My sister Barb sits across the table from me. She invited me out, let me pick the place, said she’d buy. I should have known something was up. She’s giving me that look. The “I’m going to talk to you about dad and you have to listen or I’ll storm out and you’ll have to pay the bill” look.
“Dad said he’s been trying to get a hold of you,” she said, shoving a huge forkful of lettuce into her mouth.
“You know, Barb, you can cut up the lettuce a little before you take a bite.” I sip my tea.
“Don’t try to assert your role as the elder sister, Misty.”
“Don’t use your psycho-babble against me.”
“You’re changing the subject anyway.” She wipes her mouth. “Dad would like to see you.”
“I know that.”
“So, you’ve read his letters?”
“No. I’m just guessing that’s what he wants. But I’m not going.”
“He can’t help it, you know. He has OCD. He was born that way.”
“I don’t believe that for a second.” I put the napkin on my plate. There’s no way I can eat through this conversation.
“Huh,” her voice is sarcasm thick. “I guess I’m just dumb and have no idea how mental illness works. Too bad I wasted 8 years in school getting my psychology degree. Thanks for the lesson.”
The waiter comes by, refills our water. We’re quiet for another minute after he leaves.
“Misty, I’m sorry. This isn’t the best way to persuade you, I suppose.”
“Barb, I just don’t want to see him. I don’t. It’s not going to change.”
“Why do you hate him so much?”
“It’s not that I hate him.” I have to get a breath of air. “I’m not up to starting a relationship with him. You know, going to visit, phone calls. It’s just all so exhausting.”
“Did you know that when he was a little boy he watched his friend die?” Her tone is sharp, accusing.
“No. I didn’t.”
“Of course you didn’t. You didn’t bother to read the letters.”
“What happened to his friend?”
“Well, Misty, you really need to go read those letters.” Picking up the bill, she says, “I love you. Go see dad.”
“I read them,” I say into the phone. “All 25 of them.”
“And,” Barb says back. “What did you think?”
“What did I think? I think he’s really messed up. That’s what I think.”
“Did you read the thing about his best friend?”
“Yeah. He hid in a closet and watched his best friend get beaten to death or something.”
“You are so calloused.”
“Well, how do we even know that actually happened? What if he’s making it up.”
She’s quiet. Then a sigh. And another sigh.
“What? Barb, do you seriously believe him?” Silence. “Okay, in your professional opinion, could something like that cause a person to be crazy?”
“We don’t use the word crazy.”
“Okay, okay. Could it make them struggle with mental things?”
“Yes. It could contribute to his obsessions. Listen, I have to go. I have an early appointment.”
I don’t say anything. She fills in the silence.
“Just forgive him, Misty. You’re the one it’s tearing up. Stop being a bitter mess and go see him.”
She hangs up.
She’s right. I’m a mess. Have been as long as I remember. I’m an adult now. It’s time for me to stop blaming him for everything bad that has ever happened. I’m a mess because I won’t let it go. For some reason it feels right to be angry with him.
But he saw his best friend killed. He was just a little boy, hiding. He couldn’t scream or fight back against that man who murdered his friend. All he could do was watch. How unbelievably awful.
And I’ve blamed him.
It’s time to make things right.
(to be continued)