This was the year that I finally laid to rest the idea of both of my parents.
Oh they are both still alive. But I feel like an orphan. I have for some time. My parents are the poster children for abuse and neglect. They could be Jungian archetypes for the bad parents in fairy tales.
About 5 years ago I finally gave up on my mother. She is mentally ill and abusive, but refuses to be treated for the illness. Refuses to even acknowledge it's existence, despite the hospitalizations. When she started treating my son with the same manipulative crazy talk that she had used on me my entire life, I cut her off. Sometimes it is much easier to do necessary things for the safety of our children than it is to do it for the safety of ourselves.
With my father it's a different story. He is the original MRA type, if he doesn't get ownership of the wife and kids, then he wants nothing to do with them. When I went to live with foster parents in high school, he was called. He was asked to help. His response was that we were not part of his family.
A few years ago, I needed some information from my dad in order to get my passport. I hadn't spoken with him since the lovely conversation above, 14 years I think. With my hands shaking and a giant ball of lead in my stomach, I called him. I stuttered through the phone call. He was all sweet and charming. "I knew this day would come, I've been hoping for it" he said. He made me promise to email him pictures of the Kid and me. He seemed genuinely happy and excited that I called.
So I sent him emails. I sent him a postcard I bought in Rome to thank him for helping me get my passport. The postcard was returned. The emails were never answered. I wondered if I had gotten the email address wrong (I did for one or two actually) and maybe I just had the wrong mailing address.
This year, I decided I was finally going to have definitive proof. I was going to know if he was inept or a complete asshole. I found a program that provided return receipts for emails, just like when you send regular mail. It will tell you if an email has been read, the location it was read at, how many times it was read, etc. A pretty handy program actually (who says girls don't like technology?) I needed to know if he was reading anything from me at all.
And I sent him a nice letter. No blame, no guilt, just sweetness and light the whole way through.
And he read it. He read it half a dozen times at least. So I waited for a response. And waited. And waited. After a few weeks, I decided that it was time to give up on the fantasy that I ever had one decent parent. And so I sent him another email. But in this one I balled up all the anger and pain his years of neglect had caused and gave them back to him.
I told him what my life was really like as a child. How the crushing poverty he left us in by his refusal to pay child support made mom do things and put me in situations that were far from safe. I told him that she had spent nearly 30 years taking out her anger at him on me. I told him that he was not allowed to live with the fantasy that his leaving us made us better off. He had to know what damage he had caused. I told him that I could understand his leaving mom (she's batshit crazy after all) but that as a parent I would never leave my child in the hands of someone so toxic, and I couldn't forgive him for that. I told him that I was sending him back all of the pain he had caused, and that I hoped it would rot in his gut like a cancer.
I was not nice. But I was honest. And I kinda like my orphan status. It let's me shrug off the sins of my parents and be who I really am instead of the sum of damages they caused. It's incredibly liberating.
I was reading something about hero myths not long ago. About how the hero is usually an orphan sent out on a quest to make them worthy of finding their real parents. But that is not how it works in real life. In real life, after those talk show type reunions where missing parents behave themselves for the camera, the problems remain after the camera goes away. Maybe it's guilt. Maybe it's fear. I don't know why actually. And being a mother makes it even harder for me to understand. But I know there are many many many of us who have horrible parents. Not just annoying, but damaging, parents. And we survive. Sometimes we even thrive.
So if you are another orphan- have a big drink with me and celebrate that. The simple fact that we live is something.