the missing stair

Disturbing thing I realised while watching Francesca, Baby: Francesca’s mother is flaking on throwing Francesca’s sister Kate’s birthday party, and Cess tells Kate she’ll take her shopping for all the things she needs. Cess has just got in from the shopping. This “missing stair” dynamic is familiar to me.

This winter my car stopped working. I renewed the registration in March but I never got it inspected because I couldn’t drive it and I didn’t have AAA anymore. I was having issues. Dad was having issues. Mum was… coping with us having issues. Fast forward to feeling well enough to fix things. The registration is missing. Instead of looking for it in the mail I didn’t get, I’ve reordered it. I was not up to having the car taken to the garage, so for a little while it was a battle of the missing stairs; in the end, I told Dad to have it done (because my depression was worse at the moment) and he did.

Why hasn’t the registration turned up and why can’t I just hunt it up? I get my hoarding/OCD tendencies from Mum’s side. Her big cannot-do is deal with her papers. I offer repeatedly to do the dealing, because I have organisational schemes coming out my ears. She absolutely cannot cope with other people getting into her papers and disturbing them. There is no way around her on this. I’m probably getting my own post office box by year’s end just to separate my papers out — what papers I can manage to change the address on! And that’ll be some job. But I’ll have to do it. I don’t want a sunroom full of cannot-do.

. . .

My inner social worker is kind of repulsed by the advice these Alateen kiddies are giving Francesca. Is it really empowering to hear “So you don’t have the all-American family? Too bad!” when someone in your family’s an alcoholic? This was the seventies, but I have to wonder where the real help was for these kids. Cess’s mum nearly burns down the house at one point because she blacks out in bed with a cigarette in hand. The Alateen advice — “don’t make it your problem anymore” — doesn’t actually fix the missing stair issue. At the end of the day, no matter what Cess says to her mum, Cess’s father still works out of town and Cess’s mum still drinks. Cess is still raising her sister. “You should have an escape route, in case your mother sets her bed on fire!” Uh, how about “you should go to Social Services about this because your mother is incompetent and your father is unwilling”? But we probably had a terrible reputation even then, so nobody would’ve wanted that.

My household consists of three adults. We have admitted to our issues. Dad’s in therapy. I’ll be back there this week. Mum could use it, but she’s not keen, and hers isn’t so bad. For all that we malfunction, we know we malfunction, and we do what we can to mitigate it. We also don’t have children left in the house to raise. There are three of us encouraging each other to be better. I might understand “missing stair” somewhat better than Joan Surname, but I also understand “fix the missing stair”.

I have also paged through the Orange Papers, so Cess’s mum admitting she needs AA is not a Happily Ever After. My dad had a psychiatrist through the VA who thought twelve-step programs were all that and a bag of crisps, and I’m sorry now that I agreed at all with her. We were all in a low place. Allow me instead to promote the Sinclair Method, which worked well enough for Claudia Christian (aka Ivanova from Babylon 5). I’ll take science over mumblety-peg any day.


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