Everyone has a father. Not everyone has a dad.
We often hear about the fact that many children don’t have a father figure in their lives. Divorce is more common than it was when I was a kid and my parents split up. Back then, coming from a single-parent household was not the norm, especially in a Catholic neighborhood. And things were different when it came to the kids.
These days I see divorced parents with children shuttling kids back and forth every other weekend. And I wonder why things couldn’t be the way it was with my parents. Because I still had a father figure.
My father moved out when I was about five, and the divorce became final a few years later. I honestly don’t remember him living in our house as I have no memories before that age. Anyway, he lived around the corner, so I saw him often. It was my grandparents’ house, where my parents lived when they first married. (Appropriately, considering the drama, it was on Melrose Place.)
I have no idea what the visitation rights were in the divorce decree, but apparently my mom had no problem with Dad dropping by anytime. In fact, he did the typical guy stuff around the house. Fixing the leaky faucet, mowing the lawn until I was old enough. He’d often come by to watch a game with me or go out to the backyard to play catch. Sometimes we’d go fishing, and when we brought back the catch Mom would cook it up and we’d all have dinner together. For a few hours it seemed like a normal family.
Until the inevitable sadness I’d feel when he’d leave.
We had a house with a basement that often flooded, so one day Dad rented a jackhammer and set about installing a couple of sump pumps. While he was doing this one of Mom’s friends dropped by and heard the loud noise from the cellar. “Mary, what’s going on?”
“Nick’s putting in sump pumps,” said Mom.
“He does stuff like that for you?”
“Yeah. We have a Hollywood divorce.”
When the friend left, I asked Mom what she meant. “What’s a Hollywood divorce?”
“You know. Like the way Frank treats Nancy.”
I immediately understood. She was talking about Frank Sinatra (on a first-name basis in every Italian home), and how there were always stories about him caring for his ex-wife Nancy and their three kids. (Boots are made for walkin’ Nancy is his daughter.) He was involved in their lives.
As was my dad.
Look, it’s never easy for any kid when the parents split up, and as an only child with the only divorced parents in the neighborhood it definitely bothered me. I was jealous of the other kids whose fathers lived at home. Christmas wasn’t great, spending half the day with Mom’s family and the other half with Dad’s. Still, there were no rules about visitation, at least none that my parents enforced. I could walk around the corner or cut through the backyard to see Dad anytime.
I saw him a few times a week until I was fourteen when he opened his delicatessen and I started working there. Then I saw him seven days a week every summer, and every weekend until I finished college.
Over the years he continued doing stuff for my Mom. And she’d do stuff for him. He’d install a roof antenna; she’d hem his slacks. They even bought Christmas presents for each other. They got along better than when they were married.
Dad was terminally ill when he passed away in 1993. The day before he died he told me, “I put your name on my bank account. Take care of your mother. Give her half.” At the funeral, my mother cried. I always found it interesting that neither ever remarried.
Bottom line, they were good people who simply couldn’t be married to each other. There was never domestic violence or infidelity. Sometimes couples just grow apart. Sometimes people marry too young.
That might be the case today with many divorced couples. Still, the kids are the ones who have to deal with it.
Which makes me wonder why those who were once married can’t relax things a bit for the sake of the children and forget that every-other-weekend rule. Kids need a Dad more than four days each month. While many children live without a father in the house, there’s no reason they can’t have a normal Dad who is a big part of their lives.
Maybe you’re one of those couples. Good people who simply couldn’t be married anymore, but you both still love your children. You might consider your ex to be the spawn of the devil, but if not, perhaps you might bury the hatchet for the sake of the kids and relax those court-imposed rules. And treat each other in a more civil manner.
The way Frank treated Nancy.
And Nick treated Mary.
Randy Tatano is the author of more than 20 novels, writing political thrillers under the pen name Nick Harlow, and romantic comedies as Nic Tatano. He spent 30 years working in television news as a local affiliate reporter and network field producer. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
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