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A series of freak health incidences lead me to return home after college. Nothing had changed; my parents never talked to each other, spent time alone together or spoke to each other in warm tones. But that's how it had always been, and they'd held on. The Poster Marriage for Commitment, even surviving infidelity. It wasn't functional, but it still existed. I'm sure that felt like quite a hard-won achievement, but I wonder at how they could have ever convinced themselves that was enough. Or even tolerable.
In early 2005 I told my parents I was pregnant with my son. It was not a planned pregnancy; I had not been with my boyfriend very long. On the surface they seemed to circle the wagons with such compassion as I'd never felt before. But it made my mother very very sad, and she couldn't hide it. It seemed to me that her sadness impossibly drove my dad even further away.
When she resurfaced, something odd happened: she went out and bought a bunch of new clothes. She got her hair done. She started courting my dad. The only memories I have of my parents being physically affectionate are from this time. I close my eyes and see my post-menopausal mother in a lacy tank top, sitting on my dad's lap at the dining room table. This time her instinct knew something that neither of our brains did.
That summer, when I was 7 months pregnant my sister attended a dance camp in Alabama. My parents flew to see a final performance, and then my mom and my sister went on to Texas to see my uncle, and my dad was due back home at work. I called there to check in with him, and they told me he'd taken vacation days for another week. Where was my dad?
I called his cell repeatedly and he didn't answer. I called the house. I called our cabin. I called the neighbors. I called his friends. No one knew where he was. I called the airline and explained myself. Breaking the rules and pulling his info for me, the agent I spoke to changed all our lives: his return ticket was to Tennessee and it had never been otherwise. Somehow I still didn't get it.
I went to my parents' house. The person bringing the mail in had already stopped, she'd been told the same return date as I had. There was mail in the box and my dad hadn't been there. I don't know what drove me to open the garage door, but I did.
Here is the moment I would redo if I could:
Inside my parents garage was a car I didn't recognize. And it was unlocked, which is something my parents would never do while gone on vacation. I opened it. There were medical papers and Christian books in the back seat, and a stack of business cards with a woman's face on the cards. I took one look at her face and I knew. He had the balls to tell her it was okay to park her car in my parents' garage, you know, because airport parking fees are so unreasonable.
What I wish I would have done is (forgive my language here) vandalized the shit out of her car. I wish I would have written "HOMEWRECKER" on every leather seat. I wish I would have painted "SLUTS FOR CHRIST" on every panel of her car and then had it towed. Let her end her vacation with my dad with a call to the police to report it missing, and subsequently finding it that way. That's the most vindictive thing I've ever felt in my life, the desire to do that. I'm not proud of it, but I'm being honest.
There wasn't a moment's hesitation about telling my mom. We'd already weathered so much, I never ever ever imagined it would be more than another unpleasant bump in the family road. She didn't believe me, but she started watching my dad's cell phone bills carefully and it became pretty evident.
Soon after, my son was born. We brought him to my parents' house for the first time, and within days my dad handed my mom a pamphlet on mediation as his way of telling her he was leaving. I have one picture of my son with my parents. And there are days that hurts as much as anything.
Reader, he married her.
It would take someone really dumb to be surprised by that ending right?
It would take someone really stupid to feel sad that such obvious dysfunction was disbanded.
And that dumb, stupid girl would be me, the woman of lost confidence.