July can go to hell

Normally I try to keep things fairly light and impersonal here. I may tend toward the dark or sarcastic from time to time, but over all, I’m usually a pretty happy person. However, lately I’ve been feeling a little more easily bruised, overly sensitive, and just generally melancholy. I’ve been wanting to write a little more at length in hopes of lifting some of the weight up off from me, but life’s been pretty busy lately up until right now. And so here I find myself after some dust has settled.

If you’ve just joined me, or stumbled across this place, my blog, or even if you’re just passively following me from some federated service, you'll probably want to take a pass on reading any more of this post. Fair warning: this is just my petty ramblings for my own personal therapy, nothing more. 

So, as I said, I’ve been experiencing some mild depression lately. This is pretty out of character for me given that it’s mid-summer. It's not the same old SAD-induced stuff I’m used to experiencing in brief episodes during the wintertime when I’ve long been trapped indoors for weeks and Vitamin D deficient. My skin has been sun-drenched and the evenings have been long. By most accounts, I shouldn’t feel like I do. 

Although nothing super weighty has happened in my life recently, I’m coming out of a few bad years. I thought I got through most of my feelings, but my grief still pokes its head out from time to time, and sometimes smaller things add up to more than their constituent parts, especially when they're piled up on top of that previous stuff.

What’s been bothering me more recently, for example, is that some summer plans have just not gone so well. I took my four-year-old son to Michigan recently to celebrate my step-dad’s 60th birthday. And to be completely honest, I didn’t really want to go at first and had to really rally and build up my motivation because the last several trips home haven’t been the most positive experiences.

For example, a few years ago I flew back home in support of my mom when she was going through post-op chemo for breast cancer. I went back again a couple of years later in 2021 when my brother went into hospice, where he then died a couple weeks later from the brain tumor he had been fighting since being diagnosed in 2014. Then, last year, some drama unfolded between my youngest (living) brother and his now ex-wife over some custody issues with my nephew, all while my whole family was there vacationing.

So, I might be excused from not being totally thrilled at the prospect of returning. Although much of it was well beyond anyone’s control, it sometimes feels like bad energy just surrounds the place, and I’ve begun to dread going ‘home’ for these kinds of visits because something is always.going.down. My wife even refused to go back this year given past years' experiences, so she stayed here in Oregon with our daughter.

Despite all this, I did my very best to put my negative feelings aside, for my dad’s sake, but also for my son, who still hadn’t met any of his cousins yet. So I put on my game face and tried my best to just roll with it. And it all really had been going pretty well, too, until about halfway through the trip when I had an argument with my brother and my parents.

It started when I had something come up at work while we were up at their RV park vacation home, so I had to finish a few things remotely. No big deal. I had already discussed with my parents that I’d have to work a little on this trip, so it wasn’t completely unexpected. They were just happy we were there.

So when this bit of work came up, my dad asked if he could bring my son down to the beach for a while. I agreed, enthusiastically. My dad’s a great guy and really good with the grandkids. We had just been to the beach the day before and we all had a great time. I figured it would be great bonding time for all of them. Thumbs up. So away they went. 

When I finished my work about an hour later, I walked down to the beach to join them. At first, I thought everyone had left because I didn’t recognize anyone there. But then I noticed my son’s voice from afar. Surprised, I saw that he was swimming a long ways from shore. And although he was wearing a life jacket, he was about 35-40 feet out from the beach, essentially unsupervised.

It turned out that my dad had left to take a friend back to camp and he put my brother in charge over my son. However, my brother wasn’t anywhere within line-of-site of my son when I arrived. He was in the water, but on the other side of a floating dock, completely out of view. My son, who cannot swim, was playing by himself in 15 feet of water without an adult watching over him. 

How long had he been out there? How long had no one been watching him? I struggled to make sense of what was going on. At first, I gave my brother the benefit of the doubt. I just watched. With me there watching, I knew my son wasn’t in any real danger, but I observed to see who was paying attention. As time went on, it became clear that my four-year-old son was really out there all on his own.

No one was paying any attention to him for at least the 5 minutes I was observing, long enough for something to go horribly wrong. I watched long enough for me to have seen my 4-year-old son struggle to get out of the way of other kids much older and larger than him, playing and jumping off the floating dock in his vicinity. Some kids were jumping right over his head, and he showed signs of struggling to stay above water. It was at this point that I called to him to shore, my brother still out of view on the other side of the floating dock.

Once back to shore, I kept my cool and didn’t yell, but I told my brother in a bit of an upset tone that my son shouldn’t have been that far out, and that he definitely shouldn’t be left unattended like that. He quickly got offended by this, arguing that my son wasn’t unattended. He acted as if it would’ve been impossible for anything to happen to him while wearing a life jacket.

