I am an adult child of divorce. I was about sixteen when my parents decided to end things. To make a long story short, my father wanted to do what he wanted and my mother wasn’t having it.
Kids aren’t stupid and they know who looks out for them. I watched as my mother, a housewife for eighteen years, pulled out the newspaper the day after he left and went to work the next day. She worked jobs she shouldn’t trying to put food on the table. Recycling plant, cleaning toilets, construction; it didn’t matter, if the money was green she took the job. We may have had utilities off from time to time, but there was always food on the table, even though it may not be the gourmet cuisine you wanted. We learned how to make food last on a limited budget and we were never on any public assistance. The struggle bonded us deeply.
Now my father on the other hand was living the life he wanted with no responsibilities to tie him down. He went and married the woman he was seeing while he was married to my mother, about two months after the divorce was final. He went and bought that brand new red Mustang, not the type of car you would expect from someone with three kids. He wouldn’t call to check on us, but to brag about where he’d been on his vacation. He couldn’t come for his scheduled visits but he made sure we saw his shiny new sports car. He could care less that his kids were hurt, scarred and traumatized, it was all about him.
The same could be said for his parents. We were their only grand children, so on Christmas they doted on us with the huge gift boxes from Hudson’s. My grandmother would go all out with the beautiful hand knit sweaters and name brand items for kids. After my parents split, that was it. No Christmas gifts, no birthday wishes, nothing. As we struggled, no one called to see if the kids had shoes, coats, or even food. We were cut off completely, even though they only lived eight minutes away from us.
Now, the time in the hour glass is in our favor. We’re stable adults now, no drug use, no illegitimate children, my brother had his growing pains as a young black male growing up in Detroit, but these days he’s a workaholic and he’s fine. We’re as close to Mom as we’ve ever been.
Mr. Sherman on the other hand is another story. Having worked for Ford since he was eighteen, he makes a nice salary, but you can never tell. His life is a never ending spiral of dysfunction. The divorce from wife number three was final a couple months ago, so I know he’s looking for his next flavor of the month. He has no choice but to flit from woman to woman because he has no bond with his children and has to assimilate himself into their family. He’s the type who likes to rewrite history, like he was Cliff Huxtable; I have no problem reminding him what a terrible father he was.
Our relationship with him is awkward, like we’re operating at two different frequencies. When we talk he makes juvenile jokes, like he doesn’t realize we’re grown adults now. He doesn’t know me. He can’t tell you my favorite food or color. He’s even clueless about me being a writer, which I plan on keeping that way. Whatever he is, I’m stuck with him.
The ‘accessories’ on the other hand are optional. We eventually reconnected with my grandparents a when we learned after about fifteen years when we learned my grandmother was dying of cancer. We visited the hospital a couple times, but I felt the coldness, like I’d wandered into some random stranger’s hospital room. How pathetic is it when your own grandparents have to ask if you have any children? After a knockdown drag out debate with my brother and sister, we attended the funeral and started visiting with my widowed grandfather again.
Every week or every other week, we’d visit, go out to dinner or a movie. We even invited him over to dinner a couple times and my sister called him every day. A couple years later, a few of her daily calls went unanswered and he called back when he felt like it. He had a new woman in his life and little by little we could feel that chasm opening up again. My sister trying to be nice tried to give him another shot, but the writing was on the wall for me. Dear old sweet granddad used us as placeholders to keep from being lonely until he found another wife. After that I was done with the Sherman family completely. It’s been about two and a half years and I haven’t looked back.
Which brings us to the very reason I’m so pissed today. Sunday my father calls with his normal chit chat which results in him holding the phone in silence and me trying to come up with conversation because he doesn’t know what to say. Before he ends the call, he tells me to call my grandfather on Tuesday, cause it’s his birthday. Huh?
Today I had a missed call from my father and I know what he wants. If I didn’t know what he wanted, the text with my grandfather’s phone number is a clue.
I’m not calling him. Call me cold, callous, heartless, whatever, I’m done with these people. I’m not a toy you can take out of the box and play with whenever some one feels the need. My grandfather has kicked us to the curb twice; once as children and once again as adults, after we gave him a second chance. This isn’t the Oprah show where the long lost relative is hiding behind the curtain. Fake isn’t in me, so I’m not doing the loving granddaughter routine, pretending every thing is fine and make him feel better. I don’t think so.
People need to know that kids aren’t stupid. They may be little and defenseless and can’t do anything when you break promises or break their hearts. But they grow up. Be careful what you throw away.