By the time I was 13 or so, I had begged my parents to see a shrink. I started off asking my mother, but of course she wouldn’t, couldn’t make such a decision without making me go through the humiliation of asking my father. My parents never carried health insurance so the only option was county health services. In short, welfare, of which my parents felt only people of disreputable character ever availed themselves. I pleaded for four or so hours, crying and trying to impress upon them how bad it was inside ‘me’. They were both of that small mindset, doubtless products of their generations and barely literate upbringing, that mental illness was a personality flaw that was best addressed by squaring ones shoulders and sucking it up. Bootstraps. Plugging along. Take responsibility. Name your cliche`, they used it. Mother, however, had seen my mood swings flip wildly for years at this point, and probably had a half-clue what the abuse at my father’s hand had done to me internally, so when I told her I wanted to go, I saw that little bit of alarm in her eyes. Experience should have taught me that my father would never allow this, but I thought my mother would be able to control the situation if I could just get her to let me go. I was still clueless as to the depth of my father’s inhumanity. I was still under the impression he was just shallow, power-influence-money-control-pussy hungry. I didn’t realize he was a card carrying sociopath. He kept digging at me as to why I felt I needed to go. Now that I am older, I realize he was anticipating me pointing the finger at him. But the abuse was still very much intact. I was utterly convinced of my own worthlessness, that all I touched was shit, that I didn’t deserve to live, that I would never accomplish anything because I didn’t deserve to, and i was incapable of ever bettering myself so that I could be deserving one shiny day. Still, he suspected that a good practitioner might be able to dig some of the truth out, and so after the initial examination where they decided I did indeed very much need to be seen, Daddy lied about the family income so that we couldn’t afford it. He said we had an income. He had no job. Later, his fulltime job was screwing the neighbors’ wives (they told me this had taken place years later) and playing Pong.
A month after my 16th birthday I tried to kill myself.
When I was 15, I read somewhere that in order to get rid of ‘the blues’, my generation’s slang for depression, it was a great idea to give of yourself, donate your time, get involved with others. I was on board with that. I had been dreaming of a life devoted to helping others, and because my own life was so filled with pain, I felt a special connection to people in pain. I didn’t care really how the cessation of pain happened, I just knew from the time I was about 9 that I wanted to help stop it, in myself, and also others. So I went to volunteer at a suicide hotline center. I ended up speaking to a lot of older people which was great. I really liked older folks. The older, the better. They were so wise, so polite, so sad, so alone. There wasn’t the malice and condescension I was so used to from the adults I knew. I wanted them t0 know that I cared, that I admired them, that I really did want to sit and talk for hours, listening to their stories of loving their children who never called, of long dead husbands who loved with their entire beings, of the loving homes they had spent their lives building and tending. For the record, volunteer work only helps as long as you’re actively doing it. It does nothing to get you out of your own head on the bus ride there or the bus ride back (I had to take the bus because my parents wouldn’t drive me, but by that time I knew to steal the fare out of my father’s sock drawer). Volunteer work does nothing to help depression as you’re trying to fall asleep unless of course you are the kind of person to spend hours congratulating yourself for being a good person, which clearly I was not. There was some incalculable grand debt hanging above me like Damocles’ sword, a debt I could never pay, a debt ever-threatening to crush me under its weight, a debt that was a beacon for all to see my worthlessness. Daddy’s words, “No wonder people don’t like you. They can see how lazy you are, how little regard you give to your appearance, how little effort you put into being presentable.” The message was clear. Being overweight or not wearing makeup or not being well dressed meant people had a right to look down on you, and you didn’t deserve to be considered equal. This from a parent who had never given me an allowance or taken me shopping for clothes, this from a parent who spent thousands of dollars on his own manicure, on jewelry for other women, for roses for mistresses, and yet couldn’t be bothered to take his daughter for a haircut. Though in all fairness a haircut wouldn’t have accomplished much. When you’re so depressed that you can barely scrape yourself out of bed each morning, a haircut is the equivalent of hanging ornaments on a dead tree.
I’m not much of a writer, I think. I’ve struggled with this same thought over the lifespan of this virtual journal. How do I convey to others the engulfing, overwhelming reality of endless boundless utter hopelessness? How do I tell others how I was crushed by the daily cruelties of a family who called me ‘Titanica’, who called me ‘whore’, ‘bucket of shit’, ‘lazy, stupid, worthless’, who literally had beaten me down so far that I was so stunted I hadn’t the ability to respond in appropriate ways to the point that people, even trained teachers, believed my parents when the said I was mentally retarded, who told me I disgusted them? How can I convey to others how these words managed to shape my choices and thoughts for the next 45 years of life? How can I convey the terror, the choking terror I felt every time I realized something new about these people? Like my dad having private investigators follow me till long after I was 40. Like my dad breaking into my home and going through my journals and letters. Like my father systematically alienating every adult who came into contact with me.
It’s six in the morning. I’m too exhausted to finish this and shape it into something better, so I’m posting this hot mess as is.
To those to whom this applies. I can’t help what you believe, nor do I care to. Your hate is your own. May it bring you all the comfort and love you so obviously believe it will in the late hours of the night, when you’re all alone and wide awake, looking over your small, cold life and wondering why no one loves you. When life finally beats you down to the point that you no longer can carry around that banner of hatred, then we might have something to say to one another. Until then, you have nothing to say that I wish to hear. I’ve already had a lifetime of your hate.
