Stuck in Bad Blues

blueWomanMy absence, my inattention, my sporadic visits to your and even my own blog to read or write have been growing lately. It seems I am unable to keep up with life these days. What is it they say? Oh, right it isn’t you it is me. This is has been all too true lately, it is me. My inner demons along with my real live get the hell over here and be quite introvert, they have been playing havoc with my world. On the one hand, I have allowed everyone to dance to the music without interruption, I suspect it is what I have needed. On the other hand, well I think I may have done myself a disservice, now I am finding it hard to reenter life, any life at all.

Don’t misunderstand, it isn’t I don’t have anything to say. No, I have plenty of thoughts running through my head, plenty of emotions dripping through my heart. The world is a terrible place and it makes my soul scream on some days. There are days frankly I simply do not have the heart to pay attention to all the terrible things happening around me, days when I have to turn the world off simply so I can find peace. Add to this bowl of misery, this miasma of wretchedness; well, somedays I fight to get out of bed and be productive at any normal level.

It is a terrible thing, this feeling of dejection, of simply not having the energy or hopefulness to want to do more than make it through another day. This though is how I have felt. I know some of it is very personal, very internalized. I know this is how I have handled the shit storm of my personal relationships, ignoring many of what was so close to the surface even stuffing it into boxes marked ‘Do not fucking open under any circumstances’. I understand I allowed myself to be dragged into the undertow of pretending I didn’t feel disconsolate and rejected by a bad divorce. That I didn’t feel horrified and afraid by ‘alone’. That I wasn’t petrified as my savings dwindled and my bills mounted. As I always did, I put on a brave face pretended none of it hurt, none of it mattered.

It all mattered and two years later it still matters because I am still paying the price.

I want to stop, I want off the whirl-a-gig that is the price paid for other people’s choices and my own unwillingness to say ‘no’. My nature, beaten into me from an early age to always defer, to stay spinning-carnival-rides-at-the-kansas-joel-sartoresilent in the face of other people’s needs and desires has taken its toll. My innate generosity, my desire to help and insure that others have what they need, what they want even when I cannot afford the giving leaves me without, leaves me paying the price. Ultimately, leaves me alone, lonely and hurt by the trust I have placed that is nearly always broken.

Thus, I retreat to lick my wounds and salve my pride.

I wander my huge home, the one I am incapable of maintaining on my own. The one I wish every single day I could rid myself of. The one I once thought of as a place that would hold love, memories, friends and dreams. I wander this monstrosity and weep, there are days I cannot do the simplest tasks. My body betrays me, my heart betrays me and I live with messes I cannot clean; I dread some days even coming home.

So I retreat even further into my journals and into my head.

It isn’t that I don’t want to live, I mean fully live within the world and all that this means. It isn’t that I don’t want to repair the damage to my heart that I don’t want to fix all the bad that fell out of divorce and financial ruin. Believe me, I truly do and I am working on it, at least I am trying it is simply that over the past two years, I was vulnerable to my own demons first and to those who saw me as easy prey. I wanted so much, so much of everything really. I wanted to be seen as complete and whole. I wanted to be seen as strong and capable. I wanted to be seen as undamaged, as worthy and of value. I didn’t want anyone to see the chinks, hell the great huge dents in the armor I had so carefully forged and wore with such certainty I was protected from everything. I wasn’t though, I was vulnerable and easy.

I was blinded by the need to be loved, to be seen. I was vulnerable to anyone who would pretend for a minute I mattered and pay attention. I was starved. I didn’t know it. I didn’t know my years of famine would leave me so needy. I had been without emotional sustenance for so long my ultimate retreat into myself felt natural. Finally, there was no one else but me, yet the minute anyone came along with a story to tell I fell head long and with an open heart.  I recognize the problem of course, I only understood one way of loving, one way of being loved and that was if someone needed me or needed from me.

I had taken care of everyone else for so long I did not know any other way. When I figured out it hurt, that I wasn’t getting anything back, nothing in return I poured my words into my journal as I struggled to breathe and find peace. I poured myself into myself, into my isolation which became more closely guarded every single day as each person who spoke love felt like a liar and hurt my soul, driving me further into myself and further away from the world.

Now, I don’t know how to move. Each day feels like something to fear, what new hammer will fall? What new lie be uncovered? I feel so petty in the face of it all, thus my voice screams in my head stop whining you twit. Still, I find it nearly impossible sometimes to even get out of bed and face another day. I know, this too shall pass. This ennui, this case of the blues. This too shall move out of my way as it always does. But for now, forgive me if I don’t visit as frequently, I haven’t the energy to face the day sometimes and it is all I can do to face the world. I will get there, I will. Somewhere in my soul, hope resides and is likely dancing in the glen with the monsters I manage to keep contained most days.

Untethered

DP821347First Mother – biological mother gave birth to me and gave me up for adoption at birth. Still living, my friend.

Second Mother – adopted me at three days old, raised me maybe even raised me to the best of her ability. Mostly estranged for thirty years.

Third Mother – father’s second wife, my aunt, heart mother, mentor and guide, passed four years ago.

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This past week I sat vigil as my second mother let go of this life, with me by her bedside were those who had known her for decades. Women, who had been her friends, her pseudo daughters and who loved her, who knew her, as I did not. They saw a different woman than the one I knew. These women, they also saw me in a different light, knew me only through her and did not welcome my presence. But present I was, not because I wanted to be there but because I needed to be there for my brother and maybe even for myself.

