I have always thought the ideal parent was one that saw having a child as a chance to grow and nurture a human being to the point where that human being could then move out into the world and fulfill their own potential.
For the parent, that means sacrifice. Not necessarily of their own identity and dreams, but sacrificing their own negative indulgences. That fear, doubt, lack of self-confidence, greed, and pride must be swept aside, for the sake of the young life they chose to bring into the world.
Neither of my parents did this. My father always kept himself in the shrine of his heart. Everything was for his glory. My mother is emotionally stunted, and never fully transitioned from childhood to adulthood.
My stepmother? She is a much.. flatter person. She is a cookie-cutter woman, who could not accept difference and practiced rigid adherence to social norms. She would have never sacrificed for me. Now she is a slave to her addictions, while her daughter watches helplessly.
These three suffer from lack of self-awareness. They do not examine their thoughts. They do not try to figure out why they believe the things they do, why they feel about themselves and others the way they do. Why they want the things that they want.
And that is why they suffer. And part of me enjoys it, in the case of my father and stepmother.
Hence the title of this series, Schadenfreude.
I know precisely why I have this cruel sense of enjoyment at their suffering. It’s because it feels like payment, payment for their inadequacies as human beings. For my non-childhood. If I was religious, I would call it karma or divine retribution. But what is happening to my father and stepmother is all of their own making. Not mystical in any fashion, just a splendid, inevitable end to a long period of snowballing failure.
I have been blasé about this to my friends. Making comments like, “Time to grab my popcorn.” After hearing this, a friend who I went to high school and who I have kept up-to-date on my stepmother and my father’s downward spiral asked me: “How do you really feel about this?”
Yes, I outwardly display pleasure at their suffering and feel it within, as well.
But it’s not alone.
A small part of me wants to be the bigger person and help them anyway. When I say small, I mean small. It is mingled with and overpowered by regret, that because of who they were to me I can’t care about them enough to help. I wish they had been people who I would now want to help. In the future when they both pass away, I think this sadness at who I needed them to be being so far away from who they were will be stronger than grief.
There is sorrow for my sister – who is watching her mother crumble away into addiction, and is currently the only person in my father’s life. I’m not sure he deserves it.
And most damning of all, for what it says about my father and stepmother and their impact on my life, is apathy. Total apathy. They are not in my life. They are not a part of it. They are figures from the past, whose negative impact on my life lessens every day that passes.
It’s sad. It’s all kind of sad. That’s what I couldn’t tell my friend. It’s just easier to laugh, sometimes.