I am a Grudge Monster

Penny, 4 yrs. old.

My daughter Penelope gets excited at the mall. She has never met my Mom or my Dad.


Do you hold grudges or do you believe in forgive and forget?

I wish I could say that I didn’t hold grudges, but unfortunately for me and everyone who knows me, that isn’t the case. In fact, I’m harboring a grudge right now. It’s been something like 5 years since I have seen or spoken to my parents. When my daughter Penelope was born they didn’t bother to make the trip to see their infant granddaughter. I was hurt by the fact that they weren’t there.

I couldn’t, and still don’t, understand why it is that they couldn’t make it. I was angry and bitter, and I still am. I vowed to myself that I would never speak to them again, and I have lived up to that since I made myself that promise so long ago.The truth is, there are many reasons that I give myself for continuing this estrangement. My parents are heavy smokers and drinkers, I grew up around beer and cigarettes.

I started smoking when I was 15 or 16, stealing Salem Ultra Lights from my mom’s pack and smoking them in the bathroom. It was my decision to start smoking then, so I can’t completely blame my parents, but I wonder if I would have never started if I hadn’t been exposed to it so regularly. We disagree on politics and religion, I was told that I was “crazy” for not believing in Jesus. I’m liberal, Dad is conservative. It just got increasingly difficult to keep my mouth shut while I listened to them tearing down all the things I believe in. So my parents, who raised me, put a roof over my head, and bailed me out of trouble when I needed it, are no longer a part of my life anymore.

It is an empty feeling. I cut off all ties with every person in my family. Family friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, sisters. If you were a part of my family life growing up, we don’t speak anymore.It’s hard sometimes not having them around to confide in. I miss them, I think about them, but I can’t take that initial action to let them back in my life.

It’s not like they are beating down my door trying or anything, they are just as culpable in this as anyone else. They don’t call, write, or communicate with me in any way. They sold their house in Denver and moved to Nevada and didn’t even bother to tell me. I found out through an old family friend on the day they were leaving. Was that supposed to be my chance to swallow my pride and show up on their doorstep to say goodbye?

We are all too stubborn to put whatever it is that is splitting us apart behind us. My reason for staying away in the first place was purely selfish. I grew tired of the constant drunken bickering around the table. Political arguments, gossiping about family and friends, lamenting the crappy lives we lead. I felt stuck in a rut.

All of the negativity surrounding our family was just too much. I wanted to start my own life, free of their parental expectations of what they had hoped I would become. I wanted to show them that I could live a successful life on my own without their help. Bottom line is: I didn’t like my life very much when I was spending so much time with my parents and my sisters. I leaned on them when I needed dinner, or I was too broke to go to the bar and get a beer,I knew there was always one waiting for me at Mom &  Dad’s house.

I always felt like this black sheep basket case who nobody thought was mentally stable enough to get through life on his own. I wanted to be free of that feeling of being beholden to my family. I didn’t want to feel like I owed anyone anything. They are my parents so I suppose I will always owe them gratitude for deciding to have me instead of aborting me. I am thankful for the home they provided me as a child, the lavish Christmas gifts, the birthday parties at Skate City, the ski trips to Vail, the little loans here and there, they bought me my first computer and I did not want for much growing up. They were good parents, they had their flaws, but they loved me unconditionally. I was their first-born.

They did all that but they also struggled to understand me. I’m a bit of an enigma. I might make you super proud one day and completely let you down the next. I was born cross-eyed which  gives me an unfriendly disposition in general, a trait honed by the treatment I received from my peers for being different. I am the first born of three children, my sisters Jenelle and Elizabeth are both beautiful girls with perfectly straight eyes. Jenelle grew up defending me to her friends, she was a popular kid and I was a nerd. I was subject to ridicule and abuse on a daily basis. I think it must have made me mental, because for every good thing I’ve done in my life, I can give you an example of bad thing that I did to destroy any of the good that I had accomplished. I am a self-defeatist through and through. I can tear my life down to zero in the blink of an eye.

I wish there could be an inspirational ending to this post. I wish I could say that I am in the process of working it out between us, but I just don’t see an end in sight right now. The answer is simple right? Suck it up, swallow your pride and call your mom. I know the answer and the simplicity of it, but I still refuse to budge, and so do they. I fear that the next time I see my parents it will be at a funeral, and I ask myself, would I even go to that? This is my daily struggle, the painful absence of mother and father and family. I hope that they keep tabs on me, I hope that they are proud of me. Because even though I am so angry and hurt by everything we have been through and are currently going through, I still have this desire to please them. I’m halfway done with college, I’m experiencing success as a photographer, chasing down the dream of doing something I love for a living, regardless of the paycheck.

My parents taught me to stand up for myself. They raised me to be polite and treat women with respect. To work hard and never give up. I’m angry with them, I’m confused by the state of our relationship and hurt by the absence of any communication at all. I hold onto this grudge as they do. I hold onto it with a death grip, our failed family, split apart and scattered across America. I continue living without them, getting further away every single day. I feel their absence, it is the empty place in my heart, the lump I get in my throat remembering fond moments, the butterflies I get in my stomach when I see someone who reminds me of them. They are with me everyday, they literally created me, so I can never be without them. They ARE me. I love them, I miss them, and I begrudgingly carry on without them, selfishly waiting for them to make the first move.





St. Joseph, Missouri

stairway to heaven
good intentions lay dormant
not that flush right now


St. Joseph, Missouri