I want to stray from my usual easy-going posts that discuss writing, entertainment and/or other generally – shall we say – “fun” topics. Today’s post really comes from the heart…and it should as it’s been a long time since I’ve written last.
I will be honest readers: I am struggling here.
For the entirety of my life, the term “family” has been a very abstract idea. As my friends and family know, I am adopted and so I was raised that blood does not necessarily define who your family is. Over the years, I began to mold my own definition of family and I think I have come as close to the actual answer as I can possibly get:
“Family is: those who care about you and those who you care about.” That is as plain and simple as I can put it.
The truth is, I am at a very difficult crossroads in my life.
Let me explain, and trust me, I am really opening up on this one. What you read in the following paragraphs may forever change relationships as they currently are in my life. Here goes nothing:
My father was never there for me when I was young. Sure, he lived at home and he is still married to my mother but he wasn’t truly there. What do I mean? Well, my father was a workaholic. He always put work before everything else in his life – including his family. I did not grow up with nothing. I had the nicest clothes on my back, the best food that stores could offer and the biggest house on the block. What I didn’t have was a father to share these things with. My father came home late almost every night and, up until I was a teenager out that late myself, my bedtime was always before he got in. I was taught that money was more important than time…and I was taught often.
My mother was more important than anyone…not only to my father, but to herself. I would hear often about my neighbors and how they were “less than…” or some other such nonsense about how they could never measure up to my father. She was as thick-headed and stubborn as an ox and I grew up learning to be stubborn and thick-headed as well. I have not once been apologized to by my mother unless she and I both were at fault and I apologized first.
I was forced into a religion which I was unsure of. Rather than giving me my “free agency” like said religion teaches, they decided to follow the devil’s plan and “force me to make the right decisions.” This is not the religion’s fault. Nowhere in their teachings have I found doctrine that inspires parents to brainwash and force their children into submission. This is simply a common parenting trait for those who believe in any God.
On top of all this, I was taught to respect “my elders.” Now, this is one that I normally tend to agree with. However, I believe that certain individuals have earned that respect while others have not. I have made it a personal standard of mine to show respect to every individual regardless of age, race or gender until said individual has disrespected me. My parents did not share this view. Somehow living longer instilled an automatic amount of respect due to an individual.
The “less than…” idea was passed onto me. I was a very brilliant child when I was younger and I struggled to maintain that intelligence all my life. Because I got straight A’s in elementary school, rather than being rewarded for A’s and B’s, my parents would only focus on what I could do better. I was always less than…, never good enough, and never up to par.
Because of these parenting traits, I grew up with a sense of independence – something my parents will call “normal teenage rebellion.” I was not a rebellious child. I believed what I believed and I stood up for it – damn the consequences. I left home early, still a teenager, and proceeded to live my own life.
Once I moved out of my home and was not in constant proximity with my parents, we began to get along to a certain degree. They became less aggressive in their judgments and forcing and I became less “rebellious.”
However, time passed and I found my parents to be very self-righteous. They believed that nothing they had done was wrong. Because of this, and the way they treated my girlfriend at the time (now ex-wife), I cut them off from my life entirely.
I made up stories about my parents – making them anything from abusive criminals to mafia bosses. The truth was, I was simply putting a false name on an accurate behavior.
Many years passed. During these years, my father made regular calls trying to get back in touch. I believed that he was learning the errors of his ways but I didn’t want to give in so easily as I had so recently been hurt.
Eventually I caved and we began a relationship. Shortly after, my girlfriend at the time (now wife) became pregnant. My father offered me a job under him at his financial advisory firm and I, needing the extra income to raise a child, agreed. I pulled my wife out of school and moved our family to a whole new city to settle in and work for a time.
At first, things were great. Sure there were ups-and-downs but I don’t want you to believe that I am unreasonable. I don’t believe that any parents are perfect nor did I expect mine to be…not even as a teenager. I thought they really had changed. I saw the way they treated my kid brother and I was pleased. Their religious views are still pushed into his face but other than that, everything seemed to be different.
One day my father called me up on the phone and asked me if I would like to do something with him. I remember thinking that he was going to ask me for help as was often the case when we communicated – one of us asking the other for help. I was wrong. He asked me to think of something I would like to do with him – take a trip. You see, he was taking my kid brother ice fishing in Alaska and I had jokingly brought up that my sister and I were never given trips as extravagant as that. I was so touched thinking that I would finally be able to have a real father-son relationship that I started to cry.
I know. I know. All those years of a rock-hard exterior down the drain. Please forgive me. I am human too!
I told my father I did not expect a trip – that he and I could easily just go to a movie in the city where we lived and that would be enough for me but he pushed and pushed until eventually I decided that…hey, I’m a writer and I’ve never seen New York City…so I told him I’d always wanted to see New York.
Meanwhile, my mother was treating my new wife with love and kindness – something she did not do for the previous one. Things were looking up for me.
Months passed and my father postponed the NYC trip. Then he delayed again. And again. And again. Until over a year had gone by. I kept saying that I would be happy with a movie here and there but he would not listen.
Meanwhile, I began writing a book for NaNoWriMo – a book which I completed near the end of November. Neither my mother or father have ever once asked about it without my bringing it up and, to this day, neither of them have made any effort to read that story.
The straw that broke the camel’s back is this. My wife called my mother up and asked her for a favor – a favor that I told my wife not to expect. Neither my wife or I expected the favor, she simply asked because it would have helped our situation greatly.
Rather than just saying “no” as she could have without us bearing any grudge whatsoever, my mother decided to show her true colors to my wife for the first time since we moved to this new city almost 2 years ago. Without giving any details because I don’t want to mention the favor, I will say that my mother chose to be rude to my wife regarding something that was my fault and was not even known by my wife.
It broke my heart to realize that neither of my parents have changed for the better. They are still the same people they were 10 years ago, 15 years ago…and I am starting to believe that they always will be.
I am very torn right now. I am stuck in a job working for my father…a job I have never loved, but have held onto because I have to feed my wife and daughter. Unfortunately, the economy in that area does not offer any comparable positions and I am forced to either suffer through a professional relationship with my father or seek employment in another city.
My heart is heavy because I love my parents deeply and all I wanted was for that love to be returned in kind. Instead, they (as they did when I was a child) throw money at me and hope that it will satisfy my longing for parents.
I am starting to feel “less than…” again and it is something I do not want in my life again…or my wife and daughter’s. It is a feeling they will never have to face if I have any say in it.
I know that my blog has never really gotten this personal…or even this whiny before but I feel that I have come to a dead-end and I must turn to outside advice. Please let me know how any of you would deal with such things. I know no other way than to harden my shell and cut them off once again.