It’s raining this morning, so Hagrid doesn’t get his walk. I would have walked him, but he didn’t seem to like the rain. Still, we arrive at Bea’s with Hagrid being his usual sweet self.
“Good morning,” Bea says as I sit down, arranging my things on the couch.
We chat about the weather, about Hagrid not getting his walk, about random easy things. I don’t want to talk about real stuff. It’s all so hard, sometimes.
“I’m curious how things went this week?” Bea finally asks me.
“They were okay. Some good, some bad. I don’t know.” I take a sip of coffee, look down at the floor.
“Was it hard not being here with Kat?”
“I missed her, but in some ways it was nice. We could go walk and shop, go to lunch without a major plan, and without Kat whining, or whatever.” I shrug. I don’t know how to explain it, but I know Bea knows how planned out my days have to be for Kat, how much time and effort goes into making each transition in the day as smooth as possible. It’s exhausting.
“So it was a break. Good.” She nods and smiles at me; she gets it.
“Yeah. I missed her, but when I got home her behavior was so bad, I wondered why I missed this?” I whisper it. The thought is horrible, but it’s true, and I need to say it.
“I’m sorry. That’s hard. Sometimes, it seems like kids do punish parents for going away and taking a vacation. But it’s okay. You might just need a few days to get back to normal.”
“Yeah. I think it wasn’t so bad, being away, because I had everything so planned out, and Kat faced timed me a lot, so I knew how things were going,” I say. We talk about all the plans I had made to keep things running smoothly in my absence.
We sit in the quiet for a minute, and then Bea breaks the silence. “And how were things for you, there?”
“Okay. My mom and I went for a few walks, that was good. Everyone came to dinner Tuesday night which was nice. I don’t know.”
“How was your Grandma?”
“She was good. It was good. She looks good. I don’t know. She walked downtown with us, she’s up and about, it’s good.” Hagrid shifts his weight, and I run my fingers through his hair.
“That’s good. If she is walking around like that, she’s got to be feeling pretty good.”
“Yeah. I didn’t say anything…I mean, I didn’t ask about..”
“Well, there wouldn’t have been an opportunity to ask if she was feeling good. If she had been feeling not so good, or struggling, you could have asked how she is feeling, but you really couldn’t when she is well.” Bea tells me. Her voice is neutral, practical.
I nod. “True…..Wednesday my dad’s vacation started, so we all went to lunch, and then I came home. Well, you know my Grandma rode out here with me?” I’m avoiding the topic of her boyfriend. The whole thing still hurts. My heart feels broken when I think about it.
“Yes, I’ve been wondering how that went? What you thought about her boyfriend?” Bea sounds curious, but in a way that isn’t nosy, and like she cares about what happened.
I go silent, petting Hagrid and staring at the floor. I don’t know what to say. Anything I say is going to set off a food of tears.
“I’m guessing it wasn’t good.” Bea’s voice is quieter now, gentle.
I shake my head. “No. It was no good.” Even saying that makes me feel like tears are filling up, ready to spill over at any moment.
“What happened?” Bea questions softly.
“I don’t know. He wasn’t….he’s not nice. I wanted to like him. I really, really did.” And that’s true. I wanted to like him so much. I feel like I failed, let everyone down by not liking him.
“I know you did. You were reserving judgement until you met him.” Bea reminds me of the conversation we had about it the other day.
“But I…he was so…I don’t know. Rude. And I reacted badly. I don’t know. It was all bad.” I sigh. I hate this part of therapy; revealing all the bad things I’ve done, talking about them.
“What made him a jerk?” Bea asks.
“He just…what he said, right away. It was supposed to be a joke I think. I don’t know. Everything was this mess of getting there, and then…” I shake my head.
“Did you go to his place or did he come to your house?”
