Do Our Parents Give Us the Poison & the Remedy?
I grew up on a street called Recovery Drive. I can see it still, in my mind, tucked away in memory and heart.
Faces. Movements. Voices. Giveaway clues of what’s to come. Subtle tells I learned to intuit.
Doing rounds each night, down the hall, to the foot of the stairs. Scanning. Listening. I’d check on my sisters, sleeping. I’d check whether the wood stove had set the house aflame. One night, late, it had.
I arrived as logs alongside the black metal belly were catching. I ran to the stairs, called for my parents, shook in terror. They came, put it out, saved us, it was fine. When the stakes were immediate, they showed. Pretty much, always.
Meanwhile, in the every day, they tried but didn’t know how. The two beings who made me hated one another with an intensity that left no room for air. Had for as long as I remember.
Now, through the lens of divorce and decades without contact, as a caricatured Other. A stranger no longer human, long past redeemable. Back then, only screams. No love you’s. No tenderness. Only screams.
I’ve forsaken trying to fix it. I hold no blame anymore. Only grief. Always grief.
My mom was 28 and my dad 29 when they had me, the firstborn of four girls. My 29-year-old self would have left indelible marks on a child, I have no doubt. My 39-year-old self would have been differently but equally ruthless.
Considering past versions of me, I don’t imagine I’d have done better (or even as well) as a parent.
Maybe now I could. Maybe now, when the hour is late, after too much time. In any case, I chose not to risk it.
I do buy the line that our parents give us the poison and the remedy. I do trust that had my parents been angels, they might have created a monster.
Instead, we’re all someplace in between, together. Angels. Monsters. Addicts. Humans.