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.

The day the police came

The day the police came was a day like today, a Friday afternoon in early December. It was the opening night for the local community theater show that my daughter Arabella and our foreign exchange student Clara were performing in. The following day was the extended family Christmas party.

The original plan was that my brother Luke was going to be coming home to visit my parents with his family. They were going to see the show and go to the Christmas party. But thankfully my brother cancelled those plans after he was diagnosed with kidney disease a couple weeks before. The doctor told him he needed to try to take it easy and cut back on some of the stress in his life. He decided to stay home instead. Otherwise he might have showed up as the police arrived.

The police knocked on the door asking for my dad. My mom said he couldn’t come to the door because he had a hard time getting around. Several officers came in to talk to my dad, several more to talk to my mom, and another to search my parents house.

I thought my dad was going to be arrested when the police came. Instead they took all the computers in the house. They also went through my mom’s ipad and phone which were as expected clean.

My brother Matt was home for the weekend too. He wondered why the police were at their house. My mom told him that they were checking to make sure the computers were safe. Surprisingly, the answer seemed to placate Matt. He didn’t seem to notice that our mom was crying. He wasn’t shocked or angry. He somehow believed that several squad cars can show up at someone’s house just to make sure everything was safe. Life went on as normal for him.

That night my mom attended the show. My best friend Cindy and her family took my brother Luke’s tickets. My mom carried on as usual. I acted like everything was fine as well. We rivaled the community theater performance.

I didn’t know that the police arrived at their house until a couple days later.

Too toxic

My mother; the martyr, the saint. She put up with a lot of crap. But she was never at peace, never carefree. Her jaw clenched. She never smiled. Yet she was always beautiful in a sad way.

I don’t think my mother is sane.

We used to have Christmas in our house. But that ended when Matt became allergic to the tree. We couldn’t have a tree in our house. We couldn’t have Christmas at our house. The only thing that remained was a strand of broken colored lights on the garage roof. Then my mom told my grandma she couldn’t have a tree in her house that year either.

My mom told my aunt she couldn’t mop her floor with chemicals if we were coming over. That was simply too toxic for Matt. My mom was the one who had us bathe in apple cider vinegar as children. It was to get the toxins out from the Agent Orange because my dad was in Vietnam. That was why we were all sick, especially Matt.

That was why we didn’t drink Kool-Aid. Too many toxic artificial flavors and colors. That is why the air purifier ran both night and day. Too many toxins. That was why they ripped out the wood stove. That was why our house was always cold. The new curtains were tore down and replaced with old holey blankets.

That is why we couldn’t have cars parked in the garage. We had to be careful of the breezes. If the wind was blowing a certain way, the windows had to be shut because of the auto fumes. If the farmers sprayed their fields, we had to evacuate within the hour while Matt wore his charcoal mask.

We brushed our teeth with baking soda and peroxide. We couldn’t wear anything with a scent, certainly not perfume. Newspapers weren’t allowed in the house. The print was too toxic. No markers, no nail polish…no, no, no, NO! No fun. No living.

I thought this was how everyone lived, in fear of toxins.

My mom called the farmers and yelled at them for spraying their fields. She called the county and yelled at them for spraying the ditches. She called the school and yelled at them if they gave Matt ‘toxic’ foods. His diet was so complex only she could figure it out.

My mom confronted my dad when he came in the house wearing his snowsuit after snow blowing the driveway because of the exhaust fumes. But she never confronted him for hurting their children or regarding his addiction.

Today I no longer live in fear of toxins. It’s the toxic people who scare me.

What? A crime

After a sleepless night, I decided to call my therapist’s office first thing Monday morning. What could it hurt? Surprisingly, she answered the phone. She was able to fit me into her schedule later on that day.

I was a mess. I was worried that all the healing work I had done would be undone with one swift traumatic blow. I had been in therapy alone for a couple months. I just started seeing a wellness nurse for my health issues. Would I fall back into a sick game of trauma Tetris?

My daughter was going to report my dad’s crime that night. I felt anxious all day. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t settle down. I couldn’t believe what had happened and was trying to process everything.