It was strange to hear their stories of this woman who I knew mostly from my childhood. I did not recognize her. There were times I wanted to scream, “You didn’t know.”

I sat vigil. As she lay in that hospital bed, never waking. As I sat, after everyone else left for the night I watched, I remembered and I wondered. I wondered how she could have been so different, shown such a different my.operaface to them and even to my brother than to me. I remembered the tumultuous years of my early teens before I ran away. I remembered the hurt, the hurtful words of childhood. I remembered the loneliness. As I remembered, I kept going back to wondering how she could have been so very different as a mother to me, than she was a friend to these women or even a mother to my brother who hadn’t yet arrived.

Two of the women who were closest to her had known her since they were young teens; their mother had been her friend, when she passed my mother stepped in as a pseudo Aunt. She has known them for thirty-five years. She has spent holidays, vacations, birthdays with them. She has celebrated weddings sitting in the seat of honor, births of children; she has mourned losses, consoled them through divorces and other of lives ups and downs. In their eyes they were losing a ‘second mother’, they are losing a lifeline. The older of the two let me know I had treated her unkindly, that she did not deserve my selfish disregard. Both shared her judgment but she was the only one to voice it, albeit kindly.

This was one of the times my teeth nearly cracked from not saying what was in my heart and on my tongue. As her words flowed, it was all I could do not to respond with venom. I chose not to respond, not to defend, not to try to change hearts and minds. Honestly? Who cares, my own brother who knows at least part of the truth insists I am wrong for not reconciling with my mother.

As I sat vigil, I try to see it from the viewpoint of others. I try to understand their perspective and see things through their eyes. It is nearly impossible for me to reconcile the two ends of the spectrum. Perhaps it is because I have always had such a simple standard;

Untitled

My second mother passed from this world on Monday morning. My brother hadn’t arrived. Once again, I had to deliver the news a parent was dead. He is angry with me I think, I do not feel this death the way he feels it. I do not feel untethered by her passing as I did by the death of our shared father and my beloved heart mother. I fear only with the passing of this mother I will lose him, my beloved baby brother.

wb0115s-th

For the past ten years, when this mother needed something I have been the one to provide it. Whenever and whatever my brother asked of me, I stepped forward and gave; whether it was to move her from her apartment to assisted living, pay for care, talk to providers; I did what he asked of me. I didn’t do it because I believed I owed it, I did it for love of my brother. Now, I think our last connection is broken, because he doesn’t understand me or my hurt I might lose him, this sense of impending loss breaks me.

So I sat vigil. Then I delivered the news of her passing, I held him as he wept at the airport. Then I watched as my brother pulled himself together to act as executor of her estate. We talked and I agreed the women who had been her friends and her companions should be gifted with any of her personal items, I asked only for two things;

  1. Two pen and ink architectural drawings that match a set I already have.
  2. Family pictures from when we were children.

Clearly, others had been more closely aligned and more dearly loved. I will never agree with my brother or them that it was my filial duty to forget, forgive or reconcile our estrangement. At every opportunity, even in adulthood where she might have reached over the chasm, she made a clear choice I was not important and this is what I reconciled to, her choice.

But I sat vigil. She was not alone, she did not pass without human touch and there was not a lack of compassion, not for her or for those who loved her. My second mother was nearly ninety-four; she lived a full and rich life on her terms. I am not untethered in her passing but wonder if I am losing more than the last vestige of my childhood.

The story of my second family is told in Broken Chains: https://valentinelogar.com/category/series-broken-chains/

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Ungentle Histories

The dam broke. Something roared to the surface, something whispered in corners, I felt as if all the air was being sucked out of the room and I wanted to pick something up and just beat someone with it. Instead, I decided to write another entry to Broken Chains.

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In my industry, we have a saying, “close hold”. It means things that are not revealed, instead they are held closely to the chest. I have always treated some of my history as ‘close hold’; it is mine and mine alone. I will hint at it, throw pebbles into passive lake waters to watch the ripple affect but my entire adult life I have treated some parts as dark secrets, as was demanded of me. This ‘close hold’ in large part has been a tribute to those who never deserved the gift of my silence. The other part has been the lesson learned so many years ago, I have simply been unable to let it go the lesson of shame and fear.

It was told nearly 45 years ago, one who should have loved me should have protected me, should have taught me to speak truth, that one chose instead to do no such thing. Their choice was too fling me into a vortex; an emotional black hole demanding my silence because the alternative was somehow their shame. Worse even than this would be the loss of love from the person I loved most in the world, I was convinced if I spoke up I would be spurned, found forever wanting. They convinced me, I was not believable. That even if I was to scream my pain and hurt, I would be rebuffed. No one would believe me, no matter what I said because I was nothing more than a  …….

Slut

Liar

Whore

These were the words thrown at an eleven-year-old child. Words of power. Words of rage. Words burned into a soul still unformed and willing to believe. Words that fell like the Blacksmiths Pein on the soft Anvil that was my young and untrained heart. Words that would set my feet on a path for years to come. Convinced of my lack I would unwind what little of my ego remained and offer my heart and my body to anyone who would validate my conviction of valueless. Unable to fight back, I would accept the brutality even at times welcome it as it corroborated what I knew about myself, what I had been told; that I was less than and undeserving of love or care.

All this, all the brutality. All the loss because my mother wanted to preserve her standing. She failed an eleven-year-old-child who had been gang raped. She failed to report. She failed even to tell that child’s father. She demanded that child’s silence and even blamed that child for the brutality of that rape. That child was me, she failed me and miserably so.

