She told me to go to therapy.
It wasn’t immediate—she listened as I detailed our plans for the venue, the date, and the honeymoon. It was when I mentioned my four older brothers would walk me down the aisle that her face twisted in shock, hurt, and outrage. She didn’t even have to say it, it was obvious what she was thinking:
“I can’t believe you don’t want your lying, piece of shite father* to walk you down the aisle.”
Or something like that. Obviously I am the worst daughter ever.
I emphasized that I very much wanted her to be there and for her to be the Mother of the Bride– even though none of my brothers speak to her.
“If anyone has a problem with that, it’s their problem. Not your problem, not my problem, and they can learn to deal with their own problems.”
She didn’t seem to hear me, but immediately launched into a long tirade about how much I was going to hurt my father—I was his only daughter, didn’t I understand that?
“I think that if you would just sit down and talk to him, all of this could be cleared up,” she said. ”You’ve never really given him a chance.”
She must have forgotten the years of ‘family meetings’ we all endured– where my dad would hold to his modus operandi of deny deny deny until I’d open whatever massive binder of evidence I’d compiled for the occasion. He’d then accuse me of being crazy or a liar, and storm out of the room. A week later we’d all get an e-mail.
“You’re right. I lied. I did all of that. But now I have been cured! It will never happen again! I am a miracle!”
Repeat 20 times.
My Mom was quick to inform me that her desire for me to seek therapy and a chat with my dad was entirely about taking care of me.
“This is all for you,” she kept saying. “You’re not going to be able to have a happy marriage with all of this lurking in the back of your brain. You need to be able to heal.”
Can I get an “Amen” from everyone who thinks my Mom doesn’t exactly have the right to school me on what entails a happy marriage?
After this, she didn’t speak to me for two weeks. Everyone kept telling me this was meant to be “the happiest time of my life” and I was spending every night crying, raging, and watching Alex struggle not to slip the ring back off my finger.
When my Mom finally agreed to have lunch with me, I asked her point blank if she planned to attend the wedding.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ll have to pray about it.”
She refused to discuss the topic, acting pained if I so much as mentioned the color of tie Alex would be wearing. Two days before Christmas, I went to her house for lunch. My dad was meant to be gone all day.
“You don’t understand how difficult this is for us,” she said. “No one notices how their wedding affects their parents. Someday you’ll regret this.”
I had to bite my tongue to avoid mentioning all sorts of things she clearly didn’t notice when she married my father.
“He wishes he could help you,” she said. “But he would need to be involved. And it’s his money.”
She says this because she’s never had a job outside the home and her inheritance technically belongs to my father since we’re living in the 1800s.
Out of nowhere my dad’s car pulled into the driveway. I looked over to see my Mom giving me a hopeful “this is your opportunity to fix the family” sort of look. But instead of a big group hug, he breezed past me without a word, skulking like a wounded dog as he fled to the opposite end of the house. A minute later my Mom received a text and looked at me accusingly.
“Why can’t you even smile at him? You don’t understand how much he’s hurting. And now he feels like a prisoner in his own home.”
How was it possible that this big important man who used to speak at church conferences on how to be a proper Christian parent, who used to host book signings and press conferences for a fortune 500 company was now holed up in his bedroom, lashing out like a 16 year old girl who doesn’t like the color of car her parents bought her? I guess we all get to choose how we respond to what happens to us.
I asked my Mom if it made her sad that she doesn’t see her kids or grandkids.
“Every single day,” she said.
But that was her choice. She chose not to have a relationship with anyone who didn’t want one with my father. She has to live with that. I told her in the future she would probably be sad to have missed my wedding, but as with everything else, this got me nowhere. When she opened her mouth to respond, it was my father’s words that came out and I can’t really blame him for trying to ruin my life after what I did to him.
But they won’t be ruining anything for me. Plans and budgets and every tiny detail aside, that day will be magnificent. There will be a parade of mischievous children in poofy dresses and bow ties, and a room full of people that I know and love. I’m not sure if it will qualify as “the happiest day of my life” but it’ll be pretty damn magical. And somewhere amidst the twinkling lights and glamorous photos there will be my implied middle finger, rising above the entire scene as one big final SUCK IT to everyone who has ever tried to rob me of my happiness, my sanity, or my peace of mind. And you know what? That is something I can live with.
*This piece edited 6/21/2015 to remove the word “pedophile.” There has been some confusion regarding my use of the word– I do not call him a pedophile because he solicited for sex from teenagers, but because there were allegations made against him by a very young child. That is not a story I will be writing about at this time.
What’s the worst marriage advice you’ve ever received? Do you know anyone who seems absolutely delusional? Can you make me feel better about my family drama, by telling me about YOURS?
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