My parents like things to disappear.
My father makes things disappear, for example, by standing at the garage door and tossing them out there. Cans, bottles, phonebooks, whatever, once they are in the garage, they are gone.
Of course, this doesn’t mean he doesn’t whine about the messiness of the garage. He always moans that his tools are a mess, and I agree. The most frustrating part of doing work in the garage is finding the right wrench, which has disappeared.
What he doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that this has always been his problem. No white outlines on a pegboard kind of guy is he, so there never has been order. It was I, when forced to do a brake job against my will, who was the last to reorganize his tools, I who set up the shop light over the tool bench. Still, it is I who gets blamed for the mess.
My mother uses more simple techniques. To her, anything on the floor is disappeared. She will throw slick magazines onto the rug, no matter that in the past I have slipped on them and hurt myself, and declare them disappeared. She will brush a table onto the floor, and to her the mess has disappeared. She will throw her old clothes onto the floor and assume they will disappear to the “welfare,” never caring that no one wants her stained socks or shot bras.
It’s easy to think this is a recent thing, happening as they get older. But as a child who was expected to disappear, I know it is not.
My mother, for example, doesn’t remember the around seven years when my nickname in the family was “Stupid.”
“You made that up!” she told me, years ago.
My sister remembers, though, when from when I was about five until when I was thirteen, and the name changed to “Stupid,OhTheShrinkToldUsNotToCallYouThat” I was officially sanctioned as “Stupid.”
All sorts of things disappear, swept away with the expectation someone else will clean them up.
And that someone else — that scapegoat — is me.