It was 1984. I pedaled my beloved Western Flyer Invader alongside an adult. I can’t tell you who she was – a well-intentioned friend of my parents or maybe a meddling neighbor. She spoke strange words as I maintained the right combination of pedaling, braking, and handlebar twisting to keep the bike upright while matching her walking pace. I vividly remember her opener and the confusion that followed:
“Your mom and dad had a flood.”
I grappled with this riddle. I was so confused and preoccupied by this “flood” that happened to my parents. It hadn’t rained recently. The river was on the other side of town. I didn’t know of any lakes or ponds nearby. Where did the water come from? Was she talking about something in our apartment? Did our bathtub or sink overflow? Were mom and dad hurt? Did they just get wet? I was at a complete loss and eventually decided it wasn’t an actual flood – she was speaking in some sort of adult code. I resolved in that moment that grown ups are weird and kept pedaling.
She prophesied what was about to happen in my life. She told me that I would be moving far away and my parents wouldn’t be living together anymore. I would be with my mom and I would get to see my dad sometimes. I remember feeling like the message she delivered was important, but my eight-year-old brain was incapable of processing it.
Memory is bizarre. I’m sure my parents sat me down and talked with me about the separation and divorce. But for whatever reason, it was the unsolicited words of a nosy neighbor that stuck. To this day, that specific slice of time is blurry apart from that one crystal clear interaction with the Riddling Prophet of Doom.
An unknown amount of time passed after that interaction, but something logged in my brain as “soon”, my mom and I moved a couple hundred miles away. I got to see my dad sometimes. The woman’s mysterious prophecy had come true. My life was one thing and suddenly it was something else entirely. Everything had changed.
My own divorce
In 2010, I found myself facing divorce after almost fifteen years of marriage. There was a solemn family talk with my kids – 14, 12, 7, and 6 at the time. I tried to soften the blow. I attempted to word-smith away the sharp and horrible edges. It wasn’t possible, of course. There is no way to delicately destroy a family.
I flashed back to my two-wheeled talk with that peculiar lady 25 years earlier. I was playing her part – stringing serious words together to little ears and confused faces. Life would be different for them just as it had been for me. They would be moving. Mom and dad wouldn’t be living together anymore. They would be with their mom and they would get to see their dad sometimes. I had come full circle.
It was one of the most gut-wrenching moments of my life.