My circumstances, inexplicably, have transformed into something fortunate and broad. I graduated community college last Saturday. That may not seem important–I know I didn’t think it was for a while–but my parents never attended college; and of five siblings, one attended some college, but I’m the only one to earn a degree. I’m the only one to be accepted into a University. A fucking University, dude. How crazy is that?!
I’ve been floating in waves of terror and excitement about the future, as you may remember from my transition post. The vacillation feels a little crazy-brain, for a few days straight I constantly wanted to throw up and would cry pretty easily at most things.
I kept thinking about my parents, which is a little odd for me, but with all the accomplishments and celebrations I’ve been having lately it’s not surprising. When I was ironing my gown, for instance, I started crying because I imagined that’s something Mom’s do. And I almost did again when my roommate woke up early to take pictures of me in said gown before I left for the ceremony, before I became an official graduate.
At the ceremony they kept mentioning parents and how proud they should be, and my stomach kept creeping its way up my throat. They asked them to stand and clap for their little graduates. Then they mentioned husbands. Children. Grandparents. Finally Aunts, Uncles and friends, so my guests had a chance to participate, but man was that roll call shitty for me. I regretted my parents not being there. I regretted not inviting them.
Still, not nearly as much as I regretted the idea of inviting them and them not coming. Or coming and acting put out. Or awkwardly taking the obligatory graduate-flanking photograph when I’ve told my Mother she’s not allowed to touch me. Or the sharp and burning wash of acid after they didn’t tell me they were proud of me in the way that mopped away the bloody, piss-shit stain that was childhood.
So I chose regret. Because it’s far less painful to regret that one moment for a small stretch, than to spontaneously combust from the emotional onslaught that is spending time with my parents. After crying to him about it for an hour or two, my best friend reminded me that it wasn’t my most important graduation [I love him so much for believing in me]; and that maybe I’d feel differently in a few years, and I could invite them to the next one.
I wonder about what my future relationship with my parents looks like. Will I invite them to the next one? Will I invite them to my wedding? The birth of my child? Can I ever, in good conscience, allow them to babysit my child? What do holidays look like? How will I feel when they’re dying? Will I visit my Mom when she inevitably ends up in the hospital? What will I say? In that moment, will I make myself vulnerable once again? Will she finally be able to apologize? What will that even mean to me then, after so many years? When she’s dead, will my Dad finally stop defending her? Will he apologize for not protecting me?
I have absolutely no idea. I think there will be a time when I can be drawing boundaries with my parents in a way that makes it tolerable to spend time with them. For me. I’m not sure that tolerable for me is the same as tolerable for them. In fact, I’m positive it’s not. Tolerable for me means reality, tolerable for them means eighty thousand pounds of denial.
You can imagine just how grateful I am for my best friend and another close friend for coming. They’re my chosen family; the people I most want to be with at any given moment. My Aunt and Uncle were kind enough to come out to support me as well, and they even gave me the first card with money in it I’ve gotten in like ten years. My good friend, who moved across the country recently, made me a super touching happy graduation video; and my roommate decorated our apartment with balloons and streamers while I was gone.
I sent photo stories to close relatives and my wonderful friends from group, everyone congratulated me and made sure to tell me how proud they were. And you know what? None of it was tainted by shame, lies, resentment, anger, beatings, denial, fear or doubt.
It was all just love. Pure love, that I didn’t have to give up the essence of my personhood to earn or deserve. I just got it because I’m lovable and choose to surround myself with those who are loving. And, even more importantly, I’m fucking proud of myself and love the shit out of myself for getting myself safe and healthy and being passionate and working toward a goal. My parents don’t get to take credit for anything I am, accept the resilience I’ve accrued from withstanding their negligence and abuse.
I do hope they’re okay one day. At least, okay enough to come to my wedding and meet my hypothetical kid. Maybe even my next graduation. I will say, one really positive thing about estrangement, you get a kick ass financial aid package. Oh, and as a writer, I have copious amounts of dark inspiration from which to draw.
Pre-Graduate calm and collected to full on Post Graduate cel-o-brate mode.