Talking Back To Your Parents

, , , , , , , | Healthy | August 6, 2018

At some point when I was a kid, my father got the bright idea of using me for weight-bearing massage “treatments” by having me walk about on his back barefoot while he was lying on the floor. Mom usually gave me a hand to keep me stable. I have no clue if it ever worked to actually help with anything, but he kept periodically having me do it. When I was little I still thought it was fun.

His back seemed to gradually get worse as I grew older: lower spine problems. He mostly stopped having me do the walking massages as I aged into my teens.

Then one day when I was 17, when I hadn’t done it in several years, he seemed to be having some particularly bad back pains, and decided to have me stand on his back again. For some reason he was just absolutely convinced it would magically cure him, and somehow managed to rope Mom into agreeing with this. The problem is that at this point I weighed about 115 pounds — only about 15 pounds less than him — and could tell this was a terrible idea.

I refused. He insisted. I refused again and protested, pointing it out as being foolish and dangerous at my weight relative to his — he is a man of very slight and narrow build. He called me ridiculous. He and Mom both kept insisting, urging, and nagging me, and telling me I was being ridiculous. “Nothing will happen!” “Come on, it’s just a few minutes!” “Just stand on his back for a bit!” “Come on! Just help out your dad!” “It has to be you; there’s no one else, and you still weigh a lot less than Mom!”

After much protesting from me and nonstop insistence and urging — from Mom in particular, who’s always been very good at managing to bully me into doing just about anything against my will — I gave in, despite my better judgment. I very shakily stepped up on Dad’s bare back. His skin was sliding around sickeningly on his back under my feet. I nearly fell off right away, despite Mom doing her best to hold me up there, barely managing to stabilize me with her own entire weight. Meanwhile, he was very impatiently urging me to quit hesitating and being a coward, and get on with it already.

When I finally managed to stand on him properly, putting my entire weight on his back, he grunted alarmingly. Very alarmingly. And then he went abruptly very quiet. After maybe a couple of steps on him, Mom helped me get back off. Then, there were some very pointed, meaningful and alarmed looks between the two of them, but they didn’t actually say anything. I took this to mean I could finally escape the living room. Frankly, I just didn’t much care what was going on as long as I was no longer forced to participate.

There was a quiet commotion behind my back and for the rest of the day, I kind of made a point not to ask any questions for fear of being made to take part in some other poorly-thought-out treatment.

Though they’d never included me in important family concerns or given me any details about dad’s health problems, the general state of things became obvious to me in the next couple of days. What they’d made me do was indeed — Surprise! Surprise! — an incredibly terrible idea. Clearly I was too heavy, and it damaged his back even further. It was pretty severe, as far as I could tell, based the fact that he’d been forced to stay home from work for the next full week while spending pretty much all his time lying flat on the floor, except for occasional doctor’s appointments that Mom somehow had to find a way to cart him to.

Despite knowing it was stupid, I still felt guilty about what happened.

They didn’t say anything to me beyond a vague statement that Dad’s back had gotten worse — as if it was actually even possible to pretend that this had no relation with what they’d made me do. But there was never any hint of admitting that they’d done something foolish or that I’d been right. Unsurprisingly, in the following years, it became clear that Dad’s back was significantly damaged forever after this incident.

Lesson to be learned here: once in a while a teenager really does turn out to be smarter and have more basic common sense than both parents put together.

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