Facing My Parent's Divorce after 24 Years
Friday, October 02, 2009
As my daughter approached her 8th birthday, I began to reflect on my own turning 8 years old. It was the year my mom told me my dad is moving into his own apartment and I would only see him on the weekends. I remember now, after suppressing my memories about this talk, that she was crying and I didn't quite understand what that all meant. She had just finished nursing school and I thought it was a good thing. It turns out she was trying to stabilize her own career before she made that move to divorce my father. He wasn't a very ambitious man and learned in my early adult life that he had a tough time keeping a job and supporting my mom and me. I do know that he was my caregiver a lot of time before I started Kindergarten. I remember him and I hanging out all day and indeed having a lot of fun together in that small apartment in inner city Detroit. Not being allowed to play outside because of the fact it wasn't a very kid-friendly neighborhood meant I had to entertain myself with what I had available to me. I watched a lot of TV and drew pictures and slept.
It was after my mom made the announcement that she and my father were not going to be living together anymore that I spent a significant amount of time at my grandma and grandpa's house. My mom had just started her first job as an Registered Nurse and was working a lot of hours to prove herself and make enough money to provide for the both of us on her own.
Like I said before, I sort of suppressed my emotions of this time frame. I never really gave myself the permission to be sad or angry or confused. I sort of just went with the flow. I just went through the motions of the day to day. I see now that it did me more harm than good suppressing all my emotions and pretending it was normal.
It is at this time though, finding the strength to really look at my 8 year old inside of myself, that I learned about acceptance or the lack of acceptance. It is the truth that I found in this timeframe that has me worried. I see now that I did not feel love by anyone during this time. For what I knew of my father, he left me. He didn't care to be around me anymore. My 8 year old frame of mind was that my dad didn't really want to be with me. I'm an only child and with that does come a significant amount of egocentricity. Most of what happens on a day to day basis of an only child is all or mostly about them. It was,as I mentioned, at this time that my mom started to work LONG hours and leave me at my grandma's house. So to say that I felt the same about my mother would also be true, would it not? Doesn't it look like to an 8 year old only child that now her mother and her father don't care about her anymore? Doesn't it look almost all to bluntly that both her parent's don't love or care about nurturing her anymore? To me, it is all too obvious what my inner psyche was feeling. Now we come to my grandparent's house. They have a child, my aunt who is 6 years old than me. My grandmother was quite stubbornly English and in a lot of ways, I can see now as an adult, resented the fact she had to deal with me so often. It is one thing to have a grandchild for a day or two here and there; it is quite another to have her on a regular basis having to almost raise her. My mom told me a few years back that my grandma told her, "I've already raised MY children, I am done!" Wow, so now I see it more clearly. My grandma was kind, but she was typical English. She was from that era of children should be seen and not heard. She was gentle and kind at times and I try to remember her that way. My grandfather growing up was the type to never say "I love you" and was called "THE BOSS" for good reason! 6'2" and nearly 300 or so pounds, he was, to put it kindly...intimidating! He could laugh and would show me he loved me by giving me food. My aunt of whom I mentioned was mean. She didn't like me there most of the time and I think she thought I cramped her style. She would tell me I was stupid and that no one liked me. She made me feel very unwelcome 90% of the time. I'm not sure why she disliked me, but she was young too. The funny thing is, she was more like my mean bossy older sister in a lot of ways. We are really close now, but I still have a lot of issues with her that I still can't seem to forget or move past. Things that are ingrained in me that I try to tell myself aren't true and aren't my fault. One major thing that I've had to deal with is realizing things I didn't realize back then. My mom and dad both smoked and as soon as I got to my grandparent's house either my grandma or my aunt would instruct me to go take a shower the minute I walked in the door. I didn't make THIS connection until recently. But it was all too clear when my mom told me that my grandma had said in the past (about me), "She's such a beautiful child, it's a shame that she always smells of cigarette smoke". I instantly made the connection to the showers I was told to take on arrival at their house. It never occurred to me as a kid. It is a new issue I have to deal with now as an adult I didn't have to deal with back then.
So I found a link between my unhealthy relationship with food and my past. I felt for so long that my family didn't love me or even like me for that matter. I didn't feel any friendship between my family and I. We moved almost yearly for a long time, so having real friendships was difficult because I knew it wouldn't last. The ONE THING, the only thing that was a true friend, the ONE THING that never let me down and always made me feel good was TA-DA FOOOOOD! My grandma's house was always stocked with pastries and English tea with full fat milk and sugar. At home, my mom either wasn't home or was busy working at home, so I had free reign over the pantry and fridge. When I did get to see my dad, he felt so guilty about not seeing me, I was able to coax him into letting me eat junk the whole time I was with him. From the ice cream we had at the DQ as soon as he picked me up, to McDonald's my mom refused to give me, to cake and coffee and more ice cream! I was happy when I ate and only when I ate.
It's the one thing I have the best relationship with still, except my daughter. I eat no matter what. Dieticians will say, FIND YOUR TRIGGER emotion for when you eat. I eat no matter what my emotion. Just as a person would hang out with a good friend. You don't have to be in any certain mood to hang out with your best friend. You can be hurt, sad, happy, celebrating, bored, creative, tired, energetic...so there I am with food....no matter the emotion or time of day.
I just need to find that friend in all the good food and find that healthy relationship and throw out the loser friends like milk chocolate!!!