Well Hello, Gargamel

As some of you already know, I have a mailbag feature. I’m going to use it, today, to answer some correspondence–with you. Why? Principally, because of something my mentor told me. Growing up, things were fairly rough and I used to escape to his house, to hang out with him and his family. Mainly just to feel safe, but we used to talk about all kinds of things. Particularly as I got older. He was a writer, a highly successful one; he told me, once, that writing was the only form of therapy he’d tried where he took home a paycheck. He shared his perspective with the world, and people not only understood, really experienced that perspective, but also gave him money in thanks.

I suppose I owe my family thanks; they’re part of why I, as an adult, have so much to say. Although, after almost two decades under their collective thumbs, Iraq was a relief. This particular person, whose email I’m about to share, didn’t notice that I’d gone. Probably because she’d barred me from her house and, effectively, her life some years before. My “mother” was pimping me out for drugs, you see; that was my fault. I kept creating “drama” for her family (yes, “her” family, she was quite clear on that) by asking for help.

Anyway…

Hi [redacted]
I am writing to you because I am so hoping to reconnect with you.

That’s great! I’m 38, and we haven’t had a meaningful conversation since–honestly, I don’t remember.

I miss you and I think about you a lot and wonder how you are and how your family are doing .

Again, that’s great! I think about you a lot, too. I think about how, during the birth of my son, I had heart failure and how you told me I was just being difficult to get attention. Before that, when I was merely bedridden due to the possibility of heart failure, you told me you didn’t love me, because I hadn’t gone to my cousin’s wedding. You know, that was half a country away. While I was in the hospital. I especially think of how, after agonizing over what to do to fix this–because I was still accepting blame, at that this point–I asked you out for lunch. You criticized my eating and drinking habits before telling me that you’d “been prepared to love me unconditionally” but that I’d made that impossible. Lunch ended with you telling me, it was really time for us to admit that we didn’t have a family relationship.

I know there are a lot of hard feelings between us but I just want to try to mend them if at all possible.

How do you know that?

I have made a lot of mistakes but I miss you and care about you more than you might know.

You stood by while I was being molested and told me to grin and bear it. Yet by some miracle I gave you another chance, as an adult. And another, and another one. When you were hateful to me, it was either because a) I reminded you of my mother or b) was somehow upsetting my mother. You admitted yourself that you didn’t know, and didn’t want to know, who I was outside that dynamic. Meanwhile I–I just wanted a family that badly.

I remember telling you, when I was in the hospital, that I really needed family. That I was alone and scared and couldn’t do this on my own. Your response? To tell me I’d “make friends” and that wasn’t your concern. So I mean…if you miss me, and care about me, I guess I’m confused. I know we don’t live near each other, now, but until last year we lived less than a mile apart. I used to see you, sometimes, driving by our house and glaring. At what, I don’t know. You even circled the block five or six times on the actual day of our move.

I really hope you are happy in your life now and would really like to try to reconnect.

Thanks for asking, I am beyond happy. I’ve been in remission now from cancer for three years and, even better, my husband and son are doing great. It wasn’t easy, building this life, especially without help. But we have the satisfaction of knowing, now, that we don’t need you.

There are only so many years, at the end of the day, that a person can cry.

I understand if you don’t want to and I understand that you are angry with me but I am just making a try at talking about it.

How do you “understand” that I’m angry? My guess is, talking to my mother. Who still isn’t over the fact that I had the temerity to run away from home and enlist. You’ve always learned about me primarily, and sometimes exclusively, from other people. People like your sister, who–as you used to remind me–is indeed your sister and will always have your support. So I mean, you’re sort of right in that your championing pedophilia used to make me really angry. Until I got some therapy, got some perspective, and grew up. These problems are yours, not mine.

I am hopeful that we could try to have another conversation about it.

I’m confused–you want to discuss, what? My “anger?”

I know you have been let down and I am sorry for what you have been through and for my part in any of it.

I’m glad to hear you’re sorry; I’m sure the timing is purely coincidental and has nothing to do with Mr. Business and his most recent success. I might start picking up the WSJ on the days you email me. Then again, I probably won’t hear from you again or, at least not for another almost decade. Are you reminiscing about avoiding me in the supermarket?

If you don’t want to try I get it, and I don’t blame you for not wanting to revisit the past, but if there is any chance we could communicate again I would really like that.

I was free and available when I was poor.

If you don’t like the idea I get it; so if I don’t hear back from you please know that I hope you and [Mr. Business and Pubert] are doing well.

Generally, when I reach out to people, I ask them questions. You know, about themselves. I don’t tell them all about what they’re thinking and feeling…especially after literally not talking to them for ages. You and I haven’t even been in the same room together, really, since I was in my 20’s. How much do you “know” about me? Where are you getting this information from?

After Mr. Business and I got married, and bought the fixer upper, we had you over. Do you remember that? Mr. Business walked in on you and one of your sons making jokes about how poor we were. Mr. Business particularly disliked the one about how we were obviously too poor to have bought a house, so someone must’ve given us ours. And then you told all kinds of people this “fact.” How do I know? Because they came to me, wanting to know if Mr. Business was actually an unemployed drug addict with mental problems and if my mother was in fact supporting us. Um…no?

Love,
Gargamel

In closing, I’ll say this: people ask themselves “how much does this person love me,” and they’re asking the wrong question. They should ask, instead, “how capable is this person of loving anyone, period?” It took years of therapy and, if I’m being brutally honest, a lot of time alone in the desert, for me to realize that others’ inability to love me did not reflect on my worth. I might look different to you, now, Gargamel, because now I–apparently–have something you want. But I’m the same me, on the inside. Maybe an older, hopefully wiser me, sure. And the really sad thing, which I’ve learned, is that wounds heal. Just like my disability threw me for a loop, a really bad loop, the first few years until I learned to adapt–mentally and physically. I lost some skills, and gained others, but mostly I grew. There was a hole in my soul, for a long time. A hole where a family was supposed to be. How incredible for me that my husband, my son, and so many fantastic friends filled it in.