I talked with my bestie Christabel, about Dad’s responses. I’m glad she pointed out that he may well have still be quite drunk and that when he sobered up, he might change his mind and I’d get the reaction I initially expected.
I’m glad Christabel warned me of that because at the time, I was floating on clouds and basking in the daydream of coloured heart-shaped confetti falling from the ceiling and Katy Perry’s “roar” playing in the background.
I am invincible!!!
Christabel’s voice and wise advice to just ‘step carefully’ and still be a little cautious was well timed and brought me back down to earth.
Of course, she was right. (Don’t tell her, but Christabel’s usually always right).
Still pretty excited – but now also wary – I rang Dad.
“Dad – what are you up to?”
Dad: *sounding as if he was suffering a huge hangover* Ohhh…just strolling around the city wasting time while I wait for your mother to finish work.
Me: Ok cool. Hey, can I come and hang out with you?
Dad: *hesitant* Umm…yeah okay – but let’s make it later this afternoon once your Mom’s finished work, okay? How about 1pm at my favourite pub?
Me: *sensing Dad’s mood had changed radically from his exuberant emails and thanking God for Christabel in my life* Okay. I’ll see you at 1pm. Text me if there’s any changes.
At almost 1pm on the dot, I strolled towards Dad’s favourite pub in the city. From a distance, I spotted his bald head and lopsided smile. He was telling Mom a story and my heart melted at the way Mom looked up at him – as if the very sun rose and fell in him.
I reached their table quickly and we all hugged. Dad first, then Mom.
“Do you want anything to drink?” Dad picked up his wallet and his already empty pint glass.
“Just lemon, lime and bitters, please” I said and Dad nodded, pointed to Mom’s empty wine glass and she smiled up at him. He nodded again and disappeared, whistling away to himself and greeting a few others with a happy “Gday mate! How ya goin’?”
Lol. Typical Dad.
Mom reach over and patted my arm.
“Your Dad said he got a long email from you” her brown eyes peered into mine. “what did you say in it?”
So Dad hadn’t told Mom. Hmm. What do I do now?
Spill my guts or say “ask Dad”?
“It was a long email, Mom” I decided to say. I think that’s safe, right?
“But I want to know, too” Mom pleaded. “Please don’t leave me out”
But Mom, you’ve already taken Jay’s side in this. I don’t even think you want to hear mine.
“Mom…” I sighed “Listen, it’s a long story and I don’t want you to get upset”
“I want to know” Mom insisted.
I wanted to ask then and there “What has Jay said?” so then I’d know what I was up against and how ‘deep’ to go into details with my Mom, but it was as if she read my mind.
“Jay said he’s very hurt. He said you’ve abandoned him and refused to come to his wedding. He is really, really upset that you don’t want to be part of his special day”
Right. So that’s what’s been said.
Deep breaths, JD. Deep breaths.
Dad came rumbling in, expertly carrying 3 drinks with his two hands.
I don’t know if I should be worried about how he’s acquired this skill – or impressed?
“Oh looks very serious here” Dad said. I could sense his great reluctance to talk about anything to do with Jay and I.
“Have you heard of that comedian…” and Dad went into a long spiel about a new Australian comedian he really liked.
This is awkward.
I actually really wanted to talk to Mom about this now – and to get confirmation from Dad that he still felt proud of me – that what he emailed me and texted me was still real.
What are you doing and where are you going with this weird conversation, now, Dad?
“Listen, about my messages” Dad finally said.
Ahah. Now we’re getting to it.
“I uh…I wasn’t quite myself when I sent them”
Little pieces of my heart broke right there and fell onto the concrete slats under our bar table. I could see them in my imagination – broken and bruised and crushed underfoot. Like tiny, tissue paper hearts that were so delicate a soft breeze could blow them away.
Deep breaths, JD…deep breaths.
“What I meant to say was…”
Here we go…
“Was that I love you both. You and your brother. I’ve heard from you both and won’t take sides in this. You’re both upset. You both have a right to be. We’ll leave it at that”
Dad was furiously back-pedalling. I guess somewhere in there, he was trying to find a middle ground.
