We’re all damaged in different ways…
Two weeks ago I spent the weekend with my eldest sister, R, outside my home of the big smoke, and stepped into country life for two nights.
My sister and I were estranged for five years after a troubled upbringing together. We were similar in so many ways that we clashed more than anyone in our family. Last year I reached out to her when I returned from travelling and told her I was sorry for every part I had played in our troubled history together. She came back and said the same to me. Since then we’ve been building our relationship back up.
Every time we meet up we spend a little time catching up on what is happening with us now and then we get to the deeper topic of our family and childhood.
My middle sister, S, is a newly qualified counsellor. We’ve had more than our fair share of horrific memories together, most of which have left a tattoo on our relationship and intense trust issues, but for the most part she’s my closest allie.
R and I, being the most hotheaded and stubborn members of our family, have a similar outlook on most things, including our upbringing.
Our parents divorced when I was three, S was five and R was nine. But the story never begins there. No one leaves a happy home. It was our Mum that left. That’s usually the most shocking part to the story when I tell outsiders; not that she left my Dad, but that she left us all.
I was raised by my Dad to believe a story that he, together with us three children, had stood in front of my Mum who was stood with her belongings at the front door while my Dad, and us three, begged her not to leave. She then turned around and left us.
Or so I was told my entire childhood.
My Dad painted himself the victim of an evil woman who turned out to be a gold digging whore; words he recited to us from the age of three to this day on almost every occasion of addressing my Mum.
In reality, a reality it took me twenty-odd years to fully realise, my Dad was an abusive, aggressive, lazy, arrogant, bitter child-like man that has never accepted responsibility for any of his actions. My Mum didn’t leave a happy home. She didn’t leave a loving husband. She left a man that physically beat her during post-natal depression to make her “snap out of it”. She left a man that swore at her on a daily basis for whatever he was angry about in that moment, then forgot he had done it a few minutes later when he had calmed down and gotten it out of his system and wondered why she was quiet. She left a man that ‘worked from home’ which consisted of watching The History Channel all day while laid on the sofa in his bought army clothes. She left a man that, still to this day – and this is something I have only learnt in the last two years – lied about ever being in the army. She left a fantasist. She left a man that hated women. She left a man that threatened to murder her if she even thought of taking us with her. And finally, she didn’t stand in front of us and walk away; she was dragged out of the house by her hair, after being beaten for telling him that she was leaving him, to the end of the drive, punched and forced into the waiting car of the man she had clung to in order to gain the courage to leave my Dad.
I was raised never knowing this.
I was brought up by my crying, blubbering, useless Dad who would scream and swear at us until veins popped out of his neck and sometimes suddenly cry, leaving us not knowing how to behave.
My friends’ parents always remarked to my Dad about how well-behaved we were as small children, in a positive light on how he had raised us. We were terrified of adults yelling at us and us not knowing why we were being yelled at, so we would be quiet and do whatever we were told to avoid upsetting the grownups. We were shell-shocked.
My Dad, to this day, doesn’t see this. He honestly believes he was the best parent in the world because, in his eyes, he “sacrificed my entire life for you girls!” – which is bullshit seeing as he didn’t have a life to lose, coupled with the fact that we have always seemed polite and respectful. We may have always been this way no matter what our upbringing may have been, but fear created this, not love. He doesn’t see that every time anyone is disappointed in me, whether in work or in friendships, I burst into tears and go silent. He doesn’t see that as soon as a person raises their voice to me I burst into tears and apologise, no matter whether what I am being yelled at was my fault or not. He doesn’t see that whenever anyone is angry I bend over backwards to accommodate their every need in that moment as quickly and quietly as I can so not to make them more angry.
Great starting block, huh?!
My entire family unit is fucked up. We all hate each other. We wish we were part of a family that enjoyed each other’s company but we aren’t. Christmas is stressful because all us individuals with shared DNA have to gather round together after weeks of strained texts about whose house we will go to for lunch, at what time, and when we will leave.
S always wins; we go to hers at her schedule and leave when she tells us we have to. As the central person in our family she dictates our family time.
Our Mum desperately wants S to forgive her for leaving us, S refuses to talk to her about what happened but hates her for it and won’t try to understand why she left. Our Dad clings to S as she is the only daughter left that believes his lies, or at least pretends to in front of him for his own benefit, and she is the only one that will entertain him. Without her, he’s alone. Our Grandma believes S to be the golden child even though she barely speaks to Grandma when around her, but as she is polite enough when she does, Grandma loves her. Aside from the fact S doesn’t listen to her our Grandma seems not to notice because she’s at least allowed to finish her story while pretending to herself that S listened.
R and I are much more blunt with our behaviour. If you’ve pissed us off you’ll know. If we think you’re talking bullshit, you’ll know. If we’re not interested we’ll let you know. We have no time for liars and we won’t entertain them for their benefit. We’ll not help you bullshit or feed your ego. Frankly, we’ve had it all our lives and now we don’t give a shit; it didn’t benefit us in any way whatsoever, it only damaged us. So we’re done.
Our Grandma isn’t your typical grandma. She’s not interested in your life or what you like. She doesn’t want to cook lovely dinners for you or any of that other movie shit. She doesn’t want to talk about anything but our Grandad. Which would be lovely if he hadn’t divorced her 25 years ago and cut her from his life entirely. Twenty-five years later she is more obsessed with him than ever. He got ill at the beginning of the year and she visited him in hospital every day – he wasn’t conscious and he still has no clue about this. She would hold his hand and stroke his head, then kiss him goodbye. He’d be too freaked out if he knew so my Mum chose not to tell him.
She got a key to his house, we’re still not sure how but we suspect she lied to his neighbour, and sorted his post – by opening it all – went through his documents and made herself at home in the house he’s lived in alone for twenty-five years. If he knew this part, he’d possibly get a restraining order, so he doesn’t know this either.
Given the chance, my Dad would do the exact same to my Mum.
This is the kind of shit I’ve had around me my whole life. One party obsessed with the other, the other being disgusted by them. Back and forth. I blame this for my fear of commitment; I don’t want to be either one of them, especially not the obsessed party.
My eldest sister pushes every man away from her walls but always has a man. My middle sister clings to any man and can’t ever be alone. I won’t let myself get close for fear that they’ll damage me more, so am always alone.
As my big sister put it two weeks ago when referring to all three of us; we’re all damaged, in different ways.