“I’m so disappointed. You should have been there. You should have been there when your father died. But you left.”
These are the words of someone I have come to know and loathe. This phrase seethed out from her tired lips to my disbelieving heart. These are the words that have me, in my senior year of college, knowing exactly what I never want to be. These are the words of someone I am told I am supposed to love but cannot. These are the words of my grandmother, who will never be my family.
This was not the first time such a cruel assertion had been made, oh no. Second or third, I understand.
Just the thought, the gut-twisting thought that a daughter would leave her father knowing he would die days later was enough. It was enough, and yet she had chosen to say it. To put it out there for all the world to hear. To put it out there while she slouched in that hospital bed, as I watched its weight strike the daughter to whom it was directed. To put it out there after I had given her a reluctant second chance.
My mother is kind to a fault, a giver of second, third, fourth and fifth chances. She is a peacemaker and a healer.
But she, this she with whom I cannot make amends, had chosen to be the middle man, pitting her daughters against each other, spinning her web of guilt, sulking in her narcissism. That was her way. And still is, from what I understand.
After round one of these utterances, I wrote a note explaining my absence from dinner. I wrote of my disgust with her handling of family issues. I wrote in protest of her conniving forced encounters between estranged sisters. I wrote demanding long overdue apology. No apology was made, but a lunch invitation was extended. I obliged. Perhaps I had more of my mother in me than I knew that day.
10 minutes in: “Your father, Gracie, is not a good man. Stop crying. Look, the waitress is embarrassed for me.”
With that, I had had enough once more. With a flick of my wrist, I tossed a $20 bill on the table, my face swollen with anger, tears rushing past my clenched fists.
These are the words of someone I never intend to hug again and yet will probably have to see twice a year until the day she dies. These are the words of someone who makes a habit of tearing down the kindest, most well meaning people I know.
My father is the best man I know, in fact. He is kind and gentle and hilarious. I can’t remember a time he missed one of my volleyball, basketball or lacrosse games. I can’t remember a time he ever doubted I would hit the moon if I shot. He is an amazing doctor and a best friend. He is not a good man, but a great one.
I write all this in my poison of pen that only private letters and past lovers have seen.
And I will admit that I hesitated at first to make such a sentiment so public. I hesitated, and then I remembered something. I may not be the kindest person. In fact, I know I’m not. I make mistakes. Friendships of mine have ended on my account. I have treated people poorly. I have been jealous, and I have been wrong. I may not be so kind as to accept ongoing emotional brutality to keep peace. I may not be so kind as to forgive people even when they are not sorry. I am not always kind, but I hope to be. But I am the kind to stare evil in the face and reject it.
So there we were. “I’m so disappointed. You should have been there. You should have been there when your father died. But you left.”
“Enough. Let’s go.” I started for the door and remembered I had forgotten something. I slid my hand over the railing grasping its cold metal edge slightly, peering down into her incredulous beads of coal and murmured so only she might hear, “You are evil.”
Gracie Willert is a Trinity senior. Her biweekly column will run every other Monday.
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