Archives For divorce

I have a confession to make: I’m a middle aged white guy. Appatently, this is supposed to somehow make my life easier, and/or it’s something I should feel guilty for.

Funny thing is, I born this way. I didn’t choose my parents, or my ancestry. In fact, if my mother is to believed (and why would you tell your adult child this?) my folks were actively using contraception when I was conceived. Lucky for me, this was before Roe v. Wade. But I digress.

Being white didn’t seem to automatically confer upon me some magical privileged status. I come from a home where my dad (again one those things I found out after the fact) cheated on my mom for fourteen out of their sixteen years of marriage. How’s that for a role model? Additionally, the older I got the more distant he became. He didn’t have the tools in his toolbox to see past his pain. When he finally left, I told my mom that didn’t feel like anyhting much had changed.

He was a ghost before he was gone.

Being white didn’t make growing up without a meaningful male authority figure any easier. In fact, if anything, it made it harder. I had to navigate puberty, teasing, bullying on my own. Sure, I grew up in the suburbs. My circumstances may have been more physically comfortable, but his leaving made my brother and I latchkey kids. Because my dad left, we effectively lost our mom, too. She had work two, and sometimes three, jobs just to keep us under the same roof.

But it may have been better if we had had more time together. If we had downsized, had moved to new place instead. Forged a new life together instead of trying to hold onto the old. Because it was already gone. My address may have been in the suburbs, but my upbringing was an emotional ghetto. To this day, I may well have attachment issues I’m completely unaware of. In fact, I do indeed have great difficulty making friendships, bonding, expressing my emotions.

To do this day, my relationship with my mom is strained, and with my dad nonexistent.

I don’t know the answer to all of this, but I do know growing up white didn’t give me any special privileges, open any doors, or make my life better in any way that mattered. In fact, I was forced to grow up faster, and I and my family have the price in recent years of a delayed adolescence.

I realize this may not be everyone’s experience, but it was mine–and it was altogether too real. So please don’t tell me that the mere fact of my skin color conferred upon me a better life. I might just laugh in your face if you do.

How about you? Has your skin color made you life any better, or worse? Sound off below.

Child of Divorce

randomlychad  —  May 15, 2014 — 2 Comments

You may have seen this video as it made the rounds via social media. Like so many of you, I not only saw it, but lived it. I was that kid. The one wondering if he mattered. The one knowing he didn’t.

I’m almost 45 years old, and I still fight that feeling inside that there’s something wrong with me–that I’m wrong. It doesn’t take much at all to take me back to that place. In so many ways I’m still that little boy…

I know God is my Father; yet I so often relate to him like I would my earthly father. That is to say, there’s a distance there that shouldn’t be. Yet I don’t know how to overcome it.

How could he love me?

I know he does. I’m just not good at feeling it. Faith, and trust, are hard to come by when the scars are still so very real. And God, like a faithful surgeon, often wounds right there in those very places of deepest woundedness… I don’t want to hurt, but I also don’t want to mask the pain.

God, are you listening?

How about you? Do you struggle with knowing, deep down, that you are loved by God?

I’m sure it’s a thing, white privilege. One need look no further than, say, Donald Sterling to know that there’s something very wrong with the world, that systemic racism exists.

That white privilege is a thing.

But don’t talk to me, a white guy, about it. Because white privilege, insofar as I can tell, never did a damn thing for me.

Let me explain.

Behind the middle class fačade, was an empty home. A home devoid of any real sense of security, or love. Emotionally distant, and uninvolved, my dad couldn’t keep it in his pants, “screwing around” on my mom for fourteen out of sixteen years. And my mom? When he left, she had to take on two, and sometimes three, jobs to keep us fed, and a roof over our heads.

The net effect is that I lost both parents.

While there may in fact have been more creature comforts, I was still latchkey. I came home to an empty house day in and day out. Left to my own devices, I didn’t get into drugs, but rather porn. Nobody cared.

