I don't like my family. I mean, I don't know too many people who are overly fond of their families but between my mother's gambling problem and my father's fondness for sleeping with women who aren't my mother without her permission, family reunions are a nightmare. It's not even their proneness to addiction, it's the fact that I am the only family member who hasn't gone to some form of therapy or rehab to try and "fix" their "problems". I don't look on addiction as a problem; I look on it as a character flaw, one that doesn't need to be fixed. It simply needs to be controlled. That's what my parents never understood - still don't understand - about me or my sister. They were always trying to fix us like we were broken and it was torture.
But at least we always had each other. This was my first family dinner since my sister was arrested and I had to face the two of them alone. Really, I think it was just rude of her to get caught and I could easily make an argument to the effect that she did it on purpose specifically to avoid dad’s birthday dinner.
But I know that's not true.
If I’m being honest, I could have gotten the family reunion over with a few years ago but I always had an excuse available: I have a work function, I have a custody hearing, I’m trying to figure out how to stuff a body into a pizza oven while my husband’s at work. They still laugh at that last one. One day I’ll tell them it wasn’t a joke. Maybe at Christmas.
Thank god for my two little terror’s at home, though. If it weren’t for them I’d be forced to visit my parents at least once a month. I’m so glad they saw reason and blamed their grandparents for what happened to their mother. Now I don’t even need to come up with an excuse, I just tell them that I can’t find a babysitter and wait for next year when they try to call. It’s a beautiful system.
Until this weekend.
I told my mother that the kids were here for the weekend when, in fact, they were both away (Jason at a friend’s house, Sandra touring universities with James). The peace and quiet was so welcome I didn’t think twice about lying to my mother.
And then she showed up at the door. Apparently she called James and he had foolishly told her the truth, thinking I had also told her the truth. I already scolded him so there’s no need to make snide remarks in the comments, dear readers.
So in burst my mother on Saturday morning insisting that my father would be here later in the day and we needed to clean the house for supper with the three of us. Great.
To her credit, my mother taught me some very valuable things: how to get stains out of carpet, and her desire to take risks in everyday situations. Mostly her cleaning skills, though, that woman could spark a blood bath in the kitchen and you’d never know it an hour later.
Now I’m very careful about the cleanliness of my home. Too clean and the police become suspicious but too messy and I get these weird rashes all over my body. It’s not pretty. But my father has never been able to stand anything less than perfection when it came to the cleanliness of his home. When we were growing up we wouldn’t be allowed to eat a meal until the entire house passed inspection. I admit that in university I rebelled against him by living in an absolute pigsty but I slowly grew to appreciate the values of living in cleanliness. And having bleach on hand at all times.
Yes, for all my parent’s flaws, I can honestly say that they have shaped me into the woman I am today.
That still does not mean I want to see them on a regular basis and that certainly does not excuse them from acting like assholes at dinner. From the moment my mother stepped into my house she had to comment on everything, comparing it to her precious little condo that she and dad had bought now that they “didn’t have to entertain”. Of course that didn’t stop her from complaining about the fact that I never visit and that they were forced to move to a smaller house since their grandchildren were brainwashed into thinking they were the villains.
They say brainwashed, I say logically persuaded.
In any case, my mother spent more time criticizing my furniture choice, my choice of colour and even my choice of dish soap than she did cleaning which is odd even for her. Usually she’s much better at multitasking.
And then, like good little women, we had to make supper before father dear returned from chopping wood or selling women’s dresses or whatever he does now in his old age. It’s not that I minded cooking, it’s that it was expected of me. I hate when people just assume that I’ll do something. It irritates me to no end and if it were anyone else they would have found the body the next morning and I would be adding their information to my notebooks. But since they’re family I made an exception.
Mostly because it would have raised too many questions.
Like clockwork, dad showed up as we were putting the food on the table and immediately made a beeline for the basement. He always liked to start at the bottom and worked his way up when he made his inspections. Thank god I remembered to change out my load of laundry. He has a nasty habit of airing out people’s dirty laundry and I doubt blood stains on my nice white blouse would have made him particularly excited. One habit I was glad to break was waiting for everyone to be seated before we ate. Sometimes dad’s inspections could take hours and I was not about to let his invasion of my privacy stop me from enjoying a good home-cooked meal. Even if my mother was glaring at me as I ate in silence.
That’s the thing about my family. Even when we were growing up, I can probably count on one hand the times when we’d had long, serious conversations. We rarely spoke to each other. Everything we said was silent. Glaring or disapproving looks were sometimes indistinguishable from disappointed or disturbed looks but after a while they all meant the same to my sister and me: you’re not good enough. I remember that look always made my sister cry. Even after all these years – in my own home no less – I still get an uneasy feeling in my stomach when my mother glares at me like that. Like she’s trying to burn me from the inside out. Like she knows my dark secrets. Of course she doesn’t. If she did I would have been arrested by now. My mother would literally turn in her own daughter if it meant making herself look good.
Which brings me to dinner - or at least the moment when we all sat down together. I have never believed my mother to be a good woman – nor would she want me to – but there’s a certain level of loyalty even criminals and low lifes have. She brought it up so casually like it was every day conversation. My father, to his credit or cowardice, remained silent as my mother recounted her tale.
I am not known for my calm attitude or my ability to forgive so it is out of sheer preservation that my mother is still alive today. I want you to understand that, dear readers. I am being purely selfish.
My mother turned my sister in to the police. She wasn’t caught by chance. She was ratted out. Four years and she finally got up the courage to confess to a crime I didn’t even know she committed.
After I heard the news, I honestly don’t know what happened or how dinner ended but when I next found myself it was later that evening and James was holding me back from attacking the washing machine with a hammer. Thank god he found me; that was an expensive machine.
All jokes aside, I have never blacked out like that. I’ve had moments where rage has overtaken me with a victim and they’ve ended up more guts than flesh but never for this long and never without supervision. I had James call my father to make sure they’d made it home safe and sound. He sounded so calm as he talked to my parents but I could tell he was scared.
That’s what my mother does to people. She brings out the terror in them. It comes in many forms but it’s like her super villain power: drawing the nightmares from people. I would think it was a gift if it didn’t affect me so much.
Instead it’s a curse. A terrible plague.
In a lot of ways my parents are well matched in that manner. Though my father’s terror is more silent but deadly.
Four days later and I’m still trying to fathom how someone can do that to their daughter. You don’t just drop a bomb on them like that in the middle of dinner. It’s so rude.
I’m hoping I scared them enough that they won’t want to have another impromptu family dinner for at least another year.
As always, dear readers,