That’s better than just abandoning me and fully taking Jay’s side. I know that. But it hurt even so that he was taking 100 steps back from what he’d messaged me the night before.
Daddy…you’re breaking my heart.
“So – what’s actually going on?” Mom asked again. She was clear-eyed and determined and I wanted to forge ahead, in spite of Dad’s obvious discomfort.
This needs to be addressed, Dad. Things HAVE to change and if we don’t talk about them – they never will.
I made up my mind, then – that I had to say something. I couldn’t go on being ‘polite’ the way I had been for 30 years of my life.
“Dad” I said. I was pleasantly surprised at the power and strength in my voice when I said it. Even Dad’s eyebrows went up at the tone in my voice.
“Haha – this guy the other day said -” Dad started
“DAD” I said again.
He stopped. Dad cleared his throat.
Mom looked between us both in confusion.
There was a silence that hung in the air like dusty old curtains. It might have only lasted a millisecond in real life – but in my mind, it lasted hours.
Dad sighed. He seemed resigned to finally let me speak.
“Okay Janet” there was a sadness in his voice that made my heart break and made me want to stop going any further for his sake.
“Go on” he said.
So even though it was like trying to walk through 10 feet of treacle, I went on.
I had to.
Things have to change in our family – and if it’s down to me to say something for once in my life to ignite that change, then surely it’s worth it? It’s worth the cost.
Mom looked expectantly at me. I could see in her face that she used to be an inquisitive child. That she was a tearaway teenager and a fiery young woman.
I’m so much like you that I only have to look in the mirror to see you, Mom.
That thought made my eyes well up and a lump form in my throat.
But even so – I forged on ahead.
“Mom, I’m not talking to Jay right now because I’m hurt that to me, he’s my baby brother and to him, I’m a convenience to use at his request”
Mom frowned. Even after 34 years of living in Australia, she struggles at difficult phrases/words.
“What do you mean?” Mom asked.
I looked at Dad. He nodded “Go on, tell her”
So I did. I retold Mom everything I’d said to Jay and everything I’d emailed to Dad the previous night.
Mom sighed a lot. She was furious (at Jay!!! Woohoo!!!) when I revealed a lot of what had happened in the past few years between us both.
“I thought you wanted our Dad and I on your honeymoon” she said
“Why on EARTH would I want to bring my own brother and parents on my honeymoon, Mom?” I answered “Jay planned it and because I wanted him to like me and approve of me, I went along with it”
Mom was appalled.
“But why did you plan your wedding at the same time as Jay’s holiday?” Mom asked.
I picked my wedding date for later that month and JAY ASKED ME TO CHANGE IT because it was inconvenient for him.
Mom was again, appalled.
“I had no idea” She said. She held my hand. “I’m sorry, my darling. If I had known…”
“So when you didn’t come to Kate’s birthday party on Monday?” Mom asked
“Mom, Alun and I weren’t invited. We didn’t even know about it” I said “I did try to tell you – remember?”
It was as if a veil had fallen away and Mom was finally seeing things for the first time.
“That little shit!” Mom shouted. She laughed. “All this time, Jay said you were refusing to come to events that were special to him and to Kate…but they hadn’t even invited you. What a cheeky bugger”
I couldn’t help it, I laughed too. The tension in my Dad’s shoulders eased and I could see them settling into a more comfortable position.
This was great!
“So why aren’t you coming to their wedding now that they’ve changed it to March instead of May?”
Because we weren’t told. This is the first I’m hearing of it, I promise you.
“That shit!” Mom exclaimed again.
We all laughed.
After hearing my version of the story, both Mom and Dad seemed to come to peace with things as they are.
“Are you ever going to talk to your brother again?” Mom asked – tears in her eyes.
“Yes Mom” and I meant it “Just not anytime soon. It’s going to take some time. But he’s my brother. He’s the only one I’ve got. I love him and we’ll be okay – we both just need some space”
Then she did something really lovely. She held my hand “I get it now. I do. You don’t have to come to any family things if you still feel upset – we’ll give you time”
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Mom’s phone rang. I saw Jay’s name flash up on her screen.
