I lost them long before they died. It made it easy to say goodbye.
They were broken, selfish, narcissistic people. Only their own needs mattered. Everyone existed to serve them, to make them look good, to give them what they wanted and needed, to validate them. They were not stable, often allowing emotions and anger to take control. Causing them to lash out. To hit. To push and shove. To yell. To say horrible, soul-breaking things. To ridicule. To demean. To reject and belittle.
Both were abusive. Both had their own way of doing damage.
The mother unit was so self-focused, she didn’t remember me as a child. I asked her once what I was like when I was small, trying to gain a different perspective on myself as I attempted to put the pieces back together again. I received letter after letter, 20 or 30 pages long…or more. About her feelings, her struggles, her disappointments during my growing up years. But not one word about me. Not one. Not one single word about what kind of a little girl I was. I finally called, thanking her for sharing her own journey, but told her I was trying to get a little insight into what others might have seen when they encountered me as a child. Silence. Then finally, she spoke. “I don’t really remember you.” And she was off on another tangent, telling me about how horrid her life was and how disappointing I was to her, having not fixed all of her many problems.
She could also lash out in anger. She tended to slap hard or drag me by my hair. Crying the whole time because I was so horrible. Telling me what a failure I was and how badly I let her down.
I loved to sing. I made the mistake of asking her once if she thought I had a good voice. She said, “No, not really.” Years later, when I was an adult, I discovered I was actually a pretty good singer. Found out my mother was comparing me to Barbra Streisand. That’s how good I had to be in her eyes to rate encouragement. To be worthy. Anything less than her idea of perfection meant I was a total failure.
I was always less than her idea of perfection. I was always a failure in her eyes.
As a small child, even when I was a baby, she told me all her problems. Ran at the mouth constantly. Couldn’t shut up. When I turned 11, I was crushed when she told me I was a huge disappointment because I wasn’t as mature as I should be. All because I couldn’t fix what was broken in her life. My job, you see, was to please her and make everything okay for her. But I was never good enough, no matter how hard I tried. I could never make everything okay.
Sometimes, she would hide in the closet, too paranoid to come out and talk to anyone. I was to make excuses for her. To explain. To make the abnormal seem normal.
The father unit was even worse.
He hit too. Hard. With fists. Not as often as the mother unit, but when he exploded, it was terrifying.
And there was the sexual abuse. Ran the gamut from bad to worse. It permeated my childhood from around age 4 or 5 until I was 14. A good 10 years of being used as an object. A nobody. Nothing. Keeping the secret. Living without air. Without hope. Living in fear of the darkness because that was when he would most often come to my bedroom. Trying to be invisible on the days he was off work when my mother was working. Or the times he molested me when she was reading a book while sitting in the same room. Not willing to see. Refusing to believe her “knight in shining armor” was anything less than perfect.
He was sick. He infected everyone he touched. And he touched me often.
I walked in dark shadows. I existed in Netherlands. I tip-toed through silent and terrifying days and prayed for the sun to come quickly while I lay wrapped in the darkness of night. Tormented by demons both human and supernatural. Paralyzed by fear and ravished by anguish. Pain skewered my heart. There was no place to find refuge. No safety. No protection.
He died in 1998. I have yet to shed a tear. I was actually relieved to say that final goodbye. To never again have to hold my breath while I was around him. Bracing when he came to visit. It was finally finished.
She died in 2002. Still haven’t cried. Not even once. You see, when you lose someone 40 years before they actually pass away, you have a long time to adjust. You learn to live without them long before they are gone. Because you never really had them to begin with.
It’s hard for a child to understand. Even for an adult. But you do eventually get it.
You say goodbye to what you never had and what will never be. To parents who never loved or protected you. You slowly realize the bond most kids develop with their parents simply isn’t in the realm of possibility in your reality. So you let go. Of hope. Piece by piece. Dream by dream. You bid your abusers farewell one moment at a time until there is no longer any connection between you.
You cry your tears when you’re 7, 8, 10, 12, 15. So when they do finally leave earth, all your tears are gone and your eyes are dry. You don’t feel anything but a quiet release.
You can’t miss what you never had.
You just say goodbye. Farewell. See ya. And you keep walking. Alone. Like you’ve done every other day of your life.