On a Not So Special Day…

In October of 2000, I remember going to Eastland Cemetery in Eastland, TX…I found my way to the woman whose suicide I blamed myself for many years…She wasn’t famous.  No one heard of her except the locals who knew of her tirades.  Her name was Judy.  She was my stepmother.  For about 3.5 years, I endured much at her hands but it was on this day that I came to one stark realization.  She could not help her mental illness.  In the last two weeks of her life, she thought she was four years old, and that I was her mother.

For years after her death, I kept asking, what if I had done this? What if I had done that.  The fact of the matter is that it does not matter, especially now. There are two things nobody has control over besides life and death and those things are the past and future. Neither can be changed. However I spent much of my 20’s trying to run from the memories of what went on in my home during the time she was with us. It was rather violent. I got shoved into walls, cabinets, picked up and thrown into one once–and those times were on the days when she wasn’t too pissed off and went off on EVERYONE.

Do I hate her? No.  Do the memories of a pistol getting pointed at my head still haunt me? Yes. That is probably why I never owned a gun. However times change and I do often think about obtaining one now. Please, if you’re into gun control, don’t preach at me. My family hunted for decades and before that my ancestors did also.  Not everyone who owns a gun is a nut-case.

Anyway back to my point.  There is only one thing that enabled me to get beyond the shadows of the past  when it came to her and that was to make this particular trip, on this not so special day to her grave.  It was in the 60’s and the sun was out.  And I stood here for a long time pondering what I would say if she were to stand next to me. It was then I said something very close to this:

This is my stepmother's grave. My father was buried elsewhere

This is my stepmother’s grave. My father was buried elsewhere

 

“It has been many years now. I have done some digging and now I can understand why you were so tormented over several things. Losing your own children and losing two sisters prior took a toll on you. I understand now, Judy. I understand the hell you went through at home as a child too. I forgive you.  I actually forgave you a long time ago but I had to come here to say it. I hope that you are at peace and that you are no longer suffering. I would wish what you endured on nobody now that I have put it together.”

Her suicide took a devastating toll on my emotions all the way through high school and beyond. I buried myself in my writing and my school work. I almost ended up getting into cutting but one of the counselors saw my journal and encouraged me to channel my energy elsewhere.  That was when I picked up a pen.

The chilling remarks when I came back to school after her death were the most cutting. Some new kid asked why anyone would shoot themselves.  My teacher in that class was a coach everyone got pissed at every day it seemed.  As I sat there he said, “I don’t know but women usually don’t go around shooting themselves because they are afraid to mess up their looks.”

I was livid. There is no way he didn’t know about her suicide being that he worked part-time for DPS.  I got up and bolted out of the room.  I stayed home for a couple of days and was in a different class after that. My dad made sure of it.  Even in her death the bullying and idiotic behavior of some of the other students continued as well. I never forgot that either. To them it was all a joke.  Well I hope they enjoyed their years at school afterward, because much of their entertainment came at the expense of others who were broken. This is why I don’t attend class reunions either–along with many others who opt not to show.

It is actually them I feel sad for. Even in adulthood they do not have a clue as to the scars they inflicted with their actions and words, yet most have suffered their own tragedies and seem to forget their past actions.  Ironically, I forgive them too. Some will have much to answer for one day. Until then, I will live my life and continue to work to get questions answered. For Judy, it’s the least I can do. She deserved better than what life dealt her.

 

Remembering the Monster (Part II)

It is  funny how when a child goes through abuse in the home, they feel that they did something wrong, or they said something to piss the abusive parent off.  However sometimes the abuser reveals the real reason for singling out the child. It is a lesson I know very well because it was taught to my abuser as well.

I am referring to my late stepmother.  As cruel as she was and as evil as she could be, I learned some lessons about her that did enable me to forgive what she did.  Does that mean that from time to time the shadows don’t try to creep up and remind me through nightmares and such? Absolutely not.

