Being a child of divorce doesn’t get easier as you get older.
I know he’s going to ask. He always does.
He still hasn’t adjusted to being shut out of a life that was, up until only a year ago, indiscriminately tangled with his own.
He doesn’t know how difficult it is for me to answer.
“How’s your mum?” My dad says, and my heart sinks.
So begins the complicated charade, the mixing of fact with fiction: she’s happy, but not too happy. She’s sad, but not too sad. No, she hasn’t said anything to me about your new job. Seeing someone else? I couldn’t say for sure.
When my mum decided she didn’t want to live with my dad anymore, she was determined to wait it out until my sisters and I were adults: graduated from school, ready to move out of home, self-sufficient. We were prepared. We were over-prepared. We knew it was coming. We knew it was better for everyone this way.
She wasn’t going to “pull the rug out from under us,” as she put it.
Turns out, though, that it doesn’t really matter what you do with the rug: pull it hard, tug it gently, wait until no-one’s standing on it anymore and fold it up and put it in a high cupboard and hope everyone forgets it was ever there.
The rug’s still gone.
We sold our family home. We stretched and stretched and tore apart. We drew away from one another, first emotionally, then physically, shrinking into different corners of Sydney.
As a child, I looked at my friends whose parents were divorced with a mix of sympathy and envy. My friend Lexi lived with her mum and her stepdad, but we went over to her dad’s place to play all the time. It was sad her dad didn’t live at her house, she told me, but she got TWO birthdays and TWO Christmases every year.