On Divorce & Fatherhood

By the time my dad lost his battle with stomach cancer, nearly 12 years ago, he and my mom had been married for 55 years. They raised eight of us, and I'm the youngest.

Among the things in life that broke my heart most, as a kid, was watching my loved ones, and their children, go through divorce.

Two of my three oldest sisters were divorced before I started kindergarten. The oldest ended the marriage to her middle school sweetheart just after I graduated from high school. Seven of us have experienced the dissolution of at least one marriage.

I promised myself it would not happen to me. I knew I wanted to be a husband and a father and I planned to never put a child through that. Yet, I am not the one exception. It happened.

Photo by Jen Conway

Photo by Jen Conway

I suppose that we knew our parents disagreed about things. They bickered in a way that we generally thought was funny. My dad would rile my mom and smirk at us, at times.

I'm not entirely sure how all my siblings felt about it. But, I never felt like there was a real threat to their marriage. I never felt like my family was at risk. I felt secure in that way. Because, when it came to parenting us, they were always a united front. They were never divided as parents.

My marriage of eight years ended once I concluded that it would never function that way. I was the step-father of her two daughters from a previous marriage and we had my son a little more than a year after we took our vows. And, we never could really figure out how to parent together.

There was no walking away until I knew I had done everything I could possibly do to save the marriage. I can honestly say that I did everything in my power. If I was going to break my son's heart, it wasn't going to be because I didn't try hard enough.

It most assuredly breaks his heart. And, that breaks mine. I know that, deep down, he will probably always want his mother and I to be together. That wish won't be granted. He is 10 now. He'll probably never, as a child, experience the type of security that I did with my parents.

All I know to do is to shower him with love and to listen to him. 

Most of the time I'm able to power through the sadness I experience over all of this. The counterintuitive nature of being away, half the time, from the person who I love most on this earth, who it is my job to protect, is an example. I want to be near him every single day, but I can't.

It's fucking terrible. It hurts.

After spending the first half of his Christmas break with me (he's with her the second half this year) I drove him to his mom's house around noon today. The sadness of the looming separation began to come over me about two days ago, I guess. I savored his presence. I hugged him tighter and kissed him more.

It was all I could do to not cry in front of him today. I was happy for him, because, in the midst of all this, he missed his mom. He hadn't seen her for a week. And, that sucks too.

One thing I've learned in life is that, sometimes, I do just have to cry. So, I walked him to the door. I hugged and kissed him. I said Happy New Year. I told him I love him. I said goodbye. Then, I got back in my car, and I let some of the tears come out behind my sunglasses as I drove back toward the void that exists in my life, 50 percent of the time.