Thursday, September 22, 2011

Family

Tuesday was the 12-year anniversary of my mom's passing. In high school, I took the day off the first year. In college I didn't; each class cost me money. I've never taken the day off work when it's fallen on a work day. It's one of those life moves on sort of things. There have been years I've realized it passed without notice.

But I was aware this year, probably because she's been on my mind more frequently.

My parent situation really, to put it mildly, bums me out. I mean, I've made peace with it and everything. I don't lie awake at night pining for a family I don't have. Well, I do lie awake at night, but that's not why.

There is the situation with my father. Many a person has encouraged reconciliation. And all those people typically are family or the odd friend who isn't aware of the history. I haven't had him in my life since 2006. He had this habit of disowning me for minor infractions, kicking me out of the house during fits of anger, telling me he never wanted to see me again. When I went to live with him after my mother died, he pulled this less than three months after her death, which was shortly after my birthday and around Christmastime.

He started disowning me at about 12/13 when I was in grade eight. It started when I stood up to him one day, after he screamed at my brother till his son collapsed into tears. The issue? My brother had been fooling around with my dollhouse. This sent my father into a rage and in a deluded blast of ignorance he unleashed verbal abuse onto his 10-year-old boy because he didn't want him to be gay.

My brother's not gay, for the record. He just happened to be fiddling around with my dollhouse, the way everyone did, boys and girls alike, when they passed by my room. It was neat. It had furniture and magnets. This was the day I took my first stand. My mother was pro-love and anti-hate and I had absorbed this belief and A. was pissed about the homophobia and B. was horrified at what he was doing to my brother. It's not like he hadn't spent our childhoods bullying us, but this was the final straw.

My father didn't live with us, and therein I took my stance. What right had he to determine if my brother was allowed to play with my dollhouse in my mother's house? And to torment him into the hysterics he had him in, which I could hear clearly through the receiver? Just no. My brother couldn't even hold the phone close to his ear. He held it away from him, still able to hear every furious insult, sobbing inconsolably.

I took the phone and I don't remember the conversation. I know one of us hung up on the other. I know he vowed I was no daughter of his anymore, and I know we didn't speak for half a year. I know this was a pleasant time in my life. I have very fond memories of grade eight.

The final time he did it, after having disowned me about, oh, I'd wager 10 times total, I was 23 if not 24. One of my aunts, who was rather instrumental in my early courtship, such as it was, with the dude back in our hometown, used to pick me up from his place and we'd have breakfast together and visit. My father caught wind of these visits and sought to commandeer them. As though after a weekend lover's romp, the person I'd most want to see would be my father.

He more or less intimidated my aunt out of picking me up and I had to call him and explain that this was not a time I wished to visit, that my aunt and I had plans, that this was a special thing, woman-to-woman. Not having a mother in my life, and being desirous of older female company, this time with my aunt was important to me. There was no getting this across to my father. He has this habit of seeing me as an extension of himself. You can hear it in his voice usually when he says, "My daughter." My daughter, the way he says my toaster or my house.

So that day, again, I was dead to him and never speak to me again and stay out of my life and I'm done with you and so forth. This man, who has begged borrowed and stolen large amounts of my inheritance, who has had me drag him around Toronto hammered at 4:00 after a day at Hooter's, and who gave up buying groceries and stayed out late drinking when my brother I were living with him in high school, felt that my wish to keep my own plans that afternoon was unacceptable behaviour.

That day I called him on it and made it stick. I've been happier ever since. He's long forgotten that day. It didn't really make the impression on him that it did on me.

He was put out that I wished not to be walked down the aisle by him. But really, it would be a facade. By necessity I've been on my own a long time. My aunts have carried me in my times of need as a teen and summers during college. But otherwise, I've been flying solo. And that's how I'm doing this thing.

People ask about my parents. I never know what to say, really. I don't enjoy making people uncomfortable for perfectly reasonable and normal questions. It's never easy to talk about. In my heart, I don't really have any parents. But that's something I'm really looking forward to in getting married: new family members, and new primary people who will be asked about, namely my husband, and eventually my children. Like I was saying, live moves on. And thank God for that.

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