My senior year of college, which also happened to be my brother’s senior year of high school, Momster moved out. Here’s how it all went down.
Shortly before school let out for the summer, Momster confided in me that she finally decided to move out. She had a plan in place and sounded downright giddy each time she told me how all of her plotting and preparation was coming along. My dad decided to take a fishing trip to Florida. He also decided to only take my brother with him. According to Momster, she wasn’t invited and she was very angry about this. Now, I never asked my dad about it, but I wonder if Momster maybe couldn’t take the time off work or if the fishing trip plans didn’t coincide with some Momster-approved accommodations. Maybe it was my dad’s graduation gift to my brother, or a reward for finishing his senior year as the star of the basketball team and captain of the football team with a full scholarship to college. Whatever the reason, Momster told me that not being taken on this vacation was the last straw.
Did my dad know about all these plans? Nope. While he was busy planning his fishing trip, Momster put a deposit on an apartment. She ordered furniture, shopped for dishes, and picked out curtains. All the while, she grinned from ear to ear and snickered away, like she was playing the world’s best prank on someone. I was the only person who knew what Momster was up to. Even though Momster spent years and years carefully and quietly ensuring that she was the “good guy” and my dad was the “bad guy,” and even though at the time I felt like she had every reason to move out and start a new life for herself, the way in which she was leaving felt totally wrong to me. But no, I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to my dad.
The semester ended and I came home with my college roommate (also my best friend) in tow. By this point, my dad and brother had left for Florida and Momster was in the middle of actually moving. She didn’t take a lot from our house; her clothes and personal things, one small sofa bed from the guest room, a few knick-knacks. She also took every single photo album and home movie as well as every framed photo. She didn’t leave my dad with a single photo of his kids. Momster even took old scrapbooks that belonged to my dad’s grandmother.
The final part of Momster’s plan did not go as she wanted. We were in the car, my friend in the back seat, when Momster suddenly said, “And you know, I need you to pick your dad and brother up from the airport. They’re expecting me, but I can’t do it.”
And for the first time in my life, I said no to Momster. The idea of showing up in her place and explaining to my father why I was there instead of Momster horrified me so much that I finally put my foot down. I’d gone along with her plan and kept her secret, but there was no way I was going to be the one to tell my dad that Momster had moved out. I didn’t want to be around for that at all. Momster did not take this refusal lightly. She argued and begged, then finally resorted to a teary guilt trip, but I refused to budge.
Later that day or the next, I left home to spend a couple of days at my roommate’s house. I drove home again the day my dad and brother returned from their vacation, but the house was still empty. I’d beaten them home. I went up to my room, nervous and worried about what was happening during the drive home from the airport. Had Momster gone to pick them up? Was she able to act normal during the hour-long drive home? What would she do when they got to the house? What would my dad do?
We lived near the end of a long gravel road. You could hear a car coming long before it reached the driveway, when the sound of tires crunching on stone got even louder and our dogs started to bark. My bedroom windows overlooked the driveway on one side, and I peeked through the curtains, holding my breath, as the drama unfolded soundlessly below me. I saw my dad and Momster get out of the car. My brother climbed out of the back seat and started to help my dad get their bags out of the trunk. Momster walked straight to her own car, and I saw my dad turn to ask her a question. She half turned as she walked away to give an answer, got into her car, and drove away. My dad and brother stood by the open trunk, staring after her. They looked at each other, picked up their suitcases, and came inside.
I stayed in my room, door closed, waiting and listening. I pictured my dad downstairs, maybe noticing some small things missing. I heard him come upstairs and go into his room where he would certainly notice the absence of Momster’s things from the closet and master bath. He didn’t yell or swear or throw anything. Then, a knock on my door. I said, “Come in.”
My dad opened the door and said, “What’s going on?”
I said, “I think Mom moved out.”
“Yeah, it looks like it. Are you OK?”
“Yeah. Are you OK?”
Awkward silence. Then my dad said, “Well, I have to unpack,” and closed the door.
What a crazy summer that was. I had one more semester of college before graduation so had no immediate plan to move out or move away. My dad found himself alone with my brother and me, not sure why we seemed to dislike him so much but unable to talk to us about it. It took a few years for me to realize that my dad wasn’t a bad guy at all. He was just not good at talking to his kids. While Momster always took the opportunity to tell us her side of the story, my dad never did. He didn’t talk about his job, his past, his family, his hopes, his feelings, anything, and Momster completely took advantage of that to quietly ensure that her children saw her as the always slighted victim and him as the tyrannical dictator.
I do wish I’d seen her for what she was sooner.