There I was, minding my own business, sweeping the kitchen floor, when all this anger suddenly came spewing out of me. Well, in my head it did.
I could hear my mother asking, as she did a few years ago, whether I blamed her. At the time I said No, it wasn’t about blame but about understanding which was sort of true then.
What I wanted to say to her this afternoon was “Yes, I am angry at you. I’m angry at you for making a mess of your own life. You made one mistake, albeit a big one and you never got over it. That bitterness and anger that led you to feel trapped in a marriage you wouldn’t have chosen if you weren’t pregnant spilled over into my childhood. You expressed it to me every day ever since I can remember.
“I knew, even before I had the remotest understanding of why, that you weren’t happy, but that you didn’t seem able to do anything about it. You felt that my father was cold, heartless, rational, and that I needed protecting from him if I wasn’t going to be hurt. I didn’t need to be any more confused about my father than I already was. He could be warm and affectionate but he also drove me to tears too many times for me to count. He scared me with his anger and his lack of understanding.
“I loved 1sis, as I still do, but her moods went up and down; sometimes she lived at home and sometimes she didn’t. When she was there for me, she was all the way there, but much of the time she wasn’t, either absent or bound up in her own problems.
“2sis makes me angry. Although we tried to be friends at some point, she went off to university and escaped. Sometime after that it all went bad between us. She resented 1sis being alive and she resented my father’s perceived favouritism towards me. She felt she didn’t have her rightful place within the family and she took it out on me. She belittled me, mocked me, said hurtful things. She did them in front of you and you never told her off. She did it in front of my father and he never even noticed. You used to acknowledge that she caused me pain, but when I started to find my voice, you backtracked and said you had no idea what I was talking about. Us both becoming mothers drove us further apart and we certainly never swapped parenting tips. The fact that I was pregnant as she was getting over a miscarriage didn’t help. We now have no contact with each other and I don’t know what to say when my children ask when they are going to see their cousins.
“As to my father, I feel more frustrated than angry towards him. He genuinely does not understand where his life has gone wrong. He said to me the other day that there was a youth club attached to his school but he’d never gone as he didn’t see the point of having fun and making friends. He still doesn’t. For that reason I find it difficult to feel angry towards him.
“But to you, who was aware that things were wrong in your life but refused to do anything about it, I feel anger. When you told me about the one time you thought about leaving him, when he was gloating about having cheated and beaten me at Scrabble aged 6 you talked about how we children would feel in the morning if you had gone. You did not contemplate taking us with you. And when 2sis had her stomach pumped, you weren’t there for her then either. When you were told that I’d swallowed a bottle of pills, you never mentioned it to me.
“Was your life really that hard? Has keeping quiet for all those years got you what you wanted?”