When I was 22, my father left our family for a woman he had been involved with for some time. I never saw it coming. I remember the night my mother had to deliver the news at dinner. I asked what time dad was coming home and she broke down in sobs. That same morning I had seen my father at the breakfast table thinking it was a day like any other. He told me that I looked pretty. He never mentioned that he was leaving.
The event devastated our family to such an extent that when he died a few years ago, my brother had not seen him in nearly twenty years. I had tried, and failed, at various intervals to establish some kind of relationship with him. Months before his death (he kept his illness secret from us, too, proving once and for all to me that people don’t change) I had finally let loose with my anger when the ‘the other woman’, now his wife, decided to email me and tell me I wasn’t treating my father well. The night before he died, I called him. We spoke for a long time. He never said he was sorry for any of it. After carrying around the unbearable weight of his betrayal and abandonment for so long, I forgave him. Not for his sake, but for mine.
When I read the latest tabloid turn in Edwards’ saga of self -destruction, I am drawn back to that time in my life when everything I assumed was true turned out to be anything but. Fathers don’t always put their families first. No matter how old a child is, the hurt caused by a parent’s deception can go more deeply than you ever thought possible.
Having known the deep, deep pain I felt in private I can not begin to imagine what this must be like for Jack, Emma Claire and Cate with the added burden of having to see this play out in public. I hope they find some strength by banding together.
So for all of Edwards’ sins–betraying public trust, getting a campaign aide to take the fall for him and violating his marriage contract–I say, most of all, shame on him for being a lousy father.
That is by far the worst crime he could have committed. Just ask his children.
Betty’s multi-tasking parenting columnist is a New York Times best-selling author who covers fashion and entertainment for publications, including People. When she adopted her daughter from China in 2005, she discovered motherhood provides great material on a daily basis. Between driving her daughter to nursery school and juggling play dates, she writes and is at work on her first novel.