Friday, July 04, 2008

It's Everyone Can Bite Me Friday!

Today is the anniversary of the day my French mother married my American father. They not only married on the 4th of July but had their honeymoon in Niagara Falls. Welcome to America.

Dad must have thought this would be a good introduction to Mom's new life. Of course she didn't know the part about him being frugal and intimidating, not to mention taciturn for most of our lives. My mother tried to leave him when she discovered she was pregnant with me and only got as far as the front door with her cloth suitcase before he caught her.

"Where do you think you're going?"
"Back to France."
"How are you going to get there?"

Silence.

"It takes money to travel; do you have any money?"
"No."

As I am fond of saying, end of chat.

My mother told me that story a long, long time ago. Then many years later I brought it up and she denied it. Then many more years later she said it was true. My Mom is one of those people who puts a happy face on a train wreck. But if you don't acknowledge your pain you can't get past it. It has to come out somewhere, all that misery. She didn't have a happy life as a child, living under Nazi Occupation for four years. Her mother favored her younger sister and the family lost three more children to diphtheria. It was my mother who found her 4 year old sister dead in the bed with her. My mother was 5. How do you paint a smile on that?

So Mom married my father because her mother made her leave the guy she was seeing. That man came from a wealthy family and my grandmother said he would never marry my mother because they were poor. She told her to marry my rich American father. Only he wasn't rich but Mom didn't discover that until she arrived in the United States.

My parents never talked about splitting up. They never exchanged one hostile word between them. I remember my father raising his voice to my mother once and then never again.

Then one year my Dad ran into an old high school friend at a reunion while my Mom, sister and I were in Paris for the summer. He asked my mother for a divorce and married wife #3.

And eventually that wealthy French boy married my mother, in the late 1980's. My stepfather told me the first time he heard my mother had moved to the U.S. he had to be restrained by his friends from throwing himself in front of an oncoming metro.

I've always felt enormous sadness for my parents. Neither was happy yet neither had the courage to leave. Which is worse? To stay miserable or to start your life over not knowing what lies ahead? And the even bigger question for me was why does the Universe keep two people apart for 40 years, only to have them find each other again? They never lost touch over the 40 year span. Never. I wouldn't have been born if not for their separation. Sometimes I wonder if my life trumped their great love. It would explain a lot about how my mother treats me.

Recently a friend of mine, also a child of divorce, said that he didn't believe in it. He's married with one child and believes a couple should try and stick it out for the children. I didn't agree. The entire time my parents were married, my sister and I knew they weren't happy. I wrote my friend saying it was far worse for children to see covert unhappiness. That it would take its toll on them because it took its toll on us. Neither my sister nor I married. The bottom line is that children know when something isn't right. And it will mess them up far more than a divorce.

So the moral of this story is never marry on an important holiday because your children will always remember it, especially in the case of divorce. Even in death my father's memory looms. And I no longer speak to my mother. But on this day every year I think of them both and what was, and what might have been.

End of chat.

18 comments:

  1. Now THAT was a story worthy of a Lifetime television movie! Just going to show that fact is stranger than fiction. Thanks for this. :-)

    Though I will never forgive you for making me look up the word "taciturn" on a public holiday. :-(

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  2. surcie2:02 PM

    Having a tough life isn't a good enough excuse for being a lousy parent. But I like to believe that some people just don't know any better.

    I'm curious to know how long they were involved before they got married. Even today, it's amazing how little two people really know each other before they get hitched. You'd think we'd all have learned from our parents' and grandparents' broken relationships.

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  3. D2, you'll thank me when you get to pull it out in a convo and make everyone ask you what it means.

    Surcie, they knew each other 2 years. Although she was in France and he came back to the US to divorce his first wife.

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  4. That was beautifully written Suzy.

    My parents didn't divorce until I was 27.

    I agree with it taking a toll on the kids. For years I said I'd never marry or have kids. My dad once asked my why I was so cynical towards men. I laughed and asked him if he had met himself.

    I did get married at the age of 28. I married my best friend and he took me warts and all.
    I haven't changed my mind on the kid thing though.

    I may joke about replacing him but who else would put up with me? ;o)

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  5. That didn't have quite as much "Bite Me" as I'm used to. In fact, it was kind of thoughtful and bittersweet.

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  6. Beckie9:06 AM

    Shit you made me all teary eyed again!

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  7. Wow--that's a really good book, you know? you ever think about writing that? Has everything you need in it.
    Of course sad, and sorry for you.
    We share something in common--my parents' ill-fated marriage launched on July 4th. And ended exactly 25 years later, with fireworks like you can't imagine, ones that reverberated for years to come, left so much shrapnel in its wake that no one was the better for it either way. It was awful when they were together, and they made sure it was awful for many years afterward after they were separate.
    People can do really ugly things in the name of love, can't they? It sure did teach me there's a very fine line between love and hate.
    Bee--I loved that line "have you ever met yourself?" LOL

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  8. bee, I'm happy for you. I think.

    jenn, they can't ALL be bitchy. I think.

    beckie, they can't ALL be funny. I think.

    Ward Cleaver, actually it's in my first memoir, All The Bad Sex I've Had, a very, very, very long book.
    Only it hasn't been published because I've only sent out 3 queries instead of the 3000 you need to get an agent. I think.

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  9. Let me guess--that was on your recuperation to-do list, writing those other 2,997 queries? There's still time! I bet your memoir would be a fucking riot to read. Let me know when it sells and I'll be sure to get it--I LOVE to laugh

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  10. Hey Ward aka Ms Gardiner. Wasn't I going to do a shoe contest for you way back when? I have one in the hopper but maybe after that one?

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  11. Why Ms. S, I do believe you were! I'm game if you are!

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  12. Jenny, send me an email...

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  13. I did but check your spam filters b/c I sent you one earlier too. I'm getting chucked into those things again--grrrrr...

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  14. Sweetie, I think the REAL moral of the story is, don't go anywhere crappy on your honeymoon, n'est cafe?

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  15. Denise, I LOVE Niagara Falls. I used to play clubs there and in Buffalo a lot and I grew to love the falls. Besides, that's where I met the Mayor of Munchkin City!

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  16. My parents went to Niagara Falls also on their honeymoon. They stayed together almost 30 miserable years! I definately don't think you should stay together if you are truly unhappy. The kids will know, and unhappiness can be contagious.
    That is a sad story about your moms childhood. My mom doesn't remember her childhood, or my adoption or anything important from the past, except that I was a lazy horrible bitchy teenager.

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  17. gm, we were twins.

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  18. That was beautifully written, Suzy. I keep thinking a lot about what might have been these days.

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