I quietly watched their faces as the news sunk in. My mother kept blinking and Dad, well, he seems to be bracing for the explosion that I’m sure we both knew was coming.
“Divorced” my mother said quietly. “Divorced!” she said louder. “I can’t believe it. You can’t get divorced!”
“Mom, this is what Lisa wants. She’s in love with someone else and I just can’t…” I tried to explain.
“Can’t what? Fight for her!”
“Mom, I’ve been fighting for her! But she says I can’t give her the things she wants.”
“Like what?” Mother huffed.
“Like a bigger house, a fancier car, trips to Europe just to name a few” I said quietly.
“Well, you could if you only applied yourself more at work.” Mom retorted.
I sighed. It was the same old argument. “Mom, I’m sorry. I know you loved Lisa but the decision’s been made. She already filed and I’ve received the papers.”
“No, no. You can fix this before it’s too late.” Mother was still not getting it.
“Mom, there is nothing to fix. It’s done.” I said in a tone I hoped she would get the hint but she didn’t.
“What about the kids?” Mother said tearfully.
“We haven’t worked that out yet.”
Mother got up from the table and starting pacing the kitchen. She paced for a few minutes as Dad and I sat in silence. She suddenly turned, her face filled with shock.
“What will your brother and sister say?”
They’ll probably say, oh Michael’s screwed up again, I thought in my head. I didn’t dare say it out loud. I saw something out of the corner of my eye that surprised me. I swear I saw Dad roll his eyes. Then it happened. The explosion. Mother started ranting and raving about God only knows because I knew I wasn’t listening. I started to hang my head with shame as her words come barreling down on me. But I stopped myself. I am 45 years old! I will not be lectured to like I’m 5!
“Mother!” I yell. Both Mother and Dad look at me in shocked. I took a deep breath and stood up. “I know you are disappointed but I know this is best for everyone. If I’m truly honest with myself, Lisa and I haven’t been very happy for a long time. We are both to blame and we recognize that we are not a good fit. I’m sorry that the children will grow up with divorced parents but I feel this is better for them too. Now, I have to get home. I need to pack my things before Lisa and the kids get home.”
I walked over to my speechless Mother and kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll call you in a few days.”
“I’ll…uh…walk you out, son.” Dad spoke as he got up from the table slowly.
We both left Mother standing like Lot’s wife in the kitchen as we left the house. Dad didn’t speak until we got to the car. He turned to me and said.
“I’m proud of you, son.”
“What?” I’m shocked.
“I know you haven’t been happy for a long time and I know Lisa was probably the main reason. Don’t worry about your mother, she’ll calm down.”
“If you need a place to stay….” The invitation hung in the air.
I smiled “No, thanks. I’m staying with a friend until all the details are ironed out.”
Dad nodded as if he knew why. Then he did something I never expected him to. He pulled me in for a big hug. The breath was being squeezed out of me. Dad finally let go and I took a deep breath.
“See ya soon, son.” Dad turned and walked back to the house without another word.
“Bye” I said weakly as I got into the car and drove away.
The drive back to the house was long. Each mile brought me closer and closer to the realization that it was over. I felt a tightness in my chest that I had to take a few breaths to ease. I pulled into the driveway and realized that I would miss most was the happy moments. And we did have them. The movie nights with the kids camping out on the floor with the sleeping bags and popcorn while Lisa and I cuddled on the couch. The dinners at the kitchen table where we laughed and joked about the events of the day.
I walked into the door and I got a surprise. Emily was sitting at the kitchen counter.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. “I thought you had an afternoon thing to do.”
“I did but it was canceled.” She said not really looking me in the eye. I knew it was a lie but I let it pass.
“Well, I’m going to…”
She just nodded as she blinked fast in order to keep the tears from falling.
I walked into my bedroom and made quick work of getting the last of my clothes out of the dresser and closet. I turned to carry a box downstairs when I saw Emily in the doorway.
“Do you need help?” she asked quietly.
“You don’t have to.”
I smiled softly. “Could you get the box on the bed?”
She smiled back as she picked up the box and we made our way out to the car. We walked down the hall and I was amazed on how different the house looked with the evidence of my presence had been removed. My chair was already at my friend’s house. My office had been cleared and Lisa had already set up her stuff. How easily someone could be erased.
As we loaded the car with as many boxes as I could, I stopped to look at my beautiful daughter. I hoped and prayed that she realized that she did nothing wrong.
“Dad, I know.” She said as if she read my mind. She laughed as the look of shock on my face. “I have friends who have parents who are divorced. I’ve heard all the stories.”
I nodded. Of course. This is nothing new in our society today. “I wait until your mom gets home. I don’t want you home alone.”
“Dad, I’m twelve years old. I’ve been home alone before. Besides, Mrs. J is home, if I need anything.”
I nod slowly. I often forget how grown up she is. I kiss her forehead and tell her to get inside and lock the door. I get into the car and wait until I see the door close before pulling out, leaving the home I tried to build behind.