road dust: I was Cleaning the Bathroom

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›bio: vera

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I was cleaning the bathroom when he called. Later, he apologized, "Sorry I called when you were cleaning the toilet." The word toilet irritates me, and he irritated me by using it. Further, I wasn't just "cleaning the toilet," I was washing the bathroom top to bottom, side to side, and in each of the four corners. It took over an hour, involved Clorox, Soft Scrub, Windex and 20 gallons of water.

After I clarified the enormity of my project to him (being perverse I guess) he answered, "You do know how good motivation is at your age, sweetie? You DO realize that, don't you? Don't you?" What are the choices in answering this question? Isn't it a railroaded pressure-loaded question where the only answer is "Yes! You Got It! You are so right!??"

Everything in me resisted talking to him. What is wrong with me? I feel pushed too fast, too soon, into something I don't trust. We just saw him ten days ago and I'm not in balance from the emotional tumult of it yet. I have had feelings of fear, avoidance, distrust, blame, and hatred. All of these feelings relate to the worthless life of his son, whom he raised and supported to age forty, and "was very, very close to, like brothers." I want to scream, "You bred a horrible person who had no conscience, no sense of responsibility, no problem with committing the crime of denying his child a father, and you enabled his drinking, leave me alone."

The whole scene of getting an instant (and not even close to legal) father-in-law, as he has titled his relationship to me, (his "daughter-in-law,") is overwhelming. It's quelled the enthusiasm I had for introducing my daughter to her paternal grandfather.

Not-my-father-in-law, after his beautiful-wonderful son died, (I'm so sick of the flowery epitaphs his family is using) said me and my daughter were "going to be a regular part of his life." He doesn't have two-way conversations with me about what this means. Partly, he is afraid of bothering us, being rejected, or being blamed so he talks over me, around me, "When can I spend time with you," then shoots me with "Isn't that right, sweetie?" after everything, which closes my spirit against him.

There is no opportunity for me to say anything adverse to his comments without tearing his hollow universe to shreds; as in, me ripping the sod off of his son's grave and kicking his rotting behind, turning around and proclaiming, "There. Y'all get the point now that there was a problem with Johnnie-boy?"

Maybe I am overreacting. It's not that Johnnie-boy's father isn't likeable, it's just that I barely know him. I have only met him three times; once fifteen years ago; the second time thirteen years later when I was fooled into believing Johnnie-boy was ready to meet his daughter, the third a short two years after that when Johnnie-boy "suddenly" died (names changed to protect the living) and "went home to meet his maker."

Whether or not he is likeable is secondary to reality. Reality is me shaking this man, yelling in frustration, "Listen, you were co-dependent on your son's alcoholism for thirty-five years (suspected age Johnnie-boy began drinking: five), and did nothing relevant as he rode the freeway-to-hell, ignoring his responsibilities. Now, you have swept that aside and want to have your needs met by me, my child?

She is not a Trophy Child. She is not the prize in this sick game of who-gets-to-live your son played.

This man has no right to call me "sweetie," "honey," "dear," until I want to upchuck. None. His son stuffed all of his and his family's rights into a beer bottle and tossed it into a scummy pond, never to surface again. Don't say, "I love you both." It's pitiful and artificial; it is not love.

No. Not real love. Love is a seed, a seedling, a whipper-snapper, a small tree, a live and growing tree, and one day after a long time it's as big and old as a Redwood. That's not what is going on here. Nothing grew; everything is dead.

You cannot meet someone three times then say you "love them," without developing a relationship first. And you cannot call someone your daughter-in-law just because it soothes you, makes you feel like "everything was all right after all," and "I did the right thing," and Johnnie-boy was a terrific person, "look here he has a beautiful smart sweet daughter that proves it."

I don't want to know that Johnnie-boy's best friend Ruby blew up yet another picture of me and my daughter she bossed us into posing for, and it's framed and next to the other one above your bed. Hear me? Looking at pictures of near strangers is not what makes a relationship; it's creepy. I don't want to hear that you have retired because now you have us; that you have time on your hands, that you tried to call me several times with no answer. I don't like how you stick, "of course, it is all up to you honey, whatever you decide, whatever you want to do," between every sentence, hammering the nails in, making me feel boxed in, disadvantaged, manipulated.

I want to forget that there are men who father children. I want to forget that my daughter's father died and left nothing but a legacy of pain. I want to eradicate every word of crap I've heard since his death, "he was such a wonderful person," "everyone loved him, friends everywhere," and "too bad about his illness, that is really sad."

It's not sad. It's evil. Alcoholism is an evil disease. Johnnie-boy never once acknowledged that he was an alcoholic and needed help, not even for his daughter's sake, not even when his organs gave out and he bled to death six days later.

I predicted it all from the beginning--he would drink himself into the grave and still have a half-rack in each fist as the clods hit the coffin, and so it was.

I am irritated; infuriated. I want this man who claims he loves me and my child, and suddenly wants to join his life with ours to keep his distance. Listen, Johnnie-boy's father, what do you have to show me that is real? That is the truth? That is considerate and gracious and meaningful?

Go ahead, grow up. Grow up on behalf of your son.

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