Questionable truth

My first memory was of my dad standing over my autistic brother and hitting him while he flailed back on the floor. They were in the kitchen and on that day I remember my brother screaming and the cupboard doors rattling. He must’ve been 3 because I was around 4. My mom stood in the doorway a few rooms away holding back my brother Mark while I stood by her and watched.

That’s how my life started out. Many well meaning people who would rather not get involved told me things such as God is in control and God will never give you more than you can handle. No one prayed more fervently than me. God if you are in control, please make it stop. But my dad never became the loving father I wanted him to be. My brother never became normal. Did I do something wrong? Did I pray wrong? I couldn’t understand why things didn’t change when I so badly wanted them to. I tried my best to be perfect but still nothing changed.

There were many times I felt like I couldn’t take anymore. I wondered what would happen when I finally broke. But that didn’t happen either. I became angry at God. If he wasn’t going to control things, I sure was going to try to. I became pretty good at controlling myself, others not so much.

For a long time I carried the burden of over responsibility. I can clearly remember when that started. I was 6 when I watched my younger brothers swim in the lake by myself. That was the day my baby brother almost drowned. I always thought that it was my fault until many years later when I realized how young I was. Maybe it even started before then, but I can’t remember. I always felt like I was responsible for things I didn’t have control over.

It became my job to try to fix things. I became a pretty good problem solver and counselor, but that should never be the responsibility of a child. In essence, I took the place of my dad because he only reacted with anger over issues and never stepped up. Still I prayed every night that things would change, but they never did.

If God wasn’t going to change things I was going to try to. But that didn’t really work so well for me either.

Then I thought maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. It’s time to throw away the childish coping mechanisms that I clung to. It’s not very realistic to think God is going to force my dad to become the father I’ve always wanted him to be. He had that choice and he threw it away.

The last post I talked about how strongly I felt about the freedom of choice. But maybe I don’t really want that. Maybe I just want God to sweep down and take control of my dad so he loves me.

Just because I want something to be good or perfect doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way. My idea of God being in control and taking all my problems away when I can’t handle them anymore is incorrect.

Lately I was looking at my new 2022 pocket calendar. Inside there were little fun things to write about. One was to write down your favorite memory you had with your dad. I was stumped. I thought and thought for a long time. Nothing.

But for the first time, I didn’t blame it on God. I blamed it on my dad. I shouldn’t feel guilty for not wanting to continue having a relationship with someone who hurt me. I shouldn’t feel sorry for him either. But I struggle with the thought that I am causing pain and that somehow this is my fault.

I am still confused about my relationship with God. What’s the purpose of prayer if God doesn’t answer them? My husband says that prayer is supposed to make us feel better about the situations we are in versus changing the situation. That is hard for me to understand because for me feeling better means things will change. Apparently I still have a lot to learn.

Maybe I am healing and growing if I am questioning things I always thought were truth.

The price you pay

Right before Paul left to go back to work away from home a couple nights, we had an argument about the COVID vaccine. We weren’t on the best of terms when he left. But nonetheless, he called me that night and everything seemed to be alright.

It was the next day that was a problem. I found out on Facebook that someone we knew was going to be at the same place Paul was with his clients. I commented on their status to say hi to Paul if they saw him. Now these people are really nice but are heavy drinkers. Part of the argument too was over Paul drinking. That evening the people we knew sent me blurry pictures of Paul saying they found him. He didn’t call me that night like he usually does. Now going through my head were a lot of scenarios. I thought perhaps something happened to him or maybe he met up with these people and had too much to drink.

While I was waiting, my mom called. She said that she and her siblings decided that no unvaccinated people were allowed to go to the family reunion in a couple of weeks. I was no longer welcome. I was angry but I didn’t know why. After I processed it I realized why. That excluded my brothers and I from attending as we were planning on doing. She could have suggested the plan that all unvaccinated people needed to get tested before attending and abstain if they were sick. They could wear masks. That has been the protocol for a lot of events. But I hardly think my mom would suggest something that someone else might not want even if it excludes her whole family. Maybe if Matt couldn’t go she would put up a fight. She never stood up for us with anything and that was triggering.

