I was Meimei’s parent for about twenty years. There was no definite point at which I stopped being her parent, but…well actually there was. This wasn’t it, but it marked the beginning of the end of a relationship that never should have existed in the first place but did due to necessity.
It was around when Meimei was nineteen. (which would have made me twenty-five) My mother had gone into one of her periods of saying that she didn’t want children, didn’t want to be a mother, that we were all stones around her neck etc etc etc. Of course it hurt but it wasn’t anything that we hadn’t heard before many times.
But for some reason this time it affected Meimei terribly. It might have been because she had finished her schooling and wanted to move on. It might have been for the simplest of reasons – that she was still sleeping with Mum. There was a tipping point but we never knew what it was.
I should also mention at this point that Meimei never had a room of her own in Sanc Ville. My Mum always wanted her to sleep with her and as I’ve mentioned even since childhood she would whisper horrible things into ear before she slept. I shudder with horror as to how badly my sister must have been hurt – and by proxy, me, because I had to deal with the fallout.
But back then at that particular point in time she couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t walk without assistance. She couldn’t even eat properly sometimes. She began to ask me questions like why was she born and why was Mum doing all these horrible things to her. Something was seriously wrong and I knew it. My parents were of course oblivious to this but then again they were oblivious to everything.
I girded my loins. This was clearly a time to draw the blade once more. And draw it I did. I went back into that space – beyond time and dreams – and came back with the power to talk to her gently and soothe her fragile spirit as she cried and clung to me desperately. It took its toll on me of course, but those were the days in which we had no time to deal with things like that. Survival was of utmost priority.
I remember one night using Emule and stumbling across a song called Everything Possible, by Fred Small. I have no idea how I searched for it. It was a minor (perhaps not so minor) miracle that I would have typed in that search string, since I typically only searched for music, movies, rare anime, programs and porn on Emule (not necessarily in that order) but I did and I listened to it. It was beautiful.
For some reason again I felt that Meimei should listen to it, especially with how things were then. I called her into the room and played it. I’ll never forget how she turned to me with two tears down her cheeks and said in a small voice, “Thank you.” Was it for the song? For everything? Both? It didn’t matter. As long as she was ok.
Eventually Meimei decided that she would be better off at my Dad’s house and I agreed. Meimei had also tried to stay at his house many times over the years with varying degrees of success. Generally Aunty Judy’s issues would come to the fore and after a few rounds of histrionics (she was older so she should be treated better, it felt like Meimei was another woman in the house, my sister’s dragon chi would eat her rabbit chi) she would leave after a while. It just wasn’t worth it.
But this time was do or die. Meimei needed the break and I would make sure she got it. I rang up my Dad and told him in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t take care of her – that if she experienced the same things that I did at his house – I would go there and beat him up. My Dad laughed and later told Meimei that “it’s like your brother was scolding me.” You think?
It was three strikes and you’re out and this was most definitely the third strike. My Dad had laughed on the phone but I do believe he knew I was completely serious. If anything had happened to my sister I probably would have killed him and turned myself over to the police the next day. I don’t like to fuck around, and by now he knew that.
Living with Mum during this time was absolutely horrendous. Not that it wasn’t bad normally but she went totally ballistic at this point. Was it because Meimei left? Did she think her children had turned against her? Who was she angry at now? The world? Herself?
Everything? I’m gonna go with option E – all of the above. I did what I could to keep it together but it wasn’t a good time. It was on par with the The Worst Holiday Ever and OCD and Exams, but somehow I held it all together again (without the use of any medicine to boot) Thank God for video games.
I went to Dad’s house a few times mainly to check on my sister. It didn’t turn out well. I had all that rage against his stupid house that I never fully expressed (remember I couldn’t get angry! that would cause a relapse! and then the world would end!) and it writhed and seethed through me, unable to escape. I was there for my sister and I didn’t really care what he thought.
I do remember an evening where we were having a particular tense conversation and I told him that I did not feel fear and had not felt fear in a long time. He looked worried and asked what kind of price had I paid for that? Whatever it was I had paid it willingly a long time ago. There was no other alternative.
But the most amazing thing about that time was that Dad actually was a father to his daughter Now THAT was a miracle if there ever was one. He actually manned up and Did Things. I do think that my calling him up and threatening him was the catalyst to all this, but I have to give him credit where credit is due.
He took Meimei to see her therapist. (he took me to see mine maybe…five times in ten years?) He sang her lullabys when she couldn’t sleep. He managed to be assertive for once in his life and told Aunty Judy that this room was her room and this room was Meimei’s room. He brought her food and talked to her when she was so scared that she couldn’t leave the house. He even sort of did his own kind of homegrown psychotherapy and talked to his daughter about her issues for hours.
It’s also true that my father and my sister have always been closer, all the way back from Woodlawn Kindergarten in Chicago (and probably before) My mother always used to tell the story of how when I was born he came up to her and said “I don’t know how to be a father” (something that to my mother was a sign of weakness but to me was actually being admirably honest) but when Meimei was born he apparently went over to the ICU and stared at her for hours.
And yes I was always closer to my mother. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t!
I think that this is probably the time that Dad started to turn the corner and be well…Dad. He was never probably able to be that much of father to me (sorry Dad but you know its true) but he managed for my sister I think. And he did start doing more. He listened. He admitted when he was wrong. (something he had never done before) He tried his best to understand.
He still had those huge blocks (rationalization, believing both his wives were more decent human beings than they were) but he had changed for the better. I had several heart-to-heart talks with him during this time period (which were a welcome change from the days that I would just get lectures about the socioindustrial complex and how it affected the lower class) and I was actually able to be really angry at him a few times and tell him in no uncertain terms what I felt about him, his shrew of a wife and his lackadaisical ways. That helped a lot – as release of pent-up emotions often does.
Writing that I can’t help but remember some of my past anger. God, how many hours did I spend on my parents! Explaining this and that, sociology, psychology, even venturing into physics and chemistry…endless rounds of explication and rational analysis. They never listened. All that managed to get through were bits and pieces here and there. In terms of cost to benefit it was definitely a losing proposition, but I got sucked into it anyway. Pathology is never an easy thing to deal with, and though I had been making progress throughout the years the old pains and patterns continued to exert a strong and powerful force on all of us.
After some time there she decided to come back to Sanc Ville and we lived there in much the same way as we did before – but she had changed for the better. At least Dad became half a father for his daughter.
The most amazing thing about this chapter is that before I started writing it I didn’t know much of what happened – especially Meimei’s side of the story. I asked her and she told me, and I’ve recorded it here.