Sunday, December 27, 2009

3rd Hate of Chistmas: Divorce

The 3rd Hate of Christmas According to Mrs. Levine:

Vintage illustration of a father reading the newspaper with his daughter Pictures, Images and Photos
     My grandma used to say, “You were the apple of your daddy’s eye.” I have one picture where I can see what she meant. I’m four, in a red and white frilly dress with thick white tights and black patent leather shoes. My daddy is holding me upside down above his head, looking up into my face, laughing. I’m squealing, looking down at him, laughing, the apple of my daddy’s eye. I love a lot of things about Christmas, but that’s the one I hate. It reminds me of what was lost.
     Shortly after that picture was taken, my dad started a custody battle. My parents had already been divorced for two years, but they were both about to remarry. It was time to start anew, and they wanted to take half of the old with them. Me.
     My dad is someone who gives up easily. So is my mom. This is how I know that I must have been equally as important to them at one point in my life. My mom won that battle, and my dad gave up. He remarried, stopped paying child support, had four boys, and showed up two hours late every other weekend to pick me up. I didn’t know how completely he had given up, though, until he gave me a Pizza Hut promotional basketball for my twelfth birthday. Secret Twenty-Four, Revealed. I’ve always hated basketball. I should have been grateful, though. After that birthday, he forever stopped sending presents or cards.
     Around fourteen-years-old I started needing him. My mom divorced and remarried again. I was looking to boys to make me feel valued. I had large breasts that the boys wanted to touch, so it was easy to get them to love me. I wanted to know my dad loved me. The way that manifested was to send his family cards for everything. All four half brothers got cards for every birthday. Occasionally I sent money. My dad got a card on his birthday. My step-mother got a card on her birthday, which coincidently is the day after my own. I sent Christmas cards, Thanksgiving cards, Graduation cards, and Father’s Day cards. I never got a single one in return. When I got married, something about my husband filled that hole and I finally stopped sending cards.
     Last year my husband said, “I think you need to try to see your dad this Christmas.” I’d been debating it for months. I had his phone number tucked into a book somewhere. I hadn’t bothered to remember which book. I assumed he lived at the same address. I hadn’t seen him since my wedding, five years before. So, at my husband’s urging, I called him.
     I can’t tell you what happened from there. I can tell you the actions but not the meaning. We had a series of four awkward phone calls trying to arrange when I would drive three hours over icy roads to get to his house in the next state over from my mom’s. At one point he offered to come and get me. But in the end, when there was only the date left to arrange, he never called back.
     And so it is Christmas, and I’m wondering do I put myself through this again? He’s a good man. I love him, otherwise I wouldn’t have tried so hard over the years, but he’s someone who gives up easily. And I continue to battle being given up time and time again. I know he loves me, but he’s too ashamed of himself to show it. He, quite miraculously, had a daughter that doesn’t give up. It’s a fact that apparently hurts us both.
     I try not to take my mother’s advice on men, but she says that men need time before they can see what’s important to them in life. She thinks that men are too concerned about themselves for most of their lives to really notice the people in it. She thinks that my father, like her own, will come back around and need me nearer to the end of his life, that I will again be the  apple of his eye.
     I’ve now been something like seventeen Christmas without seeing him. Seventeen X-mases and I'm still playing that goddamn tape in my head:
     All I want for Christmas is to know my daddy loves me.
(Read more by Mrs. Levine at her blog: Whispered between Women)

**Picture reblogged from Chronically Vintage.