I was also angry because she is the one that drilled into us as kids that chemicals of any kind were bad. While our cohorts were guzzling down Kool-Aid, we weren’t allowed to drink the Kool-Aid. Artificial colors and flavors were of the devil. We didn’t have Twinkies or any of that stuff in our house. Fluoride was bad so we had to rinse our toothbrushes in peroxide and dip them in baking soda. I wasn’t allowed after awhile to take the green fluoride rinse that was wheeled into our classroom on the little carts about once a month. Just another way I was the weird one.

My mom took it a step further and also said what Matt ate caused him to be violent. He ate something with dairy and had a reaction that caused him to attack a stranger. We didn’t have milk or cheese often at our house. We weren’t allowed to drink it at school. Chemicals and allergens caused his hallucinations. We had to be extremely careful about food in our house. Because of the Agent Orange his body couldn’t handle any more chemicals. They ripped out the wood stove because wood causes allergies. We couldn’t have a Christmas tree because of allergies. Tree pollen caused violence. I literally freaked out once I got into the real world where people used chemicals liberally.

Imagine my surprise when my mom and Matt were the first in line for the shot.

Now she says I can’t be around the extended family if I’m not vaccinated? But it’s okay for her to live at our house.

I also realized not only do I have a lot of fear but I’ve lost a lot of hope. I thought that life would be back to normal by now. I thought if we did our lockdown and wore our masks everything would settle down. But I don’t see it ending anytime soon. Not only that but there are so many negative things happening in the world right now that it’s easy to feel discouraged. I’m sick of people arguing about who’s vaccinated and who’s not. Can’t we just agree that we don’t know when this is going to be over and everyone is doing the best they can? No, let’s fight about it because you didn’t make the decision I did and I’m right.

People are ending long term friendships and families are torn over this. When is it going to end?

Then my mom told me that my brothers were planning on getting together the following weekend to work on a huge project at the cabin. Again, this left me upset. They didn’t even talk to me about it and I know they will be complaining that I don’t do my fair share. I’m not going to be around when they want to do the project. We could’ve set up a time where I could help along with my husband, son and his buddies, daughter and future SIL. I could’ve offered up more manpower but they didn’t bother to ask me.

I didn’t sleep hardly at all that night. I was furious. I thought my marriage was in trouble. I entertained the thought of not seeing my family for another year of holidays. I started thinking seriously about leaving. I wanted to go to an area where no one knew my name. I was at a point where I just didn’t feel like I could take it anymore. I was done with COVID. I was done with being responsible for people and situations I have no control over.

I was still angry at my husband the next morning when he called. He apologized for worrying me. He said he got back late and didn’t want to wake me. He said he is so afraid that something is going to happen to me because I didn’t get vaccinated. I worry that his drinking is going to hurt him too. We were only worried about each other. Once I understood that, I felt a little better.

I just want the boring life

I should’ve known what kind of day I would have when my phone alarm woke me up this morning. You see, I never set my alarm. At 6:40 AM it started playing an explicit song called Woman by someone called Doja Cat on Spotify. I never heard the song before. I don’t know why it happened. When I searched the internet all I could find is that people have to pay to get an app that does that. Lucky me! All I have to say is that I’m happy it didn’t happen at 4 in the morning. My son said maybe it was a sign of some sort. Of what I don’t know.

I feel so frustrated by life that sometimes I just want to leave it behind and walk away. I guess it’s better than wanting to find the closest cliff to jump off of.

It stormed most of the day. Finally a good storm that the thunder cracked so loud it seemed to shake the very foundation of my house. I stayed inside and cleaned.

Paul had his first appointment with a new counselor. She asked him an interesting question. Who do you turn to for support? He didn’t have an answer. Really besides me, he has no one else. He didn’t have a dad or even a grandfather. He didn’t have a mentor. My dad was pretty much worthless to fill those shoes. There wasn’t anyone. He was alone but always willing to give the shirt off of his back when someone else needed help. It makes me so sad. We were always alone having to help parent our parents that never supported us. He can’t turn to me when I have nothing left to give. It’s no wonder why he wants to drink if it takes away some of the pain. He has done so well in life compared to where he came from. But he has his own demons and I have mine. He really likes this counselor but he came back angry. That’s okay though, I understand. I would be angry too. I am angry too. I respect him for trying to better himself, he didn’t have to go.

