September 8th of each and every year, my mother looks into a federal database to ensure she knows just where her ex-husband, my birth father, is. There were enough nights of verbal and physical abuse to warrant such efforts. Personally, I think he’s dead. There were enough mornings, days, and nights of drug abuse to warrant such thoughts.
September 8th was his birthday, by the way. And today is Independence Day.
Today speaks to each and every one of us, as do Veterans Day and Memorial Day. And as divided as America may be the other 362 days of the year, these three days bring people together, even just for a little bit. That’s because it is impossible and un-American to forget and take for granted the sacrifices the men and women of this country have made to ensure a better future for everyone thereafter.
This brings me to my mother, July 4th and September 8th. You see for her, the America loving patriot whose father taught at the United States Naval Academy and whose son served in the Navy, Independence Day means two things; freedom for the citizens of this country and freedom for herself and her children to live in this great country. She made sacrifices each other every day to ensure this.
I often preach about the reality that we teach people how to treat us and I find that to be a more difficult task for parents married to abusers, narcissists and cheaters. Parents have children and children love without boundaries. And as has been written about a thousand times, children forgive; perhaps too much.
I also preach about the reality that we must balance our head and our heart. When someone has been cheated on, their heart will surely be broken but it is often their head that is the more tortured. There are children, bills, living situations and jobs to think about.
I would love to stop preaching, I really would. I would love to see more Dana’s in the world. She is a single mother of three who walked out on Eric after tiring of his tendency to verbally lash at him every time she challenged anything he said. Of course, there was also his tendency to flirt mercilessly with any waitress that has half his age and look even a quarter interested. Dana’s freedom cost several fights with her 12-year old son and $36,000 a year in alimony. But let freedom ring she did. My favorite quote from her? “Life began for my children when it ended with my husband”.
My mother will call me today, only to thank me for my military service. She will make no mention of the service to her children, all of whom are alive and well today and none of whom were subject to the abuse of our birth father. Try he did, however. My mom blocked him from hitting me with a flashlight by taking it on her cheek instead. She would like us to think that she has moved on from that and other like events but she hasn’t, and that’s okay. Freedom comes at a cost, often negative memory traps.
Millions of parents in difficult marriages are still in contemplation. They live every day, isolated from the freedom we all deserve. And for them, I will not preach #TPHTTY. I will not talk about the head and the heart. I will ask them to think about one singular thing. What good is a free country if you and your children are not free to be you each and every day within it?