Luke’s visit, part 6

I don’t like it when people touch me, neither does Mark.

Luke has always been an affectionate guy.

Maybe it just boils down to personal preference. We had the same upbringing.

We remember the bite marks on our arms, the scratches, head butts, eye pokes, kicks, punches…that we received from our autistic brother Matt.

My dad seemed afraid to hit or hug me. He would tickle my brothers and I which was miserable because he just wouldn’t stop when we told him to.

Touch was not usually a good thing, but I did like my grandma’s hugs.

My dad was not gentle in any way. He would squeeze my mother in hugs too tight until she would cry out…stop you are hurting me. Her cries would draw in my little brothers. They would jump on my dad and try to get him to let go while he swung at them like pesky mosquitoes. It was all a game.

Now Luke was a mama’s boy, which really seemed to bother my dad. If anyone tattled on Luke, he would get it. Mark and I never got spankings, but Luke always seemed to get in trouble. He hated my dad and did a lot of things to bother him like cutting the cords on his electronics. Mark and I never really did the things that would fuel my dad’s anger.

There are some things I feel bad about. Sometimes my dad would fly off the handle with Luke about minor things that I tattled about. There was also a period of time that Luke looked to me to be a second mother. He clung to me and I pushed him away.

There were times when my dad was a little rough with Luke and Matt. But most of the scars came from Matt. He would out of the blue attack someone. It would bother me that no one told him what he was doing was wrong. In fact, if we tried to defend ourselves or retaliate, we were punished. He couldn’t help it, but we could.

It was always hard to see Matt hurt someone, stranger or friend. Sometimes we could see the signs beforehand that he was was agitated. I always felt guilty that I couldn’t stop it from happening. Sometimes I felt responsible for it. Maybe if I noticed sooner, I could’ve stopped it. Why should I feel responsible for my brother’s actions?

His actions had a direct effect on my life. It was the reason that friends weren’t allowed to come to our house. It was the reason I lost friends. It was the reason for my isolation. Matt was so violent that he wasn’t allowed in school for 3 years. A teacher came to our house for Matt. My mom pulled us all out of school. I spent one year of middle school and two years of high school at home. I only saw my friends a couple times a month.

My cats became my friends. Sometimes Matt would hurt them. If they tried to come in the house, my dad would pick them up by the tail and throw them out. But I always let them sneak in my bedroom window.

There was nothing normal about my childhood. Yet here I am trying to live a normal life.

 

Luke’s visit, part 2

I suppose since you have a big house now that you will be hosting Christmas this year.

It wasn’t the first time I heard this comment…

I told Luke that I didn’t really like an aunt and uncle of ours.

Why?

Because of the time that they came over for supper when we were kids.

What about it?

They had the house with the piano. They wanted us to come live with them if mom and dad left us forever. That evening while we were eating, Matt hurt our aunt. It wasn’t unusual for Matt to hurt someone.  It was our aunt who was acting strange. She locked herself in the car crying hysterically. She could not be comforted. I’ve never seen her so upset before or since.

Suppose that our aunt was attacked and Matt triggered her memory of it.

Aunt left and didn’t come back. They said that they didn’t want us to come live with them in their house with the piano anymore.

Who told you that?

Mom. She cried and said that no one cared. She said things would be different if her mom was still living.

How old were you?

I don’t know, maybe 8 or 9.

You were too young, why would she tell you that you were unwanted?

Something strange happened in the course of our conversation. For the first time I was able to see the event through adult eyes.

I was able to let go of the rejection of 30+ years. My aunt has always been kind to me, but I didn’t trust her since that night. Other family members cared. They were busy living their own lives. Some were only a few years older than me. They saw what was happening but didn’t know what to do about it. Some lived far away. The ones that were near did help.

My mom just needed more help than anyone could reasonably provide.

So I became the helper. I became the adult.

I have forgiven my family.

Someday I will forgive my mother too for my lost childhood and for giving me this heavy weight to carry. I think it is time to start unpacking my baggage.

 

Luke’s visit, part 1

It happened, our meeting, almost 4 months after I sent the impersonal ‘happy birthday’ text to my brother Luke. He replied that he wanted to talk sometime in person, about our childhood, if I was up to it.

It happened the end of last year for him. He wasn’t going to lie to himself anymore. It happened right after our brother Matt was taken off of his anti-psychotic medicine and threatened to kill Luke’s daughter. The memories flooded back with strong emotion.