“Neither. He decided we should meet, but he is terrible at giving directions, and couldn’t tell me exactly where he wanted to meet, and he wouldn’t talk to hubby so hubby could tell me where to go and you know how I am with directions. So it was all really difficult, just getting there. And then he says this thing, and I ignored it. But he said it a second time and I ignored it. But then he said it a third time, and I just..I yelled. It was bad. And I called my mom crying, and she said it was okay, I told her I needed her to know what happened when Grandma calls and tells her I was horrible. I don’t know. But my mom said it’s okay, she got it. She said he’s like a kid, he just keeps repeating the same thing until he gets a reaction, attention.” I sigh. I think I’m mad at him for what he said, but also for not taking the hint. Why couldn’t he just take the hint? Then I wouldn’t have yelled at him.
“I think we need to talk about this more. You had a big reaction, and that is worth exploring. What did he say? And what did you say?” Bea says gently. I know she’s right, but I feel sick, a little panicky at the idea of talking through this.
“I can’t…I can’t repeat it.” I shake my head. My face feels hot. Maybe I’m blushing, but I’m definitely embarrassed. Maybe ashamed, too, of my reaction.
“Was it rude like racist? Or crude? I can’t imagine what someone could say, meeting you for the first time, that would make you so mad.”
I think for a minute. “More like…crude, maybe? I don’t know. It was rude. Mean.”
“Was it swearing?” Bea asks, and I think she is trying to figure out what it is about it that I won’t repeat it.
“It was..yes, a swear word, but that’s not why I can’t say it.” Hagrid jumps off the couch at that moment, choosing to go explore and visit Bea.
“He pottied before we came, but didn’t have a walk, so I just want to make sure he isn’t going to pee anywhere,” I tell her.
“I’m not worried. We just clean it up if he does.” She looks around at the hardwood floor, as if reminding me it’s easy clean up.
“I’m not sure if he will…well, he likes to go on bushes and trees, so I don’t want him going on the side of the couch or something.” I shrug.
After he wanders around a minute, Hagrid returns to Bea, and sets his front paws on her legs. She scratches his head, and grins at me, saying jokingly to Hagrid, “Now, don’t think you distracted me from talking about what happened. You’re cute, but you aren’t that much of a distraction.”
I smile. “Hey, he tried.”
Bea asks me what I said, and I can’t repeat all of that either. Plus, it won’t make sense if she doesn’t know the whole thing.
“I didn’t tell my mom, either. But she was around him enough she can guess what kind of things he said,” I tell Bea.
“So, you aren’t the only one who thinks he is a jerk, right?”
“Right. No one likes him,” I tell her.
“So what have other people said or done? Does your Grandma know how they feel?”
“My aunt yelled at him. But she’s like that. She won’t take crap from anyone. And then, my dad yelled at him, too. And my mom talked to grandma. She knows how people feel. She said her boyfriend gets nervous in social situations and just tells jokes to try to make people like him. So. I don’t know.” I shrug, and look down. Hagrid jumps back up into my lap.
“What did your dad say to him?” Bea asks. I think my dad, maybe my whole family is this kind of mystery to her. A puzzle to figure out.
“My mom was dealing with grandma’s boyfriend by walking away, but he finally said something, like ‘where are you going? You keep walking away from me.’ So mom told him she didn’t appreciate his jokes, so she was walking away. And he made some comment about people not taking a joke, and my dad stepped in, telling him to knock it off. He was standing up for my mom.” I smile a little, because my dad still feels like superman to me in some ways, and him standing up for my mom feels right, it’s good.
“So you weren’t the only one to yell at him. What did your mom think about you yelling at him?”
“She wasn’t surprised. She says I have her temper.”
“You’ve never mentioned your mom having a temper,” Bea tells me. And she’s right.
“It’s because she didn’t. Not when I was growing up. Unless maybe when I was really little. Her temper is legendary. There is one story that has become a family story, of when they were first married, and there was this serving dish that was a wedding gift. My mom had cooked dinner, lasagna or something, and it was not like my dad’s mom cooked it. He made some comment about changing it next time, and my mom got so mad she threw the entire bowl at him. He ducked and it hit the wall. There are a million stories like that.” I shrug. It’s a story that has become a light hearted, comic tale of the struggle of being newly married and merging two lives, but really, it’s not so funny. “But we never saw that. She held her temper, shut down, when she got mad. That’s what I experienced with her.”