I knew who raped me, I knew all their names. I knew who stood by and watched, laughing as it happened. I knew who held my legs, I knew who held my arms. I knew who tripped me. I knew who tore my clothing off. I knew which of them touched me and which of them had intercourse with me. I knew which one of them took my virginity, laughing when he realized he had done so. I would have to attend school with my rapists for two years. Because no action was taken against them, there was no repercussion for their actions I was emotionally and physically brutalized by my classmates. Teachers heard the story of my rape but believed I was a voluntary participant in my own pitiless and inhumane violation, my introduction into the world of sex. Slut was something whispered in the halls as I walked by, not for something I did but for what was done to me and what my mother failed to do.

My heart was damaged, my core was broken and I retreated to an internal life, one that I don’t believe I have ever quite stopped living in. My pragmatism is my strength and my defense. My views on forgiveness were formed in 1968, though I couldn’t have defined them as clearly as I can today they haven’t changed very much since that time.

Life journeys are odd things. What set my feet on the path I have trod was a random act of cruelty forty-five years ago. So many of my choices since that time, so much of how I saw the world for so many years tie directly back to that single terrible and fateful day. I didn’t think I would ever tell this story, but Steubenville, has brought the memory raging to the forefront. My heart breaks for this young girl, for the terrible and heartbreaking future she faces as she begins to rebuild her life.

My brother has said to me my mother did what she thought was best at the time, I will never accept this answer no person with a heart does what she did to a child thinking it was best for that child. We were both adopted but our experiences were very different. I have always wondered why, I don’t think we will ever know now.

The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness, and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.

Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)

Our life is always deeper than we know, is always more divine than it seems, and hence we are able to survive degradation’s and despairs which otherwise must engulf us.

William James (1842 – 1910),  pioneering American psychologist and philosopher

Deeds survive the doers.

Horace Mann (1796 – 1859)

Oppression can only survive through silence.

Carmen de Monteflores

Gentle Shackles

My second mother is 92 years old, that is a lot of years to live. For most of the past twenty-five years she and I have been estranged, or maybe a better description of our relationship is distant. I acknowledge she exists, at Christmas and on her Birthday I send a card, flowers and a $100 gift certificate to Nordstroms; she rarely ever remembers to thank me and I have long since stopped caring.

My second mother has spent the better part of the past forty years telling anyone who would listen what a miserable daughter I am. I have never defended myself nor attempted to correct her version of the truth, except with her. Ultimately I stopped trying to correct her and stopped looking for an apology.

I have covered all this before, I apologize if some of that seemed redundant.

As the day grows closer to her move to Assisted Living,  I realize I will have to get on a plane and take on the role of ‘caretaker’ to a woman I have, at best, a difficult relationship with and conflicted feelings for. I am still dancing around some very difficult and delicate realities. Initially I thought I could just deal with the checkboxes of what needs to be done; you know make a list of what it will take to move this woman from one place to the other. As anyone knows who has had to undertake moving an elderly parent it isn’t easy, there is a ton, a lifetime of emotional baggage. You can’t just swoop in and say to them, ‘come on old woman time to pack it in, we’re heading over to this strange new place where the nice people will take care of you.

This is especially true when you are talking about me and my second mother, we barely speak, barely know each other and I am not at all certain she trusts me.

But this doesn’t change the what has to be done or the reality of our situation, I am still left with the hard part. It also doesn’t change that underneath my somewhat tough exterior I am mushy, I have compassion and I am even likely a kind person (please don’t tell). My second mother is old, she has a touch of dementia and from all reports she isn’t doing all that well mentally. I feel sorry for her. My brother left this too long, he should have insisted she make this move two years ago but he didn’t. Now it is left to me because he can’t get home from Korea soon enough. At the end of the day I suspect I will wind up the bad guy, the one with the hard job. Funny I have always been the ‘bad’ daughter and her biggest disappointment, now I will be the ‘evil’ daughter the one who packs her off to assisted living potentially ‘against her will’. He will swoop in a few weeks later and pacify her and listen to her complaints, commiserate even; but it will all be done. Everything will be as it always has been.

I know this is the right thing for her. She cannot continue to live alone, she is not safe. I think there is something I am supposed to learn from this, perhaps some forgiveness I am supposed to achieve in this process, some softening of my hard-heart. Some peace I can gain, I hope so. Two weeks ago I was very angry and had a very difficult time with the situation I was left in. The more time I have the more I am able to find some peace in myself, though I haven’t yet figured out why this is left to me.

My brother hopes I will finally stop hating my second mother, he doesn’t understand I haven’t hated her in decades, I simply find a relationship with her to be toxic and not in my best interest.

My brother also doesn’t understand if I didn’t love him I would not do this. My true compassion is for him. I think I know in my heart, he left this so long because he couldn’t do this it is too hard. My big tough Special Forces Iron Man brother can’t do a little thing like move an old lady for her own good.

So one more time I am going to go be the bad daughter, the evil one. I think I am actually okay this time. Maybe my chains are finally falling away gently.

Chaining the Past

My second mother is 92 years old. That is a great number of years to live in a bubble of your own sanctity, wrapped in lies of your own making. For very close to twenty-five of those years we have been on less than good terms, not entirely estranged but certainly not a normal mother-daughter relationship either. Those that know my mother think she is charming, funny a thoroughly likable woman; they do not understand our estrangement and blame me. This is true whether they know both of us or only her. This is also true whether they are family or just friends of my second mother. Those that know me intimately or have read the rest of the Broken Chains series, may have a slightly different view of my nemesis.

