Hidden, forgotten emails in your inbox reminding you of the past you want to forget

Before I switched over to Gmail in my mid-twenties as my primary email, I still used my Yahoo email address often. Now, it’s been relegated as my “shopping/email list” email address, aka sometimes junk, sometimes fun email. Back then, my Yahoo email was my primary email that I’d use to communicate with family and friends. Randomly today, I accidentally clicked on a folder called “Unread,” which didn’t make any sense because I had read all those messages. It was mostly a lot of messages that were (somehow) marked as “Unread” and still bolded as though they were never opened. And also oddly enough, a lot of these messages were between Ed and me. Most of them dated back to around 2006-2008, but the themes across the messages seemed to be the same: I would urge him to look for a new job or move out of our parents’ house. He would tell me in very short messages that our dad was constantly criticizing and putting him down, making meals out “very unpleasant” when it was just the three of them (our parents and him) to the point where he couldn’t enjoy the food. He repeatedly said he had no moment to himself in their house because once he was home and they were there, too, he was expected to be at our mother’s “beck and call.” If she called his name out and needed help with something, it was expected he would drop everything he was doing in that instant and come immediately to help her. It didn’t matter how trivial the task was. If he didn’t come in that instant, she would, of course, yell and talk about how “useless” he was. Our father, on the other hand, would just criticize him constantly during any interaction with him. When he wasn’t criticizing Ed, he’d be ignoring his very existence under their roof. When Ed would work late and sleep in the next morning, our father would barge into the bedroom, where the main house’s computer was, go online, and blast whatever random music, video, or news he wanted as though my brother wasn’t even there attempting to sleep. Sometimes, it would be as early as 7 or 8am — he just had no regard for my brother’s existence at all. Yet, our dad never did any of this when I’d come home and be sleeping in that same room. The difference? He actually respected me, but he had zero respect for his older son.

It’s sad to read these short exchanges that we had. It rarely was safe for us to talk on the phone with each other because one of our parents would inevitably be lurking in the next room, waiting to hear my brother say something negative about one of them and pounce on him. So, he’d usually wait until they were out of the house to call me. And if that didn’t work, he would occasionally call me from Macy’s, where he used to work, or just email me. In one of those emails, dated in April 2007, he wrote to me while I was in college with one line: “When are you coming back home?”

I stared at that email for a couple minutes today and just felt so sad. There was some deep sadness in that message that I detected, as though he was just wallowing and needed someone else there who he trusted who didn’t look at him like he was a piece of shit. No one should ever feel that way about themselves, especially by their own parents.

Then, my blood pressure went up again. And the wrath came back. You can forgive a lot of things. But these things can never, ever be forgotten.

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