“Wow. You experienced the shut down, but you probably sensed that rage underneath. That’s part of why this is so hard, anger is so hard for you. You never saw it expressed in a healthy way.”
“I just…I don’t know. No one was ever mad. But you knew when they were mad.”
“It’s too bad she couldn’t have let some of that temper out when she found your underwear, used it to look at the situation and not hide from it,” Bea says softly.
I think about it for a minute. The little girl still insists I made mom sick, I was bad, she was mad at me because I am gross, dirty, bad. The rest of me doesn’t know anymore; I am between two worlds, Bea’s world and my old world. It’s hard to know which is the true story.
It’s quiet for a moment, and then Bea talks about how whatever he said triggered something to make me so upset. “I’m still curious what he said,” she says gently. It’s not pushy, just true curiosity.
“I can’t…” I look down at the floor again. “I could write it,” I tell her, feeling stupid. It’s childish to not be able to say things out loud. But really, I can’t.
“Okay.” Bea agrees right away, easily, like it’s not a big deal. “Is a post it big enough?” When I nod, she gets up and grabs a pen and post its, handing them to me.
I stare at the post it for what feels like eternity. Shakily, I start to write. I’ve never gone through so much just for a piece of ass. It takes me a few stops and starts to write it out, and I feel sick just looking at it. Bea maybe talks while I write, and we maybe talk until I quiet some of the anxiety in me and hand her the pen and post its. I don’t know if we talk, because I’m far away, not really here for a minute or two. Maybe more. I don’t know.
She reads the post it, and I pull my knees to my chest, burying my face. “Ugh. I hope you called him am asshole,” she says. “That’s your beloved Grandma he was talking about. To say that to a granddaughter?! I’d say whatever your reaction, whatever you said was justified.”
She believes it was really bad what he said. It’s not just me, not all in my head. It’s okay. I stop holding my breath, breathe deep. It’s okay. “I should have just held my temper..I don’t know. My grandma must hate me right now, think I’m horrible.”
“I don’t think she thinks that. It does sound like you are having some judgements about your reaction.”
I shake my head. “I feel like I messed up. I wanted to like him. I don’t know. It feels like I’m losing my Grandma.” And then the tears overflow, and I cry,
“I don’t think you have lost her. She’s still here. She might be feeling sad and like you are rejecting her because you don’t like her boyfriend. You can’t know until you ask. And you can’t tell her you aren’t rejecting her, unless you talk to her.”
“I can’t…because…she…..I….” I do my best to explain that as long as I don’t reach out and actually get rejected by her, I’m safe, because then she is isn’t fully gone.
“Yes. But you are also feeling really bad right now. I think it’s because there was no closure. One of you is going to have to reach out. Because otherwise there can’t be a repair. You might need to sit with it all for a while, but you will know what to do.” She is certain I’ll know what to do. I’m not so sure.
“Do you want to talk about what you said? I think that can give insight to your feelings, too.” Bea says slowly.
“I just…I..” Hagrid is sitting next to me on the couch, so I reach down and pet him, keeping my face buried. I can’t look at Bea, I’m so ashamed of my behavior. “I ignored him twice…..but then we were saying goodbye, and getting ready to get into our cars and he said it again. So I said ‘I never worked so hard just to let my grandma leave with her…lots of swear words…boyfriend.’ And then he said something about waving goodbye, so I flipped him off. He said, ‘I think you got the wrong finger.’ And I said, ‘oh no. That was absolutely the right one.’ And then I got in the car and left.”
“Good for you!” Bea means it. She sounds almost proud. Like I did a very good thing. I’m confused, doesn’t she see how mean I was? How badly I behaved? “That was expressing anger in a healthy way. It was good. It wasn’t anger turned on yourself, and it wasn’t uncontrollable rage. You really went head to head with him, kept your wits.”
“I should have said goodbye and kept my mouth shut.”
“We talk about fight, flight or freeze. You fought back. It’s exactly what is supposed to happen. You did the right thing with your anger. What did your grandma say?”