The last couple of years have been unbearable mainly because of my dad and the mental health struggles we’ve had with Arabella. I lost a part of myself. I am rarely fun anymore. I just feel an unrelenting sorrow. If you saw me you would see it on my face even if I did smile at you. I’m struggling to keep my faith. I’m angry a lot, but mainly sad.

I’m having a hard time with everything lately for more reasons than I’ve had a chance to share with you. The last couple of days Arabella has been slipping into depressed mode. She’s been manic for months. I hate the manic mode for her impulsiveness and risky behavior. But the last couple of days she switched. She quit her second job and I worry she might lose her first. She has been working as a server the past two months. When she was manic she was very upbeat and personable. But the last two days she has been crying uncontrollably while at work. They had to pull her off the floor because they didn’t want her crying in front of customers. Instead she spent her shift folding napkins in the back. Then today, although she wasn’t scheduled to work, she wanted to go in to hang around the people at work because they are nice.

I am so terrified that they are going to let her go. She had a hard time even finding that job in a labor shortage. What am I going to do? I can’t have her not working and am so afraid she is going to be suicidal again especially if she loses this job. Thankfully she has an appointment on Thursday with the psychiatric nurse. I told Arabella to tell her what has been going on. I don’t think it will help, but maybe. I know she is an adult and I should let it go, but what if she needs help? It’s hard because her best friend is going off to college this week and she is not. She has been moody and angry towards me when I try to talk to her sometimes. Some days she likes me, other days she does not.

Then the icing on the cake was that my son got pulled over tonight a half a block from our driveway. A couple weeks back he bought a fire engine red Camaro that roamed the earth with the dinosaurs, or should I say pre-internet right around when I graduated from high school. That car is so fast I could probably outrun my demons in it or maybe he could his guardian angel. I knew it was going to happen. I just didn’t know it would happen so soon. I think he bought a lemon too. He got it from a guy that bought it 3 months ago. He bought it a couple weeks back, drove it a few days, and then it ended up in the garage getting fixed until today. But anyway, he was travelling about three times the speed limit and got pulled over. I was nice enough to run his insurance cards down to him so he would avoid getting ticketed for that too.

I decided to punch a boxing bag to help work off some of the stress but ended up knocking it off it’s stand. So here I am writing instead. So much for light and fluffy posts. I don’t think I have much of that left in me. Maybe I should just go to bed before anything else happens. But if I wake up to a song tomorrow morning I think I’ll have my son run over my phone with his fast car. I really want tomorrow to be boring and uneventful.

I want the boring life.

Am I mentally ill?

I’ve been reading a lot of memoirs and books (not to mention blogs) lately about people who struggle themselves or have family members with mental health issues. I have seen a common theme that I can’t disregard. One of the most important factors in recovery that I can’t deny is having parents who are supportive through this struggle.

If I think about it, the most difficult thing about my dad was not his porn addiction. It wasn’t his hoarding. It also wasn’t his lack of good hygiene. For the most part, he just didn’t care and that was a good thing. We tried hard to keep under his radar because we didn’t want him to notice us. Him noticing us involved bursts of explosive anger. He frequently told us how stupid we were or how we would never amount to anything. Our dreams, aspirations, and goals were ridiculous. He laughed when we cried.

The hardest part though for me was when he would taunt us with the things we were most afraid of. He amplified our fears. For example, he knew I was afraid of weeds. One of the few times he went in the lake with us as kids, he grabbed me and forced me to stand in the muck and weeds. I cried as he laughed at all of the things that slithered under the weeds that my feet could be touching. It was horrifying. I screamed and I cried for him to let go while he laughed. When he finally let go I ran for shore while he chucked weeds and even a dead fish at me while calling me names.

Then at times in my life when I am afraid, I wonder why God hates me. I wonder why I have trust issues that no one else seems to have. I wonder why I almost feel better at the thought of a distant God than one who hates me. Duh?

