I suppose I should start with the conversation my mother and I had that brought this to the front of my mind. When I was getting my breakfast ready (around noon), my mom asked me if I could give her some advice since she’s convinced that I’m a good thinker. We’re quite close, and she does this from time to time, when she’s having a hard time figuring something out, or needs help with a decision. She says that I have the gift of wisdom. Right. Anyway, she wanted to know if it would be a good idea for us to go back to the last place we had lived overseas to ask her and my dad’s former coworkers why they had treated us the way they did.
For a little context, many of you know that I lived for a long time in Fresno, California, longer than I had lived anywhere else without moving. My family had no real connection to California, I mean, I have some distant relatives there, but I met them because I lived there, not the other way around. The reason we moved there was because my parents needed marriage counseling, and not just the normal sort. There’s a counseling center there specifically for Pastors and Missionaries and so on, and my parents were Missionaries. The reason they needed counseling was that the stresses of their work and living overseas and all the transitions had taken a toll on their marriage. This was before they even moved to South Asia.
Things were already not quite right, and then, just after I had started 9th grade, we moved to a country that was completely different than anything we had experienced before. On top of that, women were considered inferior and a temptation, in this old and very slow to change culture. My sister and I started boarding school in the mountains, not far from the capital city where my parents were getting settled. Before long, we realized that the expatriates with whom we spent most of our time, were not welcoming or helpful, and they expected us to behave in certain ways without telling us what those ways were. It was the worst experience of my life. Ironically, most of my bad experiences had to do with the expatriates, not the locals. So it would be no surprise that just under a year and a half later, my family had developed some serious issues. Cut to January 2001. We arrived in Fresno and my parents began counseling, starting the process of recovery from all that had happened.
Now it’s December 2011, almost eleven years later. One would think that after eleven years, most of the pain from what happened would have faded away, and we would have all moved on with our lives. My dad and sister seem to be alright, but they also tend to have a very selective memory, remembering only what they want to remember at any given time. They’re social butterflies, and seem to not have a care in the world. My mom and I, however, are quieter, and more introspective. I often analyze the various things that happened back then, and I obsess over the potential causes and effects. Unless I’m having a mental breakdown, the more difficulty I have with a memory, the more stoic and logical I get.
When I’m at a funeral, everything is backwards. If I’ve never met the person who passed away, I hear the stories, I’m moved, and I cry. Otherwise, I feel nothing. I look at the body of the person I knew, and I observe how badly the makeup is done (I’ve decided that I should be cremated as a result). I hear the stories and pick apart their honesty. I watch them tell these pretty stories, about how wonderful the person was, and watch them tear up, wondering if it’s for show or if are they simply deluding themselves in their grief. I feel like I should feel something, but I don’t. My mother feels things, but she avoids the spectacle as much as possible.
So, as I already mentioned, when I was getting my breakfast ready, she asked if she should try to get an explanation, or an apology, for the way things went for my family. As much as I hated to say it, I told her no, because she would just get hurt anymore. I don’t think they think they did anything wrong, or that hurtful even. After all, that was just the way they did things, something they had told my parents many times before my family left.