I understand, I take it in in small doses until I can’t swallow it anymore. But Luke took it in with one massive gulp. He set aside everything that he used to help him cope and embraced the pain.

He told me that he thought no one cared about us. No one had our best interests in heart. We were physically abused by our disabled brother Matt and verbally abused by our dad on a consistent basis. No one once said that they were sorry this happened to us. We were just expected to take it.

I agreed that our dad did not care about us. I did not agree that our mom did not care about us. I said that I thought she did the best that she could under the circumstances. But did she? Or am I just telling myself that to help me cope?? What is wrong with lying to yourself a little to make you feel better?? What is wrong with coping mechanisms if they are healthy and actually help you cope?

My mom always put Matt first over our safety or the safety of our children. Matt was like an idol we were forced to worship. Our wants and needs always took the back burner.

I feel angry sometimes. Luke does too. He said I should feel angry. But I don’t feel angry at my dad although he was a terrible father. I feel angry at my mom although I think she was an amazing mother.

There is an inconsistency there.

Things don’t add up with what I think and how I feel.

What kind of parents have a 6 year old (me) watch my 3 younger brothers swim at the lake even for a few minutes?? That was the day that my youngest brother (Luke), who just turned 2, almost drowned. I have carried the heavy weight of responsibility since then. I was not allowed to be a kid. I had to be an adult.

Luke said he was sorry that all of these traumatic things happened to me. He asked Paul if I was okay. He asked how I cope. Paul told him that I cope by running. He didn’t mention writing or this blog. I’m not ready. I’m not sure if I will ever be ready. But I am ready to start delving into the past again…slowly…

I don’t want Luke to worry about me…I think this time our brother Mark is the one that could be drowning. Maybe if we can reach him, we can help pull him out.

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #2

Blessed is he who makes his companions laugh.

I absolutely love this fortune cookie.

Growing up there wasn’t a lot of room in our house for happiness or laughter.

I was so serious, I rarely cracked a smile or a joke.

My youngest brother Luke was the household comedian. He would do outrageous things to try to make us laugh.

Then over time, Luke changed and so did I. Luke is now the serious one and I am the comedian. I don’t know when we exchanged the baton. I can’t explain it. How do roles change? Can the childhood caretaker become the adult mascot??

Did we just fill the roles that we needed to to survive? To function in dysfunction?

Now can we be who we really are? Who are we really? Are we who we were then or who we are now? Or is it a mixture of both?

Now when I get together with friends and family, I play the part of comedian. I love making people laugh. Life is too short to be serious all of the time.

I try to mix some of my serious blog posts with a pinch of laughter. There is nothing like adding a dose of humor to topics relating to death, despair, and disaster. It makes for some interesting post tags. Hmmm…death and humor?? Really now?

What is wrong with Alissa? I think she has a warped mind. I can hear your voices in my head already.

I don’t even know what genre I’m blogging in. Personal?? And everything else outside and in between. Real life? Your guess is as good as mine. You never know what you’re going to find.

I love following blogs that are able to mix seriousness with humor. It’s really difficult to master and even more difficult to consistently find in writings. They don’t seem to naturally mesh.

Why does it have to be one or the other?? Life is a mixed bag of sunshine, rain (blizzards), laughter, and tears. Most of the time the opposing spectrum cannot cross the center line. Tears from laughter. Sunshine and rain. Both are rare to find combined. Maybe that’s what makes a rainbow so beautifully profound yet elusive to capture. It is mysteriously bent outside of its natural boundaries like the top and bottom ends of the bell curve.

All of these deep thoughts over a fortune cookie about laughter…Geez…It’s not even funny..

 

In my feelings…

Last year, at about this time, my brother Matt was taken off of his anti-psychotic meds. Slowly, the docile Matt that we came to love disappeared. It started with a grunt and a few twitches. The Tourette’s was back. Then he started flapping his hands again, the Autistic self-stim. It all would’ve been tolerable for his liver’s sake, I guess.

But then the old Matt came back in full force. He talked to my mom about wanting to kill my niece, my brother Luke’s daughter. He fantasized over scenarios of killing or harming her. The voices were back. He laughed at the things they told him to do. He had conversations with himself as he flapped, grunted, gagged, and twitched.

He had to go back on the medicine. It took months to wean him off and it would take months until it was fully effective again. In the meantime, Luke had to keep his little girls away from Matt.

All of this happened before…

He attacked my daughter at her birthday party when she was 4. That was before he was medicated and in a group home. After that happened, I cut myself off from my family for years.

