My parents are still alive and until recently I was still preoccupied with my attempt to be an outstanding enough daughter that I would finally be recognized for the good person I really am. This included giving them keys to my beach house with the offer, “go anytime you want!” Maybe we could become that kind of family! I’ve always been at their beak and call for chores, rides, fix it projects around their house, the host for every holiday and celebration, picking up the cost and making arrangements for birthday celebrations and anniversary parties big and small. Picking up the phone whenever they called to say yes to whatever the request was. Occasionally someone who had heard a story or two of my life asked how I could still have a relationship with them, and I’d answer that I had forgiven, to create a different family story for the sake of not only myself but my children.
Bullshit. The truth is I’ve been a coward. I’ve been too frightened to stand up to them. Until a couple months ago. Some facts come out in the open about my helping them fix up their condo rental for sale, which helped them realize a much higher sale. I’ll tell that story one of these days, but when I finally got an answer to what had happened to all the money from the sale it was as if the universe finally slapped me in the face yelling, “open your eyes and stop allowing them to take advantage of you!” They had given me a few dollars for all my work but turned around and gave the church thousands. It undid me. Thank you, I said to both my mother and father, thank you for doing me this favor once and for all. If I haven’t gotten the message before now, where I stand in the hierarchy of what and who is important to you, I got it now! To that they replied it was none of my business, they could do what they wanted with their money, to which I replied, yes, but do you know the hell I’ve been through in my life because of your choices? Do you have any idea how much you have hurt me? In the name of that church! Do you? When you did this, it hurt me, when you did that – telling a story – do you know what that did to me? Do you have any idea of how much I have suffered? All so you could continue to look good in the eyes of the church and your community? My dad wouldn’t even look me in the face, rather continued to calmly eat his lunch. “Look at me, look at me when I’m talking to you, look in my eyes when I’m telling you this!” He looked up and with a smirk laughed to himself, saying to me: “If you could see your face.” Another smirk, laugh.
I had a flurry of harsh words. I’ll write down the whole story here one day. The unfolding of those minutes were so traumatic that afterwards I went home and wrote word for word what had played out because I didn’t want to get a single fact of it wrong, the words, who said what when, it was so pivotal in my finally saying no. No to them! Finally. No to my dad, in the most direct words I possibly could conjure up that afternoon. “Go ahead, laugh at me. Deny what you’ve done. But you know that god of yours? One day when you meet him, you won’t be able laugh it off, to escape the truth, that day he will hold you accountable for all that you’ve done. You will have to finally face the truth. And now, I am done with you! You will never treat me this way again!”
And I have been, done with him. If I find myself in the same building, it doesn’t mean I have to speak to him. I look at him and see what a small, weak and pathetic human being he truly is in his old age. Weak and still trying to be in control of all those around him. It’s sick to observe. Though that sneaky and manipulative mother of mine finds ways to wiggle back in. As in my brother is dying, a call at 12:30 in morning. So I lay awake all night scared, then later realize it’s a twisted way to justify the admission she’s made a few days prior when calling in fear during a verbal attack session pouring down upon her by that same brother, that they had given him $50,000 over the last year and now he was demanding more. What? You’ve lied to me? I thought he paid you back, you told me he did when he sold his house. He gave us a check but didn’t cash it. What?! Why? Why does he receive such concern and generosity from you, things I’ve never been the recipient of?!
The next day she called to ask if I wanted a renewal of a magazine, no doubt a freebie when renewing it for her sister. I said no thank you, I don’t need it. “But about that $50,000? Do you know how that hurts me? Do you remember when we were at the mall around my birthday and you asked what I wanted? I pointed out a Fitbit, for $129? And your response? “That’s too rich for my blood!” Why, why is it never too much for him and always too much for me?”
Now today it was a call informing me the church crew to help them load up all the crap from the house and yard into the dumpster to complete their move was not materializing. Could I come help. My answer, “…sigh…sure.” But then throughout the day I was becoming more and more agitated, oh my god, I’m just their cheap help, their default, their dependable she’ll do it and ask for nothing in return girl. So I called her up and said, “You know, I just told you a week ago how much it continues to hurt me that you always come to me asking for help but don’t offer anything in return, it’s always someone else who needs or deserves your attention, help, money, support, but I’m always supposed to be here when you get in a pinch. I can’t help you. You need to call someone, hire some people to get the job done. It won’t be me.”
She started to cry and say she couldn’t deal with this right now. “Okay, so cry, when are you going to deal with it? I’ve waited 50 years for you to deal with it and do right by me, if not now when? Never? I’ve waited 50 years and I’ll be waiting another. I’ve got struggles too, some days I just want to die, I can’t have you continuing to treat me like I’m just free help whenever you get in a corner and have no needs of my own!” That’s when she mentions the check. “You’ve probably not gotten it yet, but we sent you a check.” “What check?” “From the sale of the house. I told you, the other day. After you got mad at us giving money to the church from the condo sale, we are sending you money from the sale of the house.” “What?!” Are you buying me off? That was the end of the conversation, she hung up, she just couldn’t deal with all of this right now. I stood there thinking, they are sending me money? Will it be $50,000? Probably a couple hundred, maybe a thousand. I should deserve as much as my brother though, right? But would that make a difference? How much would they have to pay me to make it all right? A million? Two? No amount of money, not as much as they have or any amount in the world could ever make right what they have done and I will not take it one more moment.
And don’t think you can buy me off. There is not enough in the world to set things right and if there was you couldn’t meet my price.
UPDATE: Mail from her house to mine takes a day, maybe too. Several went by with said check not arriving. The next time I saw her, picking up a box of photos from her house along with my power washer, I ask, “Last time we spoke you mentioned you had put a check in the mail to me, it’s been nearly a week and nothing has arrived.” I hated even asking, it put me in the position of being one of those type of family members, vultures circling for a scrap from the weak. I don’t need the money, that’s not it. I needed to know if she had lied to me and to assess once again her value of me. Her response, “I never said that! I said I would send you a check! When have I had any time to mail anything!” Me: “Mom. You are not telling the true. Verbatim this is what you said to me when I told you to stop treating me as your default free labor, ‘You probably haven’t recieved it yet, but we sent you a check.’ Mom, sent, has in mailed, past tense. Now you say you haven’t mailed it. The point is, you continue to lie to me. Stop lying to me!”