No, that’s not right. I have a very simple relationship with my parents. They tried to bond with me. Ostensibly. But they actually treated me like dreck. So, being the self-preserving, prescient individual I am, I never went out of my way to bond with them. I remember trying, many times, when I was younger, but I saw — by the time I hit my pre-teens — that they just didn’t have the capacity. I think maybe they wanted to — or they thought they were more emotionally and intellectualy adept than they really were. Or they just never realized how empathy-impaired they were.
In any case, they had the attitude that they were better than me, that my challenges meant I was deficient and in need of constant approbation and discipline. One of my sisters has said that our parents always were harder on me than anyone else… huh… I thought I was the only one who noticed… guess not.
Anyway, I started pulling away from them when I got to be old enough to be under constant pressure to conform to their wishes. I was female. I was expected to turn into a woman. God, how I hated that. The pressure mounted. Their laughter at my expense, putting me down, competing with me (every time I tried to share something cool I’d discovered or done, they always had to one-up me out of some weird, twisted need to out-class me).
It was too much. They were too much. so, I pulled away. I pushed them away. I removed myself emotionally and intellectually from my family life. There was no point. It was too painful, and everytime I tried to tell them what I wanted (just listen to what I have to say – you don’t have to agree, just listen and accept), they couldn’t manage it.
They really hated me pulling away. They wanted to be on close terms with me, like with my brother and other sister. Two of my sisters were adopted, and they never, ever bonded with my parents. They always said they’d never take the place of their own family. We were divided, fractured, and nowhere was safe.
And when it was time for me to go to college (as was expected), I had two choices — go to the religious college both my parents had attended, and get financial aid from them and the school… or go it alone.
I chose to go it alone. I got federal grants — back in the day when they existed. I got financial aid. I worked extra jobs on the side. I took whatever work I could. I stayed in-state the summer between my freshman and sophomore years, so I could get in-state tuition. And when I went to Germany for the last 2 years of my undergrad (no degree came of all that work, as it turns out), they cut me off completely. Zip. Nada. Nothing. I think maybe they sent me a check for a couple hundred dollars once, but the exchange rate was terrible, so that reduced the amount quite a bit.
Oh, well. I was free. That’s all I cared about. That’s all that mattered to me. I was free. I had no obligations to them, I didn’t owe them anything, and they had no power over me. Not like my other biological siblings. They had been closely intertwined with my parents all their lives.
Ironically, now that we’re all grown, it’s much easier for me to deal with my parents, than it is for my siblings. They get upset that our folks are getting older and failing. They’re going through a terrible loss, watching our parents go downhill. Me? I hate to say it, but I feel a bit… Meh. Of course, I love my parents. I really do, on a grand cosmic, impersonal scale. But personally? I can take ’em or leave ’em. They brought me into the world, and I’ll always owe them a debt for that. But the rest of it? Meh.
That makes it easier to be clear-headed about doing right by them. A year ago, I corralled my siblings, who are all scattered across the country, on a series of conference calls to figure out what we were going to do with Mom and Dad. My two biological siblings were incredibly difficult to deal with. They just didn’t want to even think about what to do, if either Mom or Dad fell ill, became incapacitated, or died. My sister was just about impossible. Emotional. Irrational. Just all over the place. One hot mess. My brother just lagged behind, and it was like dragging him through mud, trying to get him invested. Eventually we did figure things out.
And that was good, because our father had a serious cardiac event out in the middle of nowhere, and he had to get a pacemaker put in. So, we had a plan in place, already. And we followed through on it. And that was that.
Through it all, my one adopted sister and I were the clearest about the whole situation. Because we’re not close. Especially not me.
Which in a way seems sad. But it’s also a relief.
Because I’m free.