When she was young her parents had parted. They had been unhappy anyway, but as is often the way in ailing marriages, rather than ending it before anything forced the situation, they waited until one of them had an affair, adding betrayal and recrimination to an already prickly list of reasons for resentment.
Then Sundays were the only day she saw her dad, apart from the occasional holiday, and suddenly, jarringly, what had been normal family was deleted from the program. Time was suddenly finite, and everything had to be crammed into the hours allotted.
She would take mental notes over the course of the week, of the things she needed to share with her father, the school yard arguments or injustices which she suffered alone, now, without him as her cornerstone and voice of reason at the end of each day. But then sitting beside him in the car as they drove, glancing over at his familiar profile, the slightly slanting eyes, flat ended nose, and furrowed brow, all those stored conversations would fly from her thoughts seemingly inconsequential compared to simply sharing space with him. She would absorb his reassuring presence, watch his hands resting competently on the wheel, and listen to him talk in the calm and measured way he did, with the little audible swallows as he paused to think. Even his scent was comforting; the hint of spicy aftershave, mingling with the fresh smell of his cotton shirt.
On rainy winter afternoons, when all the strangely empty museums and art galleries had lost their appeal, they would go to his office and sit round the polished walnut conference table playing board games and supping on soup from the vegetarian restaurant next door.
There was a weariness to those afternoons, an exhaustion from playing out the day when it really felt like they would both rather be at home simply reading or pottering. Life was no longer normal, and even on the days when they had somewhere to visit, it felt to her that they weren’t real anymore; they were a phoney fake family, incomplete and pretending everything was normal. He was no longer there to wake her in the morning or rub her shoulders the way he used to, when she was tired at the end of the day.
How she longed for an ordinary day; when they could run errands together, collect groceries, go home to make dinner and watch some mindless Saturday evening television, allowing time to slip by comfortably, and where each minute was not chronicled, sounding off like a momentous countdown.
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A plea; take action to mend it or split before it becomes a nightmare, remember your role as guardian to the wellbeing of your children, and keep it simple.
An excerpt from a collection of impressions from children of separated parents; ‘Children Bounce Back’