So what bothers me most is the fact that I spent a LOT of time trying to figure out that these men are these kind of men. I'm kind of still chewing on that part, in the wake of getting TO this point. They. Are. These. Type of men. How could I have not seen it? Why did it take me this freaking long to put it together? Puh. 'Cause I'm slow, that's why. Without being self-deprecating I can say, yup. Classic case of getting the punch line hours after the joke has been said. Classic Amy. I've known I've struggled with getting a joke, a point, an angle before. But this. Wow. Because I honestly tried to make things work with them and didn't get that part about a tiger not changing his stripes.
I mean, seriously! Where is the freaking LOVE, already? Huh? Where is it? And how do I, the slow one, the "huh-what" girl, the unwitty sister get to be here. Here, as in time. Before them. Here, as in the only one. Here, as in bizarre twist to life, knowing what I was given and taught (and knowing ALL that I've been given and taught). These people had catechism drilled into their heads! These people evangelized "blood is thicker than water," not even aware of the older proverb debated as containing more to it ("the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb", implying that the ordinary meaning is actually reversed,) and still didn't put the disputed version into veritable action. They lost their catechism. They lost something. They lost more than just regimented church lessons. It's the spirit of love that governs all of it that they lost. Or maybe never had. Who knows.
The point is the sadness of it. And the sheer isolation. And the sheer irony.
Sadness. Missing out on the love and the deeper connection. The bitter, dismal, heartbroken, melancholy, pessimistic, sorrowful, dejected, despairing, cheerless, despondent, disconsolate, anguished hell that only comes from the absence of higher love. And never knowing if I contributed to it, never knowing if I'll get to apologize for my part in exacerbating the problem. And now, not even wanting to. At least that's what I'm telling myself until enough time goes by, and I start relenting, start being soft again, try talking to them again, and then they say or do something else as equally awkward or vulgar or offensive or just plain disrespectful.
Isolation. It's brought them to be independently segregated from each other and confined to themselves and their cycled and recycled thoughts. Thoughts that emerge from unsubstantial basis and coagulate into malignant theories and are rarely checked against the backdrop of meaningful, solid, and consequential greater good.
Irony. That I sit here working off my bitterness off as best I can to have a better, fresher, kinder relationship with each one of them but their lack of respect is so embedded that they can only justify their own views with seething, empty rhetoric. That I feel every bit of the slime and negative version of everything they think I am, but get accused of my views and demand respect for theirs. That this whole time, the whole time since leaving home, I have pained over, guilted over, and raked over what I could have done to help them revile me so much because of the reactions I get and yet haven't once experienced them be there for me. (Nope, not once. No you didn't. No you fucking didn't. You spat your words out that sounded good but were nowhere to be found when I needed someone.) Teaching me about God but not truly believing. Teaching me words but not acting.
And that's only the basic start. The tip of the iceberg, people. See, the thing is I used to be on board with them. Right on board. I used to agree that women drivers are the worst. I hated their inappropriate or horrendously graphic jokes, but I would laugh at them. (Didn't want to be uptight, right?)
I was all about the strict, totalitarian, "you do what I say and you do it now" thing. (Ask my girls.)
I used to own what my dad tried to convey, which was that all men ever wanted was "one thing." So I learned that all men wanted was one thing. I never imagined I could be engaged for who I was or how I thought or the values I carried, but I was expected to have those traits.
I learned that respect from them was earned, but respect for them was demanded. If only I could have known early on that I could keep trying to earn it and would never get it. (No, E, M, D, you don't. You never did. Don't get so hot and pissy with me about it because you are liars. You lie to yourselves and you lie about giving respect. Lie, lie, lie.)
I learned women shouldn't get fat ("Your mom is pretty overweight," "she let herself go.")
Women shouldn't nag. (I.e. 'I hate doing things for the woman I'm supposed to love and don't.') and that they "expand at the altar."
Women should put out, make supper, and go to church (because his grandmother allegedly told him in Spanish that a good woman is 3 things: a chef in the kitchen, a saint at church, and a whore in the bedroom.)
I also unwittingly learned that I was not ever going to be shown respect or have respect. I learned that love is mostly conditional. I learned that my opinions don't matter, that my memories aren't what I remember, and that I am laughable and dismiss-able (and they still laugh when they're oh-poor-Amy-ing me!)
