I’m making mistakes. Mistakes in judgement. Not big ones. Mistakes that will take care of themselves, if not discovered, and the only one who could be hurt is me. If they are discovered, well, then people will question my judgement. Which would be justified.
Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category
Damn, that felt good!
(My sister (you know which one) is exempt from the comments that follow, as are, for the most part, my two younger brothers. My sister was definitely more victimized than I, and my youngest brother more neglected, even if that’s hard for me to imagine. His neglect is also a result of my social isolation. I was incapable of being a brother. I’m really sorry about that. My other younger brother seems to have found, early on, a woman who helped him straighten a lot of shit out. My other family members seem to still be pricks.)
After my mother died I did a little looking around the internet and found out that I had “cut myself off from the family.” This may be true as far as it goes, but there is perhaps a little background, and if you’re gonna write shit about me, then why shouldn’t I write shit about you?
First of all, look at yourselves: Alcoholics, drug addicts, racists, wife beaters, rapists (both statutory and brutal), and cheaters. Why would I not cut myself off from the lot of you?
Second of all, remember how I (we, in part) grew up: With a man who hated me because I could read, whose idea of play was to feel me up, and the woman who thought he was just dandy, who wanted me to grow up to be just like him. (You guys do realize that she was mentally ill, don’t you? She didn’t ‘have a hard life’. She was fucking psychotic (borderline, narcissistic), and made her life (and ours) ten times harder than it had to be.) I grew up with a brother who held a gun to my head an threatened to kill me. "I’ll just tell them it was a hunting accident." They would have believed you, too. I grew up in a family where the only time people talked to me was to tell me shut up and go away, or to humiliate and demean me. This is not an exaggeration. I was totally isolated socially both at home and, because of social prejudice, in school. (The teacher made it clear on my first day that I was not at all welcome in her classroom. That’s not the fault of my family, but it is relevant to the fact that I was socially isolated, and to this day, cannot maintain stable friendships. It’s a wonder that I have such a good marriage. How many divorces do you guys have between you? Seven? Eight?) I learned to trust no one, not even those who meant me well, because as I was growing up there was no one who meant me well. And this has cost me more than you’ll ever know.
You people, aside from being, as far as I can tell, assholes, are nothing more than a reminder of the worst period of my life. Why would I want that? I grew up being told that everything wrong in my life was my own fault. I can still hear my mother yelling “What’s the matter with you! Can’t you do anything?!” It took a while, but I finally discovered the answer to that first question: There was not a goddamn thing wrong with me until that bitch and her pet pervert started fucking with my head. The answer to the second question is "Yes. I can do many things, and do some of the well. You were just never paying attention."
I’ve spent the last thirty years trying to recover from what growing up in that family did to me. I have lived with depression since I was seven years old. I was suicidal when I was nine. I have lived with mental illness, anxiety attacks and dissociation my entire adult life. I did not cut myself off from the family. I cut myself loose. I cut myself free. And my only regret is that I didn’t do it more explicitly and decades sooner.
(This should be last post like this here. I really have other ideas for this blog. But this has been screaming to be written for a while. There is more, but you’ll have to wait for the book.)
My mom died on Sunday. I found out because I regularly check the website of my hometown newspaper. Otherwise I never would have known. I hadn’t seen her for about twenty years, and the last correspondence we had was about nine years ago, before I moved overseas. And the rest of my family has no idea where I am. You can choose your family. Or at least you can choose not to have the one you were born with.
My first thought when I realized that I had just read my mother’s name in the obituary column was "Wow. She died." I did feel tears trying to creep out of my eyeballs, but they never made it. I cried a little when I heard that a colleague of my wife died a few weeks ago, a woman that I barely knew but did like. For my mother I don’t cry. Not yet anyway. My wife tells me that some people don’t grieve for four to six weeks after a loss. So maybe something will hit me. I’m not expecting it, though. I have already mourned the loss of my mother, or rather, the fact that I never had one. I can honestly say, without hatred or resentment (I outgrew that) that the woman ruined my life.
