HE RELATIONSHIP A PERSON HOLDS with their family is complex and often impenetrable. Bonded through flesh, DNA and sometimes marriage, when you combine all external factors, it becomes virtually impossible to act like civil human beings.
With family, your shortcomings, virtues and hidden demons are regularly served up like second helpings of potatoes during dinner. And without notice, yelling and complaining become the one accepted form of communication. I can hear my mother’s smoker lungs yelling at me now,
“Make sure you know the family you’re marrying into. Whatever you think love is, it isn’t. It is all one big, ugly lie.”
I offer you the same unsolicited advice. You can fall into a serious, sexy relationship with the Hugh Grant of Montgomery, Alabama, then find yourself spending the holidays with Faye Dunnaway in “Mommie Dearest”,
“NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!!!!!”
Scientists should study the dysfunctional family. It could save all of us millions of dollars in therapy and antidepressants. Maybe the scientific community has studied this epidemic of terrible lives but they just haven’t made their way to my rusty gate.
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that half the shit that makes you who you are is a direct result of what your mother said and did to you during the first and last five years in her house. My mother, who claims that I am a younger version of her, has been committing suicide for the last thirty years of her life. It’s a very pitiful death that begins in her mouth, travels down her throat and lands in her liver. Alcoholism--mother’s closest friend, the cause of her rage and a battle that she’ll never win. My father never speaks of her addiction, or the toll it’s taken on their marriage.
I know I wasn’t the one who drove her to the bars, nor did I cause the minor little incident leading to her weekend stay in Milledgeville’s Central Hospital. I knew that the truth would come out eventually. I knew that one day I would be able to take advantage of my folks, and they would finally have to grow up and be adults. Unfortunately this day will probably come at a time that’s too late to reap the emotional rewards.
I started out life as a Galapagos turtle. Hard shelled on the outside, slimy skin on the inside. I have a wide girth and a small neck that is hidden within the folds of skin that eventually turn into my barrel shaped chest. Ugliness lurked inside of me, and the true person could be found deep within the outer shell. From the moment I popped out into the world, I had no chance of surviving with any sense of normalcy. My parents even endowed me with a Turtles name, Myrtle. I wasn’t named after a song, a do-gooder relative or prominent woman in history, instead, after Myrtle the Turtle, a “beloved” children’s book about a Galapagos turtle that is small, cute and shy. And in the end, Myrtle the Turtle has to learn that coming out of her shell is not going to be the end to her petty little world.
Growing up, I endured a number of assaults to my emotional health. My father played ignorant, telling me that my mother needed her “rest”. This was his answer to everything. As a small child, I would ask him why she couldn’t sing me a song, why God gave boy’s penis’s, why she couldn’t rock me to sleep or why he couldn’t keep down a job and he would answer the same way every time:
“Your mother needs her rest, and so do you.” With that comment, I would assume that I needed a drink too. I had to convince my parents that I loved them despite their flaws. Pretending all along that the crap they were putting me through did not affect me. Invisibility would be my super power.
School was a not a huge priority. My father honestly believed that a woman’s place was in the home. I know his mindset hurt my mother. Homemaking was the least of her worries, instead she spent her time at the hospital. As an ER nurse by day, sober and organized in even the most traumatic situations, there was nothing that could go physically wrong with the human body that she could not handle. She surprised us all with her abilities. But, by the time her shift was over, she had all but discombobulated emotionally and physically.
Tearing her Dr. Scholl’s granny shoes off at the door, she would ignore my father as he greeted her and then meander her way from the foyer to the living room, kiss me on the cheek, and in a soft whisper tell me I was the only reason she stayed. As a twelve year old, I didn’t know what that meant nor did I know that the use of this phrase would send me into years of therapy.
Dinner Conversation continues...