Dear Michael and Caroline,
As it happened, we were mistaken in that belief. My parents stayed together for another 20 years or so. By the time they actually did divorce, Linda and I had long since gone out to live on our own, me in New York City, she in Los Angeles. I was even already married myself.
And when the divorce finally came, all I could really think – heartless as it might sound – was that it was about time. That divorce was long overdue.
It pains me to acknowledge that, but it’s true, as they themselves would probably have acknowledged. It just seemed to me, based on living with my parents for 20 years and knowing what I knew about how they got along, that they never really did each other much good.
Maybe early on, in the first flush of marriage, they had, feeling a love deep and real. And maybe even later on, they enjoyed being together, raising Linda and I together, getting through life together. But I never had such an impression.
They always seemed – often, anyway – so much at odds. They argued over the kitchen table, both with us there and without us there, my mother usually the aggressor, seething and hissing and probably accusatory, my father passive, taking it, pleading for understanding. I can only guess at the issues disputed – grandparents, children, money, maybe my father away working so much. My mother raised her voice, too, my father never. My mother would pound the table. Now, maybe all this seemed so only because as a child, I was naturally alert to signs of trouble.
Maybe I missed the signs of stability and trust and loyalty.
But I doubt it. My mother always had her agenda and my father had his, and at no point did they seem to have an agenda for the four of us, for the whole family. Neither seemed – and again I’m going only by the signs I saw – willing to put the other first, to compromise, to consider the greater good. Neither really seemed to want the responsibilities of marriage, much less of parenthood.
When you get right down to it, it’s as if even while married for those 32 years, they were already divorced.