My Father Told Me I Saved His Life

Essay by Thomas Bennett

This is an essay by Thomas Bennett, a finalist for the 2018 WeParent Scholarship. He is a student at Perry Technical Institute.

When I was twelve my life changed dramatically. I was like most kids at that age; I played at least two sports a year, went to birthday parties, started thinking and talking about the opposite sex, and I had two parents who were married. My parents were actively involved in the church and I really did not envision what was to come.

That all changed one day in March, I was upstairs using my parentally limited electronic time to play Spyro the Dragon on Playstation 2 on a thirteen inch screen. My younger brother bursts in the room in tears saying mom and dad are getting a divorce. I tell him they are probably just fighting and will work it out. He says no, my mother has told him so directly.

What followed is really a traumatic blur in my memory. My parents start yelling and acting irrationally. My dad takes me for a ride in the car to explain things. When we get back my mother is getting in the other car to leave and my brother and older sister leave with her. I cannot remember if it was my decision to stay or not.

Despite one of the worst and most dramatic ways to tell your kids about a divorce, what followed ended up being even worse. I was put in an unwanted position of being the center of my family. I was and am the link between both sides. I am the only one of the three kids who spent every other weekend with my father, instead of with friends or whatever else might be going on. I was the only one to not let one parent’s poisonous words about the other to taint my view, and there was plenty of venom on both sides.

The structure of my daily life crumbled. What was once pretty strict rules and punishments became light regulation and empty threats by my overworked mother. I learned to cook, I learned to get myself to school, and also learned I had way too much freedom.

I am now twenty eight and my parents still have had extremely limited communication outside court. It was always “tell your mother this” or “ask your father for that.” Constantly the bearer of bad news. I learned how to deal with people who love you but also resent you for what you are saying to them.

Unfortunately it is something I still deal with today. My brother is gay and my dad is an evangelical. They have had a rocky relationship to say the least. My sister and father have a marred, up and down relationship. Holidays have been all but ruined for me from the stress of dealing with opposing forces.

The divorce is something that has shaped my life and personality for better or worse. It was an unexpected, horrible event with still lasting repercussions. I know I am far from alone in this situation and I know plenty of people with worse circumstances.

Despite what has been a mostly painful experience I have one major consolation that helps me; I wouldn’t change my own actions. Early on I was blessed with advice and foresight that I only get two parents, and that I am lucky to have them. I am far from perfect and no one involved in this story is a saint, but I would rather live with the harshness of being the middle man than let my family fall apart completely. My father has told me that I saved his life, and that alone has made it worth it.

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