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I was having coffee with a close friend at Park Royal today, talking about family stuff, again. She asked me about my eldest sister.
When I said that we weren’t close any more, she said that she thought that sad, and potentially far more harmful to both of us than I realized.
We simply aren’t close anymore. When we were teens, before her great escape from my father into the wilderness we were close, indeed we were friends as well as siblings. I remember walking to school every day in grade 10 with her, she was in grade 12. I remember singing together at the top of our lungs in the stairwell at the North Shore Winter Club while waiting for hockey practice or between sessions in figure skating.
And then she left home, running away from an abusive father and a turbulent past, into the arms of her husband, fleeing from us all. Including me. She seldom inquired whether or not I was alive or not, and I felt abandoned and alone. Before she left there had been bad feelings between us, and I had acted terribly. I was 16 years old and she was 18, and we were both in deep trouble, with problems that would plague both of us for many years.
In my case it led to a premature marriage to a destructive and manipulative woman, who was fleeing her own hell at home, where she was harmed by her mother to such a great degree that her tortured soul found a soul mate in mine. I loved her but never knew of the source of her pain until years later when it was echoed by the cries our child.
Eventually it led me to self-immolation and a flight into solitude and psychiatric care. I had to let myself go crazy just to find out who I really am.
In my sister’s case it led to a lifetime of torment in trying to come to terms with her treatment at the hands of our father, and our mutual experience of degradation and humiliation drove us apart with profound suspicion of each other.
I think really that she could not forgive me for forgiving my father for his sins against us, and speaking for him at his funeral, many years later. Maybe she didn’t blame me for his actions, but she couldn’t understand how I could visit the man who had made our lives a living hell during our childhood, almost every day for the last fifteen years of his life.
What she never understood is that I really frequently visited my father so, and made such an effort because I came to comprehend that I would never be able to accept and forgive myself if I didn’t find a way to forgive him. All my life I loved him but I only stopped hating him when I began to stop hating myself.
I eventually came to understand that he wasn’t an evil man, he was just a man who had done things without grasping the meaning and consequences of his actions on the lives of his children. He never learned to respect boundaries because he didn’t have any. Ultimately he was afraid, mostly he was afraid of being left alone, of being abandoned once again, as he was abandoned by both his parents as a teen-aged boy. He asked me once, “Who will take care of me if I don’t look out for myself.”
Sadly, nobody could as he never let anyone in completely, and he was actually terrible at taking care of himself. He didn’t understand that imposing his needs on others reduced the likelihood of having them met. You can’t order someone to love you, or else!
I regret having had harsh words with my sister recently. But there is little communication between us, and she has never returned from the wilderness in her soul.
She suffers still, and I do not comfort her.
- Circle of Violence: The Need for Fathers (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)
- Clarissa Dickson Wright: ‘I don’t love my father – fond is as good as it gets’ (guardian.co.uk)
- I’m just so angry at you Father. (mymentaldaytrips.wordpress.com)