, or so I thought. I didn’t want to disturb my daughters’ school routine, uproot them from their neighborhood, friends, activities. I had a very clear purpose in my mind and I was doing it all for my kids.
We were visiting a new therapist who was also a naturopath who advised me the worst time to divorce was when the children were teenagers, a time when they are fragile anyway. He also said I should have walked away years ago, the first time the hot cup of coffee directed at us hit the French doors, but the problem was I could not turn back the clock and now my girls were almost teenagers…
Fear enveloped me like a tornado but I had no basement to run to and I decided the best was to stick it out for a few more years, as if there were a few more days, for the girls’ sake, in their teen years they would need a father figure more than ever!
The reality was that my children were asking me to divorce him, especially after the long nights when I worked and they were alone with him. There was never an explanation as to why, and just as the therapist said, pre-teens and teens are fragile, their hormones are all over the place, what did they know! I was an adult, their mother who loved them and I knew better!
How or why I forgot my own pain when I was chased half-naked out of my bed on a New Year’s Eve by my father. I was fifteen then, but the memories were as fresh as yesterday. How didn’t I think how I wished my mom would make up her mind and not come back? I didn’t even think, never mind try to put myself in my girls shoes, although I had been in their situation and chose to forget. Today I know what I didn’t then, I was subconsciously determined to repeat the cycle of abuse, physical and emotional, because this was what I knew best. In fact, this was all I knew!
After all, I thought, they had it so much better than me. They had their own rooms, lived in a big house, had plenty of pets, good schools, friends, opportunities. Yeah, by my standards the best plan was to wait, after all what’s a few years?
One day, my husband left for work at his regular time to only come back after two hours.
“Why are you home early?” I asked.
“I quit, I will work for myself.” He answered shortly and walked on the third floor, his floor where it was understood I had no business to be. That was his safe space and I was not to invade it with hopes of closeness or questions about what was really going on… yes he had his comfort zone as I had mine, on the second floor. I did have one, for sure… the work I loved, the girls activities and involvement in their school work, my friends, the volunteer work. After all, I argued with the other voice in me it wasn’t that bad, he gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted. Oh, never did I think “after all, he couldn’t careless what I was doing!” Never thought about what kind of example we were giving our daughters, living on separate floors, fighting, pretending in public that all was just perfect. The perfect family! What were we teaching them about how real loving relationships look like? I still believe there are some, although I personally haven’t experienced any…so how was I going to teach my daughters? Don’t they say children learn what they see? It wasn’t about having their own rooms and pets, it was about love, tenderness and how to express one’s feelings, but at that time I did my best with what I knew and what I thought it was the most vital for their happiness..
As I continued with my plan to protect our children from a divorce, because it wasn’t that bad, one night, I came home from work later than usual. The house was so quiet. Everyone seemed asleep. and in the kitchen I found a broken chair. It was a solid, oak kitchen chair and wondered how it broke…
The following day, over breakfast, I asked the girls:
“What happened to the chair?”
They looked at each other and Eva, the spokeswoman of the group said:
“Dad sat on it and it broke!”
The explanation seemed odd, but he was really getting heavy, I thought, to break the chair. My mind quickly moved to a scheme to convince him to lose weight, to go for blood work to… change!
Making doctors’ appointments, watching over the health of everyone in the family was one of my presumed responsibilities. At least I wasn’t questioning it, I felt a moral obligation to force everyone into a healthful mode. After I became a certified massage therapist my determination to relax everyone in my household became obsessive. I even tried to give Kevin a massage, until one day, when he looked me streight into the eyes and said:
“Touch does nothing for me… it reminds me of when I was a boy and my father was always asking me to give him massages…”
How could I argue with such a confession. Did I want my massages to bring bad memories to his mind? His father was definitely not on Kevin’s list of favorites, but the house of his childhood was another household, I thought, disconnected to ours, just like my family and what happened to me as a child and teen had no bearing on the reality of our life at the present time. Kevin was also allergic to aromatherapy and that didn’t work either and finally I realized that nothing would work because he didn’t want it to work. He was very happy working on the third floor and as our bills started to pile up, we were all waiting for the “big deal” to close. He was always working on that one huge real estate transaction which would pay all our debts and something would always happen and the darn people would back off, the building would burn, the partners would quit… and the deal would never close.
Even the children became involved in the waiting game of the deal which was going to close soon. When the girls became nervous, when I couldn’t calm them down with my massages, positive thinking tapes and aromatherapy, I’d caress their foreheads and smile, but they weren’t fooled anymore, and continued the undesirable questioning:
“Mom, are we going to be able to pay our bills, we heard you and Dad talk…”
“Don’t you worry, I always managed to say, Daddy will close the deal and we will be alright!”
That was usually the extent of our conversation until after about one year of no deal closing and me working weekends too, when I told the girls to not worry, Daddy will close a deal, Eva, looked at me and said:
“Mom, sometimes I don’t know who is more dillusional, you or him? This deal will never close!”
Just like that… a thirteen-year old had the guts to tell it to my face she knew, they, my children knew we were in trouble and I was afraid to face it.
I chose to joined the club of delusionists rather than facing the truth and walking away! Oh, I thought, what the girls didn’t know was that I was sacrificing myself in a miserable situation for their sake, so that they had a father who would drive them to activities when I worked, who would tell them how beautiful they were before their first dance, who would lay the foundation for them to become confident young women.
But this was my plan, my fantasy about what was supposed to happen, the ideal role of the father I never had and I was going to offer this ideal father I missed to my daughters at any cost, as if I had the powers! Now, that’s what I know now is a form of distorted thinking, and yes, as Eva said, I was delusional in more ways than she knew.
I came across a letter I wrote Kevin during that period, and reading it now, with a new understanding and perspective on our lives, I could clearly see how unrealistic my plans for his perfect fatherhood were. The only problem was, these were my plans!
Here is a fragment of my letter to him:
” Please try to help me keep our children in a safe, normal environment. I work on weekends and nights and therefore I am unable to drive them where they need to go. You are their father and I feel you are responsible for sharing in their needs. Please understand that it affects them when you complain about everything you have to do for them. If you feel that what you have to do for your children is a burden, then what isn’t? ”
Looking back, what echoes in my mind are conversations when Eva was coming home from school telling us she was a streight A student and her father would say, but I was the first! As if they were competing, not a word of congratulations to his child, but the need to be above her… and when Natalie would get awards in gymnastics or diving, he’d say “I was the best at football in high school.”
Then came the dances, and they needed to hear how beautiful they were, and I kept telling them enthusiastically they were stunning, the best… but they were turning to their father and sought approval, a sign of admiration:
“Hmm… yeah, very nice.” He’d say and eventually smiled. “Very nice” was not what they needed and I knew it and I continued showering them with compliments… but the only problem was that I was a woman and they needed reassurance from their father, from the first man any female loves even when she thinks she hated him. Or perhaps, after many disappointments love does turn into hate, after all they are sides of the same coin!
Yes, I was determined to hang in the Hell of a pretense marriage for my children’s sake… only that I was the only one convinced that was the best for them.
My daughter was right, delusional was the right word. She was always good with expressing the right feelings but I chose to remain blind until I was forced to open my eyes and look the disaster in the face and there were no choices any more. I ran out of the options to lie to myself and the world!