Litigation settled, the Magistrate accepted the agreement and provided copies. Six minutes, I figured. Six minutes and I’d be in my car. What next ensued, though, stopped me dead in my tracks.

“Before you leave,” she addressed the parents, “I’d like you to see a short video”. So we all did, the parties and counsel—watch a film for divorcing parents…about how even if they didn’t friend their ex they should  friend their ex’s relationship with the children…for kids’ sake.

Five minutes. Five minutes it played. And there wasn’t a moment it streamed that my eyes weren’t welled up…and that my heart didn’t look back.

My parents divorced before it was fashionable. I was an eighth-grader, Hal was in sixth, and the whole thing happened in a world long gone by. A “broken home” they termed, (and I felt like damaged goods). Our mom was a “divorcee” they said, and our father? He was the first man on his block to win a Scrabble game spelling out “VISITATION”.

Never discussed it with my friends really, although they knew. After all, ours was a corner house and our Dad’s red Plymouth Valiant was conspicuous by its absence. Of course they knew.

—And so it was, that summer of ’63. Mid the ordeal of two cars at every Little League game, as we evaporated weekends to be with Dad at his mother’s, it was different and it was awkward—but it was always peaceful.

I’ve learned a lot over time. About my parents: the genesis of their issues…the causes and conditions…the “mistakes” that were made.

But not a word from our mother. Ever. She knew, this June Cleaver did, that my dad was my hero. And every kid needs a hero. And two parents.

—Even when times got tough…even when the money came slowly…even when there were stories to tell…

Yes, I recall well those days…how she’d wait for support checks. How they’d come in envelopes from Emil J Masgay, Clerk Of Court—and how when I’d see the mail I’d know what they were.

My Dad was doing the best he could!   My Grandpa didn’t think so and was often quite vocal. Our Mom, though— if she caught wind of it she would cut him off. On the spot. Always.

“He’s a good father,” she’d urge. “He’s in Philadelphia getting back on track so spend this time with your Grandma.” (—Out the door she’d send us, often using her otherwise-needed money to put us in a cab from South Euclid to Cleveland Heights).

So we had two parents. And peace. And hope.
And I had my hero.

I remember the days—how I’d write him thrice weekly, all with her postage. And how he’d write back. I still have the letters, to this day.

Kids don’t care, you see, which parent is right or is wrong. Kids want peace…and love…and yes…in an odd, odd sense, kids want to hold on to the thought that in some way their parents still love each other. In some way).

So yes, there was much she held back (I now know). There were stories to tell—stories I never did hear.  And my Dad? He remained in my life. Through bad times to good, he was the vibrant soul that corner-stoned my being. My guiding light and best friend.  And when he died young…at just 59…they found in his apartment the letters I’d penned in the 60’s. And I have them too.

My Mom never quite finished college. (Three years short, but who’s counting?) And yet she was wise—oh so wise.  She friended, I guess you might say, my relationship with my Dad.

—And she gave me a hero…no make that two.

– And she gave me, I suppose, good reason to cry as I walked from a courtroom.

Cry and smile.

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