Nobody cared when the centerfolds went up on my bedroom wall. They just closed my door, and pretended they weren’t there. There was no dad, or father figure, to tell me that women were not objects, or hos, that existed just for me. Nobody cared when I stayed up late at night, watching the racy movies.

I was, by and large, ignored.

Like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, I was ignored. Until I fucked up, that is. Then it was all OMG! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?

But even then it was mostly bark, no bite. People couldn’t bother to really care. I mean my mom once took my cigarettes away, saying she didn’t want me to smoke. She hid them literally on front of face, like I wouldn’t retrieve them almost immediately.

The list goes on. The greatest travesty of my upbringing was that it was virtually consequence-free: there were no real boundaries, and thus no real, tangible, sense of love…

Wait. I can recall one thing that white privilege gave me:

My mom, the counselor, threw me an eighteenth birthday party. She and her boyfriend vacated the house so I could have friends over. Did I mention that she brought me along with her to the videostore to rent pornos? Yep, she did. And she, the youth diversion coordinator, also supplied all the booze we could drink, including hiding a bottle of Southern Comfort in my bed.

Lucky me, right?

So there’s my white privilege upbringing,  people. Didn’t, and still doesn’t, feel very privileged to me. To this day, my relationship with mom is strained; and with my dad, it’s nonexistant.

Divorce and dysfunction hath it’s privileges, eh?

It’s Not Just Divorce

randomlychad  —  November 19, 2013 — 1 Comment

It’s Not Just Divorce

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Joe Sewell

Folks, I have the great privilege of hosting Joe Sewell today. In his own words, Joe: is a 51-year-old software geek living in West Melbourne, FL, after he and his parents bailed on the Eastern Shore of Maryland when he was 18. His lovely wife, Joy, has put up with him on more than major holidays for 20 years so far. Joe writes about Biblical stuff on his blog, Consider This, whenever he gets something to write on. Joe also participated in NaNoWriMo in 2010 and produced a weird self-published book, The Quantum Suicide of Schrödinger’s Cat, available on Amazon and CreateSpace. Joe also contributed a piece for Anne Jackson’s Permission To Speak Freely and for the Not Alone! anthology. He claims to have some other book ideas locked in his head, but cannot seem to find the key at the moment. Joe is scared of kids, but can handle his 5.3-pound Rat-Cha, Cocoa. Joe first guest posted here last year with Choosing to Forgive My Pop. You can follow Joe on Twitter @joe_sewell

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I am constantly amazed by the similarities Chad and I have. I almost wonder if we were twins separated from birth. I wouldn’t wish that on Chad, though.

Recently he talked about his parents’ divorce, and it spurred me to think again about my own story.

The executive summary is this: it’s not just divorce that can affect your child for life.

My mother left my father after 25 years of marriage. I was 24 at that time, but still living at home for no reason other than convenience. No, I wasn’t the geeky kid living in the parents’ basement, mainly because Florida homes cannot have basements (the water table’s too high).

Here’s the main point, though: I saw the divorce coming since I was 8! That makes 16 years of emotional torment as I watched my mother take … well, I wasn’t privy to exactly what she was taking at the time.

The first issue was that there was a 25-year age difference between the two of them. The generation gap was in effect even in the small town in which we lived, in an environment that was rural enough to be “inbred” in terms of emotional maturity. People did what they did because they were “supposed to.” No other reason was ever offered, so there was no point to discuss.

Pop, as I mentioned in my guest post relating to finally being able to forgive him, was stubbornly old-fashioned. Men had their place, and women had theirs. Don’t bother talking to him about it, because that was the way things were “supposed to be.” I saw no affection between them since I was probably 5 or 6, maybe 7. By the time I was 8, I got all the under-the-breath complaints Mom had against Pop. She didn’t dare talk to him about it, she says. It wouldn’t matter much anyhow, because in his eyes he was the only one who could be correct in such a discussion.

