Notes from a family history…
I’ve spent most of my life waiting for people to die. In my family, death is the only possible way for the living to find closure and peace. In life, there is no middle ground with my family. Grudges are held for generations, sons and daughters can never hope for forgiveness. A grudge, in my family, may result in having your existence wiped clean in a manner that would humble writers of dystopian sci-fi. Even the family tree has been so cleanly wiped of certain branches and events that professional genealogists are unable to find a hint of anything.
There’s such poison in my family that I find myself anxiously waiting for even the more beloved, benign members to die. In those cases, I see guilt by association. They need to die simply because they are a part of my family, and therefore capable of maintaining whatever evil it is that travels through our veins and brains.
This is why I don’t have children, nor will ever have children. To perpetuate my name, and the legacy of my name, is a crime against all Humanity.
In recent months, I’ve sat down and tried to study my family. I’ve tried to figure out the hows and whys, the hidden histories, the obfuscated past. In a family of sociopaths, this is difficult, because there is no shared history, there is no talk. Stories change, and lies are told simply for the sake of lying. You can trust nothing anyone in my family says, you can believe nothing they tell you. On the surface, this may be a defense mechanism. Mine is a family of murders, suicides, criminals, and mysteries that fit better in the pages of a pulp novel than reality.
We don’t talk to each other about the truth. We never confide in each other. We don’t even help each other when we’re in pain. The weak are to be left behind, disowned. The sick are to be ignored, like plague victims cast out into the wilderness. The tragedies are visitations from some sort of higher power…a lesson, though for what we never know.
So it’s left to me to piece together the fact – and fiction – of my family. From what I can tell, there’s a particular dynamic that haunts every generation of my family, and, queerly, both sides of my family run parallel in their behavior. A sequence of action and reaction that defines how that generation, and their children, will behave. There’s always a patriarch (or, occasionally, matriarch) who dominates the family with a subversive villainy. They may abuse family members in any number of ways – sexual, emotional, physical, or a horrifying combination. These powerful figures demand absolute obedience, and, sometimes, like my father’s father, build empires on the backs and blood of their subjects. But, more often than not, these villains are more like ten cent versions of Noah Cross from Chinatown. These large, ominous, pompous creatures who seem uncaring…until you take away their possessions.
This drives their children and spouses down one of two paths. The more common one is an unstable, suicidal, mania, embraced most recently by my mother who, in her anger, would have torn the world down around her if she could. Then there’s a depressive acceptance of fate, a sort of willful embrace of stupidity and dependence. This, perhaps, is also a survival technique. Why die in a blaze of rage when you can persist in a twilight of drug-addled depression?
I like to believe that the cycle has been interrupted with my generation. There are three of us. One has succumbed to the same sad horrors, one has removed herself completely from the family and is all but a stranger, and I have decided to put all this down in an attempt to address that immortal human question of “Dude, what the fuck?”
So I still sit here, spending my time waiting for people to die. I thought, when my mom killed herself in 1999, that a chapter had closed. Dad, at that time, had been vanished for 14 years. I had forgotten him. I had spent the 90s escaping my family, fostering a never-look-back attitude, and attempting to pull forward. I saw mom’s death as a moment of closure. Her rage and violence subsided into history, and I would toss her in the ground and be done with it.
But then the IRS sued me for her unpaid taxes. And then dad sued me for her estate, emerging from nowhere. His last words to me, in 1985, were that he would be home on Monday. His first words to me, 14 years later, spoken by his proxy in a crowded courtroom, were that I was feeble and incapable of handling my mother’s estate.
Where a chapter ends, another begins. For 15 months, leading up to the millennium, I alone battled lawyers, the government, my father, and the ghosts of the past to try and preserve some small portion of my mother’s money and belongings. This would lunch a period of discovery where the family I tried so hard to escape would come to roost in my soul, and, slowly, would begin to reveal their strange secrets.