17 Miles

I was driving with my brother the other night when suddenly at the red light I realized and said, “yesterday was my dads birthday.” I’m really good about dates and numbers so I’m kind of surprised I noticed a day late, but in any case. He is 64 years old now, I don’t know what kind of health he is in and I haven’t seen him in years. I just know that I’m aware that someday, he may be gone and for some reason I still haven’t made sense of my relationship with him. On days like this I usually check online to see if he is still alive, admittedly every time I hit submit I am afraid that he will have a date of decease on the site. Today is one of those days when I couldn’t check for the life of me. By definition he is a monster, I understand that, but sometimes I don’t know if I am doing the right thing. At the end of the day, I have a problem knowing he may be sad that his daughter wants nothing to do with him. I don’t like to be the cause of hurt for him. . .it feels pathetic at times, but that’s the way my heart works. I hand out the benefit of the doubt like it’s on automatic renewal.

The past few weeks with my mother have been taxing. I’m sure that is what warrants this recent concern for my father. I rarely feel like I’ve been handed more than I can handle. I don’t need things from people, all I ask is for an ear and if all else fails a shoulder. When it comes to support speaking to my mother is like reaching a detour without GPS. I could speak all the languages in the world but getting through to her is challenging. It feels like I am talking at her at times. As a mother I always try to make sure I’m doing my best for Jon and in moments when I have been unsure, she has made it impossible to turn to her. Some people don’t have any parents and because of that I do my best to appreciate what I do have but reaching out without reciprocity is hurtful. Jon needs surgery and although it’s not for what could be a serious condition, as a mother I am nervous. The last time I spoke to my mother about it, she started telling me about her ailments. It’s as if no one else exists except for her. She then blamed me for allowing him to do sports as if it weren’t possible he could get hurt doing something he didn’t love. It’s a constant back and forth because she didn’t push her kids to succeed, on the contrary she tried to push us toward a C average life. So naturally I tell her less because I don’t want to continue to frustrate myself hoping that she will change. After 62 years of the same, she’s pretty set in stone. But again as the glutton for punishment that I am, I reach out. I sent her photos of her grandson from Prom and here we are days later, she has yet to bat an eye. I cannot stress how much things I don’t need. I’ve been taking care of myself since I was 14 but still the hope that she will wake up one day and be supportive doesn’t seem to go away. At times I’ve given up on her being present for me and hope that she’d at least be there for Jonathan. But she rarely shows up. Yet his paternal grandmother came to see him before prom, took pictures and was very excited about this moment in his life. She checks in when he is sick, she calls to ask if I ever need anything. They are worlds apart and I’m thankful my son has that kind of support. . .but I feel responsible for the things Jonathan doesn’t have from my family. He has never had a real set of grandparents on my side and although it’s not my fault I wish I could change that. My mom has had moments, MOMENTS of clarity when she has apologized for the way she is but she cries to the point that it’s very difficult to jump in and tell her things from my perspective. We have an emotional language barrier, one that I’m afraid will never be broken down.

I have been in Florida my entire existence but it’s not a place I’ve always loved. The world I know is always within reach but a bulk of my family make it impossible to be happy and frustration free. It sounds terrible but the two years I went without speaking to my family were on record the best two years of my life. They are the reasons why I always wanted to run and I’m not a runner. All of my friends that have become family are in Tampa, I know the ins and outs of this city. But the idea of being too far for most of my blood born family to reach me sounds so incredible that I’ve fantasized about it ever since I was a child. When I was in high school I was ready to move out at 18. I had many reasons for wanting to get out but one of the big ones was that home didn’t feel like home, there was nothing calming about being there. It’s no wonder that I’ve always tried to be as distant as I can.

I have 3 siblings from my mother and we were always at opposing ends because that’s how we were raised. I hate fighting and being angry, it drains the shit out of me so living that way constantly was burdensome. I haven’t spoken to my sister in maybe a year now, I miss the idea of her but again, just like my mother she’s a forlorn conclusion. My family gossips and celebrates other people’s failures at times, they live in the I told you so mentality or that’s what you deserve. I’m not like that in any sense. As I write this I realize that if these people weren’t family, they wouldn’t even be friends. It’s a harsh reality that I live with. The one exception is my brother Jose, he has been the constant reminder that I need to do what makes me happy. A few years ago when I graduated he told me that he knew I would be the one out of the 4 of us to “make something out of myself.” I feel like I’m on my way there but far from done.

A few months ago my mom was on the hunt to purchase a new home. I helped as much as I could, took time off to translate, no big. You do what you can to help family. However somewhere in the process she began to pressure me into moving in with her and her husband. She started to say that they were getting older so if something happened to her I could help because my child was almost grown. It makes sense on paper but it was also kind of insulting. I have 3 other siblings, one is married with 4 children, one is legally blind and disabled and my sister has 3 grown children of her own. Then there is me, one child, no husband. I guess when Jon goes off to college it appears as though I have nothing left. . .but that cannot be far from the truth. I’m only 34 and I have goals in mind and destinations that I want to see, places I want my career to go. I’ve been waiting for the day that I don’t have to worry about removing Jonathan from his home for my own dreams. That time is fast approaching. I don’t know how to say this without sounding condescending but the others don’t have any of that. They are happy with their lives and I respect that but if their lives stayed the same for the next 20 years they would be fine with this. I’m full of ambition and take risks with the goals I want to reach. So I guess I let this be known in a way. I told my mom I didn’t want to live there because I’ve grown accustom to my life and I like the way I run things, I do not want my life to look anything like hers at the end of the day. She insisted about her and the husband getting older and I reminded her that although they may be headed in that direction, they are still solid and require no help. It’s true, they don’t need people at this moment. I also cannot accept the responsibility of taking care of him in her absence. I did not have the same experience with him that my siblings did. The idea of taking care of him nauseates me but it’s not something I feel ready to discuss. So again, I’m ready to run because I refuse to be an option. I know my disinterest in helping isn’t selfish, I have my reasons that any sane person would understand, but rather than open up that Pandora’s box, I rather plan ahead for the great escape.

I don’t know how a post about my father led to this, but I guess it’s the decompression I needed. He lives 17 miles from me and it’s a surprise I haven’t bumped into him in the 17 years he has been out of prison. I wonder if he would recognize me, I wonder if we’d have the same language barrier I have with my mom. I wonder often. In the past 17 years I’ve seen him once and although at the time I didn’t think it would be my last, I haven’t seen him since. I changed my phone number and moved, not coincidentally. It was just life and things changed, he has no way of finding me since I don’t ever attach my complete name to social media. I know that I’m this guys daughter and perhaps the good qualities in him are parts of who I am but I can’t help but to feel guilty, for at times comparing and looking at my mother like she’s not enough when I should appreciate that she did the best she could with what she had.

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