The ultimatum, part 8

Paul struggled with what it meant to be a husband and a dad. He never had a dad and barely remembered his mother’s brief marriage when he was 4 to a man that was supposedly abusive towards him.

His only parent was very childlike herself. They were dirt poor. He spent the first half of his childhood in low income housing in the inner city of Chicago. His mother was slow and uneducated. She also struggled with mental health issues that I would guess were trauma related.

Martha’s dad died when she was 12, so Paul didn’t have a grandpa either. He wouldn’t have made a good grandpa anyway. He was known to abuse his children and cheat on his wife. He wouldn’t be my chosen father figure for a future husband.

Martha didn’t always make the best decisions but she was a good mother. She always told Paul he could do anything he put his mind to. She did the best she could with the hand she was given.

Sometimes I feel like Paul was more of a parent to Martha than she was to him. But that could be because I saw him give her advice as an adult. She would argue that credit cards were money. She wasn’t a drinker but I think she was addicted to gambling. I’m sure that is why Paul is obsessed with keeping our finances in order.

Martha also had a really bad temper. She was very reactive and emotional. She often was angry and thought people were out to get her. Or you could be the best thing that ever happened to her. In those times you could do nothing wrong. She was crazy fun, exciting, and impulsive.

After her brief marriage, Martha didn’t have a lot of boyfriends. She worked a lot. Sometimes she lost her jobs due to her chronic tardiness. She married for the 2nd time right before I met Paul. Her husband Darryl is only 15 years older than Paul. He had kids but his ex took off with them and they spent most of their adult life in and out of prison. Maybe if Paul was still a child he would’ve been a good father.

I wish I could say that my own dad was able to take him under his wing. If anything, my dad taught him what not to do as a husband and a father. It seems like we both had to parent our parents more than they parented us. It caused a lot of stress shouldering all of that responsibility.

There was no one, just a big empty void of abandonment. He was expected to be good at something he never learned how to do. He didn’t have a dad to play ball with. No one taught him how to fix things or work on cars. He was never disciplined. He didn’t have a dad to embarrass him or give him advice on girls. Like most things, he just had to figure it out himself.

I tried to gloss it over and glamorize it by saying that at least he could develop his own style. But it wasn’t easy. I think he is a wonderful father and husband despite his insecurities. When he screws up he apologizes and tries harder to be a better person. He is doing a wonderful job and I appreciate his commitment.

He could’ve walked away like his own father did. Instead he was willing to roll up his sleeves and work on himself and our relationship.

I never wanted the dress

Last week the girls and I went prom dress shopping. I didn’t expect it to trigger emotions in me, but it did. I am so easily triggered now it seems.

My mom and I never went prom dress shopping together. One day she just brought home a prom dress for me. It was the ugliest light pinkest thing you ever did (or in this case, you didn’t) see. I hated it, but wore it anyway.

That evening at prom a “friend” told me another girl wore the same dress last year and that my boyfriend was planning on breaking up with me. I should have never went out with this guy in the first place. He was a complete jerk. During study hall, he would sit at a table in the library with his friends instead of me. I guess that wasn’t a big deal. But sometimes he sat at the table with a girl “friend” he flirted with constantly. She was way out of his league and had an obsession with polka dots. After that I hated everything polka dots when I should’ve hated him.

But anyway, sometimes when your dad doesn’t care about you or who you are dating you pick guys that are emotionally distant like your dad. The night of prom started out rough. Now I can’t totally blame it on the dress. Or maybe some would. My boyfriend’s step-dad really liked my dress and grabbed my ass when no one was looking. The whole night was a nightmare.

Then after prom, my boyfriend and I were headed to a party but got into a huge fight instead over the rumor he was going to break up with me. It was raining and we were pulled over at the side of the road arguing. Several people stopped to see if we were okay. It happened so many times that my boyfriend just told the concerned citizens we were fighting.

Why don’t normal things ever happen to me??

But anyway, the dress. I felt like I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t pick the dress out. I didn’t even like it. I felt guilty for wanting something else, so I just wore it. My mom did spend a lot of money on it.

I felt that way a lot as a teen, though. I didn’t have any choice, although it seemed like I did. When my autistic brother Matt was home bound, my mom pulled my younger brothers out of school as well. I was entering 8th grade when this happened. She told me I had a choice between homeschooling and going to school. What I heard was…are you going to choose your family or your friends? I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I had to pick family.

