I’ll just be honest and say that I don’t have much of an idea on how to finish this story, but if you’re just joining me, here are parts 1-4:
The days that followed my mom’s reveal are a bit of a blur.
Maybe I’ve suppressed some details, maybe it happened 4 years ago and I’m just getting old.
Maya Angelou said,
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
That shiz is truth because right now I struggle to remember every conversation, every action that snowballed from there, but the feelings. Oh, the feelings. That’s a tap I can turn on without force.
Anger and betrayal, obviously. This relationship was supposed to be about me and my dad; my mom usurped it and he let her. And then they made it about LOVE and REDEMPTION and GOD’S FAVOUR UPON US ALL.
At the expense of my broken heart and shattered trust.
Guilt. Replacement. Confusion. Fear. Anxiety. Worthlessness. They all took their turn in the spin cycle of my brain.
So I left. I canceled every single commitment I had, from babysitting to singing in choir, and I just did not care. My Show Up No Matter What was dead.
I asked some out-in-the-country friends if I could stay with them indefinitely. They and their little shih-tzu welcomed me with open arms.
It was a small Paradise in the garden of Hell. Their house is situated high on a hill overlooking rolling fields, a lake, and the mountains. They gave me permission to sequester myself in a bedroom all day, or roam the hills and scream into the wind if I wanted. I blasted 30 Seconds to Mars in my ears constantly. I started a Myspace account, illegally posting self-recorded covers of anything emo I could find. I started dating someone I didn’t really love or even like that much. I ignored every single damn email my parents sent me, no matter how much they begged for confirmation that I was okay.
I needed to go a little crazy, so I did.
Come break me down, bury me, bury me, I am finished with you…
Look in my eyes, you’re killin’ me, killin’ me, all I wanted was you…
And strangely, looking back, I wish I’d gone crazier.
In those days of seclusion, I was scared. Scared of how far the cliff of my feelings was willing to reach before it dropped off into the unknown.
But now I wish I’d gotten Charlie-Sheen-crazy-drunk just once so that I could call my parents and tell them exactly how I felt about each of them. Sober and numb, my honesty was locked up tight for the sake of being nice and sweet, like I’d always been. Even in the face of all their lies and cover-ups and plain awfulness, Little Carly still wanted, more than anything, for her parents to be happy and proud of her.
The worst day came when I could finally form a coherent thought about someone other than myself: I have to tell my sister.
I finally read all Their Frantic Emails, my heart sinking further. What I read could only be described as a roller coaster. Up and down and up again. Dad is coming here. But maybe not. It’s complicated. But he’s definitely coming to be with us. And over again. The left hand did not know what the right hand was doing, daily. But they were so in love, and according to the Jewish laws recorded in the Bible (what? we’re Jewish now?), Dad was more than blessedly allowed to leave his wife behind for us. However, thinking about faking his own death had been a low point (yeah, no shit) and he wouldn’t do it (there is still a God).
He was desperate. He had always considered us his real family, he was only really alive when we appeared on the scene.
God, what fatherless little girl DOESN’T want to hear that?
Of course, I left those last parts out when I talked to Cassie. Even so, she was defensive and hurt, asking me every little thing I’d said and done in this situation, to verify my innocence. She may have believed me, but in the balancing act of her family, her work, and keeping her mom completely in the dark about what was occurring – contact with me became, and is, practically non-existent.
Another ripple. Another loss.
Less than three weeks later, I came back into town. I showed up for my public dance recital, and so did my mom. I was prepared for neither of those things. We made painfully awkward small talk over lunch; I filled the conversation with worthless gushing about my new (and first) boyfriend. In her delusion, she smiled as she realized Awww. We’re in love at the same time.
Less than two months later, I moved to Prince George with the boy I couldn’t love.
Less than six months later, my dad told me that his kidneys were failing him after a long struggle with diabetes. My mom confirmed this, saying that he was in the hospital after collapsing, and please pray for your Daddy.
And the roller coaster started again, guilt being in the first two-seater car. I suddenly loved my Dad more than anything, and I fell to my knees on his behalf. I didn’t want to lose him now. Not after all of this.
A couple days went by, and I didn’t hear from either of them. I decided to ask Cassie.
Instead, she told me that Dad was fine. He had diabetes, sure, but it was manageable. He hadn’t collapsed, he wasn’t in the hospital.
And that’s when I realized that I was the third corner of a triangle I no longer wanted to be in. I promised Mom and Dad that I would stay in contact with both of them casually, but I would refuse to talk to them about each other and what step they were going to take next in their grand, false love affair.
A year after the affair began, my paperwork for Permanent Residence was approved, and my mom was deported from Canada. She considered going back to California for approximately 3 seconds before I lovingly threatened to disown her. So she went the opposite direction: Shithole-Middle-Of-Nowhere, Alaska. Once again, guilt shotgunned the spot next to me on the roller coaster.
She and I had one last lunch date together in the Prince George mall, July 2011. Watching her cry as she drove away from me in a rickety old truck and camper was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
After months of silence, I received a strange email from my dad.
The other day, I got a care package from your mom sent to my work building. This is too dangerous. Can you please tell her I can’t be in contact with her anymore? I’d really appreciate it.
Guilt got kicked out of the roller coaster seat by Anger, momentarily taking over.
Are you f***ing kidding me? You started this twisted, toxic relationship with her again. You made her the happiest woman I’ve ever seen, for all the wrong reasons. And now you want me to BREAK UP with her FOR YOU? I don’t think so. Here’s the only contact information I have for her in Shithole-Middle-Of-Nowhere, Alaska. Now find some balls and tell her yourself. I don’t ever want to hear from you again.
His only response?
I’m sorry I bothered you. I love you. I’ll be here if you need me.
Aaaaand we’re back with Guilt in the passenger seat…
Isn’t it funny how you can be willing to do anything for that One Thing you want, and that determination is the very thing that sets the One Thing on fire, to be had by no one? We all wanted the same thing: a family. And now, there is only ashes.
In the summer of 2012, when it became clear that I was going to marry Steven, I was past the point of dreaming or even needing my Dad to be the one to walk me down the aisle. I gave that honour to another man who helped me become who I am today, in a good way. But we definitely wanted my mom there. So we made the trek up to Shithole-Middle-Of-Nowhere, Alaska, to talk to her about it ourselves. It was a pretty emotional reunion.
Over dinner our first night there, Mom proceeded to tell Steven what she’d been telling me for the past 20-odd years: that I was the lucky, beautiful blessing to come out of a one-night stand with her best friend. Steven smiled and nodded, knowing the real truth, accepting Mom anyway, making me love him more. Part of me wonders if that just IS her truth now.
By the time September rolled around, Mom had worked very hard and succeeded at getting a 4-day pass to come back into Canada for our wedding. The day before all of our out-of-town friends started arriving, she broke down crying and told me that Dad and she had ended things a few weeks ago, and it had been the right thing to do, and she was so sorry.
I gave her my first full-bodied hug in a long time. “It’s okay, ” I whispered through tears. “We still have each other.”