Day 1: Departure

DSC_0056 (1)

Enjoy the journal of our week long sail to Washington Island, Wisconsin.

A total of 5 boats departed on this trip. I’ve known some of the sailing club members for a year and others I just met. This is a story of how strangers became friends through rough waters and sunny skies.

Paul started the journey with a prayer blessing our trip from death, destruction, despair, fierce storms, and mechanical failure. As a group we held hands until the final amen then were on our way. We knew we needed some divine intervention to brave the waters of Death’s Door. Maybe saying mechanical failure was taking the prayer too far…maybe just mechanical issues would have been better…but you know what they say about hindsight.

Our trip was delayed due to mechanical issues on the first day.

Like our sail the week before, we started with warm temperatures and calm winds. Unlike our last sail, it stayed that way. I still felt some trepidation though..like I started where I left off. 

I felt a twinge of sadness, nostalgia perhaps. I felt anxious about leaving Angel in charge at home. Not that as an adult she was not capable.

I feel worried about Alex. He just got his motorcycle license and a motorcycle. The back tire on his motorcycle was bald. We insisted on buying a new tire. I almost had a panic attack following my son to the store off of the highway during rush hour watching him in front of me dipping through traffic. It was actually quite horrifying.

Alex got a flat tire this past week and through that we found out that he needed brakes on his car. He borrowed my car to get to work and ended up getting rear ended on the way home. Oh my, son! Are my bumper stickers okay?? Priorities! I just added my Half Ironman bumper sticker this week after all. He was unhappy that the bumper stickers were okay. He feels embarrassed by my tattooed car. (I did ask if he was okay first).

Anyway, Alex called me that first day. He said that he got a parking ticket by parking overnight on the road at his friend’s house with my car. By the way, you owe the city $25. He usually calls me when there is a problem.

I also worry that he won’t get up at 4:30 AM for work without me there. What is the worst that could happen? Besides death or dismemberment, that is.

Maybe I should just worry about myself. Things could’ve gotten really bad the last time we went out sailing. Or maybe I shouldn’t worry at all. Is that even humanly possible??

We motored most of the way to our first destination. Finally it was a warm sunny day. We had some motor problems close to the harbor. Once we got to the marina, we ordered parts along with another person that sailed with us. The bartender at the tiki bar owned a boat part store on the side. He would bring the parts when he came in for his shift. Perfect!

We spent most of the afternoon in the pool by the tiki bar. Time melted away. We planned to meet as a group for supper between 6 and 6:30. Wait! What time is it anyway?? Already after 6. How did that happen??

After supper, Paul and Mark got out their guitars. We all sang songs until after dark. George requested the song Redneck Mother. I wasn’t really sure if I liked George at first. He seemed kind of blunt in the way that could offend people when they first meet. By the end of the trip, he was one of my favorite characters.

That night I went to bed and slept a whole 7 hours without waking up. That usually doesn’t happen on the first night.

Journal 4

I decided to move on from journal 3 to journal 4.

There were a few things from journal 3 that I didn’t want to get into with you. When I was a child, my dad was cruel towards us. I am not ready to face that demon yet. I just want to face growing up with a violent autistic sibling…so much easier?

I will talk about my relationship with my dad some other time…later perhaps…maybe when his feet no longer touch the ground on this earth.

So far journal 4 is a bit of a steamy romance written when I was 17. In high school, we were required to write in a journal everyday for English class. I honestly can’t believe some of the things that I wrote. What if the teacher randomly collected our journals??

So far I am planning on burning this journal. I want to purge its existence off of the face of this planet.

How can it be that I want to destroy a part of me? A part of my life?

It is all foolishness people…It is about hating my parents, wanting my freedom…feeling bored and depressed…wanting more…waiting for a letter in the mail or a phone call from that special someone…trying out new things like drinking and smoking cigarettes…and don’t forget the steamy romance…Blaahhh

Normal teenage experiences re-read as a 40 something year old with kids that age..I almost threw up!

I want my kids to think that I was always old and dreadfully boring! I am doing a great job keeping up the facade.

