When You Have A Complicated Relationship With Your Parent


Yesterday I was folding laundry and listening to the ‘80s station on Pandora (truly, is there any other way to fold laundry?). As soon as “Against All Odds” by Phil Collins came on, I knew I was going to start crying. I always do. The song is about loss – the “empty space” someone leaves behind when they exit your life. And while it’s probably about losing a lover, to me, it will always be about my dad leaving.

“now can I just let you walk away

Just let you leave without a trace?

When I stand here taking every breath with you, ooh ooh

You’re the only one who really knew me at all.”

In the early ‘80s when this song was popular, I was six years old, my little brother was a baby, and my mother was a newly single mom. My father had left my mom when she was pregnant with my brother, and it felt like we spent our days driving around in my mom’s old beat-up Honda, listening to the radio, looking for my dad, and wondering when he was going to come home to us.

Of course, it was more complicated than that. He wasn’t lost; he was still in our lives, to some extent. We’d visit his apartment some weekends. Some nights he’d even stay over with us. But it was unclear whether things would ever be the same between my parents, and it always felt like we were at the mercy of my father’s whims, his likes and dislikes, his ability to keep a steady job, and where he might move to next.
We were always moving in those days, often because my dad didn’t like a particular town, or a job didn’t work out. My father was angry, volatile, indecisive. And my mother wanted nothing more than for the marriage to work out, and so she put up with it all, including a million different moves.

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