Then something else in me asks, "Is it really destruction if you are tearing it down in hopes of rebuilding it?"
Lots of time alone in ratty apartments can certainly be unhealthy, but it does allow one a lot of time to examine one's own character. Amongst a myriad of observations, I did come to understand one thing about myself, my personality, and perhaps most importantly, my relationships. See, I came to recognize that I don't have much of a backbone. Lots of thoughts, opinions and snazzy words, but never really the willpower or courage to do something about much of anything.
I used to reason to myself that it wasn't a lack of backbone that made me a man of inaction, but that I was reasonable and often saw the multiple sides of an argument or situation. I still think I have a knack for understanding opposing views, but honestly, I know that I just never wanted to step on any toes or make anyone unhappy. I was a "pleaser": a lot of things to a lot of people, but not really much of any one particular thing. ( Except 'a clown', which kinda works into that whole 'pleaser' thing....and 'one helluva lay', also in the pleaser category.... sorry Ladies, taken)
I looked back at my relatively short adult life and saw a series of moments where I wouldn't even stand up for what I wanted because I didn't want to disappoint. ( On the upside, I did see a lot of great self-depricating humor sprout from the demotion of my own wants and needs. ) Let's just put it out there, I enjoy teaching, but the only reason I went that route is because I didn't want to be some disappointing "dream chaser" or some such shit; I had to do something practical. It isn't necessarily something I regret, but hey, I'm being honest here, right?
There was one thing I always wanted that I never downplayed; maybe because it is a simple, practical dream, or maybe because it is one of the first things I can ever remember wanting: a family of my own. A wife, a kid or three...pets, oh..a house too. I also dreamt of being a super-hero, so don't get too worried about my childhood, okay?
That dream came true for me, and I built it with my best friend: a woman that share's my horrible sense of humor, oft-bad timing, and self-important need to write about our feelings. She also has a backbone. Honestly, she has enough for both of us...and all of you reading this.
Really, it seems like a bad combination, doesn't it? A man who seeks to please and a woman who bows to no-one: let's watch Adam get abused! But I'd actually already went through that relationship 5 years before. My wife, strong-willed as she is, wouldn't let me be 'the pleaser'. Sure, she enjoyed some perks, but generally she saw right through it and would call me out on it. She wanted a husband she could respect, not one she just bossed around ( although, you know, that still kinda happens... stupid 'foot rubbings' )
So, why all this exposition? What, my dear Culver, set you on this line of thought? Well, this apparently has just been the prologue. Geez, maybe I should break this into a series??
Well, this week I stood up for myself and my family. Okay, so maybe it isn't the first time I've spoken up or defended myself, but I put my foot down in a pretty big way.
Originally I wasn't going to blog about this; I thought, "this...this I will keep to myself" because honestly (there's that word again) I didn't quite know how I felt about it. Over the past few years, I've been at odds with my parents about, primarily, my wife. In actuality, we were at odds over how I'd changed, but the real problem, the reason I was speaking up, was how it materialized in their treatment of my wife. It was clear that while their problem was with me, they squarely blamed her.
I've already explained how I think I've changed. For them, I guess when 'the pleaser' isn't always trying to please anymore he is considered "stuck-up, too good for his family, etc." I remember seeing it flash across my mother's eye in the dim evening light when on vacation, on a beach-house deck, I told her of my intention to graduate college then move to Boston to try and be a comic with my friend. I really don't even know what the hell thats supposed to mean. Like, how is that being such a bad guy? Stupid? sure. Crazy? probably. But c'mon, at least just tell me, "but Adam, you're really not that funny" instead of a dead look of "where is my son?"
So when I got married, they had their outlet. They had found what must have changed me. Since I've already written a lot, I'll skip the details and say that during the 3+ years we've been together, there have been a lot of shitty moments on the part of my family. Plenty of arguments where I would plead the case for them to just be nice. Even more times where she was just ignored; treated as a second-class citizen. This was never acceptable, but I suppose at least bearable until we had a child.
