The new season of Mad Men starts on April 5th, which means I'm doing my best to catch up on and each and every past episode (even though technically, I only need to watch the first half of the last season to air.) Last night I was watching, and came to the episode called, "Shut the Door and Have a Seat". In that episode Betty and Don Draper (the two main characters) are in the midst of splitting up, and they come to the scene where they have to explain to their children why they are splitting up (go to the 21:17 mark and stop at 24:03):
I have watched that scene at least four times since it initially aired back in 2009, and it makes me cry each and every time. I know having my son Nyles has made me significantly softer in the emotion department, but these tears were legitimate. My parents had that exact same speech with my brother and I in December of 1991. I was 16, and my brother was 13, so we were older than the kids in this clip, but it was equally as painful. I was a senior in high school and I had yet to hear from any colleges, so the prospect of my parents divorcing scared me because I didn't know where I'd live if I didn't get into school. And then in my head I thought if I did get into college, how would I decided which parent to spend time with, which one to shun, and would I let them down (something I still deal with to this day)? But most of all I worried that my foundation (to that point) was crumbling and I would never be the same again (which in some ways I'm really not).
My brother had a different set of concerns to tackle with the impending split of his parents. Not only was his big brother leaving for college soon (maybe), and not only was he starting high school a few months later, which meant he'd be bullied by kids who did not like his older brother, but now he would be forced to shuttle in between two parents (my mother stayed in Maryland, my dad moved to Cleveland) without ever truly feeling like he had a place to call home. That type of arrangement was an inconvenience for me, but it was traumatizing for my brother.
But just the raw emotion, shock and sadness of hearing your parents say that have to split, was just a sad occasion, and I will never, ever forget it. My mom was crying, my brother was crying, my dad was compassionate towards us but indifferent toward my mother, and I was just too shocked to react properly. My wife was also a product of divorce, and we both agree that you never truly get over it. You go to therapy, you move on and you deal with the new reality, because that's what adults do. But it is never the same as it was...and that's a tough pill to swallow.