It’s 4:15am, and I’ve been up most of the night. This is a bad time for me, between 2:30 and 5am…too many dark thoughts, not enough sleep, and no one to hold me in my anxiety-ridden panic attacks.
So, I’ve come here.
I’m angry. And I feel horrible guilt.
I can feel the lump in my throat, choking my voice, threatening tears, which I won’t allow to fall.
Anger, shame, guilt, hateful rage, and soul-crushing depression, all weigh on me, each voice in my head clamoring for the lion’s share of my attention… screaming and pounding on my temples, until I feel like banging my head on the floor just to make them shut up.
Because there’s a confrontation coming. I can see it up ahead, I feel it in the wind, and I know it, in my bones.
Because his father is dying.
Gods. There’s so much history tangled up in this. 40-some years of it. How do I explain it? Can I even explain it clearly to myself, much less others?
And the history doesn’t even touch on all of my anger.
My parents and his are best friends.
Their daughter was my best friend growing up.
He was the boy who taught me how to French kiss – in the 3rd grade, on the playground at school.
And then, when I was 16, he molested me.
I don’t know, truly, what my parents thought when I called them at 2am that morning. But I know what they did.
They made me wake up the mother. She took me upstairs & made me confront him, while he lied and, of course, said that he never.
My parents didn’t come get me. Yeah, yeah, it was a 12-hour drive from here to there, 2 states away. Instead, they had me shuffled from family member to family member, slowly working my way closer to home.
Nothing would have stopped me from reaching one of my children if they called me at 2am, sobbing about being sexually abused. Nothing.
Did they not want me home? Were they hoping that by the time I got there, they could have given me enough time to forget what had happened? Or, maybe, they were trying to give themselves time to forget.
Forget that their friend’s son had harmed their daughter. Forget that their daughter was now “damaged goods”.
Forget that maybe, just maybe, they were supposed to DO SOMETHING about this? Instead of just closing all the blinds and pretending it never happened?
And now, the father is dying from terminal cancer.
He is still my father’s best friend.
His wife is still my mother’s best friend.
They visit, back and forth, at least once a year, they come to North Dakota, and I’m expected to come down, play the dutiful daughter, and visit with them.
And every year, I have panic attacks, nightmares, trigger events, from these visits. The mother always has to, at some point, bring him up, show me pictures with him in them, call him on the damn phone when I’m sitting right there, and can’t escape.
30 years later, and they’re still all denying that it ever happened.
And I feel rage.
I know that there is a funeral coming up. I know that my mother will want me to go down there for it. Show support. Be kind. Be compassionate.
I feel horrible guilt about this.
Because I – can’t.
I just can’t.
I can’t be anywhere near him.
He caught me by surprise, once, a few years ago, when my girls were little. I was visiting his parents with my daughters & mother. He wasn’t supposed to be there, but showed up, unexpectedly. He tried to corner me, actually tried to grab my arm, and I threatened him. Told him that if he ever touched me again, if he ever came near me or my girls, I’d kill him. Then I went straight to my mother & demanded to leave.
I never returned to their home. I wasn’t going to go through that ever again.
And now, if my mother tries to guilt me into going down for the funeral… I’m going to have to confront her… Them, really, because my father is just as deep into this. But it’s Mom who uses the guilt. Dad just ignores it, and hopes the emotional people will go away.
I don’t want to cause anyone hurt.
There’s the guilt.
But they never defended me, never believed me, never talked to me about it, never confronted the other family. He was never punished. He got away with molesting me, because our parents couldn’t deal with it.
They left me damaged and alone in my pain. Which has colored so much of my life since.
And there’s the rage.