This was the third hospital that my brother stayed in; he’d been at this one before. The name of the actual facility escapes me, but it was located down the street from a factory that made “Fruit and Nut” confections. My mother, sister and I thought that was a riot that there were two places with nuts on that street. Maybe we were just laughing because that was better than the alternative.
My father came over and I could tell this was going to be a turning point in the relationship with him. He was angry and upset that it had come to this. He was not happy about the price tag that he was assuming by sending my brother to this boarding school. I didn’t even know there were boarding schools in our metro area, but I guess when you got into the more upper class enclaves, you could find one. The Catholic school my brother would attend (which we all found ironic) had a seminary attached to it in addition to the regular high school.
Looking back on it, I think there was no place for any of us to find common ground. Everyone blamed everyone else in the scenario: I blamed my father for not intervening sooner and saving all of us living under lock and key years of anxiety; my father blamed my mother for not having provided more supervision to keep my brother away from the rougher elements that influenced him so badly; my mother blamed my father for reducing the child support and forcing her to work extra hours to be able to pay the bills that mounted as my brother’s depression and anger increased. There was no sympathy from any one of us for any on the other side of the fence. Instead, the battle lines were clearly drawn now: boys against the girls.
I got up and went to school every day. I wanted to feel grief and anger and something that would garner me the kind of attention and concern that was being lavished over my brother. But it all felt so stupid to me. Too much energy, too much drama, too much out of control. I could feel it all swimming in my head, but couldn’t find the words to reach out to anyone with to express how messed up I felt about it. Who would listen anyway? My parents and sister were all too busy dealing with it all themselves. My few close friends were doing the best they could diverting me away from it, but only a few really knew how bad things had gotten. I just wanted to close my eyes and forget. I wanted to have a different life, like some of my friends at school, with parents who didn’t yell at each other, with fathers who weren’t gay, with brothers who didn’t leave bruises.
I threw myself in, head over heels, into school. These people didn’t know what was going on behind the closed doors at home. They thought I was whoever I projected myself to be. I was the smart girl, just like all the other kids in my honors classes. Let them all think I had the same great life they all did. Perception could be reality, couldn’t it?
I tried, in that winter of 1986, to hold onto appearances, though I felt it all melting away inside.