Split down the middle

I+remember+long+walks+in+the+chilly+fall+evenings+where+he+would+quiz+me+over+Beatles+trivia.+My+dad+is+the+reason+I+am+obsessed+with+that+band.+Those+memories+are+very+close+to+me.

Salma Ali

“I remember long walks in the chilly fall evenings where he would quiz me over Beatles trivia. My dad is the reason I am obsessed with that band. Those memories are very close to me.”

Their arguing was unavoidable. Word after horrible word punctured my skull like a stake. From the sidelines I could see my parents’ relationship deteriorate. But I was so small. I didn’t have the mental capacity to understand what would happen soon.
When I was 8, my backyard was my safe haven. I played in the dirt with the rolly pollies. I gobbled up book after book about penguins. One day, I turned to show my dad a picture of an Emperor chick. But he was gone.

“Mom, where’s dad?”

She looked away. I could tell her eyes were wet.

“He’s no longer living with us, sweetie,” my mom whispered.

I couldn’t possibly understand.

• • •

My parents divorced when I was in second grade. That’s what I tell people when they get to know me. It doesn’t hurt to say. It’s not “too soon.” But I’d be lying if I said the divorce doesn’t affect me today.

I visited my dad every other weekend. In the beginning, it was confusing. Why did I have to leave Mom to be with Dad? Denton felt too far from Flower Mound. I threw tantrums, begging my dad to “take me home.” Looking back, I’m sure that shattered him.

Eventually, the visits became easier. I looked forward to seeing my dad. Where he lives, in the more rural area of Denton, the autumns and springs are gorgeous. I remember long walks in the chilly fall evenings where he would quiz me over Beatles trivia. My dad is the reason I am obsessed with that band. Those memories are very close to me.

But like all children, my teenage years were right around the corner.

My social life became more important to me, and going to Denton often got in the way of seeing friends. Not to mention, as a high schooler, my homework load felt backbreaking. Commuting from one house to another and attempting to balance everything in my schedule was exhausting.

My parents’ split never stopped plaguing me.

• • •

To this day, I envy unbroken families. Their home life seems so simple, so healthy. They appear unscathed by the brutality that is divorce.

The trauma engulfs everyone, most of all the children. Sometimes I feel like a piece of meat that two feral dogs fight over, torn to shreds. It’s almost as if I have two personalities, one I wear for Mom, and one for Dad.

There are still moments of grief, moments where I want to scream into the night sky, release all of my anguish to the stars. But then I remember my mom’s protective hugs. I remember my dad grinning and his I-found-buried-treasure eyes when he listens to the Beatles’ “Nowhere Man” for the millionth time. I hear my mother’s strength and I hear my father’s spirit. And it keeps me going.

• • •

Life hurls challenges at you wherever you are, however old you are. My parent’s divorce will always be a part of me. But I do not have to let it define me.