Monday, December 1, 2008

Divorce Diary*


June 16, 1978--
"Strike one!" he barked. He was a bull-dog of a man--short, thick, jowly. He was a coach in title only, since he didn't coach us about anything but just called us "panty-wastes" and told us what positions to play--never how to play them. This was just baseball practice, but it felt like a naked spelling bee.

"Strike two!"

I thought it was only a strike if you swung and missed. Why did he keep calling strikes with me just standing there, sweating?

I was seven years old and a head taller than everyone in my class. I wasn't fat. My red, Sears Toughskin jeans were for "husky" boys, so that's what I was. But I just knew everyone was staring at me. It was bad enough that everyone always stared at me because of my size. It was worse that everyone always stared at me because I was the only boy in the whole small Texas town whose parents were divorced and whose father had moved far away. Now everyone was staring at me because I didn't have a clue how to play baseball. But I didn't have a choice.

"Strike three, you're out!"

He didn't have to sound so happy about it.

"You don't stand on the plate when you're batting, Pelfrey."

Now how the hell was I supposed to know that? And why didn't he tell me to begin with? Oh the power of shame to teach a lesson--and to crush a young spirit in one guttural bark.

My mom had taken me to Gibson's to buy a glove and bat with money held out from her four jobs. But my hippie dad had left two years before to go find himself, and my brother was too much older to mess around with his fat, er, husky kid brother.

Why weren't you supposed to stand on the plate when you're batting? What's it there for?

In my twenties I took another stab at it, actually fell in love with baseball, and developed a swing that elicited compliments from baseball-playing friends, a few coaches among them. But I taught myself, dammit. Hitting, pitching, fielding, scores and stats--all the fundamentals, I taught myself.

*I recently realized that I'm now about the same age my parents were when they divorced. There was no custody battle or harsh words. Just a father who went off to find himself, and a childhood that got lost in the process. You may or may not have a comment. But if you or your parents have gone through a divorce, please feel free to share your own feelings. If you are considering divorce, please stop and consider the long-term ramifications of this decision, especially if children are involved. Consider giving counseling a chance, or I am happy to dialog with you from my own experience as a child of divorce and a pastor (e-mail me). To be continued...

10 comments:

The Queen said...

I'd be interested to know what your relationship is like with your father now. Divorce touches so many lives. . .not just the immediate family. My brother's divorce several years ago has produced a very difficult situation with his ex-wife and first son. Especially since he has remarried and has another son.

God bless you for your openness and keep you and Jamie as you journey through this life together.

robert c. pelfrey said...

Thanks for sharing Kelly, I mean Queen. My relationship with my father has always been decent--most of my resentment and anger was buried pretty deep, and I'm finally getting around to dealing with it...30 years later! Interestingly, we both love baseball and he is a lay-preacher in his church. So, we always have a lot to talk about.

Also, he still often expresses his deep regret over the divorce, and even shared his pain and regret with a friend of mine who was about to divorce his wife. Unfortunately, the friend didn't listen. But dad and I are good, and I'm getting better.

Thomas McKenzie said...

Putting yourself out there can be a real bitch. Keep it up, brother.

PhD.umper said...

I've always found it interesting to hear the many, many stories people of our generation tell that are themed on the isolation of divorce--the whole motif of being "the only kid in town whose parents were divorced." It continues to surprise me, I guess, to hear so many of these, as we're technically supposed to be the generation that all came from divorced/broken families (I didn't).

Thanks for sharing--I know how hard revealing the deep-seated family stuff can be (being one who regularly tiptoes around the graveyard on this stuff)...

robert c. pelfrey said...

Yeah, Thomas, I've been needing to put myself out there for a long time--most of my life. It is a bitch, but keeping it all in has been a much bigger bitch.

Chris, it was a very lonely experience. (I guess it's technically "only" half our generation, but still...) At the time, I really was the only kid in my whole school in that situation. Unfortunately, many others eventually became statistics, but this was after we were older (and I had moved away). I too have tiptoed for my whole life, and I have many close friends who actually know very little about my true self as a result. It's only in the last few months that I've realized this and decided it's no way to carry on!

PhD.umper said...

You'd better be careful, then. I might have to start opening up, too. Talk about your world gone wrong...

Back on baseball, however. A sport I never really got. Actually, I never got any sports. Though not divorced, my old man was only vaguely around in the first place, and teaching me to play any sport was at the bottom of the list... Not that he had a great example, himself-his father died before he was born, and his stepdad was typical of the breed: alcoholic, uninterested, and anal as hell. Most of mine and my father's (limited) relationship is largely based on things from the last five years or so.

Fathers and sons...

robert c. pelfrey said...

Fathers and sons, indeed. Of course baseball is just a symbol of so much more (which obviously you get). And you are quite right, fathers (and mothers) don't have to be absent to be "absent."

Anonymous said...

Very well written blog. The Lord God hates divorce. True Bible believing Christians never divorce. If the husband is a wife-beater then I thnk, separation is okay with the Lord but not divorce. While separated, the wife should maintain her devotion to the salvation of her husband. Any man who beats his wife is NOT, I repeat, NOT a Christian, period.

robert c. pelfrey said...

I have quite a few friends who send their comments to me privately via facebook message. One such friend commented that his father was routinely physically abusive toward the family. My friend thinks their divorce was the best outcome of a lose-lose situation, and that much damage could have been avoided if the mother had left the father sooner. I trust my friend's estimate of that situation.

I do not address divorce as a result of physical abuse here because (thankfully) this was not my experience, which is what I'm blogging about. I do, however, encourage anyone in an abusive relationship to flee the situation IMMEDIATELY--especially if children are involved. I will not make a blanket statement about the option of divorce (though if anyone wishes to contact me about a specific situation, please do). However, I will say that I do not necessarily agree with "Anonymous" here, except in the statement that the Lord hates divorce. But the Lord also hates spouse/child battering.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know Robert, I'm waiting for part 2 of this.
--PW

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