I remember well how I slept with the lights on after she killed herself with that same pistol she waived at my head–and sometimes she went further–she would actually put the barrel to my head, and I can remember how cold it felt to this day.  Often she revealed my existence as her reasoning behind her resentment of my presence in the family. The bottom line is, I stood up to her once I got older.

I find it also funny that when growing up, one thinks this is actually normal crap to deal with day after day.  Once she took her own life, and the shock of her death subsided, along with my self-loathing thinking it was my fault she did it, I began to get around ‘normal families“…You know–the ones where both parents didn’t fight and they actually had meals together at the table like we did before my parents split?

However, back to my point…She would tell me things her mother said to her such as, “…I don’t want you and I never did!”   Then she told me a story about how her two step sisters died in a fire that she believed her stepfather started. I wasn’t sure what to make of this story until I read it myself, but she was adamant that her stepfather set the fire.

I had a horrible tendency to turn my anger inward during and after those years. I remember hearing those negative voices when my stepmother committed suicide–and they were very “loud”, if you know what I mean. I kept hearing, “You should have done this!” or “IF you had done X then Y wouldn’t have happened.”  The bottom line is that there was nothing I did to cause it being that I was only around 14 and nothing could change it.  I had to work my way through that process of grief and self-loathing.

My dad was a total basket case, so I had to help arrange the funeral and pick the casket, as well as the dress to bury her in. THAT was the hardest part of that whole thing–having to help arrange it at 14. I am glad my sister and sister-in-law were around to help keep my head on track, and they did help me to handle this.  To this day I have an aversion to going into funeral homes even though I make myself do it. All it takes is the smell of the flowers or the sight of a black suit to send me straight back to 1978. I don’t know why but that triggers those memories in a huge way. I find it ironic that I knew more about her childhood–her parents names and such than my father did. I also knew that she had three sons taken from her in Red Bluff, CA in the 1970’s so if anyone is looking to find her, then contact me via email.

I struggled with trying to find reasons for what happened, and trying to make “sense” of it, but there is no “sense” when it comes to something like that or any unexpected loss, I think. There was also that voice that kept saying, “What if I had done ____ differently? Would it change a thing?”  I didn’t have a sounding board to take my frustrations out on so I turned to pen and paper, which was all I had at the time–aside from an imagination that when my pen flowed freely, the counselors became concerned.  I also struggled with the fact that there came a day when I fully realized that what went on in our household was NOT normal by any stretch of the imagination.

Then came the day I had to forgive her and then myself.  I realized that I both loved her and hated what she did, but realizing that she was not in control of her actions enabled me to forgive her and begin to rebuild from another starting point. I also had to forgive a few others in this process. When I say I had to “rebuild from another starting point” I am referring to the fact that after any traumatic event we can never fully be the person we once were.  We have to debrief ourselves a bit and then start reprogramming from that point, I think.

Living with her mental illnesses was one thing, but her behaviors also taught me how “NOT” to be a stepmother.  It also turned me off of the idea of internet dating and such because she WAS a mail order bride.  Anyone can put on any image they want to present themselves to be, but you never know what they are until you are with them.

I choose to play it “safe” and avoid that trap, hence the reason I don’t connect with anyone to go out with from the internet.  I have my friends I hang out with.  If I go out with anyone it will be with NO ONE that I meet on the web.

Does this mean I am lonely? No. I am alone but I don’t get lonely.  I have things to do and places to go and since I spent half of my life married, I’m in no rush. I am certainly NOT desperate either. Being single does not mean that my life is broken.

Now I want to say something else here.  I read Cinderella as a  child…I watched the version of it with Lesley Ann Warren and loved it.  As I got older, as in my late teens, I began to realize how much truth in  “Fairy Tales” really existed.  Her friends were mice–AT LEAST in the Disney version. My friend was a mouse named Brutus. There is also truth in the fiction between us all.  My fiction was that I was a princess or an angel in waiting…When I grew up, I realized that I am a statistic…A number…One of the many who fell through the cracks, but made my own way back out of them.