I did feel a little better after seeing the therapist. It’s totally crazy, but the only people I feel that can understand me are the people highly trained in dealing with trauma or have been there themselves. Those people are hard to find and are so terribly broken.

The following evening my husband and I met with our pastor and his wife. Our pastor said my ultimate goal was forgiveness. But I was not even at step one, acknowledging the fact that my dad is a pedophile. Anger burned inside my heart for my pastor. I felt jealous because he had the type of parents I wanted. I wanted more than anything to belong to a healthy loving family. He had no clue what it was like to deal with trauma. It wasn’t his fault, but I resented him for it. Although, in his defense, he had no idea what he was getting himself into and wasn’t trained for this.

No one really knows what to say. I don’t either. When your good godly father dies, I don’t know what to say to you. It seems insensitive to say that I wish I had a father like yours. It doesn’t matter if he is dead. Many times I wished my dad was dead. Then, perhaps, this hell will end. But will it if it is stuck inside of me? Maybe I will always carry this baggage long after the train has left. I suppose I will have the answer someday, but it doesn’t make me feel like a good person right now.

Later that evening I received a phone call from the police. By then my nerves were shot. The officer asked me a lot of questions. What are the birth dates of your parents? Do your parents own guns? Did anyone else live in the house and have access to the computer besides your mom and dad? I told the officer that my disabled brother lives at home on the weekends. But I also told him that he cannot read or write which crossed him off the suspect list. I nervously answered all the questions asked of me.

The officer asked me to not have any contact with my parents until they talked to them. I thought I would be getting a call from my mom after my dad got arrested. But that is not what happened.

Survival; the lies I told myself

I’ve been depressed since I can remember time beginning. Maybe you would be too if you lived in my shoes. I told myself a lot of things that weren’t true. Survival, I thought childhood would never end. I said things to myself like at least I wasn’t sexually abused. If I was I wouldn’t have the will to live. Yet fuzzy memories tickled my mind. But if I couldn’t remember, it didn’t exist. Right?

It was bad enough that my psychotic brother terrorized our house. He was small and by any means did not look threatening. But when the voices in his head called to him he would fly into a psychotic rage. He clawed up my arms, punched, head butted, gave black eyes and bloodied lips, grabbed onto hair, twisted arms, kicked with an adrenaline rushed rage. I was not comforted, he was. I was told how lucky I was to be normal. I was punished if I wanted to retaliate or defend myself. Matt couldn’t help what he did, but I could.

When I was attacked at times I almost went into a meditative state. I repeated the mantra over and over in my head that this abuse was making me stronger like exercise. I told myself that all of the pain inflicted upon my body was good for me. If he punched and bruised my arms I thought in my head that my pain came from lifting weights. I was developing strong muscles and not being beaten and bruised. I think that is why part of my early healing involved marathon running and brutal body breaking workouts. My mind was already trained.

I never learned that touch could be comforting. Not only did my brother physically abuse me and those I loved, my father did as well. He would often squeeze my mother too tightly until she cried out in pain. My little brothers and I would try to get him off of her while he swung at us. I remember him hitting and spanking some of my brothers. He would tickle us until we wet ourselves all in the name of fun. Sometimes he would play ball with my brother for fun too. He would chuck the ball so hard he would hit my brother with it. The game usually ended when my brother came in the house crying while my dad called him a baby. But my dad never flew into a psychotic rage like Matt.

The most difficult thing to endure with my dad was the emotional abuse. He often told us how stupid we were. He had the innate ability to find the things we were most afraid of to terrorize us with. He would taunt us and encourage our siblings to laugh at us as well while we whimpered in fear. We were so frightened by our dad that we didn’t want to be left with him without mom because then he was merciless. If we tried to stand up for our siblings, we were targeted next.

My dad was evil. Does that make me evil too? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I tried to be good like my mom. She would take us to church. My dad would laugh about this as well. God was a big joke to him. But it was a place I could go he couldn’t reach.

I never learned to be comforted by touch or encouraging words. In fact, quite the opposite. Touch and nice words made me feel uncomfortable. It was foreign to me. No one ever said they were proud of me. No one ever said it was okay to feel angry when my brother hurt me. I could never say ‘no’ to make it stop. I wasn’t protected. Nothing was entirely safe, not my body and not my mind.