Instead of spending my last year of middle school with my friends, I stayed home in isolation. Then I spent my first two years of high school at home as well. The chasm widened between my friends and I, my peers and I. For three years I rarely left the house. I became a recluse. My mom became my best friend. My mom was jealous if I had other friends beside her. It’s still the same today.

When I turned 18, you might think I would’ve left home as fast as I could. But I didn’t even consider it as an option. How could I leave behind my best friend when she needed me? But I don’t have any regrets. Do you know why?? Because I never lived. I was never allowed to be a child, a teenager. I had to be an adult when I was a child. I had to emotionally support my mother. I had to take care of my violent autistic brother.

Mom didn’t want me to play the piccolo, so I played a flute instead. I wanted to take singing lessons, but got piano lessons instead. When mom didn’t like my boyfriend, she set me up on a surprise date with an ex-boyfriend she did like.

When I wasn’t perfect, I was punished. I couldn’t be perfect, but I could be manipulated and controlled. I could be guilted into doing things I didn’t want to do. I hated not having any control over my life. My mom even read my diary. She was mad at me for the things I wrote in it. I never felt accepted for who I really am and for the decisions I made.

Part of it was my fault. I thought it was selfish to live my own life. I never stood up for myself. I never said I didn’t like the dress. I never said I wanted to go to school. I just wanted to be independent and live my own life.

I wanted to play piccolo. I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to choose my own clothes. I wanted to choose my own boyfriends.

I have a hard time as an adult making decisions and having choices. I sometimes still feel selfish doing what I want to do. But if I learned anything from this experience, it is to let my adult children live. Let them have their regrets. Their lives are not mine to control. But I will give unsolicited motherly advice.

Good Girl, the fixer

It didn’t start well and probably won’t end well either.

They got married almost 50 years ago on a cold February day in front of the justice of peace. That evening the bride cooked supper for her new groom and sponsors. Then her husband walked out the door for his 3rd shift job as the freezing rain started to fall from the heavens. The bride spent her wedding night alone.

He wasn’t the same after the war years before. She wasn’t the same either after watching her mother die while he was away. The husband spent many long hours staring off into space holding a gun. Many a times he wanted to pull the trigger. He flew into awful rages that one time left his bride with bruised ribs. She wanted to leave, but he said he would change so she never did.

Soon after they had several kids. First came the Good Girl followed by the Wild Child, then invisible, and ended less than 5 years from the first with Baby Boy.

The husband didn’t really change all that much. He still was depressed and flew into rages. Good Girl wished her dad loved her. She wished she was as beautiful as the girls in the magazines her dad loved. When she was very little she stared at the glossy photos of the girls on the center page. She showed the pictures to others little girls who told their parents which got Good Girl into trouble.

The wife never told the husband she would not tolerate her children seeing the magazines he left laying around the house. She buried her head in the sand. She was always working. After the wedding night, the husband didn’t want to work that much. Plus Wild Child was always taking up her time. Wild Child physically attacked all of his siblings. He hurt them then they were sent away to mend their own wounds because they were normal.

The mom screamed and confronted anyone that posed a threat to Wild Child. Even if he was hurting someone, the mom yelled not to hurt Wild Child as he was pulled off of them. The mom yelled if Wild Child was not treated like royalty. He was sacred and meant to be worshiped. Everyone should know that their world revolves around him. There was a list of rules to be followed in the sacrifice to him of their childhood.

Meanwhile, invisible was invisible. Baby Boy acted like Wild Child so he could get attention. Dad was fond of harshly disciplining him. He called Baby Boy lazy and stupid. Dad liked to scare Baby Boy so he could laugh at him. invisible laughed along with dad and dad protected him. Good Girl acted like she didn’t care to stay under the radar. Dad neither hugged nor hit her. He just said mean words. She felt bad for Baby Boy, but instead of protecting him she hid so she wouldn’t get hurt.

Mom complained, but didn’t do anything. She wasn’t cruel herself, but didn’t protect the children from Wild Child or dad. She cried louder than the children so they would take care of her. The mom was a martyr and Good Girl became the fixer.

One day everything changed. The children grew up. Good Girl stayed close to home to help fix. Wild Child became Mild Child. But still the mom raged. They didn’t brush Mild Child’s teeth good enough. They don’t exercise him. They don’t make him the right foods.

invisible moved far away in the middle of nowhere. Baby Boy left too. He told his parents how much they hurt him. Then he left home, got married, and joined a healthy family so he didn’t have to come back to his broken one.

