Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The House is Rockin' (with Domestic Problems)

My parents divorced in late fall of '78 after my father came home drunk from a bar and then tried to shoot my mother when she wouldn't go to the bedroom with him.

Hours before, I'd watched him strutting around the house, getting ready to go out, putting on his cologne and his 70s suede "going out" jacket. This show didn't happen very often, but when it did, there was always some problem afterwards. I knew that the "suede jacket" and the "cologne" were bad news.

He came home a couple of hours later, while my mother and I were still up watching TV, demanding that my mother have sex with him. She said no. I got sent to my room. Peering out from down the hall, I saw him slap her around; at some point in their arguing, she grabbed the gold chain around his neck and tore it while falling to her knees. At that point, pissed off that his gold chain was torn, he went to the hall closet for his gun. She ran out the back door. He ran out after her. I closed my bedroom door and huddled by it, my ear pressed against it to find out what was happening.

I don't know how long I waited like that, but at some point I heard my father come back into the house. Luckily, he went straight to his bed and fell into a drunken stupor. Once I heard him snore, I crept out and went to make sure he was asleep, then went outside to look for my mother. I have a fuzzy memory of seeing her huddled in the garage and her gesturing to me to go back inside, but I'm not sure about this. At any rate, I eventually went to sleep. The next day, my father was not in the house. A day or so later, my mother told me that they were divorcing.

All of this a preface to '79, after the divorce, when my father was living in a one-bedroom apartment in Fort Worth, and my 13-year-old self and my 7-year-old brother were forced to visit him on weekends for several months before my military dad got himself transferred out of town. My brother missed his dad and didn't at all mind visiting, but I hated it. Not just hated my father, but also the whole crappy apartment and being forced to spend time with someone who had been mean to me since I was about 5. I had about 10% fond memories of him as a little kid, and the other 90% of the memories were of hate and fear. And now I had to be cooped up in a tiny apartment with him to make him feel better about losing his family... (At one point, he even showed me a classified ad he'd taken out in the Fort Worth paper: "Wish we were together, 3 and me.")

I never did anything to make him feel better about losing his family. I was glad that he'd lost all of us. (I'd always seen on TV that kids were upset when told that their parents were divorcing. When my mother came to tell me, the first thing I said was, "Thank god." While thinking, "What took you so long.")

One weekend of forced visitation, I knew that a local album-rock station was going to play the entire just-released "Dream Police" album by Cheap Trick, a band I liked, at a certain time. Dad gave me "permission" to go listen to it on his clock-radio in the bedroom. Hearing it felt like something illicit and strange. Dad kept coming in the room to see what I was "doing." (This time not getting violent with me as he had with me in his/our old home -- this time, wanting desperately to get back with my mother, he had to be on his best behavior.)

Used to own the "Dream Police" album, just recently re-purchased it for cheap as a CD. Listening to it tonight flashed me back to a very strange, unpleasant place.

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