I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The icing on the cake was when my brother said something along the lines of “you’re welcome for entertaining your kid for the last couple of hours.” This just left me feeling very hot given that I had just spent 5 hours with his son without my brother the day prior, like he was doing me some enormous favor by spending an hour with my son, his nephew. I know he was just deflecting the fact that he failed to provide the most basic level of care and oversight to my son. 

I was upset at him, but more than anything, I was upset with my dad for his negligence. Later, my brother told me that my dad didn’t even tell him that he was leaving. I was flabbergasted. My dad’s brother died by drowning at the age of 18, so this fact surprised me even more.

To top things off, my parents sided with my brother, and my dad basically denied any wrongdoing. My mom has always been protective of my youngest brother, but this was just over the top. She blamed me for stirring up things unnecessarily. 

I went over the situation again and again in my head to analyze whether I had done something wrong or if I had overreacted. I felt like I was being gaslighted. I wanted to leave, but I was trapped because I was far out in the country and didn’t have a car. And to make matters worse, my dad’s 60th birthday party was to be the next day, the entire purpose for the trip. 

Thank God nothing happened to my son, but I kept coming back to those first few moments when I saw him out there in the water alone. My stomach turns at the thought. But to be made to doubt the own validity of my feelings instead of acknowledging a mistake and just apologizing? I’m not exaggerating when I say that this experience had me looking back and questioning my own upbringing. 

It all left me feeling completely disappointed and disrespected by people I thought had more common sense than this, people whom I thought I could trust. I am still working through a lot of feelings about it.

I spent the evening and much of the rest of the next day removing myself from the situation, staying in another camper. The following evening, I smoothed things over with my brother for the good of the order. It felt like I was lying to myself in doing so, but I didn’t want to ruin my dad’s big event. I’m still feeling deeply hurt by what went down and I’m having trouble trying to figure out how I can move forward given that it’s gone completely unacknowledged since. 

I left Michigan still pretty salty, but was trying to forget about it, focus on the positive, and look forward to a camping trip I had planned on the Oregon coast the following week—this past weekend. I booked the trip six months ago because state parks open up their registration that far in advance and the good places fill up pretty much instantly out here in Oregon (maybe it’s the same elsewhere, too). I knew the trip would be difficult with a young family, but I really thought we would have a lot of fun, too. Turns out we were not ready for that kind of trip. 

After days of preparation and loading the van to the roof liner, it was five hours by car until we reached our destination. My first mistake. My one-year-old daughter screamed and cried for at least half of that trip downstate, likely setting some kind of record, but also laying the groundwork for a pretty rough trip.

Both kids thankfully fell asleep right before we got there, which allowed me and my wife to setup camp fairly quickly and undisturbed. We thought we had gotten over the hump, that we could just enjoy our time there, but unfortunately we were wrong.

The coast ended up being pretty cold at night, dropping down into the upper 40s and low 50s, but it was the 35 mph wind gusts that really did us in. My wife, who had on several layers of clothes, a sleeping bag, and blankets, couldn’t handle the cold. Then, my daughter kept waking up periodically throughout the night before waking up permanently at between 4 and 5 a.m. each morning. As a result, we were all pretty miserable the entire time despite being in such a beautiful place. After two nights of that, we promptly packed up the van and checked ourselves into the nearest Best Western. 

For the most part, that went a lot better, albeit with an underlying air of defeat that permeated everything we did the remainder of the trip. Still, $500 later, we had a pool, a hot tub, and a couple warm beds to sleep in. But that wasn’t the end of it.

Everywhere we went, the kid (my daughter) screamed. Hour trip up the 101 for a hike? Screaming child. Trying to grab some grub at a local brewery with great food and beer? Fussy, crying, screaming child. Spending time at the beach? Screaming child. I think she had just had enough of the road trip life. We all did. I lost my cool at one point and raised my voice, which I regret, feeling completely wiped myself. Most ironically, my son had a great time through all of it and didn’t want it to end. But for me, these experiences have made me want to stay home for the next couple of years.

I would sometimes think how great it was that I had the opportunity to really plan for my family. That unlike my mom, who was thrust into motherhood as a teenager, I started a family in my late 30s because I had lived so much, settled into my career, and was so financially stable. But then other times, I am just so completely drained that I think I must have been crazy to think this would be easier.

At any rate, the month of July can go to hell. I will remain within a 15 mile radius for the foreseeable future. I love my family and I love my life, but this summer is testing me. Until next time. 

Love, Dad

  ✴️ Also on Micro.blog

Bryan @bryan