Much of my hatred for him grew during those years. Much of the emotional stress I still deal with started then. My desire to escape the torment by pulling the trigger of a probably-loaded gun came when I was 10.

They weren’t divorced, but the torture was still real for me.

The event that pushed [sic] her over the edge was the day when she told Pop that the door knob wasn’t working properly. He tried his best to fix it. She tried it again and said it still wasn’t right. He pushed her aside, into a wall. I didn’t know about that event until a few months ago, even though it happened in 1986. I did know then, though, that she “coincidentally” got a good promotion with the hardware company she worked for, but in a city that was roughly 80 miles away.

Pop knew what he had done, but was in deep denial. He kept saying it was the “change of life” that caused her to do this. The very few times she showed up back near home (also near where her own father, the only grandfather I knew, lived at the time) Pop would be in tears. He was a “man.” He wasn’t “supposed to” cry. He did.

So what did that do to me? I have been married almost 20 years now. Since I didn’t know until recently what pushed Mom over the edge, I have lived with the fear of pushing my own wife, Joy, too far without warning, with me being too stupid to know until it was too late. I have lived with the dread of having children and passing the damage on to them. That even led to a serious crisis of faith that God is still healing.

Divorce is necessary sometimes. Even Jesus allowed it under certain conditions. In our society today, though, with a lack of caring about marriage, divorce is all over the place. The only reason the numbers are so low, I suspect, is because more and more couples are living together as if they were married, but they haven’t bothered to make the real commitment that must be the foundation of every marriage. If Chad and I were so damaged by our parents’ divorces, what’s going on with today’s younger generation? For that matter, we have a generation of baby-producing semi-adults already afflicted in ways Chad and I probably cannot even imagine.

There is still hope. The damage may be done, but Christ still will clean us up, still heal us. That healing and cleaning may not be complete this side of Heaven, but His commitment to us is far more trustworthy than that of any married couple. Check out Romans 8 for a start.

We’re damaged property. Welcome to Earth.

'Fagor Pressure Cooker Lid' photo (c) 2010, Julie Magro - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Not all family tragedies erupt with sudden explosions of violence. Some tragedies are far quieter, silently simmering for years like a pressure cooker. The children never hear a cross word exchanged between their parents, but even if they lack the ability to articulate just what it is, they know. Children are notoriously perceptive creatures, and even if they lack the words, they feel the tension.

And then one day something is different. The pressure, the tension, has unexpectedly been relieved. The valve has been turned, the lid is off the cooker, and the steam evaporated into the air.

'@ Steam' photo (c) 2009, Pete Birkinshaw - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Likewise has their family dissipated into the ether like steam. It has ended not with a bang, but a hissing whisper. Quietly swept away like gossamer on the wind…

Not all tragedies are loud things. Instead of an explosion of emotion, there is an implosion of the soul. “Why did this happen,” the child asks (perhaps not in so many words)? “Am I to blame?” There are no words, no navigator, to traverse this inner landscape. One parent is gone, and the other working desperately to hold on, provide a semblance of stability.

'Atomic Bomb Test' photo (c) 2012, SDASM Archives - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

Too late.

The bomb has quietly gone off. Where before the child was whole, he is now a fractured soul. Unsteady, unstuck, unanchored, he is a ship in the long, dark night headed, like Titanic, for a berg. Collision is inevitable when one has no concrete sense of place, no place that feels like home. Untethered, the child wanders rootless, without purpose.

'Tom Riddle's Diary' photo (c) 2012, Sarah_Ackerman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Life becomes something merely to be survived. Like Voldemort split amongst his horcruxes, it is a fragmented existence–a half life. Like Harry, the child will spend the better part of his life trying to find the pieces; unlike, he is not trying to destroy them, but piece them back together into a meaningful whole. Yet so often this is akin to placing square pegs into round holes: things may indeed be forced into place, but they are not a good fit.

And they slip, or cannot be dislodged–except by force.

This child? He is a child of divorce.

I am the child, and this is my story.

What is yours?