The hard part November 19, 2007Posted by Teen Atheist in backstory, family, issues, teen angst.
Tags: atheism, family, religion
People who have read this blog from top to bottom may have noticed that I have a rich smorgasbord of expletives and negative adjectives with which to describe my brother Pete. You see, swearing is a way for me to release my anger, and God knows I have a lot of anger when it comes to Pete.
Before I tell you about me and Pete, let me first tell you about my father. Throughout my life, I have been the subject of constant verbal (and when I was younger, physical — in the form of corporal punishment) abuse by him. I vividly remember a lot of these episodes, like that time in second grade when he called me an idiot just because I didn’t get a perfect score on a big exam. I walked to the bathroom, and once inside, cried silently. When I was around 7 years old, I was thrown on the bed and whipped with a belt repeatedly just because I didn’t like what was for dinner. I remember crying loudly and asking him to stop, but he only hit harder. My mother was either not around to see what happened, or when she did, she turned a blind eye to it.
The corporal punishment stopped when I was older, but the memories lingered like scars. The verbal abuse became more frequent, though, because when he would pick me up from the dormitory, he did it by himself, so Mom wouldn’t be around to witness him calling me a bitch, just because I overslept at the dorm. It felt a lot like emotional rape, really — wait until Mom is gone, then take all his rage out on me. I have a feeling he felt a sick satisfaction in watching me crumble.
The most hilarious part about this is that Dad can’t understand why we’re not best friends. Why I’m not Daddy’s Little Girl like all the other girls my age. In fact, he asked me once: “Why do you hate me so much? What have I done to deserve this?” He thinks that just because he says sorry after every time he verbally abuses me, means that what he did should be forgiven. When I admitted that I couldn’t forgive him (how could you forgive someone who will never stop hurting you?), he blamed me for being “weak of faith,” and suggested that I start going back to Church (I was still a Catholic at that time).
Readers, this is not an easy topic to talk about. I usually am able to go about my days feeling fine because I choose to block these memories, but when I think about what my father’s done to fuck up my childhood, I break down every time. In fact, in the middle of typing the first few paragraphs of this blog entry, I actually burst into tears. I’m still crying, actually. But, I carry on, because you have to understand that my angst isn’t just silly teenage angst, or emo-ness. It really did come from somewhere.
There are times when I wonder if the problem is just with me, and I’m the one who’s dysfunctional, because on the outside, we all look like good, normal people.
So, what does this have to do with Pete? I sometimes get into verbal altercations with Pete, and in those altercations I might call him an “asshole,” and whenever I do, I think, “Oh, shit, I’m turning into my father,” which is the last thing I ever, ever want to do.
Pete was also important to me because while I hated my remorseless father and controlling mother, I felt that Pete was the only person in the family I could trust and depend on. I’d told him once that when we had enough money to live on our own, we’d break away from our parents and split the rent on an apartment in New York. He could try to break into the music industry while I tried to get a job as a writer or a nurse. I honestly did see him as my best friend, and I know this sounds cheesy, but I wouldn’t think twice about giving up my own life to save his. If he ever needed a new liver, kidney, or even a heart, he wouldn’t even have had to ask. I was glad that even if I got stuck with a mostly crappy family, I had a good, kind and dependable brother.
Which is why when we had that fight and he finally revealed that he despised me, I lost it. See, with Dad, I knew what was coming, so I could at least prepare myself for it. With Pete, I was completely blindsided. Could you imagine the one person you thought you could rely on telling you the following? Verbatim:
Pete: “I’m done wasting my time on you.”
TA: “Oh? What have you done for me?”
Pete: “I listened when you had problems and no one to talk to. And listening to you whine and whine is wasting my time when I could talk to people who listen to me.”
TA: “Bullshit! My FRIENDS have heard more of my problems than you.”
Pete: “At least I did, and you didn’t even say thanks.”
TA: “I listened to all your problems, too, and you didn’t thank me either. Know what the difference was? I didn’t EXPECT any thank you. Because you’re my brother, and I’d always be there for you without you having to ask. I guess I was nothing but a burden to you, after all.”
Pete: “Indeed, you are a burden to me.”
TA: “You were never a burden to me! I cared about you!”
Pete: “Right. You telling me about care. Hell has frozen over.”
TA: “How could you be so heartless?”
Pete: “To have no heart is better than a rotten one. I curse God for being so cruel as to stick me with a horrible sister like you.”
(It’s hard to type through the tears, guys. Sorry.)
When I reached home after that exchange, I fell to the floor, sobbing because there’s nothing more painful than finding out that someone you loved very much had hated you all along. I crawled to the phone and, still in hysterics, I dialed my friend Tyler‘s number. Some of the readers of this blog ask me why I insist on keeping Tyler as a friend, even though he’s a less-than-open-minded fundamentalist. Well, here’s why (sent via text message after the emotional phone conversation I had with him):
“Just so you know, I have faith in you. Know that there will always be one person in this world who is on your side, and who believes in you with all of his heart. Please take care of yourself. And I’ll always be here whenever you need me.”
I’m the kind of person who is known as the strong one among my friends. When everybody else is weak and emotional, I am usually the one who keeps a cool, level-headed front, and I talk with them through their problems. This is why I never cry or show my weak side to them — because they need someone to lean on. So when I start feeling unstable myself, I only have two people who know what I’m going through. One of them is Fred, but we’re not friends anymore (and you really don’t want to go seeking advice from someone with a plethora of personality disorders). The other is Tyler, and say what you will about his beliefs, but he has always been there for me, and I need someone like that in my life.
I got the idea to write this blog entry as I was sitting on the couch, tearing up at this scene of an early episode of Brothers & Sisters: Tommy has pulled some strings to get a job for his ne’er-do-well younger brother, Justin, and is understandably upset when Justin gets stoned on the job.
Tommy: “Look, everyone else might sit around and feel bad for you, but I won’t.”
Justin: “I didn’t ask for your sympathy, and I certainly didn’t ask for your help!”
Tommy: “When are you gonna grow up?”
Justin: “You’re just like Dad!”
Tommy: “I’m not like him. Dad never stopped caring about what you did with your life. I do. I stop right now. I stop today.”
I always cry when watching Brothers & Sisters, because it reminds me so much of my own life. When Tommy uttered those last words, I knew exactly how he felt. Sure, “fundamentalist” =/= “drug addict,” but when you love your brother that much and he just keeps on pushing you away repeatedly, well, one day you’re finally going to walk away.
I would say that the hard part about being an atheist is dealing with a narrow-minded family like mine, and losing a brother, and losing Christmas, but maybe I’m better off knowing how they truly feel about me. At least now I feel more justified in hating them.
I realize that blood is thicker than water and all that, but I’m tired of crying. And the day I stop caring about Pete is the day I stop crying over losing him.
I’m done, Pete. I’m through with you.