My dad was married to SisterS' mom 37+ years ago, when she was a baby. They were only together five or six years, and he told me once that he knew it was over when, after his mother died, he was in a room crying and she just walked away, went to bed, and went to sleep.
"How could anybody be that heartless," he wondered to me as he was telling the story "if you love somebody, to just see them suffering and walk away, go to sleep?" At the time, I agreed with him - although my step-sister's mom isn't a heartless witch or anything, it made me think about how against a person you'd have to be, how... cold to see somebody in pain and just... walk away.
That was before he taught me that walking away is sometimes the only thing you can do, the safest thing you can do, the only way to protect yourself.
He wouldn't see it that way - he very clearly thinks I am some version of the heartless witch I imagined his ex as all those years ago - but time and experience has taught me differently. And still: I cannot be the completely heartless wench I want to be/probably should be in his case. Too many times when I have been burned, I still feel sorry for him, to see him fall into the hole he has created for himself! No matter that I have just been abused by this person, or if he has just finished berating me for a thing that leaves me with nettles sticking out of my heart, there is a part of me that is afraid of being the one who goes to sleep while someone else is sitting there suffering, and what being that person - in relation to someone who may even deserve it at that particular point in time - means about Me. As a person. If you can turn your back on one person you love, can't you - given the right circumstances - turn your back on any of them? These aren't questions I have answers to... even if I know I'm not the one turning my back, that all the spaces I've put between us are there as protection, as barriers - mostly for my benefit, I admit - so that my heart doesn't keep getting crushed.
I know he is hurting; I know he is using that hurt to hurt other people. I can't bring myself to step in at the 'he is hurting' part, because I'm afraid it will turn into the 'hurting me/other people I love' part. It's learned behavior, I keep telling myself. It's earned behavior. It's not callous punishment or disregard for his feelings, even when I feel the most pissed off at him and think he might deserve one or both of those things - there is always some piece of me that remembers that once, he was a younger man, sitting at a table, grieving the loss of his mother, and his wife turned away. That once he was a little boy whose father disappeared, and reappeared only to create havoc and bring misery. That, in his lifetime, it was reasonable to rage at people and expect it to translate into respect.
That, a long time ago now, when I was the one sitting grieving, and I realized my Daddy was gone, and that he was never going to be the man I needed him to me, I turned to my Dad (who was also not the man I needed him to be) and was told "he can't do any better, and you're just going to have to forgive him for it, because he doesn't get the chance to change it."
And knew in my heart that it was true for both of the men I have called my father.
I know it now, but it doesn't make living with him any easier. I don't know how to forgive ongoing hurts - I didn't then, and I don't now. Our current 'peace-ish' accord - which generally consists of us not talking all that much, and me sitting tensely while my parents 'discuss' things, keeping patrol for raised voices and insults, threats and unacceptable behavior - has been broken. As always, I feel irrevocably, unforgivably broken.
It isn't as if he doesn't know I am doing those things, but it doesn't seem to stop him from raging when he feels it is his right. And, this past weekend, he felt he'd earned the right, yet again.
So I get to (yet again) have the fabulous experience of stepping between my parents to prevent things from getting physical. Of having to explain the situation to (grossly ignorant and so patronizing I wanted to punch them) police officers. Of getting all of my most sensitive buttons pushed - I am not his daughter; I will never have a meaningful relationship because I am a hardhearted, unforgiving bitch; I do not have the right to intrude into their 'discussion' because I am a child, and it is not my business; My mother is a cunt, and I'm just like her; I'm sick and weak and unlovable, and he should know because hasn't he been forced to put a roof over my lazy ass for my entire life, and gotten nothing in return? Of being kicked out of said house because I'm ungrateful and disrespectful and a bitch. (Not that I went anywhere, because... well, I don't really have any other options, but it's the thought that counts.) Of holding it together pretty well in the face of all of that, and then breaking down completely when he started to throw my siblings under the bus as well, because trampling me was not providing him with his desired response.
Of being ignored for every day since, for having the gall to call the cops, to say "That is e-fucking-nough." and "You have no right to treat people this way." And of knowing, eventually, that he'll come in here, with his half-assed apologies, and that I will be expected to forgive and forget. Two things that I have been unable to do - when it comes to him - for at least a decade.
And so, I guess, it'll have to be my right to keep the walls up, to man the barricades.
To be the one who turns away, even if it makes me feel badly about myself.
Because it feels slightly less bad than the other option, which is allow myself to be attacked without standing up for myself, ever. To allow the people I love to be trampled without standing up for them, because he sees it as interfering and disrespectful.
To protect me is to be against him, at this point, and that's what he just can't seem to understand.
I wish I didn't understand it so goddamn well.
---- Captain Awkward's amazing analogy re: abuse and scary movies. Because I'm not going to be a casualty of this horror movie, if I can at all help it ---