Sunday, December 27, 2009

Everybody Lies

I'm just not good at it.

I've attempted a couple of lies in my past, as a child and as an adult, such as: "Julie, what are you doing in there?" "Nothing!" *bathroom door slams open, and my father enters to find me with a sink full of water, stirring baby powder into it with the toilet brush*

My parents pounded into my head that lying is absolutely unacceptable. You get in far less trouble if you simply tell the truth from the get go. That, my friends, is a fact.

I've attempted to live by the axiom that Honesty is the Best Policy, but I do know the merit of lies of omission. I once ran into someone I used to work with and he looked like sixteen locomotives had run over him over the past few years. I simply avoided making any comment on his appearance. No, "You look great!" or any such tripe. An ex-boyfriend was an absolutely lousy kisser, and I merely avoided ever bringing up the topic.

I got my first tattoo at the age of 20 knowing that it would upset my mother hugely. I never told her I was going to get one, but after it was done I felt I had to show her immediately rather than spend years hiding it from her. She reacted, well, horribly. Hysterics. Spoke with her monsignor about it. I felt better not hiding it though.

Yesterday I looked at Livvie's fish, Hungry Arthur, and I knew he wasn't long for this world. He was hanging out at the bottom of his tank, and he didn't look like himself. Please don't ask how a fish can manage to not look like himself, but after almost two years of living with him and caring for him daily I could tell something was wrong. I told Rich last night that I didn't expect him to make it through the night, and I was right. Livvie woke up crying at about 4am, and when I went in to care for her I checked on him. He was still around. By 830 this morning he was gone and beginning to turn gray.

Rich and I discussed the matter, and he felt we should switch him out for a new fish without her finding out. I was weighing the options in my head, and I originally agreed with him. Livvie isn't at a place cognitively where she can understand the finality of death. Her only knowledge of the word "dead" in general is in relation to AA and C batteries. So I agreed with him without liking it one bit. I did know, though, that I didn't want her to catch a glimpse of her already decaying little buddy who has watched over her every night while she sleeps. While she wasn't looking I managed to scoop him out and remove him from the premises. I turned off the light on the tank, and went about my business, albeit with my stomach starting to knot.

Rich left to do some work at the other house, and my mother left for Mass. Livvie was playing in her room. My chest kept tightening and my stomach kept roiling until I simply couldn't take it another second. Was it for my benefit or hers? I don't know. I simply felt she deserved to hear the truth, regardless of whether or not she would truly understand it. So I led her to the fish tank, turned the light back on, and pointed and said, "Honey, I have to tell you something. Your fish is gone." She said, "Fish is gone?" and I told her yes he was. Then I said, "Honey, your fish got old and sick, and he died. He passed away. He won't be here anymore." She was puzzling it out in her head. I could see the wheels turning. She knows what sick means. Not so much the dead part. So I said again, "He passed away honey. He died. He couldn't stay with us anymore. If you want one, we can get you a new fish." She looked up and said, "A new fish to put in the water?" I told her yes. I told her she could pick one out. She said, "New fish!" and moseyed off.

Nope. Doesn't really get it.

I have no issue with lying about Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny, and even the Tooth Fairy. I don't know why those things are different to me, but they are. I simply couldn't mislead my kid in this instance. I decided to take a chance and see how it went. It could have blown up in my face. I know I should have called Rich and told him my intentions. I simply couldn't hold it in another second.

Yeah, I probably did it for me.

Lies weigh heavily on my heart. They always have. They crush me with their weight into millions of pieces until I start crying on a regular basis. The biggest lie my mother ever told me was on the day my father died. She came home that night, told me Daddy was gone, and that they had done all they could to save him. Several months later I heard her sobbing and went into the bedroom. She looked at me and said, "I lied to you. Daddy was already dead when we got to the house. There was nothing anyone could do."

And then over the years she managed to file that little tidbit away into the recesses of her mind so that when I brought it up years later she had no idea what I was talking about. It had upset her THAT much.

Yeah. No. Sorry, folks. I won't ever do that to myself.

I carry enough guilt for things I've said and done out in the open.


Chuck said...

I'm very good at lying to my wife about very, very ridiculous things. It's a game we play where I try to convince her of nearly impossible things. The first was that I was born with a tail. She bought it, which gave me the game.

But she got wise, so the secondary meta-game is to bring up things that seem like lies, but are truths. She'd never seen The Exorcist, so I said that the girl masturbated with a crucifix, and she was convinced I was lying. Later, the truth came out, and it was further triumph. Lies and truth and truth and lies.

Reality is, though, I can lie about fantastical weirdness, but I can't lie about basic shit. So, truth is therefore the default lest unicorn-laden fantasy come into play.

-- c.

Cyn said...

My mom closed herself in her bedroom and cried upon finding my 1st tattoo. I did not lie about it, just wore a dress. Dad spotted it first as it was on my ankle. This then led to the discussion was I on drugs and if so, which ones? Meanwhile I went on my way to church as it was Sunday and that was why I wore a dress in the first place. My brother found it very amusing. BTW I was NOT on drugs. Nor did it turn out did I join a biker gang!