I Remember and I Forgot

8:00 PM

I still remember our first interaction.

When we were introduced, I was a 10-year-old girl in a St. Johns bookstore, searching for tales of fantasy and adventure. You were alone, sitting at a table in a corner of the attached coffee shop. My mother steered me in your direction, surprised to “run into a friend she would like me to meet.”

I was innocent. Oblivious to any problems in the world, let alone the problems my parents were having in their marriage.

Less than a month later, Adam and I were called into the living room.
“Your father and I are taking some time apart,” mom said.
This white lie acted as a temporary band-aid, shielding us from the reality of the situation. 
They were not taking a break.
They were getting a divorce, and mom had already moved on.

I remember my world shattering.

Over those next few months, I recall feeling intense grief over the loss of the "happy family" I had known. I was confused by the idea of having a new father figure and a new partner for my mother. I was simultaneously terrified and excited at the novelty of it all.

I remember the first Christmas you spent with us. 
You spoiled mom with new decorations for her first tree in her apartment, along with extravagant presents. I carefully unwrapped the porcelain ballerina you had placed for me under the tree. I had never been one for dolls, but even at a young age, I recognized that this was your attempt at making sense of having a daughter. I appreciated the gesture.

I remember the first summer we spent at your house in Calgary; the countless hours of jumping on the backyard trampoline and watching movies in the living room with Devin and Bryan.

During this summer, I learned how to sleep in total darkness. 
You said that “big girls don’t need night lights” when they were sleeping in your house.
I remember crying myself to sleep that first night, terrified of the monsters in the shadows.

After this summer, Adam and I quickly learned that Mom was moving to Halifax to be with you, and that we would be joining her. My new life, in a new province, was mapped out for me. 
Our new life revolved around you.

I remember all the things you and mom did over the next year to compensate for shaking our lives up so drastically.
You built a big fancy house on a lake.
We adopted a puppy.
You took us on trips to Mexico and Florida.
It was exciting. 
But not exciting enough to cover the sting of living life away from our dad, and the expectations to accept you as our new one.

As the novelty wore off and my pre-teen years took shape, I quickly had to adapt to your way of doing things.

“Get your elbows off the table,” you would insist.
“Keep your glass in the upper right-hand corner of the place mat.”
“Dont start eating until everyone has been seated.”
“Dont reach across the table for things. Ask them to be handed to you.”

The logistics that went into ensuring we were “properly” eating our meals were quite drastic.
I remember the enraged look that would consume your eyes each time we made a “mistake.” This look, usually reserved by people for the deepest of offenses, would appear when we did not load the dishwasher in the right order, when the dishcloths were not folded the right way, or if a light was left on in the kitchen.

The anger in your eyes felt foreign to me. As did your choice of punishment for our crimes.
I have vivid memories of retrieving my coat or bag from the yard, after you had tossed them off the deck because they were left in the wrong place.
I remember having to search for missing shoes that had been hidden, because I had left them by the front door instead of putting them on the shoe rack.
There were countless glasses of water poured on my bed, simply because I did not bring them downstairs in the morning.

Over time, our relationship, which had once been one of exciting newness, had shifted to one of fear.
I was not afraid of physical violence. That was never your method of punishment. But afraid of whatever mental backlash the day was going to bring me. 
We could never do anything in front of you without being told the “right” way to do it.
I became exhausted from attempting to avoid hour-long lectures about the importance of respect, or the punishment of having to sit on our hands in our bedrooms for an indeterminate amount of time.

I remember your paranoia started to kick in heavily in our teenage years.
Along with your insomnia and drinking.

You became convinced that the three of us - mom, Adam, and I - were always lying to you.
That we were conspiring against you.
To do what? Im not sure. But you were certain of it.
I remember being angry.
I was enraged at the exhaustion of everyday life. This anger often manifested itself in arguing and eye-rolling, which did not help my cause.

Eventually, disheartened, I stopped fighting back.
I began passively agreeing to everything you accused me of, whether it had any merit.
I would admit to things that were not true, just to appease you. Arguing was no longer worth it. 
My life became a series of nodding and repeating, “you’re right. I’m sorry.”
Every day was spent walking on eggshells, hoping to avoid awakening the beast.

