I was not present to hear your vows, but I can see from the photographs that Mom looked beautiful that day and smiled up at you with love. You will never know this, but when Mom told me about the story of you two, she said she believed she was marrying her best friend on that day; her best friend.
I was your honeymoon baby, and for a few years I blamed myself for coming too soon, for not being the son you wanted, for taking away the years of newlywed bliss you two were supposed to have. But years down the road, I realized that even if I had not been born, the early years of your marriage would still not have been blissful. There were only two photographs hung in the house of you and Mom together when I was growing up, one from your wedding and the other being an early family photo that when it fell and broke, no one cared to replace. This wasn’t strange to me growing up, but it should have been strange to you.
I learned about “breakfast in bed” on Mother’s day from movies, because you never cared enough to spoil Mom the way she spoiled you on Father’s day. Every June, even when I was too young to understand, Mom sat us down with markers, crayons, and glitter glue and helped each of us make you a card. Every June without a complaint. And it’s not like you couldn’t have noticed, because you hung all those cards in your room and her handwriting was all over them.
I learned about kissing under the mistletoe from black and white Christmas movies because you never hung any. My neighbors were the first couple I saw in real life to kiss at midnight on New Years Eve. The image was so important to me, I still remember the clothes they wore to this day. You never chased my mom around the house to tickle her sides or squeeze her in a tight hug. Instead, you chased her into the doorway to pin her wrists and scream in her face.
I never heard you tell my mom she was beautiful even though you lived in our house for fifteen years. The last time you celebrated her birthday with us, you bought a speedboat and then stored it at your brother’s house states away. But the day after my 14th birthday, you yelled at Mom until 2 AM because we didn’t have any money. I learned from the romance novels I adored as a pre-teen that men give their women flowers as a sort of peace offering after arguments, but even though I heard you two fight more than talk, I never saw you bring her even a single flower.
My mom checked the “married” box for twenty one years and I never saw you kiss her. When she died and my relatives urged me to “forgive you”, I tried to remember a single kiss; on the lips, on the cheek, anything. I wanted to believe my Mom knew love from you before she died, but I had no memories. You were a wonderful example of a horrible husband. Thank you for giving my sister and I the reality check we didn’t ask for. We will never be unkissed wives.