In fact, I think the song “Luka” fits more accurately–even though I’m not a boy.  After all, Suzanne Vega was right…She only hit until I cried. I sure as hell didn’t ask why when she went on these rampages either.

Many of these fairy tales were written with happy endings, but in life, would they have been happy? We may never know.   Look at “Sleeping Beauty“…The queen was pissed because she wasn’t invited to the Christening.  The only thing that woke Aurora’s ass up was her true love’s kiss.  What rubbish.  All of these fairy tales have the sabotage of the memes we were taught running rampantly through them.  The main theme being “Good prevails over evil”….Does it?   Or, do we simply hope for the best, block out the worst and drive on hoping the next day will be better than the one before?

Either way I drew more inspiration for my writing from “Dark Shadows” than I ever would any of these “fairy tales”.  I also drew from a movie called “Paperhouse” and ‘another one called “Spirit of the Beehive“. Perhaps it is because in the eyes of the child I once was, Barnabas (from “Dark Shadows”) could not help what he was and that enabled me to empathize with his fictional pain.  In my opinion, he was bullied too.

Lessons about A Few Words…

I can just see what people will be thinking when they see the title of this post, but it’s not about what many think.  This is not about the “F” word or any other vernacular word one might think of…This is about words that changed me from the creature I was in my youth.  I was very afraid of forgiving people.  Once I was hurt, I tended to turn away never to look back.  Don’t get me wrong–I only did it when it was something severe, but it was a coping mechanism I had that made me withdraw from people.   I felt that if this is what humanity is about, I’m better off being a loner–and a loner I was.  What people do not understand is that it is hell trying to be around people after some of what I’ve experienced–but I make myself do it.

The use of the rough comments got me sent to the counselor’s office for what was merely a mechanism for my protection.  Those who followed a crowd and not the beat of their own drum never impressed me.  This is why when the cliques tried to “put me in my place” in their social pecking order in school, they usually got a rude awakening–fast. I always loved it when they found out I was making money so they’d try to befriend me so that I would buy them something (and yes in school this happened).   When someone is being “too nice” I learned early on in life that it was always with an ulterior motive from my point of view.  Even in adult circles there is always that one person who has “friends” on payday but when they are broke, those people don’t have time for him or her.

That same person is also the one these people “borrow money” from and never want to pay back.  There are two groups of people who I never lend money to:  relatives and co-workers.  Sounds harsh?  I’ve seen money issues tear more families apart than anything else on the planet.   I’ve seen it ruin friendships too. A mom loans her son $1400 to pay his car note off.  He promises to pay it back.  The job market goes kaput and by now this guy and his wife are having a baby.  His hours got cut  back to part-time so they move in with MOM.  They agree on certain terms and he pays on those terms, but comes in one night and announces he has two plane tickets to Las Vegas and wants to take the mom-to-be there for a weekend.  The tickets cost him $1500 on his credit card.  He’s only paid Mom $300 of the loan back.  He has only paid his part of what they agreed upon on the bills.  She doesn’t know about his credit card purchases but she gets highly pissed because he spent money on a credit card that he probably will have trouble paying, has a baby on the way, still owes her money but he’s taking a vacation instead of looking for a full-time position…Hmm…Sound familiar?

The animosity Mom feels most likely will get taken out on the daughter-in-law, too.  I’ve seen that happen a LOT! Then they all get mad and stop speaking to each other.  Is that bull worth it? NO.  Better to GIVE what you CAN afford to NOT receive back as a GIFT and that way one doesn’t sweat bullets over BS to the point that it creates World War 3. It is also better for those doing the borrowing to just be up front and honest about the inability to pay it back.  I respect the person who says, “Hey…I don’t know if I’ll be able to pay this back any time soon but…” than one who borrows and then says NOTHING and won’t talk about it.  If one only lends a small amount, then he/she is less likely to get upset if someone can’t pay it back.  That means there is some hurt but NO animosity.