I remember the extent I would go to avoid you. My best days were the days that you were working a night shift, so our paths didn't have to cross. In high school, I would spend the majority of my time at friends’ homes. Sometimes I just spent time riding the bus aimlessly.
As long as it meant that I could be out of the house, I didn’t care.

Once I became busy with university, and subsequently moved out, our relationship naturally began to improve. It seemed we had reached a stalemate.
I was no longer under your control. I was no longer your fixation.
Now, your obsession revolved around Mom and Adam.

During this next chapter, there were countless occurrences when she almost left you.
When she expressed her unhappiness in your relationship, you would convince her that she was the cause of it.
I remember receiving countless phone calls from her, saying that she was “done.
However, you would always accept just enough responsibility to keep her there.
You would promise to change and try harder.

I remember telling her that she deserved better.
That you were not going to change.
That she could find happiness elsewhere.
I remember being angry at her for always going back.

In June of 2016, the fluctuation of “should I stay or should I go” reached a peak. 
Once again, she was leaving.
But once again, she decided to stay.
However, this time, the reason was different.

Because you were going to kill yourself if she left.

“Yeah right,” I remember thinking, as I rolled my eyes.

Fast forward a few months, and I once again received an “Im leaving” phone call.
This time there was something different in her tone.

I remember calling you “crazy” after I learned what you had done while in a fit of rage.
I remember sorting through the bloody paintings, photographs, and other items you had used your hands to destroy.
I remember finding out that you were being held for psychiatric assessment.
The police had arrested you after learning of your threats to burn the house down.
However, you were released that very same night. 
And nobody ever followed up.

I remember waking up on October 22 to multiple missed calls.
I crawled across the bed in my underwear and tumbled down onto the floor to plug my phone into the charger.
In my gut, I knew that something was terribly wrong.

I remember hearing mom’s broken voice.
“Glenn killed himself last night,” she said.

The previous night, you had put the pets away in the garage.
You poured yourself a drink and ate a big slice of banana bread.
You then walked down under our back deck.
This is where you sat, staring out at the lake, as you ended your life.

The police said they had found you next to mom’s wedding dress, with a slideshow of pictures of her playing on your laptop.
They said it was the most well-planned, cleanest, and disturbing scene they had ever come across.

The next few hours, and days, were the most surreal of my life.
I remember holding mom as she hyperventilated for hours on the floor.
I remember picking out your casket.
Proofreading your eulogy.

I felt an unknown numbness.
I was angry. Angry at you.
Angry at myself.

I think in this type of situation, there is no right way to feel or act.
Everyone processes traumatic events differently.
While coming to grips with the situation in my own mind, I no longer focused on all the things I remembered, I found myself fixated on the things I forgot.

Firstly, I forgot to tell you that you did not have the right to own me.
You tried to control everything about me. This was not fair of you.
You thought that parenting meant having the ultimate control. That it meant I was your property.
I need you to know that your obsessive and relentless disciplining was not parental love.
It was abuse.
Nobody deserves to live every day in constant fear.
Nobody deserves a life lived on eggshells.

I also forgot to say “Thank you.” 

Despite everything, you brought a lot of value into my life.
Thank you for forcing me to shovel after every snowstorm.
For teaching me how to use a lawn mower, to properly tie up a boat and how to drive. I would not have gotten my license if it wasn't for the hours you spent with me.
For making me take the bus from a young age, and not rely on other people for drives.
For making me hit the streets when I turned 16 and not come home until I found a part-time job.
As much as you controlled me, you also forced me to be independent.
I will forever be grateful for this value you instilled in me.

Thank you for pushing me.
For forcing me to find my own strength.

I forgot to tell you that I am sorry.
I am sorry I chose to see you as an evil.
I’m sorry I didn’t recognize that you were struggling with severe mental illness and a personality disorder that you could not admit to yourself that you were facing.
I am sorry I did not recognize how badly you needed help.

I forgot to tell you that admitting weakness does NOT make you less of a man.
We often make men feel that it is wrong for them to talk about their problems.
Mental illness does not discriminate.

And maybe most importantly, that despite everything, I forgot to tell you that in some fucked up, weird way, I loved you.

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