Tourniquet

I’ve vented quite a bit over the years about my parents. I toned it down significantly as of a few years ago, but I have found myself slipping up once in awhile. In truth, my rants have mostly served as a sort of self-therapy, to process their irrational and sometimes abusive actions, to break things down and get them out of my head. It also allowed me greater objectivity. They do something outrageous, I become angered or hurt or what have you, and then I’m operating from an emotional place. Emotions often cloud sound judgment. By putting a situation on paper I can step back and read it a week later to reflect on what I felt then and re-evaluate how I feel now. 

But why make it all public, you might ask? It’s never been my motive to paint my parents in a negative light. I simply have always been an open book and I haven’t made my conflicts with them an exception. There is a consistent pattern of honesty in my posts and, for better or worse, that has included my negative feelings toward them.

I’ve decided to change that.

Not the honesty part, but the “parents” part. Rather than feel positive or negative about them and writing essays about their insanity, I’ve come to the conclusion that the healthiest way to resolve the ongoing conflict is to remove them from the equation, from my life, entirely. 

Why take such a drastic step? The answer will require one final rant on the subject… and I might as well get it over with right now.

If you’ve read my older posts, you already know quite a bit about the situation. But to loosely recap, my father abused me growing up. No, he didn’t beat me on a regular basis. It was sporadic and happened at frequently unpredictable times. In some ways it was almost worse, because there was no rhyme or reason to his fits of rage. I couldn’t narrow down what would trigger it so there was a constant underlying fear that he could lose his temper at any given time. 

A few notable instances that I can recall…

At a young age I refused to eat dinner because it tasted terrible. I was always a picky eater, so sue me. My dad said I was disrespecting my mother by not accepting her cooking, so he tucked me under his arm, carried me to my room, and hit my sides repeatedly while I curled up into a ball and covered my face. He shouted WHY CAN’T YOU BE A GOOD SON and with each word he struck me. I finally replied in tears, “I can’t be your son if I’m in pieces!!!” He paused. Then kept hitting me.

This will forever be ingrained in my memory because it was the only moment I ever saw him really stop to reflect, or appear to reflect, on what he was doing. And then to keep going anyway? It was very telling.

Who could hit this kid??

A lesser incident, and these were far more frequent, my mother was going to take my sister and I to our grandparents for the weekend while my dad stayed behind due to work. My sister and I (ages 5 and 8?) were known to bicker, as siblings tend to do, and my mother wasn’t looking forward to dealing with us alone. My dad knelt down and put a hand on each of our heads, then knocked them together, hard, and continued to apply pressure while saying through gritted teeth, “Behave. For. Your. Mother.” Neither of us had even done anything wrong. My sister cried, as he rarely laid hands on her. In fact, this is the only memory I have of him ever doing so. But I was a seasoned vet and just took it. He followed by asking “DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME??” and my sister couldn’t bring herself to answer so he shouted again. I spoke up and said, “Can’t you see she’s crying?” He glared at me and let us go. Off for a happy summer weekend!

The most significant incident happened when I was 19. We were arguing about something or other and my father was comparing my stubbornness to his dead mother. I told him, “Don’t insult me.” He was making the jab at his own mother’s expense in the first place, but apparently I was the only one out of line. He tackled me to the ground and smashed my head against the ground several times as well as an end table, cutting my temple. My father is 6’5″ and close to 300lbs… I was 6’0″ and weighed maybe 175lbs… believe me, he had me well pinned to that floor. All I could do was curse and yell for him to release me. My mother stood nearby, scolding ME for swearing (it’s a sin, after all… priorities, right?). When he finally let me up, I immediately left the house and went to a friend’s place a few blocks away. After I calmed down, I went back. Which, for being 19, was a surprisingly mature way to handle the situation.

Yes, I’d like to pat myself on the back for that one.