Today I want to find the time to write, but am not sure if that will happen. I’ve got a website to finish. It’s no0t as slick looking as I would have wished for the client, but as the saying goes, ‘You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t keep him from then choosing the most cheesy, kitschy, unprofessional clip art on the internet for their website.’ Yes, that’s really how the saying goes.
Other than that I have packing to do. I learned a long time ago that this is a lot more joyful task if you pack as far in advance as possible, even if that means living like a college student for a few months before moving. So, the minute that The Handsome One and I decided to look for a house, I started packing and throwing things away. Good thing, too, because we found a house. It’s a 200 year old 5,000 sq. ft. farm house that’s been left to stand empty for a year. Plus, it was a foreclosure so the previous owners ripped the place apart before leaving. Now for those of you who don’t know how this works, it means that the bank will sell ‘as is’ and leave it to you to fix. In theory, it sounds like you would save money, but only if the bank has let the house sit on the market for a few months. This house was on the market 6 days before they accepted our bid. The plumbing is torn out, in places all the way to the spot where they had been attached to appliances, some of the bathroom fixtures are missing, some of the toilets, unconnected to plumbing of any kind, are defecated in, there are broken windows, someone has been smoking in the h9use and ground their stubs out on the 200 year old original flooring in the living room. And so on. While the original owners believed they were screwing the bank, they were really just trashing it so the next owner couldn’t enjoy it. But that’s childish anger for ya, I guess.
The electrical wiring has had the same treatment. Wires have been ripped out of the walls in places, and in other places, cut with scissors or a knife right as they come out of the walls. The wires to the breaker box are gone. The wires leading out of the house to the meter are gone. They even cut the hose to the spray nozzle in the kitchen sink. There are missing doorknobs, Missing light fixtures inside and out, the porch railing has been completely removed and then the bank apparently put up a hasty replacement which looks ….well, I will have to post pictures. To see is to be amused.
The neighbors tell me that occasionally they see a raccoon working her way into the roof of the house. I believe that, because she’s managed to leave huge puddles of poop all over the carpeting upstairs. That would be in addition to the dog crap already in the carpet. The previous owners had Great Danes, who pooped in every room of the house. The final touch of class from these people was to beat holes in the walls, break the locks, and scrawl their names in silver paint in the bathroom. Such class. I can hardly wait to have them stop by and wish us well. Okay so I’m a little bitter, and will probably be bitter till I quit cleaning up dog crap.
We are building a little screened in porch off the attached garage for the cats. I am sure they will love it. Plenty of room to lay sprawled in the sun, belly up and barely conscious, just like a tourist. Plus, we’re going to go for the litter boxes that are hooked up to the plumbing. They will also be in the garage, so again, more room to be cats. They only room in the house they will have access to is the kitchen.
The kitchen is huge. I say that with all the girlish glee and barely repressed urge to stand up and do a Snoopy dance that such a statement from a foodie intimates. I’m already plotting where the wine cooler will go, the double ovens, the drop lighting, the island with the stove/grill on it. Yes, BIG plans, precious.
…Okay so I will shut up now about the kitchen. Truth is, The Gorgeous One loves the house so much, that I don’t think at the price the bank insisted on we will be able to afford any remodeling. We will have a great big house, with no furniture, no kitchen, but it will have plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and water. I’m not sure he realizes that, yet. I just hope he can be happy there until we can do something more with the place. And it really is a lovely home. Sitting atop a hill toward the back line of an acre and a half, with a creek running through the front yard, you can see the horse paddock of a neighbor across the street and a 200 year old Quaker cemetery. What you can’t see is the huge elementary school also across the street. It’s a corner lot. ‘Front’ of property is cemetery and paddock and to the ‘right’ is the school. The Sweet One and I want to put up a privacy fence of some kind and you can be sure there will be a plaque with a Tolkien quote, somewhere.
More on that later. I need to get packing. ;-D
I’ve always been a bit of a loner. Despite the years of abuse, I am naturally attracted to all sorts of people, energetic, inclusive, lead by example, and always the last one to quit (I have many times been called tenacious as a bulldog, and have never seen it as an insult, however it was meant). So being alone has never been by choice. At one point in my life, I was so shy, so constantly ashamed of myself (the way I looked, the way I walked, the way I smelled, the way I spoke, my lack of perceived ‘charm’…you name it, if there had been a way to drag me down as a human being, my parents and siblings had done so, leaving me so mortified of my own company in the presence of others that some days it was so utterly overwhelming. I would skip school, go home and crawl under the bed. I would lay there and cry till I fell asleep. I was maybe 15 or so. It strikes me that my father wasn’t around much at this point, so it was probably the phase when he had finally left Mother for his long-time mistress, Verna. At any rate, it was a relief not to have him there, even though mother was now working and not at home a lot, either. It left me at home with my brothers a lot. I tried to avoid them as much as possible.I lived in my r00om, went out rarely with the one friend I had, Katie. I’d had another friend for many years, and had cherished her, but when she found religion, and I didn’t believe the part where animals don’t go to Heaven, she decided I was a non-believer, and cut me out of her life.
