By this I mean my Dad’s house.
How did I come to stay there? Like I wrote in Book 2, we tried a few visits here and there while he was in-between houses but they didn’t turn out well. Finally he bought his own place and suggested that I stay a while. Fatigued and tired from dealing with Mum and my own issues, I was willing to give it a shot.
To say my Dad got triggered by this would be an understatement. All his deeply buried childish instincts came to the fore. If only his children came to stay with him, things would be All Right (as you can tell by now, my parents were very enamoured of this concept of All Right)
So he pulled out all the stops. He wanted to make my favorite dishes, he wanted to buy me a comfy chair, he wanted me to invite my friends over. He basically wanted to give me a home – but without any of the things that a home needs. Chiefly, love, security and safety.
What got in the way? His wife did. She was whiny, she was bitchy, she was spoiled. All that hadn’t changed and it was making my life miserable. She didn’t like the way I washed the clothes. I had to place the dishes back in the proper order. She wondered why I wasn’t going to school or working. She didn’t like the fact that I got the room that was supposed to be HERS.
She also had this thing with forms of address. In the most Chinese of ways she insisted that I call her AUNTY Judy instead of just Judy because she was my Dad’s wife and I had to show her respect etc etc etc. She was only about ten years my senior so my English-educated mind couldn’t understand what the fuck she was talking about. I didn’t even really respect her so I didn’t see why I had to append Aunty to anything. We went back and forth until at some point I was so thoroughly sick of it I was like “I’ll call you the fucking Queen of Sheba if you’ll just get off my back.” So I just called her Aunty Judy and Aunty Judy she remains until this day.
To be fair she did try to talk to me properly about things once or twice, (as well as tell me her life story) but the language barrier stopped any communication past a certain point. As you might imagine it also didn’t make my relationship with the language any better to have my Dad’s second wife belabor me in it. I often wondered why the entire country couldn’t just speak English (or failing that, Japanese)
The main problem here was my Dad taking her side in practically every issue. He was always saying things like “But your Aunty Judy bought biscuits for you the other day.” Well she wasn’t MY fucking aunt and I didn’t want any fucking biscuits in the first place! He desperately wanted us to All Get Along and didn’t understand how I needed my own space and privacy or how his wife was making unreasonable demands on me. Security isn’t just physical – it’s emotional as well. It’s hard to think of someplace as home when there’s a threat around.
Due to physical complications Aunty Judy was unable to have children and boy, was THAT a relief! I can’t imagine how much worse things might have gotten with another kid running around with all the other adult children already mucking things up. She obviously didn’t really see us as her children because things were so confusing in that regard. I remember feeling sorry for her as well though – being a traditional Chinese woman having children meant that you had Made It and it looked that now she would never make it. But we can’t always have what we want.
While all this was going on I did actually want to make my father happy. Some of it was pathology, (Gotta please everyone! Solve everything!) but some if it came from a better place, out of generosity and kindness and filial love. As time passed my sister and I actually warmed to him somewhat because we could sense the sincerity in his actions. He did want to help, even though most of what he did wasn’t helpful. I would love to say that the thought counted but we needed more than just good intentions.
What I wanted – what I NEEDED – was love. Strength and reliability. Not another wounded child running out trying to heal gunshot wounds with pancakes and instant noodles. He would always make what I wanted, but it wasn’t what I needed. It was what he wanted for me and not what I wanted for myself.
Many years later I would understand exactly WHY both my Dad and her were this way (psychology to the rescue!) and believe me, that helped a LOT. Especially since everyone else around me was utterly fucking clueless. Dewi (in one of the rare times she saw my sister instead of me) would exclaim “Meimei! You’re surrounded by babies!” which was essentially true, and why things were so bad. Don’t send a kid to do an adult’s job. But at that time it was just more pain and confusion.
So things were bad everywhere except my Dad’s mind, in which his entire family (sans Mum) was together and happy. I still remember him wanting this photograph of the four of us. After a meal at some shopping center or another, he practically danced into a nearby photo shop and had them snap something. Look! His new family! All happy and smiling together! Except that he was (literally) the only one smiling in the picture (the rest of us had expression ranging from faking it to outright grimacing) He kept it in his wallet for about a year or so before finally throwing it away. I think even my Dad’s finely-honed capacity for delusion could not mask the truth that much.
So my Mum would force me to go there, my Dad would entice me to go there, and I would do so. Auntie Judy would get into barely restrained fits of rage and jealously and then I would leave and end up ping-ponging between both houses. This whole rigmarole lasted maybe a few years or so, for weeks and months at a time.
I think that even where she was at that point, my Mum knew that she and I being in close proximity wasn’t helping things in the least. Her forcing me to go to my Dad’s place (which consisted of her shrieking “GO TO YOUR DAD’S HOUSE!” at irregular intervals) was most probably her way of trying to get me to go to what she thought might be a better environment. Of course, this being my Mum, asking me to do it was out of the question – she had to shout her commands at me at the top of her voice.
That more or less sums up how my Dad betrayed me. Remember how back when he came back from China he said his children would always come first? That didn’t happen. It was more like his wife and his inner child came first. He failed to ensure my safety (emotional or otherwise) or otherwise support me substantially in any way.
Not the most pleasant of experiences. I can’t remember exactly when this was. I think it was twenty-two or so, back during the Return of Depression chapter. It was definitely during the PS2 era. Somehow I hung on. Games and anime were there, my sister was there. EVA was still in my heart, as it had been ever since I was fifteen. I believed without any evidence or foundation that one day, things would get better.
Eventually when it became clear to even my parents that living with my father was a Bad Idea, I went back to stay at Sanc Ville. There was still no communication. Everything was “tell your father” and “let your Mum know”. Oh wait, there was a letter that my Dad wrote to my Mum once, which she promptly tore up.
I think that really got to him. At this point he still couldn’t believe badly how our mother was treating us, but certain events little by little shattered his world where Mum was just terribly overstressed and overwrought. I would like to say that he began to see that something was wrong, but that would take quite a few more years. We do cling to our illusions tightly, don’t we?
My mother would later tell me that she tried to force me (as she tried to force everything) to stay at my father’s house because it would be “good for me” because “she was the problem.” Bingo on the latter but swing and a miss on the former. If anything it was even worse than staying with my mother! Many years later she would say sadly that “I didn’t know your father’s wife treated you like shit.” Well that’s because I was afraid to tell you.
Patterns upon patterns upon patterns of pain. And people wondered why I never went to university. Or got a job.