Wednesday, April 8, 2009

flat on the couch


I've done it again. I've totally sidetracked myself. Once more.


In absolute honesty, I really had no intention of digging up all the Michigan dirt just yet. It's such a loaded topic for me, so confused and conflicted, a hodgepodge of emotions that will never have any resolution. There will never be official closure for this and I'm fully aware of that. My dad died - very suddenly - in August 2002. My step-mother and I haven't spoken in almost 16 years. And I have four half-siblings whom I don't talk to. We aren't mad. We don't not get along. We just don't talk. Some days this breaks my heart. Some days it doesn't bother me at all. But most days I just accept that this is the way things are.


Surely the culture clash had something to do with it, but I don't think that's the whole story. I think that both my dad and my step-mother would have benefited by perhaps marrying more nurturing types of people than they themselves were. Yin and yang. Balance and counterbalance. My step-mother really wasn't evil, or even cruel. She was just terminally self-absorbed, and this carried over into everything she did. She was also very young when they got married. My dad loved his children deeply and wanted the very best for them. He was just clueless as to how to actually interact with them. They were not a good match in any way except for the ability to throw money around the greater Detroit area. And the inevitable divorce, when Sasquatch was a baby, blew the roof off the building. Permanently.


What saved me was my mother. Always. That she was able to get out of the marriage at all is a testament to her guts. He fought the divorce. He fought her for custody. (He didn't want me. He just didn't want to lose.) When she wanted to leave the state and go to California, he fought her on that. And every summer when she put me on the plane to Michigan, it was with trepidation at what was ahead. But I didn't help my cause at all. I had really good friends in my dad's neighborhood and we kept in touch all year. I couldn't wait to get back to see them and reconnect. My maternal grandparents were right there too, and I spent a lot of time with them when I was there, which I loved. I would always shoo away my mom's worries and downplay some of the things that happened so as not to upset her. We talked constantly, and I always knew that any time I wanted to leave and go home I could. But he was my dad, after all. And it's usually in a kid's best interest to have a relationship with the non-custodial parent, right? At least that's what all the books say.


I'd like be able to say that I don't know where all these memories are coming from right now, but I'm well aware of the reason. I married my dad. And that puts me in a tough spot. On the one hand, it makes me crazy that I fell into that trap after bitching about my dad my entire life. On the other hand, it makes me hyper vigilant where my kids are concerned, because I was that kid. And on the third hand I think this partly explains my to the bone exhaustion the last couple of weeks. I'm forcing myself to go places emotionally that I've always been afraid to visit. It's a promise I've made to myself. I won't let the scab heal until the tissue underneath is healthy. And while it would certainly be more fun to jump headfirst into another relationship to keep from having to be too introspective, I think it's a horrible mistake. Sometimes the past has to be dealt with before you can move forward in any kind of a positive, non-selfish way. I'm dealing with it, but it's kicking my ass. I feel...beaten. On a daily basis. I've retreated into my little cave and I know it. I just can't help it.


The Michigan stories will continue, but in my usual half-cocked way. I promise to tell the whole story. Stick around - it'll take awhile.


But for now, here are two little vignettes that are both, in their own way, extremely telling. One tells on my dad, but the other one points straight at me.


The first scenario is one summer when I got back to Michigan, and asked my dad when we were going to see his parents, who had been living there for about five years at that point. He had managed to get everyone in the family who wanted to move over to the US, and I looked forward to seeing my paternal grandparents in the summer. My dad looked at me kind of puzzled, and said "Didn't I tell you that they both died this winter?"


The second one baffles me. Oh, I get the deep psychological implications and all, but the mechanics of it absolutely confound me. When I was learning to talk, my dad spoke to me in Arabic (and Chaldean), in addition to English. (Part of that was an attempt to shut out my mother, but I refuse to sidetrack myself again here.) I was fluent enough in Arabic that when we moved to California, the state certified me as bilingual. During the summers there I spoke what I call "kid Arabic", where I could tell you to sit down, shut up and chew with your mouth closed, but for the most part my second language went the way of a lot of second languages. Unused, unpracticed...forgotten. I can think of maybe ten things I can say right now in Arabic - and half of them are swear words. But at my dad's funeral, my favorite aunt pointed out to me that people were speaking to me in Arabic and I was answering them (perfectly) in English. Well, this can't be, because I haven't had anyone speak Arabic to me in thirty years, and I certainly wouldn't have a clue as to how to respond if they did. I told my aunt (in English) that she was hallucinating and then she pulled in another aunt who backed up her story. So. Evidently this language is still in there. Buried so deep I can't even touch it. Gee. Wonder what that could mean?

10 comments:

Maggie May said...

That was interesting especially about the languages. Just goes to show that there must be stuff lurking in all our brains that we don't even realize.

Aoj and The Hounds said...

You are braver than me RC, there are issues with my father that I am so not ready to deal with yet. There was a time that I thought I had dealt with them but something crops up every now and again and I get so angry about what happened that I realised that I hadn't dealt with them at all, I had just buried them. And that's where they are staying for the time being.

Akelamalu said...

How wonderful that your subconscious has retained all knowledge of Arabic. I imagine with a few lessons it would all come to the fore again with no problem at all, if you wanted to of course.

Frances said...

Sounds eminently sensible to deal with all this in your own way and at a rate you can deal with before diving in at the deep end again. You are the best judge of yourself and where you are - when you are ready to do things, you will. You have both your parents' guts and survivor instincts and a fantastic ability to stand outside a little and look at things honestly. The language thing is spooky, but our brains are just incredibly good at storing things away for another day.

Katy said...

I can relate to your relationship with your dad. He loves his kids he just doesn't know HOW to love them, or be invovled in their lives in any meaningful way.

aims said...

I totally agree with working through it now instead of finding a relationship. You've got tons more baggage that we haven't seen but is seeping out.

And -

Yay Mumsy! (no more needs said on this one)

Daryl said...

I just caught up with the last several posts ... I gotta say I give you major props ... you seem to be dealing with the past a lot better than I would ...

The Gossamer Woman said...

You were a child reasoning like an adult. Somebody had to watch over you. You did it yourself. It's a damn shame.

Southern Drawl said...

Everybody wants to be loved, accepted and included...sometimes we wait our whole lives for it, some of us wait in vain. I'm so sorry...

Cath said...

It doesn't mean anything except you learnt a language at a young age and remembered it. Just not how to speak it.

I do the same with German. When I learnt German, it was as a very young child and before I could speak English really. I learnt to THINK in German. Now, because of lack of practice, I cannot speak German fluently and know about a dozen phrases. But on holiday I found myself listening to German conversations and understanding. If I had been part of the conversation I could have taken part and answered - in English.

I think it is just that you learnt a language very young that's all. It's in your memory. Just not how to speak it.


The rest of the post - brilliant. You know yourself very well. Shame your dad didn't think to get you to your grandparents before it was too late. Sad. I read that it wasn't cruel or deliberate, just thoughtless and consequently insensitive. Sad.

(((hugs))))