My father ditched out on his/our happy, middle-class suburban life when I was eight years old. (And this was long enough ago so that once their marital vows became mutual “Ciao!”s, my mom and dad became easily the only divorced parents in the neighborhood. It was so weird being, suddenly, the kid with the radically unnatural home life.)
Poof! Instant Dad-B-Gone! One minute I was part of a nuclear family—Father, Mother, eleven-year-old sister Nancy, seven-year-old little Bro (me), dog, cat, hamster, guinea pig. And the next minute my family went nuclear.
My dad moved into a one-bedroom bachelor pad some twenty miles from the suburban tract home in which my mom, sister and I continued to live.
At least I got to stay in my house. That was … nice.
Except that two years after my dad left that very house, my mom left it, too.
I was, like, “What the [bleep]? Is it the hideous green shag carpet in this house? Is that why everyone keeps leaving? Cuz we can change that, you know!”
First, as part of our happy, whole family, my mom was (more or less) Donna Reed herself; next, liberated from what she took to calling her “emotionally retarded” ex-husband, she rather instantly transformed into a pot-smoking, rap-session-going, Vietnam-war-protesting college student. And then, two years into being a single mother (and a real babe of one, at that: believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve watched a succession of college professors nervously fidgeting on your couch as they wait for their date with your mom to sort of kick in), my mother became no mother at all. Because she totally disappeared.
“Be right back!” she said, closing the door behind her.
And then it was three o’clock, and she hadn’t come home yet. Pretty weird.
Then it was six o’clock, and she still hadn’t come home yet. Pretty darn weird.
Then it was eight o’clock, and dark—and still no mom. Okay. Completely freakish.
Then it was midnight, and my sister and I were just frantic with worry. (I have no idea why neither of us thought to call the police. Well, I know I didn’t because I had no idea cops even did stuff like find lost moms. If my sister—who was thirteen by then—thought to alert the authorities, it makes sense, given the severely disturbing way my mother had begun treating her once our father had left, that she just might freakin’ not.)
Next morning, and still no mom.
[Next post in this little series: My Runaway Mom–and Her Surprise Replacement.]