Monday, March 5, 2012

Dedicated to B

I grew up in a finger-pointing house. What that means is that everything that ever happened had to be someone's fault. Even if it was no one's fault, it was still someone's fault. I think that's partially why I have trouble admitting any fault because I'm used to the harsh punishment I would have received at the hands of my father. Not only was there finger-pointing by him but the punishment rarely fit the crime or were way too harsh for the crime. There were also never any ways to possibly rectify the mistake or problem where it could be a teaching moment.

The first I can think of was when my brother was a toddler. We had some kind of marble-esque table in the dining room. Mostly my father was the only one allowed to eat at said (ugly, in my opinion) table (another story entirely), but I think by this time, the rules had gotten a little more relaxed. BUT, the table was still not to be messed with. This was a long time ago and baby food all came in those little glass jars. My brother must have gotten hold of one and threw it, hitting the table and causing a few nicks in it as it skidded across. My mother, ever non-confrontational, decided that instead of telling my father the truth, thus facing his predictable wrath, she would just keep that half covered by a table cloth. She had kept it hidden like that for at least a year, maybe two. I'm a little fuzzy on our ages and dates.

I remember it was New Years day and my father said I could have a little champagne. I gleefully took it and of course proceeded to spill it on that tablecloth, because I've never been voted most coordinated. I went to get something to clean it up with and he lifted the tablecloth. He saw those nicks in the table and went wild. Furious. He was screaming like a lunatic at me because my champagne "must have eaten through the table". Now, if something you're drinking and giving to your kids could eat through a marble table, I think I'd be more concerned about that. But that's just me. Anyway, I'm sure I got a tongue-lashing, then grounded, and possibly was on the hook, as a tween or teen for paying for this extremely expensive (and ugly) table. My mom wasn't home when it happened, but she had to cop to the whole thing to get me out of major trouble. She was bummed that I got yelled at AND that she was found out.

But that's how it worked. The table thing was an accident. A MISTAKE. Should she have sold my brother on the black market because he chucked a 2oz Gerber glass bottle of pureed peas? Just a lot of blame going. It was always easier for my mother to lie than to deal with my father's anger.

Another time, I was thirteen, stuck in the house with chicken pox for probably around two weeks. It was spring of 1988 and I was bored. I started calling those party lines that were all the rage then. I didn't know they cost money! I remember my father calling me downstairs asking me for my phone number in my room. He was literally purple (not from tanning). He started screaming about the bill which was probably around $200. He wanted the money "tomorrow". At thirteen, short of turning tricks, I'm not sure how he expected me to come up with that money, "tomorrow" but I did. I went into my Bat Mitzvah stash and paid him. It's not that I didn't think I should have to, but it was always blame and then huge consequence, immediately, or ELSE. He most likely threatened to rip my phone out of the wall. But what if I didn't have that money right then? There was never an opportunity to discuss, to find an appropriate way of working off the money, no time allotment beyond the implausibility of "tomorrow". And definitely no lesson taught or learned.

I bring these up because it's almost like having PTSD from traumatic punishment. I'd also chosen boyfriends who had this same kind of blame mentality. I had a longterm relationship where I was always worried of a temper tantrum every time I made a mistake. I lost my keys. Nervous. I left the door unlocked when I went out. Nervous. So on and so forth.

Luckily, I didn't repeat the pattern and marry someone like my father and other men in my life. B is like a totally rational person, at least in this area. I don't know why in seven and a half years I still feel like the other shoe could drop and he'd freak out but it's a hard feeling to shake. And this part of his personality was huge as to why I fell in love with him in the first place!

When we had just gotten engaged, I'd quit my job and was transporting everything personal I'd kept at my job in NYC from my office to home one night. In that giant bag, I also had my wallet that I'd put on par for a comparison with George Costanza. I had my whole life in there. I took the Express bus from Port Authority to Englewood. There had to be tons of these buses. I got off the bus, into B's car, and we got to a local restaurant in downtown Englewood when I realized I didn't have my bag. B raced us like an Andretti to try to find the path of the bus and try to flag down mine. I think we drove all the way to Cresskill. We saw an Express bus, was able to reach it as it stopped for a passenger release. I climbed on and there was my bag! Instead of wagging a finger and wielding a sharp tongue, we high-fived. If that had been my ex, I would've been yelled at, at home, while precious time was wasting, only to have to track the bus down on my own.

That was only the first of many mishaps, keys left in the door overnight, front door unlocked with the alarm on, lost things, dots of purple sticky children's medicine ending up in random places around the house, etc. My wallet got stolen in our store in 2007 and 7k was spent on my credit cards in a three hour span. It was sort of my fault because I did leave my handbag on the desk. It was somewhat hidden but the guy was a pro and took my wallet out, leaving the bag there and intact. I had no idea my wallet was gone. B got everything straight with the credit card companies, and complied with all my knee-jerk safety needs after feeling so violated. I really appreciated not getting a lecture or anger because I foolishly left my bag out.

