categories: unquiet things
I’ve been beating myself up about something for several years now and I honestly don’t know what to do about it. Every atom in my body that loves its comfort zone and drama-free existence is screaming at me “LET IT BE, YOU MORON!” but I am feeling like a crappy human being for this decision.
I have some unresolved issues with a parental figure in my life. I don’t want to get into all of the details because I am not always sure who is reading this, but I will say that he was there for my sister and I when we really needed him. He stepped up, as they say, in a really big way–and he did not have to do that. But he did. We had a roof over our heads and food to eat and the best bit of stability that he could provide while our lives were in a great deal of upheaval.
Later, he provided me with what would come to be the best job that I would ever have. Of course at this time in my life if I were still working for him I would be an utter pauper, but at that time it was enough to pay for my small apartment and my few bills and it worked out quite nicely. It was just the two of us working there, and most days it was really just me, and a storage facility of rare books. I will never forget how happy I was amongst those musty old companions and how grateful I was to have that job.
I moved away and the business closed. After that, I am not exactly sure what happened. He made a series of (what I would perceive to be) bad choices in lifestyle and relationships and I don’t think things worked out very well for him. Well, to be honest, I think he had made some not-so-great decisions long before that–who knows, maybe he considers being involved with my mother one of them.
When I moved back to FL, he was 50+ years old and saddled with two twin babies; their mother, with whom he had been involved for a few years and who was my age (which honestly sort of freaked me out), had overdosed. At least I think that’s what happened, I am not entirely clear on that point. He was living in a crappy apartment in a shitty part of town and due to some health issues which I suspect were entirely lifestyle related, was in chronic pain.
My sister, her husband, and I visited him upon my return. It was a strange, upsetting visit. He seemed strung out, not entirely all there. He pressed us, almost frantically, to go next door to the liquor store and pick him up some cheap booze. It was a very uncomfortable, disconcerting visit, especially considering the small babies that he was taking care of on his own. Babies, which I thought at the time, looked small for their age and, in my memory of the event seemed underfed, but I think that’s probably just because I was upset. I have seen photos of them since, and they looked just fine.
In any event, I walked out of that apartment that day and haven’t spoken with him again. Typing it out just now, that looks awfully cruel and unforgiving of me, I guess. No one’s perfect. Everyone has their demons. Am I punishing a loved one because I happened to witness him losing to his demon on a particular day?
This man was a huge part of my life growing up–in a good way–and I was so quick to shut him out. Why have I been so hard-hearted about this? I know that both of my sisters still talk with him, so if they can get over it, why can’t I? He has expressed some hurt feelings over my reluctance to talk with him or see him, and I wish I could articulate to him exactly why I have felt this way.
I am starting to suspect it is as much to do with me as him. I think, at that time, I was very vulnerable. I had just gotten out of a situation that was very bad for me; I had left New Jersey and arrived back in FL not two weeks before, and I immediately encountered him acting in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable. (And now I think about it, he was acting a lot like my mother when she was drunk and acting nuts – so that has something to do with it too, I am sure).
Over time, and in my memory ,this brief afternoon visit has become weirder and more distressing and I suppose I have chalked this up as a valid reason to end a relationship.
I think he’s gotten his act together since that day five years ago. I see his photos on facebook; he’s a proud papa and always sharing pictures of his twins and what they are up to. I hope things are looking up for all of them. I really want the best for him. I have never hated him. I think I was only terribly afraid. And not even afraid of him, but rather for him.
And I am left with this: that was an awful time to abandon someone.
I think I have waited so long because I am just so goddamned ashamed of myself, and at this point I just don’t even know what to do.
Oh, my dear. Such heartache. I'm sorry. I love you and "forgive/absolve" you. You must let go of this. You are an amazing and dazzling woman. You must move forward.
You cannot help someone that does not want help. After years trying to help family members with their own demons I know this to be true. I don't think he would have been receptive to any advice or help you would have offered. Also, it's not abandonment if you are stopping yourself from getting sucked into their chaos.
Honey, I'm reading and writing this in the bath, so it's gonna be short and (bitter)sweet. You are absolved, okay? Listen: you have gone through so much pain and confusion and trauma in your family & romantic relationships, and come through it not only just surviving, but thriving. I think that a lot of that had to do with you being willing to focus on you, and on your own healing. Walking away and cutting off contact was the right thing for you to do at that time. I don't believe that it would have been healthy for you to get involved and try to help or even be more present. It sounds like witnessing that kind of neglect and dysfunction was really retraumatizing for you. You don't have to be a witness. And really, there was nothing you could've done. Don't beat yourself up for this. If you want to try to reconnect now, try it and see. But give yourself permission to detach with love if it still feels bad, okay. You're brave for sharing this. I'm sending you love and strength.
Okay, so that wasn't really short at all...
ah yes, i know that feeling in the gut of your stomach all too tell. my situation was different, obviously, but similar feelings. if you want to reach out, you should, but if you don't you shouldn't, and i guess it will be really digging deep to see what YOU want, not what you feel like you should do. while it can be hard, it'll be better moving forward, me thinks. much love to you. <3