My second mother has a touch of dementia now; her body is beginning to fail. She has lived alone since her divorce from my father nearly forty years ago, the next stage the end stage of her life for her to be safe and comfortable she needs to in a place where there is help. This has been a battle between my brother and me, one we fought once before when my father’s health was failing.  Oddly, that battle had the same lines in the sand; with him saying there is nothing wrong and me saying there is and we can’t fix it. The difference this time is my brother is the only one close to our second mother, he had a different childhood than I did, lived in a different home I think.

I have been enraged for weeks now, but finally this weekend my rage hit a wall of secrets I have held and I discovered the batting I had wrapped around family so everyone could pretend there was nothing wrong. Already by Saturday I was hurt and angry with my brother for placing me in the center of ‘taking care’ of many of the issues surrounding my second mother and her care, move to assisted living and finances. I kept asking myself, why is this my problem? I realized I had to let go of the question, I was not doing this for her, but rather for my brother yet still I resented it and could feel my hurt and anger building with each phone call that failed to acknowledge my life was different from his.

SATURDAY PHONE CALLS FROM THE BLUE ETHER

Ring-a-ding-ding

My second mother has a sister, I actually like her a great deal always have. Perhaps this is why I have always kept silent. My oldest cousin was the first ‘Hippie’ I ever met, she was my idol, she died young and it was tragic. My other two cousins are not tragic, rather they are classic East Coast overly entitled judgmental twits, this is especially true of my youngest cousin; let’s just call her Snobbery.

Snobbery has interfered more than once in the care of my second mother. She and my brother have argued over this issue. This time apparently she sent an e-mail to her mother, my brother and friends of my second mother laying out what she believed was right and proper care. I was not of course included in this communication. My Aunt, not realizing I was not included picked up the phone and called me, it wasn’t a call entirely out of the blue so I did not think anything of it until these words came out of her mouth:

“Snobbery is unhappy that you and your brother haven’t acted on her recommendations, I thought we should discuss them.”

I didn’t know what she was talking about of course, had to ask. She told me and finally after nearly forty-five years of protecting my second mothers secrets gave up. First though I told my Aunt that her daughter Snobbery was simply an interfering Bitch and should mind her business unless she planned to pay for her recommendations.

I made my eighty-eight year old Aunt cry. It wasn’t my intention to do so; truly, I had intended to let her go to her grave never knowing anything. Why would I break my silence after all these years? The problem was I simply found I was worn down by the judgment of everyone who knew me, everyone who was supposed to be my family who had decided I was ‘bad’ and I was ‘evil’ and I was ‘ungrateful’. My Aunt tried to excuse Snobbery for her decision not to include me with;

“Well you don’t take care of you mother, you ignore her and her needs. She must have thought you were better left out of it.”

Really? I do that and it must be for no reason at all that I am just that mean!

I don’t know that what I did was the right thing. I certainly didn’t spill it all; only some of the doors were opened so my Aunt could peer inside my heart and discover that there might indeed be reasons for my choices.

More broken chains and I find I am bitter, angry even shattered that so many of my relationships remain tainted by this history of pain. By my choice to keep secrets. To protect those who did not earn my regard or deserve my protection.

Shattered

These past two weeks have been tough; my soul feels as if it has been rubbed with sandpaper the constant grinding polishing until it weeps salty tears onto my heart. My heart in turn feels torn between my love for my brother and my need to distance myself, from my second mother and our history. Just when I think I am done with this the universe spins and the answer is …..

NO…not quite yet

Hearts Home

I was an emotional desert, sandblasted and laid to waste by the years of ignoring what I needed from those around me. I was bright and shiny; I knew my assets and molded them into a near perfect package. The problem was even with all the bells and whistles it wasn’t enough, I still struggled with the horrible need to make my father see ME, I remained the same little girl, who wanted her father to say,

“It is going to be just fine, I will protect you. I won’t let the monsters get you. I am Proud of you.

My father had begun to soften; he found his heart in the most unlikely of places. After years of dating women who though not near as horrifying as my mother often reminded me of her, he finally found one that was the polar opposite. Found her and nearly lost her, but she stomped her foot and laid down the law, “marry me or leave”. After years of friendship and a lifetime of knowing each other, my father found his true soul mate in Texas, in his sister-in-law.

Is that incest?

My brother asked this question. I laughed in part because it was a silly question and in part, because I believe my brother felt truly threatened by the idea of our father’s remarriage. He might lose his best friend to another, to love. Our father and his soon to be wife had known each other since elementary school, she had married his brother at eighteen and raised five children with him in a small West Texas town. My uncle passed in 1977, for years my Dad and my Aunt had been friends. For years, they would visit when he visited his mother. Their friendship was based on shared history, shared values and shared interests over time it evolved into something much different than either expected.

The Best Wedding Day

Theirs was a true love story. They married in 1990 surrounded by their children, grandchildren, friends and other extended family. Honestly, we didn’t know quite what to make of each other or our new relationships at the time. Suddenly cousins were siblings of a sort. Despite being cousins, we didn’t know each other well in the early days; we had to work to find how we fit.