“Nothing. She was in the car..or getting in the car…but nothing.” It’s odd, how my memory is so clear with what he said, and my bad behavior, but then right after that, it’s fuzzy. I remember driving home, vaguely, calling my mom, but I don’t know where my grandma was.
“So she might not even know,” Bea suggests.
I shrug. I don’t know. I feel like my relationship with my Grandma is ruined.
“It feels like to me, things happen for a reason. He said that, and it triggered you. He was talking to a granddaughter about her Grandma, her safe person, someone so special to her, and you felt protective. It’s like how things flip at some point and older adults are vulnerable again, like children. And you don’t want to see your grandma get hurt by this guy. Like you were hurt when you were a child. So it really triggered you.” Bea sounds so kind and understanding. I want to tell her that he seemed too smooth; like that guy in school who knows he is good looking, but who is more concerned about image than anything. He felt, to me, like he was projecting this very fake person, not who he really is. That he was this charming, joke telling, everyone likes me, I am so great person on the outside, but it’s all fake. I don’t know. I don’t say anything because I think it sounds silly. How do you explain that you get feelings about people, and he felt wrong? I don’t know.
“I’m afraid I’ve lost my grandma. It feels like she is gone.” I hug Hagrid, and tears fall again.
“I know it feels like that. You haven’t. I think if you talk to her, you will see that. This is where we need to make choices from our wise mind, not our emotional mind. You might just need to sit with this until you can see what is the right thing to do for you.” She validates how I feel, but reminds me that just because it feels this way, doesn’t make it true.
Bea and I talk about it a little more, but there’s not much left to say. I cry some more, and it’s comforting to have someone sit with me while I cry. I don’t worry anymore about crying not being okay, or upsetting Bea with my tears.
“I…there is one more thing….” I say hesitantly.
“Okay. What is it?” Bea asks right away. She makes it easy to keep talking, because I believe she wants to hear what I have to say.
“I..when we were eating..downtown…my cousin walked by, in her swimsuit. I…it’s downtown, right on the beach…so…I don’t know…it’s just what the teen girls do…my mom asked her where her cover up was…I don’t know…..it…after she left, they all went on and on…that it wasn’t safe, and that these girls don’t know what they are asking for…like…I can’t…just because she is walking around in her bikini, if something happened…I mean…now I know what they think, where they stand….I don’t know…..” I stumble over the story, unsure how to explain what I thinking, unable to find the words, or to say the words.
Bea says something about how I saw the truth, that it wouldn’t matter what my cousin was wearing, nothing would be her fault. She says something about how this is a problem in our society, blaming woman for rape because of how they are dressed, or where they are or how they are behaving, that so many people buy into this idea, even though it is wrong.
“I don’t…I mean….I guess now I know what they would think if they knew the truth about me.” I say.
“I can see why you would think that, but you were 5. The whole situation is different. I don’t think they would think that. I really don’t. You were a little kid.” Bea sounds so certain, but I’m not so sure.
I can’t say it, but I’m thinking I was a teen, I did make choices. I don’t know. I sit and blink away tears, but it’s useless and they fall anyway.
“It gets mixed up, I’m sure, you are thinking you were a teen. It’s different. You were 5. He brought you into his crazy world, like brain washing, made you believe and feel things way too early, too soon. This isn’t the same as what your family was saying. I think you are starting to be able to see that, at least in some ways, none of this was your fault.” Bea knows me well enough to know where my head is, and she says it for me. I nod, but can’t speak.
We talk around this a little bit, until there is just a few minutes left. Then we switch to light hearted subjects, talking about Kat’s birthday, and her birthday party with Bea the next day.
“Kat wants dirt cake, so tarantula can have bugs to eat,” I tell Bea. Tarantula is a puppet they have been playing with, making webs, and having play dates.
“That’s perfect,” Bea tells me, smiling.
We talk over a few more details, and then say goodbye. I feel okay leaving, but there is this weird sadness sitting in my chest. It takes me all day to identify. It’s grief, it’s me missing my Grandpa, it’s fear of losing my Grandma. I cry a little later in the day, and give myself permission to feel sad, to miss Grandpa. I think I’ve finally learned that it’s okay to cry.