I must confess to a little curiosity. I wonder what the funeral was like. I wonder what they said about me. Because my mother’s funeral is all about me, dontcha know. Seriously, I’m sure the subject came up. I mean, if I was there, and there was a brother that no one had heard from in ten or twenty years, well, wouldn’t you want to know? The biggest question I’m sure all of them have is Why? None of them will stop to think that each and every one of her children have, at some point, cut her out of their lives. Or maybe they will think about it, but no one will say it out loud. We each had different reasons; we are each different people, and we were each abused by her in different ways. The only difference is that they all apologized and came back into the fold, or, as I think of if, back into the darkness of eternal denial. I’m the only one who didn’t, and I don’t regret it.
I could have regretted it. I’m sure I would have. If it weren’t for last attempt at communication with her . . .
I had just moved in with a friend and package from my mom was forwarded to me. (Sausage and cheese. I was vegan, but my roommates enjoyed it) I really didn’t want the Post Office to do that, but it had to be signed for, and my new address made it back to her. So she wrote me a letter saying she wanted to know how my life was going. This was the first letter from her that I had opened in about ten years. They came every couple of years, and the last one I opened started of with the sentence How dare you! How dare you treat your mother like this! I didn’t read any further, threw the letter away, and treated her mail like junk mail from then on. At least this letter was civilized. I was not quite so civilized in my response:
"You tell me. You’re the one who always told me I’d never amount to anything. You tell me how you think my life is going."
Just that one line. No greeting, no closing. Typed. She replied "I don’t remember ever saying anything like that."
That could have been true. Maybe she didn’t remember. So I tried to test her memory a little bit. Remember that I was still pretty angry at this point in my life. I was at the beginning of deep depression (that I didn’t recognize), and had just lost my job, and was trying to rebuild a career that I didn’t want (I didn’t recognize that, either.) So I wrote back:
If you don’t remember saying that, maybe you remember some of these: Do you remember threatening to give me away? Do you remember me telling you that I didn’t like the son-of-a-bitch grabbing me?
Her response: I would never give one of my children away! And as for [evil-stepfather number one] grabbing you, if you had told me such a thing, I would have put a stop to it! And what do you mean grabbing you? Do you mean sexually, as he did your sister?
And then she told me to get over it. That was the end of our correspondence. I tried to respond, but I was just too fucking angry to write coherently. And somewhere along the line I realized that it just didn’t matter. No matter how coherently I wrote, she would not comprehend what I was saying. Nothing I could say would ever penetrate that titanium shell of denial and self-righteousness. Just take what she said about her pet pervert (I actually called him that in the letter. I’m kind of proud of that tag): She wrote "if" I had told her such a thing. There was no fucking if. I told her in exactly those words I did not like him grabbing me. By adding the "if" she called me a liar. And then went on to admit that she knows he was fully capable of sexual abuse. But if there had been any abuse, she would have stopped it, had she only known about it. If only I had told her. Bullshit. That’s called blaming the victim. A seven year old can’t express himself much clearer than "I don’t like him grabbing me."
Oh, and the bit about my sister? He raped her regularly for two or three years. I woke up in the back of a station wagon to a rape in progress in the front seat once. When my sister finally confronted my mother about it after she had left home my mother said that she was making it all up and disowned her. She stuck to that story for at least fifteen years. Just so we’re clear about who we’re supposed to be mourning here.
I’m glad I did write to her those years ago. It was enlightening. I finally realized just how deep my mother’s denial of her own failures, and (I can’t emphasize this enough) how strong her sense of self-righteousness was. If I hadn’t come to terms with that, if I had had any unfinished business with her, her death would be devastating. As it is, I feel almost nothing.
Almost. As I sat in my chair, watching something on TV, something neutral, so I wouldn’t have to think, and thought about mother and her death and the fact that I would never see her again, or talk to her, and the fact that I wasn’t feeling much of anything, I did become aware of a feeling. I felt relief. Relief that I would never see her again, or talk to her. It was as if her existence had been a burden, or an obstacle. I felt free. Now I can be who I am, who I want to be, without fear of her judgment. I hadn’t even known that I still feared that, and I have been happy with my life for quite some years now, but still, it’s a relief. And I do feel sad that relief is the predominant emotion I have concerning my mother’s death. It shouldn’t have been that way.