So I head back into the house and what do I find? Both my parents sitting on the couch, demanding an apology. You read correctly. They wanted ME to apologize to THEM. They concocted a cover story that I had “attacked my mother” and my father simply “did what he had to” to protect her. Months later he admitted I didn’t attack her, but insisted I had a “look in my eye” and that he’d done the right thing. Interestingly he began to attend anger management therapy a couple weeks after the incident. Why would he do that if he had done the right thing? It was obvious that they had both lied, but the majority of my extended family that was made aware of the situation still bought it and continue to doubt my version to this day.

Fast forward to my final week of college in May of 2007. My parents pick me up at my dorm to take me to lunch a few days before graduation… okay, sounds good so far… and on the way they tell me that I have to destroy my senior art show paintings or I can’t return home.

Wait… what?

I had done a painting series called “Animal Instinct” that depicted humanity at it’s most depraved but replaced the humans with cows and bulls. It was a cartoony style and made to evoke amusement, but upon further reflection it also doubled as commentary about our species. One in particular was a painting of the crucifixion, titled “Holy Cow”. Heh.

Holy Cow

Well, anyway… I understood it wasn’t their cup of tea. I knew I couldn’t hang it up in my room or anything like that. Which is why I told them I’d tuck it away in my closet and even put a sheet over it so it would be impossible for anyone to view it. That should have been a fair compromise, but they insisted that it was a “source of evil” and that if it even entered their house it would compromise their values. Sigh. I asked them to take me back to the dorm because there was no point in wasting money on a lunch if it was going to be miserable. They did. Then my mother went to the trunk and got out a platter of brownies, broke into tears, and dramatically threw it onto the campus lawn like a crazy person. And off they went.

Lovely.

Amusingly, they called me and said they had come up with a solution to the “painting problem”. Their idea? Put it in a closet and cover it with a sheet. THEIR IDEA?? It had to be, because they could never concede that I made a valid point, that I was right. I always had to be wrong. If they could have only been fair and compromised from the start, we could have had lunch and a pleasant afternoon. But no, instead I’m left with a platter of brownies scattered on my campus lawn with a hysteric mother and prick father driving off. A nice way to spend

So I was able to move home. For about three months. Then I was evicted (they had the paperwork and everything) in August 2007 with nothing but my ’97 Plymouth Voyager and fifty dollars to my name. They quickly changed the locks on the house. My Aunt was going to be hosting Thanksgiving that year, so they called her to make sure I was banned from attending.

Lean Ground Beef

Loving parents, my ass. (It should be noted that my Aunt ultimately refused their wishes and I was invited to go to Thanksgiving dinner… and who ran up to me with open arms, but my mother, proclaiming, “I’m so glad you made it!” Such a shameless facade.)

Once I was living away from them, things were much easier. I saw them at family events and a handful of dinners at the house, but otherwise I stayed clear. Unfortunately, due to a set of complicated circumstances I won’t dive into now, I briefly had to live back in my old room as of mid-April 2013. And by had to I mean HAD to. I don’t care to explain why, but just know that it wasn’t an option. As expected, things went to hell. In the very first week my father stole $1600 from me. Get the picture? By the time July hit things had reached critical mass and I had just enough money saved to get the hell out of there and split a new apartment with a friend of mine. I have hardly spoken to either of my parents since.

The girlfriend my mother accused
of being “the type to sleep around”.

But why my mother? Surely her standing by my abusive father isn’t enough to condemn her, is it? No, it’s not. It doesn’t help, but it’s not. She’s also a religious extremist that has said I’m going to hell, that the Jews will go to hell, that she’d still oppose equal rights for homosexuals even if my gay cousin that committed suicide were still alive, implied my first girlfriend was a whore (and another a “hooker”), literally believed me to be possessed by a demon which she tried to exorcise… need I go on? She’s a judgmental, bigoted lunatic.

Sure, if you meet her she’d probably be very polite and you may even get along with her. She can be a very thoughtful, decent person. But if the subject of conversation ever veers toward any kind of social issue, beware. Avoiding those types of topics is certainly an option, but it’s still hard to have a relationship with someone that sincerely believes you’re going straight to hell. She also, when I was 8 or 10 (?), got upset with me and said, “You want to act like a little boy? I’ll treat you like one!” She spanked me (I’m laughing in hindsight) and I was crying and flailing around. My foot hit her stomach and she gasped, stared at me, and said “What if there was a baby growing inside there??” A few days later she announced she was pregnant. Not long after, she wasn’t. She never had another child and I believed for years that it was my fault because of what she’d said.