I still believe animals, or their spirits, go to an afterlife. Perhaps they do not possess what Christians call a ‘soul’, their beings not necessarily separated from the “All There Is” in the way that we are, but I believe nothing is ever lost, no love disappears.
It was high school, and people were desperately searching to separate themselves as defined by their identities. Here, I was miles ahead of them. I’d had my self-identity pounded into me for years. Worthless. Lazy. Stupid. Thoughtless. Selfish. Hateful. Fat. Incompetent. Hopeless. I was Quazimodo.. It was an interesting time, being exhorted on the one hand every so often to be the best I could be, and then being told it was never good enough, and indeed, I was incapable of anything worthwhile. But there you are. So, Quazi and I, we kept to ourselves as much as possible, and only got into trouble when we were around people. My mother had started drinking quite a bit these days. I remember at one point I had been out walking around town. Sometimes I would take off and walk all the way to the beach, which was quite a way from our apartment complex next to Northeast High, or sometimes just to the Intercoastal and back. I would walk, and sing, and pray, and cry. I would sing songs like “Lean On Me’ and “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “At Seventeen”and of course “Yesterday”. Whether I was good or not was a matter of debate, and certainly not something I would do around my family, as it was sure to set them all into a group attack, but alone, it was a way for me to begin to touch all the pain and terror inside. There was no happy. Anyway, Quazi and I walked along, singing and crying, and ducking into the the walled terrace of random apartment complexes to hide whenever some middle aged guy would pull over and try to offer money for sex. It made me think all men were like my father. Exhausted, I finally turned home. It was dark out now, and the sliding glass door off the dining/;breakfast bar/kitchen area was open. I heard voices. I followed the sound, out the door, around the wood privacy fence to the community pool area. There was my mother, one of the neighbor women, and ‘some guy’. He was probably 20 years younger than my mother, a lecherous smile on his face. I can well imagine. My mother had a martini in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and was reclined on a lounge chair wearing her bra and panties. This sort of confused me, because it was, after all, a public pool. Sure, it was after bedtime for most kids, but what if someone walked through with their kids on their way home late? Her back door was literally less than twenty feet away. Couldn’t she be bothered to go inside and slip on a bikini? Guess not. I guess it was her preference to do a strip tease poolside in front of anyone who meandered by. I tried to get her to come inside. “Oh, honestly, don’t be such a prude. You have to grow up one day, you know.” Quazi elbowed me and whispered. “We’re childish. We haven’t had sex yet so we’re not mature enough to speak to whether it’s okay to walk around outside in our underwear swilling vodka.” The greasy balding guy leered up at me, and then returned to my mother. I hung around as long as I could stand it, so that the guy would feel uncomfortable being a dick to my near-naked, inebriated parent, and finally gave up when my mother ordered me to go in the house.
I consider it a giant success story that I no longer out of hand accept as gospel truth every horrid thing said to me, about me. As far as believing we have any worth, well, Quazi and I have decided to leave that in God’s hands, and never, EVER, **EVER AGAIN** take the word of another human being again about our worth.
Lately, The Awesome One and I have been attending a semi-regular ARE study group. Its focus is the work of the psychic, Edgar Cayce, and is deeply religious in nature. Note I said religious, not spiritual, and there’s a difference when it comes to the way people see the activity and material, these days. The former seems to involve life choices and discipline, incorporating changes into your life. The latter seems to be a bit of a fad, a fashion statement about your inner self. “Check me out, I’m so spiritually advanced and wise, I can tell you what to do, how to raise your kids, beat you in the head with my beliefs, and comment on your marriage to your face!” (Yes, these people really DO exist outside the thumpers.) Usually women are more adept at this than men, and I suspect it has something to do with the psychological need women seem to have to develop a pecking order, yet another reason I stay clear of most women.
This group is no exception. Meeting bi-weekly, sort of, the group seems to be more like a bunch of friends sitting down to talk, or rather, bitch and gossip and giggle. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of ‘come to Jesus’ inner revelation happening, to coin an expression, meaning no deep reflection or humble examination of self. Of course, I’m reticent to open up and talk much about my own situation, because people are always so terrified when I start telling ‘the stories’. I should have kept my mouth shut.
