I never stopped thinking about what I would do if my parents turned up at my apartment. Not really, not entirely. I redirected the thoughts, reassured myself, relied on logic and patterns of behavior to assure myself that it would never happen. Still, I found myself making plans. It would have been terrifying, but easy to reject them, to humiliate them, to put them in a position where they had to re-evaluate the risks and rewards of the situation. It wouldn’t have taken much to be more of a threat to their status than I was worth. Hell, that was basically the space I occupied in their lives most of the time anyway.
Now, I’m more than two-thousand miles away from them, and as far as I know, they don’t even know it yet. There’s a freedom to that, and also a new kind of grief.
There was a part of me that wanted them to show up. Part of me wanted so badly for them to fight for me, to be worth it to them, just once. I knew it would never happen. I knew that I would never be worth risking the rejection. I wasn’t worth the work it would take to have a loving, stable relationship. I knew that, but I couldn’t help but yearn for the relationship I’d always been denied.
While my parents were only an hour away, it was possible. I wasn’t in their town often, but when I was, I always felt a low kind of dread in the areas they frequented. I could so easily have bumped into them. Would they have recognized me? Would they have tried to talk to me? Would it have been a quiet conversation, or would they have loudly accosted me? It’s impossible to say now, and I’m relieved, but also grieving anew.
I told myself over and over again that I was done leaving space for them. I wasn’t going to wait for them to show up or make amends. When I moved, I didn’t leave a forwarding address. I didn’t give them a way to find me or a trail to follow. I don’t regret that decision, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Being free of them in such a permanent way is elating. Sometimes it hits me driving down the highway that I’m more than two-thousand miles away from my abusers, that there’s nothing they can do to wedge themselves back in. Knowing that I’ll never have to deal with any attempt to re-establish contact, at least not in person, feels like a kind of freedom I’ve never had before.
More than that, there’s no one here who knows them. The shadow of their positions in a community so close at hand doesn’t extend to California, and I don’t have to worry about bumping into someone who would object to the fact that I keep finding myself talking about them as if they’re dead. The way they’ve told the story of our relationship, the way they’ve told the story of themselves, is no longer relevant. While I’ve always felt free to talk openly about my abuse, I no longer have to monitor what I say around people who have spent time in their area. It’s not so much that I broadcast that I had abusive parents or what exactly they did, it’s just nice to not have to worry when the conversation heads toward family. The façade they’ve built, whatever excuses they’ve made about the fact that we no longer have a relationship, doesn’t matter anymore. I can be precisely who I am here without having to cast a glance overhead for flying monkeys.
The trouble is, my move means our relationship is as over as it can be. Whatever slim access proximity afforded them no longer exists. Their opportunity to make amends has been cut off, and the only thing left to do now is to grieve and heal.
I didn’t expect to spend so much time thinking about them once the move was over. I thought I might have a few moments of excited revelation, of holding the novelty of my freedom close, but I didn’t expect there to be another level to my grief.
I thoroughly believed that I’d put everything to do with them to bed long before I even considered moving. I didn’t have more than a passing thought about them while I planned it, and more often than not, it mostly struck me as funny how impossible it would be to ever find me. Healing happens in spirals, though, and issues come creeping back in later, once better mindsets and tools are available. So here I am again, newly struck by both being free from my parents and desperately wanting them to have made any kind of effort. What I know now, though, is that I deserve better than anything my parents had to offer. I don’t have to keep waiting for them to look up and realize that. I can instead create better for myself now, instead of begging people who are incapable of loving me to at least pretend.
They say that moving doesn’t fix anything, that we all just end up carrying the same problems to a new location, and that’s both true and it’s not. On the one hand, I certainly am still dealing with the fall out from a broken family system now thousands of miles away. On the other, I think now there’s just enough space for me to see that I was holding space for them, and that I left it in the apartment I vacated. Everything I thought I’d done internally has now been made physically manifest, and while my parents may never know it, I think it’s just enough space for me to move on.