My parents are getting a divorce. Probably. Most likely. That’s not what I wanted to write about, but those are the words that are the most readily available. My mother has threatened many times before to leave my father. The greater part of my childhood seemed to consist of my mother making these statements, conferring with what close friends remained that hadn’t been excommunicated away from her at the behest of my father, that she wanted to leave—but was staying “because of the children,” children who urged her at every available stolen moment to leave, to go away, to think of us and leave.
It was fear I think that kept her there—fear and the fact that she had given him so much. Her body, her relationships, her self-esteem. Her sense of worth. She abandoned everything because of him, or as a result of him. Her education, her family, her voice. I have seen my mother shrivel up and die countless times over the years. Many times I wondered if this time her fall would not welcome a resurrection, if this mental break would be her final one. If it would all be for the best. It hurt to have her so far removed from reality and to watch whatever battles she had decided to silently bear in some misbegotten translation of submission and biblical love.
I think I have hated her more than I ever hated my father, who was a man I distinctly remember in high school wanting to kill in order to spare my mother, my sister, and my brother any further destruction at his hands. Damaged people. Wasn’t I a life-sized example of that, bearing the emotions of my mother, concealing her faults, placing my own on the back burner for the longest time in some adolescent quest to protect and save her, or at least the parts of her that still remained?
I love her, though. It’s a love that needs to protect, secure, and redeem—to save, or at least sacrifice myself long enough to buy her enough time and foster enough guilt in her to run away. Many of my creative works have revolved around and been embedded within this love/hate relationship I have toward her. It’s a resentment I felt within and toward myself that I directed at her in my prose, in my characters, in my desperation and fanciful delusions of love and what it meant.
I often thought that I was so forgiving and receptive of those who were so unworthy of such sacrifice because of the example she showed me in regard to my father. He’s a man who could berate and belittle her (and sexually and physically abuse her during my toddler years from the little information she has offered up and from what I have gleaned from observation), and whom she would always accept back into her heart and between her legs. I make her seem like some sexual deviant. A masochist. I think the shreds and remains of my anger and confusion are peeking through the ashes of a hate I thought I had long since burnt down and spread among the winds.
In a lot of ways she has taught me what love is, and I have taken the worst of those characteristics. Fear has firmly implanted itself in every other aspect of my life all those years my own emotions and feelings were spent wasting away in isolation. It’s kept me from a lot of things, but mostly, it’s kept me dishonest with myself. I don’t know if I could have learned love any differently. I don’t know if she could have done anything differently.
I have too many conflicted feelings to consider my father. I admire him, but it’s difficult honestly loving someone whom you know as been the root of all your buried memories, whom you simultaneously respect for the sacrifices he has made, but whom you know has lost himself. And I can’t save any more lost souls. I failed with my mother. It took her nearly 23 years to realize she had the strength and the courage to walk away, that God wouldn’t condemn her—but I think, most importantly, that her children wouldn’t, either. That any wariness we had toward relationships or marriage or child-rearing wouldn’t come from the wake of a divorce, but from the marriage she chose to continue. Our corruption had already been sown. Maybe now it can finally be uprooted.