A few years ago I learned my father was cheating on my mom. I was sleeping in my parents' room, and my younger siblings and I had just come home from school. Because my parents' room is the most comfortable, I decided to nap there.
I was already in a deep sleep when my mother came into the room. She was back from work. Not long after my father came home, too.
Till this day I can't recall the beginning of their argument, nor can I stop wondering how they did not notice I was there. Perhaps they simply didn't care at that point.
My mom told my father she was positive for some STD and accused him of cheating, because, god knows, throughout their 15 years of marriage she remained faithful.
My father told my mom he loved another woman and wished to be with her. My mom told him to go if he wanted, but she would want a divorce. My father disagreed saying he didn't want his family to break up.
At that point I had the urge to yell, but I pretended sleep. How dare my father say that. He was never there. He wasn't there at sports day when I won a prize, he wasn't there for my ballet recital and he wasn't there when I received a prize for placing first in my year group.
My mom was always there, and if she wasn't, she had a damn good reason. She cooked, cleaned, worked, played with us and tucked us in at night. But as great a mother as she was, it could never fill the gap of not having my father there.
That moment was also when I found out my mother was pregnant. I was as shocked as my father was when she told him. I can't recall what happened after that. I think I just blacked out or walked out of the room. It was too much for a 12-year-old.
Later my mom asked my dad to leave. In his hotel room my father explained he did something bad to my mother and regretted it. But as much as we asked, he wouldn't say what it was. I thought my father was a coward then because he couldn't even tell the truth.
It's been a couple of years now. My parents decided to try to mend their marriage, but the whole situation is one big fat elephant in the room. Sometimes I have the urge to yell at my father when he scolds me over some minor matter.
When people ask do I want to get married, I always say no. They ask why and I say because I don't want to. But I know the real reason. I'm scared. I never want to experience what my mom did.
Sometimes I just want to snap.
Peggy, you long resented your father's absences and his cheating gave you something to hang that resentment on. You don't say it, but you must wonder if he skipped your events because he was with another woman.
It must be maddening to be corrected by your father over minor matters when you know his major failing. Still, that doesn't give you the freedom to do whatever you like. What he did doesn't erase his role in your life.
The problem is you don't respect him. But you cannot wallow in it. Then your whole life will be determined by an argument you overheard.
Consider this knowledge to be an advantage. You now know you can't put any two people together and have a happy marriage. There has to be the highest form of love between them. There must be a perfect fit.
We don't get to choose the people we are born to, nor the social and economic class we are born in. What we can choose is how to make the best of it.
~ Wayne & Tamara
Column for the week of September 15, 2014
Send letters to: [email protected] , or Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield MO 65801.