I receive letters from many new authors and this one in particular moved me so I wanted to share it with you. Jordan Spina is an up and coming writer and here he writes about his experiences when his parents divorced. Enjoy. Dr. Meg
Divorce through the eyes of a 10- year- old boy
Divorce or separation to a 10- year- old child can seem as absolute as being told you will be going to a new school in the fall. I knew life would be different, that something bad was coming, but such painful knowledge cannot be transferred to a child so young. I understood the concept; it meant leaving what was familiar. The big difference between moving and divorce though, is that moving causes you to live in a new place but divorce makes life take on new meaning and flavor. Divorce was just a word to me then- an un-experienced, scary sounding, but overall unknown word. There is little that can cultivate the knowledge of divorce in a family outside of having one, and I pray you never experience it. My parents’ divorce would be the primary shaping event of my young world and coincidentally my adult one.
It wasn’t like I didn’t see it coming but lack of experience and not wanting to know what was ahead helped me hide from this lurking monster. I didn’t want to believe it would ever come.
The carpet in our upstairs hallway was thin with a worn industrial feel, the kind where the ground gristle of a million footfalls from decades past left contents buried deep. Yesterday’s cat litter met last week’s sand and deeper still met the ghosts of the house. The colors of thistle and wisteria shown near the edges but most was faded and worn. There were nights when I’d lie on that carpet; nights, when I was supposed to be asleep in bed. I’d find myself crawling, half curious, half called, elastically stretched towards the uninvited beckoning of my parent’s voices.
With each night’s entreaty, as their voices rose so did I from my bed. With small padding footsteps, at first avoiding the creaky places in the floorboards, I made my way down the hall past our bathroom door. I sat on my knees and waited. As their voices forgot the pretext of the nighttime silence, so did each of my parents forget courtesy. The yelling traveled from the porch up the stairs down the hall to my nestled listening, resting place.
My mother would start the conversation. Her responses became shorter; her words turned to sobs, and then choked pleas. The energy that left her seemed to fuel my father’s rage. His voice grew dangerous, louder, and his words more cutting like shards of glass.
Then my own tremors would start, tickling small in my stomach at first and then moving up to my shoulders. My lungs started their spastic dance – shaking the snot and tears loose until they poured freely from my face like a faucet. I would sit like a broken spigot that could not be turned tight enough to stop the flow.
I felt the carpet through my pajamas rough against my knees and I’d slump down to my elbows and onto my stomach. Then I would cry. I’d cry loud. I suppose I thought that if I cried loud enough maybe they would hear me and stop…They heard me, but they didn’t stop, they just kept yelling, kept fighting.
I remember wondering when it would be over, wondering why it was happening. This never happened during the day. Why did the monsters have to be so real? Why did nightmares seem to repeat themselves?
I was taught in church that I could pray to God, that the guy upstairs apparently cares and would do things for me. My parents told me about prayer as well so I figured it was on the up and up. I asked God to fix them, to make them stop fighting, to make everything better.
I don’t know how long this went on.
Eventually my words didn’t matter. A prayer, a pounded fist; it was noise for noise sake. I would kick my feet and pound my palms against that damn carpet, loosening up grit and gristle, just to help me forget. I wanted, God, my parents, anyone or anything, to cover the noise of my family breaking, to stop time itself if need be. I didn’t want to be in the broken ruin that would fall on our family those nights.
I knew they could hear me. I hoped God could too.
I lay in the hallway leaking and throwing incoherent sentences at God until I got tired. I drifted in and out of dream prayers and half -heard nightmares until their voices quieted. I crawled back down the hallway then stood my feet. I went to my bed and lay quietly with the light from the hallway casting shadows into my room until the night and exhaustion took me.
I now realize that my parents were doing what they believed they had to do, but I didn’t understand that then. All I knew was that for all the dust and tears spilled onto the thistle fringe, not a salty drop would move my parents, or God.
And here I was, helpless again.
The day my father left was a day I’ll never forget. It was a summer- I think early summer, although I’m not sure. The lilacs were blooming in our front yard. I remember sitting on the lime green seat cushions of the front porch furniture. I stared at the lawn watching my father’s feet tread over the brown grass.
Sometimes there are no words to speak. I wanted to call out to my father. I wanted to go with him and start a new story where we could be together…but I didn’t have a plan. I just watched him walk away, feeling a larger wave crashing down on me with each step. Each step meant a new torrent, which was more foreign than the last. I wanted to fix things, but like a drowning man, as I felt control leave my grasp, I felt my hope dying. The waters grew heavier and still over my churning heart.
How does a child describe the feeling of watching his father walk towards a car that carried him home through the streets of our small Wisconsin town that will now carry him as far away from us as he can go? As an eleven-year-old boy, there were no words.
My dad was offered a janitorial job in Florida cleaning strip malls and outlet stores that went belly up. My uncle owned the company and offered the position to my dad so that he could make some extra money.
After the divorce, life carried on for a while. My father rented a basement apartment from on older woman named Zella. My brother and I would visit and make eggs and hash browns on a hot plate and watch Wayne’s World. I realized life became harder, I suppose it had been for a while but I had tried to block it out.
My father was a minister before my parents divorced. He had an affair with a woman in the ministry and this played a big role in my parents’ decision to divorce. But there was something bigger going on with my father. Life can feel like it closes in on you and I think he felt trapped by his job, his family, his life, and the girlfriend was an escape. For whatever reason it had started, he planned on keeping the relationship going. He planned on making a new life.
I don’t think my dad intended to transmit messages of abandonment to us, but my brother and I began to feel like we were the details he’d rather forget.
He shut his trunk and got in the drivers side door and started to drive. I remember watching the little car and feeling a shock wave role up my spine when it disappeared behind the bushes that lined our driveway. Until that point I had had some semblance of control. Then, in a moment, it left me, completely and without warning. Running to the porch railing, I clung to one of the large wooden pillars, and hoisted myself up in just enough time to see his car turn the corner and move beyond an obstacle I couldn’t climb above. The house that stood on the corner blocking my view became the first of what felt like innumerable obstacles standing between my dad and me.
My father seemed, as all fathers do to their children, beyond the scope of knowledge and greater than the breadth of power. He was more mysterious than time and less close to me than either of us would like.
I remember this moment being one of the few times in my life when I knew I wanted my dad…and it was the last of my childhood. I had lost him. He was gone. I had no more porches to climb.