Best to burn it before my teens find it and discover that I was once young and dumb…

Then I have to take the thought one step further….Will I think that the things I wrote on here when I am in my 40’s are immature and dumb when I am in my 60’s? Time will tell..but paper is so much easier to burn!

Maybe I should share an excerpt with you for a good laugh…Or maybe I will just burn it instead!

I haven’t decided…

???

 

Autism’s sibling, journal 3 part 2

One time when mom’s old friend stopped by, Matt threw rocks at her car and she left..

What I don’t understand is why the nice friendly Christian ladies at church didn’t offer to give us an hour break from Matt. We never got a break. I only had two friends that lived with me, my two cats. But Matt was mean to them and they eventually ran away. Life with him has been hell. Even though Matt is small, he is very strong.

I also have a lot of nausea. Once my depression and nausea got so bad I couldn’t eat. Nobody cared about me. Nobody cared about Mark either. They cared about Luke because he was a troublemaker and got a lot of attention. Sometimes he would even be as bad as Matt.

What I hated most was talking to relatives. They always asked how Matt was. That really hurt because it is like I don’t exist. Usually people ask how you are. But imagine if they asked about your brother and not you. It hurts to know that people really don’t care if I’m alive.

I remember when the three boys were wild at the table. Mom had to feed them. Mom and dad would fight. Mom would get upset and go upstairs to cry. I was her best friend. I would talk to her and tell her that things would be better tomorrow, but it never did. There were always more problems or more doctor bills. Things are better now, but I still feel the pain and it’s holding me back from being happy.

I had a friend that stayed over once in awhile until Matt kicked her. She never wrote back to me after that.

Alissa, 1990

Isolation…being completely alone…emptiness…a cold barren winter devoid of color….loneliness…the crying of the wind…sadness…the darkest days of the year.

Isolation…for three years Matt had a school teacher come out to the house to educate him. He was deemed too violent to attend school. My mom took a leave of absence from work and pulled my younger brothers and I out of school as well. Sometimes we only left the house once a week to go to church. I spent a lot of time alone in my room writing in my journals.

Emptiness…Robbed of joy and childhood magic…My dad couldn’t handle the stress…he was there physically, but he was gone emotionally…I had to step up to the plate…the firstborn…the caregiver…the fixer…weighed down with adult worries…numb to pain, numb to joy…Pushing all feelings away…left empty inside…Not able to feel anything.

Loneliness…Friendships were severed. When friends came over, it was a disaster. We only had people over once or twice a year and it usually did not go well. My mom and my cats were my best friends. I had more pen pals than actual friends, it was safer…the friends we had went away and never came back…

Sadness…My mother, the kindest and most compassionate person that you would ever meet. I think that it truly hurt others when they had to kick us out of public places because of Matt’s violence…he hurt someone…I have to kick you out…you are welcome back again, but give it some time…Those were the years when I saw my mother’s tears more than I heard her laughter.

Isolation…being completely alone…emptiness…a cold barren winter devoid of color….loneliness…the crying of the wind…sadness…the darkest days of the year.

I spent three teenage years completely alone..Those were the darkest years of my life. Years that I don’t talk about.

 

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?

Places where the past and present collide

The last few days I haven’t been feeling much like writing. I toy with the temptation of disappearing and being totally anonymous again. Strange thoughts trickle through my mind. I worry that my anonymity has been compromised when the phone rings. I get the pseudonyms crossed in my mind. Will I call someone by the wrong name in real life? Will I use their real name here? The boundaries blur…the wires cross…in my mind..

Time zigzags between the past and present…I enjoyed having Angel home over Easter break, but it blurred the adulthood with childhood in my mind. Is she still my child after childhood fades?

We had a bowling party for Matt’s birthday and a family get together for Easter. Right before the party on Saturday morning, I started feeling depressed and a tad bit angry. I didn’t want to share anything with anybody.

I always feel edgy right before family occasions. Matt’s party went great. We had a fun time. It’s just that sometimes in my head the past blends in with the present and I start feeling or thinking the way I felt or thought back then when Matt was violent.

