Sunday, January 07, 2007


Yesterday, January 6th is known to many as Epiphany.

Twenty-four years ago yesterday is a day I always remember as the day that my father left my mother.

Well, not "always remember," because yesterday, I didn't...

I forgot to remember.

I remember January 6, 1983 extremely well. For years, my parents fought - - loud, screaming fights - - but only in private, never in public.

My father, mother, brother and I were the model family at PTA meetings, at the Little League baseball field, at my chorus concerts and at family functions, but as soon as the garage door closed, my parents fought.

And there was never really any rhyme or reason to it.

My mother was severly manic-depressive and no one ever knew what her mood would be from minute to minute. And my father, whose parents never raised their voices to each other throughout their entire married lives together, would let the rage of being yelled at build up so much that when he unleashed it, anything was possible. Anything.

I learned to function in unexpected chaos.

But when I came downstairs for breakfast on Janaury 6, 1983, it was quiet.

Dead quiet.

After years of living in the middle of a screaming, yelling war zone, the sudden quiet terrified me.

As my father drove me to school, I remember telling him to be careful - - that something was going to happen. And later, when I saw a student from the principle's office walk into my music class with a note, I immediately knew the note was for me - - to excuse me from school for the rest of the day.

I knew my father had left my mother.

My father checked my brother and I out of school and took us to a hotel on Papermill Road - - the Holiday Inn. I remember watching HART TO HART and enjoying the adventure of staying with him in that hotel. I felt so incredibly guilty for enjoying that night when I saw my mother the next day.

You see, after my father dropped me off at school that January 6th, he returned to our house and once again, he fought with my mother. The fight escalated. My mother swallowed a bottle of pills and slit her wrists with a knife, kneeling in front of him in the middle of our kitchen. It was her final desperate act to keep him with her in that house.

He walked out and picked up my brother and I from school.

He didn't tell us what had happened and I don't remember even asking. All I knew and all I cared about that night, January 6, 1983, was that it was over - - all the fighting and screaming and yelling and anger and hurt and me wishing and praying to God that the ground would swallow me whole so I wouldn't have to be in the middle of my mother and father's hatred for each other.

I didn't know then that divorce isn't something that ever stops affecting a family. I am eternally grateful for my parents' divorce, but it affects me every day of my life - - my relationships, my friendships, even celebrating the holidays with my family is still problematic because of how I cope with my family splitting in two.

For years after that day - - even after I moved to Chicago - - my father would call me up on January 6th and say, "Do you know what today is?"

He never needed to remind me. I always remembered. And it is extremely fitting to me that the day my father decided to leave my mother is known as Epiphany.

In Western churches, Epiphany celebrates the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by so doing "reveal" Jesus to the world as Lord and King.

The date of January 6 was selected because, according to some ancient reckoning, the day began to grow longer on that date and so it was celebrated by pagans as the day of victory of light over darkness.

Light over darkness. The perfect way to describe the end of my living in the middle of my parents' explosive hatred for each other.

And also the perfect way to describe yesterday.

Because for the first January 6th in twenty-four years, I didn't remember to grieve for the death of my parents' marriage.

Maybe that means I'm growing up. Maybe that means I'm moving on. Maybe that means I've let go.

Whatever it means, I'm so happy that I forgot.


Alanda said...

Wow. I don't think you ever shared the full details of 1/6 with me before. I'm glad to know them. And I am so sorry that you had to experience such anger and sadness in your life. I love you.

Stephen said...

Alanda - Thank you so much. I love you.