Mom’s face softened and she smiled fondly as she lifted the phone to her ear.
Even though my brother is indeed A SHIT, she still loves him with all her heart.
Seeing Mom’s face as she recognised Jay’s name…it broke my heart. I know I shouldn’t feel this way because at least now they know my story and are trying to understand us both…but that look on her face…
…Jay’s still the favourite.
Even after everything he’s done. Even after everything I’ve said. And it was HARD AS HELL for me to say it in the first place.
“Hello my son” Mom smiled warmly into the phone. “Yes, we’re at the pub now – we’ll be home in time for you to pick us up for dinner. Oh yes, that sounds very fancy. Yes, I’ll wear something nice. See you soon!”
So. Nothing has changed.
All I’ve done…all I’ve said…how hard I’ve fought in these last few weeks…I may as well have not done.
Dad smiled across at Mom. They looked lovingly into each other’s eyes.
I was all but forgotten.
It was just a moment between them both – it probably didn’t even last 30 seconds, but it put me in my place. In the place I’ve always been but never understood…never wanted to admit to.
I’m on the outside looking in at the perfect family.
Made up of THREE sides.
Just like the coin I was looking at earlier when I emailed my Dad.
There is no place for me and I don’t belong here.
“Jay and his fancy places” Dad chuckled and shook his head. You could tell he was impressed and as proud as punch.
“He likes the nicest restaurants” Mom said, winking and patting my hand as if I was a stranger she had to explain him too.
I know, Mom. Believe me, I know.
“So where are you off to after this?” Dad said. Both he and Mom looked at me expectantly.
I was being dismissed. Passed over for something better.
To get a thick rope from Bunnings and hang myself.
“Home to watch some movies” I voiced out loud.
They nodded eagerly. Both so happy. Both so eager to have things be happy and free and ‘easy’. Both so eager to move on and to go to dinner with my brother.
Am I that easy to walk away from?
I know. I know. I’m being dramatic.
My emotions, my depression, my anxiety, my past, the accident of ’09…the way they’ve all shaped me, changed me, warped me, wrecked me, burnt and broken me – makes me view everything in my life with wary scepticism.
I should be happy that my parents at least listened to me.
I should be happy that I got ‘my side’ of the events out there.
I should be happy Mom and Dad didn’t shout at me and disown me. I fully expected it – because I’ve been there MANY, MANY times before.
In my childhood, I wasn’t beaten. I’ve never been sexually abused (Take note, ANNE!!!), I’ve never been starved, chained up, imprisoned or tortured…my parents have done their best to raise me and today, they did their best to hear my version of events.
But somehow something inside is still very hurt. Still very fragile. Still very FUCKED UP (sorry Lord Jesus) from this favouritism that rules my very being. That always has and from what I’ve seen today – always will – no matter what I say or do.
I didn’t change a SINGLE thing today. I’ve bled myself dry wanting to change my family’s dynamics and wanting to right the balance that is always tipped in Jay’s favour…AND I FAILED, you guys.
I FAILED. MISERABLY.
How much is rope at Bunnings? Because I only have $30 in my bank account.
My parents are out at a fancy dinner with my brother as I blog.
I guarantee you that whatever Jay orders – he’ll make an amendment to it. It’s what he does, you know. Jay will order from the menu – from a perfectly wonderful menu – but will change ONE item on the meal listing.
eg “Yes, I’ll have the Angus steak with celeriac mash and charred beetroot…but instead of the mash, can I please have a selection of your finest steamed vegetables? Thanks”
or he’ll change the green beans to broccoli. Or the pepper sauce that accompanies the t-bone steak to some other fancy-ass “jus” he knows all about from the streets of Portugal or Greece or Spain or the richest provinces in France.
Jay does that so that HE controls the menu. Jay does it so that even a world renowned chef has to do what HE wants.
My family will always revolve around Jay. For as long as the moon revolves around the sun.
And there is NOTHING I can do to change that.