Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Triggered: why do I have this gun to my head?

I have been sitting here for hours, or perhaps months or years, trying to make point form order out of a seething ocean. And I know it's not going to work.

I was pretty surprised, when I finally sat down to make "the list", that I had already done so. The file even had the same name, though it was created last year. I have no memory at all of making it, but it was for a post just like this one, which at the last minute I deleted.

I don't quite know what it is - perhaps the need to vomit up the toxins of years of sexual abuse, triggered by the MeToo movement which has aroused more dragons than it has slain. But I know my dragon. The abuse went on for years, and the stage, the set, the backdrop of it, the theatre in which it was played out, was in the hands of (in the words of Baby Jane Hudson) my very own sister! 

Pat was always just there - much older than me (13 years), flamboyant, brilliantly histrionic - her followers, her ubiquitous coterie of admirers, thought so anyway - and smart, but in a way that could go straight to the jugular. She  felt entitled to say anything she wanted and was shocked if you objected ("whaaaaaat?"), and never apologized. And I was infantilized, except when it came to her pimping me out at her parties, being fully aware that I was drunk and being groped by numerous married men. At age 15, I was the mascot, passed around with impunity. Fair game.

I can only hit the highlights, or lowlights, of the grinding game of her presence in my life. There were some favorite sayings (sort of like the sayings of Jesus - or she may have thought so):

“Margaret, you’re weird.”

“Margaret, you’re wired.”

“Margaret, you’re crazy.” Usually said with a cocked eyebrow and a cool little shrug of contempt.

High points of my life were marked with high sarcasm. When I got married to a man I loved, she had this to say at the reception:

"Well, I guess now you think you've got your whole life figured out."

When I was juggling two toddlers during a visit, she watched me, not helping out at all, then said with the expression of someone imagining someone's terminal disease, "Sometimes I try to imagine what your days are like."

Oh, it goes on, and it WILL become a litany and a list if I don't watch out. When I played Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady for a community theatre group, she honored me by attending. Afterwards, backstage, she stood apart, saying nothing, while everyone else jumped around me like puppies and my husband wept with pride. Finally when I looked at her with an agonized, "Please, can't you say SOMETHING?" expression, she arched her cool little eyebrow and said in a cool little voice, 

"You weren't boring."

So I wasn't boring. I wasn't awful! Good to know. The weird thing is, I was supposed to be OK with the remark, even grateful for her assessment. Over the next several days of her visit, she minutely dissected my voice and all its flaws (she had tossed away a singing career with too much booze and sex. No  kidding). Not boring, but obviously pretty terrible, and I think she was incredulous I had the nerve to get up there at all.

I just deleted a huge chunk of this, because we haven't gotten to the abusive part yet. (Oh, let's put this one in! I made the mistake of saying I was taking clarinet lessons, and she said, "Are you going to tap dance at the same time?")
Other ripe cherries were spat, but you have the idea by now. When I told her I was anxious about moving to Vancouver and wasn't sure what would happen, she bored into my eyes and calmly said, "I guess you'll just self-destruct."

OK, that's enough, now we have to get to the "real" stuff, and the reason she keeps pouring back into my brain like a landslide of hot rocks. When I was 15 or so, I was shy, chubby, not very attractive, but Pat would let me come to her parties. Her parties were piss-ups full of married men and loud falling-down-drunk women. They were up-against-the-wall affairs, and I was expected to think it was a privilege to go to them.

When I first encountered the expression "Walpurgis night", I immediately knew what it meant. Barely getting to the bathroom in time to barf was all part of the proceedings, as was feeling an alien penis grind against my bottom in the dark. I was supposed to like it, and the horrible, horrible thing is that I DID like it, or some of it. Once, her boy friend's best friend (in his 30s and married) started "dating" me, taking me to movies and such. Things were getting out of hand with him. When I finally went to my Big Sister and told her I was frightened of what was happening with him, she said, and I quote, "It doesn't hurt to have a little smooch and a snuggle after a date."

Pimped me out, she did. I never had a term for it before, but now I know. Her own drinking habits were legendary at that time, so she felt I should mirror them. I learned the lesson too well, had to join AA in my mid-30s, and horrified the entire family (especially Pat, who said "I'm just so thankful it never happened to me").

