Go back.

Dear Mom,

I’ve been writing this letter in my head for at least three days now. I try to keep it about me and what I need to do, but I inevitably find myself rehashing ancient history and laying my accusations bare. I reprimand myself for this, but it doesn’t seem to help, so I’m just going to let it all out for now and forgive myself later for being such a cunt.

I’ve been living inside my own head a lot, almost to the complete exclusion of the world around me. It isn’t that I haven’t attempted to make forays into society–I have. No sooner do I begin to re-establish myself as a member of the human race than I almost instinctively pull back, retreat, go back behind the walls of my own eyelids.

I know: how Pink of me, right? Incidentally, I’ve been listening to that album a lot lately. The last time I listened to it quite this obsessively was back when I was 16, shortly before you kicked me out for the last time. How apropos.

I keep thinking about the last time I wrote you a letter. I was 12. My father had written to each of us kids. I don’t know how many times he had done so previously, but I know that he had. I don’t know what possessed you to let us actually have our letters on that particular day. Given what happened, I can’t help but wonder if you were just testing the strength of your control over us. I accept that I will never know. So. Moving on:

In that letter I told you that I loved you, that I didn’t want to hurt you, and that if you did not want me to have contact with my father, then I wouldn’t. I was so nervous leaving that letter on your dresser, but… You wrote back. You said you loved me, too, and that if I wanted to write to my father it was ok.

How strange, when you think about it: you expended so much energy trying to convince us that he couldn’t have cared less for us, yet he was indirectly responsible for bringing about the first and only exchange of affectionate words between you and me. How weird that such an exchange could only occur indirectly, through letters. How funny that this is turning out to be a letter about letters!

It didn’t take long for you to change your mind about the whole business. I wrote to my father and got a letter in return, and that was that.

I feel the need to point this out: you should have realized that your control over me was illusory as soon as you read the letter I left for you on your dresser. Did you consider how much I had to overcome to actually write the words “I love you” or to walk into your room, place the letter, and walk back out again, knowing how easy it would be to run back in and snatch it away before you saw it? Did you consider the implications of the fact that I had done so at the tender age of 12? Other people might not understand the enormity of these actions, but I would think that with a minimum of reflection YOU would.

Let’s fast forward (or rewind), shall we? We know where this is going.

I know what happened to you. I felt pretty sure about it for a long time. When I finally went and met Dad, I told him my suspicions. He confirmed it and revealed that it was B.

First: I’m so sorry that happened to you. It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t deserve it.

I have tried to imagine what it was like for you when he died so suddenly, everyone torn up and grieving, and you… Did you feel guilty? Had you wished him dead?

No reasonable person who knew the truth would have blamed you. I don’t blame you, not one little bit. It wasn’t your fault. Wishing someone dead doesn’t make it happen. You had nothing to do with that. As to still being angry, even after he died? That’s ok. You had a right to be angry, even with the dead. Fuck all that “respect for the dead” shit. He was an asshole.

Taking it out on everyone who ever cared for you, though? No, that wasn’t ok. Still, I forgive you. I didn’t think I could, but I do.

It’s strange, in a way. I don’t think about your husband or what he did all that much. When I do, it’s more about what happened AFTER as opposed to the actual molestation. I don’t care about him. He is a non-issue, as inconsequential as a fart in the breeze. You, on the other hand…

I told myself that I left you far behind more than 20 years ago, but I’ve been carrying you around all this time.

I used to accuse you behind your back of being stuck at the emotional age of 16. I laugh about this now, because we were both right about each other. I am SO much like you. The similarities between us are so striking as to be absurd. How could I have pretended I was nothing like you at all? Is it so surprising that all of my conflict and weirdness stems from our relationship? This is not an accusation–it’s just a recognition of the truth: You and I are both 16.

I know: the truth is hard to handle, but it only seems easier to try to bury it, Mom. Truth is funny in that it won’t stay buried. The only thing you can do is stop, turn, face it. I wish you could have accepted that at some point. If you had, we could be normal, you and I. We could have even had a rewarding relationship. But, since I know (or think I know) where you still are, and I can’t fix you, the best I can do is make peace with the you who lives inside of my head, accept that she is me, and learn to have a rewarding relationship with her. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

My friend Paul said it was all about compassion. At first, I thought he meant it was all about compassion for the wide world in general, and it is. Then I thought he meant it was compassion for you, and it is. Lastly, I thought he meant it was compassion for me, and it is that, too. I’m working on it. I’m getting there. It might take a while, but that’s ok, so long as I keep at it. Peace exists, Mom. I hope we both find it.

There. You see? I’m not such a cunt after all.

All My Love,
Jennifer

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11 thoughts on “Go back.

        • You make me smile.

          All in all, things could have been a lot worse, you know? I have two amazing children who have never been struck or belittled. They’re happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. I have a husband who, in spite of the fact that I haven’t always been as kind or understanding with him as I should have done (understatement of the year), has somehow decided I’m worth sticking around for.

          I’m luckier than my mother, and the reason I’m luckier is because I was able to overcome some of what she could not. (Not that I’m fully where I need to be, by any means.) I wish she’d had a better life. It would have been pretty sweet, having a mom who liked me because she liked herself.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. The shit you got through. To go person-by-person like this is and sort through and deal again is quite an amazing thing for you to accomplish. How you did it, I don’t know, G.

    Like

    • I wasn’t sure how else to do it.

      I thought I had dealt with all this shite years ago. I suspect it’s the kind of thing that has to be done in stages, or that, as other trials come up in life, you get thrown back into the past in new and interesting ways.

      Like

Lay it on me.

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