I couldn’t control the things that happened to me. But I could control myself. I could convince myself of the lies I needed to tell myself in order to survive. It wasn’t that bad. A good beating made me stronger. I should’ve noticed the signs. I was the one that didn’t protect myself. It was my fault.

But hey, at least I wasn’t molested. What I can’t remember doesn’t hurt me. Right?

Late night decisions

Dan and Angel started going through the pictures on my parent’s computer. It started innocently enough as things often do. My daughter sent me an old picture of myself with long hair. It reminded me of why I kept my hair short.

Paul took a call later that evening. I really didn’t pay much attention until he pulled me into our bedroom. He told me to sit down as Angel was going to share some really bad news. Angel was just home for Thanksgiving. How bad could the news really be? Was she pregnant and dropping out of college with only a semester left? Did she get bad test results from the physical she had at the doctor’s office the day after Thanksgiving? Why would they call her on a Sunday night? Maybe she had a really bad type of cancer and was dying.

My daughter was sobbing. She told me she was really sorry. I honestly didn’t know what for. Angel wasn’t the type to get into trouble. She told me that they found porn on my parent’s computer. Still not very surprising. My dad was a porn addict since I could remember. I relaxed a little. I’m sure it was shocking to see porn on your grandparents computer. But then my daughter threw a punch. But mom, there were images of children.

I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t imagine what my daughter had to see. I was in a state of shock. Time moved slowly. It was hard to decide what to tell them to do. I called my brother Luke. He fell to the floor and sobbed in front of his children. What were we going to do? What a mess!

It wasn’t like I had it in my repertoire of traumatic experiences yet. What to do when your child finds child porn on your parents computer. I couldn’t really ask anyone because I never knew of anyone it happened to. I certainly did not want to google it. Frankly, I am a little frightened to even talk about it now a year later.

We could all pretend it never happened. We could protect my dad. We could destroy the computer and never talk about it again. They could return the computer and tell my mom to never show it to anyone again. But then we would be criminals, just as bad.

My daughter decided that after she was finished with school on Monday and Dan was done with work, they would go to the police department. Angel was going to file a police report against her grandpa, my dad. I knew it was the right thing to do, yet no one was comforted by the fact and slept well that night.

I was devastated. I thought my life was over from his mistake. I thought I would never feel joy again. My demons rejoiced in my suffering. I couldn’t even comfort my daughter because she was attending school 4 hours away. She was hurt. She would never be the same. My heart burned with hatred toward my dad.

I thought because I was no longer a child that my parents could no longer hurt me. Boy was I wrong. Childhood ended before it even really began, but the trauma didn’t. Now it was spilling down the generations onto my children. I could no longer protect them from how things really are. It almost destroyed me. But I am stronger now, strong enough to tell my story. I know it won’t be easy. I’m afraid. I feel sick to death about it. I mourn the hurt and crying children who deserve so much more…

Gratitude week 49

  1. I finished my detox diet this week. The first thing I ate was my best friend’s homemade pumpkin pie. Yum!
  2. I’m grateful that my appointment with the wellness nurse went really well this week. I’m going to do the allergy and hormone testing in a couple months, then will start visiting yearly. I’m grateful I stuck with it because I do feel a lot better.
  3. My daughter came home from the hospital this week.
  4. I took my son to the ER today. I’m grateful that all his tests came back normal. He is having muscle pain in his neck. Thankfully all of the serious problems got ruled out. I’m glad I could be there for him and that he doesn’t have any significant health issues. There is never a dull moment.
  5. I’m grateful I had a really good phone conversation with my brother Luke yesterday. Sadly, we are not getting together as a family for the holidays this year. There was a bit of a misunderstanding about this but thankfully we cleared it up.
  6. I’m grateful that my husband passed a huge test to be licensed for a new career.
  7. I’m grateful that we were able to celebrate his success with the family by going out for Indian food. The food was great!
  8. I’m grateful for a warm fire, Christmas lights, and watching my favorite Christmas movie.
  9. I’m grateful that I am pretty much done with my Christmas shopping.
  10. I’m grateful for a really nice church service today in a church decorated for Christmas.

