And what a year that was.
It started out innocently enough, I suppose, or at least it had every intention of doing so, but a series of unfortunate events spiraled out of control.
I was to be married this year, and was fraught with excitement and nervousness about it. We had set the date for October 25, as fall is my favorite time of year, with all the leaves changing to jewel tones in the trees, the air becoming crisp and cool.
Then, it was discovered that my father had been having an affair with a co-worker. Not again, I thought to myself as was told. I’ll never forget that night, much to my desire to do so.
I was working until 11pm, as I usually did, and as I was driving the highway home, I was met by an approaching vehicle, and when we passed, their brake lights glared on and stopped in the middle of road, then the white reverse lights came on, and the truck began driving backwards towards me. I recognized the truck as my parents, so I hit my own brakes and stopped in the road, being mindful of other cars that might be approaching, and my mind going through scenarios as to why I had just met one of them on the road. My mother should be working the night shift, and my father was usually in bed when I got home.
I rolled down my window and was greeted by my mother. Her eyes were red, her mascara streaked down her red cheeks, and her voice was wavering as she began speaking to me.
“Your father has something to tell you when you get home,” she managed to get out through her tears.
I could feel the boulder of dread building in the pit of my stomach, and I feebly responded with an “okay.”
She then drove off back to work, and I to our home.
I pulled into the circular gravel driveway, parked my car under the Russian olive tree as I usually did, and sat in my car for a few minutes, trying to think of any excuse not to go inside. Something told me I wouldn’t like what I was about to be told. Reluctantly, I opened my car door and made my way into the house.
My father had rigged the living room lights up to a dimmer switch years before, so the light was on, but just barely illuminated the room. The radio was on to his usual New Age station, and he was sitting in the recliner by the large picture window, rocking slowly back and forth.
“Hi. Sit down, please,” he said to me as I came into the room.
I sat down at the edge of the couch and waited for him to tell me what I didn’t want to hear.
“I’ve been having an affair. Your mother just found out.” He was emotionless, as these words came out of his mouth.
I sat in the semi-darkness in silence. Anger turned to rage which turned to hatred. I could feel tears wanting to make their way down my own cheeks, but I bit my tongue in an effort to stop them.
“Do you have anything you want to say to me?” asked my father, still rocking slowly. I wanted to jump off the couch and punch his smug face. I resisted that urge, as well.
And with that, I got up off the couch and went into my bedroom and shut the door. I don’t really recall what I did after that. I’m sure I cried then, out of sight of my father, letting the tears soak into my pillow case and lull me into sleep, but I don’t remember. All I know really remember about that time was the absolute and utter disgust I felt for the man. I didn’t care if I never had to see him again. How dare he do this to our family after what we had just been through two years prior when my mother confessed to her own affair?
He was the first man to break my heart, to let me down so horribly. Everyone knows a bond between a father and daughter is a special one. She bases her looking for a mate on the qualities her father possesses, and to have done this with this lying, cheating, despicable man made me sick to my stomach.
I remember not talking to my father, and avoiding contact altogether. I was grateful to work the late shift at work, as that meant I didn’t have to see him. On my days off, I would travel to see my fiance, further avoiding my father. My plan worked for about a week, then my ninety-two-year-old grandmother was discovered on the floor of her apartment, having suffered a massive and debilitating stroke. She was rushed to the hospital and in the intensive care unit. Again, details are foggy, but I must have been with Jason at the time, because he was with me when I went to see her in the hospital.
I remember walking down the hallway to her room and hearing the voices of my father, Uncle Dean, and mom and as I parted the curtain to enter her room, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. She was writhing in her hospital bed, moaning, her mouth gaping open and her thin bony hands were grasping at the metal bars on the side of the bed. She always had perfectly coiffed hair that she kept neatly in a perm and dyed the same shade it was when she was a young woman, but now, her hair was a matted mess on her head and she hadn’t been to the beauty shop in a while because I could see her white roots growing out.
I remember gasping audibly when I saw her, shocked at what I saw before me. My father had been sitting on the ledge of the window and I saw my Mom lean over to him and tell him to go to me. Keep in mind this was the first time I had seen my father in over a week. He stood up and walked over to me and wrapped his arms around me in an embrace. I started crying into his broad shoulders, but I don’t know if it was because of the state of my grandmother, or because I was so relieved to see him.
My grandma’s stroke was devastating to her. She lost her ability to speak and use her right side, so when she was stable enough, she was released to a nursing home, never to return to her apartment again. These events got me thinking about how long she would be with us and the impending wedding in October. I wanted my whole family there with us, but with Grandma’s condition, there was no way she could make the trip to the wedding, so Jason and I had a discussion and it was decided we were going to get married in March in the chapel in the nursing home where Grandma was. I still get considerable flack for this decision, as the ceremony was “critical personnel only,” meaning my parents, Jason’s parents and siblings. That’s it.
Jason and I had also discussed moving once we were married and had just leased an apartment in Lincoln the week before, so after our wedding on Saturday, we spent all day Sunday moving our things into the new place and were settled in by Monday.
A week later, I got a phone call from my Mom, and she was crying. Again. During the whole Grandma in the hospital fiasco, my parents had decided to give their marriage another shot and were going to work on things. This phone call, however, was to tell me that it was definitely over. Dad was still seeing the woman. Reenter my hatred for my father.
This time, avoiding him was much easier, since we were two hours away. Plus, I had the task of trying to find a job and to keep planning the reception for October, since we–well, I–wanted to still have a big party and fancy wedding dress and to have all of our family in attendance. So I dove head-first into those projects and did a fairly decent job of not talking to my dad. He would call, I’d be curt and hang up after a few minutes.
“We’re in love, Erin,” he said during one conversation. “I know you’re unhappy with this situation, but I hope you can take the both of us into your life soon.”
That phone call left me throwing our cell phone across our tiny apartment living room.
Gradually, I began to be less angry with my father, and allowed him to come visit us, but it had to be just him–SHE couldn’t come along.
Then, I had a “come to Jesus” talk with my brother. He basically told me I was being absolutely ridiculous for treating our father like shit, and I need to get over myself and deal with what happened. So, out of utter fear of what my brother would do to me, I did–begrudgingly at first, but it became easier as I got to know Nancy better, and I am eternally grateful I did come to my senses, as we lost Nancy to cancer two years ago.
So, 2003 is a bittersweet year for me. Love gained and love lost. Thinking my marriage would defy the odds, and I sit here, a divorced woman. My father is broken hearted over the loss of his wife. My mom hates to admit it, but I think she still misses my dad. I still miss Jason, the fucking prick he can be. In the end, as fucked up as life may be sometimes, all the bullshit we have to wade through is all worth it in the end, or at least I hope it is.
Verdict is still out on that one.