I’m back with more on that family dysfunction tip. I left off the last post with the amusing anecdote about how my father had told me after my return from the hospital that I didn’t know how hard it had been for him and my mother. As I said in that post, it surely was difficult for them; I’m not disputing that. But, I will 100% guarantee that as difficult as it was for them it was that much more difficult for me. I have said that I felt for my friends because they had to deal with everything while I just laid in bed, unconscious, but that doesn’t negate the physical carnage the trauma inflicted upon me. I can tell you with absolute certainty that it was harder on me than it was on my father. He got mad when I pointed out that I had been there and that what he went through did not compare to what I went through. He got upset at that, but it’s fucking true. More to the point, do not emote at the person who went through the experience and expect them to be sympathetic to you. That’s asking too much.
So I’ve outlined all the ways in which life has been better since the medical trauma. Better body image (better self-esteem in general), a better appreciation of life, less depression and anxiety, etc. I have less time for bullshit and am more ‘get to the point’ in general. I can affirm the good decisions I’ve made in my life (such as choosing not to have children) and be happy that I’m in a fairly comfortable place. I am tender towards my body after all it’s done for me, and I no longer hate my looks with a passion. In fact, I’m downright cocky in feeling that I am cute AF.
But when it comes to family, that’s the sticking point. I love my brother and appreciate him taking charge while I was in the hospital. He did what needed to be done without complaint or question. He met with doctors, wrote daily entries on the Caring Bridge website, connected an unconscious me with my family and friends, and saw me twice nearly every day while simultaneously taking care of his family and his business. He was the one who had to make the decisions concerning what to do with me, medically. He talked to my medical team every day, and he was the one who had to absorb what was happening to me. He was the one who had to watch me lie in a hospital bed, unconscious, with tubes hooked up to me (including a ventilator).
The story that I will never forget (that he told me) is that he had a talk with my medical team about pulling the plug. He was thinking it over, taking into account what my parents wanted to do (my father: keep me alive at all costs. My mother: waffling because she knew I would not want that), what he knew I would want him to do (pull the plug if there was no chance of me coming back intact), and what he felt about it himself (not sure). As he was thinking about it and fumbling with what to do, the hospital called him to tell him that I had woken up.
I am forever grateful that he did not have to make that decision. I can’t imagine anyone having to make it. He would have been the one because I’m not partnered and my parents are thousands of miles away. Where I wished they would have stayed. This is the one regret I can’t get over. My parents coming when they heard the news. They were on their way when I woke up and maybe, just maybe, if I had woken up a day earlier, they would not have come.
I don’t think I can adequately explain how damaging it was to have them around when I was trying to heal. It doesn’t help that my mother admitted that she knew it would be harmful to me to have my father around, but she brought him, anyway. I mean, there wasn’t anything else she could have done, really. He can’t take care of himself, and he would never stand for anyone else taking care of him because it would make him lose face. Also, he would be nasty to anyone who tried to take care of him because he has impossible standards that no one can meet–not ever my mother.
An example. One of his duties is to do the dishes. Nice, right? Except he doesn’t use soap and basically lets water run over the utensils/plates without actually putting any effort into it. Plus he doesn’t always remember to turn off the water all the way. Granted, it’s a terrible handle that is finicky, but you just have to check it to make sure it’s off. He doesn’t. Which, again, fine. My mom and I just make sure to check and rewash the plates/utensils if need be. But once in a while, he’ll take a towel to map the table. Again, fine, except he only wipes his place setting and maybe my mother’s once in every five times (because that’s all that matters, obviously).
This is all backstory for the example of his difficulty I’m about to give you. We were at the breakfast table, finishing up breakfast. My father was sitting there with his face set in granite. He wasn’t responding to anything my mom was saying. It was clear he was mad about something, but I had no idea what it was. My mom, being willfully ignorant, kept trying to talk to him, but he didn’t respond. At some point, he got up and stomped off. My mom, of course, went to find out what was wrong. She came back to say that he refused to talk about it but said that I knew why he was mad because I had seen it happen.
Wait, what? I knew he was mad, yes, but why he was mad, I had no idea. It could be because my mom didn’t fawn over him enough. Or I refused to eat something he offered me (because I can’t eat gluten or dairy, which he kept forgetting). I had no idea nor did I really care. Because as I pointed out, it could have been anything. When I said exactly that (that I knew he was mad, but didn’t know why), my mom pounced. I knew he was mad??? She said it in an accusing way, and I had no idea why. It was obvious he was mad as he was not shy about hiding it. He always wanted you to know he was mad at you, otherwise, what good did it do him?
She went back to cajole him and eventually wormed it out of him. Remember way back when I talked about his meal ‘duties’? that included swiping his place setting with a wet rag? Once? He was mad because he had wiped down my mom’s section of the table and she did it again herself. Because he’s shit at doing it. But even if he weren’t, who the fuck cares?
This is the level of narcissism on his part. My mother’s re-wiping of the table was disrespectful to him in his eyes. If I sound weary and disdainful, it’s because everything is disrespectful to him if you aren’t a complete yes-person and cater to his every need–real and perceived.
That’s why he could blithely talk about being quarantined after returning to Taiwan (in a hotel for two weeks) as worse than solitary confinement and a strike against his personal freedom to the person who had spent two weeks in a hospital bed because of twice dying and other various ailments. It boggled my mind how he said all this with a straight face to me!
I want to talk about how abuse warps a person and makes them (me) do things that aren’t very nice in return, but this is running long so I’ll have to save it for another post. Until then, cheers.