Choosing What Was Behind Door Number One

Colorful Door

Colorful Door (Photo credit: brentdanley)

When I was 19 I got married for the first time to a 9th grade high school drop-out, pot smoker who’s biggest aspirations in life was to become a rock star.  By the time we were 26 years old, he left me on New Year’s Eve after a seemingly innocuous argument over a ceiling fan we had just received as a Christmas gift.  As he packed his things into a cardboard box and I stood in the doorway to the bedroom door of our trailer home and watched, he summed up our life together saying, “I don’t want to be a dad and a husband anymore.  You have been holding me back from becoming a rock star.”

Of course, one paragraph cannot sum up ten years of a life with somebody; it started out when we were 16 years old, when I was a junior in high school and he was working at McDonald’s, already living on his own with some friends in an apartment.  We had the typical relationship of a rebel teen and a straight A student.  My parents hated him and thought I could do better, but it mattered very little to me, he was my way out of the hell that was my home.  He cheated on me, I cheated on him, but we were drawn to each other in a dysfunctional way.

When we got married, it was on a whim, no big plan with a fancy wedding… I was hundreds of miles away at my sister’s house and had just come back into town.  He asked me on a Friday, we made the arrangements on a Saturday and were married on Monday.  My mother was not even certain if she was going to be able to attend.  The day of the ceremony, my father offered him $2000 if he would just walk away; to this day, I am not certain why he didn’t.

In the back of my mind, I always knew I would never grow old with him.  I am a person who dreams a great deal; every morning I wake up and can recall very vividly what I have dreamt about the previous night, and I daydream and fantasize… he was never there in my future, not even the next day.  So, when we broke up less than a year after our wedding, I was not surprised.

However, as is typical of these types of relationships, we got back together for the last time; but this time, I got pregnant immediately. That solidified the relationship a little more, made it a little more real, required us to grow up a bit, but it was no more loving or caring than it had ever been.  And, six months after our daughter was born, I was pregnant a second time.

We went through the motions of marriage for several years.  Or rather, I should say, we were parents, no real marriage.  I loved my children, hugged them, told them I loved them, did arts and crafts, took them places, did everything I thought I technically should to show them that I loved them.  But somehow I knew it was fleeting, that we did not have a family.

And, I was right, that New Year’s Eve when he packed his box and left all three of us.  I learned a few days after he left that he had a 17 year old girlfriend that was pregnant.

Was it then that I started to have no affect?

Or was the fact that I had no affect the reason for him cheating?

Life with Father

Life with Father (film)

Life with Father (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past July 1 was the eighth anniversary of my father’s shooting.  Normally, it comes and goes without any fanfare from me, and this year was mostly no different, except for the fact that I happened to be staying at my sister’s house so we had the chance to discuss it and commemorate it together.

As my sister and I are 10 years apart, we did not necessarily “grow up” together, but we did go through our father’s death together.  So, instead of reminiscing about life and childhood, we talked about what we did in the days following the homicide, the epic, the incredulous, the depressing, and even the ludicrous. Our memories of that time were bittersweet, we laughed a bit, no tears, as we just aren’t that way with each other, but we had our memories of that day, then we moved on from there and went about our business.

Since then, I have had occasion to think about my relationship with my father, especially as it relates to my exploration as “the flat girl”.

It has never been a secret that my father became very abusive when he was inebriated.  However, he was completely different when he was sober.  He was intelligent, well-read, and could hold in-depth conversations about a number of topics.  Yet, there was still something missing, at least with me, in his interpersonal relationships.  I never felt particularly close to him.

When he was sober and not being abusive, I could talk to him for hours about so many things, we seemed to have so much in common, but he could have been a college professor for as close as I felt to him during those times.  Then all of that would be washed away with one drunken abusive night.

I always felt that his relationship with my two sisters and my brother were different than the relationship that he had with me, but, for all I know, they felt the same as well.  They seemed to have an easy banter, lower expectations of each other; I wanted something more from him, and he from me.  I wanted perfection, a father that I had seen on the little bit of television that I had seen, like Michael Landon on Little House on the Prairie or Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch.  He wanted me to be a straight A student who didn’t smoke, break curfew, cut school, or break the rules.  He (mostly) got what he wanted from me, I did not.

Growing up, I do not recall ever being told I was loved or being hugged by either one of my parents, something that is probably not a surprise in an alcoholic abusive household.  I certainly did not know any better.  But, it was at my high school graduation that I was hit with something that was so powerful that it affected my life forever.  My father walked up to me, shook my hand and said, “I expect to see you again in four more years.” I took this to mean he was indicating that I should be graduating in four years again from the university.

That was it… nothing more.  I was hurt at the time, as when my older sister had graduated three years earlier my parents had a huge party, invited relatives, and made a huge deal.  My graduation was much more low key, no fanfare really, just a level of expectation of what I was to accomplish, and that I was expected to accomplish again in four years.

Looking back, that was me and my dad.  He expected more from me than he did from my siblings, but with no touchy feely subterfuge that other relationships may have.  He wanted great things for me, but did not necessarily have the ability to show me in a way that was demonstrative in a loving, caring way. So, was this way I learned my flat affect?  Possibly.  Possibly.