Thursday, December 30, 2004

There's a Shit Storm Brewing

There’s a shit storm brewing and I’m about to drive right into the middle of it. Kate’s son, Robin, apparently told Benjiman (yeah, that’s really how he spells it) that he (Benj) needs to stop kissing his (Robin’s) grandma on the mouth because she doesn’t like it.

After Benj had words with Robin, he stormed out of dad’s office & now won’t return any of Kate’s phone calls. As much as we’d *like* this to just signal the end of a relationship, Kate lives about a mile away from our dad and Benj’s mom, so she can’t be in the doghouse with Benj without having her entire life affected.

According to all the reports from all fronts, Benj had claimed this was his “best Christmas ever” (which doesn’t surprise me; I’ve had Christmas with his mom & it sucked). So if we call him on his annoying, bothersome behavior, are we stepping on his best Christmas memory, or can they be distinct? We have to care about not hurting Ben’s feelings because our Dad will care, and we’ve worked far too hard at mending our relationships with him to let Benj get in the middle and fuck them up again.

If this were a world of my design, I would never have had Benjiman or his mother in my life. I don’t particularly care about Benj and I actively don’t like his mom. I think Kate and I figured once my dad died we wouldn’t ever have to deal with them again. We could just let them disappear from our lives. God, wouldn’t that be nice? But dad is alive and well (thank god—I’d rather have him alive & have to deal with them than have him gone for good. I’d miss him too much), so that means we have to come to some resolution...and soon.

So first of all, make it known that Robin and Kate had a conversation about what’s acceptable information for him to share with other people, especially when it doesn’t concern him. He feels horrible for opening up this can of worms, but he was concerned about his grandmother’s feelings, so he thought it was reasonable to bring it up to Benj.

Secondly, Benj MUST recognize that tearing into Robin isn’t going to solve anything, it’s just going to make a 9 year old boy feel even worse about himself, which is not right. It is absolutely NOT Benjiman’s place to reprimand Kate’s children. That is Kate’s job and that is Jeff’s job, and to a lesser extent, it is the job of those adults who spend a lot of time around Robin and his sister. Benj is NOT one of those adults. Also, this was the SECOND time in a week that Benj inappropriately ripped into Robin. A 29 year old yelling at a 9 year old instead of dealing with his issues in an appropriate manner—you do the math. That’s just wrong.

(Nasty aside: Every fucking time we see him, he whines—yes, literally WHINES like a 4 year old—that he wishes he could spend more time with his sisters and getting to know his nieces and nephew, but he EVER! We tell him repeatedly that he’s always welcome to come to our homes & spend time with the kids, but he doesn’t! So quit fucking complaining about it. Either do something about it, or shut up.)

Anyway. Blah, blah, blah.

Benjiman views us as his family. My dad adopted him at some point when he was a teenager (I don’t really know when—we were only informed it was done way after the fact), so technically I guess we are family. But I never lived with him while growing up, nor did Kate. Our younger sister did for a while because she moved in with my dad to finish high school. Somehow, though, he has contorted the family tree to include a line between himself and my mother. I don’t know how my mom feels about having to include her ex-husband’s new wife’s son in our family gatherings, I’ve never asked. But the relationship explanation, I believe, speaks for itself.

Notwithstanding the oddity of relationships, we did have a fantastic Christmas together. But now that the gates of hell have been opened, we need to talk about it. All of us. Teri, our younger sister, is one of the most judgmental people I’ve ever met. If she’s involved in this conversation, she’ll be condescending and supercilious to me & Kate, she’ll make Kate’s kids feel like shit, and even though she agrees with us about Benj in private, she’ll take his side in public. Having that hanging out there like a Sword of Damocles makes me so anxious that I’m literally shaking as I write this.

Benjiman was not a nice child. If he wants to know what he was like, we can tell him about how mean, emotionally and physically hurtful, selfish, and nasty he was. But he won’t believe us. He won’t believe us, and his mother will take his side. She was/is just the same, and dad will take her side. There’s a part of me that wants to tell my dad that after 25 years of this bullshit, we’re not going to play along anymore. He must choose between his first family and his new family. But we’ve worked *so hard* to make the decent relationship we have with him now, I’m loathe to give that up over two people who matter so little to me.

He wasn’t a nice teenager either. He used a lot of drugs and he drank like a fish. I didn’t invite him to my wedding because I didn’t want my guests to have to worry about whether or not their purses or cars would be stolen or broken into. Literally. He stole our younger sister’s stereo once & sold it for drug money. He’s been in AA since he was 20 (or maybe 19), but that’s not enough to heal the scars he’s left behind.

I’m not in AA. I have no need to be in AA. I don’t have any sort of drug or drinking problem, nor do any members of my immediate family, so it seems shallow and wrong to me that when outsiders go through their fourth step (or whatever) and apologize for their wrongs I’m supposed to just say, “Oh, well, since you’re sorry, then ok!”. Bullshit. You stole from me and my sisters, you damaged my relationship with my father, and you think a half-hearted “Sorry, Sis” is going to cure that?! Wrong, Boy-o. Wrong.

Come to think of it, I don’t believe I ever got an apology from him. Hmmm.

It seems to me that offering an apology at the whatever-step in AA is a panacea for the abuser but actually does very little for the abused. Sort of like a fart—once it’s out of your body, YOU may feel better, but everyone around you is left with the stench of your expulsion.

So can a recipient of an AA apology say “thank you for the thought, but these are the memories of how you’ve made my life unhappy . I don’t like you, I have never liked you, and I don’t want to spend any time with you.”?

I’m inclined to say YES WE CAN! We can say any god damned thing we want. I’m not beholden to him or anyone else to clear his conscience of things he’s done wrong. I’m not the one in AA—I can respond any god damned way I want to.

And here’s the rub: If I speak the truth, and if I give the same truth to Benjiman’s mother, then I lose my father. I hate him sometimes for bring this into our lives, but he’s my dad & I love him. I can’t have him without them, but the two families are water & oil. I’ve worked so, so, so hard to get to a good place with him. That some 29 year old punk with the emotional maturity of a 13 year old can fuck that up in one weekend just makes me angry beyond comprehension.

My dad loves his wife. I don’t know why; I’ve tried and tried to let her into my world to see what he sees in her, and I just don’t get it. But because he loves her, he is completely oblivious to the pain they have caused us. Utterly unseeing. And if we point out specific instances, he excuses them one by one with something that must make him feel better about the situation. But it doesn’t convince me, it just teaches me to keep my mouth shut about it.

The floodgates have opened though; there’s no more keeping our mouths shut. I’m driving down to Kate’s house tonight. I intended to put up a wonderful “Happy New Year” post this morning letting you know I was leaving for Kate’s and won’t be home until Monday. Now I just have all of THIS to look forward to instead.


I hope YOU have a good New Year’s Eve. The best I can hope for us this weekend is that we don’t lose our dad.