Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Done. Full Stop.

Suburban library in the pouring rain. It turned to snow shortly after.
Our last day in Illinois the rain was pouring down, alternating with snow and sleet. The second baseball game we'd bought tickets for was cancelled (they should have called off the first one as well-I have never seen baseball played in those conditions) but since we were all attired in waterproof clothing anyway, we decided to drive out to the cemetery to see the family.

I wouldn't describe either of my parents as responsible individuals, but the one thing they did plan ahead for was buying burial plots. They might not have known where they'd be living in their day to day lives, but at least they knew where they were headed at the end. In this case, w a a a a y the hell out in the western suburbs, which in the 60's must have seemed like the other side of the world. They paid the plots off in installments over the years.

Being a newer cemetery, all the headstones are flat to the ground, which makes mowing and upkeep easier. It does not, however make it easier to locate graves, particularly in a downpour. Mr. ETB found Mum after a few minutes, when wiping away the pooling water, realised her headstone had been vandalised.

There aren't too many things that shock me anymore, but defacing a grave always will. I pulled myself together, and then realised there wasn't a headstone for my father either. That was less shocking as he'd died ten years ago and as I already hadn't spoken to him in years (and in fact hadn't known he died until I did a random Google search several years after the fact) and didn't really expect my sister to bother with an expensive headstone for someone who treated her so horribly.

My dad was an awful person. I don't think I'm disclosing any family secret here that everyone didn't already know, but I stress it because from the outside it might sound unreasonably harsh to cut off contact so completely with your family. I put up with his bullshit for close to forty years until I couldn't anymore. It took lawyers, cease and desist letters, more lawyers, more cease and desist letters, until finally he gave up and got someone to help him stalk and threaten me on the internet instead. Then, there were more lawyers, letters, etc. Rinse and repeat.

I don't know what my sister's relationship with him was like, but I have a feeling when he died, he didn't leave her anything but bills. He played the part of a "big shot" and had been alternately very wealthy and penniless at various stages of his business career. That would be fine had he not been such an awful person but...well, he was an awful person that managed to alienate nearly everyone. He thought he could buy people's loyalty and when that failed go straight for threats and demands. Rinse and repeat.

Since I needed to replace my mother's headstone, I figured I'd just get a larger one with both their names on it. That's commonly done with family graves. I went up to the cemetery office to see about getting it replaced. I gave the man their names. Clickty click tappty tap on the keyboard and he's looking pale.
"I have your mother's grave and your father is listed as the owner of the adjoining grave but...he's not buried in it."

"He's not?" I must have looked mad. Soaking wet, wearing two pair of trousers to improvise outdoor gear for the unexpected cold, my nose bright red from the wind. "Well then where is he?" I asked which in hindsight seems like a terribly stupid question.

I have no idea if my sister had him cremated, which would be awful because that's as close to heresy as it gets for our religion, or perhaps she had him buried somewhere else which seems unlikely as this grave was paid for. I suppose a worst case scenario would be that no one ever claimed his body and he ended up in an unmarked pauper's grave. I mean, there's no one left to call and ask after all these years except my former brother in law who has probably put up with more from this bloody family than any human being deserves. What am I supposed to do, call and ask, "Oh by the way, where did you guys dump dad?" After ten years, does it even matter?

At this point the only thing I can do is go ahead with both their names on the headstone anyway. I didn't like the man, but it seems harmless enough to at least acknowledge that he lived and died. I was about to say, "Because he was still someone's precious baby once" but then I remembered that my grandmother never really liked him either. He was a tough person to like, and he thrived on hurting others, so it isn't at all surprising that in the end, no one thought it was worth the bother to give him a proper burial. You can't go through life terrorising people and expect them to show you basic respect in the end. I would have buried him if I'd even known he died, but I completely understand why my sister wouldn't.

I've been home from the trip for a few weeks now, and after I had a chance to absorb everything, I'm finding it was a more positive experience than it felt like standing in the pouring rain a few Sundays ago. I'm done with it. All of it. Chicago, my family, the stress, done. Everyone's dead, and while I admit it is a little strange to realise you're the "last one standing" as the saying goes, I'm not particularly sad about it.

I had a terrible start in life, but now in my 50's I honestly do feel like I've had a great life anyway. Do I wish my family could have been different? Of course. Is there a lesson here? I dunno, "Don't be a bully and an asshole" is probably a good start but beyond that?

Regular vintage posting should resume shortly.



13 comments:

Beth Waltz said...

Of course, it had to be raining... No way this scene could have played out any other way than for you to be smacked in the face with a vandalized marker and punched in the gut with the empty plot while standing in soaked pants.

And how else could the story end for him? Most sincerely dead, is he, and now well and truly gone.



Bibi Maizoon said...

O gosh. It took me 40 yrs to realize my family was going to be nasty, bullying, & unreasonable forever- and I ended up going 'no contact' then too.
At least it is really 'done' now and the misery of the abusive familial F.O.G.(fear, obligation,& guilt) is over. Looking forward to more vintage posts and updates on your great life!