But then I also learned, in contrast and thankful juxtaposition to them, in spite of them, that love is the only answer. Not as in some cheeky, chinsy, two-bit throw-out word. But a real action. A real, true, certified, bona fide action word that requires a person to quit being a lazy tosser-outter of fanciful words. And although they keep spitting mine back in my face (which I've done a terrible job at giving - it is difficult to gauge their reception and to know the right timing and I suck at all of it), I know it's a real thing. Real love is more than just words. It soothes, it heals, it aids in the recovery process of wounds, it protects, it grows. It is the silver thread that connects us all. It is the interest of the health of the other person. It's safe (not boobie trapped with guilt mines.) And it empowers. It builds. It lifts up. It does not destroy, as my dad was so keen to affect on us kids. Employed with the earnest lesson of thinking unselfishly but no doubt made empty by his (and my mom's) selfish advantage. (It was always about them.)
And I learned what self-respect was. And self-control. And that my own vile actions were a direct link to letting others control me. I learned because (step one:) I had two daughters that I wanted to teach how they are worthy of the love they got from me, that they could get it guilt-free, that they were worthy of good treatment by a man, to stand up for themselves; and (step two:) I finally found someone who loved all of me for me -- truly, thoroughly, protectively, gently, rationally loved me -- and was the only male and the first person in my entire existence on earth to get it through my thick skull that I was worthy of it. The only male and first person in my entire existence to show me what a amazingly rich and thoroughly loving and cool-breath-of-fresh-air healthy father/daughter relationship looks like because of his daughter. Watching them has helped me grow. Has helped me heal. And I do mean truly. No one else counts before T. No one.
I can appreciate that both of my parents autopilot-ed enough through life to provide opportunities for me to be in band (but I chose the smallest instrument so that it could be the cheapest for them), be in Girl Scouts (that was only mom, though, and she was there taping coupons to groceries on shelves for hours with me), have a few piano lessons.
But as for the men in my family, that is where it stops. The fact that my dad had a duty to correct such piss poor mentalities notwithstanding, the damage has been done by all three. I just have my dad to thank for instilling such stellar, pissant qualities in what has become the fabric of my brothers and such grievously negative attitudes towards me. They don't respect me, they certainly don't love me (how would they know how when they were only ever shown example of how to withdraw love, punish around it, and never, NEVER act upon it), and they certainly have skewed visions of love since Jesus hasn't been much of an example for any of them. (No, boys, you don't. You can't possibly. You wouldn't have the foggiest idea of the real thing if you tried. And even if you honestly, really did and I'm just the sour old sister here, where have you ever employed it?)
I don't actually hold it personally. If a person wasn't taught better, how can they know better? I can at least say they're not terrible people. I know that Jesus' love calls me to live a life that produces like fruits, and so I have tried to initiate more conversations with them and open doors for them to say whatever they need to say, just in case, you know, they needed to get something off their chest. They've always buffed off my apologies, but you never know. I also know that I would apologize until the end of time if they needed it and answer for my transgressions. But I also know the other side of love and, even though I may have deserved some kind of admonishment for one moment or two or more in the past, as the older sister, the things they've said don't even amount to reproach. They amount to pissy anger. And. As the daughter and sister, I realize that open doors just invite more bullshit. Jesus wouldn't treat a woman that way; and Jesus wouldn't treat another as a contemptible piece of shit. Jesus had boundaries.
To be fair, I haven't been there much for my brothers, either, and I haven't an excuse. But it's the attitudes that make the point here. Terrible, shitty, broken attitudes that don't allow for reparation. And that's all Dad. Had he been a man who could have taken the lessons he imparted on me (!) about the love and mercy of Jesus, and been that gentle, loving, defending protector of not only my physical safety but my emotional and spiritual safety as well, maybe we would not be having this discussion. Maybe the boys would be more tender and be okay with being tender because they would understand that you can still be a big, muthafuckin' badass and still be tender. Jesus was the biggest badass of all and still he had time to be loving and merciful to EVERYONE, including his abusers. Which are all of us. Every last one of us. Jesus reaches out to us, has appeared to some of us, has extended drops of love and mercy which, even in their little parts, are huger than we could ever know of the full extent of His full love, even though we all put him on a cross.
But, at the risk of it all, fuck that whole bit about parents being human and trying. There are humans who try despite their misgivings, still fuck up, but have the idea in their minds to keep trying and make the love and protection the priority. And then there are just humans who don't make it a priority. Humans who are selfish, selfish parents. Humans who are lazy. Humans who are even too lost in their own temper tantrums about the way life did not turn out to focus on the right things and lead their children brightly. Where was the love? That is the difference. People who talk about Jesus. And people who try to live Jesus. The difference is not my perception about itemized interactions with any one of them. But that they still don't get why their way of doing it is maligned and disordered.