At the end of this week, we’re having houseguests. Normally, it wouldn’t be a big to-do. I mean we’d have the house clean, but it’s always pretty tidy, and for most people we don’t even dust off schedule, because nothing is ever that dirty. But in this instance, we’re making the visit an excuse to get a lot of things done, and do a lot of things for the house that we have wanted to do for awhile. It’s like spring cleaning, and house repairs and other home improvement stuff all rolled into one.
We got the carpets of our two upper levels cleaned (and could be a blog post all by itself), had a comforter mended, are dry cleaning certain blankets/comforters/pillows and cleaning to the Michael standard. That means everything is put away, organized and spotless – even closets and drawers. And when I say put away, I don’t mean stuffed somewhere convenient so it’s out of the way, I mean put in its rightful place. Taking care of our hardwood floors, the windows, vacuuming everything, dusting, and fixing random things also make the list along with doing the animals’ nails, teeth and for our dog – it’s bath time.
It will be nice when everything is done (because you know it isn’t yet) – like a major relief, and should keep our house in a higher house standard for a few months, but getting there, while working, taking care of regular house stuff, and just the normal everyday stuff, I’m trying not to stress about everything getting done, or become overwhelmed by it. Because it is A LOT.
I think the “who” is adding to my anxiety. See, I don’t really have a relationship with either of my parents. To say “it’s complicated” is a gross understatement. I am an orphan whose parents are both still living. And it’s been this way since I was in my early teens (like literally living on my own). My mother is not in my life because she is toxic. Like homicidal, physically violent, totally crazy. So that’s for the best, but it doesn’t always feel so great. Usually, I’m fine with it. I know it’s what is right for me, and my family (my husband and our future children), but obviously some days can be hard, and seeing moms love their kids, just reminds me that I never had that, and I never will have that. It’s kind of bittersweet.
My father is even more complicated. In some ways he has hurt much more than my mother, which probably doesn’t even make sense. My mother did unspeakable things to me, but all of the physical stuff, it really doesn’t stay with you the way the other stuff does. Beatings and being attacked with a knife or being strangled may be harder for someone else to hear, but they don’t haunt me like the other stuff can. And she did all kinds of that “other stuff.” But I know she’s crazy. So any of the verbal crap, and all of those psychological abuses you can write off. And it may not be that simple on some levels, but really, on most levels it is. Crazy is crazy. My father isn’t crazy. He is a high-functioning, responsible adult who has always been there for all of my brothers. But never for me.
If I didn’t call him, I could easily go a year without hearing from him. Birthday cards… forget it. I don’t even always get a birthday text or message from him. And it isn’t just the rejection or neglect that hurts, but wow is that enough… growing up he always made me feel like crap about myself. He made me feel like I was this horrible person who didn’t deserve to be loved or to be happy. That was all him, not my mother. Like the time my mother strangled me, and there were finger marks on my neck and both sides were black and blue, he asked me what I had done to deserve it. He told me I just knew how to push people’s buttons – that I brought out the violence in others. When you’re young, like ten years old on up, and you hear the same thing every day from a successful, sane person – it’s harder to brush off. If I ever had friends over, they would be horrified as soon as he said something to me. “Does he always talk to you like that?” They would ask. But I don’t know any other way to be talked to; at least I didn’t back then.
As an adult, things are not really any easier. When I was reevaluating my life and making choices on who I would allow to be part of my life, and who I needed to cut loose – I was seriously on the fence. For some reason, even though he did hurt me so much more than my mother did, even though my self-image was shattered by his words and his treatment of me… I felt he was salvageable. Perhaps because he has never faltered in being the perfect father for all of my brothers. Perhaps because I couldn’t let go of both of my parents, and he was less dangerous to me now, because now I love myself, and I am in a place where I know who I am, and what I deserve. And it takes the power he used to have away.
So I send him birthday cards, even though I never get anything back, or even acknowledgment that he received the card. I try to keep him updated on the big stuff via email. I do visit on average once a year (he’s in Nebraska while I moved to Colorado in 2011) and I try to keep an open mind and an open heart – even if he still sometimes stomps on it, though at this point I don’t think it is deliberate.
But I don’t tell him that I love him. He rarely says it himself, I have maybe heard it twice in five years, maybe. And in those times I mumble it back. I don’t know why this is so hard for me, because I know that I do. That is why I keep trying, and keep reaching out, and there is this longing to know what it’s like to have a parent, even though I am sure at age 30, it’s too late for that. I do this because I love him. But saying it out loud is as hard as hearing him say those words to me. They make me feel uncomfortable, as though something is wrong or off about saying it to each other.
I’ve tried to bring up the past with him. I don’t wallow, but I also believe you have to acknowledge something and commit to not going back to old patterns to truly move on. But he refuses any time I try. He can’t even own it as the past, what he has done and what needs to change. I don’t need an apology from him because I forgave him years ago. Not for him, but for me. Because that resentment is too heavy to carry and it gets in the way of real joy. So the anger isn’t there anymore. The hurt is, and the longing is, but I doubt they will ever truly be gone…
And then a few months ago my dad stated his intention to visit me and my husband in Colorado. More than three years after moving, and he never has. At the time I felt like I do when he tells me he loves me. I pushed it aside as just another thing he says, because there are a million intentions or promises he has made with no real intention of following through, and he never has. But if he was serious, if he meant it – it kind of freaked me out. “What’s his angle? There has to be a reason. Does he want something? Is he sick, or has some terrible news he has to tell me in person?” My mind was frantic, so I had to just push all the thoughts out of my head.
It felt too dangerous to hope that for the first time since I can remember he was genuinely reaching out himself. He was trying because he cared, and it was his turn. But he was serious, and he’ll be here on Friday. He is only staying for two days, but I’m not complaining. He probably feels the way I do, every time I visit. Terrified. Trapped. Constantly walking on egg shells.
I don’t know what to expect from his visit, so to simplify things I have no expectations. It really is that easy after all the years of training I’ve had. I hope this is just a reach out and there isn’t some sort of news or request, but for now I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt. And so the house has to be perfect, and I have to think about things he would enjoy, and I have to watch my tongue and make sure Roy (my husband) and I steer clear of any of the no-no topics: politics, religion, and my fucked up, crazy blood relatives.
I can’t believe in just a matter of days, he’ll actually be here. Even though he is coming and staying in my home, I still feel terrified and expect to walk on those egg shells, but now instead of also feeling trapped, I feel hope. Maybe that is what scares me the most.