I called the Cayce Foundation a few weeks ago hoping to get some information on Cayce’s take on the pituitary gland and its role in the functioning of the emotional and spiritual body because I have recently been diagnosed with a tumor. The volunteer on the other end seemed polite enough, at first anyway. “I was wondering if Cayce directly addressed a malfunctioning pituitary and if so, what he recommended., what causes it, what the treatment is, etcetera.” At first the volunteer recommended I see a doctor. I chuckled. “I’ve seen one. That’s how I know I have a tumor. I want to know what Cayce’s take on it was and how to treat it.” “Well” she said, “you need to see a psychic for treatment other than from your doctor. They usually go into the brain under the upper lip’s gumline…” She was describing the surgery for removal. I had a;ready read that information online when I was first diagnosed. I was a little flustered. Here I was, on the phone with the western world’s largest repository of information gathered in this way, and she was doing everything she could to shoo me off in another direction. “Why would I do that, I said. “I’m on the phone with the A.R.E. Didn’t Mr. Cayce treat this in one of fifteen thousand readings?” (The tumor happens in one in three people, but they never know it. I’m ‘lucky’ enough to have symptoms.) “I’m just curious to know what causes it and what his recomme…” “She cut me off, blurting “Negativity.” “Uh, ok, yeah, sure, I’m the first to admit I am not perfect. In fact, I’d wager to say that none of us are, and go even further out on that limb to declare that people don’t COME in the color ‘PERFECT’, and that anyone who does achieve perfection here leaves immediately, so while I am still here, my goal is not perfection, but to use what is at hand in the day. And since I am a life-long student of Cayce’s work, what he has to say about the condition is within reasonable thought ‘in hand’.” My speech was crisp and enunciated, like it gets when I am angry. I tried softening my tone a bit. whatever her issue was, it was not ‘me’ it was directed at. It was Quazi. Everyone hates and is disgusted by Quazi. I didn’t need to respond to her anger with my own. She didn’t have any other suggestions. “Then there’s nothing I can do for you. Would you like the number to a psychic?” SHe wasn’t even trying to hide the snotty princess anymore. “No, thank you so much for your effort and consideration! Have a great day!” I said it in a rush, like it was all one word, so I could hang up fast before she got any more biting, bitchy comments in. I immediately called the front desk and told them about the incident. The lady was friendly, we had a laugh about it, and she suggested I call back another day to try to get another volunteer, in a better mood.
So I told the ladies of the group about the event. I chuckled about it. The topic was ‘anger’, and how quick people are to be angry these days, how I was catching myself in the act, and learning to back away from my anger, while not giving people the opportunity to express anger to me. The big lie is that there is a healthy expression of anger. There is no happy murder, no joyous rage, no selfless bitchy, either. You’re not a little teapot, have not been since first grade, and you don’t need to VENT or LET OFF STEAM. You need to recognize the steps that get you to anger, and make different choices. Your anger is yours. Period. Own it, accept ownership, and choose to be something else. Expression of anger is simply ANGER PRACTICE, not anger management. and the more you practice at a thing, the more proficient you become. So when you are angry, practice getting away from the impetus of your anger. Examine what set you off. Why did you choose anger? What are you afraid of? What are you trying to prevent happening with anger that you believe cannot be handled by another emotion? How does anger make you a better person, one more in touch with the feelings and experiences and needs and dreams of others? What are your underlying goals in the situation, and what would have been a more effective emotion? For me, the woman had made her own decision about what I needed, and her thinly veiled anger at my refusal to accept her authority in the situation spurring her to be a bit snottier every time I pressed for something other than what she wanted to give me. You can’t get through to an angry person. You just can’t. There’s no part of our culture set up to teach people to own their own emotions, and one might even say we reward anger. I told them that I just hung up on her as quickly as I could once it was established that she was set on controlling the tone o0f our interaction. And that’s all you can do with someone in this position. You walk away from angry people. If you can’t walk away, then you say nothing to set them off further, such as in the case of a cop, or an abuser. Do your best to not make them angrier. Angry people don’t want truth, they’re already angry, they already HAVE their ‘truth’, they have already made up their minds about you, about the situation, about whether any word out of your mouth is going to be truth or not. Say as little as possible, or just get away.
So a week or so later, one of the women from group called me to talk about a meeting change. She asked me how things were going with the doctor, and I told her, saying that I was still researching the Cayce material for additional information. The doctor seems to think that body and mind are not connected, that the varied symptoms I have are unconnected, and yet, as students of the Cayce material, we believe exactly the opposite. I said I would have to think on it further and decide what to do next. I asked her what she thought, and she said “Negativity swirls around you like a tornado. I bet it effects everything you do, your work, your marriage.” I was zero to pissed off in an instant. I chuckled a bit and didn’t say anything, immediately thinking to myself ‘choose another emotion so that you can talk with her.” Apparently the one I picked was tongue-tied astonishment. “Th-there’s nothing wrong with my marriage,’ I said, and indeed, that is the truth. The Clever One and I have the healthiest relationship of anyone I have ever seen in my entire life. Healthy, happy, sharing, giving, loving, silly, playful, joyous. Of course we bicker. We do so knowing it’s not the end of the relationship, and that we’ll get through it, without a single doubt in our hearts. We love one another, no matter what, always have. So I didn’t respond to her with “Look here, bitch…” but rather “There’s nothing wrong with my relationship. And I don’t believe in a swirling negative anything.” And that’s true. When I hear a New Ager say that, what I am really hearing is “You have just overloaded my capacity to love, to understand, to listen, to advise, to be in control, therefore, it’s your fault. There is no easy answer in my repertoire of clichés to spoon-feed you, so you must be doing something to continually make your life hell. ” For New Agers, you see, despite their understanding that there’s not a single thing they can do to get into ‘Heaven’, they still believe that good works make you a better person. It’s bible thumping on a new level, self-righteousness draped in purple polyester and crystals. “For by grace are ye saved, and not of works, lest any man (or hippy) should boast.” Cayce said Grace is a gift. It is the foundation of his teachings, that Jesus was here to tell us that we were not bound by the laws of the Jews.
