Merriam-Webster’s definition of estrange include:
1. to turn away in feeling or affection; make unfriendly or hostile; alienate the affections of
2. to remove to or keep at a distance
Yep, that about sums it up.
Even though my dad came to my older son’s 6th birthday party this year and even though my mother came over because she just had to
evaluate hold the baby, that has been it and more than I planned for.
Imagine that your parents and sister (and her family which include your two nephews) live within 4 miles of you and that you have, virtually, no relationship with them. They, of course, think it is your doing…that you are too difficult, demanding, elitist, ungrateful, selfish, etc to want anything to do with them. You know that that is not the truth, your estrangement comes from their inability to live in the real world, their inability to behave like loving, compassionate, considerate family members/human beings, their lack of desire to ever know you and therefore your need, now that you have kids, to protect yourself from them.
Hallmark holidays, like Father’s Day today, are hard for me in myriad ways. Of course, it is easy to celebrate the father that my husband is to our two boys. But beyond that, lurking not too deep from the surface of my emotional being, is the painful wound of having no relationship with either of my own fathers. Every picture on Facebook today of my friends with their fathers sharing a sentiment of love, affection, respect, and gratitude, was a scratch to the wound. So many were those posts that the wound is bleeding and bleeding. And, it bleeds, not for what I don’t have now in a present father, present parents, but for what I never had.
The last meaningful conversation I had with my dad was when he visited me more than a year ago, knocked on the front door, and asked, quite out of the blue, if I remember him being physically abusive to me and my older brother. Can you imagine? As if he wasn’t even there? Of course, I was taken aback, completely, at not the question but that he asked it. I answered him honestly, that, yes, yes he was, and that my brother got it way worse than me, but that it was still bad for me. He asked me if he abused my younger sister to which I honestly replied, no. And he left. No acknowledgement, no apology, no nothing.
I spent my entire life trying to recognize my dad and my mom on these holidays (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, their birthdays, their anniversary (my mother would get PISSED if we didn’t remember their anniversary!), then Grandparent’s Day). It was emotionally painful trying to pick out a card that wasn’t a lie all the while blaming myself for being a horrible daughter for not genuinely feeling the sentiment contained in most of the cards I picked up.
My parents provided for me, fulfilled their financial obligation through to my masters degree. But my parents never had a relationship with me, never got to know me, never supported me in how I thought or felt or what I wanted to do, never loved me, not unconditionally, anyway. That I did not share their genes and therefore did not think like them, see the world like them, see my place in the world like they did, put us at odds from when I was really little.
Thank the universe for my maternal grandparents and my two maternal uncles. They loved me. They got me. They showed me unconditional love and the true meaning of family. They saw how hard on me my mom, especially, was from the get-go. My grandfather would often tell me not to listen to her, that we knew the real deal, as if engaged in some sort of familial conspiracy. When my grandfather was dying, he told me not to believe of myself what my mother believed. That I was bigger, better, and stronger than her opinion of me. Gosh, do I miss him, my grandmother, my uncle J, all long dead, most too soon.
I would not say I feel guilty for our estrangement so much as I carry the pain of it with me. The pain of having living parents that never see me, us. The pain of knowing that this is for the best. Believe me, not having them in my life, our lives, is a relief. But it is painful to not have a family when you know you do. Even though I wouldn’t have it any other way, it still stings. I know that I cannot live the facade required to have a relationship with them. I know, know, know that it is what it is. But when I see how much richer, how much less isolated, how much easier the lives are of those who have active relationships with their families, I can’t help but feel burned at what I don’t have.
And, people don’t really get it, being estranged. If my parents had died, folks would feel differently than they do when they find out that my parents are very much alive and just not participating in our lives. There is a stigma associated with that. I have said it before, that it is socially unpopular to not love or have a relationship with one’s parents. My life long friends get it; even some of the newer friends who can relate even if they wouldn’t go to the lengths to no longer have a relationship (and, truth be told, in those circumstances, there is redeeming value to the continue relationship because their parents are great grandparents, something else mine are not, not to my kids anyway).
I definitely feel and live the estrangement every day even though I know that my parents are incapable of being a positive factor in our lives. It presents in a generalized longing for family, to belong, to be included. I have long loved and been grateful for my chosen family of friends, both irl and url, and I am just going to have to extend myself in other ways in order to create some new lasting, inclusive friendships. It takes a lot of effort to get to the point where someone else, someone who is in a family and has a family, to consider including friends in their plans. A lot.