Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dear Child: There Are Things I Want You To Remember About Your Father

Dearest One, you have seen a lot that is not good. Too much for your age, by far. Arguments that never should have happened in front of you. The turmoil and consequences of over-spending issues. Anger. Lots of misdirected anger. All things that go along with having a parent with a mood disorder. You know that he and I can't be married any more, and you know most of the reasons why. But this is not about that. I want to take a moment, and tell you some things you may not know, or that you may not be remembering in this tumultuous time, about your father when he is stable, and the ways he treated me which were good--even if, at the same time, he was doing things that weren't good--that's called "compartmentalizing," and maybe we'll talk about that another time. But for now, here are some things that happened during good times that I want you to remember.

Your dad was the first man in my life who really "got" me. Understood me. Knew where I was coming from; finished my sentences. Read and appreciated the same BOOKS as I did (that one was HUGE, and quite possibly sealed the deal).

We could break ourselves up in hopeless laughter just by exchanging a look and an implied inside joke, and sometimes by pointedly NOT looking at each other for just that reason, in circumstances where snorting laughter would not be

Your father listened to me...a lot, and he remembered what I said. I could mention how much I enjoyed something, or how I wished I could find a rare out-of-print book that I'd read once in college...months would go by, and then suddenly a surprise: season tickets to the Symphony; a copy of "Horses of the Sahara." That kind of thing.

Your dad never let a day go by without telling me I was beautiful. Never. Even when I decidedly was NOT beautiful (like waking up from surgery, all green and bloated), he would tell me that I was; not because he thought I wanted to hear it, but because he thought it was true.

Until the night we separated, your father had never, ever, even once, even in the deepest rage (and you know there were some hellacious rages), called me a name. Not. Once. Yes, he cursed and raged at me on many occasions, but nothing from him ever started with anything like, "You are such a(n)...".

Your dad wrote me poems. Love poems. Many of them, over the years, and I hope that I've saved enough of them for you to get an idea of what we had when things were good.

I know that you know how many years I fought for, advocated for, and took care of your father. What you might not know is that, before you were born, before we were even married, he did the same for me. He slept on a pull-out bed in a tiny hospital room hundreds of miles from home for two weeks, while I slept an unwaking sleep and my body decided whether or not to give up. He did incredibly thoughtful things to help bring me out of that pseudo-coma, from locating my favorite essential oils to fragrance the room, to seeking out my favorite music to play for me as I slept. He harassed nurses when I didn't get enough attention. He questioned doctors, and went with me to every appointment. He could have walked away at any time, but he didn't.

When told that I would likely never have children, he declared that he wanted to marry me no matter what. I even remember the conversation--me saying, "But what if I can never have children?" And his immediate answer: "Then WE can never have children."

All by himself, he picked out the most perfect, amazing engagement/wedding ring I could ever have imagined--you know I'm not a big jewelry person, but that ring is just perfection. It belongs to you now. Let the diamond represent you, the precious gem we created out of love, and let the bands on either side of the diamond represent your parents, one on each side, embracing you with love your whole life through, even if we don't all live together.

When he found out that I was pregnant with a little girl, your father wept with joy. Not just a couple of tears; he absolutely wept, he was that happy.

The man rescued a goose with a broken wing from the side of a busy interstate, just because I looked at him, and he knew what I was thinking. We took it home in a Wal*Mart sack with its head poking out, and it lived many happy years on our pond.

On the way home from a dog show once, on a very lonely stretch of highway with no towns for miles in either direction, we came upon an older lady looking lost and alone, standing beside her car with the trunk open, and a very flat tire. Without hesitation, your dad pulled over, got out, and changed the tire for the stranger. He did this sort of thing often, once upon a time.

He taught you the "Whoo, Pig Sooie" cheer before you could walk.

Your dad has always been good about playing with you, at least when he was having "good days." He didn't hesitate, on those days, to get down on the floor with you and build things with blocks, to cut out construction paper shapes, to draw pictures and color, to play board games and card games...even though you are a notorious cheat, and frequently change the rules mid-game if it looks like you're losing.

Your father has always been, and still is, so proud of you and who you are. Never let anything that has happened between he and I affect what you have between the two of you.

I'd like to say that there have been as many good times as bad for the two of us, and for a long time I believed that... but looking back, and knowing what I know now, I'm afraid that's not the case. I do not know what your assessment will ultimately be of that sort of up/down/mixed-up ratio between the two of you, but I can tell you that when he could, he tried hard.

He mostly, for you, did the best he could with the tools he had. And he loves you as much as he can possibly love anyone or anything. Since we are now removed from the daily turmoil and chaos, my hope is that we can all get along and be a family--a different kind of family than we once were, but a family nonetheless. I think that, ultimately, even though I know he misses you desperately, your father is glad that you have gained some peace in your daily life, and that you're no longer walking on eggshells every day.

Child, you are loved and cherished. By both of us, even if one can no longer be with us like before.


  1. Belinda, this is so beautiful. And, it is the right thing to do so that she will always know and understand that the divorce of her parents is not about her; that she is loved forever and always by both of you. You are a brave, strong, loving person and this is just another example of how you live this way in your life. I am praying for all three of you that you all find your way thru these difficult times.

  2. This is so beautifully written. It's honest, captures the friendship & love you two had for each other. It testifies that her dad did do all he could, when he could.
    I remember how Alex would go on about The Hogs during college football season; I loved talking w/him, cuz he's 1 of the few people that was hog-wild (pun intended) like I was about the games.
    As someone with a mental illness, this is 1 thing I hope you'll emphasize to your child: Her father would NEVER have chosen to not be with her; it was beyond his control. When you look at everything he had (not materialistically, but family-wise) he wouldn't have given his family up for anything in the world.

  3. Damn mental illness. Just damn it. What's happening to you is happening to thousands of good people every day and as a country, We. Just. Don't. Care.

  4. Jane, and Miz... good points, both. BUT, the thing I have had to get through my head is that, sick or no, Alex still made choices. Choices that hurt me. These weren't spur of the moment "slips," either. They were things that took a great deal of planning, manipulation, deceit, and chicanery. Personals ads. Disposable, untraceable phones. Secret drinking, which negated or adversely affected the medication regimen. Enormous amount of detailed lying, hiding, falsifying that went into stealing my identity and running up huge credit accounts *in my name*, and then tremendous effort at hiding the purchases so I wouldn't find out. SO MUCH hurtful behavior, directly against ME, while I was blindly supporting him in every way I knew how. I loved him like crazy, and he used, abused, and hurt me. Those are the sad facts. In the end, a marriage partner should be someone who HAS YOUR BACK...not someone you have to constantly watch to make sure they're not about to stab you in it. Know what I mean?

  5. this is going to be important to her, so keep telling her these things