Alli Duncan said...

Oh my goodness, Goody, I am so sorry your father treated you so badly. I knew you didn't like him and your mother did awful things but I had no idea how bad he was. The best revenge is living a good life. I am so glad you came out of it a strong person who lives how you want to live and I love hearing about it (and seeing the wonderful accompanying pictures).

beate grigutsch said...

my father used me as a punching ball until i was 15 - then i was strong enough to help my childish mother thru the divorcement. had´t seen him since.
so i can understand your thoughts and feelings.... "but its your family!" - they say - yet they don´t know what they talk about. once in 10 years of school i talked to a teacher - but she was saying i just made it up because i was to lazy to make my homework. "normal" people cant believe it.
i´m glad that you´r "done with it"!!
on good days i´m too.
and you are not the last one standing - your the first one of a new tribe - your fabulous son danny proofs it.
xxxx

Polyester Princess said...

Having had a wonderful childhood in a loving family, I can't even begin to imagine how it must have been for you. I admire you courage to make a clean break with your family, and start living your life the way you want it, with an awesome family of your own! Virtual hug coming your way! xxx

Veronica Cooke said...

What is so sad is that your experience (re your parents) is not uncommon. My best friend had to this with her family and I know of several others, too.

It's a miracle that you have turned out to be such a wonderful, caring and witty human being and I'm so glad you're done with it all.
xxxx

Goody said...

@Beth
Yeah, the rain was perfect. I remembered it was snowing when we buried my mum and that was at the end of May. Illinois has always done spring wrong.

@Bibi
I know that isn't easy to do, but cutting people off seems to be more common than I ever realised. Sorry you had to go through that as well.

@Alli
I keep thinking I should write a book but I'm not sure a publisher would see the comic value in child abuse ;)
I'm sure I am screwed up in ways I don't recognise. I guess that will be foir Danny to sort out someday.Thank you for your kind words.

@Beate
I'm so sorry you had to put up with an awful father too. I think we are about the same age and back then no one believed children. I'm glad some progress has been made there.

@Ann
Thank you. Honestly, I don't spend too much time thinking about it, which is probably the way I deal with most things. I really am lucky as an adult to be doing as well as I am. I've seen the effect of trauma on people and I could have ended up much worse.

@Veronica
The man in the cemetery office said pretty much the same-they tend to see families at their worst. Thank you for your kind words.

Vix said...

You are such a good writer. What else could the weather do but piss down on that awful experience? I hope the episode has given you a sense of closure on your horrible start in life. It's testament to your amazingly strong character that you've turned out such a fabulous person and a brilliant mother and wife.
I had a strange childhood. I considered it normal at the time but I now realise that my parents were both very odd and by the time my brother and I reached our teens we were pretty much left to our own devices. They weren't cruel parents, just too interested in themselves to bother much with us. Neither of us believe in marriage or have chosen to have children - says it all really. xxx

Sue said...

Thanks for sharing what is a very personal part of your life. I do not have a relationship with my mother and now both my sisters. Everything changed when my dad passed away and not for the better. I now see that he was the glue that held the family together and that I am clearly more like him. We don't do bullshit, trivial and nasty. I have taken the option to walk away from my family, not easy to do, the being judged by others etc. I will always be there for them in the end, the push comes to shove thing, but at the moment I have put them to one side. I am far happier for doing it too, and have accepted that we may never get along. They can call me the black sheep or the weird one, but either t shirt I would gladly wear with pride as I intend to my a nice person and enjoy life. You are an amazing woman with a zest for life, a fabulous sense of humour and even tho I only know you through blogging I just know you are a GOOD PERSON. Close that door on the past and lock it up, and keep moving forward Jen.

Mim said...

That must have been such an emotionally hard-hitting experience. (What sort of asshole vandalises a grave?) It's good to know you're able to put things in perspective. When my granddad died I was worried my mum would take it really badly because he'd always been a git to her and she'd always tried to be a good daughter, but she turned round and said, "I know it's awful, but I don't mind that he's gone, he was never nice to me anyway," and I was SO PROUD of her.

Danny and Mr ETB are good family. That's the family that matters.

Goody said...

@Vix
Thanks, hon. Marriage is just a piece of paper-we only did it so we could share insurance benefits ;)

@Sue
I'm sorry your family is behaving awfully-you deserve better. Take care of TOF and hug your boys because you know they love and appreciate you.

@Mim
Thank you.
I can understand your mum's reaction. I really am doing well with this.

Miss Magpie said...

No truer words than you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family. I'm so glad you feel this is all done and dealt with and that you are so happy with your amazing husband and boy.

As for the arseholes that vandalize graves, some scum did it to the children's section of the crematorium near our house last year, I hope and pray they get exactly what they deserve in life.

peppylady (Dora) said...

I know none of us have a prefect family. So glad I could give you an ear and stop here to listen.
Coffee is on