Monday, February 2, 2009

You Dropped a Bomb on Me (1979)

"Children have faith in their parents and believe their greater wisdom.
No child wants to believe their parent is capable of brutality"
Christine Ann Lawson

So, that sunny day was darkened. In the instant when the words came out of my mother's mouth, my life and my brother's life were changed forever. The course of our lives was changed. Although the beginning of the dysfunction started with the deaths of my grandmother and grandfather (or even earlier with my mother's 1st divorce) but his event definitely defines the beginning of mental and emotional abuse, as well as YEARS of soul searching.

This day, when my mother pulled us into the kitchen, taking two young & innocent souls, one 12 and one 10 years of age, with big eyes of wonderment, she told us that my Dad and she are getting a divorce. Dad is moving out of the house. Boom. Like my Dad is dead. Boom. Like my whole world spinning out of control. Boom. Like having two of the most important people in my life die the previous two years, and now my Dad being ripped out of my life. I was breathless. I didn't know what to think.

Cookie Magazine this past month had a very compelling article, "Louder Than Bombs" and the words hit home. Here's a bit from the beginning, "They say that every generation is shaped by its war. The Greatest Generation (1901-1924) was forged by World War II; baby boomers (1946-1964) were defined by Vietnam and the sexual revolution. But our war was the ultimate war-at-home: divorce. Generation X, according to a 2004 study conducted by marketing-strategy and research firm Reach Advisors, "went through its all-important, formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured in U.S. history." Half of all Gen X children's parents split; 40 percent were latchkey kids." My parents divorce hit right here, 1979.

We moved from the kitchen to the den, sitting on the couch, my mother assured us that Dad would still be our Dad, just that he wouldn't be living in the house with us. We questioned where he would be. We were told some place close. I couldn't think of Dad not being with us in the house. And as bizarre as other behaviors in my house had been in the past, we went to a movie that evening. As a family, we sat in that movie theater as if nothing has transpired. In a cloud of avoidance and thoughts of denial, we sat watching this movie, numbing our minds of what all had just transpired. Bizarre then, bizarre now. More bizarre stuff to follow.

The days after the announcement were like days before. Dad was still in the house. Things operated pretty much like they did before the bomb. Dad hunted for a new home, however, and eventually found one about a mile up the street. Now let the bizarre events begin:

Dad would come to the house to 'babysit' while my mother went out. While she was gone, my Dad would go through her things. He would find things like a book, "The Sensuous Woman" and tell us that our mother is slutty. He found an incense burner and told us our mother uses drugs, which truly freaked me out badly. He made us promise that we wouldn't tell our mother that he was looking through her things, and we didn't (see subsequent blog entry: Adult Children of Parental Alienation).

During this time, I noticed that our family friend (the one that was giving my mother Valium; the medical person) was coming to the house to visit my mother often. I also would see his car outside of the house in the morning. As a 12 year old I didn't put 2 and 2 together, and I innocently asked my Dad why this man's car is always at the house. Little did I know, I opened a box of worms-- nasty worms. Seems that my mother had been having an affair with my Dad's best friend.

Seems that my mother had been running around with this man for some time before announcing she wants a divorce. And when my Dad found out the truth, he was immensely hurt. I have never seen him in this condition before, and I have never seen him like this after. The knowledge of his wife cheating on him with his friend drove him nuts. Dad enlisted me to report when I saw the car out front. Now I felt like a rat-fink and didn't approve of reporting things about my mother secretly for whatever reason. Dad also got a private detective to take pictures of the man over at our house with my mother. Dad also took pictures on his own.

I remember many times, playing in the living room with my mother and her new boyfriend (our Dad's best friend) and flashes would go off in the window. My brother and I would be scared, because we could see a person in the bushes or in the front yard. Other times we would play in the living room and the police would show up at the front door. The police said that someone called because they could see violence / child abuse happening through the front windows. My mother told my brother and me that my Dad was the one calling the police, just to harass us and to put a damper on our fun.

I walked to school at the time, and many times my Dad would intercept me. He would be in tears, saying how much he missed my brother and me. This tore me UP so much. I couldn't stand to see my Dad so upset. Around this time, he gave me a key to his apartment. He told us that my brother and I could come over any time. When we visited him, he was clearly sad, beaten & battered emotionally. He also spoiled us, allowing us sweets which we weren't allowed typically, staying up late at night, and doing what we wanted. He always talked about us coming to live with him and accentuated all the bad things about my mother and what she did. My brother and I were completely torn. We didn't want to hurt our mother's feelings, nor did we want to hurt our Dad's feelings. No matter what our choice, we would hurt one of them however. And this has been our predicament our ENTIRE life from this point forward.


  1. Hi Gretel Ella,
    I run the research firm quoted in the Cookie article that you mentioned in your blog. Just wanted to say that this is a pretty moving blog post.