A group of young laughing girls walked by Matt. I remembered the old Matt…the Matt that would attack them…the Matt that would pull their hair and kick them.

Fear trickled through me.

But the new Matt paid no attention as the girls walked by.

I can’t separate the past from the present. The old triggers still flip a switch in my mind that I can’t seem to turn off.

Yesterday, I pulled out another old diary from 1990. This was something I willingly decided to do in my writing process to confront my demons.

But sometimes I fear that this may trigger memories that are darkly hidden. I am afraid sometimes that I won’t be able to handle what I find…what I remember…and the feelings those memories trigger.

It seems insurmountable to me right now. Like running a marathon right up a mountain.

But once I make it to the top of the mountain, I will see things that I have never been able to see before…new insight, new understanding, a deeper knowledge…peace.

Sometimes I need to take a step back to go forward…too see where I’ve been…to notice how far I’ve already climbed.

I want to be able to put the past behind me so it doesn’t mingle with the present anymore. I think it is going to be a long and difficult hike up the mountain, but well worth the view at the top.

Maybe at the end of my climb, I can finally put my demons to rest.

Autism’s sibling, journal 2, part 2

“Did he touch you in a way that made you uncomfortable?”, asked my mom and her friend. “No” I kept replying. Although I do vaguely remember some lingering hugs with a little squeeze to the back side.

Something is wrong with Ann. She is acting weird. She loves Tim more than her parents. She bugs people. She is pretending a lot. She keeps hitting her dolls.

My mom got really close to Ann’s mom. Ann was a precocious 9 year old girl that was homeschooled. They didn’t have a TV in their house. They always wore drab clothes. The women and girls wore skirts or dresses. The women didn’t cut their hair. The girls wore their hair in braids and the women wore their hair up in buns. They were not Amish or Mennonite, their religious sect had an unusual name. Whenever I tried to look them up online, I always ended up on porn sites. I am sure that they do not embrace technology today any more than they did before.

Ann’s parents were really wonderful people. Her dad was very involved and excellent with the homeschooling kids. My mom started getting involved in their church. It really wasn’t like any church that I have ever known. It was a very closed group. You could only go if someone invited you. They would meet in back rooms of the mall that I never knew existed. They met in various towns in various locations. I remember it being a lot of preaching, several hours of sitting in a chair listening. They didn’t have pastors, instead they had brothers that travelled around in groups of two.

We started doing a lot of things with Ann’s family. Two of the “pastors” lived with Ann and her family for a couple months. There was a 28 year old man named Tim and an elderly man named Adolf. We went to their church. We hung out at their house. We also went other places like parks where we went hiking.

To be a part of this group, it was encouraged to take in these “pastors”. My mom had Tim and Adolf spent a few nights at our house. They slept in my bed. It really was a fun time. We didn’t have overnight visitors often. We were starting to spend a lot of time together. They took an interest in my life. Come to think of it, Tim and Adolf were the only adult overnight visitors that I ever remember having at our house when I was a child. Matt scared most people away.

Adolf liked to play the saw. He wanted someone to get him an old rag that he could put on his lap in order to play. My brothers came out with an old pair of my dad’s underwear. Ha ha. What goofs! Then he took the bow from my mom’s violin and played the saw. It made a rather eerie yet beautiful sound. Ann really liked Tim and always sat on his lap or was hanging on him. 

Once when we had homeschooling group at Ann’s house, she took all of the kids into her bedroom. She showed us a drawer that we should never go into. Then she would pop out of the room and come back in to find the boys looking in that drawer. Then she would cry, “Mom, the boys are in my underwear drawer.” She always got everyone in trouble. After awhile her behavior became a little less innocent. She started kissing and touching another 9 year old boy inappropriately.

Ann’s mom had a nervous breakdown. Tim likes Ann too much, but he had to leave.

Tim moved to Missouri to be part of another “church”. He still called me and wrote me letters for awhile. After he left, my mom was not interested in being a part of their church anymore.

Grace uncommon, part 8

Aunt Grace was way ahead of her times. Aunt Grace was the Vice President of the local bank.

