When on the journey of finding oneself does ripping up others matter? Does the cost of your happiness mean more to you than all the others around you? Are you yourself doing what is actually right, or doing what you perceive as right?
I thought these things as he sat in front of me, no remorse in his face, no hint of pain in his eyes. He said he was leaving to find himself and he couldn’t find himself here. He said this is what he needed to do, and with that he walked out the door and walked out on a family that was left torn in half.
My mother met my step-dad when she was with my father very early on and they all became great friends. Eventually my godfather was introduced and the final gang was formed. Everyone got married and had kids, and still stayed together as a pack. They vacationed together and hung out together, and when it was finally time for my mother to leave my abusive father they stayed with her instead of him.
One after the other they all got divorced, and as fate saw it my mother ended up in a relationship with my step-dad. When my mother was able to she bought her first house and a few years later my step-dad moved in. I couldn’t be happier. He had two kids of his own my age and I grew up with them by my side. Of course he didn’t have custody so it was only on occasion I saw them, but during my summers off I bonded with them every moment I got. And I truly bonded to my step-dad since he was more of a father figure than my own dad. Together we formed this nontraditional family that just seemed to fit.
In the early years the two of them seemed so happy together. It seemed like it was meant to be, that my mother after all of this time could be in a happy healthy relationship. But it was far from what it turned out to be. Year after year my medical condition got worse, and with that brought problems. Then when I finally took my father to court it was the last straw. The home life turned for the worst and the fighting started to spiral out of control. My teenage years I spent in my room, away from the nights where punches were practically thrown. My mother with her temper and my step-dad with his below the belt punches. There was no stopping them. The screaming would go on for hours and even when it was over he would go back for more. Neither of them were happy, but my mother insisted he was the love of her life. He was meant to be with her, and she was meant to be with him.
Around the same time as my POTS diagnosis came the shocking news of my mother having breast cancer. I remember being in my room and they both come in, both with half smiles on their face. He leaned up against the wall and my mother sat next to me. She told me they had found a mass in her breast and it came back cancerous. I was in shock. How could this have happened to my mother? She explained that it was only stage 1 and that it did not spread, but it was one of the most aggressive forms of cancer and she needed further treatment. My mother being who she is opted for just the radiation therapy and biweekly injections of a substance that would shut down the proteins of those cells. They pushed for chemo but opinion after opinion said that she didn’t really need to get it since it was only stage 1 and did not spread. They did want to give her a port though, which she said no to because then she would have to tell people since you could see the port. Without the port though her veins would be ruined. She accepted this fate if it meant she could hide this diagnosis from the world. She was fighting for her life and the only people she told was my step-dad and me. No one else in the family was told for her own sake, since then everyone would want to help her. My mother is the strongest woman I know and she didn’t want to be pitied. Telling people would just make them look at her weak, as someone who is now fighting for her life. She wanted nothing to do with that.
After a botched tube was placed for her pinpoint radiation therapy she had to go back in for more surgery. Each time she would come home and my step-dad was in charge of helping her clean the open wound and helping support her. She was sliced and diced, and came home often with blood soaking through the bandages. She couldn’t come to me in her weakened state because in her eyes that was not right to show me, she had to be the caregiver, not the other way around. She never cried in front of me. She never broke down in front of me. The entire time I saw her as a fighter, which gave me strength to go on in my own fight.
On top of everything else my mother was going through she was forced to resign from work because of the recovery period. In her mind it was the right thing to do, since battling cancer and holding a job in corporate America isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. Plus this gave her the time to watch after me since I was also extremely weak and vulnerable.
By the summer of my junior year of high school I saw less and less of my step-dad. I was told he was working late. He would roll in around 10pm and would be gone before I woke up in the morning. I always heard him come in since my window faces the driveway.
And for about a year he was sleeping in the spare, apparently due to snoring (which let me tell you he did. I heard him through the walls). Then it was because my mother didn’t want someone else in bed with her during the cancer treatment. Then it was just normal, they just didn’t sleep together. There was never any affection. It was a cold house of him just being there. It was either he was there and they fought or he wasn’t there and my mother would make excuses. That was now the norm.
As my senior year rolled around and I was homebound yet again he came to us with exciting news. He had started yoga classes and joined the local YMCA. I was a little shocked honestly. This man was 6’3, easily almost 300 lbs, not exactly the yoga type. But that is what he wanted to do, and to keep him happy my mother supported him. As months went on his training took a more serious tone and he turned into this man that none of us knew. This man we knew was turning crooked. He had branched out of what either of us knew. The status quo was being challenged and he broke away from what was expected of him. But this left uncovered a dead man who wanted nothing more to reblossom.
His life was yoga. There was nothing else. He decided he wanted to be trained to be a yoga master and yet again my mother supported him. He would come home with all of this weird information, come home saying that yoga can cure anything, come home saying that yoga would cure my mother of cancer and cure me of all my illnesses. He was crazed with the idea of being reborn. He wanted to cleanse his body of all evil spirits and be new again.
He juiced like crazy, far more than recommended. He would fast for weeks in order to cleanse his body. Overall this large Italian man was turning into a husk of nothing. The light in his eyes was gone yet the smile on his face remained. The wrinkles grew along his thinning face. He was turning into a man that no one had ever seen before.
The longer he went on this now spiritual journey the farther away he drifted from both my mother and me, but the full abandonment was not far away and not either of us saw it coming.