“I’m sick alright but not like you’re thinkin’. My mother just told me that she and Dad are splittin’ the sheets.” Wow, what a shock. There were two girls in our high school sophomore class who only had a mother, but that was because the fathers had died. I didn’t know anyone whose parents had divorced.
“Man, that’s a bummer. How come?” Definitely one of those times when words failed me, ugh.
“Who knows? Parents are so dumb. Mom said they just don’t want to live together anymore. Mom’s already moved out, actually. She’s livin’ in a motel between here and her job.” I just couldn’t imagine it. What would my friend do? Would she have to move to a motel, too? Or would she keep livin’ with her dad?
“So, what’s that mean for you? Besides not havin’ your mom at home?” It was just so confusing; it wasn’t supposed to be like that.
“I don’t have to move to the motel because I am in school here but I have to spend two weekends a month with her. She will try to get the hospital to give her the weekends off when we don’t have a game. I don’t want to miss that just to hang out in a tiny motel room with my mom, ya know?” We were, now, both letting the tears fall without trying to wipe them.
“Is there anything I can do to help you somehow? Do you need anything? I’m so sorry. How can they do this to you?” Taking the tissues out of the box of Kleenex on the coffee table, we blew our noses in unison, giggling at the single sound it made.
“Naw, there’s nothin’ anyone can do; it’s already happened. She just told me so, maybe, I need to think about it a little. I don’t even know if my brother knows.”
“Okay, I’ll take off and let you think. Just call me if you want to talk or do anything, okay?” She agreed and I headed home. I didn’t encounter anyone on the few blocks walk home; or, at least, I don’t think I did. I was so focused on my friend’s misery. It was sad because both of the parents were nice people. I liked them equally, but my friend seemed to do better with her mother than her father, usually. What would this mean to her life? I know I was just glad that it wasn’t happening at my house to my parents.
Three days later I was walking that same route from Carol’s home. She was still pretty sad but trying to adjust to the changes. She had a lot more responsibility in the house now. As I walked into the kitchen, I heard words I just never in my life thought I would hear coming from my mother’s lips. I froze in place, listening to the exchange coming from another room.
“I tell you, if you do that, just don’t plan to come home.” My mother was so angry. She was shouting but my father answered in a voice so quiet I had to strain to hear what it was that he planned to do.
“Honey, there’s a war on. They have asked for volunteers. Officers are needed to command all the youngsters who are being drafted.” So that was it, Viet Nam. My patriotic father felt the call of duty and wanted to step up to the plate.
“You’ve done your duty in the Pacific already. You’ve got three teenage girls here in this house. You think I can do this alone? If you sign up, I’ll divorce you. I mean it.” Just the sound of the D-word coming from my mother caused a royal panic in my 15-year-old self and I fled the house, back to Carol’s-- the one friend I knew would understand how I was feeling.
“Bummer. Well, at least, you have two sisters who can help you around the house if your mom leaves. My brother is older but worthless in the kitchen, not to mention laundry or cleaning. It’s a lot of work.” I reached for the dish towel to dry the dishes Carol was stacking in the drainer.
“I really doubt that my mother will leave. If my dad goes to Viet Nam, I think my mom’ll just change the locks or something. I don’t think she’ll let him back in the house. She was so mad.”
“A lot of guys are dying over there. Maybe she is afraid he’ll get killed or something. He’s been away for the military before and she didn’t divorce him.” Hmmm, she’s got a point.
“You may be right. Guess the three of us are a real handful now and she’s thinkin’ if he doesn’t come back, it’d be a permanent job instead of a temporary one.”
“That’s what I think. She’s gonna leave him if he deploys because she already knows that she may need to do without him in the end. Like, getting used to it right away instead of later, ya think?”
“Could be.” I was jus sick. How could this be happening to me, too?
“Well, I say your father should just stay put but guys and war… who knows? Do you think he’ll sign up to go to Viet Nam?” Time would tell. I slowly made my way back home, wondering if my sisters had come back while I was at Carol’s. No one else had heard the exchange; I was anxious to see if my parents would say anything to us.
*Name has been changed.
****Teen Stresses: Divorce, Scene 2… Coming Tomorrow