My relationship with my mom is much more complicated. She always expected too much from me, perfection. I felt this way since I can remember. But the first real memory of this for me was when my mom had me watch my three younger brothers in the lake by myself so she could spend time with my dad in the cabin. I was 6 and one of my brothers almost drowned. That’s too much responsibility.

My mom never confronted my dad for his poor behavior. But she would move heaven and earth for Matt. If someone gave him a wrong food just to be nice she would call the school and chew that person out. But when I had to go to school to try out for cheerleading while I had the flu and a high fever and I was the only person that didn’t make the team nothing was done.

My mom loved playing the martyr card. She got a lot of attention for having a special need’s child and an asshole husband. But she never did anything about it. She never gave Matt the skills to live without her. She never confronted my dad for being cruel to their children or anything else other wives would’ve left him for.

She also likes to manipulate, control, and guilt trip. She was jealous when I had friends because I was her best friend. She pulled me out of school from 8th through 10th grade where I lived in extreme isolation. She didn’t like the guy I was dating so she set me up with my ex without me knowing it. She made me feel guilty about even thinking about leaving the area to go to college or living my own life that didn’t revolve around helping her or caring for Matt. But the hard part is that I think my mom is a genuinely good person. She just saps the life out of everyone she is around with her negative energy.

My dad struggles with depression, my mom with anxiety. I can’t remember a time in my life before I started struggling with anxiety and depression. Not only was it modeled to me but there probably was a genetic component as well. I really could’ve used their help with my own struggles. I could’ve used their help when I was raising my own children. I could’ve used their help when I had to deal with my own children’s mental health struggles. But they always needed me to help them. It’s no wonder why I feel so alone. My husband doesn’t have any family either.

I guess maybe the moral of the story is that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. If I needed to be a certain way such as untrusting in order to survive then maybe I shouldn’t shame myself for having a lack of trust. It might just take a little longer than most people to get there. If nothing else my husband and I, although neither one of us has had it, try to be supportive parents of our children when they are struggling with their own mental health issues. At one point I even thought that maybe they wouldn’t struggle if we were good enough parents. Unfortunately that’s not true. There’s hardly a sane person in the family. What did I expect??

But we can do our best to help them through. Besides, sane is boring anyway!! I’ll keep telling myself that.

The full story…coming soon

I got invited into the popular group once in middle school. They gave me a handful of candy. I threw it away.

I could never bring them to my house anyway. The outside of the house was brick, big and beautiful. But inside was another story altogether. I couldn’t do slumber parties and sleepovers.

My dad roamed the house in his underwear. He answered the door that way. On occasion, he mowed the lawn that way. Sometimes he would even get the mail that way. The truth is that he was more interested in porn than his own wife and kids. He never hugged me, held me, or told me that everything would be okay. Maybe it was a good thing he had an aversion to touching me.

Our house was a hoarder’s paradise. Piles of magazines and papers littered all seating surfaces, our table, and floors. My mom hoarded food so there was always rotting food in the fridge. There were cupboards full of food, a fruit cellar, freezer upon freezer, refrigerator upon refrigerator. But we knew the newest food was always in bags on the dining room floor. There was always a stack of unwashed dishes on the counter full of you guessed it rotten food. The whiff of rot hit you as soon as you entered the door.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there was always pee on the bathroom floor and a dirty sink. My dad was a greasy guy in more ways than one. He rarely showered and criticized us for showering daily as if we were the strange ones. My dad didn’t brush his teeth but wiped them on the hand towel so I always had to strategically plan where to dry my hands in a spot I thought would be the cleanest. I don’t know how I ever survived the 8th grade hand washing compulsion.

Then there was my brother Matt. He was the school ‘retard’. That’s what my classmates called him anyway as they mocked his bizarre behaviors. He heard voices that told him to attack other children and he listened. He ruled our house and my mother bowed down to him. Anything for Matt. Never mind her three other kids.