How could we stand to let our son grow up seeing his mother treated this way? Thinking it was okay to treat her this way? Ignored, set aside, scoffed at. So I fought harder to fix things. The harder I fought, the more they resisted. The more they resented the fact that I stood up to them when we'd never had a cross word in the past. ( we had crosswords, lots of puzzles actually, but no arguments... )
As time went on, we didn't see much of one another. We all regretted that, but hell, if they couldn't play nice... you know? Then the time came that we found out we would have a second child. I think I've noted their reaction before, but if not: they weren't happy. They didn't hide it. In fact, my father went so far as to say, "it's like he isn't even part of the family." We basically quit speaking after that. Some lame attempts at communication, but my parents still never asked about how my second child, their third grandchild, was progressing. Didn't ask if it was a boy or girl. Didn't ask what the due date was. They did not care.
Eventually, Joel died. Born without a heartbeat on May 28, 2009. I spoke to my parents for the first time in a while on May 26, when we found out we would not be bringing Joel happily into this world.
Through the time at the hospital, the days waiting until the memorial, then through and after the memorial itself, my parents never apologized for not being there through the pregnancy. They never apologized for the pain. In fact, they seemed to expect things to magically be better between all of us. Except for when they would become stand-offish and visibily uncomfortable (to the point of rudeness) in the presence of my in-laws, making the death of our son even more painful and uncomfortable; placing more pressure and work upon myself and my wife, trying to keep the peace. I had thought, for a time, that that was all there was to it.
Since then I have learned that my father, on the day of our son's memorial, was busy taking calls from his renters, and took offense when my father-in-law disapproved. My mother, whom I saw clutching the piece of paper with my mother-in-law's phone number, left it crumpled in their driveway when they left. But to top it all off, I found out that at the hospital, while my wife lay in a bed laboring to deliver our dead son, my father spoke to my mother-in-law, stating that he and my mother had had to “drop” me because of a blow-up we'd had, and how he and my mother never approved of this midwife, going on to insinuate that my wife's decision to use a midwife was the cause of our son's death.
I put my foot down. For my son, and for the family I've built, I put my foot down.
I sent an open letter to my family. Emailed, actually, after a converstaion with my sister ended with her critiquing my wife's behavior on the day of our son's memorial, saying that she ought to have been more social.
I don't feel bad sending that letter because the conversation with my sister confirmed a lot of things I had feared. Basically, that every conversation and argument I'd had with my parents to try and make things better had been ignored. It was a retrospective of every complaint my parents ever laid out, that I had explained and apologized for, put out there as if it were brand new. I had never had any impact on my family's perspective; my words and time had been meaningless.
Two days after sending that open letter, where I also call out my Uncle Steven Tibbs for being a jerk at our son's memorial, I received an email from my uncle. He really let me know that I had made the right decision in sending out that letter. He bombarded me with some amazingly juvenile insults (he called me a candyass... really??? 50 odd years on this planet, and 'candyass' is the best you can do?) He insulted my wife and prophesized the end of our marriage (something he has experience with). But worst of all, he openly mocked Joel's death and our memorial for him.
There are really no words to describe just how I felt when I awoke from napping with my son to be told about that email by my wife (he wrote his and hers emails. very considerate). I have, however, thought of sending him a Thank You letter. Thanking him for justifying my decision to separate myself from that part of my family. I haven't decided what to send with that Thank You, but you can help me decide! Eventually, I'll send it to him at this address, Steve Tibbs
120 Summers Street Bluefield, WV 24701. No particular reason I made his address available to the Internet... no reason at all.
My uncle opened his email by referring to me as a 'formerly Culver'. Hell, even Jess and I joked about changing the last name ourselves, out of shame, but I've always been very proud of my name. At this point, I don't know what might remain of my ties to the family I grew up with, but I know I've smashed it up what good. The name 'Culver' is soiled. Myself, I feel a bit pathetic that it took my son's death to finally make me stand up for something. Now that I'm up, I have more to do. For the grandmother that taught me what love and care really are, for the woman I made take the name, and most of all for my sons, I'll make it a name worth having again. My son, Joel, was very very real. His was a life of consequence; as short as it was, it meant something and it made an impact. I hope to do the same with my time.
self-destructive? No, no... just laying some foundation.