A typical night at home

Bill Marshall pulled into his driveway a bit too fast. He heard the scraping of the plastic bumper as it met the small dip at the end of his driveway. It was just another moment in his 15-minute drive that he was reminded of how reckless it was for him to have driven home, half in the proverbial wrapper in a company car. A DUI wouldn’t make his life any better right now. Real smart, dumbass, he scolded himself. He put the car in park, popped an Altoid, took a deep breath, and walked to his front door. Again, he was unable to ignore the crumbling masonry adorning the walkway and the ugly door that desperately needed a coat of paint. He shook his head and went inside.

Bill took off his shoes, stumbled slightly, and went into the kitchen. His wife was sitting at the kitchen table. She didn’t even look at him. She had “the look” on her face. A sense of dread washed over him. Because he had avoided the “money talk” the other night, he knew that it was coming now. Bill reevaluated his condition and decided that he may not have drunk enough.
“You could say hi, you know. You must have heard me come in” he said.
“We need to talk” she replied.
“Not now”, Mike said with a defeated tone. “I know where this is going. Talking about it isn’t going to make a money tree grow in the back yard.” He regretted his snarky tone as it left his lips.
“If not now, when?!” she yelled. She was boiling and she wasn’t in the mood for the verbal foreplay. She wanted to fight.
“I’m doing the best I can.” He knew she didn’t believe it and he wasn’t sure if he did either. “You don’t know what it’s like out there right now.” He tried to change the subject. “Anything for dinner?”
“We went out.”
“Of course, you did. After all, why would you eat any of the food that is in our fridge, we only spend $200 a week on groceries after all.” He immediately realized that he was a raging hypocrite, he was just out himself. And she hasn’t asked where he was and why he was late. Is it possible she doesn’t care? Yeah, he didn’t want the answer to that one.
“Fuck you,” she said.
“Nice. Right back atcha. Where are the kids?”
“In their rooms doing their homework. Report cards came out today and with the exception of Britt, the boys are going to be in their rooms until the second coming. Don’t bother them.”
“If I want to say hi to my kids I will, don’t fucking tell me I can’t.” He didn’t stick around for the rebuttal. At least he had avoided the money talk again.

He needed to sit down for a minute. He would see the kids in a few. He walked into the family room, plopped down on the plush cushion of his chair, and turned the TV on. He peeled off his socks and put his feet up. His swollen ankles hurt like hell and without rolling up his pant legs he knew that his legs were swollen as well. As if he didn’t have enough shit to worry about, his disease was getting worse.
He noticed a change of light in the room and he looked to see his oldest boy D, in the doorway with a Miller Lite in his hand.
“I got you a ‘water bottle’ Dad,” he said as he tucked the can under his arm and did his famous quotation fingers.
“Don’t you have homework to finish?”
“I’m done. Did mom tell you about the report card?”
“No specifics but she didn’t paint a rosy picture.”
“It wasn’t that bad. Mine, I mean. I can’t say the same for Ry.” He sat down next to his father, handed him the beer, and said “The Sox lost.”
“Yeah, I saw.”
“Weren’t you at work?”
Bill hated lying to his son.
“Between you and me I knocked off a little early.” He and D were close. D rarely told mom much of what he said when she wasn’t around. He was a good and loyal soldier and never betrayed his dad to his mother. Bill wasn’t proud of that, he didn’t encourage it. The kid just favored his dad and somehow knew the politics of the household. Bill wished more than anything that he didn’t. But it was hard for them not to see the antagonistic relationship their parents shared.
He also wished his kids didn’t bring him alcohol and joke that they were water bottles. He was some fucking example of a father. Yet, incredible, his children loved him. Despite the fights they witnessed between him and their mother, all of the hurtful words that couldn’t be taken back, they seemed to understand him. Above all, they really appreciated him. He wished and hoped the same for his wife. He didn’t want to be the favorite parent, he would be happy as an equal partner.
He just wanted their love.

