25 Year Loop
This is the question that hit me as I went to visit my dad at his “new” trailer, a 12-year old mobile home in a literal trailer park in Ohio that he bought for $11,195, cash.
As I walked inside, he gave me the tour, putting on a prideful display about how big it was, how it had two bedrooms, a new refrigerator, a washer and dryer, but I could see the pain behind his tired eyes and hear the defeated crack in his voice.
My dad was ashamed.
Ashamed of where he ended up at the age of 58 – the same place he was at the age of 33.
25 years ago, my dad was living in a trailer park in Amherst, Ohio, working long shifts at the local Moen plant during the day, then “honky-tonkin’” in the evenings in a quest for a new wife (my parents divorced in 1973). This quest yielded fruit in the guise of a raging, screaming harpy of a shrew we’ll refer to as SHS or “Screaming Harpy Shrew”. My dad and SHS married, moved into a big house with SHS’s young son and older daughter and they then proceeded to drain my once-funny, full of life father of every ounce of joy, money and spirit.
One example: the day her 16-year old son decided his third attempt at passing the ninth grade wasn’t worth the effort anymore and dropped out, my dad got angry, yelling at him and trying to be, well, a father to this loser who just dropped out of school. SHS shouted my father down until he quit trying to help her son improve himself, and that was the end of any discussion about her son and high school. He wasn’t going anymore and that was that. The next day, I took a bath and forgot to wipe out the tub afterwards (a special thing she was particularly obsessed about).
She screamed - literally screamed - at me about this for an HOUR. It only stopped when I got in my car and left. I only wish I was making this up. Talk about misdirection.
It’s far too much to get into in this amount of space, but between this woman and her two spoiled rotten kids, my dad’s life became hell (just to prove I’m not merely being jealous of the “new kids”, the son grew up to become a ninth-grade dropout and four-time felon and the daughter was pregnant by 16, thrown out of the Army Reserves and has remarried so many times I honestly have lost count). However, my father’s fear of living alone trumped anything else, so there he stayed for 20 years. Then, five years ago, my father had a quadruple bypass. Just as he was recovering, SHS had a new surprise for all of us.
SHS was having an affair.
SHS was far from attractive. In fact, by the time she began her affair, she had become a 55 year-old wrinkled twat of a woman, with kinky, short permed hair and a screeching voice which had one setting marked “SCREAM” alongside a piercing, high-pitched hyena laugh that made the testicles of every man within earshot flee upwards into the body cavity. And yet, amazingly, she somehow was able to snag yet another sucker.
My dad was crushed. He was entirely faithful and trusting for 20 years. Sure, he wasn’t the perfect husband, but he worked hard, treated her kids as his own (sometimes better) and this was his thanks. Meanwhile, my sisters, older brother and I all breathed a secret celebratory sigh of relief. It was over. They sold their house, split their possessions and made it official with a divorce.
Six months later, SHS got dumped by her new beau and was back living with my father in his new house. She was the serial killer in every bad horror movie who, just when you thought she was dead, suddenly sprang back to life to terrorize everyone anew.
We all argued with him. Begged him. Pleaded with him. But he loved her, wanted her back, and most importantly, did not want to be alone, so there she was. And there we were, forced, plastic smiles in place during holidays, pretending nothing ever happened. But something had happened and we all knew, especially my dad and SHS.
They argued more. They distrusted each other. They went days without speaking. He began openly criticizing her in front of us, which he rarely did. When my dad bought a computer, he began spending more and more time online, chatting with (what we hoped actually were) women from out of state and in one case, even in Scotland. SHS did not like this new outlet for my father. She forbade him to e-mail or chat with other women, even though she and my father were not even married.
My dad didn’t listen and kept right on building online relationships. Finally, SHS snapped, discovered my dad’s passwords which he had cleverly hidden on a single piece of paper in the unlocked top drawer of his computer desk, and proceeded to e-mail all his online girlfriends and tell them he was married, she was his wife and they needed to know the “truth”. Which, of course, was SHS’s usual pack of lies. Another blow-up ensued, and SHS gave my dad an ultimatum. Get off the computer or leave her. For good.
To her shock and dismay, my dad chose the computer. Five days after he left, he had a major stroke while driving. Luckily, he was able to pull over and use his cellphone to call for help in time.
Which brings us to today and my father’s new home in the trailer park, the same place and same situation he was in almost exactly 25 years ago. A 25 year loop. Only this time, the left side of his face droops a little bit and he moves in a slow, careful manner.
As the tour continued, we hit the master bedroom. There on the floor was an old headboard and bed frame with no mattress. She kept that.
“I won’t have to buy a dresser,” he said, “since this room has dresser drawers built right in under the windows.” The idea of not having to buy a dresser was supposed to be encouraging, but I could tell it depressed him as much as it did me.
We walked back to the living room. It was completely empty, save for a small TV on a 1970’s TV stand, his collection of Corvette models and a police scanner resting on the floor, turned on and picking up occasional static-y reports.
“Your sister is going to give me that old couch of hers in her basement and your brother has an extra coffee table and recliner he’s letting me borrow.” Borrow. How generous of him. I try not to think about the new $75 pair of Adidas sneakers I bought earlier that day.
This is not how it’s supposed to end.
But I’m not writing the script.
I just hope the serial killer doesn't come back to life again.