A Lesson About Life

Delta Winds cover 1997Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


A Lesson About Life

Jennifer McCasland

I can still recall the day my dad told us he was leaving. It was a warm May evening three years ago; my mom had just left for the store and my dad called my brother and me into the dining room. I could tell by the guilty expression on his face that something was wrong.

"Kids," he started, looking grim, "I wanted to talk to you guys first to let you know that I'm leaving your mother." My brother appeared to be in shock but I just nodded. It wasn't like I hadn't seen it coming. For the last couple of months my dad had been coming home from work late or practically living at the local bar, and there were repeated calls from a woman he claimed was a "friend."

"As you know I've been under a lot of stress with your mother the last few years and I've turned to alcohol," he said. "I need to get out now before I end up killing myself." I could see tears forming in my brother's eyes but my dad's words, strangely enough, didn't affect me. I had a feeling deep down that he wasn't being honest about his reasons for leaving. Call it women's intuition, but I knew he was being deceptive.

"Is it another woman?" I asked. I could tell that I had caught him off guard.

"Jennifer, I'd never do that to your mother," he claimed. But still that little voice in my head told me he was lying. "Now I don't want you to say anything to your mom. I want to tell her tomorrow night after I've moved out." I can't actually repeat what I was thinking of him at that point and it was hell not being able to warn my mom, but for the next twenty-four hours I wandered around the house pretending that everything was normal.

I don't actually know when my dad found time to move out all of his belongings or why my mom failed to notice the massive empty space in their closet, but the moment of dread had arrived. It began with my dad calling all of us out into the living room and setting us down. My mom had been in an especially good mood that day because, in an effort to soften the blow and possibly relieve some of his guilty conscience, my dad had given my mom money to spend on whatever she wanted. Unknowingly, she took it as a sweet gesture from her loving husband. As I watched her smile and giggle, I kept thinking, "Why are you smiling? He's going to break your heart." I tried to look away but I couldn't stop myself from awaiting her reaction, all the while hating myself for failing to warn her.

"Michelle," he began. "You know I love you."

She grinned as she interrupted him. "I love you too."

"I need you to listen," he continued. "I'll always love you but not as a wife." Her face went blank like he was speaking some foreign tongue she didn't understand. "I'm moving out, just for a few months." That's when it all seemed to register because she started bawling and then so did I. Not because my parents were separating but because in a matter of seconds my mom's world crumbled down around her.

"Please don't leave," she pleaded. "I can do better, I can change." He didn't even seem fazed by her heartache and tears. He then proceeded to give her the speech he had given my brother and me the night before. Then, with a quick "Jennifer, take care of your mom," he walked out the door. We found out a few days later that he had moved in with a woman he had met at a bar a couple of months before, the woman he is now engaged to.

That night taught me a lesson about life that hopefully someday will prove untrue. After witnessing the pain my mom went through, I've come to learn that trusting and loving someone too much leaves you vulnerable and will almost always end in heartbreak. It's a lesson that continues to haunt and destroy any relationship I get involved in to this day.