Before that, it was me. It’s okay if he hurt me, we were the same size. It happened day after day for year after year.

I was told not to feel. Don’t feel…don’t feel…don’t feel. I got pretty good at not feeling.

My dad never told me he loved me or said that everything would be okay. He could sit in the next room laughing over something stupid on TV while I cried. He didn’t care. He looked at me with vacant eyes. He wasn’t there.

He didn’t hug me, nor did he hit me.

Then there was a switch that would go off somewhere in my dad’s mind. He would become angry. He screamed, he swore, and flailed out at everyone. He laughed at our fears and tears. He ridiculed us, called us stupid, and told us how much he hated us. My brother Luke got the brunt of my dad’s anger. But Luke rattled his cage.

My dad never said ‘I’m sorry that you have to go through this’. Instead he called us names like wimp, baby, or worse if we cried or showed any signs of weakness. I built a tough exterior around myself that wouldn’t even allow empathy in. For every punch, hit, or bruise from my brother, my mantra was that the physical pain would make me stronger. The bruises and scars have long faded, but the inner scars will always remain unseen to most.

My mother was the perfect mom. Except she had one weakness, Matt. She favored him over everyone and everything else. If Matt wanted to go, we went. If he wanted to stay home, we stayed. If Matt was hot and we were cold, she would crank the A/C. Matt couldn’t help it, she said. We had control over ourselves, he didn’t. Sometimes she was so blinded by Matt, that she would put other people at risk by his behavior. But, she cared.

A few months ago, my mom brought Matt up north for my niece’s birthday. I’m not sure if it was a miscommunication or if she was trying to force Matt back into Luke’s life once she deemed Matt as better. Both situations happened before. Luke and my mother got into a huge argument. He wasn’t ready to trust Matt around his daughter. My mother left crying.

This takes us to a couple of weeks back…my mom stopped by on a Friday night. I asked her why she was over. On Friday nights she goes to the group home to pick up Matt. She said that Matt wasn’t coming home because Luke was coming over the next day to talk…something about therapist…repressed memories…

I felt very anxious the next day. For a brief moment, I wept. I know how Luke feels. I’ve been there before. It rips you apart.

It’s been almost a year and a half since I had my last what I call post traumatic stress episode.

It started out innocently enough. I was decorating the Christmas tree. Then this memory came back, almost like an image in my mind that I couldn’t get out. With this memory came intense emotion…stronger than anything I have ever felt before. It lasted almost two days. I couldn’t sleep and when I did I had intense nightmares where I woke up crying and frightened. I had several nightmares a night. I felt intense fear, panic, and rage. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t think rationally or otherwise. It was very horrifying.

I fell into a deep dark depression. I drove around aimlessly in my car. I had this strong desire to end it all. If I drove fast in my car and missed a turn…well…oh well. I screamed at anyone that tried to help me and pushed them away. I remembered. I felt the feelings I tried to repress 100x’s more powerful than if I would have felt them before.

I am afraid of this happening again.

My childhood…the flashbacks…those are the times my feet have swept the bottom of the ocean floor. I honestly don’t know how I survived, thrived in fact. I am completely ‘normal’, but my experiences in life are far from it.

The meeting with my brother was all very hush hush. He talked to my dad for 3 hours and my mom for 2 1/2. It sounds like there was closure and healing. At this point, it is hard to say.

Maybe I should talk to my parents too while I still have the chance.

But I’ve chosen to write about it instead.

A few bad eggs

I recently heard a story from a friend of mine regarding her son’s custody battle for his child. Although the mother was convicted of child neglect, she still was awarded primary custody of their child at this point. Let me tell you that their son is no saint either, but he wasn’t convicted of child neglect. The child’s grandparents are heartbroken. We all knew that the grandparents would step up as the main caregivers to provide this child with a stable home environment.

Why was the neglectful mother awarded custody of this young child? According to the judge, it was because the mother grew up poor with bad parenting. She was expected to turn out bad as a natural product of her environment. The father grew up in an ideal environment and turned out ‘bad’. In a strange way, it does make sense to me. The mother started out at the bottom and didn’t move far from there. The dad started out at the top…ideal…and dropped to the bottom. Who fell the farthest? Obviously the one that started out in the top environment.

But is it the best for the child? Probably not. I think that the grandparents should bypass the crappy parents altogether and fight for custody. They are so hurt and torn up over this decision. But it will probably be the child that suffers the most.