We had crazy rules to live by for the sake of Matt. For example, no one could come into our house that was wearing perfume. That is why you could find me before middle school started ratting my hair in the middle school bathroom along with the girls that changed their clothes into outfits not allowed out of the house. My unscented hairspray had too much scent. For awhile we had to brush our teeth with peroxide and baking soda. We had to shut the windows if there was an east wind blowing auto exhaust fumes into our house. We didn’t have A/C back then. My mom even took down her brand new curtains because of the formaldehyde and hung old blankets on the windows. We had to take shelter if a neighbor was spraying his fields. The air purifier ran constantly. But none of those things stopped the voices or the attacks.

So you can see I had to reject the popular kids before they had the chance to reject me. I hand selected a few close friends but in the end I lost them anyway because of Matt.

I hated my life. I didn’t belong. To make matters worse, kids looked at the outside of my big brick house and thought I was richer than they were. In high school I drove a bright red Firebird. I was an exceptionally beautiful child voted most likely to be a supermodel by the graduating class which did nothing to help me fit in when boyfriends of potential friends flirted with me. People envied and hated me for the things they saw outside. Things that I didn’t have any control over. In a heartbeat I would’ve given it up to just have a normal healthy family.

The kids at school could never see the pain and sadness inside of me. After awhile I stopped caring about what people thought. I hated small talk and following all the stupid rules anyway. I said screw them and became a rebel, strong and unreachable. When I got hurt, I retreated to the corner and licked my wounds alone. I had to take care of myself because no one else really cared.

I am still the same person. I try to play the best game with the hand I’ve been dealt. On the good days, I thank God for all my blessings. On the bad days, I reject God because I feel he has rejected me. I can’t sing that God has been good to me all my life when I don’t believe it. Why do I feel like God hates me when I try hard to be a good person? I spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect but it didn’t matter.

What is the purpose of pointless suffering? How has it made me a better person? How does it help anybody else? There will always be a part of me that feels alone no matter how many people are around. Maybe God will always be off in the distance and uncaring just like everybody else. I can’t seem to reach him either. I could never find a way to connect to normal people. My life has been way too crazy. I’ve had very different life experiences.

I will never be the motivational speaker that others seem to be. I am not the one who will tell you my anxiety went away by praying more or that my depression was cured by positive thinking. I don’t have the answers, just more questions. I am a broken person that will never be put back together right. Before my brain finished developing I experienced trauma more than compassion and love. I didn’t have that one teacher who made a difference in my life.

What can I say? I have a lot of trust issues. Who else has my back better than me? How am I supposed to trust?

Maybe someday I’ll get it right. Maybe someday I won’t feel angry anymore. Maybe even someday I will trust. But one thing I do know for sure. Soon I will be telling the full story. And it’s far from boring…

If I could change things…

If I could go back and change things, I would rewrite the whole story. I would throw out the manuscript and start over. I wouldn’t even be a character. My mom would still marry my dad. But I would change the timeline a bit. She would marry my dad before he went to Vietnam. She would be pregnant when he left with my brother Luke. There wouldn’t be a Matt, Mark, or me. Luke has had the most positive impact on the world. My dad would never return from the war. My grandparents would be heartbroken losing their only child. But they had Luke who is so much more than my dad ever would be. My mom would eventually move on with her life and everything would end happily.

Yet here I am, a part of me wishing I never was. I sometimes wonder why I’m still here. I could never leave my husband and children. Although I feel my sanity slipping. I have this feverish obsession to tell my story, all of it. I don’t even know why. It seems to be my purpose.

It’s been a week since my mom moved in. Over this week I’ve heard stories about my dad that I’ve never heard before that fueled my hatred for him even more. I think my parents marriage was a big mistake. I wish they never got married, but that leaves a big problem. If I wish away them, I wish away me. I was okay taking my mom in. I think she is safer here. I don’t even mind driving her to appointments. Yesterday I spent half a day with her in the ER because she had an adverse reaction to a medication.

It’s been an adjustment having my mom here. We’ve all switched up our routine a bit. My mom wants to help with household chores but more than anything ends up getting in the way. I want her to be able to fit within the flow of our life. Next weekend she wants my brother Matt to come. I’m not sure how that will all work out yet. I think she will want us to cater to him and adjust our home life around him which might not work out that well. I really need to have some time to myself once in a while. I need my space without feeling smothered or policed like a little child. I want life to be carefree without extra responsibilities. I long to break things but I am the broken one.

