It kind of started yesterday, but it also kind of started a week ago.
Visiting my brother, I sometimes have an uncomfortable sense of deja vu. That’s because I start to have the same thoughts running through my head that I did when I visited my mother once a week in the same apartment. Has anything gone wrong since the last time I was here? Will she need my help with something? What subjects will be safe to talk about? What will I do if she brings up some horrible subject from my childhood? What if she brings up my father again? If I get upset, can I keep my temper? And how badly will I want an Irish coffee by the time I leave?
There was also a much bigger area of conversational possibilities with my mother. Yes, there were lots of negative topics revolving around my childhood, but there were always lots of positive and safe topics like food, books, and movies. With my brother it’s different — it’s like we hardly know each other. The good part is that he doesn’t know the vast majority of horror stories about our father, so those can stay locked in my head where they belong. The bad part is that we hardly have anything to talk about because we have, like, NOTHING in common. Honestly, whenever I go to visit my brother I try to bring my boyfriend along because his background in education means that he’s good at talking to all kinds of people … but also because they can talk about sports together.
So anyway, last week my brother brought our father into the conversation, and I started to unravel.
He was bringing up a valid point that someone else MUST have put in his head — about all the child support our father never paid. And in response, there was the conversation we had out loud (mostly about the statute of limitations and whether or not it would be worth tracking him down for any reason). But there was also the conversation in my head, which mostly consisted of me yelling You have no f—ing IDEA what he’s capable of!
Let me take a brief tangent here —
Several days ago, someone who introduced himself to my coworkers as a friend of mine from college stopped by my library to see me. When he came up to me in the children’s room, he was surprised that I didn’t recognize him, even after he’d introduced himself repeatedly. I finally deduced that he wasn’t actually a friend of mine, but someone who was friends with someone else who USED to be a friend of mine. The guy who showed up at my branch last week is someone I’d spoken to less than five times EVER, and that was over 20 years ago. He kept dropping the name of our mutual friend as though that was going to cement our relationship. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the guy whose name he kept dropping wasn’t my friend any longer for a reason, and that his idea of dropping in at the library where I worked, approaching me at the information desk, and saying, “You look a lot older … and a LOT heavier!” put him in my top 5 worst “This is Your Life” patron encounters I’ve had since I’ve joined the public library.
What happened when my FATHER showed up at my library? That put him at the #1 spot.
I’m just saying that my brother has no idea just how cruel and vindictive our father can be.
Okay, back from the tangent now —
So now visiting my brother means checking to make sure he’s paying the bills (he is), checking to see if he’s tried to cook anything on his own or if he’s even bothered opening any of the cooking tools we bought for him (he hasn’t), and wondering if the subject of our father is going to come up. As it turns out, yesterday HE didn’t bring up the subject of our father at all. But because it was percolating in my brain, it came up in my conversations with my boyfriend before and after our visit.
One of the weirdest parts of the conversation was when I said that I should probably sit down and talk to a therapist at some point to deal with my feelings about my childhood in general and my father in particular. And my boyfriend replied, “You’re very well adjusted, considering.” First I was bewildered, then I started laughing, then I said that should go on my tombstone, and THEN I wrote it down.
That was yesterday.
Then this morning I was at work, talking to D. about some of my more recent conversations with my brother … which led into a conversation about my father and just a fraction of the anger that I felt and still feel towards him. It’s not a conversation I have often, because it makes me feel both drained and angry afterward.
So I was already in a bad mental state when we got some bad news from a former colleague. Or … it COULD be seen as bad news but perhaps it’s good news in disguise. Sorry to be vague, but it’s not my news to share. Anyway, because I was already in a “glass half empty” mindset, I kept feeling sad even though everyone else was putting a more positive spin on things.
And it didn’t help that I was wearing one of my mother’s sweaters to work today, so I felt her presence and memories wrapped around me as each hour followed into the next and I thought about all the conversations we’ll never have again.
So anyway, that’s why I’m feeling blue tonight, and why I need to slowly steer my brain back into a “glass half full” mindset again starting tomorrow.