Today is going to be a very self-indulgent post. I just have to get some facts straight and writing helps. I really thought about not posting this, but it is a part of me and I am generally just stating facts so there you go. Plus, I’m allowed to air my side of things. I have a voice and why should I silence it. I am not doing this to hurt people but to just say facts from what I’ve seen.
I grew up in small town Saskatchewan, in a town of around 3,500. Out of all of the people in that town I genuinely liked about 5 of them. The rest I didn’t get along with, and some were bullies. Thanks to social media I can keep up with those whole five people I gave a crap about and forget the rest. Some of those people may have changed since then through maturing and life experience and for that I am sincerely grateful. One person in that town, with a rock band inspired nickname, actually gave me faith that people could be awesome and that things would change and also to embrace the weird in myself. I wish we had been closer in my latter teen years. I spent those years alternating between fantasy of getting back with my ex and getting out of town and becoming the next Sleater-Kinney. I had no time for the present. I did get out of town and went to University and never looked back. The teen years were about survival so I did not do as much self discovery as I could have (read: I was a mess) so spent my 20’s trying to figure it all out.
Now, at 34, I feel like I finally respect myself enough to say I love myself and I love myself to say no and I try to say no for self preservation and not so I miss out on stuff.
I grew up in a nuclear family. My mom, my father, my sister and I all lived in rented houses my whole life, the longest stretch in a double wide trailer built on to a basement. Our fence was always falling down and leaning in to the neighbour’s yard a bit and our deck steps frequently were in need of a fix. Our neighbour, as a result, hated us. He also wasn’t fond of “kids making noise”. We lived in that house from the time I was in grade 5 until I graduated. I got my first period while we lived in that house, talked in my first chat room, fell in love and got my heart broken, listened to cds with a friend (who used to show me how to change around the covers so the colours would look like the limited edition versions), and read my magazines. I dreamed of escape in that house.
My mom has always been a bit of a worrier, always looking out for us in her nervous mother hen way. My sister felt smothered by it I think, but I loved it. I felt cared for. My father was a good dad when we were really little. We put him on a pedestal and he loved it. We believed in everything he did completely. Around grade 5 tho I began to notice he was a bit out of his depth and didn’t understand me. My sister, kind of a tomboy and with the same temperament as him, always got along. He didn’t get my sensitive side and when he was mad at my mom for something would also be mad at me because we look identical. I felt a divide in me. An invisible hand out keeping me at a distance from him. I thought, “there will come a day when we don’t talk anymore”.
My mom and dad used to fight about money. My father owned a photofinishing shop in town and we never made much money. I used to think we did okay tho. He was always letting me print out posters and photos for random collages so I thought it was okay cuz we had money to waste. Things were always a stretch tho. My sister was in to gymnastics and we could always just barely afford the road trips to her gym meets. I heard many discussions. My sister was always out with friends but I preferred to stay in and read so I think I heard more than she did.
When the fights got really bad my sister and I would sit in her room and pick which parent we would go with. She would always pick our father and I would always pick my mother. Always. If mom and dad were mad at each other for a period of time, my sister and I would pick fights with each other. There was always an invisible line in the sand dividing the family. Nothing was ever said but our actions were clear.
My father would always talk about what an uppity British bitch my mom’s mom was. Grandma Gillespie owned the cabin we went to every summer and we would bring her out for a few weeks. She loved me but my sister seemed “too aggressive and more of a doer than a thinker” so she trusted only me to bring her tea and toast in the morning. She didn’t trust my sister’s outgoing attitude I think. My Grandma Gillespie was always polite but always in a bit of a mood due to being wheelchair bound with arthritis. She was always in horrid pain but never complained. She never asked for help- stiff upper lip style. (Reading The Stone Angel in grade 11 made me completely understand and respect her). My sister and I agreed with our father that she could be bitchy. We didn’t know any better.
One summer, on vacation at the cabin with us, my Grandma was super picky about all of our stuff. We had just got Walkmans before our trip and we were really excited. (Yes, with cassette tapes. Yes, I’m old). She called us spoiled and asked what other frivolous things we got for doing nothing. And then said, just for good measure, that painting your toes red used to be to advertise you are a prostitute since I was painting my toes red. I thought, “WHAT AN UPPITY BRITISH COW”.