The mom and dad grew old. Still the mom did nothing, unless she had to yell at someone about Mild Child.

Then one day the mom decided she wanted to confront the dad about all of the bad things he has ever done. She asked the Good Girl to come with her. This made the Good Girl feel upset and stressed out. She asked the mom why she wanted to confront now and not 25 years ago. The mom said she couldn’t then because invisible would disappear forever if she did.

Good Girl did not want to be put in the middle of the mom and the dad as missiles were being fired. She wanted to be the Bad Girl and say ‘no’. The mom’s family was calling up Good Girl to be the fixer. They tried to make her feel like a bad daughter for not helping the martyr so they did not feel guilty living their perfect lives.

Good Girl is very strong because she built a fortress around herself, but she is crying to be let out. No one sees that.

Good Girl no longer wants to be a fixer and will not go. Good Girl never wants to see her dad again unless he is calling with an apology. Good Girl is done and just wants to live her own life. She thinks her parents should be helping her, not the other way around. This makes her sad. It is hard for her to move on because it never seems to end.

 

What else could go wrong??

Seriously, what else could go wrong?? Have you ever muttered those words to yourself only to regret them a few minutes later?

It’s been one of those days.

After I got home from running 5 miles at the gym, I got ready to wash a load of towels. So far, so good. I grabbed a dirty towel off the rack in the bathroom and went to turn off the light. The light switch is next to a door frame made of rough wood. As I was turning off the light my finger went down the wood frame and I got a splinter under my nail. It was extremely painful.

I got out the tweezers and tried in vain to get the splinter out. After a half an hour I sent a text to my husband to come in from his office to help. He tried a couple times, but it was so painful I started crying.

I decided to call the doctor’s office, but they were fully booked until like August or something. This is a horrible story, but I was thinking about a friend of ours that had a sliver under his fingernail that got infected. A couple months ago he ended up having to get his finger removed from that infection.

I decided to go to fast care. I didn’t want to have any more problems over the holiday. When Paul and I got there, they said that they didn’t have the tools to help me. So we walked around the store while I thought about what to do next.

In the meantime, my aunt Jan texted me saying I needed to take care of my mom. The devastating news I got was about my family. I wish I could tell you everything, but I can’t right now. Anyway, I was kind of upset about the text. Why do I need to take care of my mom? I am also going through hell.

While we were in the store, my aunt Jan called Paul. She wanted to make sure I got her message and Paul told her how he felt. He said that I have been taking care of my mother since I was a little girl. Who is taking care of Alissa? Why ask me about my mother? Why focus on my autistic brother? No one ever cared enough to ask how I was doing. I was just expected to be strong to take care of everyone else.

Paul told Jan that I have my own family now. I have 4 teenagers in the house. Alissa just needs to take care of Alissa because she is having a really hard time now too. It felt good to have someone stick up for me. But it didn’t feel good to have a personal conversation in the store while I was stressed about my finger.

Next stop, urgent care. The lady at the front desk asked me if I wanted to pay for my care. I mean, not really. Who does? But I wasn’t in the mood to make wise cracks.

Thankfully I was able to get in right away. The doctor tried in vain for a half an hour to get the splinter out. It was very painful because he had to dig in my nail bed. I was bleeding.

He said I had a couple options. First, I could do nothing. It most likely wouldn’t come out on its own, but it might. He could give me antibiotics. If it got infected or continued to be painful, I could contact a hand surgeon to have it removed. Or he could give me anesthesia and keep trying to dig deeper under my nail. Even then he gave himself a 50% chance to be able to get it out.

I just wanted it out, so I opted for the anesthesia. The anesthesia numbed my finger, but it still hurt. It was just like going to the dentist. I could feel everything even though they gave me enough anesthesia to take out my tooth. The doctor gave me a second dose of anesthesia. I could still feel pain, but it was muted a little.

I felt like I was going to pass out. I was in pain off and on for a couple hours at that point. I felt sick although I didn’t eat hardly anything all day. After another 20 minutes of poking underneath my nail, he was able to get it out.

While I was there, I heard screaming in the background. Someone else was vomiting nonstop, and another guy went into cardiac arrest. Call 9-1-1. When I got back to the reception area, it looked like a crime scene. There were several squad cars and ambulances. People were huddled together crying.

I debated whether or not Paul and I should burn our clothes after our trip to urgent care. Who wants the plague for Christmas??

