October 31, 2021
To read the original post from 2012, click here.
Ten years ago, I left my friend Chase’s apartment in Mt. Rainier, Maryland. As he left for work, I began the final leg of my drive from Buffalo to my new home, Newport News, Virginia. I could have made the 10-hour trek in one afternoon; but I never wanted to move to Virginia. Instead, I opted for one more night of comfort, as I braced myself for the then-unknown future.
It is easy to get lost in DC; the streets were designed to make several turns to get to one’s destination. I took one-too-many lefts and rights and found myself in front of the US Capitol. I took a picture and a deep sigh, as I figured out the next series of easts and wests which would lead me south.
I wondered how life would happen in Virginia. At first, I hoped it would be and feel like Buffalo. No matter who said or did what, Timile and I were an inseparable unit. Given the parties involved, I knew there would be shit to shovel, sit in, and some slung in my direction. Nonetheless, I looked forward to the time with my family, once again.
Minutes into my new life, I was handed a hoe and told “You see this mountainous pile of shit? It’s till time!” Everything felt off. In a room at my in-laws, I was taken into a room by the matriarch and given the rundown of what I missed. Chemotherapy and radiation is literally pumping poison into one’s bloodstream. When my mother in-law told me Timile had undergone both, every day, accompanied by medical tests, when she weighed 88lbs sounded unethical.
I was told I needed to lay low for a while because the doctors did not know I was in Timile and my daughter’s life. When I visited, it must be in the evenings and not for long periods of time. For the most part, I needed to stay away, while they made financial preparations.
Timile had been admitted a few days earlier. Eight months into this journey, hospital admissions for a few days occurred every two weeks. I went into the space with an optimistic smile because in the moment, I saw another medical facility I was prepared to call home, like Winthrop, Memorial Sloan Kettering, and Roswell Park before. The first few minutes fit this vision. Timile smiled when she saw me and so did Cydney, in her cute cupcake Halloween costume my mother bought for her.
While she spoke her piece, I had less and less peace. Despite my politeness, she felt I was not receptive of what she had to say and told her husband.
I forgot about the confrontation with my father-in-law until I read my own words from nine years ago. In the moment, I understood he, as a man, had to do what he had to do, based on the words of his wife. However, his words and allegations were not only unsavory; but none of his or his wife’s business. Almost every conversation became about money, be it future checks to collect or their accusation I spent all Timile’s.
Let’s just be direct and call the previous five paragraphs what they are: I was gaslit. At 25 years old, the significantly older took advantage. A painted picture of possibilities was presented seven months prior. However, Timile and I possessed the ability to perceive the words were a printed proof of a photograph. Timile was too tired in September. The in-laws visited in Buffalo a few times, for many reasons. They saw what they saw and re-pitched their presentation.
From this moment on, the sheer sound of my mother-in-law’s voice triggered anxiety and high blood pressure until my fingertips went numb. I smoked cigarettes and weed I bought for Timile’s pain in Buffalo (Rest in Peace to my friend, coworker, and the plug, Geno, who succumbed from his own bout with cancer in 2020). I spent most of my days in one of two places: my lonely apartment and the local Starbucks, waiting until a quiet time to see my girls in peace. I will write more about this next week. To be frank, a hazy fog left me in confusion and my vulnerability cost me my daughter.
The last sentence has played a major role in my emotional unavailability. The “come down and let’s be a family,” was a camouflaged mirage. The family envisioned consisted of Timile and Cydney. Once they got what they wanted, they stuck to their script, and found an excuse to get rid of me. I felt discarded and used. I’ll need more words and time to unpack this; therefore, for myself, I will leave this open and let it linger.
Real shit, I was not allowed to spend one-on-one time with my daughter without a watchful eye, as if Cydney were not mine, and/or as if I would cause harm.
As I reread my essay from 2012, I thought to myself, “Damn, Chad. You were angry when you wrote this!” I pictured the moment, seated on Chase’s couch in Mt. Rainier, in disbelief how different life was, a year later, in the same space the story I wrote began. Moments after I clicked publish on WordPress, Single Dadventure, which had existed for two months by then, came to life. My career as a writer began, right then and there.
Nine years removed from Mt. Rainier and a decade from Virginia, I have chosen a different lens to view my experiences in Virginia. These words will still fly, I still do not like my in-laws and never will; I have no problem articulating these words and sentiments to their face. They too suffered a loss and felt guilty for how life played out, for all parties involved. The last two sentences are not new; I have written them before, somewhere on this very website.
What’s new is this: In their own way, my in-laws were being parents to me, too. The bullshit they projected became protection. I did not need to see Timile’s last days or her funeral. There would have been moments in my mind I would not have been able to unsee or forgive them for. It hurt; but it did not do harm. So thank you.