Where it all began…

Next to my mother’s side of the bed was a well worn Bible passed down from generations. Next to my dad’s side of the bed was a girlie magazine. I grew up in a house divided. We all picked our sides.

I’ve read the Bible cover to cover. I’ve also read many articles from porno mags. Did you even know they had more than pictures? I figured that out by the time I could read. Once when I was in 2nd grade I showed my cousin. She told her parents and I got in trouble. But was that really my fault?

My dad had a Playboy calendar hanging in the basement. He kept the same image up for 20 years. Although I have forgotten the month and year, I don’t ever think I will forget the girl.

Sometimes my dad’s greasy friend would drop off movies. Sometimes my dad would leave them in the VCR. Sometimes my brothers and I would watch them. Then when my brother was 12 or 13 my dad gave him his stash and told him not to let our mother know. Great dad, right?

It’s not as if my mom would’ve done anything about it anyway. She buried her head in the sand. She didn’t have any boundaries. The only time she ever got upset is if she thought someone was hurting Matt. Ironically, she usually got really worked up if Matt attacked someone and he got injured in the process.

My brother Matt was psychotic and violent. He heard voices that told him to hurt/kill little girls. I think most of my childhood trauma revolved around my autistic/schizophrenic brother’s attacks on me and the others I loved.

She did try to have boundaries with my brothers and I when we were teenagers and failed. Mark and I were the obedient children. But Luke did whatever he pleased and no one could stop him. But if we had any question as to whether mom would say ‘no’ we would ask dad. Dad didn’t care. If I asked him if I could shoot up heroin with some sleaze balls twice my age his answer would still be yes. It made my mom angry.

Sometimes I wonder if Matt didn’t physically attack us if I still would’ve suffered trauma. Looking back I don’t think a lot of what I experienced was in any way normal. I would like to think that if a parent chooses to view pornography, they would not leave it lying around for their children to see or give it to their children. I think that is pretty messed up.

I would like to think that most families develop healthy boundaries of what behavior is acceptable and what is not. I would like to think that all parents would protect their children. Not just the weakest and let the strong fend for themselves.

I’ve learned in life that I had to take care of myself. I was pretty good at it too. But I am no good at trusting others and accepting help when I truly need it. It was great for survival but it really doesn’t suit me well now.

The gift unwanted

If I could pinpoint the beginning, it would be today. Or maybe I should say everything became unraveled last year on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. That was the day everything became revealed that unraveled everything else. A new trauma that unwrapped the old in a dirty messy gift I didn’t want. I say gift because when I tell people they say it makes me stronger, a better person. I can’t blame them, it was the only positive thing they could think of saying. But maybe I just wanted to be average, normal.

It really started on Thanksgiving day last year. We had people over for Thanksgiving, more friends than family. Maybe if I’d known it would be the last normal Thanksgiving I would’ve felt less stressed out. But we didn’t have the lovely gift of 20/20 at that time.

My mom brought it with her. It sat in the corner next to the piano until my daughter Angel took it back to her apartment with her after Thanksgiving break. She was going to give it to her boyfriend Dan to fix.

I awoke from nightmares this Thanksgiving morning and wiped away my silent tears. I could tell you the day my life fell apart. It all started then. The anniversary haunts me. My demons delight. I barely survived the blow.

If only the snowstorm last year was a few days earlier. Could I have stopped it? Or maybe if I wasn’t so over responsible. Once my grandma couldn’t host the holidays anymore, I took over. It should’ve been passed down to my mom, then me. But I took it on. It didn’t matter that I was in my early 20’s. It didn’t matter when my husband had a cancer scare and needed major surgery over the holidays. It didn’t matter when I had newborns or 3 little kids underfoot. My husband and I did it all, sometimes my brother Luke relieved me of that responsibility.

I resent the fact that I always had to be the supporter but never got the support I needed. Or maybe it’s because I am a dumping ground for feelings and baggage I never needed to carry. I’ve been carrying boulders for so long it’s no wonder my back hurts.

A few weeks ago my mom dropped off pool shock when she cleaned out the garage from a pool she had operating 8 years ago. It only has a shelf life of 6 months and now I need to find a place to dispose of her trash. She stops by to drop off her junk but can’t visit because of COVID.

