Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More Than You Probably Wanted to Know, Pt 1

biggest mistake of my life
things would've been very different if you weren't here
I never got to do what I wanted to because of you
you got yourself into that mess.  we're not helping you, so don't even ask
you've had your chance at freedom, now I want mine
God's punishing me for having you
you'll never succeed in life if you keep that up
I hate this house.  Too many terrible memories in it. 

Welcome to my childhood.  It's no wonder I have seriously grumpy, depressed spans of time, now, isn't it?  See, most folks have an image of my life... The cute, perfect childhood.  The small family, small house.  Nice school, second home, decent mid-sized cars, one child who must be spoiled rotten since she's an only child.  Fancy college, and grad school.  Yeah, she must be spoiled rotten to afford that.  And look how far she moved from home.  Yup, got to be spoiled rotten.

Growing up, every parental argument, and there were many, someone would storm off in a vehicle, and tug me along.  I'd hear about how horrid the other parental was, and usually one of those first three statements would pop into the conversation.  Some form of, "it's your fault as the child because you're here.  Not because you said or did the wrong thing, but you exist".

It took 20 years before I stood up to that.  Parentals were fighting, yet again.  I had good grades in college, I was working multiple part time jobs, cleaned the house, washed the laundry, cooked the meals.  All for the whole family of three, not just myself.  I was in my room, hiding from the shouting.  My mother went outside to clean the pond, and I could hear things hitting the ground as she threw equipment around.  I went out to help, hoping if I offered a lending hand, nothing else would be broken, and there might be peace. 

She shouted at me.  "Just leave me the H&ll alone!  I wouldn't be in this mess if it weren't for you!"

I lost it.  "I didn't create me!  Your egg, his sperm, created me!  I am NOT to blame for your marriage.  YOU chose to get pregnant, and married soon after."  She asked me to lower my voice.  I refused.  "You two have been screaming my entire life.  It's MY turn to let the neighbors know that I am not responsible."

She went back inside, asking my father "to control his child", as they both closed every window, hoping to contain my emotion.   I shouted more.  "I am BOTH your child, not just one or the other.  I have cleaned, cooked, washed YOUR underwear.  All the while working on and off campus.  And getting damn good grades, in case you forgot what last semester looked like, or what every exam looks like that I set on the kitchen table.  NO more blaming me, NO more shouting at me, NO more holding ME responsible for your sex and your choices.  That's iT!"

I took off.  I left the house, got in my car, and drove.  Nearly an hour, and I ended up less than 2 miles from the house on campus.  I was sitting on one of the building staircases, begging God for answers.  "If I'm not to blame for their misery, then why do they continue to say it?  Aren't my grades good enough?  Don't I cook good food?  Aren't I cleaning the toilet every week?  Am I not hanging up his shirts fast enough?  If I moved out, would it change?"   When I returned home, I spoke to no one.  I continued with my own routine for at least two days, only caring for myself and my own needs, while attending school and work.  I spoke to everyone on campus and at my job, like nothing had happened.

I moved away when it came time for graduate school.  My undergrad advisor said to me, "You can get into grad school on your grades, and they'll pay for all of it.  You're that smart you can get a full scholarship, including living expenses."  I applied, and prayed.  It was *just* far enough that nobody in my bloodline could get to me without a phone call first.  6 hours' drive, one way.  Worse in the winter.  A full 24 month program.  Accepted, and moved, I settled into my own independent life.

I only cooked for one.  I only cleaned for one.  I only had three loads of laundry at the public laundromat after a week or two.  I made friends.  I bonded with people.  I explored a form of religion that was unlike what I was used to.  I discovered my faith was stronger than I thought.  I confronted a church elder before his sexual harassment got out of hand.  It got close, and I still struggle with that. 

I ended up working in South Carolina for two years after school.  That ended abruptly, two months after the building was complete on a brand new house built just for me.  I was faced with two months' severance pay, no health insurance, a mortgage, car payment, and utilities.  I was terrified.

I'll never forget what was said when I called home with the news.


Shepherd K said...

Oy. I think I see where this is going. I didn't live through anything quite that bad, but there was a time my sister and I both put our foot down and refused to be a part of the arguments any longer. My sympathies and condolences for the lot handed to you in the parent lottery.

Jennifer said...

Thanks K. It's going to take me five installments to get this all in print.