That leads me to ask…Are children that are raised in an ideal environment expected to turn out better? Should they naturally be better parents since they were shown how? On the flip side, should it be acceptable for someone to be a bad parent after growing up in a substandard environment?

Should I be expected to be a bad parent from growing up under less than ideal circumstances?

Since my husband grew up poor without a dad, does he get a parenting pass?

Does society expect us to fail miserably at being parents?

But does that give us an excuse not to try?

Why would we want the same life for our children that we had?

How can someone parent a child in ideal conditions and yet have a child that turns out ‘bad’? Likewise, how can someone raise a child in substandard conditions and still have a child that turns out ‘good’? It’s a great mystery to me..

Neither Paul nor I grew up under ideal conditions. Yet we try to provide an ideal home for our children. Have we ever seen that? No. Do we know what the hell we are doing? No. I really hope that we are judged by where we started.

Sometimes the way we grew up hinders us as parents. It becomes another demon to outrun. We want our kids to grow up in a home environment we never had. Yet by doing so the pendulum swings too far to the other side and we end up spoiling our kids. Sometimes I resent the fact that they don’t appreciate how hard we strive to give them this sacrifice…building something out of nothing. There is a huge gap between what they have and what we did. There is no bridge between the gaps, no connection. The scale is so full on one end that they can’t view our emptiness.

I also have some really serious issues with conflict due to how I grew up. I understand that confrontation is sometimes a necessary evil of parenting, especially with teenagers. What I wasn’t expecting was it to trigger extreme anxiety within me from growing up in an abusive home. I admit I am not the most relaxed peaceful person…but I avoid conflict at all costs. I even avoid conflict at the cost of disciplining my children when they need it.

I attempt to stop my husband when he tries to discipline the children in a healthy way because it sets off panic within me. Sometimes I hide things from him. I try to paint things better than they are just because I cannot stand the feelings conflict triggers. So my kids can walk all over me. I have taken away all of my husband’s power and my own. My unhealthy desire for a lack of conflict ends up creating more conflict.

It is hard to be a good parent when you grew up in a less than ideal home environment. Where do you turn for sound advice? Imagine being a father when you never had one. Maybe our kids won’t turn out the way we want them to. Maybe the gap is too wide to cross. Maybe we will always struggle. I don’t know, but I can tell you this…we tried our best. I hope they realize that when they look back someday.

Autism’s sibling, journal 3 part 1

Now I am ready to tell you about myself, my family, and you will understand everything..

Everyday Matt would be violent. He would bite me and claw up my arms. I have the scars to prove it, although they faded a little because he’s a little better. But it was awful. Everyday he would be uncontrollable. It was always me he hit.

Once he had this thing about men with beards. He would scream and be awful. Once Matt, mom, and I went grocery shopping and Matt saw a guy with a beard. He got really mad. When mom was checking out, she had to hold him down on the floor because he could hurt someone. 

Or how about the time when we had to move the knives because he took one out and threatened to stab my eyes out.

Or when my mom got a bloody lip because he threw his head back on her. She started crying and it really upset me when I heard her say, “What kid would do this to his mother?”.

The stress was unbearable.

I couldn’t have any friends over because they might have on a fragrance and he might react. So you could say that I never really had many friends over because he would hurt them or me. I couldn’t wear any hair spray or anything with a fragrance.

Other times he would hurt small kids.

We had to do different things. We had to get unfragranced soap, shampoo, deodorant, and laundry soap. We had to close the windows when there was an east wind because the auto exhaust would bother him.

He couldn’t leave the house. He had to eat special foods. We never had anyone over because Matt might hurt them.

He can’t read and when he was younger, he couldn’t talk. He would do weird things like grind his teeth and hit his head. He broke about 5 stereos, one of mine, one of mom’s, and the rest were his.

He couldn’t go swimming because of the chlorine. He would be wild for two or three days in a row. He threatened to run away.

Alissa, 1990

Over time, I have forgotten the magnitude of the stories written by a younger me.

To be honest, something has been scratching at my mind since I stirred up my demons.

My last post was on locker rooms of all things..Talking about locker rooms seemed to bother me more than it should have..Memories swirl through my mind. My mom taking a too old Matt into the girls locker room? There weren’t options back then like there are now. A too old screaming autistic boy in the ladies locker room would have been memorable back then, but I don’t remember more than a flicker.

There are whispers quietly echoing through my mind, but I can’t make out the words.

I am nervous as I type.

Do I really want to remember?