In Greek mythology Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo because he had the hots for her. Cassandra was just not that into him and since Apollo was a bit of a hot head when he learned that Cassandra refused to be his Hellenic hometown honey he placed a curse on her so that no one would ever believe her predictions. Cassandra predicted all kinds of horrible things and no one ever believed her—not even her parents and she was rewarded with her gift of precognition with isolation, alienation, despair and was even raped by Ajax.
I have always identified with Cassy not because I ever had any unrequited romances with cursing immortals or even because I am psychic but rather because I saw things in my family and I dared to say what I saw and I was punished for speaking my truth. I had the unenviable roll of the truth teller. It was a lousy role to have as whenever I would speak my truth no one would believe me. I tried other roles, I tried to be the silent and inside screaming to be heard type and I also tried the biting my tongue and rolling my eyes kind of gal—-I always returned to my truth telling ways.
Why do I tell you this now? Well, my Cassandra like ways have once again become an inconvenient truth. I am not sure if you recall but the other day in my piece Road trip redux I mentioned that my mother enjoyed her alcohol. I think I told that truth in a matter of fact and not in a terribly harsh way. On Thanksgiving I mentioned my blog to a friend of the family and this nice woman was kind enough to show an interest in my blog. I gave her my blog address and then we all went back to eating turkey.
The next day I heard from my mother that this woman said that I wrote awful things about my mother. I told my mother what I wrote. My mother said that I owed her an apology. But, everything I said was true and so I found that I was outraged, angry and appalled at the notion I owed her an apology. I was back in the midst of the Cassandra complex of my youth.
My mother knows that I think she is an alcoholic. She has known that for a long time. Both she and my father met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol addiction without question. Friends, family and even people in their workplace knew there was a problem but failed to mention it to me until years later. I thought I was the only one to see it and as I had no siblings I never got to test my reality until I went to Al-Anon and therapy.
I went to my first Al-Anon meeting at 14 in a group room in a Methodist church down the street from me. It was in this room that for the first time in my life that I could tell the truth of what I saw and people believed me—adults actually believed me. I should have gone years before that, for example the times my Father drove on the wrong side of the street after a social function or the time my mother threw up on me or the many-many-many nights that they both passed out on the couch would have all been made easier if I didn’t have to bear them alone.
The topper for me was the time my mother was arrested for drunk driving with two of my school friends in the car and then I was blamed by my parents for her arrest because I asked her if she would drive them home. It was the next day I walked to an Al-Anon meeting. Being young and desperate to get them to quit drinking I would pour their booze out or fill the Vodka bottles with water so they wouldn’t drink as much. I would leave brochures I got at Al-Anon around the house so they might see how much their drinking was affecting me and they would instead give the pamphlets to their friends as coasters for their cocktails and then mockingly recount the hilarious story of me going to Al-Anon.
My father died an alcoholic and only quit drinking when the chemo for his lung cancer made him too sick to drink. During my father’s illness my mother drank many tall glasses of “water” that were filled with Vodka. Once I caught my mother downing a glass of Vodka during that time and she said to me, “ I drink because I need too.” It was the closest she ever came to admitting their was a problem. I remember that moment with extraordinary tenderness. In that moment I saw my wounded mother and imagined all the reasons she needed to drink to keep the pain away. I felt real and genuine compassion for her and I was stunned by her honest admission.
I tell you all this not as a way to punish my parents. I tell you this because these things are true and they are what happened to me and when I say these things I am not telling you something bad about my parents. I am telling you my parents were sick and wounded and that they were in pain and that their pain hurt me in both emotional and physical ways.
My father never did and my mother never will apologize for all the pain that their drinking caused me. At this point I am not even sure she even remembers any of it and that is almost more painful than the memories I alone hold. My mother no longer drinks like she did. I often wonder if that is because so much of her pain came from my father or just because she is old. I don’t know why she drinks less, I only know that she does and I am happy about that.
I think of this lovely woman, the friend of the family, who came to my blog on Friday and read my post about my road trip and I am guessing that what she saw here was a horrible daughter who said mean and awful things about her mother—-and I am so sorry if that is how she sees me. I see instead a seven year old girl whose mommy passed out and has thrown up on her and who is crying and scared because her mommy won’t wake up. I want an apology for that little girl. I would like that apology. But I will not ever get that apology.
I tell my truth not to hurt anyone. I tell my truth because it is my truth to tell. I will always acknowledge that this is my truth and others may not share my version of the truth and I respect that. But, I will not deny my truth and and I will not apologize for it. Unlike Cassandra, I am not destined to continue to go unheard and unbelieved.