Often as I lay in my bedroom watching TV, Amanda would come and crawl into bed next to me, curl up against my side as a little two-year-old, and we would watch TV together. In her toddler mind she would ask me silly questions that would make me laugh and bring joy to my life.
“Daddy, what cartoon is coming up next?” she would ask. “The Power Rangers are coming on next.”
“The red one is my favorite,” she said. “Daddy, which one do you like?” “I like the blue one,” I said, grinning down at her.
“No, Daddy, you have to like the red one, that’s the one I like.”
And I would say, just to tease her, “No, you like the red one, I like the blue one.”
“Then we’re not watching the Power Rangers ’cause you don’t like the red one!” she would say, and then burst into giggles.
I grabbed her and tickled her and said, “Okay, I like the red one . . . we’ll watch the Power Rangers.”
I often wonder in the back of my mind if my dad ever took time out and sat with me and did the same things I stopped to do with my daughter—because I have no memory of such things.
When Amanda was two years old, I got a tattoo on my arm of an angel with her name on it. But my daughter disliked the picture on my arm.
“Daddy, the angel is naked,” she said one day, pointing her finger at my arm. “Please put clothes on it.”
“It’s supposed to be that way, Amanda,” I said.
And she said, “No, Daddy, take it back to the man that did it. Tell him to put some clothes on the angel.”
I burst out laughing, because all her sayings were cute and innocent to me. She made a pouty face, and I just grabbed her and kissed her and told her, “One day you will understand why Daddy got the tattoo, because this is how much he loves you.”
Apart from our nighttime round of demonic activities, my wife and I lived a normal life with our daughter. We looked like the all-American young couple, living the high life and destined for good things. But already cracks were forming in the foundation of our marriage.
There were many weekends that Mari and I did great things together, but other times she started going out with her friends while I stayed home with Amanda. We had an agreement that some weekends she would go out with her friends and I would stay home with Amanda. But when I wanted to go out with the guys, she would start a fight because she didn’t want to be left home by herself with our daughter. To solve this, we got a babysitter, but now when we went out we went our separate ways—she with her friends and I with the guys. We agreed to get home by the same time, no later than four in the morning, which worked out very well for a while.
One night it was my turn to go out; Mari had gone out the night before.
As I sat on the living room sofa channel-surfing, she came and stood right in front of me, her hands on her hips. “You need to drive me to the grocery store today so I can buy some things for the house,” she stated flatly.
I leaned around her and continued staring at the TV screen. “You know how to drive, so drive yourself. I want to rest up a bit so I can go out with the guys tonight.”
“So the guys are more important than our marriage? Is that how it is now?”
“You know that’s not so!” I shot back. “But you also know it’s my turn to go out tonight. I’m going to rest, so if you want to buy some stuff you go out and get it yourself.”
“You know what, I change my mind. I’m not gonna get anything for the house. You can get it yourself.”
“What do I care?” I said, rising from the couch and throwing the remote on the sofa. “Leave it the way it is. It makes no difference to me.” I turned around, went into the bedroom, and slammed the door shut.
That night I stepped out with my friends, and even though I had a good time, I still had Mari and Amanda on my mind. I couldn’t be at ease knowing they were at home alone, because I loved them both. These thoughts rushed through my mind: You’re just like your dad . So that night, instead of coming home at four in the morning, I walked into the house at 2:30 a.m. As I turned into the room, both of them were sound asleep. I kissed them both and went to sleep on the couch.
The holidays were upon us, and Mari and I agreed that on the weekend we would take some time out to go Christmas shopping to buy some gifts for our families. She chose items for her relatives, and I started to pick out gifts for my family. But she thought my family should get gifts for
half the price of her family.
“Why should your family get the better gifts?” I said, trying not to make a scene. Mari rolled her eyes. “Because my family is better than your family, that’s why.” “Whoever told you that? They’re both the same.”
“Well, my family’s done more things for our marriage than your family.”
By now my voice was getting louder. “Well, the reason why is because you don’t allow my family to do anything for our marriage!” A store clerk glanced at us as she straightened the shelves. Embarrassed, I muttered, “Here, whatever . . . I don’t care what you buy.” I put the items I had selected back on the shelf. So we left the store that day upset, and we decided to shop on our own different schedules for our respective families.
We came to a point in our marriage where we disagreed about anything and everything. We were exhausted in our marriage, and it wore us out to the point where we stopped trying. In the end we decided to go our separate ways. I came home from work one Friday evening after twelve hours of work, exhausted, and we weren’t talking to each other.
Mari walked into the living room, her face devoid of expression, and uttered these words: “I’m leaving you and moving to my mother’s tomorrow. You can stay with the apartment. I’m taking Amanda with me, and I think we should get a divorce.”
I was dumbfounded, speechless, too tired to fight. I sat at the TV, channel-surfing, no words coming out of my mouth. The next evening, I sat in my living room with a beer in my hand staring around at the four walls, hitting the rewind button of my life, and wondering how I had ended up here in this situation—not only losing my wife, but losing my daughter. Tears flowed down my face, a pain you couldn’t describe ripping my heart. I finally understood that there is no difference between a divorce and the death of a beloved relative. The pain is the same.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that I needed to take full responsibility for my marriage, because as a young man, not having a father figure or a person with a good marriage to coach me, I allowed my marriage to get to the point that it got. And maybe that’s one of the reasons why Mari and I are not married today.