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The hard part November 19, 2007

Posted by Teen Atheist in backstory, family, issues, teen angst.
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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.

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Comments»

1. John Morales - November 19, 2007

Yikes.

You have my sympathy, and sadly, about all the comfort I can give you is that you have many years in front of you.

It’s been said that the best revenge is to have a good life.

I wish you a good life.

When your parents are old, treat them better than they treated you. You won’t regret it.

2. Teen Atheist - November 19, 2007

Thanks, John.

When your parents are old, treat them better than they treated you. You won’t regret it.

True, true. It might be through gritted teeth, but I’ll do my best to.

3. Josh Charles - November 19, 2007

John Morales said it right.

It really sucks at the moment. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be rejected by family like that; indeed, I don’t want to even try.

But life goes on, and from what I know about you (very little, obviously, since I only read your blog), it sounds like you have a very bright future ahead of you. Things will get better eventually if you hang in there and keep working hard. Not necessarily with your family, but family is not a prerequisite for happiness.

Family means something more than related by blood. For example, it sounds as though Tyler is a better brother here (or perhaps ‘brother’ would be the wrong description 😉 ).

Take care.

4. Hugo - November 20, 2007

Eish! Nasty… As Josh says:

It really sucks at the moment. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be rejected by family like that; indeed, I don’t want to even try.

Hmm… Oh, and do ignore my other comment. I’ve been cured of my optimism. 😐

5. Genevieve - November 20, 2007

I’m so sorry you’re going through this 😦

I can’t imagine what it must be like for you.

But, like everyone says, you sound like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders and a good future ahead of you.

Build your own family on day. Build one that’s a hell of a lot nicer to you. You deserve it.

6. Teen Atheist - November 20, 2007

Josh:

It really sucks at the moment. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be rejected by family like that; indeed, I don’t want to even try.

I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. And the worst part is that we all seem like perfectly normal people on the outside, so I constantly have to ask myself if maybe I have the problem. I’ve been accused more than once by my father of having a psychological disorder. Hopefully, I’m right in thinking that the problem isn’t with me.

But life goes on, and from what I know about you (very little, obviously, since I only read your blog), it sounds like you have a very bright future ahead of you. Things will get better eventually if you hang in there and keep working hard. Not necessarily with your family, but family is not a prerequisite for happiness.

It makes me sad whenever my friends talk about how much they love their parents, because I never really had that. So, thank you for reassuring me that I can still be happy despite my rocky relationship with my family.

Family means something more than related by blood. For example, it sounds as though Tyler is a better brother here (or perhaps ‘brother’ would be the wrong description

“Brother” is a perfect description; Tyler is indispensable to me. I honestly don’t consider Pete a brother anymore (would a brother ever say things like that?).

7. Teen Atheist - November 20, 2007

Hugo:

I’ve been cured of my optimism.

Hee, sorry to hear that! I’m just glad that not all families are as fucked up as mine.

8. Teen Atheist - November 20, 2007

Genevieve:

Build your own family one day. Build one that’s a hell of a lot nicer to you. You deserve it.

Thank you. I’d always promised myself that if I ever started a family of my own, I would never treat them the way my father treated me. At present, though, I’ve got Tyler, and Martha, and Camille, and a good number of friends I can lean on. I’m pretty happy. 😀

9. Genevieve - November 21, 2007

Sometimes, your friends are a better “family” than your family could ever be.

“You choose your friends…” and all that rubbish.

10. overcaffein8d - November 21, 2007

and God knows I have a lot of anger when it comes to Pete.

…haha

sorry i have to make a joke out of everything.

11. Wildwing - November 22, 2007

Although I’m sure it doesn’t help the pain you’re in right now, be assured that it does get better. From ‘way over on the other side of the age scale comes this remark from someone with just as screwed-up parents, though in a totally opposite way. I found a wonderful family through my husband and while not perfect, I much prefer them to the ones I grew up with. And all this without believing in a Supreme Being that may have done all this to me for some crazy reason of its own–what a concept, eh?
And by the way, I admire you for your honesty with yourself; I wish I’d been half the person you are at the same age.

12. Teen Atheist - November 22, 2007

Thank you so much for that, Wildwing! Comments like yours actually do help me feel better about myself. I’m assured that not everything is my fault. 🙂

13. Hugo - November 25, 2007

I have one friend that got sucked into the vortex that was fundamentalistic religion. The thing that got him out? His family fell apart, and the reactions of his religionist friends made him realise they’re a bunch of brainwashed sheep.

In my case, my family was absolutely wonderful, absolutely great. Except I lost my father to a light airplane accident when I was 12. That got me stuck in the fundamentalist vortex without me knowing it (just some fundamentalistic memes ruling my life). It was a long and arduous process to extricate myself from it. But I was successful. With the help of my blog, amongst other things.

Good families, bad families… in the end, our past shapes us. What’s important is what you do with it. As terrible as the experience might be, may it help you be a better human in the future.

14. Robin Lionheart - December 5, 2007

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).

Sort of like your father considers “sorry” without any penance to be enough repentance for God’s forgiveness, so it ought to be enough for yours, if only your “weak faith” didn’t keep you from accepting his divine forgivenness.

If his faith is concerned only with his vertical relationship to God and not with his horizontal relationship to other people, he’s got no standing to call anyone else’s faith deficient.

15. Rationaliteen - August 1, 2008

I was truly moved to tears when I read this, and it almost makes me wish there was a God so I could thank Him that I don’t have a family like that, and pray for a better life for you. Of course, I see this post was more than six months ago, so I must have totally missed the boat, but it would have been cruel not to show my sympathy and support when I can.

16. Teen Atheist - August 1, 2008

Thanks. It doesn’t get any easier, living with a family like mine where you’re constantly questioning whether or not this is “normal.” All sympathy is very much appreciated. 🙂


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