I did not recognize my father after his marriage. He was easier, softer and kinder. My stepmother soon became the center of everything for all of us, drawing us in and together. She also became my heart mother, the holder of secrets and my confessor. She was the one person I had ever seen tell my father he was wrong but say it with such kindness he would smile and ask for a hug! This didn’t happen instantly; that softening of the heart happens as a person recognizes they are loved despite their flaws.  He was loved passionately by his wife; he was loved without conditions or history by his new ‘children’ and grandchildren. He was drawn into the life he had always dreamed of, always wanted. My father was finally the patriarch of family extending generations. My brother slowly grew to accept our new stepmother as a part of life, she was there to stay and she didn’t take away from him. His relationship with our father remained exactly what it had always been, best friends.

A small part of a large family

Two years after my father married, I was carjacked and shot, the first person I saw when I awoke from a coma was my father. When I believed I might not survive I asked for three things:

  1. That I survive long enough to tell my sons I would always watch over them;
  2. That I could tell my father I had become a woman he could be proud of;
  3. A last cigarette (don’t hate).

I did survive but struggled with the relationship with my father even then. His view of me remained a historical view without context. There came a time when I finally had to either be willing to give him some of the context or accept defeat, it was then my stepmother became my confessor. It was over coffee one early morning after a random comment by her about my ‘exotic’ looks as a child the story of my childhood began to unfold.

I swore her to secrecy

Yes, I did this. We struggled with the idea that my secrets were becoming hers and my pain was the wall between my father and I. Finally, over many early morning coffee confessionals, tears and hugs we also agreed that my secrets were killing my soul. My heart mother knew my father would never hear the secrets from me. She knew he couldn’t because I couldn’t tell, but she could and did. No, not all of them because even she didn’t know them all and some she agreed were mine to tell or not. Like me, my father had told her many of his own secrets and she was able to piece together our life apart, our life in his absence. Without blame and without breaking her promises she was able to begin to build bridges between us and heal old wounds.

We found some of our way

With her great love for both of us, we found our way toward each other. It wasn’t always easy; we were a prickly pair, both ready to take umbrage even where no offense was intended. We learned to hug though, not just those

My Heart Not Divided

cursory hugs you give family members because it is expected, but those hugs you give because you want to be right there, right in someone’s arms because you love them and it feels perfectly good and right. We learned to say, “I love you”, mean it and not forget.

I didn’t get over my jealousy of my brother’s relationship with our father; it changed though from jealousy of their closeness to jealousy of the missing time.

In 2001, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I watched closely as his brilliant mind withdrew. My wonderful heart mother was his primary caregiver and with medicine, the march of that horrible disease was slowed to a crawl. In 2008, my heart mother fell and hit her head, she passed away two days later. At her interment, my father held my hand, leaned over and whispered to me;

“I am done”

He stopped taking his medicines, all of them. He stopped taking his medicine for Alzheimer, for his heart, for his blood pressure. His health rapidly declined. My father passed away in November 2009, almost 13 months to the day after the love of his life.

I miss my father and my heart mother. I miss watching their marriage. I miss the relationship I eventually developed with my father as an adult. He is the one person who ultimately saw me, demanded of me my best and

How I always see them
Just Loving Perfectly

thought I was precious.

By the way, yes my father did tell me

‘I am proud of you’

One of the greatest gifts of all.

One way I will always see my Dad

Prodigal Daughter

The first time I returned to my father’s house wasn’t a happy homecoming, not one of joyful reunion; the prodigal daughter returning only slightly battered by her adventures but welcome nonetheless. This is not to say my father wasn’t happy to see me, he simply didn’t know what to make of me; I disrupted the rhythm he and my brother had established and I was not easy. No, I did not fit into the domestic tranquility they had established without my mother.

The Wild Child returns or was it truly the Prodigal Daughter

There was a silence between us an abyss of unspoken anger and hurt. Occasionally that dark silence would erupt, molten heat flow between us rife with all that would remain unsaid. My father was angered by what he saw as my rebellious nature; he was infuriated by what seemed to him my failure to be bowed by my circumstance, my great failure. He truly had no idea just how tipped over I was, how often I could be found curled into myself begging for relief, my pain beating like a tattoo on the walls of my chest so loudly I often couldn’t hear my own heart beating.

I took back my old room, the walls folded in on me and memories battered me. Memories from before my run and memories of my years away. Memories I could not tell that no one, especially my father, wanted to hear. Memories that screamed in my head and battered my heart. My brother was not happy at my arrival; this didn’t make my homecoming easier. My insertion back into my family home was full of angst, fury even. I was seeking safe harbor, my father was looking for the daughter he never had but thought he remembered as if in a dream. We were both so wrong and both furious at the other for our disappointment.

When my brother was 17 and I was 20, I had been home less than a year my father had three heart attacks. He was just 51 years old and had never taken particularly good care of himself. He had been single for five years by this time and had found he enjoyed life without the harridan that was my mother. He had known for quite some time that his heart was bad; he did nothing to correct the problem. This led to a triple bi-pass and a significant change in his life-style. It wasn’t enough. My father was hardheaded; he thought he could outsmart his own body and his family history. He continued to work, play and not take particularly good care of himself for another ten years. His health suffered and this led to another series of heart attacks and another bi-pass surgery.

While my dad was a brilliant man in many ways, he was emotionally stunted. He had a far easier time bailing me out of my ‘difficulties’, the things I did to force his attention than simply listening to why I did them. Don’t

My brother and I in 1981

misunderstand me, there was not a single time after my return to the fold my father wasn’t there for me, not once my dad didn’t open his wallet if I needed help. I paid for those failures though, paid in rancor and ferocity. Paid also in knowing I couldn’t be enough, couldn’t ever be ‘good enough’. These feelings would engender in me such jealousy of the relationship he had with my brother, the easy camaraderie and friendship it would taint my relationship with both my brother and my father for many years to come making it difficult for us to come together and finally find peace.