Sigh. Back to my friend Quazi. I have found people like to talk to Quazi more than they do me, because Quazi accepts responsibility for … whatever. Whatever people feel as though I am guilty of, truth be damned, Quazi stands before them, head bowed, quietly contrite, accepting the accusations of guilt as gospel. That’s why Quazi doesn’t get out much anymore and the only person Quazi talks to is me. However, once people decide that I am actually Quazi, they don’t talk to me the equal anymore. They only speak to (and about) Quazi. I as an equal cease to exist. Everything I say or do is colored by their perception of who I am.
When I discover this, I break contact. There is no point in attempting to develop relationships as equals with people who see you as damaged goods. They’ve decided you’re (fill in the negativity here), and that’s all there is to that, and until you address the negativity to suit THEIR agenda, you’re just Quazi, the mental/emotional/spiritual cripple, skulking around in the shadows, incapable, incomprehensible and utterly deserving of their judgment. There is no opportunity for growth if someone has pre-determined the parameters of your perceived growth, and you’re now in a position of having to ‘prove’ to them that they are wrong. Sometimes it’s about their own inner sense of worth too. They feel better when there’s someone around who they can point at and think “I’m so much more advanced a soul than she is! She’s Quazi and *I’M NOT*!” Danger, Will Robinson, it’s a trap. There’s nothing we can ever do to ‘earn’ the kindness and equal regard of another human being. They are either capable of it, or they are not, and if they are not, move along. All that energy trying to prove to people you’re an equal when you could be interacting with someone who grants you that basic human courtesy right up front!
Growing up, I learned words didn’t matter. This was not so much a conscious realization as it was a part of life that one accepts as a constant without acknowledgment, like one’s own heartbeat or the air around us.
More precisely, I learned my words didn’t matter. I was literally terrorized countless times by family, teachers, and family friends into this reality. My father loved the use of humiliation to get this message across. He would call my brothers and I before him to confront us with some sin, real or constructed, pick his victim based on testimony from the three of us, and more often than not, I was found guilty. All too often it was something that Dick had done, and I was being blamed for. I used to loathe my brother for this. I hated him for not stepping up to protect me, for standing there with his little dimpled smirk while my father screamed, for taking enjoyment from this repeated scene, for not taking credit for his own actions. As an adult, I realize that even though he was usually worse to me than he was to my brothers, he was sufficiently bad enough to my brothers that they would have lied to avoid the abuse. They were terrorized, too. At the time, this realization would have been little comfort. At the time, Dick’s giggling superior satisfaction as he watched the frenzy my father worked himself into before the punishment was enough to make me dream of the day I would be free of all these people for good. Willy was so far in denial, he could see me being accused of something he knew full well Dick had done, and still say after to me that I had done it. Willy was a good soldier. Right and wrong was never an issue for him.
With the three of us lined up in front of my father, the session would usually begin pretty calmly. My father would ask a question in a placid, almost monotone voice. He’d clear his throat, his face was benign, his eyes expressionless. “Your mother tells me that the trash wasn’t taken out and the laundry is not folded and put away. Who was supposed to do this?” By the time he got to the end of the last sentence his jaw was tense and the brows were down. It didn’t matter who was supposed to do this. It just didn’t matter. There were no assigned tasks. We were supposed to have them done regardless of the fact that we didn’t know they needed to be done. None of us had been asked to do this, so none of us replied. “Who did this the last time? Willy?” Willy nodded, glad to be let off the hook for a chore he had done five days ago and completely forgotten about. “So then it was your turn?” He looked at Dick. Dick shook his head. Daddy Dearest then looked at me. “Why didn’t you help?” I didn’t know when this all supposedly hadn’t happened, whose turn it was, that it even needed to be done. “ANSWER ME!” “I didn’t know…” I stammered. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T KNOW! DO YOU HAVE TO BE TOLD TO EAT! DO YOU HAVE TO BE TOLD TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!” He was on his feet now, and moving closer. Dick was giggling. Willy wasn’t looking at anyone. “ANSWER ME DAMN YOU!” I was fighting tears. “JUST HOW LAZY DO YOU HAVE TO BE TO HAVE TO BE TOLD SIMPLE THINGS LIKE WHEN TO BATHE AND EAT AND GET OUT OF BED! DO YOU THINK THIS IS A HOTEL THAT YOU’RE STAYING IN! DO YOU THINK WE ARE ALL HERE TO SERVE YOU! DO YOU THINK YOU DON’T HAVE TO CONTRIBUTE TO THIS HOUSE! ARE YOU DETERMINED TO BE A WORTHLESS PART OF THIS FAMILY FOREVER!” And it would continue till I was blubbering. He would move in close from time to time, and I would look for something else to stare at so that I could get my breathing a little under control. “LOOK AT ME WHEN I AM SPEAKING TO YOU YOUNG LADY!” I would look at him and then at his partial as he started to scream again, counting the little droplets of saliva spray as he yelled. “YOU DON’T STAY HERE FOR FREE DO YOU HEAR ME YOU PAY RENT IN THE FORM OF ASSIGNED CHORES THAT YOU WILL DO OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES BLAH BLAH BLAH SLOVENLY BLAH BLAH HATEFUL TOWARD YOUR MOTHER AND BROTHERS BLAH BLAH WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE BLAH GOOD FOR NOTHING BLAH BLAH LAZY SHIFTLESS BLAH BLAH CONSUMING WITH RELISH THE FOOD SET BEFORE YOU AND GIVING NOTHING IN RETURN TO THIS FAMILY BLAH BLAH HOW DARE YOU BLAH BLAH BLAH…” After a while I got good at focusing on something and only the occasional insult would work it’s way into my consciousness. The long and the short of it was that I was lying about whatever it was that I had supposedly done, that even telling the truth was a lie, that saying anything at all, and I do mean at all, would just make it worse.
