It's been a challenging month and a half, and I haven't really been talking about it here, but the short version is that coming out of a long period of survival mode has consequences, and those consequences take time and courage and energy to work out. I'm working hard at making room for the work, and having to be brave in new ways. When I have hard days -- like yesterday, when I had a difficult call with the people who care for my mother -- it knocks me down.
Being vulnerable is hard.
This morning I felt like I needed some answers. It started with me wanting to know something sure about my father and guessing maybe mom might have had something about him in the Red Book, mostly because I assumed she'd started it the year I was born.
I was wrong, as it happens. Her first entry is from January 30, 1987. And this is in it:
The full section reads:
"And you came down stairs [sic] telling me the doctor who delivered you 'made a mistake' and you are a boy not a girl cause you like cars more than dolls etc -- had to remind you that boys are made a little different than girls -- at least you are sure your [sic] a girl now."
I knew. I wasn't quite seven and I knew.
And then I spent nineteen years believing her, haunted by little things around the periphery, and the way I never fit, etc.
Eerily, the final entry in the Red Book is from 2010, and is about my legal name change:
One of the things we talk about as writers is that the difference between fantasy and reality is usually the fact that fantasy has meaning in it, and symmetry, and that stories wrap themselves up by fulfilling the promise of their premise. You start a thing in one place, and it has to end in a place that makes sense in relation to that starting point. That stories end is also really important, since even when life things come full circle one still goes on (unless one is dead, in which case other people do that bit).
Life just gave me symmetry today. I'm startled, and I'm angry, and I'm glad. I am in no place to forgive, honestly, and I think I'm giving myself permission to hang on to this for a while. After all, with my mother's dementia I will never be able to process this with her or hold her to account (which feels like a continuation of the way I could never communicate anything important to her because of the ways she chose to wield her hearing loss).
I know that I knew. I know that there are things that I loved that she talked me out of, ways that I saw myself that got lost, and that I can have them now if I want them. It hurts. It's liberating. I don't need a blue fairy to prove I'm a real boy.