What has been really hard is helping my mom process her trauma. It’s not easy to see your mother in pain. My mom sobbed more days than she did not. I heard some things I would rather not have heard. It really has been triggering for me. There have been a lot of things that happened that my mom doesn’t even know about and I am not going to tell her. I feel re-pungent of the thought of sharing my trauma with my mother but even more so in front of my children. It’s painful to know my mother has been hurt and is not happy. It’s very heavy and it weighs down my soul.

It is especially hard because I probably should be taking this time while my daughter is in the hospital to strengthen myself for when she comes back home. Yet here I am completely depleted and devastated. Yesterday was prom at Arabella’s school. It pained me greatly that she will never be able to go. Her junior prom was cancelled because of COVID and now she is in the mental hospital. I felt sad to see all the prom pictures on social media. It is one more lost dream for my daughter. Her prom dress will forever hang in her closet never worn.

I am once again taking care of my mother when I need help. Will this suffering never end? I don’t know how much more of it I can take. Will I ever feel real joy again? It seems to slip through my fingers fleetingly at best. When will God intervene? His silence echoes I am alone in my darkest hours. I wish I could change things…

Thank God for masks, I guess…

I am at the age of being in the sandwich generation. Meaning I have a child that has not reached the age of adulthood and aging parents that are both in the need of care. I am stuck in the middle. It is different now than it was a couple of years back. The issues I’m dealing with now are more mental health related in nature. I’m finding it hard to take time for my mental health. I’m afraid I am starting to slip.

Although I only have one child under the age of 18, it has been very difficult because of her severe mental health issues. She is currently in a residential mental health facility. Some days I actually have a lot of hope and other days I struggle. Paul and I can’t make visits because of COVID, but we talk on the phone six days a week for 15 minutes and Facetime twice a week. Sometime the conversations don’t go well. Last night she begged for us to send her things and spent the rest of the time arguing then ended up hanging up on us. In those moments, I wonder what kind of return we will get on our tens of thousands of dollars investment. I know that sounds harsh. But is she going to come home and kill herself anyway? It’s easy to have hope when the conversations go well or when she isn’t here to argue with everything we say. I imagine her in an environment of constant healing where she will return healthy or at least more like she was before. But is that realistic? I can’t bear to think it is not.

It was hard this Easter because she wasn’t here with us. My mom decided not to come either. She said she was too tired despite me telling her a few days before that we could arrange for her to get a ride here and back home. She didn’t have to prepare any food. She could even spent the night or rest in another room if she wanted to, but apparently she didn’t want to. It was extremely disappointing. I found myself angry, sad, and confused. She didn’t have to do anything but show up, eat, and then go back home. She said once she got the vaccine she would visit. But where was she for the holiday? It seemed like a lame excuse.

She would bend over backwards for my autistic brother Matt. Although she was tired she helped organize a birthday party for him with his autism group to have lunch at a sports bar. My daughter Angel’s boyfriend Dan had his 21st birthday party at a sports bar a couple years back and Matt has been talking about it ever since. Matt liked the music and the rowdy drunk patrons at a nearby table.

Right before the party, Matt got a rash. It wasn’t dangerous at all but it was painful, red, and itchy. Matt was really anxious and agitated about it. In response my mom also became very anxious about it. Their anxiety fed off of one another and festered bigger than the rash itself. Matt was like the kid on the playground that got hurt and waited to watch for mom’s reaction and he got one because she was freaking out about it. Matt was so upset that he did not want to wear the birthday button or really participate much in his event at all.

The coordinator of the autism group was trying to build some excitement in Matt about the button and the fact that my mom made him a cake. She told Matt that her mom didn’t bake her a cake on her birthday. I thought to myself neither does my mom. The whole party my mom catered to Matt. She helped him use the bathroom which he is fully capable of doing himself. She also cut up his hamburger into bite sized pieces. Again, something he was capable of doing. She babies him so much that it really is a disservice to him. Everyone needs to cater to Matt. Matt never has to adapt to his environment. He never has an opportunity to learn and grow for himself.

