Life’s Hardest Lessons Teach You the Most Valuable Things
by Anthony Nelson
If I had everything I desired in life, I think it would be boring. I really do. I think it would be extremely boring, and dull. Because you just get everything, you have no worries, no problems, everything is given to you on a silver platter. I don’t think I would like that, to be honest. I think, in life, you have to go through difficult times because the difficult things show you what you don’t want, which shows you what you do want.
Chapter 1: The Divorce
My parents’ divorcing was the most impactful on my life and how it shaped everything I believe. With the divorce and then with my dad just leaving on us, I just felt abandoned, and I swore that I would never do that to my children.
It [the divorce] was… as a young kid in the first grade, I really didn’t comprehend or understand what was going on because I was so young. But it was explained to me by both my parents that it was nothing that myself or my sister did - just that they did not get along. And, for the most part, for most of my young life, they were very good about not giving me the details of what happened because a young kid really doesn’t need to know, so I just took it at face value that what my parents said was true. They didn’t bash each other or talk bad about each other, in my younger years. I lived with my mother, and my father moved to a neighboring town. I didn’t see my dad nearly as much as they led us to believe.
My father, since he married this other woman, he was paying child support. He decided to leave, and not tell anyone where he was, which was a real hardship on my mom. Because she was a single mother trying to raise two kids, she ended up tracking him down, through his social security number, with the help of, I guess, the law enforcement, and they were able to get the child support reinstated. And, that time, we were 11 or 12 or something like. My sister was two years older than me, and she decided it would be a good idea to reach out to my father. She called him on the phone, and I talked to him for 10 or 15 minutes and never heard from him ever again.
Things went along without my father in the picture. I guess that time in my life, I felt a little bit of abandonment. I really thought that if and when I became a parent - I don’t know if thought of it at this time, but looking back on it - it shaped what I wanted out of a relationship. I would never do anything like that my kids, which so far I didn’t.
My sister and I were told it wasn’t about us, which it probably wasn’t. Because obviously after the fact, as an adult, I found out more information. That my father was a heavy drinker. He used to work like a swing shift. I think he would get off at like eight in the morning, and he wouldn’t come home until 10 or 11, but that is because he decided to go to the bar and have a bunch of beer, come home, and then go to sleep, and then get back up and go to work. So, I never saw him at home. He and my mother did not, obviously, have a good relationship.
In actuality, my mom told me, what she wanted to do her whole life was that she wanted to be a housewife. She wanted to be a mother and run the house. And she didn’t say it, but I’m thinking, she wanted that because she got pregnant before they got married. This is back in 1962. Most of the time people would get married rather than have a child out of wedlock. So, she manipulated the situation and got what she wanted. And then, they had me and so I guess, in hindsight looking at their relationship, it was a lie from the very beginning. My mom wanted to get pregnant right away, and I don’t think my dad ever wanted to get married, but he did the right thing. Good that he did that, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. Anyways, looking back at it, I just feel it’s a bad way to start a relationship, by deceiving somebody. So, it was doomed from the beginning.
When I was in my younger years dating, I didn’t date too many women because I knew that I wanted somebody who was independent and strong. I was always told as a child that I was very mature, so I gravitated towards my wife Stacey, who was very independent, strong-willed woman, and she was seven years older than me. I guess seeing my parents get a divorce really put it in my head that that was something I never wanted to do. I’ve been married to Stacey for 33 years, 33 years this year. Or - I’m sorry 32 years. To be honest, it has been difficult to stay married that long. We’ve had many times - well not many times. We have had a few times when I thought that we were going to have to go separate ways, but we were both determined, and we both truly love each other and have always respected each other, and we wanted to stay together. We worked through it and, I think, that us working through it, partly because of seeing my parents get divorced I didn’t want to see that, it made us a lot stronger, and shaped our family values and marriage values.
Seeing my parents get divorced, I always knew that I wanted to be a very involved father. We raised our children in the same home. Stacey and I still live there. My boys are twins and they are two years older than my daughter. I was coach of my boys’ little league team for four or five years. Our vacations were usually camping, and a lot of family time. We always had dinner as a family. We always sat down together, when they were young. As they got older, as teenagers do, they say, “I’m not coming home for dinner.” I think it gave me a strong connection to family values, and being a loving, caring, involved parent. Both my wife and I are very close with our children. Even as, you know, the two are moved away, we talk to them at least once a week, sometimes a couple times a week. We plan; now our family gatherings are, “How can we get everyone together and go somewhere?” Which we do.
As far as my parents’ getting divorced, no I probably wouldn’t change that because, like I said, what I found out when I was adult, the things that my father did and who he was, is not who I thought he was when I was a kid. Knowing that, it shaped my attitude towards family in a good way. If I had everything I desired in life, I think it would be boring (laughs). I really do. I think it would be extremely boring, and dull. Because you just get everything, you have no worries, no problems, everything is given to you on a silver platter. I don’t think I would like that, to be honest. I think I life you have to go through difficult times, because the difficult things show you what you don’t want, which shows you what you do want.
I would give this book to teenagers seeing their parents go through a divorce. That would be a difficult time, and I think the important thing about the story that I have told you is that sometimes difficult things have to be lived in order to come out the other side in a happier place. Even though it was difficult, in the long run, sometimes difficult things are what shape you in a good way.
Life’s Hardest Lessons Teach You the Most Valuable Things: Table of Contents
Chapter 1: The Divorce
In which Anthony Nelson reflects on his parents’ divorce, and how they kept the details from him. He discusses how the divorce influenced how he wanted to parent and how he wanted to be a spouse.
Chapter 2: My Parents Living with Other Adults
In which Anthony Nelson sees his parents living with other adults and the impact of this new setting on his and his sister’s lives.
Chapter 3: My Parents Settling Down
In which Anthony Nelson reflects on the last conversation that he had with his dad, and the influence of his mother on his earlier years.
Chapter 4: Loving Family
In which Anthony Nelson discusses how the divorce of his parents effected his relationship with his own wife and kids. He also discusses the impact that the death of his sister at age 26 had on his life and on his mother.
About Anthony Nelson
Anthony Nelson grew up in the suburbs his entire life. He has only lived in three places in his life, specifically three different houses. He says that he has a strong sense of morality, and always tries to do the right thing, and keep things in perspective, and not get too worked up about anyone thing. Nelson lives with his wife and has three children, two boys and one daughter.
 All names have been changed to pseudonyms