Appearance is Everything (A Letter to My Parents)

“Be quiet, Jim! The neighbors can hear you!”

If I had a dollar for every time I heard that one,
I could pay my college tuition.

“Mommy, why do you always tell daddy that?”
I was five the first time I’d asked,
just calmed down,
just crawled out of the safety of my older sister’s arms.
Embarrassment.
That was the only explanation I was ever given.
That was the only explanation I ever needed.

This is who you were and still are.
From birth to January of 2016,
these scenarios comprised most of my memories.
“Dad”,
your outbursts,
fits of rage,
screaming:
“You’re crazy like your mother!”
“Bitch!”
“Cunt!”

Mom, your passive-aggressive responses
hushed tone,
reminding him of Sisi and I,
of the neighbors,
because he screamed so loud,
even from inside,
with that voice that shook the earth,
that the neighbors could hear.

You’d lob the half-finished projects,
the mounting unpaid bills.
You’d gently toss the “way things should be” card to the ground at his feet.

You loved me,
loved Sisi,
but you wanted it all swept under the rug.
You wanted all of the skeletons shoved into the closet,
both in,
and out,
of the house.

“We shouldn’t be in debt.”
You gave me a rough dollar amount;
I was only eight years old.
People wonder why I worry so much about my budget as an adult.

“We make too much money for this.”
I learned exactly why we shouldn’t be in debt.
But… you were right.
We should have been fine.
We weren’t though.
“Dad”,
you pissed away a lot of money.
I just never understood how much.

Mom,
you got nasty—
spit acid,
broke spirits with single sentences.
I have scars from the chemical burns,
faint cracks that never quite healed.
You told me,
still tell me,
that I’m “too sensitive.”
No.
Individual psychology…
You never could quite grasp the concept.

Even so,
you were the adhesive that held the puzzle together—
the warped puzzle whose pieces just didn’t fall into place.
You trudged through the trenches of overtime ER nursing,
kept digging,
kept the rations in supply,
lead a misfit army of three.
And with only your own two feet to carry that weight,
you were,
and still are (though less so now),
carrying the stress of 100 soldiers.
I won’t make excuses for you;
however, I understand.

You,
on the other hand,
“Dad”…

No one is perfect.
We’re all human.
I did try to make excuses for you as a kid,
even agreed with you until I was 15.
I now know why.
Mentally,
you hadn’t matured beyond the age of 16.
That was why we saw eye-to-eye,
liked the same shit,
had so much in common,
had so much fun together…
That was why I ignored the way you screamed at me,
at mom,
at Sisi…
until she was smart and got the fuck out at 19.

Then,
January 2016,
you got caught.
Substance abuse.
With the charisma of “Barack Hitler,”
you retained your license.
You’re almost out of dialysis nursing now,
known for taking “nurses with habits” of many varieties,
and back in hospitals.

Mom almost left you like she should have 17 years ago.
Hell,
she should have never married you.
You flew the red flags high,
but she was blind.
She didn’t open her eyes until after I was forced into this world.
She stayed with the thought of it being better for me.
She didn’t know any better—
she couldn’t see your bullshit for what it was,
and that bullshit would be what fucked me in the head from infancy onward.

And even now…,
despite being a “changed man,”
you can only say,
“Well, maybe I was a tad harsh.”

Fuck.
You.
It was always a power struggle.
Every nice gesture,
every fun time,
every shared laugh,
was held over my head.
You can’t even do x, and we did y for you.”

And you had the balls to take credit for any emotional support?
Go to Hell.
Maybe,
just maybe,
if you’d fucking take responsibility for your actions,
I could start to forgive you.
You admitted to burning your marriage to the ground.
Why not to shredding your daughter’s,
tearing into your step-daughter’s,
psyches?

You have a family, you know. You need to come back to it.
One day,
when I was so desperate,
so afraid,
that I came to you for help,
you threw that in my face.
I snapped.
YOU are the reason I don’t come back!”
Click. 

Minimal contact.
Another spat like that,
World War III,
nearly happened,
would have happened,
had grandma not been on the would-be battlefield.

Until you can own up to it,
until you stop hiding behind the hooded cloak of “recovering drug addict,”
fuck off.

This is the way it is.

~Jessie

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Author: Elendarin

Student pursuing a degree in psychology with a concentration in clinical psych. I enjoy writing, watching baseball, foreign languages, and being a massive nerd.

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