That’s what happened last year. She dropped off more junk. She had this laptop that was chock full of viruses. She wanted Dan to fix it and get her pictures off of it. The laptop came here with her on Thanksgiving. It sat at our house by the piano for a few days. Then it travelled home with Angel through the snowstorm several hours away.

Then this nightmare all started the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Oh how I wish it never began. The phone rang late that evening. It hit me hard like an unexpected punch in the gut that took my breath away. I called my brother Luke and he fell to the ground and sobbed in front of his children. After that day, it was hard to carry on.

On that day, my demons were stoked and I was scarred for life. The flames consumed me and the smoke kept me from seeing clearly. I thought I would never feel joy again. I kept myself hidden from the world. I continued the lie that everything was alright. I kept secrets.

But that ends today.

Gratitude week 48

  1. I finished writing the census series. I did forget a couple of stories. I was required to wear a mask, but one day I forgot. I had to cross a busy street in a downpour to go to an apartment complex that was always locked. But that one time the door was open. I went upstairs and knocked on the door. It sounded like someone was home. I was mortified because after I knocked I realized I had forgotten my mask in the car. That was a time I was thankful no one answered. I’m grateful to be able to share my stories with you.
  2. I’m grateful that I was able to enjoy Thanksgiving this week with my best friend and her family. Apparently she called her parents to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and found out that her siblings were invited over for the holiday but she was not. She works at the hospital and her parents consider her high risk for COVID so she is not welcome for the holidays this year but her siblings are. They didn’t even tell her. I’m grateful that we could get together to celebrate. I feel hurt by my mom as well. She considers us high risk but she still gets together with other people. We could really use her support right now. I wonder how many other families are dealing with this.
  3. I am glad that I have 2 days left on my detox diet. I am saving the pumpkin pie my friend made for the morning I am done. I told my daughter Angel to please not make deviled eggs otherwise I would crack. We’ll save the devil for Christmas.
  4. Yesterday my husband and I found the perfect Christmas tree. Every year I try to pick a theme. It has been difficult this year because we aren’t in any shows. Sorry, but quarantine is a sucky theme. In a couple weeks, it will be the 20th anniversary of my grandpa’s passing. This year I decided to dedicate our tree in tribute to him. If it wasn’t for my grandparents there is a good chance I wouldn’t be telling you my story today. I put 20 candy canes on the tree and decorated it with the pine cones my grandfather made many years ago. I feel like I was directed to the perfect tree in remembrance of him. I’m grateful I have some good memories to pass on to my kids.
  5. My daughter Arabella is in the hospital again. This is the third time in the last four months. She has been diagnosed with Major Depression with Borderline traits. The suicide rate for Borderline is 10%. I can’t imagine what it is combined with depression. I’m grateful that for now she is safe. This year has been hell for a lot more than COVID. I am going to start a new series tomorrow that will explore this past year.
  6. As I was decorating my tree yesterday I was very dismayed by the selection of Christmas music, so I made my own Christmas playlist. It includes both sacred and secular songs. I have over 8 hours of playtime and have hit every single genre from opera, traditional, rap, reggae, polka, pop, rock, metal, instrumental, funny….
  7. We have entered the season of light. This has been such a horrific year that I decided to decorate my house with every single strand of Christmas lights I own. I am going to be grateful for Christmas this year even if I can’t leave the house.
  8. I am grateful I was able to see my craniosacral massage therapist this week.
  9. I’m grateful for the classic Christmas movies. Last night we watched It’s a Wonderful Life. It makes me wonder how I have impacted other peoples lives. What would the life of others be like if we were never born? Wow, that is deep. I really should watch a comedy or something.
  10. Yesterday I cleaned out Arabella’s frog cage. I’m not sure how it even happened but her frogs escaped in her room. I asked Angel to help me catch them but she is afraid of frogs. She just ran around the room screaming. I’m grateful I caught them. The cage is clean and everything turned out alright.
  11. My son and I ran into his old piano teacher at the grocery store. She was a very instrumental person in his life throughout his difficult teen years. It was wonderful to see her again and find her well.