Seven years old was a big year for me. It was at this point that Mama and Dad’s relationship boiled over and broke apart. Dad left and went to live by himself, leaving my siblings and I alone with Mama. At this point in my life, the alone time with Mama wasn’t too bad. She hadn’t learned yet, to take her immature “lashing out,” and reconcile it with her interpretation of the Bible. She was just solidly abusive and then excitingly adventurous.
At one point, Dad did try to come back and give the marriage another chance. I remember being asked to dry the dishes one evening. Dad had pulled our old black and white television from its corner, to the middle of the living room, and was watching a night game between the Vikings and who cares who else. I was drying a dish and became quite interested in the noise coming from the tube, being that I wanted to love what my father loved, so I peeked around the corner into the living room. Dad caught my gaze and motioned for me to climb up on his lap. I obliged and, for the next sixty seconds, I learned everything about football down to the color of the Vikings away laces.
Sixty seconds with my Dad was an eternity. He had come back to try and reconcile with Mama and the whole eleven days that he stayed was a living hell for him. Any time he tried to enjoy his family by playing with his kids, Mama would come into the room and yell, demanding that we go and do some chore that sorely needed to be done. This time was no different. Around the corner she came, swooping in and grabbing me, forcing me into the kitchen to finish my duties. It would be about a year before I watched another game of football with my father.
Another time, I was playing Old Maid with very large cards with my father and two younger sisters. I laid down a card, heard Dad exclaim how good a move I had made, heard one of my sisters giggle, and then, was whisked away to do something else. Mama never missed an opportunity to make Dad feel like the most unloved human being on the face of the earth. Interestingly, whenever she tells the story, it is always Dad’s fault for only sticking it out for eleven days. In her mind, she plays the part of a saint, while my dad was evil for leaving her high and dry. I know better.
The worst memory is when all seven of us were wrestling with my dad in the living room. Imagine the noise of seven children, between the ages of two and ten, screaming and giggling, trying to get their old man to fall on his face from his position on his knees. I know how loud it can get with my six. Wrestling together is one of our favorite activities now, just like it was for me and my siblings then. My mother heard the noise and came flying around the corner and rattled off seven individual chores for us in ten seconds. How did she DO that!?
Needless to say, my father left, never to return. I don’t blame him. Not long afterward, the divorce was finalized and my mother won sole custody of all seven of us. The judge gave my father every other weekend visitation rights with four whole weeks in the summer. My father begged him to reconsider and laid out all the abuse we had suffered up to that point, not to mention, his abuse at the hands of Mama. The judge would not be moved. It was very normal for the state to not even consider a father to be fit for custody in those days.
Dad and Mama getting divorced would be the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I can’t even begin to describe the wonting feeling I would get whenever it was my turn to go to my dad’s for the weekend. To Mama, my leaving meant she had to scrub all the floors, wash and wipe all the dishes, and have nobody around the house that made a point to try to find the laughter in any moment. I didn’t see it that way. Going to Dad’s house was pure, unadulterated freedom – or so I thought.
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I am a 30 something husband of one and father of 6 dynamic and loud children. My wife and I are still madly in love – at least in my view. My world is exciting, tense, and full of life. I love to write and hope to one day, do it full time. – Incongruous Circumspection
Snipped! by Incongruous Circumspection
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NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce