Knock knock. Who’s there? Oh, shit! Oh shit who?
My parents never divorced, though I sometimes wished they would.
We were not a close-knit clan, especially after I hit my teenage years. Mom and Dad didn’t seem to like each other much by then, and being an ungrateful little shit I found them an impediment to self-exploration, so I spent a lot of time away from home, either living in my head or completely out of it.
Some of my friends’ parents had split up, and their lives seemed very different from mine. Sometimes it was the dad who had left, and sometimes the mom, but no matter which player had left the game there was always a hole in the disciplinary line you could drive a Mack truck through. A one-parent household infested by teenagers can give you a few hints about how anarchy might play out in the real world.
And if mom or dad remarried? Sometimes that could get even wilder, because when conventional weapons failed the kid could always drop The Big One: “You’re not my [insert absent birth parent here]!” That would always throw a 20-megaton monkey wrench into the social order and open up a little maneuvering room, though it also left Ground Zero slightly radioactive for a good long while, if not forever.
Fast-forward a few years and it was my friends who were getting divorced, sometimes more than once. Heartbreak, vitriol and vengeance; wash, rinse and repeat. Families shattered and scattered to the four winds as I observed from a different perspective, but still a safe if not exactly comfortable distance.
Now here we are on the brink of a national breakup, and I think I’m finally starting to get a personal feel for the experience.
Dad seemed OK, an eat-your-spinach type and a bit of a geek, to be sure, plus a little too shameless about thumbing through your journal to see what you were really up to while you were pretending to be a good citizen. Still, he was smart, and he tried to be cool, and sometimes he even succeeded.
But one day he’s gone and this other dude is sitting in his chair.
You have brothers and sisters, and some are saying how they’re glad Old Dad is gone and how New Dad is a real wild man, works in TV or real estate or something, and anyway he has a lot of money and we’re all gonna get some. And some others are saying, no, fuck this guy, he talks a line of shit but that’s all it is, and have you noticed he never really seems to go to an office or anything? Plus his kids are all dicks and his friends are all creeps, and we don’t like the way he looks at our littlest sister.
For sure he thinks he’s tough, tough enough to shove your brothers around, anyway, especially the adopted one. And you know one day soon he’s gonna have a go at you, too, and he looks soft, but he’s still pretty big and it’s been a long time since you got into a fight.
And as you look around the table, waiting for the deal to finally go down, that’s when you realize that some of your brothers and sisters are OK, some are assholes, and the rest don’t give a shit who Dad is or what he does as long as they don’t miss the next episode of “Game of Thrones.”