Today, I took a snapchat of my venture through the automatic car wash at Canadian Tire, and at the end thought it’d be funny to suddenly pop my face in and scream – You know, like the old pranks Newgrounds.com used to make – and send it to my girlfriend.
She loved it, obviously, because I’m awesome and it was hilarious. But as I thought about that on my way home, I remembered a time when my dad would disappear in the house, and I’d go searching for him, just to have him jump out of a closet with a “Boo!” and give me the tickle attack. It scared the hell out of me, but it also made me happy and was a favourite game of mine as a kid.
Even as I write this now, I think back at all the other good times we had: Staying up watching X-Files and playing SNES together, me passing off the controller for those bosses I just didn’t have the timing to beat at my age (Final Fantasy 2 Demon Wall, anyone?); even watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The truth is, we did a lot together and even though there were those times he was busy with working at home, I could always shoot the shit with him or game or watch TV in his office while he worked. I was happy in those times, and never felt unloved.
As I got older and needed braces, my dad would be the one to take me to my appointments, and I always remember the best parts being a pizza hut lunch, where we would both tackle our own Hawaiian pizzas, while my dad made dad jokes and I laughed. I also remember the times he’d run into the store for something and tell me to keep the doors locked while I waited in the car (I was at least 12 here, so don’t panic), and me unlocking the door only to lock it again as soon as he’d try and pull the handle. He must have been really annoyed then, but I don’t ever remember being yelled at for that.
I remember spankings, when I did something bad, and him always saying it hurt him more than me. As a kid, you don’t get it, but now in my 20’s I know that must have been the truth. I never was a repeat offender.
In fact, I was a good kid. I went to school, did my homework, hung out with my friends and played video games and with action figures, envisioning my own final fantasy-style rpg with my spider man and superman and batman figures. I created character sheets and story lines and special moves and everything.
As I got into my teens I started learning to program, and my dad bought me a starter kit for C++ that I still have. I remember I first made a game with a fish head weapon that shot fireballs.
When I was fifteen, just finishing grade 9, my mom told me she was going to leave my dad, and I broke down. I was skipping a school dance that day, playing Star craft at my grandma’s house. I remember it crystal clear. Everything changed, then.
First, it was the fighting. At the time, it was “your dad has another woman”, and then it was my dad’s defense of “I wanted to leave a long time ago, but I couldn’t while your brother and sister were so young”. Be sure, I am not defending or condemning either side, because something like that is a life altering event, and so-called experts will tell you all about the psyche of a child in different stages of divorce, but how often do they deal with that of the parents? The people who have to make a choice between their own happiness and their children’s “familar” (in that, I mean the only lifestyle they know).
The problem is partly in timing. Not the specific date and time this occurred to me, or to anyone else, but the generational timing. In the 80’s,when my parents married, if you were with a girl and got her pregnant, you married her. Disclaimer here: I know I was born before my parents were married, but I can’t say if they planned to marry before or not, because I never had the courage to ask. But as the 90’s progressed and the world came a little further away from moral right and wrong and religious right and wrong being the same, people divorced. Any statistic will tell you that in the 2000’s divorce rates were the highest ever, and it’s because it was no longer seen as this heinous crime.
We children suffered in our own way, sure, and there’s certainly some merit to losing that kind of structure in life. Would I be a different person had they never married,or had they stayed together? Certainly. I cannot, however, say whether I would be better off.
Be clear that I do not regret the path I was thrust upon, and while there are things I would do differently, there are things in my life now I would never give up.
However, writing this all out, I remember the tough times so much clearer than the best. When asked about my parents, my mind instantly fills with the fighting, the back and forth, the not knowing who’s “side” to be on. The rest comes much later.
I will say this: I had good parents. Hell, I still have good parents. Most of the time, I feel awkward trying to approach my dad just to say “hey”, and shoot the shit. And I don’t often hear from him just because, and as I have written this out, I have concluded that maybe the reason is because he feels the same too. Sometimes I’ve felt like my dad didn’t care to have anything to do with me, but maybe he felt that I wanted nothing to do with him, and trying to force it would be upsetting. However, my dad has always been consistent in being a rock, and someone I’ve always admired as a person and role model, even if I’ve never said it.
I’m not writing this to talk about whether divorce is ok or not, or the nifty gritty about that. I’m writing this to say that everyone is affected by it, including the parents, and perhaps we should not judge so hastily when divorce creates a distance, and instead lean on each other and help each other bridge the gap.