I’m a fairly open person. Well at least I am now. This blog has helped a lot with that. But whenever I was around my parents, I’d revert to my old fake and guarded self. I still felt like a little kid and like I needed to behave. This was totally my mom’s doing of course. So when I was around them, I didn’t curse. I acted like a kid in a lot of ways. And that’s weird.
I wanted to be more genuine with my dad but that was made so difficult because being around him usually meant I was around my mom, too. And being around her meant I couldn’t be myself. Which is funny because whenever my real personality slips out she automatically assumes I’m not being myself. When I was in high school and even younger, she’d claim I was just acting like my friends and that I needed to talk like myself. I wanted to say, “well, maybe if you took a chance to get to know me…” But I didn’t. And I still don’t. I still don’t say what I feel. And in that way, I am so very much like my dad.
I can’t say the hard things. I’ve never been able to. The words will bubble up my throat but never quite make it past my lips. So when my mom says things like, “I always did for daddy and I’d do anything to do things for him again,” I want to say what is it that you did, exactly? Bring him takeout food he shouldn’t have been eating? Tell him not to go to the doctor? Restrict him to a bedroom? Fail to call emergency services when he hadn’t been out of bed except to go to the bathroom (if that) in over a month?
And when she says, “I liked our visit last week. While you were eating lunch, I ate crackers, didn’t I Brennie?” I want to say, why do you always try to make me feel sorry for you? What is it about sympathy that you crave? Why can’t you go about your day and I go about mine?
But I don’t say any of those things. I bite my tongue. Hard. I sit and feel the anger seethe within my belly as I just nod and say “mhmm,” as she talks and talks and talks. It builds up and it has no place to go. Because I can’t say the hard things. I can’t get past the fear. I am still the little girl sitting cross-legged on avocado green carpet, looking up at her mother’s widened eyes and manic grin, wondering what she said to make her so angry. Wondering if she’ll ever stop yelling.
And not once did that little girl wonder if she’d ever be free, because she couldn’t imagine a world where things weren’t complicated and exhausting and backwards. She couldn’t imagine a world where things made sense.
So I never say the hard things. I sit and accept. I nod and smile and pretend. And I hate myself. And I wonder if this is how my dad felt. Powerless. Trapped. Incapable of fighting back because silently accepting madness is all you’ve ever known. Or all that you can remember, at least.
Image source: sea turtle