My Father’s Affairs, My Mother the Doormat

My father was a serial adulterer.  The reason I know this is because he used to bring his ladies home, well some of them.

The first one I remember was Donna.  She was his secretary.  She was lovely, she had long hair down to her butt.  He invited her home for dinner, a dinner that my mother cooked and served to her.  We were all a bit suspicious about her status, we knew it must have been high as she was allowed to sit in my father’s chair.   No one ever sat in my fathers chair, not if he was home.  But Donna got the place of honor.  She sat there, giggling like a school girl. I can recall my mother sitting across from her with an odd look on her face, yet she remained the perfect hostess.   I recall feeling that the situation was very strange.  It was 1975,  I was in high school, self involved and probably high, so I don’t remember much more about the evening.

Donna lived about 25 miles away.  My father suddenly took up bicycle riding.  He went and bought himself a rigged out new 10 speed, and would disappear on his bicycle for hours on the weekends.  He was off getting exercise.  He had made a point of having complete disdain for my mother’s lack of exercise, thus somehow justifying his all day excursions.

The atmosphere around the house was extremely tense, especially when he would come back after being gone all day.  My mother never said anything, but we all knew to walk on eggshells around both of them.

Something must have transpired between Mom and Dad in private, maybe she put her foot down and confronted him, doubtful, or maybe he just decided to stick it out with what he had created, our family.  He came home one night with two dozen roses, a bouquet for my mother and a bouquet for me. He cried in front of all of us, and asked my mother to forgive him, which of course she did.  Donna was never seen again.

To this day, I can not figure out WHY I got the bundle of roses.  He didn’t cheat on me, I wasn’t his wife, I was 14 years old.  I had no business knowing about any of the intimate details of their marriage.  I had no business being on the receiving end of the gesture that was to put their marriage back together.  My bouquet just reinforced my mother’s psychotic jealousy of me.  It was a warped triangle.

Dad behaved for the next five years, I presume, I don’t know that for a fact.  Then there was a new woman in the office.  The evening dinner conversation was peppered with the name Ann.  Ann did this, that, Ann is a single mother, we should help Ann, and on it went.

In 1980, the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in college, my father, who was already a heavy drinker, started drinking even more.  He used to have his “heavy” cocktails only during happy hour, and then drink beer.  This summer the Manhattans were the drink of the night, all night, until he went to bed, sloppy drunk.

I have no idea when Dad made the choice to share his secret with me, nor have I ever been able to figure out WHY.  One evening, when he was quite trashed, he told me he was in love with Ann, and wanted to leave my mother, but please don’t tell her.  Please, please, please, keep this between the two of us.

This was the hardest, craziest, most fucked up thing that he had ever asked me to do.  I was 18 years old, I had no business being his confidant.  I had no business being in the middle of their marriage, and it was so WRONG that he put me there.  This secret kept me awake at night, it ate at my stomach, I was torn,where should my loyalties lie,  I did’t know what to do, so I did nothing.

Dad would come to my room at night, completely trashed and talk about how much he loved Ann and needed to be with her.

I was a traitor, just like him, because I kept this dirty little secret.

I went to bed each night, counting the days until I could leave and go back to college, where I wouldn’t have to cope with this insanity any longer.

Unfortunately, the weekend after my return to college, I was summoned home.  Dad had finally dropped the bomb, and he needed help moving out.  My brother and I walked into the house, and were handed a list of items to box up.  Dad was leaving, he had an apartment rented, and needed to furnish it, and we had to help him pack.  I don’t recall much of that day, except being in the basement, gathering up old pots and pans that were stored down there and putting them in a box.

I also remember my mother, devastated, sitting on our deck in the heat of September in a wool sweater, my father’s letter man sweater from college.  She had it wrapped around her, like a security blanket, I think she was in shock.  Dad had told her he needed some time to figure out what he wanted in his life.  He was 45 years old, he had been married for 23 years, he needed to be on his own for a while.  There was no other woman, he promised, he swore, he lied.

Dad left.  Drama ensued.  A letter came to the house from my father’s father, I was dispatched to deliver it to the new apartment.  As I approached the door, I passed a set of windows. Looking in I saw Dad sitting at the table talking to a young dark haired woman, and a little boy was asleep on the couch.

I tried to get away, but Dad saw me through the window.  He insisted I sit and talk, have a beer, look at the new drapes Ann had helped him pick out.  He told me he couldn’t go shopping alone, as he was color blind, so she just came along to help.

The drapes were white.

The world tilted.  That was the night I was introduced to the new version of my family, I just didn’t know it.

I went back to college.  My sophomore year was filled with experimental drugs, copious amounts of alcohol, and severe depression.

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here. – Pink Floyd

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4 thoughts on “My Father’s Affairs, My Mother the Doormat

  1. I relate to being the unwilling confidant and caretaker of parents who behaved in completely inappropriate ways. I get it — they were damaged themselves. But I’m finding it tricky to work through the resentment that’s surfaced since I got sober. Seems like I’m handing their shit back to them and setting boundaries at a time when they’re getting older and needier. Arrgh! But I’ve got to do it for my own sanity and for my husband & kids. My biggest hope is that I haven’t screwed up my own children too much! Trying to be open and honest with them without handing them adult problems. I guess that’s the best I can do. Thanks for sharing this.

    • I know how you feel. I am just starting on my 4th step in AA. Resentments, I have a few…pages. It is a tough spot to be in with aging parents. I am really trying to let thing go. I have a God box, that my sponsor told me about. I write down the things that are bothering me, and put them in there and let my HP take them. Letting go!

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