When I left Brandon, Manitoba to attend college in Saskatoon, my parents would call twice a week. Every single Wednesday and Sunday night and they would talk for a couple of hours about the Brandon weather, the Brandon weather, work, family, church, and the Brandon weather. The calls were late at night and no matter what happened, they made those calls.
When I became married to Jordon, they called and talked to me every single Wednesday and Sunday night and talked about the Brandon weather, the Brandon weather, work, family, church, and the Brandon weather. The calls eventually became an issue because of my working late (until 10:30 at Safeway) and Jordon having morning classes and later working but still they would call twice a week, every single week. Good grief, even when I called them to tell them that Jordon’s mother was about to die that week, they interrupted me to talk about the weather in Brandon.
It was 16 years ago last month that I told them that I had been molested and sexually assaulted growing up. They never called me again. Communication just stopped. It went from twice or three times a week to nothing.
At the time they said that they were angry at me for wrecking their perception of my childhood and for the reputation of the family but it’s weird we never talked after that. When I would call, it was a mess. To hide me never coming around, my mother suggested to others that there was problems in my marriage, perhaps even violence (that was fun when it got back to me from women in her church). Then after that they would insist that things couldn’t be that bad because I gave my mom a touching Mother’s Day card in grade 2. You know a totally normal reaction to someone being molested and sexually assaulted. They never wanted to know how I was doing, only that they were upset over my tone of voice when addressing their lies to and about me (the world was big for them but had been made smaller for us by email and people asking me directly if some of these lies were true).
During those years it was clear that my mom and dad didn’t want me around. There was a family reunion in Brandon that my uncles told me about months in advance. I wasn’t told about or invited to until the week before. I wasn’t told about my grandfather’s death until a day or two before the funeral or even told that he was sick. Apparently being molested disqualified me from being around.
Looking back at it, the one thing that I did to make things worse was publish a weblog. Now a weblog can make things worse in a lot of ways (ask Healther Armstrong) but over time it became oddly apparent that it was replacing me. Wendy Hardinge was replaced by WendyCooper.org for my parents.
Growing up, I was the happy go-lucky child. Some of that was my personality, other parts of it was that is how I survived. I just did everything that I could to make things better for people. I would never want to be a drag on the family. It was both survival and co-dependency but it was the only thing I knew.
So when early incarnations of my blog offered up recipes, anecdotes, and photos, it was a lot more palatable then actually dealing with the Wendy was struggling with depression and didn’t have a lot of fun things to share. Not only that but I kept hearing from people in Brandon that I knew, “Oh your mother told me about that recipe I had shared” or “I heard about your new dog from your mom.” It was enough information for her to create the illusion that we had a relationship. Combine that with times they passed through Saskatoon without talking to me, the impression was given that things were fine. It also fed into the idea that Jordon was the problem.
From the start my parents didn’t really want a restored relationship with me. That would mean dealing with the lies and having to accept what they did and did not do. They lack the self awareness and the courage to deal with it.
What they wanted communication and while my blog didn’t allow them to talk about the weather and Brandon, it did allow them to see what I was up to and reinforce their need to believe that being sexually assaulted and molested for years didn’t have an impact on me and that I was okay. It didn’t matter what I told them in my attempts to fix things, my blog said that I was okay.
When they got on Twitter, it was even more the same. If I am witty on Twitter, things must be good. When I wasn’t warm and fuzzy on Twitter, my mother would unfollow me. My father never bothered to follow me. Then again he is the same man who came out and told me that he didn’t want to be my father and didn’t want to be Mark’s grandfather.
It’s a weird feeling being replaced by your website and photos on Flickr. A lot of parents I know read their children’s writing, I don’t know of anyone that uses that as an alternative reality to their child’s life. No one would read some recipes and see some photos and go, “her depression can’t be that bad” but mine seem to have. Of course being in that format, I am there when it is convenient, something to pass the time on a slow weekend afternoon rather than needing any energy or effort.
I think it also helps the guilt. It takes a certain type of person to cut off their daughter when she tells you that she was molested because of the fear of damage it would do to your reputation, then lie about it to others, lie about things to that person, and then cut them and their grandchildren off from the family. Whatever you have to do I guess. I just seems such a weird thing to do. Then again. nothing has ever been that normal about my relationship with them.