Sometimes I feel a twinge of jealousy because I want to have a mom like Matt’s. She pretty much let the rest of us fend for ourselves. I want a mom to plan my party and bake me a cake. But she couldn’t even show up for Easter because she was tired.

The last time I saw my mom she showed me where all her passwords and special papers are. She is convinced that she is going to die soon. I thought about a week ago she was going to have a nervous breakdown. She wants me to take care of Matt like she does. She totally bypassed my dad in the whole process. I feel extremely burdened by it all. I can’t even spend a lot of time thinking about it because it is too stressful for me. Doesn’t my mom understand that I am already close to my breaking point? Instead of helping me through this, she brings me down.

All I wanted was my mom to come over for Easter. I was already sad that my daughter couldn’t be here. It’s not like she was on vacation. She is in a mental hospital. Her whole senior year went down the drain and I really don’t know what the future will hold. It is hard to take.

I can’t remember anymore what it feels like to feel joy. It’s been a long time since a genuine smile touched my face. Thank God for masks, I guess.

Shot nerves

A freak thing happened a week after I heard the news about my dad. I ended up getting a sliver under my fingernail. I tried in vain to get the sliver out myself. It was rather painful as I had to dig under my nail into the nail bed. I had the sick feeling of pain mixed with panic as I summoned my husband to help me. Every time he placed the tweezers near my finger, I howled out in pain. He said he couldn’t do it.

In the meantime, I started receiving texts from my aunt Jan. My mom started telling close family members of my dad’s crime. My aunt Jan told me I needed to be strong for my mom to help her through these hard times. It rubbed me the wrong way. It’s like she was dishing everything off on me. Before I was even a teenager I was told to take care of my mom. It was as if the parent-child roles were reversed. Why was that my responsibility when I needed a mom? I was just a kid.

I was having this throbbing pain in my finger while being upset that I was told to take care of my mom because my dad committed a crime. My mom was an adult, she could leave which I was supportive of. All this happened while I called the doctor’s office who told me they couldn’t fit me in for days. I decided to go to quick care located in a store. They turned me away because they didn’t have the proper tools to remove the sliver. I had to decide if I should go to the ER or return home to soak my finger to see if it would come out on its own in a couple days. We wandered around the store as I made up my mind.

My aunt Jan called as we walked the aisles of the store. I didn’t want to answer her call, so Paul did. I could hear Jan pleading with Paul for me to step up and be a good daughter. Paul really laid into her. He told her that I was always expected to take care of my mother but who would take care of me. It was my dad who committed a crime. It was my daughter that reported it and she had to deal with that alone while she was at school hours away. I was having a hard time dealing with it myself. I wasn’t sleeping. I was having nightmares. I was in a state of despair. Yet I was expected to shoulder my parents problems once again. I have to laugh a little about the people who overheard that conversation in the store. Paul gave me the phone to hear the apologetic Jan treat me with compassion. She realized that I couldn’t always be the strong one, I was hurting too.

I decided to go to the ER. I didn’t want the sliver festering under my skin anymore. I wanted to be done with the pain. They couldn’t get the sliver out right away. They could keep trying after numbing my finger which I agreed to. My finger numbed up but I could still feel the pain. Just like a trip to the dentist, the shots to take away the pain didn’t work. They could keep trying or they could give me a referral to a hand surgeon. Keep trying! I felt like I was going to throw up as I broke into a cold sweat. Just get it over with and take the pain away already. It seemed to take hours, but he finally got it out.

My nerves were pretty shot that day. That was hands down one of the worst days in 2019.

The day after the police came

The day after the police came was the large extended family Christmas party. We showed up a little late since we were having vehicle trouble. In fact, Paul dropped us off at the party while he tried to figure out what was wrong with his truck.

When I walked in I saw my mom hugging a relative and crying. I was looking for signs that she knew something was up with my dad. Crying at a family Christmas party was not outside of the norm. It happened so often as a kid that relatives prompted me to be a good girl and take care of my mother.

My dad didn’t show up to the Christmas party. That wasn’t out of the norm either. He didn’t show up for Thanksgiving at my house. He didn’t really take an interest in family gatherings. Sometimes he stayed home with Matt so he would have a good excuse not to go. He couldn’t use Matt as an excuse anymore because Matt was there and no longer violent thanks to anti-psychotic medication.