Aunt Grace earned what would be equivalent of an Associate Degree in Business in a time when most young ladies like my grandma only received an 8th grade education. She loved money and finance. She was most likely the richest woman in our small town. But she was never greedy. There once was a bank employee whose husband left her with several kids at home. One day an anonymous letter arrived at the bank with money in it for that woman. We all knew it was Aunt Grace because that was the kind of thing she would do. Another family had a tragedy where their house burned down. Aunt Grace took the children shopping to buy them new winter coats and clothes.

When it was our birthday, she would give us $50 in an envelope marked love always, Aunt Grace. At Halloween, she didn’t give out candy. She gave out rolls of nickels and dimes. At Christmas, we all received $10 worth of McDonald’s gift cards. If she ever gave someone a gift, she would wrap it in the comics section of the newspaper. Grace herself was a miser, it was sad to see how destitute she lived when she could afford to take better care of herself. Her washer didn’t wring out her clothes and her dryer took 2 hours to dry a load of clothes. Her clothes were old and worn. I didn’t find out how cheap she lived until I stayed with her at the end.

Grace worked as a bookkeeper for the family business. She also worked at the local bank. When I was a young girl, she was the VP of the bank. She would give me suckers and take me into her private office. She was so excited, she wanted to be President of the bank but women just didn’t do that in her day. Everybody knew her and respected her.

She always told me that I could do anything that a man could do. She went to a conference and brought a duffle bag back for me that read never underestimate the power of a woman. She was very upset that I didn’t go to college for business.

There were some things though that she thought that women shouldn’t do. She frowned upon me hanging out in the garage with the men. I didn’t hear the end of it if I went in there with shorts on. I loved the smell of rubber from the tires that were on sale there and even the scent of gasoline brought me comfort. But I never even learned basic things about cars.

One day while I was in college, I had car trouble. It happened on the day of a snow storm. I flooded my car. Today things are so easy, I step on the brake and push a button to start my car. Back then, I had to push the gas pedal to the floor once. Then while I had the key in the ignition I had to pump the gas to get the car to start. The day of the storm, I flooded my car. I knew that there was a way to pop open my hood and pull up on something to ease this problem, but I didn’t know how. I ran back inside to find a pay phone to call my grandpa who spent his whole life as a mechanic. It was all a fool’s errand because all I needed to do was pop the hood and about 10 guys offered assistance. I miss calling Grace or my grandparents for guidance. Now somehow I am supposed to be an adult with all of the answers. 

Last night all of these memories came back to me like a flood. Stupid things. Silly things. I felt overwhelmed by nostalgia, a longing for my loved ones long gone. I asked myself why I seem to be so plagued by these memories. Then I reminded myself that I opened the door by thinking and writing of these things. I feel very compelled to write everything that happened down so someday it won’t be forgotten. While I was studying genealogy, I searched to understand, to really know, the people that came before me. All I found were names and dates scratched on a piece of paper. It really meant nothing. Aunt Grace kept our family geneaology. The funny thing was that after she was gone I continued it for her. But with the internet and all of modern technology, I did not get any further than she did.

My childhood has been gone for a long time now. Now the childhood years of my children are coming to an end. It has been a difficult transition for me. I struggle with accepting change, even if it is for the better.

I have to keep writing.

 

Autism’s sibling, journal 1

I love you Alissa. I am thankful the Lord has given you to me. You are a beautiful child. 

With Love, Your Mom XO

1/1/85

Had to clean my room before I ate. I ate at 8:07 PM.

6/19

I hate everything and everybody. Matt takes a knife and tries to poke mom’s eyes out. Mom blames me.

7/15/86

I hate mom. She only cares about the stupid Matt.

8/4

Matt tries to hurt our aunt. He is reacting to something he is allergic to. Luke pushed me into my aunt and uncle’s swimming pool with my clothes on. I had to ride home wrapped in a blanket.

8/19

Today Matt bit me. My arm will turn black and blue tomorrow. Mark stuffed a pepper up his nose. He cried and cried.

9/12

Mark got beat up by someone the day of his birthday party.