Then I came home and did a head lice check on one of my kids. Thankfully, I didn’t see anything. Oh, and I almost hit a deer picking up the girls from school.

Honestly, I’m not even sure if it is safe for you to be reading this.

 

 

Depression

As I was getting ready for the last show, I saw a car pull up to the theater long before the show started. It was a navy blue car, the same color, model, and make as my dad’s car. The passenger door opened and a very large man struggled to get out of the car with a cane. He had his head down, but I could see a mass of white hair and a long white beard.

I knew my mom was coming to the show. But was my dad? Would he finally tell me that he was proud of me? The man looked up and I realized that he wasn’t my dad. I felt sadness for what never was and what probably will never be.

Depression, it hit me the hardest in my late teens and early 20’s. As I mentioned before, my childhood was the hardest period of my life. My brother Matt, who is less than 2 years younger than me, had some very serious health and mental health issues. He was violent towards me, towards others, and to our pets. He hit me, pulled my hair, and clawed my arms on a regular basis. I think he killed my cats. He threatened to poke my eyes out with a knife. The list goes on…seriously, just read the book once I finish it.

My dad was depressed too. He withdrew from the family. When he was home he would sit on the couch and ignore us while watching TV. If the house was too quiet, I worried that I would find him dead somewhere.

My dad is the most pessimistic person I know. His life mottoes are ‘sh!t happens’ and ‘life’s a bitch, then you die’. He never hugged us or told us that he loved us. We never had father-daughter ‘dates’. Nothing. Instead he told us that we were stupid and laughed at our feelings, dreams, and fears.

I consider myself a realist, which probably is just a nice way of saying pessimist. But I will never be like my dad. I will never tear someone else down to lift myself up.

My dad is everything I don’t want to be. He never took care of himself. He ate a lot of junk food. He never exercised. He weighs almost 350 lbs. He hasn’t brushed his teeth in years. He hasn’t showered in almost a year. He is lazy and hates to work. He doesn’t clean up after himself and is a hoarder. Once one building is full, it’s time to build another shed. He doesn’t finish anything he starts. My parents built their house in the 1970’s and the upstairs bathroom still has not been finished. Simple repairs lie in disrepair for years. He is even too lazy to bother getting dressed if he doesn’t want to.

Maybe that is why I do everything the opposite. I eat healthy, run marathons, can be a workaholic, try to maintain a healthy weight, get things done right away, and am a clean freak. I don’t like things that he likes just because he likes them. But the truth is, I am still his daughter. I can’t hide from that.

In early childhood, when my dad emotionally checked out, I was called up to the plate. I started trying to fix the problems at home. Nothing was kept from me. I was handling responsibilities that no child should have to handle.

A 6 year old should never have to watch her 3 younger brothers in the lake even for a few minutes. My youngest brother almost drowned that day.

A 13 year old shouldn’t be making the call whether or not the neighbor should come over and put our dog out of her misery when she was suffering a painful death. I made the wrong call and I have to live with that.

A college student shouldn’t have to help raise 3 teenagers. But that is what I was doing.

I home-schooled one year of middle school and two of high school so I could help my mom out. Even though I attended college in the drunkest city of the United States, I never went to a single college party. Most Saturday nights you could find me at home helping shower my disabled brother. Then I graduated from college, got married two months later, and right away started a family of my own. At times I feel like I am suffocating.

Sometimes I yearn to be the child I never was. In some ways, my kids are older than me. I gave them everything I didn’t have. The pendulum swung too far to the other side. I only told them the things they needed to know. I only let them be kids. I gave them few responsibilities and chores. I shouldered that responsibility so they didn’t have to. I was wrong. I realize that now. But how can we be functional parents if we both had nothing but dysfunction to model from?

I get depressed when I have memories of the horrible things that have happened to me. The PTSD depression is the worst I’ve ever experienced. Burying my painful feelings in the moment is a future time bomb. The feelings I’ve repressed have a way of coming out tenfold. The depression from that is intense and irrational. The urge to end it all is hard to fight. By the grace of God I was able to make it through to tell you about it. I want to say that will never happen again, but here I am stirring up my demons.

I actively mourn the childhood I never had. There is something joyous and magical most people experience that I’ve never had. It is utterly devastating. I don’t know if I will ever be able to get over it. It is the kind of depression that no pill can cure.

My life is everything I’ve ever wanted it to be now, yet somehow I cannot outrun the demons of my past and find peace.