Growing up, my family lived in a house much like this one for seven days of the year every summer. It was me, my parents, my brother and sisters, my aunts and uncles, their families and our grandparents.
Every summer, for more than 20 summers in a row, there would be nearly 30 of us sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, groceries, the remote control, the laundry room, and everything else you share when you live under the same roof.
We ate dinners together every night. The grown-ups kept an always-stocked cooler of beer on the deck; and, the kids played non-stop from the moment we woke until we passed out like dominoes across the living room floor and couches.
There was music and dancing in the evenings when my uncles and grandfather would bring out their guitars, followed by card games inside until the wee-hours of the morning. It all sounds beautiful, like a scene out of a Rebecca Wells book.
But these vacations would become a constant point of dissent between my parents during the 5+ years it took them to divorce.
“We’ve never, not once, taken a vacation just us. Just our family.” This was my mom’s line. Over and over and over again.
She was right. We never vacationed just us. It was in a house like this with all of dad’s family and that was it.
I get it. I get her frustration.
But I also get my father’s unwillingness to do anything else. Towards the end, during those pre-divorce years, the ones I’m not counting in the 5+ years, my mother removed herself from our family as best she could. She was clinically depressed. She was sick. She took pills and went to bed. She was emotionally and physically unavailable most of the days not spent at the beach.
She wanted nothing but to complain. She was mad at him. Exhausted with her children. Stuck in misery–unable to see it was inside her and not the world around her.
Her husband, my father. My stepdad. Whatever. Would do his best to ignore her illness. Chug along trying to keep everything looking like nothing was the matter. Working his swing shifts and playing ball.
They would fight awful, gruesome fights. She would be mean to the kids and he would ignore it. Abuse, neglect, abuse, neglect. The fucked-up see-saw of my adolescent years. “There were kids in the house,” I think now, pissed off and unable to process all the shit they started, “Your kids!”
My family is splintered now. We take turns not talking to each other. I love each and every one of them, but the only conversations I can have with them are imagined. They are the content of my stream of conscious. The internal dialogue that keeps me up, rolling from one side of my side of the bed to the other.
What to do with all these conversations? How do you talk to people you don’t want to talk to because all the hurt and pain and anger get so balled up, it’s easier to act like nothing’s the matter at all.
That was a rhetorical question.
I know exactly what to do with these conversations (you’re reading it right now). You use the tools you have to process what you can and you continue your walk to the top of whatever mountain you think has the best view.