By Tara Overzat
I remember our house being clean and nice when my mother and father were still married. He fortunately wasn’t around much, and I remember always being afraid of him. In fact, there was a video I saw as a teenager, an old VHS tape made on my father’s camcorder on Christmas morning when I was about 2 1/2 years old. He is seen trying to give me a hug for the camera, and I audibly say “Ow!” and try to escape. This would be the theme of my childhood, being forced onto him, to ask for money.
My mother would come up with creative things for me to ask my father for. She was horribly shortsighted and these things that I sweated over turned out to be just a few dollars. If there was a field trip in school, I was to ask for the field trip money and tack on two or three dollars for my mother to “make lunch.” This scheme worked well for over a year, until my brother tried and specifically said, with all the innocence of a child, “It’s $10 for the trip, and $2 for Mom to make lunch.” My father was not pleased.
My mother never punished my brother for this, which confused me to no end. I was here at 9 and 10 years old suffering horrible anxiety attacks that left me vomiting, unable to keep a thing down, in order to ask for money “for us to survive” my under-employed, soap opera addicted mother would say, and when my brother blows one of our schemes, it’s no big deal?
I grew up feeling that all that I was good for in my family was manipulating my father into giving us money, and looking out for my brother. I did not receive praise for good grades or proficiency in school activities. All that mattered was that I fetched or schemed for that money and made sure my brother, only 2 years my junior, stayed out of trouble.
My mother not only ignored my anxiety attacks, but ignored the terrible things I told her about spending time with my father. It simply wasn’t up for discussion. She would not speak to my father and vice versa. Even if they did speak to each other, with her being mentally ill and he being a drunkard, nothing good may have come of it anyway.
There is so much more. How did I survive? When I was young, God. I believed deeply in Catholicism and believed that God, this benevolent being, was looking out for me even when no one else was. He had a plan for me.
Also, my brother. I saw all the potential, intelligence, creativity and goodness in him, and even at my lowest points when I just felt like giving up everything, I held on to make sure he got out of this, that he had a chance to thrive. I could not imagine a life without my brother, and felt that God specifically put me on the earth to look after him.
This brother, for reasons I cannot comprehend, will not speak to me today. I guess he is dealing with all of this heaviness, this sorrow in his own way.