I’m sure we all know that my relationship with my stepdad isn’t the best by now, but there’s a fun link to all the posts with the stepdad tag. I’ve probably told most of these stories before but I’m nothing if not a thorough storyteller.
Things were fine initially. I was twelve by a whopping day when he married my mother, (and I am STILL a little mad about that; my birthdays always took a backseat to their wedding anniversary afterwards) and I butted heads with my stepsisters, but my stepdad and I did ok at first. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, and it got worse as I left middle school and headed for high school. It was at a boiling point by the time we got the internet at our house when I was fourteen or fifteen, and when I turned sixteen I got a nightly lecture on getting a job. I did get a job, and that wasn’t sufficient for him. Never mind that I also babysat my siblings, particularly during the summers, did all my chores without being reminded, and was a straight A student. I think it was because I was an easy target, that he picked on me so much. He’d failed his own kids in his mind (their astoundingly stupid, borderline mother got primary custody, so they were only there on the weekends) so he lashed out at my siblings and I, and once again, I put myself in the way, taking the brunt of the abuse. We had some legendary rows, he and I. I usually just shut up and did what I was told, but once he came around again to nitpick what I’d done or harass me about not doing enough, I’d argue back. Even my mom agreed that he wasn’t fair, but she didn’t stop him.
It was shortly after I had started my job, when we found out he had started drinking again. I’ll still never forget the feeling in my stomach when my mom walked into the Wendy’s I worked at with my backpack and some clothes, and said to go to my grandma’s house after work. I knew what had happened. I’d seen the signs and even came across him thoroughly wasted in the driveway one evening but I was too scared to admit that it was happening to anyone, especially myself. I thought we’d escaped that world, and I was in therapy to address the scars.
Now that I’m an adult, and haven’t lived in their house for six years, It’s still bad when I go home. Thanksgiving and Christmas both led to a massive downswing for me this year. Mom said during the joint therapy session of doom that she feels he was pretty civil during our one ‘discussion’ at Thanksgiving, and she talked about how she stays the neutral party and mediates. I referred to that during my therapy on Saturday and my therapist agreed that mom might THINK she’s neutral, but… she’s really not.
It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, to mediate between your spouse and your child, and I know that. I start getting into the self-depreciating talk when I get resentful that she doesn’t choose me over him. Which, I think, is why I have trouble with that relationship- even when it came out that he was drinking again, and she kicked him out, she still took him back. She told him to attend 90 AA meetings in 90 days and then he could come back- but before too long, he was sleeping on the couch, and mom said he’d been sleeping over at his shop but it was hard on his back. I don’t think he made it to 90 before he was back home. She’d promised that we- she and the three of us kids- would go, just the four of us, find a smaller house that we could afford, get another dog, because we’d had to give up our golden retriever when we moved, mostly because she was used to having a TON of space in the country, and the house we were moving to has a postage stamp of a yard in the middle of town, and just… be. That didn’t happen. She started making excuses for him, just as she’d made for my father for so many years.
He’s just stressed at work. He’s trying really hard. He promised that this time would be different. It’s not as bad as you’re making it out to be. He does love you, he just doesn’t always know how to show it.
Well, at Christmas, he looked awful, and complained of being tired constantly. At Thanksgiving, his irritability could be explained by withdrawal from the benzo his idiot psychiatrist had put him on, as well as from Celexa, which has a withdrawal side-effect for some people when you stop taking it. But surely it should’ve abated by Christmas, but he was just as surly as before. I avoided him more but still managed to get a lecture about embarrassing him in front of my extended family.
My parents have been replacing the bathroom fixtures in both bathrooms, as they were old and needed replacement, but they hadn’t done anything with the toilet handle in the downstairs bathroom, which has always had problems with sticking. My four-year-old nephew, bless his heart, managed to tear it completely out of the toilet bowl as he overzealously flushed. The first time he did that, mom was coming in with one of my aunts and uncles, and my uncle is a plumber, so when I told mom what my nephew did, my uncle volunteered to fix it. Not an hour later and my nephew had done it again, so I went to find my uncle, figuring that he could fix it again. My stepdad, who was on the other side of the Christmas tree and out of my line of sight, raged through, growling “I’LL DO IT” as he stomped by. Mom scolded me at the time with “It’s not your uncle’s job to fix that, he’s here for Christmas.” Mom later told me I’d embarrassed my stepdad and I needed to not do that anymore. I explained that I didn’t even know he was in the room, my plumber uncle had fixed it not an hour before so I figured he’d know what he did and would know what to do again, and I wondered why they automatically assumed I was intentionally embarrassing him. That last question didn’t really get answered, not that I was all that surprised. I never got an answer for my question of “why would you automatically assume your mentally ill daughter was being lazy after uncharacteristically sleeping all day and get angry about it, rather than check on her and make sure she was ok?” either.
So massive communication and denial problems with my parents aside, my stepdad finally went to the doctor about his continual state of tired and grumpy. Turns out he has hypoglycemia, which explains a lot of the additional surliness. Evidently, it was a habit of his to live on coffee until he got home, at which time he couldn’t stop eating, and then crashed a few hours later. Mom says since he started eating multiple meals and snacks throughout the day, full of protein and complex carbs, he’s really mellowed out. So we’ll see how things go the next time I go home to visit, but I’m definitely going to re-think how long I’m going to stay. They’re still my parents, and while I definitely talk about the negative parts of our relationships more than the positive, I do love them, and they do love me.