Ultimately it wasn’t he and I that found the necessary building blocks to make peace, perhaps alone we would have never found our way back to each other. After my father’s second round with heart surgery he finally determined he would live. He retired from the work he loved after 30 years. He took up new hobbies and new interests, including unbeknownst even to him a love interest. I think by then he had already begun to find his heart back home in Texas, though it would be a while longer before he or any of the rest of us realized just how much of his heart he had truly found.

By the time my father had his second open heart surgery I had been through the stage of trying to distract his attention through my wild child antics. It did of course work, but not in a way that made sense. I did far more harm to myself with nothing really gained but his anger and disdain. Ultimately I married once in haste and with deep regret two years later divorced. I had finally married the man I would remain married to for fourteen years, the father of my two sons and the ex-husband of my favorite wife-in-law.

My brother in the meantime joined the Army making my father ‘proud’, words I heard with regularity but not directed at me.

One my dad disapproved, the Wild Child in Action

I sought my father, his attention but mostly his approval, constantly, but could not tell him what was wrong. Maybe if he had asked, maybe if I thought he could sit to hear the truth I would have told. But I could never tell him, he asked me once why I did the things I did;

Because I hate myself

He shook his head and walked away. He never asked why. Maybe if he had I could have told him.

For a little while I stopped outwardly trying to gain his approval, but inside I was always the little girl that wanted to be Daddy’s girl. I wanted him to love me and to like me. The problem was I simply didn’t like me enough to tell him what had been done, I wanted him to be angry but I wouldn’t tell him so he could comfort me. I wanted him to guess rather than know. I was so ashamed I couldn’t tell and so I was angry that he didn’t protect me and instead bought my silence. That was always what it felt like; he bailed me out because that was all he had for me.

When I was still Daddy’s Little Girl

My father missed my graduation, it crushed me but I never told him.

My father missed my son’s wedding, this also hurt my feelings but I told him this one by then our relationship had changed.

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I have tried to write the story of my father and I as a trilogy and found it to be far too complex, perhaps because it has an ending that includes a reconciliation

Part I – In Your Absence

Part II – Growing up Texas

Growing up Texas-My Fathers Story

My dad was born in 1926 in San Antonio, Texas but spent most of his childhood in South Texas, first in Corpus Christie then finally in Sinton; a small town just north of Corpus. My dad came up rough and tumble with two older siblings, a brother and a beloved sister. I am not sure being the baby of the family got him any special treatment except with his mother, who adored him but I think this might have been because on top of being the baby he was pretty, truly pretty with auburn hair and sparkling hazel green eyes. Yes, my dad in his younger days was a stunner.

During the Great Depression I don’t think pretty got you much of anything, especially with men like my Grandfather. My grandfather was at best rough around the edges, your traditional Texas redneck; perhaps he couldn’t help himself his approach to life and his children, certainly growing up they felt his failure and his fists. My grandfather wasn’t unlike others of his time, he was luckier than many having a skill that allowed him to work more often than his peers. Grandpa was tempered by his times, by poverty and of course by the culture of South Texas. His views and attitudes determined how he treated his wife and children; ultimately they would shape my father but not I think the way his father intended.

Siblings with their grandmother in South Texas
My Dad is the Baby

That my Grandfather was able to work sometimes didn’t change the grinding poverty the family experienced through the years of the Great Depression. What it did accomplish is their ability to build a stable life in Sinton; it led to home ownership and the purchase of my grandfather’s business, a liquor store named after him that would become a hub of activity including sometime poker games with his cronies.  My Grandfather was rattlesnake mean; he was also a bigot and a cheat. I suspect he occasionally abused my grandmother, though I don’t know this and have no proof except my own experience. I only met my Grandfather a few times; one of those times was what led to my intense dislike and fear of him and my identification of his bigotry.

In 1936, when my father was just ten-years old he and his brother were in a car accident. Both of them sustained terrible injuries and while they were home recuperating my grandfather encouraged them to build and fly model airplanes. This would prove to become a life-long interest for my father, becoming his calling and profession. There weren’t many things he followed his father into, amateur photography is one of these; I am the inheritor of his many years of picture taking and his love of recording the world around him on film as well.

Inside with Granddad

My father was different from those around him, he was a thinker, thoughtful and purpose filled. My grandmother once told me he was ‘sensitive’, this wasn’t necessarily a good thing for a boy in South Texas at the time. Although he played football in High School and chased girls, always having the prettiest dates to the dances, my father wanted more than life in small town Texas. He wanted more than what he witnessed around him in his family and his hometown. He watched as his beloved sister fell in love with a boy his father disapproved of and was subsequently disowned, barred from her family. He came to blows, true fisticuffs with his father over minor differences more than once. Ultimately he determined to follow dreams of his own, leaving behind small town bigotry and thinking of a broader world for himself and his future children.

Though my Grandfather was a man of his times, he did instill in his two sons ambition and a work ethic. My father would set his mind to things and achieve them, hobbies or work he did them with single-mindedness. My father carried this through his entire life. He graduated from A&M with a degree and Aeronautical Engineering and ultimately went to work for the premier airplane design and manufacturing company in the world, Boeing. Throughout his career he would be promoted to manager several times and each time would eventually request a return to his true passion, design. He didn’t like management; it wasn’t interesting or engaging (his words).

Dang He was Pretty

When my father met my mother he was following a plan I think.