I wasn’t feeling very festive last year and really didn’t want to go. But it was important to keep up the appearance as if everything was normal. This was not unusual for me either. Trying to muster up some fake smiles while my life was falling apart. Yeah, just found out my dad is a pedophile which triggered traumatic memories but hey life is great because it is the Christmas season. I’m good, how are you?

On a quest to find vehicle answers, Paul’s truck broke down and we had to have the vehicle towed to a garage. Perhaps this could be my excuse for the forced smiles. Yeah, I’m worried about something else.

Something seemed a little off with my mom. She said she needed to talk to me about something important. Did she know?

We ended up getting a ride home from some relatives that lived near us. I tried calling my mom later but she didn’t answer. She called me back when she got home but didn’t talk about anything important. What was going on?

Clipped wings

I was my mom’s best friend. There was nothing that happened in our house that I didn’t know about. In fact, I was an active part of the decision making. When my dad wasn’t terrorizing the house, he neglected us. He was angry if he had to take any responsibility at all for us and would often take it out on us. Most of the time when he wasn’t roaring or raging you could find him in front of the TV.

As next in line, my mom asked me. My mom couldn’t decide what to do with our dog when her intestine twisted. The vet took x-rays and said we would be taking our dog home to die a painful death. My mom couldn’t decide what to do. I wanted to take the dog home. As the night progressed, the dog’s suffering increased. She asked me if we should have the neighbor come over and shoot our dog. I told her I didn’t want that because the neighbor shot his puppy for chasing the chickens. I didn’t want him anywhere near my dog. Maybe our dog would live. I made the wrong call because I was too immature to make adult decisions as a child. Meanwhile, my dad laughed and talked with his friends in the other room.

At 6 years old, I was responsible for watching my 3 younger brothers swim in the lake. My parents wanted some time to themselves in the cabin. My brother almost drowned. I froze as he flailed and choked. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t move. I was not mature enough to handle the responsibility I was given. Yet somehow I felt like I was responsible and had to control the outcome of something I was incapable of doing.

I was responsible to comfort my mother after my dad was mean to her. I was responsible to help her feel better if she had a rough day with Matt. I listened to her and held her as she cried. I told her everything would be okay. Yet I was never comforted.

I was responsible for the outdoor cats. I fed them and cared for them. When one cat was a bad mom and let her kittens freeze to death, it was my responsibility to bury the kittens. I dug a hole, but after touching the first cold kitten I screamed and threw the box of dead kittens into the tall grass. It was horrifying.

My brothers and I had to do a lot of chores like hauling wood. One time I almost hurt myself carrying the biggest log. After that, I was no longer allowed to do men’s work. From that day on I was in charge of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and when needed meal prep. I was allowed to play in my room when my brothers worked outside. All the while my dad called them lazy and yelled at them when they didn’t work hard enough. It always made me feel guilty watching them suffer.

I was responsible to care for my autistic brother. He was mean to me but I was responsible to make sure no one was mean to him at school. I helped shower him and make his meals. I was his second mother. It was my responsibility to take care of him forever. My mom didn’t want me to go far away for college. She was jealous when I had other friends because she was my best friend. She pretty much clipped my wings before I figured out I could fly.

When my brother Matt was at his most violent, my mom pulled us all out of school. I was home schooled from 8th to 10th grade. I rarely left the house. COVID was not the first time I lived in isolation. It was hard because my friends went on with life without me. I should’ve been allowed to be a child. In some ways I thought I was cool. Who doesn’t want to be an adult when they are a child? As an adult I wondered what it would be like to be a child. But it was too late to go back. I missed out on the magic and wonder. My biggest regret was that I was never allowed to live. I didn’t even realize it until it was too late.

I decided from a young age that my own children would only be allowed to be children. I didn’t want them to have any responsibilities or many chores. I was going to protect them by not telling them anything that was going on in the house. I was going to try to hide all problems from them and deceive them into believing the world was a good place. I took on that responsibility because it was already my burden to bear. I couldn’t break free from feeling like I was responsible for things I had no control over. I didn’t want my children to feel like I did.