I went to the wedding of a dear friend last weekend. The bride is a young woman whom I have known since her birth. In fact, I’d known her father since the year I graduated from high school. We’d been camp counselors for several summers and, once I dropped out of college, roommates and hiking partners. By the time we were both married and living in town here, I considered him one of my two closest friends. When my children’s mother and I separated and then divorced, he was the best friend a man could have. For a time, he called me every day. He was also a loving and nurturing father, very much focused on making a good home for his children.
Something began to happen to him when he and the mother of his children separated and then divorced. I’ve seen others go through a period of exaggerated fears, you might even say paranoia, about the people around them when they receive this sort of blow. I felt the creepy pull of fear and blame myself, while I was trying to get my balance as a suddenly-single person. Still, he embraced his anger to a frightening degree. So much so, that he began to blame his children, whom he had so sheltered and nurtured only a few months before. As hard as I worked to be the friend to him that he was for me, I eventually found myself unable to understand him and to offer him the support he needed. While his soon-to-be ex was perfectly capable of taking care of herself, his lashing out at his children deeply offended my sense of what it is to be a parent. By the time he was divorced and partnering with another woman, he had essentially divorced his children, as well.
Somehow, along the way, he developed a sort of religious explanation for his abandonment of his children, but by that time, we were no longer talking. He has since moved out of state and is raising another set of children, only rarely seeing his first. I haven’t spoken to him in years. Nor did I get the opportunity at his daughter’s wedding, because he refused to attend. To their credit, his mother, brother, and sister and her family did attend, but it only served to highlight the person who was missing. It was heartbreaking.