All I Can Hear In the Silence That Remains Are the Words I Didn’t Say
Yesterday, trying to bribe/lull my child back to sleep in the midst of intense teething pain, I made the mistake of putting on Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest. I forgot that it has been 20 years since I’ve seen this film, and that it would bring up some memories with it. This needs to be prefaced with the reminder that my Grandfather (who was just short of being a Father to me) passed away in January 2011. One of the best childhood memories I have is of a trip we all took down the West Coast of the US in 1992. My Grandparents, eldest sister and I, road-tripped down the coast from Vancouver to California and back through Nevada. During a stop in Oregon with family, I watched Fern Gully with one of my distant American cousins. This, of course, was also the year following Jurassic Park, and when we weren’t watching cartoons or Barney, we were pretending to be dinosaurs.
I had a messed up childhood. It wasn’t friendly. We were abused and moving all the time and when we stayed anywhere long enough, our home was a flophouse for losers. The first time in my life I ever felt safe was with my Grandparents. That was the whole reason they took us on that trip. Something really awful had just happened to us. We lost our Mom, and our innocence, and for the first time, us Sisters and Brother were split up in different homes. They wanted to give us a meaningful childhood memory. They wanted to make a difference. I wish that my Grandfather had lived long enough for me to tell him that the time I spent with him was the time I felt safest in my life- that no matter how mature my upbringing was, how cultured, I wouldn’t trade a minute.
Because of him, I hold my Son until he sleeps while listening to JRR Tolkien audiobooks. It’s why I read him “The Hobbit” whenever he is in the hospital. It is why the best thing the baby and I do together is go for a walk to see the boats. It is why I can’t wait to do things with him when he’s older, like take him to Science World, or the Aquarium, or camping. Watching Fern Gully reminded me a lot of the good things about being a kid- things I guess that sometimes I take for granted when I look back. That safe, innocent feeling is what I want to nurture in my Son. Knowing that he is protected, even when protecting him seems mean or unfair. Someday he will look back and appreciate not having to remember being heartbroken and disappointed. I may not be able to promise him everything he wants. But that’s because loving and protecting him is the most important thing.
This plays into the state of current things in my life right now. I feel like I’m being faced with a major emotional parenting challenge. My Husband and I are having a hard time, financially, after the property abandonment of our house, by the co-owner my Husband bought it with. We’ve been searching for a quiet, trustworthy tenant to occupy a spare room, and preferably someone we’re comfortable with, since we have a baby. A friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a number of years was having trouble at her current place, and within four days of paying rent was run out of her apartment and denied having her rent returned to her. I had been trying to get her to smuggle out her stuff bit by bit when she told me what her situation was like- the arrangement was to move her stuff and fulfill her rental agreement, simply so that her things would not be stolen. What actually happened was that within four days she moved everything, and moved in full time without actually talking to either one of us. What started out as an invite for coffee became her coming over and never leaving.
There was suddenly zero privacy, food being liberated from both myself and my roommate, and a complete absence of paid rent. Not only had she not paid us a cent to move in, she didn’t contest not getting her rent back from her previous landlord to help us out. On top of that, she expected to be fed. She was also in a state of need, and I had been generous in the days before she migrated living spaces and given her about $150 in toiletries, makeup and an old cell phone. She is burning a hole in our finances faster than battery acid. While she was here, our car also bit the dust, so that didn’t help. I had told her immediately that we needed someone clean and stable and able to pay their way. She also told me that she had kicked her MJ habit- that was a lie. She told me that she would get her rent back and pay us- that was a lie. She also has invited two random strangers into my house to shower- who are homeless and drug users. They stole from my other roommate, and had I not been home at the time, I would have thrown her out on the spot. One of those homeless guys offered to make us dinner to say thanks for the shower- only it occurred to me that he was offering to cook me my own food, and on top of it, expected to eat some and feed it to the entire house- so essentially he offered to have me feed everyone in the house my food. Uhh. No thanks. She has since given me notice that she is moving out and travelling to Newfoundland with a guy she has known for a week in his Van. She swore to me that she was looking for a safe, stable adult home and was looking to put down roots. That was a lie.
My Brother showed up on my door step today. I haven’t seen him in 18 months, and the last time I saw him long enough to have figured out that I was pregnant, and hug me. The time before that, it was my wedding, and he showed up at the last minute in a t-shirt and jeans, and got completely wasted. My Brother is an alcoholic and a drug addict. He relapses on a regular basis, and it has been years since we did anything meaningful together. He has never actually met his Nephew, who is now almost a year old. Anyhow, I’ve told my new roommate that he is a recovering addict and current alcoholic. We’ve had long conversations about how I am actually the only sibling that never had a drug and drinking problem. He asked me if he could crash here for a night and wanted to spend time with me, and as usual, I stupidly believed it. Within 40 minutes of arriving, he downed an entire bottle of white wine, and the whole time my new roommate wouldn’t shut the fuck up long enough for me to actually get to talk to my Brother at all. Then she announced that she wanted to go get some weed, and wondered if he might want something. Rule 1: Never offer an addict an introduction with a drug dealer. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Of course, he said yes. All of his visits end with him “going out to get something”, then he never comes back. I find out later that he’s gone on a raging substance abuse bender and 18 months go by before we repeat the same pattern again.
My youngest Sister is like this, too- also an alcoholic and an addict. She says she isn’t but I’ve seen her drag herself home day after day, so drunk she couldn’t make it from the door to the bathroom without vomiting on herself. She was high the day I got engaged, and I know the people she partied with- most of them are addicts with the same problems. She left before I conceived my Son. I haven’t so much as received a voice mail or facebook update from her in two years. She has never seen her Nephew or cared to ask. And just a few months before I conceived my Son, I sat with her and held her hand through a pregnancy she didn’t want. What a supportive fucking family I have. The only reason they bother with me is so they don’t have to sleep out on a park bench. I’m a rest stop to most of my family. I’m the place they come to between parties. We were close once. We were all clean once. And now I’m barely a memory. And I feel sad that my Son will never get to know his Aunts and Uncle- because I will never allow him to be exposed to the bullshit I’ve had to learn to live with. I won’t let him get attached to people who do nothing but let him down. I had that life.
Just, how could anyone accept my charity and take so much advantage, and then HAND AN ADDICT A FIX like it is NOTHING?! My Brother, incidentally, never came back. Just like I said would happen. He never came to visit. He came to get drunk and leave. And it breaks my heart that nobody seems to see that there is a difference. All he leaves behind is disappointment, sadness and empty bottles. And my Son? My Son never gets to know the funny, handsome, talented guy my Brother used to be, before drugs became his entire life. I just can’t believe that I trusted this wouldn’t happen this time. And I can’t believe that someone who claims to be a great friend and “empath” could do this. I could fucking break a plate across her face.