He was my champion.
I was her pain in the ass.
When my father died, I found the articles I’d written stabbed against a cork board with his used insulin needles. I’ve always felt that was an affirmation that our love of words, writing and literature was in our blood, that I was truly his daughter. I believe he was deeply proud of what I’d become, coming from being a young mother, divorced at 21, to a military wife, a newspaper reporter, editor and mystery novelist.
When Mom got cancer, she told those around her to not contact me, that she would keep me informed as to the progress of her disease. Ever intent on staying within her favor, those around my mother complied, not informing me as she lay dying.
Enablers can be guilty of abuse, too.
My brother and sister didn’t contact me when she died. Instead, my son was relegated to making that phone call.
If I hadn’t searched for her obituary online, I wouldn’t have known what time the services were.
Not that I’ll go.
Welcome to the long term effect of asking children to choose up sides in a divorce. Folks may believe that the kids will “get over it,” but a lot of times those walls stay up and the temperature stays chilly. My parents made sure of that. And when families are in crises, the polarity rises, the hurt comes back and, at least in my case, the one who wants it all to come out in the open gets shoved to the back of a very dark, very damp basement.
Reading the condolences is like fingers on a blackboard to me. They speak of her vibrancy, her humor and what a wonderful person she was.
If I went to her funeral, I wouldn’t keep my mouth shut.
The folks who wrote those condolences were never the recipient of long, enforced silences, refusals to discuss the past and, at the base of it all, the story no one ever talked about, but one she cooked up, accusing my father of sexually abusing my sister during a bitter custody battle.
After my father died and the walls stayed up, I quit trying to get answers as to why it happened or what it would take to make it better.
Those who wrote those condolences were never the ones to hear the words like: “If I had it to do all over again, I’d never have you kids.”
Her answer after being asked if she’d ever remarry: “I’d never subject a marriage to you three kids.” Of course, when she did remarry, we did just fine.
On my daughter’s diagnosis with mental illness: “She’s not sick, she’s a spoiled brat.”
On my decision to become a reporter: “My secretary makes more money than you’ll ever make at that newspaper.” (My stories will be on microfilm at the public library for the next 100 years or so. Who’s going to look into your accounts payable?)
On the day I was named Citizen of the Year for my small village: “I’m so glad you decided to have this on my birthday” and promptly, loudly complained to the event organizer about the flowers you’d just been given. “Here. Water these—they’re dry.”
Or when my father died: “I’m sorry I made you an orphan.”
Maybe twenty years ago, I should have accepted those words and receded into the woodwork, ignored the scapegoating, the gas lighting and accepted the isolation which in the end, left me here alone long before she died.
After a while, people stop listening. They don’t want to hear you complain about a wound that still festers—but they also don’t ever do anything to help the wound heal, either. Even friendship has its limits and I have watched a very dear friend get sucked into the circle of those who matter and away from me, the one who clearly doesn’t.
I found it grimly funny that when my brother and sister did not attend my father’s funeral, it was generally accepted that they were his “victims.” No doubt, when I’m not seen at my mother’s funeral, I will not be a victim, I will be the ungrateful daughter, the bitch and the one who’s trying to make the situation center around me.
Is it any surprise that my novels center around family secrets and the damage they can do?
I’ve made arrangements with the funeral home to sit beside my mother’s cremated remains before the service starts, before family gets there.
I’ll be leaving a note that simply says “Mom, I’m sorry I wasn’t good enough for you. You missed a lot.”
He was my champion.