Now one might be asking is this about “giving”?  No.  It goes deeper than that.  It’s about two key words people don’t usually have a true grasp of the meaning of:  LOVE and FORGIVENESS

First I am going to tell  you what I think love does:  Love heals, uplifts, unifies, embraces, comforts, brings peace, adds joy, dispels darkness in others’ hearts, encourages, and when put to the test–it bloody well  delivers.  Take a look at the disaster 10 days after the Tsunami hit Japan…What do we see?  We see people remaining calm, helping each other, and already trying to get on a path of rebuilding, comforting and bringing peace the broken hearts of the people. 

We see other countries uniting to help in whatever possible way they can to relieve some of the suffering, and as those people from other countries are within those borders with rescue dogs and equipment rescuing people–there is none of this–“Oh you are this or that, you couldn’t possibly understand what I feel–”  No! You see them acting as one team, one body, operating in unison and keeping time to a beat that is in line with the hearts of the people there.  There is no division now.  At first, some people went on a bit of what seems to be “self-promotion” but it passed quickly.  Not  even Kim Jong Il is acting up now since this happened.  We see people who might not have ever met clinging to each other and trying so hard to rebuild their lives.  What is their coping mechanism?  You guessed it: LOVE! 

Love is forgiving .  Does it mean you forget?  It can, depending upon the circumstances.  According to what people read in the bible, God forgets sins when he forgives them, but we are not God.  One can forgive, but that certainly doesn’t mean to not be wise.  I forgive and let God work out the rest.   I certainly do not envy the Great Spirit his job–he can keep it. Love is also for GIVING.  When people give their time or a few words of encouragement, there are times that it is worth more than the gold in Fort Knox.  Sometimes those words can stir hearts enough that they begin to make changes within themselves and that is where true change starts–within ourselves. 

What we do with that which we are given determines if others find their own way out–like tossing a pebble into the ocean.  That ripple continues to spread and not return to the giver as a boomerang would.  That is how it should be–give and hope that what you impart is shared somewhere down the line so that someone else benefits from it.  There is no greater reward than that anyway, in my opinion.  My turnabout came when I sought out my heritage due to one person’s blog post–after getting jewelry from her.  If you read the post about the Facebook page that turned me around, then you know where my journey began–and it started with watching a TV show on hulu.com (Dark Shadows) by a fluke one night.

Getting around people is not the struggle now that it was for me for years.  I realized one thing about people that I had not realized before.  Some will work quietly to make a difference in the lives of those who need them so much while others fight on the front lines. It doesn’t matter which route we choose, but as we feel led, it is the road we must travel.  I struggled for years with this.  It was a classic struggle between my inner self, and what I thought to be true.  What I thought to be true was that given my past experiences being hurt,  that most people were inherently evil–and I felt that way since I was a child.  I learned later in life that by shutting people out–people were still being hurt because there was nobody there to be a voice for those who cannot seem to find it within themselves to fight back.  I always felt that something should change–but was too afraid to step out of my comfort zone in order to do that.

I now have no choice because while on this journey to “find myself” I also found a purpose for my life after all and shutting myself up in the house as well as  away from the world around me simply is not the answer.  All I did in being a recluse was deny myself and allow others to win.  When I gained a spark of hope and kicked the last bar off of my cell door–it was then that I realized that there is more to life than what I was seeing and a whole world out there to explore in my way.   Love and hope are the fuel that have allowed me to escape the prison I built for my own “protection”.  If you know someone who is like this, please have them read this passage.  They are not alone any longer.  There is life out there–and even if it’s not so “intelligent” it can be fun!  Love, hope and forgiveness all work as a unit to help to kick down those walls and bars. 

Just my idea of a slice of Heaven...