  1. Finish College – Check
  2. Start Career – Check
  3. Reach Correct age of 25 – Check

He had graduated in 1949, he had his first job at what was then Muroc Army Base (later Edwards AFB); it was time to start looking for a wife. My mother was working at Muroc as a secretary. There weren’t a great number of options; Muroc was extremely remote with little to do and few singles to choose from. Mom must have thought she hit the jackpot with my father’s interest in her. He on the other hand saw a woman who had been raised ‘right’, came from good stock and would be a good mother to his future children (no I am not making any of this up).

The wedding party aka The March to Hell

They dated for just over a year and married in July of 1951. It was a marriage made in Hell, for both of them. I don’t think either were ever truly happy. My mother’s parents, though they attended the wedding, never approved of my father who they did not believe was good enough for their family or their daughter. My father’s family always thought my mother was stuck-up (she was).

Despite the misery they inflicted on each other their marriage remained intact for 22 long years.  I was long gone by the time they separated and did not know they had done so until years later. Perhaps if I had a great deal of pain could have been avoided. The story I heard was this:

Mom:  “When son is 18 I want a divorce”.

Dad: “Why wait?”

Within a week my father had moved out of the house and thus begin a very nasty divorce that saw them duking it out with lawyers for months. The result was my father ended up with custody of my then twelve-year old brother and the home of my childhood. The divorce left both of them bitter for years. Personally, I always asked the question;

“What the hell took so long?”

Thus ends Chapter 2 of my father’s story in Broken Chains. Daddy loved his family; he adored his mother and his sister. He was respectful toward his father and I think he loved his father though didn’t like him very much; he kept us away for a reason. My father created his own hell with his marriage and determined to not divorce, he left his children instead to suffer in silence for his absence. My father remained single for nearly twenty years; it would be his remarriage to the mother of my heart that finally brought about our full reconciliation though we had started this process long before that time.

Part One of my Fathers Story – In Your Absense

In Your Absense

When I was young, I was my father’s child, a daddy’s girl. This was apparently true of me from the moment my parents brought me home from the hospital. My first memory was of my father and all my best memories of childhood include him. My second family pursued adoption because my father wanted children; he wanted to be a father.

He failed miserably at fatherhood.

The above statement is an outrageously harsh indictment of a man who loved his children. I often doubted his love, through my childhood when he failed me so absolutely I often asked why he hated me. Even into my young adulthood, I sometimes would ask him:

“What did I do that was so wrong?”

If the question was asked during one of our many arguments  screaming matches, he always had a litany of my wrongs, I never had an answer as they were mostly true. My father didn’t know the whole story, ever. I don’t know why he didn’t know the entire story of my childhood except he was never present; he lived in the same household he simply wasn’t present.

This is the story of my father and me, another entry to Broken Chains. My father, my Daddy, my Hero; the man who set the bar high for others, but also hurt me first and worst, fortunately this is also a story of reconciliation and redemption.

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My first memories of my father all revolve around the shell of a sailboat. My dad always had hobbies, they absorbed him, took all his time and energy. The sailboat was the first of these that I remember. The shell of the boat was in our garage and each day my father would come home from work and change into his ‘work clothes’, eat dinner and abscond to the garage to sand, hammer, saw or otherwise work on the sailboat. Sometimes I was allowed to sit in the boat and watch him work; I liked this mostly because if I was quite I could stay there until bedtime.

Of course there were days this worked out quite well, others not so much. My mother didn’t think the hull of a boat in the garage was the place for a little girl and she would snatch me back faster than my fat little legs could carry me. Other days, well those days I was simply in the way; I didn’t understand then, I suppose looking back, I do now but then my feelings were hurt.

Did I mention my father would pick up hobbies? He became nearly obsessive with his hobbies, in the early years it was that stupid boat first building it then sailing it.

Frappe’

The Hull – Really

My dad built it from the ground up, lovingly bending every board, sanding every visible surface and polishing every piece of brass. When he finally launched Frappe’ spring and summer, boating and Racing season couldn’t come soon enough for him each year. The chance to escape, to feel the wind and test himself but mostly to escape the confines of a marriage that was always a misery. For all the years of my childhood and into my teens, that boat was my father’s escape. It was also the blight of my existence during many a summer holiday when I would be confined in 26 feet of Hell with two adults who spent much of their time bickering, another part of their time screaming either at each other or us and the rest in blessed silence to angry or worn out to fight any longer.

I hated those family outings!

My brother and I were adopted because my father wanted children, he wanted a family yet when he finally had one, he failed to be present. My father was so terribly miserable in his marriage he

Daddy & I, 1959

failed to protect me from the woman he married. Perhaps it was the time, but he also failed to believe me when I tried to tell him who she was and what she did. Despite his own antipathy toward his wife, the woman he choose to marry and remain with for over twenty years, he failed to believe me even after I ran away multiple times. He failed to believe me even after a court removed me from their custody. He failed to believe me even when he saw bruises.

There were so many secrets in our home. Because my father chose not to be present, he was part of the problem by enabling the secret life and world. It was many years before we would finally talk; finally clear much of the hurt that hung over our relationship. His hobbies were his escape, they were his freedom but in escaping to the lakes and seas or later to the mountains to ski (his next obsession), he left me especially to take the brunt of his wife’s fury. It was a long time before the toxic wasteland of my own hurt and rage at his apathy would dissipate.

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As with all the entries to Broken Chains, I will tell the story in three parts. The story of my father and I is not as terrible as other entries, for those who are afraid to read because Broken Chains has been hard.

