Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

Musical Chairs

As longtime readers know, my parents have never exactly been thrilled with me.  And I've pretty much written off ever trying to impress them or even be close to them.  I keep imagining they would be perfectly happy if I didn't exist at all.  There are signs things are changing.  Ever since January, the 'rents have had a very definite change in their attitude with me, subtle but it's there.  Dad actually can't wait to talk to me on the phone, tell me what's going on, what new things he's discovered -- a simple phone call was one minute of me being told to watch for a medical bill from mom and how to handle it, and then it was three and a half hours talking about The Avengers and the new superhero movies and so on.  Another was talking about Harry Potter and all the little things in the book (he even apologized for taking so long to read it, as I had bought him the books for Christmas about three years earlier.  He's been rereading them to catch all the little things he missed before).  A phone call where I wasn't feeling well led to the first genuine heart to heart we'd had in years.  And mom is opening up more to me, too.  But I figured that was just distance.  The conversation drifted the way it did, but the underlying dynamic was still the same.

That was before last night.

I'm on a three way call last night.  The other two points of the triangle are my dad and my brother in law.  I'm dreading the conversation because my brother in law actively despises me.  Even though he's heavier than me, he makes fun of my weight.  Even though he's in a shit marriage, he makes fun of me for not being married at 43.  Even though he has two kids that he can't bother to be a dad to and court ordered payments eat up every spare bit of his paycheck, he makes fun of me for not having kids.  He makes fun of the cartoons.  The ponies.  The fascination and playing around with tech.  With me not having a fancy car.  According to him, I'm King Loser.

Now, this doesn't affect me.  When you're being insulted, it's important to consider the source.  And as you can tell from the above, he doesn't have much room to talk.  And if you take into account the things he doesn't know, like the writing, his attempts to humiliated become nonexistant.  I'm doing nothing with my life?  I'm published professionally, both through legit companies and self-publishing.  I've stopped a Hollywood company with a cadre of lawyers from ripping off the comic book world.  I'm not only making inroads with comic publishers but with book publishers as well.  If my life ends tomorrow, no one can say I didn't give it everything I had.  I've done things and I'm still doing things while he's content to just sit around, drink beer, and talk about how he has no money and look for people he can say are bigger losers than him.

Yeah.  That shit don't fly with me.

So I don't regard talking with him as having to endure abuse.  It's more of a waste of time -- anything that needs to be said can be covered in about two minutes, the rest of it is him babbling on while I attempt to feign interest.  To tell you the truth, I zone out so much when he talks, that I often don't even realize he's taken a cheap shot at me until others react.  He seems to mistake my apathy for acknowledgement that he has a point.  What's that?  Why don't I fire back at him?  Because that will just stretch out the conversation.  I want it over with, and anything that prolongs it, such as saying anything back, is counter to my goals.

So, the three of us are talking and trying to get some family stuff together.  I have the speakerphone function on and am surfing the Net with Kagome, my Linux laptop.  I don't like typing on her keyboard all that much, but it's one of those new keyboards popularized by Apple, low profile keys.  So I can type without making any noise as opposed to a regular keyboard, which the others will hear and will know I'm not really involved in the discussion.  I'm not saying much, it's mostly dad and the brother in law.

And then, the BIL takes another cheap shot at me.  Before I can think, "That was unoriginal and stupid," my dad immediately says, "You will not shit on him anymore."

I casually say, I wasn't going to say anything.

"I didn't mean you, Peter," my dad says, and I can hear barely contained fury in his voice.

I'm just staring at the phone, as if, should I look hard enough, I would be able to see the faces of the other people on the line.  The BIL is silent, then goes for spin, redefining context, the classic narcissist gambit.  "I was just making a joke.  Peter's man enough to take it, right?"

"He's accomplished more than you ever will.  And unlike you, he actually pays his debts."

My hands are no longer on the keyboard.  They are hanging limp by my sides as I stare at the phone, wondering what funhouse mirror universe I have just fallen into.  My dad is not only defending me, but insulting the guy that, for years, he said I should try to be more like.

The BIL -- "Well, when he's working so much overtime, of course he can pay his debts."

Silence for a long beat, then my dad says, "Peter?  Get off the line."

Out of habit, I immediately say, "Aye, sir," and hang up.  Whatever happens is going to be a while, so I decide to go out for dinner.  But clearly, my mind is elsewhere.  I went to McDonald's for a triple cheeseburger meal.  I usually eat a LOT more than that, but this was just one sandwich, fries, and an iced tea, and I barely touched the food.  At some point, I got a text from the BIL apolgizing for his little dig, but I didn't do anything other than read it.  My food had gone cold and I decided to return home.

As I go, my cell phone makes the warning siren noise.  It's a call from my mother.  Putting her on hands-free, I say, Hello?

"Hi, Peter.  Are you all right?"

I think, something big happened.  My mother doesn't usually call me Peter unless very real shit is going down, otherwise it's "Petey" like she's been in the habit of calling me since I was a kid.  I say, I'm fine.  Why wouldn't I be?

Mom then proceeds to inform me that dad is relaxing inside and she's outside.  Then she gives me an after action report.  After I got off the line, my dad.  Fucking.  Lost.  His.  Shit.  It was almost loud enough to be heard outside.  In one sustained rant like Dennis Miller on a coffee buzz, he ripped the BIL up one side and down the other.  Things that he had overlooked or ignored for years came roaring out.  Dad knew all those times the BIL was lying to him.  Was ripping him off.  Was conning him.  "You say I'm like your dad?!?  Well, I have a REAL son!  One who loves me and treats me with respect!  I can trust him!  You take another cheap shot at him, and I will fucking belt you!  YOU GOT THAT?!?"

Yeah.  My dad didn't just stick up for me, he laid down the law, to the point where the BIL, who never apologizes, actually did.

Listening to my mom, all I could think was, I'm becoming valuable to them.  They actually want me in their lives.

...this is going to take some getting used to.
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