Even now it’s hard for me to write about this. Even now, so many years afterward, I find myself crying, slipping back into that little terrified girl, reliving the lash of each new insult, accepting them as truth on some level. I am worthless, lazy, I think only of myself, I am conniving, scheming, I am fat, stupid, thoughtless, I lie without reason, I make up stories when the truth would do, I have no feeling for my mother, my brothers, I am only here as long as I have to be, I am a whore.
One might wonder how this stuff, internalized, colored my associations with others as an adult.
That he was so adept at convincing others that I was like he saw me was astounding. I used to call him a snake charmer, in my own head, of course. As I grew up and began to notice, I became resigned to it. I just stood there, crying, trying to control my breathing and failing, asking God to take me away from these horrible people, apologizing to God for whatever it was that I had done to deserve this. I accepted that there was nothing I could ever say to defend myself, that accusations were going to be accepted as truths no matter what, that fighting back was pointless. My only real option was to get away from them, to withdraw into myself, to hide in my room. Even that was only temporary, a reprieve till the next session.
What I regret now is that I didn’t step forward more often to claim responsibility for the allegations of the moment, whether I was guilty or not. The damage was already done. Perhaps I could have prevented some of the damage done to my brothers. My brothers, the alcoholic, and the one who is in denial that any of it happened. By the time he was 12, he was sticking needles into his arms, so as much as he’d like to deny that our upbringing was traumatic, the needles tell another story.
As for me, I fight depression every day of my life. I have an innate distrust of people, because I ‘know’ better than to think they have my best interests at heart, and ‘know’ that their agenda is one of proving their personal point rather than any agenda of selflessness. I especially distrust ‘professionals’ who buy into the statistics and ‘facts’ they learn in college rather than the truths before them. I have zero time for ‘friends’ who wish only to share ‘good times’. If you haven’t the time to get to know me on more than a superficial level, and don’t have the stomach to handle what happened to me, and can’t accept me as something more than a broken little bird that you don’t have the time, patience, or energy for, then I want nothing to do with you. On a good day, I am an incredibly happy, loving, generous, selfless person. Hope and love radiate from me like a beacon. On a bad day, I curl up into a little ball, convinced of my own worthlessness, begging God to end my life so that the pain will stop. On a bad day, it takes me hours to shake the terror of my nightmares. On a bad day, I get lost in the middle of a conversation, and I am right back in the middle of a memory, reliving it as though it had just happened. On a bad day, I rage at the ceiling, at my mother, demanding to know how she could stand there and let her child be abused, how her love for this man was more important than what she could see with her own eyes, how her suspicious, childish nature allowed her to justify blaming me for my upset, rather than the adult who informed me of my worthlessness almost every day of my life.
I don’t know if I will ever be whole in this life. So much more than I have written here actually took place that I will probably be adding to it for a very, very long time. I have some anger toward the adults in my life who stood there, listening to and believing my mother telling them “She’s upset AGAIN” with a wave of a hand and a dismissive eyeroll as though it were my ‘histrionics’ to blame for my upset rather than the abusive and neglectful adults around me. When a kid is upset THAT OFTEN, it might be time to suspect there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. But all too often the adults would be pulled into the little snide conversations rather than refraining from participating. I can only liken them to teenage boys joining in to torture a neighbor’s cat.
To this day I am amazed at how easy it was for my father to say one thing to me, and something else to others. At times, he deliberately would say something to me in contradiction to the truth that others knew so that I would be made the fool, or worse, their impression of me was forever poor. This of course started happening in my teenage years, and I can only guess at what caused this more determined ‘attack’ to make sure I was estranged from the world around me. Sometime around the age of 14 or 15, my anger occasionally overcame my fear of him, and I started shouting back.