The real story?? My father had just AGAIN borrowed a large sum of money from Grandma ( I think the receipt I saw was 25,000$) and hadn’t paid back past loans. She was starting to wonder where her money was going and slipped in anger by saying something to us. We had no idea.
I actually had no idea about all of this until I was helping my mom pack up her (mould and mouse infested) house. I found BOXES of different coloured printings of the same photo. Mom’s face slightly cyan, in sepia, in pink…. just cuz he wanted to “practice”. Well, he should have just burned money. That paper is expensive. And after that I found bills and receipts detailing the “loans” my father had been given by Grandma Gillespie since she feared if she didn’t her grandchildren would live in poverty. Can’t take it with you, as they say. Perhaps she should have tough loved us. But anyway.
After my Grandma passed my father sold the cabin before I could visit and get my stuff out of it. He squandered that money doing Event Photography with a 17 year old girl as his assistant(it’s as Lolita as it sounds). He lost all of that money. My mom’s retirement money! For a hare brained scheme. Mom stayed at home doing nothing while he visited Miami beaches and saw USA landmarks. He came home broke and moved them to southern Saskatchewan for a welding position.
When he moved to Alberta to work it was due to being fired by his welding shop’s boss in Saskatchewan. His computer was seized and there were rumours of inappropriate porn being found on it. He lied to mom and said he was looking for work in Saskatchewan. He told me he was too afraid of what it said on his file (and that it would be disclosed) if he applied in his home province. He swore me to secrecy, which I did comply to until recently.
He had very erratic behaviour between 2007-2010. He lived in Calgary and for a short time lived with my sister and her boyfriend in a roommate situation. He threatened me and my sis and her boyfriend, he would throw parties and then yell at my sis that she was too messy in the house two days later. He would tell me inappropriate secrets while rock climbing even tho he was still married to my mother. He would be visibly upset and angry (clenching fists) if he played me a punk song and I didn’t LOVE it. He would razz me in inappropriate ways during rock climbing sessions. (i cut my hair to a pixie cut. he would yell “you can do it lesbian!”). I began to wonder, and still do, if he isn’t manic depressive like his dad was.
When my daughter was almost 2 I asked my father not to swear in front of her, feed her candy, or talk about adult sized gossip in front of her. He wrote to my mother and called me uppity. I asked him just to respect those boundaries and that – even when we weren’t getting along- to see his grand-kid anyway. I asked him if he wanted to take her to the park so that he could see her, but not have to talk to me, since that was clearly the problem. He said he would “never be the preppy Dockers wearing grandpa with slicked back short hair ” that I wanted him to be. I said “have green hair and wear a Misfits shirt for all I care but act appropriately and stop swearing or shit talking my mom in front of her”. He decided not to come to my daughter’s second bday party. I texted asking if he was going to show up with no response. I gave up.
I had my son when my daughter turned two and a half. He couldn’t be bothered to text me congrats when he found out. Instead he stole a photo of him off of my friend’s FB wall and wrote that he was a grandpa under it. He lapped up the congrats and considered it an apology. I wasn’t impressed.
He always promised to fix the house he left my mom in and never did. When I finally convinced her to sell for the land and go rent again her bathroom was full of mould and the shower didn’t work. You had to duck under her caving bedroom ceiling and her mattress had 5 mouse nests in it (and I slept on it!EWW!).
Now, almost 7 years later, he has FINALLY finalized the divorce with my mom. He owes her $1000 a month in spousal support, which I hope he pays. She can finally afford necessities like internet and a mattress if he does pay! She can afford things she needs as a diabetic and proper groceries. She could afford to come and visit her grand-kids since, as it is now, we go up when we can. She can’t afford to take the days off so she is missing a lot of their milestones. And maybe she could date and live again. A fresh start.
I will never talk to my father again. I am sure of this. I don’t know who this man is. I think maybe he was always this man but it never truly came out in full force until now cuz he hid it well. Or maybe this is new and he has changed. I don’t like this person. He feeds my sister lies about why he doesn’t see me and she sides with him. As a result, my sister and I don’t have a relationship and she never makes an effort to see her niece and nephew. I understand. She sides with our father so things are just too awkward between us. I think I am in a bit of mourning about this but I’m ready to leave it behind me and let the chips fall where they may.