I will tell what I know of my father’s story and how he brought his history to his marriage and how it affected me especially. My dad passed in 2009; before he passed, we had made peace. It was sometimes a rocky peace but it was a peace forged of forgiveness, understanding and most of all love.

History isn’t Mutable, But we are

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 22 January 1973

It is an important date, the reason this is date is important? It was nearly a one year after I lay on that cold table begging a doctor and two nurses not to perform an Instillation Abortion, while my mother waited impatiently in the waiting room. They did not have my agreement or permission, they apparently did not need it, they had what they needed, hers.

Forty years, that is how long it has been, forty years and some months. Until this weekend, I haven’t really thought about the reality that I had an illegal abortion. I guess in the back of my mind I have always known, always had in one of the boxes I kept safe from examination, but until Friday when I first started writing this trilogy in Broken Chains, I hadn’t really put the pieces together. I had always wondered why even when I begged them to stop, they didn’t; I knew the law yet they didn’t stop. I had always wondered why, what amounted to induced labor and then a D&C was performed well past my first trimester, I knew the law even in the early days of Roe v. Wade, this wasn’t the norm. I sometimes wondered how this happened, why my pediatrician the doctor who had cared for me my entire life did this to me with only my mother’s signature and why that little hospital allowed it, never reported it just turned a blind eye.

By the time I returned to and thought to ask, my doctor was dead. His practice had been taken over by two other doctors, two young and enthusiastic doctors and all new nurses who were more than willing to answer my questions. I asked for my files, they weren’t so happy to hand those over, this was 1979 and there was nothing to force their compliance with my requests. I explained my request though, what I was looking for and why I was looking. I just wanted answers; I wanted my mother’s signature and the explanation. I would have done anything, begged, crawled across fire, walked on glass, offered my body as a sex slave for those answers. I was so raw and I believed I deserved to understand why two people who should have cared for me brutalized me so terribly. Finally, one of those young doctors took pity after listening to my story, he told me I could read the file in his office but I couldn’t have copies and I couldn’t take anything with me.

There was nothing there!

Oh, there was a positive pregnancy test and a sad note, because he had known me all my life. The next entry was the night I was admitted to the hospital, February 11, 1972, it said I spontaneously aborted (this means I miscarried) a Male Fetus, there were measurements in the file, I don’t remember them anymore precisely; he was nearly 5 inches and nearly 3 ounces. I never knew, actually I always imagined, but I didn’t know they documented this information or even cared, now I had another nightmare, did he draw one breath?

Next I went to the hospital, I asked for the records. They told me the same thing, they didn’t exist I was never there for an abortion. I was never there. I gave up. I had an illegal abortion but there was no proof, only that I had spontaneously miscarried, that was all it would ever say. Perhaps only I would know the truth. No one else, only me.

Choice is being able to say NO

Over the years I had hardened my heart against the empty place in my homes, my marriages and my life called childlessness. At some point I became a misopedist; putting it out convincingly I did not want children and was not unhappy with the turn of my life. This was not the truth, not my inner truth but it was the only truth I had that would stop people from handing me their children.

I have been told many times, we are never given more than we can bear, never more than we can survive. I suspect this might be true, I even suspect there are reasons why some are forged in much hotter fires. What we do with the wreckage determines who we become and how we will live our lives. It is rare that anyone has an epiphany changes direction and turns their life around entirely. Letting go of every injury, releasing every painful memory and creating a new person to stand in the place of the old one, victim to survivor is much slower and harder.

There are many vigils we sit as we mourn our lost innocence, lost childhoods and then finally kicking in the doors protecting memories. I write these as trilogies to show clear paths not just of terror, pain, suffering or horror; but of growth, recovering and even sometimes joy (I promise). I will get there, I will write them. This was the worst of it, the hardest to write the hardest to remember. This short interval, just over 1 year of my life set my feet on a path towards so many other life choices I all too often look back at this single year and ask;

What if?

The truth of what happened, it created in me some beliefs and truths that to this day I believe, they have never changed they are immutable.

‘Forgiveness isn’t free, I don’t owe it.’

‘Choice isn’t just about Yes, it is also about No.’

‘I will never do to anyone what was done to me, that is a choice that I have.’

‘Survival is not for those without compassion, you can never live entirely inside yourself or for yourself.’

I built strong walls and I was fortunate to have a good mind. I was able to escape behind the persona I built without much challenge. Much of that person was the true me; strong, smart, hardworking, driven even and sometimes funny. Unfortunately, that person was also guarded, stubborn, quick to cut a person out of my life, quick to walk away, unforgiving even. There are many things I grew to like about myself over the years; many things though remained hidden even from my friends, there were also many things I never loved, things I believed did not deserve to be loved. Now, as I explore my history I am learning that just maybe I was wrong in my judgment.

So now I am walking down the hallways of my mind, shaking the locks and rattling the doors. I didn’t get here all alone I know that. It wasn’t all bad, it couldn’t have been. These are just those pivotal moments, those points of darkness that I decided to finally shine light into. With that I leave trilogy II in Broken Chains with this quote which I think is apt:

‘Our life is always deeper than we know, is always more divine than it seems, and hence we are able to survive degradations and despairs which otherwise must engulf us.’

William James (1842 – 1910),  pioneering American psychologist and philosopher

Trilogy II – Broken Chains

Part I – No Bastards No Choice

Part II – Never Again, I will hate you

Broken Chains – Start at Part I

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