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.

 

I Once Again Felt a Chill Down My Spine Today…

This is not going to be a long post, but most of you know the story of my stepmother Judy.  Granted the poor woman was mentally ill, but I didn’t understand that during the time I went through hell with her waiving a gun at my head, throwing me up into the walls and such from the time I was 11 and a few other things that went on which I do not care to discuss.

However today, I saw a story that sent chills down my spine because I realize I could have been among this number.   I realize how fortunate I am that I was not.  For three years I lived in a prison from which there was no escape for a little over three years and those three years shaped my destiny.  How I kept my sanity is beyond me.  I don’t consider myself broken, damaged and such–but there are times I wake up in a cold sweat even 33 years after the fact.

Oddly enough Judy, my stepmother,  died on 9/12/1978.  I am always down on 9/11 for obvious reasons, but this anniversary is one I don’t know whether to feel grief, relief or both depending on the memories that come back.  I wish she could have gotten help for her illness and there are some things I wish had been handled a lot differently.  However, it was not meant to be.  For some reason, I am alive and many others were not so lucky.  Many nights that .22 was waived at my head and I was threatened but I always put myself mentally elsewhere.  Other children did not make it out of their hells and their cells as I did mine.

I saw a story tonight that made me cry.  The violence of it and the horrible things that this  little girl had to see and hear make  my stepmother’s abusive behavior seem like a trip to Disneyland.   I realized tonight that I didn’t endure crap half as bad as this famous little girl did.  Back in the days when this happened,  there was not much Child Protective Services could do if the children wouldn’t talk.  It was true at the time of my stepmother’s death and it was true at the time of the death of a little girl named Judith Eva Barsi (June 1978-July 1988).

Judith (Judy–as some called her) was an actress on her way to stardom.  Despite the hell she endured at home, she always looked happy and cheerful…I call that the greatest mask because I too was able to wear it.  At times I could go to school beaming as if everything was as fine as it would be in a Brady Bunch or Ozzie and Harriet household.   However some of my teachers saw right through it.  Did anyone besides the psychologist and immediate family see through Judy Barsi’s?

Why did CPS just speak to the mother and not interview the child alone?  If they did would it have mattered?  Most likely not.  I find it ironic that a movie was not made about this because the headlines were almost too many to count from what I am reading tonight. On top of that, after 45 days or so, the judge tended to put the kids right back into the hell they were taken out of for the sake of “keeping the family together”.  To me that is a load of pure crap in extreme cases.  First time, take their rights and place the kid(s) elsewhere.  That is what I feel should be done  and ONLY in EXTREME cases–and to me this was pretty extreme.

If you don’t believe me look at the case of the Jahnke kids.  Remember?  The ones that shot their dad who was VERY abusive to them?  I remember it, too.  They should have been fully pardoned when it came out what they endured at this hands.  Sorry if you don’t agree but these were kids–like me but they were a bit older when their incident took place.  They did make movies about this incident, but I am not going to go into it here…They are out of prison and living quiet lives and I wish them peace and a full life.

Ironically, I could have fallen into either category–Judith Barsi’s or that of the Jahnke kids.  I don’t know what stopped me to this day from pulling the trigger on my stepmother the night I had the opportunity to, but something did.  On the other hand, I don’t know what the hell kept her from blowing my brains out.  Does that make me sick or abnormal?  I don’t think so.  There is a big difference in fantasizing about killing the bully and actually carrying out the thought.  I could never do it. Even now I know I could NOT do it.  That is the difference between yesterday’s kid and today’s kid I guess.  We had Columbine for a wake up call, right?   Now if someone tries to harm one of my sons, that is a whole new ball game.

Aside from that there is something that people need to remember.   Kids basically had very few rights then, but someone has to be their voice.  Someone has to step in and take action when nobody else can or will.  My hat goes off to every social worker who has ever had to risk his or her life to remove a child from a parent like Jozsef Barsi or from a parent like my stepmother.  I salute every policeman/woman , firefighter and teacher who has ever stepped in to help in such a situation–and many HAVE done so. Many a teacher helped me as best as they could during my time of hell.  Day after day, these brave people go in to face the unknown, and just like those less fortunate children that they are trying to protect, they might not make it home again.

As 9/12 approaches for me, I am grateful for all of these heroes–as well as the ones who will be remembered the day prior.  We should never, ever take life for granted.  We are all here for a reason and now I know this.  Someday, maybe I’ll finish the book on it, but there are days that I simply cannot write in it.  I still cry.  I still struggle with whether or not to take that pen that I have created so many imaginary heroes and heroines with in their worlds and paint the reality of my world  for all to see.  Besides that, “Precious” was already out there to try to wake people up as well…I wonder if I am the only writer that goes through this type of stuff.  I know to this day, I cannot watch “Precious”.  Sorry but it is  painful for me for other reasons.  My niece warned me about it so I can’t watch it.  If they make one about this case, I will not be able to watch it either.

Anyway, I feel that Judith Barsi is the long-lost poster child for the reality of what child abuse is.  Her own father killed her and then killed her mother as well.  Some say the song “Concrete Angel” by Martina McBride may have been written about her.  I choose to honor her life here. I chose the video below because it uses a song that brings hope and not tears.  She should be remembered with a smile for the sunshine she brought to so many.  Her life was cut short way too soon, and I do not feel that she should ever be forgotten.  If you know of a child going through hell, please, by all means pick up the bloody phone. You may be saving a life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-q947Iyy3c&feature=related