My ex-stepmother’s been dead for roughly a week and some change. I don’t think I’ve talked about the viewing, or the next day.
The viewing was on September 13th, exactly a week ago. I took Husband with us, and we attended the last half hour, to minimize exposure to my stepmother’s family. I had some fear that her nephews or other people, the ones who only saw the best of her, would reproach me about not being her besty.
My sister and her husband weren’t expecting us, and it hadn’t occurred to me to alert them. So when I showed up, it was a surprise to them. My father was there, of course, but not with his new wife. He saw Husband and I, and the first thing out of his mouth was,”Why are you here?”
Props to me. I kept somewhat cool, and immediately responded,”Closure. And to support [Queen Legbeard’s half-sister].”
Sperm-donor moved in towards me, presumably to hug me. You know, that might sound okay to some folks, but I don’t like him assuming we have that kind of relationship. Until he and I can have a conversation where I can be heard and not told the old standard,”BUT I BOUGHT YOU THINGS” over and over. I tolerated him hugging me at my sister’s wedding rehearsal, but only because I didn’t have the balls to say “Please don’t touch me.” Which, props to me, I was able to tell him this time. My Husband, ever my amazing backup and not a fan of my father, got between me and him, and told him,”We’re not here for you, [Queen Legbeard’s father].”
My sister’s husband stepped in at this time and was able to defuse my father’s rage at not being allowed to force my boundaries, the way he does. Father had a bit of a meltdown, kneeling down at ex-stepmother’s coffin and going,”I’m sorry, I’m sorry” over and over.
After that, I was able to talk with my sister and her husband freely for a time. After sperm-donor went into another room, I was able to approach the coffin. My ex-stepmother was laying there, in a green Cartier suit. Everyone always made a fuss about how beautiful she was, blonde, blue eyed, with a massive bang that she always teased up high off her head. Now, she looked deflated, utterly still, her face seemingly fallen in. The effects of being absolutely stone dead.
When I went to the viewing, I carried my childhood diary with me. It’s a small, pink, floral book with a useless lock built onto it, presumably to keep it safe from being read. That lock was useless when I was growing up. Ex-stepmother always found ways to find it and read it, no matter where I hid it. I had no safe place for my emotions and no privacy. No matter how angry I made her with the diary’s contents, I kept writing in it because I had no other option, no other way to vent the “life” I was living. I was a burden child, an afterthought, not wanted, and they made that clear in every way, spoken and unspoken. The diary contained all of my bad memories.. And what better way to say goodbye to bad memories than to send them six underground with the greatest source of them?
So I wanted to put the diary into the coffin, to be buried with ex-stepmother. But I was so on edge, I didn’t have the guts. Not until the next day.
The funeral, which I did not attend, was the next day. Around 7:00PM that day, hours after the funeral, I located where the cemetery was and drove there. The sun was starting to go down, and no one was in the place but me. I drove around a bit, looking for a fresh grave, and located it. Diary, cigarettes, a small hand shovel, and a camping chair in hand, I went and sat by the grave.
I sat there, and I talked to her grave. I unloaded all the venom inside of me. Got it all out. The least venomous words, the thing that rang the truest was,”I wish you’d been kinder to me. I wish you could have worked through your addiction, for [Queen Legbeard’s sister]’s sake.”
I burned down a cigarette, and stubbed it out on the grave. I kept the butt at hand. Then I took the small hand shovel and dug down a ways into the fresh earth. I’m glad it was so late in the day, because I’m not sure how altering a grave might look to onlookers. Once I had dug down a little (not too deep, because I was nervous of being seen) I took the small little book that was full of my childhood pain and self-loathing and pushed it down into the hole as far as it would go. I covered up the hole with the dirt I had scraped aside and said,”Let these bad memories rot along with you.”
After that, I tamped down the disturbed dirt with my shoe and walked off. I dumped my cigarette butt in a nearby trashcan, which was full of old memorials, plastic flowers and such that had been blown away from where they had been placed and been simply trashed by the groundskeeper. That was also morbid, in its own way. These grave offerings just tossed in the trash can.
Afterwards, I walked back to my car. The sun was just barely still over the horizon, and it had been a lovely, cool day. I put away the items I had brought with me and drove away, mildly worried that the diary, given my quick and haphazard digging, might come up when the groundskeepers tamped the grave down and put down sod.
I feel, over all, that burying the diary in the earth with her was the right choice. Putting it in her coffin would have been the best, but it’s still there with her, crumbling into dust. How long it took me to get over the self-hatred she instilled in me. The feelings of worthlessness. They’re still there, in some respects, but with her being dead I feel like it might be easier to work through the rest. When I left their “home” at age 16 and in the time until I graduated university (self-paid, at 24), I took a page from my mother’s book and acted like they’d never done anything wrong, because I was still at their mercy as an impoverished person. Bringing up any of the fucked up neglect and abuse would have been a sure-fire way to insure they’d never provide even the meager support they were willing to occasionally offer. Meager being old food from their garage freezer they didn’t want and old clothes, mostly.
Once I graduated and the events of May 30th, 2012 happened, I finally understood I didn’t have to pretend with them anymore. I could cut them out of my life, like a cancerous tumor cut from my body. The distance and lack of communication baffled them, because 1. They were saints and 2. I had acted dopey happy-go-lucky for years as a survival tactic before that. Not having to pretend to worship people who treated a child like a leech was great.. But I could still feel the weight of their ignorant, narcissistic expectations from afar, and through online messages they tried to send me. And ex-stepmother was even worse about it, sending me cringey messages on Facebook about how ungrateful I was and how she’d had to drive me places as a child, my god the suffering. But now she’s dead, and that’s one less person trying to force their bullshit upon me. Now, I only have to deal with my father’s bullshit. And that’s quite a relief.
I had a dream a night or two after my stepmother’s death. I dreamed that my father had me as a prisoner, chained in a basement. He told me I couldn’t leave. I managed to escape, running upstairs. I begged for the people upstairs to call 911. They all looked around at each other. My father showed up, and smoothly said he was a former cop and that I was being unreasonable. Nobody interfered as he took me away with him, and got re-chained with bigger chains. I managed to slip the chains again, and this time managed to leave the building. I fled desperately, and everyone I asked for help didn’t believe me, or said they knew my dad-the-cop and he said it was fine. I found one woman who said she’d help me, but she was suspiciously glib. We went into a slum, and entered a weathered, abandoned wooden house. I found a box of drugs and kept them, so I could use them to barter for help. I heard my father coming from downstairs, so I went out an upstairs window onto a massive multi-level deck. The woman stayed behind and pointed out the window at me as I fled. I made it to the other side of the deck and down to the ground. There was a steep slope on the side of the property, and as I began to run down it, I woke up. I’m not sure I would have wanted the dream to continue.
That dream really requires no interpretation. It’s pretty much straight up anxiety that my father will never stop chasing me for his worship. That he thinks of me as some sort of errant sheep from his flock. Rebellious property. The good old refrain of “BUT I BOUGHT YOU STUFF” (barely, resentfully) he thinks will drown out years of neglect and physical & emotional abuse will fall on deaf ears, and as long as he relies on that I will not subject myself to him.
I’m glad my stepmother is gone. I will never say that out loud to anyone but my husband. And one day, my father will be as well. Here’s hoping he pulls his head from his rear before he does. I imagine he’s been looking at his colon so long, the bright light of day might dazzle him.