My mother used to tell me that the trick to getting through one of Daddy’s screaming sessions was, like a radio, just change channels. I got pretty good at getting a little lost in my head, detaching myself a little from his screaming to realize how ridiculous he looked, screaming, spit flying off his partial, the insipid, hateful, preposterous things he said. When he screamed that I was just waiting to turn 18 so that I could get away from him, I thought to myself ‘Yep, that’s exactly what I am doing. Biding my time. Anything has got to be better than this.’ Once I ran away, no more than 13 or 14, packed up a change of clothes and a picture of my mother and headed to the only Christian people I knew, the only people my father had managed to not alienate from me. I got to their house very late at night, and slept on their porch. They were not home. They were on vacation. The local little police force brought me back home. And the minute the nice patient policeman left, the screaming started all over again. “How dare you do that to your mother! How dare you be unfaithful to her like that!” I literally snapped inside, the rage welling up in me like a volcano. God, it felt good to stand up to this bully. “Unfaithul!” I shouted. “How dare you call me unfaithful when you whore around with any female you smell! How dare…” I didn’t get much further, he came at me with both fists, and I shielded my head in my arms and started backing away. He pinned me against a wall, swinging away till my mother pulled him off of me. I was terrified of course and ran for my room with the broken lock on the door. I could hear my mother saying “Will, that’s not her fault. You can’t blame her for that.” My brothers were there for the whole show, giggling like the hyena choir at the fight scene, and then sticking their noses in my door five minutes later to ask if I was scared when I stood up to him. I said that I was, but by this time the joy for having done so and the release and the adrenalin was making me giggle too. It didn’t last long. He was in my door not twenty minutes after the second round, screaming about how my mother had not slept with him for two whole years. I just looked at him with disgust. He seemed to have forgotten I was there those two years, remembering when he would move out temporarily to a hotel room and then call my mother several times a night, screaming into the receiver so loud we could hear him. I remember him repeatedly calling me a whore, and I remember asking the ceiling that he would just leave and not come back. He seemed to think that my mother refusing to sleep with him was validation of his ‘need’ to wander. I wonder if my mother not sleeping with him was his rationalization for calling his eleven year old daughter a whore, too.
His marriage to my mother was what it was, she still loved him, and he was still chasing anything with a skirt, but as the fine house and fine cars had been lost, he was looking to move on. Eventually he did leave my mother. In fact, he married one week to the day after my mother died. He had left her approximately a year and a half before, left her to work four parttime jobs in support of her children. Left us all emotionally damaged way beyond the repair his absence could deliver. By that time the ingrained sense of isolation, hopelessness, worthlessness, and anger were impressed on all of us.
So, the ultrasound found an ‘abnormal lower uterus’. The doctor’s assistant thought it would be important to tell me that over the phone and schedule a pap for as soon as possible.
So of course I am freaking out.
I love how they send you into a panic before they even do lab work.
So perhaps the doctor may believe that the body and mind are inter-connected, but the assistant isn’t on the same page, or they would have called in a script for enough valium to get me through till test results are available.
Twenty year ago, I had a pap smear that came back with abnormal cells. So they decided to do a biopsy which was carried out in day surgery. My cervix then grew shut, completely flat, and when I weaned my child and started having periods again, there was no where for the menses to go except through my fallopian tubes into the cul de sac behind my uterus. If it sounds painful, it was. The doctor tried to maintain a patent opening for years, beginning with using long metal rods of varying widths to poke through the scar tissue (which is supposed to have no feeling but I assure you it did) to create an opening, to surgeries. The first surgery consisted of them rolling the lower uterus up like a folded over sock and stitching it into place. That still didn’t work. There were seaweed plugs that got left in till I had PID, there were cross country trips to different doctors, there was time away from my baby girl, there was more rods ripping through skin while I was awake and aware.
Finally, I developed enough sense to realize that I had a treatment, I knew a cure. So I delved into the Cayce readings and talked to William McGarey, and developed a treatment that would at least allow me to maintain an opening so that I could have cycles. And that’s exactly what happened.
So I told Dr. Blod that, and the assistant. One wonders why now they’re all surprised that I have an ‘abnormal lower uterus’ ? Jesus, people. Listen to your patients when they tell you about their medical histories or don’t ask the question to begin with.
My father fancied himself a politician. And indeed by today’s standards, he certainly was. I can’t imagine as much as he hated people that he had any altruistic motivation. His motivations seemed to be the glad-handing, the power brokering, the esteem women held for him when they learned what he was, the name dropping. It was more than just money.
At one point, he had a Watts line installed in his ‘office’ in our home, which was situated so that it was part of the upstairs balcony overlooking the living room and facing a story high window that showcased the lake at the back of the house. I wasn’t really told what that was for other than it was his business phone and we were not to touch it. It was red, of course. My father had an affinity for all things James Bond. At one point, even his regular office phone number ended in ‘007’. He sat for hours talking on that Watts phone. Since the office had no walls, his conversations could be heard throughout the entire north wing of the house. What was noteworthy about these conversations were that a lot of them were not about business. I remember him reading from ‘Tropic of Cancer’ to someone over the phone. It had to have been a woman, because he was reading a sex scene. Another time I was coming up the stairs to find my mother in her bedroom, and I heard him say ‘Face of a 12 year old boy, legs of a 16 year old hooker’. I was immediately unsettled and embarrassed, but a few more comments from him made it clear why. He was talking to my Uncle Robby, and the subject of conversation was me. I was about 12 at the time. Yet another time he was speaking to someone and asking them if they liked their sex under the covers or on top of the covers.
Glad-handing was seen as a virtue in our home. My father encouraged it in us, told us that if you wanted to make your way in life you had to learn how to talk to people so that you can succeed. When he got on this topic, he vibrated with enthusiasm. This horrible man didn’t seem to understand that it was phony, ‘plastic’ as the term was in that day. He was teaching, or attempting to teach, his children how to manipulate other people for their own gain. I watched him use this technique in his campaigns, with women, with my mother.
I remember one time watching him work a crowd in our own living room. It was a big day.
