As a mother of children whose dad walked out on all of us I over-related to the characters in the film “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”. You might be wondering what I related to. Well, my friends and I often joke about which is better, ‘dead or divorced’? This refers to the sudden disappearance of a family member. (Yes, we can indulge in very dark humor at times.) My friends who have had their spouses die and my divorced friends all have agreed that if the divorce is because of a complete ‘walk out’ then dead is better. Either way the parent has ‘disappeared’ and the pain of that loss usually takes a lifetime to deal with for the affected kids.
If the parent dies the kids can remember the good things, fantasize about the ‘perfect’ parent, believe they were loved. If the parent walks out the kids can remember the rejection, fantasize about the enormous ass of a parent, believe they did not matter much. Which would you choose for your child?
Of course, none of those things, under either scenario, may be true. But these scenarios are where the pain of loss resulting from a disappearing parent often lead. Unless, of course, you are the unfortunate parent who simply gets the wrath of all the child anger and the death or divorce is declared to be “your fault”. In which case you might wish you were dead or could walk out.
You might say, “What about ‘people change’ and ‘time heals’?”. Well, people don’t change in real life as much as they do in the movies. And although it’s been known to happen I’d rather the giant monkey wrenches of pain that periodically get thrown in front of my children stop. Then I could stop attempting to clean up the ever-increasing pile of debris left from the damage of those monkey wrenches while we await supposed impending ‘CHANGE’. Time may heal but the number of scars left can certainly cause a disfigurement.
Oh! And then there is the ever-so-helpful “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Admittedly, we hang our hats on this one when things look particularly dire. But who really needs to be that strong? I’m thinking we are all OK with the above average, run-of-the-mill strength that keeps us independent and fighting. I really don’t need to rule the world. Let’s save that kind of strength for the person who wants to rule the world. Please?
But we don’t get to choose ‘dead or divorced’. We don’t even get to choose to have neither. We get what we get. And then we watch a movie to remind us that either way the pain of loss that we try so hard to protect our children from is just not avoidable. If we support each other and clean up the debris along the way we all get a little bit stronger.
I’m still voting for dead.