in·teg·ri·ty (n-tgr-t) n.
1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.
My brother and I got into this nasty argument on the phone Friday night, a fight that caused me to cry harder than I have in years. Maybe even harder than the day I clung to the phone - me in New York, my dad in Florida - begging him to love me. Finally far enough away physically that I didn't think the emotional could overwhelm me. Begging. Begging. Begging my father to love me.
"You must love the abuse because you keep coming back for more," was his exact reply.
I hyperventilated Friday night, and my eyes teared up off and on for almost 48 hours afterward. I didn't leave my house the entire weekend. I barely got out of bed. Though my brother apologized, the argument, among other things, is responsible for my ill mood as of late. Schmutzie's talk of the ugliness this world serves up isn't helping.
I won't bore readers with the particulars of the ordeal. I will say that it has to do with family problems that have caused me grief for as long as I can remember. I come from a family of bullies, chauvenists, sadists, racists and molestors. As a child, I was sexually and emotionally abused. Ignored. Rejected. From the outside, there's everything wrong with how I grew up. I have seen that for years now even if I didn't know enough to see it when I was a child. From the inside, everything seemed fine or at least was as it should have been because that's just how things were, and I didn't know any different.
My brother says he remembers my grandma egging my dad on to mock me when I was small. That he remembers my stepmom's vile temper always pointed squarely at me. My stepmom drove a wedge between my father and I through her nastiness and rivalry. My brother was forever getting me in trouble, breaking my things, joining the rest of the family in hurting my feelings and making me feel insignificant - even while I was busy keeping his secrets, defending him and needing to look up to him as both the father and mentor I never had.
Then I started growing up. I started being able to decide for myself what was wrong and what was right. What felt good and what didn't. I began to rebel against my treatment and the attitudes that run rampant in my fucked up family. First tears, then tantrums, then silence. I started objecting - and found that I was the only one - and I quickly learned what real misery and rejection were all about. As long as you are one of them, you fit in - even if you are mistreated. When you step outside the lines, you are banished.
Until a year or so ago, I believed that I got the brunt of the abuse - picked on instead of nurtured, made fun of instead of encouraged, yelled at and punished instead of instructed - because I was the youngest, therefore the weakest. Now, I think it's because I never hid the fact that I disliked the dynamics my family had (has) to offer. I see that, in a way, I never hid my contempt, my disagreement, my disgust. I was the only one with integrity, and I was never afraid to turn left when the rest of the herd turned right.
I believe that has been my saving grace - this innate integrity - and is something my brother now says he admires about me. But as different as he tries to convince himself that he is when the rest of the family isn't around, he turns into a carbon copy of every last one of them when he is in their presence. He turned into one of them on the phone Friday night. On my birthday. Saying awful things to me. Things I couldn't handle. Not again.
People can only slam their bodies against heavy walls for so long, and I gave up a couple of years ago. I hung in there for 30-plus years or so thinking that I would say something magical to my grandma, my dad, my stepmom, my brother, something that would elicit some kind of apology, some kind of acceptance. It hasn't worked out too well for me. I just get told that I'm a loser. That I'm a freak. That I'll never get married. That no one could ever stand me for that long. That they gave up on me long ago. That I'll never make it.
For years, my friends have been telling me to disown all of them. To forget about them. To form my family out of people who care about me, who love me. I didn't listen, because I always had hope. Hope is gone now, and so am I.
As of now, I surrender my family to its own stupidity and blindness. They can make fun of me all they want to now. I won't be there anymore to try and make them stop - or to cry when they don't.