After the divorce, my father moved back in with his parents. They had an apartment upstairs in which my family apparently lived in until shortly after I was born. He didn’t have many things. An old tv set, an armoire, and a king sized bed. My best memory and my worst memory of my father happened in that apartment. Both of which have had lasting impressions on my life.
Lets start with the worst.
Some back story is needed. My paternal grandfather, despite my parents splitting up, stayed an active part of my life. My mother worked long hours to keep our heads above water, and he helped out by babysitting us and cooking dinners. Just all around helping out. He was my favorite person. I loved sitting on his lap, calling him a turkey, and going every where with him (mostly because anything I wanted, I got.).
I was seven or so. Dad has been living with my grandparents for awhile. It was his weekend and my grandfather drove me back to his house to save my father a trip. I remember sitting on my grandfathers lap, and my father asked if I was going to come up stairs for bed. I asked him if it was okay if I stayed downstairs in the spare bedroom they had. We were in the same house. I’d go upstairs and hang out and go sleep downstairs in my own bed. He said okay, and stormed up stairs. My little brain already knew enough to know this wasn’t good. He slammed the door, and we heard things crashing around. I decided it was time to go make it right. I went upstairs, and he ignored me. He was just pacing around the living room in a fit. So, I just went and curled up in his bed and tried to sleep. Sleep wasn’t going to happen. I’m not sure if he forgot I was there, or if he wanted me to hear him, but he made a phone call to his best friend. For most of the conversation he was talking in a normal volume which I couldn’t fully hear. Out of nowhere he starts yelling into the phone that his son doesn’t love him anymore. That I should just be downstairs since I don’t want to be there. This is all punctuated by objects flying.
It was a night that changed the way I saw my father. I subconsciously decided to shut down and be the dutiful son. To do anything to placate him so those outbursts were no longer directed at me. Maybe this is where my aversion to conflict comes from?
Time for the good.
I was a sickly child in first and second grade. Constant ear infections and strep throat. I have hearing issues due to scarring of my ear drums. The solution for these problems was removal of my tonsils and adenoids. The day after the surgery I still couldn’t talk, my father brought me back to his place. One detail remains hazy to me. I cannot recall if it was so close to the divorce that he didn’t have any furniture moved in yet, or if he was moving out into his friends place. Regardless, the living room area of the apartment was empty. Just plain carpet. In my grandparents hallway closet is where my toys were kept. My father brought up my play set that was Cowboys and Native Americans. He built the plastic fort, positioned the plastic warriors all around it, and got into the prone position with two bags of rubber bands next to him. He motioned me to do the same next to him, so I followed his lead. He reached into one bag pulled out a rubber band and fired it at one of the soldiers. I smiled. He handed me a rubber band and told me to shoot. I missed. He told me to go again. And this continued until every last plastic soldier was down. There were rubber bands everywhere but we did it. Instead of cleaning up we curled up on the floor and took a nap.
This was the one time in my childhood I felt we bonded. It was quiet. It was simple. To quote my favorite movie, Beginners, “Here is simple and happy. That’s what I meant to give to you.”
Unfortunately our relationships, especially with our parents are never simple and we can only hope they are happy.