A Messy Update Where More Is Revealed

I warn you in advance that this is a little bit of a mess, hence the title.

According to reliable sources my father married three times in his lifetime.  While select unreliable sources credit him with four wedding (and a funeral) I’m going to stick with what can be proven. Many of you reading this are familiar with his first and third wives (my mother and his last wife) but I suspect that only my family knows about my father’s second wife, Linda, whom he was married to for the longest time of the three. While I’ve mentioned her a few times in stories on this blog she has never really gotten the credit she deserves for being a positive influence on my life. Here are a few things you should know about her:

1- The first time Linda I met her I had just been suspended from school and sent to my father’s house so he could deal with me. Despite my delinquency she made me chocolate milk.

2- From the time I was 15 until I was 20 I lived with her and my father. During much of this time my father was only sporadically employed so his second wife fed and clothed me and kept a roof over my head. She later did the same for my brother and sister.

3- She caught me smoking and drinking when I was 15 and didn’t tell on me.

4- The only time my father hit me I did not hit him back, but she did.

5- About six weeks ago, she died.

My sister called me today to tell me that she just learned that Linda had passed away after a long illness that we did not know she had because we had not spoken to her in many years. This was not by design, over the years we just lost contact.  The easy thing to say is that she and my father divorced and each one went their separate ways but the truth isn’t always so neat.

The truth is this: they had several good years but things changed over time.  She and my father both brought out the best and worst in each other, the best was the ability to light up any room they walked into and the worst was alcoholism and raging self-destruction. In the five years I lived with them things got ugly with enough regularity that as a teenager I always had an escape plan in the event it got too out of hand.

From my perspective it seemed like my father caused these problems a greater number of times but it takes two to make an unhappy marriage. Regardless of who was to blame they split up shortly before I moved to Los Angeles but that was kept a secret.  The night before I moved she joined my father and I for dinner and smiled like nothing was wrong. No one in the family knew they had split until Linda stopped RSVP-ing for family events. My father proceeded with his life as if nothing was wrong and nothing had happened. Our questions about her were met with vague answers or silence. Still, we kept in touch for a while through email and mutual acquaintances would tell my family how she was but eventually those things stopped. When members of my family tracked her down they were kindly told that she was sorry but she wanted to leave the past in the past. I accepted this decision because I had no choice, still I hoped there would be time at some later date to catch up.

When my father passed away last year Linda’s absence was notable but understandable. After all she had been through with my father I understood that she might not want to reopen those wounds even if I was a little hurt that she wasn’t there. What I didn’t know is that she was already sick from cancer at the time. When my uncle tracked her down to tell her my father had died she asked how my brother, sister and I were doing but never mentioned a word about her health.

Today I don’t know what to think. I’m sad that someone who meant a lot to me is gone and I didn’t know about it for six weeks. I regret that I could have at any time over the last several years tracked her down and I never did. I feel terrible that I allowed my father to essentially erase someone out of our lives. I feel selfish for having hurt feelings when she didn’t show up last fall. I’m sorry that things ended badly between she and my father and I’m sorry that she didn’t live long enough for her life to get better again. More than anything I just wish I could have said thank you.



Filed under Family

13 responses to “A Messy Update Where More Is Revealed

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Will. Posts like this make me hope you write a memoir one day. Beautifully composed.

  2. How you live your life is a thank you. I am confident that she knows/knew that.


    • I agree, yes, this.

      You thank her every day by being kind, generous, understanding, and awesome. I understand your feelings and wishes but you have to give yourself some credit, too: We can only ever do our best in any situation, with the information we have on hand, and you did that. Be kind to yourself. I think Linda would have wanted that.

  3. NovySan

    I’m quite certain she would have been proud of the man you’ve become.

  4. I think, like your father did, she also went out on her own terms. It’s not all on you to keep up relationships, and keeping in touch goes both ways. She could have reached out to you, but made the choice not to, and put the word out to give her her space.

    I’m sorry for your loss.

  5. Nicholas G Levin

    I believe that regret is one of our most humane feelings. It hurts, yes, but it shows the degree to which we care about others.

    I wish you the best, Will, and I appreciate how open you are about Linda and your own feelings. Opening up to others takes great strength, which never comes easily.

    How you choose to find resolution is up to you. But for all the misgivings you have right now, somehow, I know that Linda forgives you.

  6. Stuart

    As cool as she was she knew how you felt. She knew it when you lived with her and your dad and she didn’t forget afterward. Grief is a way of reminding ourselves that we are lucky to have ever had what we have lost.

    And thanks very much for posting this. Authenticity has it’s own beauty.

  7. urban_mermaid

    Sorry to hear this about Linda. It is hard to think about someone you lived with passing – especially at a time in your life where it sounds like she provided stability. Thank you for sharing and know that we are all here to be a part of your family ongoing. Big hugs.

  8. I am sorry Will. Nina is right though, the way you live your life and the way you are is a constant thank you to all that raised you.

  9. You did a great job telling your complicated story in a plain way. For those of us who have complicated stories (I count myself in that number), it seems like such a struggle just to get the facts out, much less to get the facts out and have them be comprehensible to the reader. Well done.

    We all have situations in which we feel we might have done better. It’s painful. I’m sure the Slackmistress has commented wisely.

  10. We don’t know each other but we have several shared acquaintances that commented above. My Dad passed away 2 months ago and I also have an ex-stepmom named Lynda (with a ‘y’). Anyway, I just felt a small connection to you because I related to some things you mentioned in your posts regarding your Dad. I don’t usually reach out like this, but you are being so open with the world that I felt the need to comment in kind.

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