The cruelest things
are the ones right in front of you,
just below the surface,
that lay there for decades,
your entire childhood or longer,
unnoticed and unnamed.

My attention deficit disorder
was the reason I drowned in homework
every night.
But I was too smart to
have a learning disability.
Reading The Grapes of Wrath twice
in high school
to get out of it
what everyone else got
on one pass through.

My father’s bipolar disorder
lurking his whole life
like a shark in calm waters.
Symptoms showing here and there
that just seemed like eccentricities.
Until he had a full-on meltdown
late in life.
And was finally diagnosed.
For years, I’d been arguing
with a mentally ill man
trying to win his acceptance.
For the last twenty years,
I’d been beating my head against the wall
trying to get close to him.
And now that wall had a name.
And it was made of solid steel.
There was never going to be any great day of reconciliation between us.
He was never going to open his eyes
and accept me as I am.

The cruelest things
are the hands dealt out
and played in the background of your life.
Betrayed by fate.
Damned by destiny.
Unseen until the day
you look behind you
at all the beautiful damage.