Yesterday I went to see Danny (my dad) at the nursing home. I took my nineteen-year-old kid with me.
I don’t remember how we got on the subject, but Danny started talking about a picture Robbie (my older brother) drew when we were kids. A picture of a deconstructed or exploding rabbit. (I don’t know how to better describe it.)
As Danny explained the picture to my kid, he paused and said, “Yeah. Robbie drew that the first night he got high.”
I turned to my kid. “Papa (Danny’s other name 🙂 ) is saying that Uncle (Robbie’s other name 🙂 ) drew the picture the first time that Papa got him high…when Uncle was ten.”
My kid knew this story, as he knows many of the stories by now, but he had forgotten it. “Wow,” he said.
A while later, as we stayed with Danny and I fed him stinky cheese and apple cider and stroked his head while he cried in pain when the left side of his body – which is paralyzed from his stroke – would spasm, Danny again said (he says this often now), “It wasn’t all bad right? I wasn’t such a bad father. I feel guilty all the time, but it wasn’t all bad right?”
I stroked his head more, kissed his forehead, and answered, “No, Dan. It wasn’t all bad.”
Later, when we left, my kid turned to me. “It wasn’t all bad,” he said. “It wasn’t all bad, but Papa did get Uncle high when Uncle was ten…”
And we laughed. Because what else can you do?
That is part of the truth of my childhood. Danny did get Uncle high when Uncle was ten, because he thought it would be funny and cool, I guess. Danny did a lot of things and made a lot of decisions that were not really in our best interest, but it wasn’t all bad. And Danny and his life of “sex, drugs, and squalor” were a respite and safety net from the religious cult my mom raised us in.
But for that matter, the religious cult my mom raised us in was a sort of haven from everything else we had experienced (including Danny getting Robbie high when Robbie was ten) by the time we got there.
Dualities. It clearly wasn’t all good with Danny, but it also wasn’t all bad. Being raised a Moonie clearly wasn’t all good, but there were pockets, people, and experiences that maybe weren’t all bad either.
I find that the more I heal, the more I have to hold these dualities. The coping mechanisms that saved my life then and make my life harder and more painful now. The way I love Danny despite and maybe because of some of all that happened. The fact that my mom leaving us to join the cult (well, technically she asked us what she should do, and we told her to leave us…) meant that we eventually ended up living with Danny, which I never wanted to do. He was Satan in my mind and by my religion. But if that hadn’t happened, I probably would have no relationship with my father, and I treasure the fact that I do have a relationship with him, even though it’s hard. My friend “throwing me under the bus” and spreading rumors about me that my Messiah heard, believed, and acted on by banishing me from his daughter – I don’t think I come close to fully grasping how devastating that was at the time for me…and yet, it was the first step in my step away from the cult. So, it was also one of the best things that could have happened to me.
The list goes on and on and on.
There are very few things that are all good or all bad in my life. (Well, except for my love for my kiddies. That has always been and will always be all good.) There are very many dualities, very many pockets, people, and experiences that are such a mix of good and bad. Desired and despised. Loved and feared.
That can be such a tough thing to hold sometimes. A hard complexity to let be. But it can also be freeing.
Because it means I can have compassion for the kids we were that endured what we did while also having compassion for my dad, which is essential since I am still his primary care giver. It means I can have love for the stuff that was right or good on all sides of my life while also love for myself for how wrong and bad some of it was. It means I can show up for others while no longer ignoring or repressing my own wants, needs, and person in order to do that.
It means I can continue to Love With All My Heart.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!