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?