5. New Man

New Man

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:25‬ ‭

Two weeks became one month. One month became three months. Three months became six months. Austin and I were losing hope. We would see dad every now and then, but it was inconsistent. His frustration metastasized as mom gave him more and more hoops to jump through. She unconsciously held him at a distance by moving the goalpost, still gripped by fear wrapping around her neck.

Though the burden of responsibility still rested on both sides to take ownership of their contributions, the sin on dad’s side of the scale undoubtedly outweighed mom’s. He was supposed to embody sacrifice not selfishness, truthfulness not deceit, courage not cowardice. Men must fight to preserve heaven in their homes, not open the gates of hell. He forsook his God-given responsibility to love her like Christ loved the church. Rather than die for her like Jesus, he betrayed her like Judas.

Although dad’s transgressions were unquestionably condemnable, mom also failed as a wife. She imported her unhealthy submission learned from Thayer into their relationship. She depended on him for her self worth, and in doing so, couldn’t stand up for herself or be a worthy companion. Though she certainly was the victim from this assault, a stronger, more attentive woman would have been able to confront him throughout the years, set boundaries during his mishaps or boldly stood in opposition if there was no other option. Shirley did this to Jack. By God’s grace it worked.

Unlike Jack though, dad would have nothing to do with the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings he was forced to attend. He unwillingly endured many sessions. People assured my mother that he would change when he hit rock bottom, but rock bottom can be an edgeless cliff. The upswing may never happen. A fooled investor might buy lower and lower dips of a failing company’s stock thinking the worst is over. A dwindling portfolio can turn to zero. True rock bottom may end in death. Change doesn’t happen until you want it. He clearly didn’t want it.

After many months of floating limbo, our final sliver of hope fluttered off in the wind.

“I’m so fed up with your mom,” complained dad one evening in his car, as he drove us back to mom’s house. “She’s been stringing me along for over a year. I’ve gone to counseling, AA meetings, tried to be kind to her, and no matter what I do, she’ll never let me back. It’s hopeless.” He paused to let out a breath. We said nothing. After inhaling again, he continued. “The ball has been in her court for too long. I can’t take it anymore. She may as well divorce me but she hasn’t signed the papers.” He glanced at me in the rearview mirror. My dull, dry eyes met his briefly before he looked to Austin in the front seat. “So I just did what she’s unwilling to do.” He turned to face the road. “I went to court earlier last week and signed the divorce papers.” Austin and I remained silent for the whole car ride home. Though we knew their marriage already died, hearing the pronouncement after dad officially pulled the life support crushed our what remained of our dwindling spirits.

A cloud hovered over me. My forehead tingled. My posture slouched. I hated mom for forcing dad into this situation.

When mom spoke about what happened, she had her own version of the truth. “Your dad signed the divorce papers, so there’s nothing left I can do. I’m sorry he gave up, I did everything I could.” Caught in the middle between two bitter adults, we didn’t know what to think. Neither of them took ownership, nor informed us straightforwardly of the situation. They couldn’t bear to be in the presence of one another and get to the root of the issue, nor did they have the courage to temporarily band together in order to provide honest answers to the both of us lost between two repelling magnets.

With my parents unwilling to reconcile, severe financial stress continued to weigh mom down. She frantically worked two jobs in order to keep a roof over our heads. When she came to the brink of losing the house, mom met a new man.

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