It was election time, the Muskie campaign was in town. My mother and I had been ‘canvasing’ for weeks before, ‘cold-calling’ people from a huge list to try to get their support for Muskie. The things you learn when you’re a kid. And the kind folks yelling into the receiver seemed determined to expand my education as well, though they were unfortunately mistaken; I’d already learned those words from listening to my father. There was a campaign train coming through town and we were going on it. I’d never been on a train. My mother got us all dressed up, my brothers in their suits and me in my homemade ‘maxi-dress’ with the big blue satin sash around the midriff and paisley blue cotton. There weren’t a lot of kids there. I seem to remember being the only ones, but there might have been a few in the other traincars. I remember seeing Rosie Greer, and recognized him instantly. No, I wasn’t a football fan, I just knew him as the really big football player who did needlepoint and was constantly talking about helping kids. I liked him already. It was such a thrill to get our picture taken with him, and such a disappointment to be shooed away by surrounding adults immediately after. He liked kids, right? Why couldn’t we talk to him for a while then? I settled in to a seat and stared out the window quietly for the remainder of the short trip. When we got off the train, we hurriedly headed home. More big plans, many of the people were showing up at the house. Ed Muskie was there, among others. And my dad was busy. He clapped people on the back, told off-color jokes about black women, rolled his head back in laughter, something he never did at home. And there was food, catered food, tons and tons of food, and I ate all I could get my hands on before my mother caught me eating and directed me away. My dad told stories of a black elderly woman who came to him with a complaint about an issue and soon he had her working her ‘precinct’ knocking on doors and handing out flyers with his name on them. The nudge, the wink, the ‘You see?’ and telling smile, all how he conveyed how he’d gotten what he wanted without having to give up anything. Glad-handing.
Later, he decided to run for office again. This time it was for the House of Representatives. One of the men running against him on the primary ticket was a man named John Lomelo. My mother told me this man was neck deep in ‘the mob’. She said once that she and my father had been to a party at Lomelo’s house, and she excused herself to go to the bathroom, slipped into one of the upstairs bedrooms, and under a bed she found a suitcase full of cash. I believe this for a few reasons, one being that my mother had probably heard the rumours about Lomelo from my father and she was brace and dumb enough to ‘snoop’ as she called it. One day, we were taking my father’s suits to the dry cleaners, and she turned the pocket out in the pant’s to show me a straight-edged rip, that had been sewn closed with black thread. She went on to tell me that my father had been contacted by Lomelo to meet with him, and my father had then contacted the FBI. They ran a wire though the pocket to record the meeting. My father met with Lomelo, and he offered my father a job as an assistant for $28,000 a year if he would drop his name from the ballot. Lomelo never said the amount specifically, but wrote it on a card and showed it to my father, pulling it back away when my father reached for it. Mother said that they either needed Lomelo’s voice offering the money or the physical card as evidence, and my father managed to get neither. I asked my mother why he did it, and if he was scared. Mother said that if the FBI had been able to prove that Lomelo was guilty of campaign fraud then my father would have had no real competition. He would have won. As it was, Lomelo was still ahead in the polls, and had gotten another man whose last name started with the same letter as ours did to enter the campaign. Names on a voting ticket were listed alphabetically. Apparently a lot of votes are cast for the first name in any given race because people know nothing about the candidates and most of the time tick off the first name listed in that category. My mothr said this other man was also linked somehow to ‘the mob’ and John Lomelo, and ran some hippy-style drug rehab called ‘The Seed’. His name was Art Barker.
I remember spending time one summer passing out flyers for another politician called Dick Pettigrew. My father had said this man would pay us to do so. Payment never happened; I’m unsure whether it was because my father pocketed the money, or because Pettigrew never cut the check. Keep in mind we were children, not teenagers, not legally of working age. This sort of thing was common. And no, we didn’t have a say in the matter. I remember meeting Mr. Pettigrew once. He had that same impatient , dismissive sneer all the politician types seemed to have whenever being introduced to a child, the kind of look that made me shrink and want to get the mandatory handshake over with quickly so I could go back to staring at my shoes.
There were a few parties at the house, though not very many. I do remember one where a Playboy bunny was paid to attend. She was a blonde in fishnets and a pale pink bunny suit and ears. My mother told me to go introduce myself and I tried, relieved to see she was so close to me in age (she couldn’t have been more than 18). At the time, I was dazzled. How glamorous! She was a pretty girl with a pretty smile that instantly disappeared the moment I shyly offered my hand and stuttered my name. She immediately turned her back on me and walked into the herd. Okay, so this kid was in my home, rude to me, and treated me like I wasn’t important enough to say hello to. In my home. I went back to my mother and asked to be excused to go to my room, which was in the south wing of the house. Thinking back on this, as an adult, it’s all so impossible that it happened, that my parents were ‘these’ people. They’d thrown a party for a bunch of swaggering politicians, invited a hooker to chat them up right in front of the kids. We were too stupid to do the math later in life, I guess.
I’d like to tell you that we all dodged a bullet that this man didn’t achieve power on a national level, and that he was the exception to the rule. Truth is, he was just another glad-handing, power brokering, manipulative, control hungry asshole among many, and my mother was just another politician’s wife.
My father, the fine upstanding American who shot himself in the foot to get out of serving in wartime ‘cleaning his weapon’, and to this day collects a government check for his ‘injury’.