This brings me to this week. One piece of advice- if your three year old ever tells you, "Mommy, I hear the bath!" and he's not actually IN the bath, go check it out. It's not to be dismissed as toddler-speak. E said it to me twice but I just blew it off. We were sitting in our carpeted, finished basement when he tried to give me the Benjy-like alert. I'd put laundry in about forty-five minutes prior. It usually runs around a half hour. I got up finally and screamed.

There was about an inch of water in the laundry room and it was quickly taking over the carpeted area just outside the laundry room into the finished part of the basement. I stood there, frozen, for a minute and called B. I told him he needed to come home immediately because the washer broke and there was water everywhere. I didn't have time to feel "nervous" and it obviously wasn't my fault the washer broke. But I still had that feeling of "Holy shit. He's going to be pissed. What could've I done to avoid this!". And the answer is nothing. It actually would've been worse had I waited, like I planned, and done laundry overnight. We would have been SCREWED in a way I don't even want to think about. Because what happened to the washer was the water just never stopped when it got to the top. It was going to just keep running and running.  If we had been sleeping, I can't even imagine how much water would've been down there running from about 11p till around 7am when I would've gone downstairs.

Anyway, my point is really that my husband takes things like you'd hope someone would take things. He just does. He's never given me any reason to think he wouldn't. It's my own childhood PTSD that makes me feel like I'm going to get yelled at or punished for the littlest things to the biggest, regardless of who is at fault or there is no one to blame. He took this washer thing in such stride. I don't even think he cursed, which I did plenty of for the both of us. He simply said, "Well, I guess we have to go out and get a new washing machine. Too bad we missed President's Day....". It's not like he's happy about it by any stretch of the imagination, but he doesn't need a target to point at. It's just life and shit like this happens. A few months ago, the companion dryer also kicked the bucket so, realistically, the washer couldn't be far behind. They were probably 20 years old. But, had this been my parents, somehow it would've been my mother's fault, he would've told her she had to pay for it (out of her paltry video store manager salary), and there would've been yelling for days.

B is nothing like my father. He's a great husband and father who treats me with the utmost respect. He'd like things to be a little neater, a little cleaner, and with less clutter, but I know when the shit hits the fan with whatever, the bottom line is that we're a team. And that's all I really wanted to say today, as I'm waiting for the call from Sears letting me know the delivery time of our new washer. I'm happy to be on Team D-K.


  1. that's awesome..unfortunately i grew up in the same environment, i almost feel it was more common than not ,my husband was in the same category and his mom will still hide stuff for fear of his father bursting, i hope to break that habit someday as i see myself doing the same thing on a smaller scale with my kids then catch myself.

  2. that's awesome..unfortunately i grew up in the same environment, i almost feel it was more common than not ,my husband was in the same category and his mom will still hide stuff for fear of his father bursting, i hope to break that habit someday as i see myself doing the same thing on a smaller scale with my kids then catch myself.

  3. It IS a hard thing to break. I have NO reason whatsoever to think B will freak out. It's not his personality. Yet, that feeling is always lurking. As long as you catch yourself, that's all you can really do. I mean, no one wants to be at fault for anything, but I think if you grow up without someone always pointing a finger, waiting for you to fuck up, your natural inclination is to hide things.

  4. My father was the same way.. Big time anger issues. And my mom was the exact opposite.. The most patient, loving person ever. I'm so glad I married my mother instead of my father. Sometimes when I lose my patients with my son, I can hear my fathers voice and it reminds me of what I fight not to be. But I have to does toughen you up a little :)

  5. Such a nice story. Feel free to call me if something breaks. I am VERY handy and I don't yell. :)

  6. You are a sickko writing things like this about your family and should be ashamed of yourself. You are extremely narcissistic and histrionic. You promote yourself as someone who wants to link other families to community resources and happenings in the area. Instead you write brief concrete information about prices, activities, restaurants, and town happenings spending the rest of the time being a Carrie Bradshaw "wannna be" writing endless dribble about your husband, yourself, and your child. Speaking of your child DYFS should remove him from your home as you are nothing but a stage mom looking for the attention and fame you clearly never achieved for yourself so you are selfishly forcing your child into the spotlight. It's disgusting they are promoting someone so self-indulgent on The Patch.

  7. I'm pretty sure DYFS has bigger fish to fry. I'm baffled by the anger. If you don't want to read my "dribble" just close the page. Have a great weekend.