Before we jump into it, I want to say upfront that this is certainly the abbreviated version for the blog. I intend to detail as much information as possible until I can’t think of anymore memories to add. I am initially publishing this 3 years after his death on the day.
I plan to detail the beginning until the split in a future update. Let’s start from my most vivid memories.
From the Split at 8 in 1986
I come from a very low-middle class family. My mom worked as a traveling sales lady and my dad was a carpenter at Electric Boat in Groton, CT. My dad left the house when I was 8 years old. Not on his own accord though. My mom wanted the divorce and that was that. She wasn’t going to work it out or anything of the sort, and there is nothing to blame here as life changes for all of us. She married my dad at age 15 and they made it 11 years. Still, I will never forget the night that my dad told me what was about to happen and it didn’t hit me until years later.
He asked me to come downstairs to the basement where his workbench was. He sat me on top of the stool and looked at me and started crying. I never saw him cry like that in my life, not even after 2 separate diagnosis of cancer (1 that he beat). He wanted me to understand what was happening. What did I know? I was all of 8, and he said, “Adam, I have to go. Your mom and I are separating”.
Still crying, I told him it will be okay and I hugged him not realizing the levity of it all. I don’t recall if I had cried or not. I already knew this was happening because I overheard conversations throughout the weeks and my mom had meet someone else while working on the road. I have no idea if it was romantic or even if it was the cause of their divorce. I just remember his next in the sequence of memories. His name was Tom, from Cape Cod and he had money…at least I assume he did based on where he lived. I am not sure if this was the catalyst of my emotional decay, but rarely have I ever cried since. Things just didn’t bother me much as I learned what life was about by looking at my friends and their families.
I used humor to cover these scars as often as possible. This technique earned me the title of class clown in 8th grade, and propelled me to go on winning class clown during my senior year of high school. I suppose you can gauge how big the scars were/are by my wins. Then again, I love being the center of attention.
I should point out that I am not mad at my mom nor does anyone deserve any negative light. As an adult I understand how hard some of these decisions are to make. I have made my own as well along the way. I am just trying to tell the story focusing on my memories with my dad.
After the split, my dad stayed with friends and family because the judge ordered him to send the majority of his weekly paycheck to my mom for child support. I don’t know what the set amount was or anything, just that he couldn’t live alone on it. I can remember him staying in at least 3 separate houses while growing up. Divorce in New England is not cheap and dividing up the earnings only made lower middle class harder.
Every time he got a $.10 raise, my mom would take him back to court for half of it as it normally happens. This is typical of the majority of divorces and it’s a racket in the family court system. I am lucky that I have not spent much time in family court like they both did. My father got by and so did mom. She did her best raising the three of us and I appreciate the end results.
Work Romance Gone Right
Visitation with my dad was every other weekend by court order. I was always excited to see him and I knew that we would go to Taco Bell at least once during the visit because he could feed us for $3 back in the late 80’s. I can remember his shitty little silver Toyota station wagon that had a couple hundred thousand miles on it. We would eventually be shuttled from Jewett City, CT to 45 minutes away in Charlestown, RI. He had started dating a woman he worked with when I was about 10 and she helped him become stable. This left a large impact on me all the way to today.
They were together for 25 years and getting used to Laurie didn’t take too long, but I was older too. At the 20 year mark they got married and she officially was my stepmom, but she is dear to me and I love her as a mom. We still talk to this very day and I miss her very much. We haven’t see each other since 2012, but hopefully that will change sooner than later.
Money Is Tight
There were times that my dad struggled to pay the full child support each week because of no over-time, rent, or something that came up. He was legit though and gave up so much to make sure he came and got us. I can also remember the times that he couldn’t give my mom the full amount and she would use us against him, denying weekend visits. I was hurt by her actions, even to this very day I can vaguely remember the times I wasn’t going with him. To be fair, I should probably ask her of this to give her the chance to correct the record. I am still including it because this is what I remember.
There was a point where he didn’t have enough money to take the 3 of us all at the same time. We would see him each time he dropped one of us off and they would come and go, but I would only get a weekend with him every 6 weeks. We always went fishing because he loved it and it was free.
The time we spent apart jaded me a little more each time. Not against him, but that my mom had cast him away for another dude, then another one. These were my feelings then and I never really expressed them. I kept my mind occupied so I wouldn’t think about it. I had dudes in and out of my life from 8 years-old to 18. As a kid you just want your dad. That’s all I wanted.
Mom Always Worked Hard to Provide
My mother loved us all and I know that, and she made mistakes like we all do. I don’t want to take that away from her because she made choices that were right, difficult, and sometimes wrong. I remind myself often that I was born when she was only 17 years old. I didn’t get to choose who my parents were and even if I could, I wouldn’t.
My dad told me as I got older that he loved me every time we spoke or saw each other. I asked him why he did that and he responded that his father never said he loved him. All 78 years of my grandfather’s life came down to this one thing. A simple “I love you”.
When I became 16 years old I immediately got my driver’s license. I had an awful car (Chevy Colt) for a summer, but it died and I bought a Mazda B2000 pickup for $350. My dad met me halfway, inspected the vehicle, gave the thumbs up and I paid the man and drove it home.
From then on, there weren’t “every other weekends”, instead I routinely drove to his house whenever I wanted. My younger siblings still visited on the schedule and I would bring them there as well.
My dad loved fishing, making things out of wood, and having us around. We were his life, and I don’t mean that lightly. That man gave everything he had to us and made it a point to tell all three of us how much we meant to him. I am still finding out things I didn’t know during conversations with my step-mom. We are close still and continue the weekend talks. She hasn’t even changed the voicemail that my dad recorded. So sometimes I get the recording and I listen to it all the way through before hanging up. His voice is seared into my brain.
Joining This Thing Called the Air Force
My dad didn’t want to me to go into the Air Force, but he saw me off at the airport as I left to San Antonio for basic training anyways. Every re-enlistment he told me to get out and come home. He waited in Rhode Island for me all these years. We talked every weekend for 18 years with only a few misses. Sometimes, even more. Each time he told me that he loved me. I could write a book about him and how he defined me as a man, husband, and father.
I was coming back from Saudi Arabia in 2002 and during that flight back there had been a plane crash around Germany. My dad thought that I might have been on that and by the time I got home and checked voice mail, he had left this emotional message. He thought I was dead, but hoped that I was alive. I immediately called him and the relief could have been felt for miles it seemed. He was my BFF.
Things I Do Because of Him
I tell my kids every day, every phone call, and every chance that I love them. It’s not just words, it’s how I feel. I want to know that no matter the circumstances, that I love them unconditionally and my father was the greatest man that ever lived.
I haven’t been home in almost 4 years now. One day I am going to have to face his ashes, but not today. You will notice that some of these sections are short. My intention is to treat this as a public live post that I update as I remember the times we had and why I remember him so well. It’s also hard to write this in one sitting because of the sweater I wear that is made from onions.
Here is a gallery of me, my siblings, family and my dad. We were all affected differently and his loss was felt by many.[foogallery id=”4247″]