My Dad is getting remarried. Not because he and my Mom got a divorce, but because she died last November. Those of you who can do math understand that this significantly less than a year later.
I don’t begrudge him happiness. He and my Mom were together nearly forty years and I realize he must be hurting incredibly. I even like the woman he is planning to marry. I simply think it is too soon for him to be thinking of marriage just yet. As do most of his friends and church family which includes our Pastors and both my brother and sister. He doesn’t heed these warnings or advice; he thinks instead that he is unique in all the world. No one has ever loved like this before! No one could possibly understand!
Rather than slowing down he instead accelerates. What was already a swift grieving period becomes a two month courtship with a woman fourteen years his junior who has no assets of her own to a man who owns his own house, two cars and a motorcycle. A man with so much to lose simply won’t hear of a prenuptial agreement ‘because that is planning to fail’ and any who would caution him as insulting his honor and that of his betrothed. ‘How dare anyone cast aspersions on the state of his unicorn!?!’ he demands with a sudden case of Spanish Honor.
And yet the questions continue to pile up…
He said back when he first suggested dating that he wanted someone to have dinner with and watch movies with; looking into several of the women at church he rejected them as being unhealthy. This woman has Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc. He doesn’t see a conflict between his current desire and what he said before.
He used to be a neat freak, constantly washing and wiping down the floors of the kitchen whenever even the slightest bit of water hit it. Our floors were so clean that people used to say they could be eaten off of. These days there is dog hair everywhere. The man who detests cats and whose three children are allergic to them will have three of them. Her two dogs aren’t enough; they fully intend to adopt more dogs soon.
Some of these changes (and there are more) are understandable, but many are not and represent a radical change in his personality.
I find myself questioning if I ever knew my father. The man I thought I knew seems to have died with my Mother. Trauma changes people, I know that but to make them entirely new people?
Growing up I always looked at my Dad as having coming from “poor white trash” and escaping from its legacy. My Aunts and Uncles did the best they could and I loved them but they were broken unhappy people compared to my Dad. Now witnessing some of the changes I ponder if he ever really escaped his roots and was simply putting on a show for my Mother, trying to impress her? I don’t know any more. I don’t know this man and I see less of my Dad in him than ever.
About three weeks ago he asked me to stop coming around as much because he wanted to be able to spend more time with her. This was something I sympathized with intellectually. Of course a man in love wants to spend more time with the woman he loves! It just makes sense.
So I have done my best to heed his request. He is my Dad after all, never mind that I am an adult. Only since that day I have begun to feel less and less welcome in my childhood home, a place I was always told I had a standing invitation. It is a terrible feeling to feel unwelcome in the place you grew up.
When Dad first broached the subject of dating, I encouraged him to do so. It would do him good to have female companionship and to get out of the house. I always figured that whomever it was he ended up dating it would be someone who was added to the existing relationships between us children (my siblings and whatever children she would have) and their friends and our church family. I had always figured on addition; I never considered for a moment that there could be subtraction involved. I thought there would be more, not less.
I’m being pushed out, as are anyone who dared to try to slow down this train wreck. This man, an avid church goer has threatened to leave the church he relocated his entire life to if they don’t embrace the new him and her. I find myself wondering if in a year’s time he will still even live in this town or state? Or will he feel the need to remove himself and her from the presence of anyone who knew the other him?
When they went to visit my sister and introduce my sister to his future wife; upon return he had a few souvenirs of the trip. At the time I accepted them with joy at being remembered—now I wonder if they were parting gifts?
Who is this man, my father? Did I ever really know him? Did he ever like me or did he at best tolerate us children for the sake of our mother?
At work my co-workers were abuzz because the local paper had printed that he and her had applied for marriage licenses. Several of them insisted that the law required them to get married within thirty days of the application. That would be much earlier than the proposed wedding date they announced and with which my siblings and I were supposed to participate.
I drove over after work to ask him about it face to face because I am hard of hearing and communicate better in person. They were offended that I was upset. My Dad retorted that my co-workers were incorrect; the law was for sixty days after the application not thirty, which put the dates square where they had told us they were going to be married.
"Don’t I know my own father better than some lousy gossiping hens at my workplace," she wanted to know, "don’t you know we’d have told you if anything had fucking changed?"
I didn’t say it, but the truth was I didn’t any more. I don’t know who this man is that suddenly doesn’t want to be around me or his long-time church family any more. I don’t know this new person.
Instead I reminded her of how the dates were already changed without my having been informed once—when it went from a September wedding to an October wedding. (And this despite me supposedly being Best Man to my Father!) Then I said ‘Good bye’ and left them alone, like I had been asked to do.