My legacy

I don’t write often about my experience as a parent. I’m surprised at myself because raising my children is one of the few things I feel I was successful. It didn’t always seem that way, I have an awful lot of regrets about the environment they were raised in with all of the fighting and marital hostility. In fact, there was a time that I truly thought that my kids would have no chance at happiness after seeing some of the debacles that took place in my house. I’m not proud and I don’t think my ex is either. I stayed awake many nights lamenting the things said and heard and beat myself up mercilessly for allowing myself to get into it with her constantly in front of the kids. Yet she continued to bait me, like a fat kid with a cupcake, and I fell into it. The fighting was brutal.

For my part, I was quick to apologize to them and tried to explain to them what was happening but it was difficult to do without making myself look innocent, which I certainly wasn’t, and not making their mother the villain. I vowed that I would never ever play the kids against their mother ever, kids are not a pawn. I wish I could say the same for my ex. When I attempted to pack my shit and leave one day, her first reaction was to say, “If you think you’re going to waltz in here and see the kids whenever you want you’re sadly mistaken.”
Yup, I knew it. She was one of those parents.
Then the kids asked me to stay. My oldest daughter clinched it with one sentence. “Dad, you can’t leave, she’ll be so much worse if you aren’t here.” There you have it. So I stayed. For 10 miserable, hostile and sexless fucking years I stayed because of the kids. Many people advised me that it was a mistake but I know I did the right thing. First of all, my happiness is secondary to theirs and always will be. Second, I know it solidified my relationship with my children. They would be strangers to me today if I had left then.

For those ten years things were a little better in that I didn’t allow myself to get sucked into a lot of the arguments. We became barely friendly roommates and merely tolerated each other. I focused all of my attention on rebuilding and strengthening my relationship with my children. I decided that I had to be the adult and I learned to suppress my passions and anger and focus on them. My wife, for her part made sure that she tortured me about my job, my pay, my health and my apparent indifference to her negative bullshit. I only rarely took the bait. I didn’t know what my future held but I was certain all along that Bankruptcy, a foreclosure and a divorce were definitely part of it. The only question was when.

My wife spent money like a drunk sailor with a fistful of Viagra. And she was totally unaccountable for it. She bought elaborate gifts for her best friend, who she was unhealthily attached to (a symptom of her then undiagnosed Borderline Personality disorder) while requesting of our family that we not exchange gifts because we didn’t have the money, effectively alienating my Holiday loving family. She refused to show me her Credit card statements but continuously scrutinized mine and yelled at me in front of the kids. I bought a lot of alcohol, I will admit it, but anyone who has ever met her would easily understand the need for that. Money, and her attitude about it would be the biggest source of fighting and the kids knew all about it. I think it put them in a bad spot, as if they felt guilty. I never wanted that.

My devotion to the kids and my commitment to their turning out as “normal” as possible continued. As they got older they understood what was going on and, without my asking for it, they felt bad for me. I defended her, with difficulty, because I didn’t want to be that guy. What I didn’t realize is that they knew what she was about and they acted more out of fear than love with her. Consequently, I unwittingly became the favorite parent. It wasn’t all too difficult, when they asked her for help or advice her first reaction was usually based upon how it affecter her, not them. She was quick to assign fault and blame and less interested in soothing the pain and finding solutions. While I, on the other hand, tried to offer an ear and a solution without judgment or blame.

While I plan on discussing this dynamic in greater detail in future blogs, I want to jump ahead and tell you that despite the horrible and regrettable example that we once were, they turned out absolutely wonderful. In particular, all four have healthy relationships. I was fearful that our example might tarnish them but it didn’t. I’m also not afraid to tell you that despite my efforts to the contrary, I think I am the favorite parent.

My marriage was contemptuous at best. The only good takeaway I have is my relationship with my children. It negates the anger and bitterness that I felt for so long. And I am happy to report that I have a decent relationship with the ex because I chose to let go of my anger and bitterness. Emotional baggage makes my neck hurt and I couldn’t carry it around anymore. I did it for me, not for her. I’m proud of the sacrifices I made in the interest of winning back my children. They are and will continue to be my crowning achievement. I have four amazing ,good-hearted citizens who make the world a better place. They make me proud every single day. I need not desire or seek a legacy, they have done it for me.