“The Hooker”

Anyway..

I took my father to small claims last month over the money he’d stolen from me (he’d kept a portion of the profit from the sale of my car, which he orchestrated since he knew the buyer… I was an idiot to trust him to handle it). I’d attempted every other avenue to fix the problem, but he simply refused to even discuss it. Small claims was a last resort.

Just before the hearing, my mother told me that I better not commit perjury against my father. As if that wasn’t a given?? Then my father… lied under oath. He said I agreed to let him have $1600 of the profits. Okay, if you’re a member of my extended family right now there’s a 90% chance you think I’m a demon and fucking think I’m a lying piece of trash because of what my parents have told you (you’re wrong on all counts, but whatever) so let’s look at this from a purely objective angle.

A buyer for the car was locked in. I could have met up with the buyer and handled the sale directly and pocketed the full profit. In what universe would it make sense that I’d GIVE UP $1600 of it just so my father could play the middle man? Does that really sound like something I’d ever agree to? As harshly as you folks may look down on me, you know damn well that I’m intelligent. It’s quite apparent that I wouldn’t have agreed to those terms.

Well, my mother backed him on that and thus lost the small claims case. They both fucking lied in court, right AFTER chastising ME about being truthful. It was a stunning display of their complete and utter hypocrisy. They claim to be such loving parents, such wonderful followers of Christ, and blah blah FUCKING BLAH.

So this has been my extremely long-winded way of explaining why I am finally, completely and utterly done with them. I move to California in a little over four months anyway, so I’ll be over 3000 miles away from the both of ’em. I recognize that problems don’t disappear because of physical distance… they carry with you. But ending my relationship with them can at least apply a tourniquet to the pain and keep the wounds from bleeding out. They won’t be able to damage me any further. And time itself can be a natural healer, so as the years pass I’ll increasingly be able to get the negative memories off my mind and replace them with positive ones. Is it wise to bottle everything up? Of course not. I’ll be coping, not burying.

If they ever bring themselves to apologize down the road, I’d certainly be willing to forgive them and maybe renew our relationship. I’ve advocated a desire to attend family therapy for years and they have always refused. Which makes sense since they have never admitted to any of the abusive actions they’ve committed. You can’t walk into a therapist’s office if you’re not prepared to be honest, open, and willing. It won’t work.

Have I been a perfect son? Of course not. Though the majority of my “offenses” have stemmed simply from being “different”. My father is a sports nut, I’m a creative type. My parents are both hardcore Catholics, I’m a firm non-believer. They think getting drunk is a sin, I think it’s a recreational activity. They think using drugs automatically makes one an addict, I think smoking marijuana and tripping on LSD can open minds and otherwise illuminate. They’re pro-life, I’m pro-choice. They oppose equal rights for homosexuals, I think everyone should be treated equally. Yes, I’m quite terrible.

I understand that these differences might be difficult for them to handle and they may be disappointed, but they are mistaken if they think my lifestyle is a rebellious attack against them. And yes, I’ve told them as much. But it didn’t matter. Instead, they (and much of my extended family) have written me off as a black sheep, the outsider, the drunk (I drink infrequently), the drug addict (legal medicinal marijuana and a rare LSD trip), the rebel (for being open and honest?), the demonic heathen (because I’m not religious?), the dirty filthy liberal (because I support progressive causes?)… fuck those labels.

It’s time I stop letting the words and judgments of the haters, family or otherwise, have any power. Remove the bad, keep the good. That’s what I need to focus on doing with my life. I can’t keep clinging to some fantastical idealistic hope that my family-at-large will ever evolve to become an accepting, open-minded group of people. Those that treat me well will continue to remain important to me. Those that don’t?

Good riddance.

– – –

I pledge not to waste another minute dwelling on my disappointing family.

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