I would say she was not a happy woman, and she wasn't, but neither was she unhappy, for there was just something missing in her. She did not have a fully-formed conscience, and was completely incapable of real intimacy with another human being. She could slash and burn, oh yes, and she did, many times. She collected exotic and intriguing men like pelts, including an indigenous Mohawk man named Clare Brant who went on to become a much-revered psychiatrist on a reserve. That engagement didn't last too long, for on one of her many trips to Germany she got pregnant (by which boy friend is unknown). I have seldom heard of such a jaw-dropping act of betrayal. But on she went, a human wood-chipper, on to the next engagement, another man to "process" and spit out.

There were other betrayals, horrible ones, such as the time I trusted her with some very sensitive information about my father and what he had done to me as a child. She immediately called my parents, blurted out the whole thing, and started a World War III which only ended when my parents were put under the ground.

But it is all so odd. SHE is so odd, but so arrogant that she somehow twists it around and accuses everyone else of being odd, or sick, or crazy. When I began to read and hear about narcissism, her astonishing behaviour began to make sense, the coterie of quasi-friends, the continual gaslighting. But so many pieces still don't fit.

What I have always wondered:

Why Germany? Why was she so obsessed with it? Who would be attracted to that place, less than twenty years after the war? Why Munich (given its dark political significance)? Why did she come back pregnant when she was about to get married to a man she supposedly loved? Did she know who the father was? Why Germany at all? No one in the family had the slightest connection to it. What was all that political radicalism all about, why did she seem to think the wrong side had won? Why did she cultivate certain key people and collect them like trophies? What was that supposed to do for her self-worth?

I had hoped to fashion this into something other than a rant, but it's broken pieces, and you can't put a broken heart or a broken brain back together. It's too late for that. I want to let this whole thing go, and I don't know how to do it. Incredibly, in her late 70s, she still hasn't run out of admirers that she can whip around her little finger. I've found pictures of her with her Thomas Merton Society, and she still looks like the favored child. Merton is just about the creepiest figure who ever lived, a monk who broke his vows and had a selfish affair with a woman engaged to be married to someone fighting in Vietnam. Is there an echo in here? Do engagements mean nothing at all? What about morals? Isn't it also true Merton fathered a child out of wedlock and pretended it didn't exist? Infants who carry your DNA are bad PR, apparently, and disposable (as she must have known).

Such a hero. But I can see why she loves him.

Whenever I write something like this, I delete it and go back to the quirky stuff I usually post. I do enjoy that stuff, but what about the poison in my guts, do I just carry it? What is being a writer all about? Not about this, evidently. The one time I really poured it all out like lava, three long-term followers bailed in quick succession. Let's go back to the funny, weird gifs of silicone babies, shall we? So I don't know. 

My mother once said about Pat (and seldom did she divulge anything so personal, as she was mostly indifferent to me), "She's just talking about herself." Mum also had an older sister, unmarried, flamboyant, often cruel, who had gone through men like water. In her later life her drinking went out of control, and eventually she committed suicide. She wasn't found until weeks or months later because nobody missed her, and my parents had to go to New York to bury her because there was nobody else to do it.

I don't say it will happen, but if she does die alone, I think I will give about as much of a rip as she always has about me: no more, no less.  It may be the only possible way that I can bury her.

THE KICKER. There had to be a chaser! I had been so shut out of my family that I didn't even receive notice of my parents' deaths. For some reason, one day I began to look for my mother's obituary online and found it. Read the thing through. Read it again. It was interesting reading, because there was a hole in it. My name wasn't on it! According to my mother, or likely Pat who was entrusted to write such things, not  only was I shut out of the  family and ostracized: I had never been born. It was the strangest thing. 

But I knew in my heart that NOTHING my children could do would cause me to do such a jackassed, lame-assed, plain stupid thing. My kids could be axe-murderers, they could kill ME with an axe, and of course they would be in my obituary. It's called having a sense of reality.

So you see, those forces of darkness did not win, after all. But how I wish, how devoutly I wish I could just kill her off.

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