It’s not easy talking about my parents. They’re gone now.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I came to realize the one I was drawn to the most was the one I should have loathed. It was a mixed bag, but it’s funny how time and enlightenment can change ones perspective. My coming to discover the extent of the injury was accidental but … well, I’m not ready for that part of the story right now, so let’s move on. I’m certain that in the evolution of this blog the complete picture will unfold and the image of what I’m referring to will reveal itself. To put it in words outright is not that easy for me suffice it to say..
In any case both parents were disturbed and abusive in their own way, but somehow we survived and maybe even blossomed. We are fighters.
Friday, the 5th I go in for surgery. I think at this juncture my mortality is a bigger issue than any psychological analysis of my past, which I have to admit I’ve ruminated on more often than I care to admit. I was diagnosed with a small (very small) cancerous lump which will be removed. Yet, in my mind it feels that it (cancer) is everywhere. It is like I’m being devoured by this loathsome disease. I imagine it anywhere I hurt and I hurt in places that should only hurt after a strenuous work out, which I’ve not done.
How that relates to my parents, well it’s my mother’s fault. To be exact, she wasted more hours worrying about what would kill her than living and enjoying life. Am I turning into my mother? She often stated that “we”, my siblings and I would probably be the ones most likely to cause her demise and sometimes I wonder if that wasn’t true. Later, I would take charge of the care of both my parents and frequently found myself saying it was “killing” me to do so and what was I thinking? It was a very stressful time of my life, yet it seemed the right thing to do. It was my job. I don’t regret it though because I learned a lot about them and about myself.
My mom was beaten severely by my father the day before the last time I saw him before their divorce. For years in fact he did this. But she finally found her way out which resulted in her last beating, the way out would be someone who would rescue her and never beat her. Her rescuer brought with him four of his own children, but that’s another story. Mom, however was not innocent. What I remember is how mother would bait dad until he hit her. It would be years later getting out of two bad marriages before I figured out why she was in a self destruct mode then. With mom, it had become a habit. I saw her try it with her second husband but he never laid a hand on her. He would just say “Yes Vicky”. With my dad, I recall the baiting, but not the beatings even though at times I wouldn’t have blamed him. I understood the probability. I’m speaking not in my voice on the subject but that of my siblings, they have vivid memories of it. For some reason, I remember an occasional backhand but I don’t recall him beating her, I only remember those inflicted upon us kids.
I’ve speculated perhaps I shut that and other things he did out as a survival mechanism, a protective instinct. What’s odd about it is that I was the oldest of my four siblings and should have been more cognizant. I wonder where I was? When I saw the scene in Forrest Gump when he talks about Jenny hiding from her father, reluctant memories surfaced. I think I may have done that a lot. Cloaked my memory.
My sister Sandy is my “Irish Twin”, born 13 months after me and who we thought at the time as mentally deficient. She calls herself “stupid”; but growing up I’d heard terms used like “fatty”, “la gordita” “dummy”, “retard” or “idiot” used by adults no less. So of course, we would follow suit with just dummy. If we thought she was fat, we didn’t say it. There was way too much name calling that was hurtful as it was. Surprisingly enough some of those same adults would refer to her as “pobrecita” (poor little one), which we didn’t get at all, mostly because she could be so infuriating and confusing.
Let me backtrack a little here. I hate questionnaires and surveys that ask if I’m of Hispanic or Spanish descent. How do I answer that? My mother’s side was from Mexico and my father was a good ol’ southern boy from Alabama. I grew up AMERICAN. I know little of my Mexican heritage but what I’ve learned as an adult and through working with Hispanics at the clinic or the little bit of time I spent with mom’s family. So, I don’t know what culturally Hispanic is so my choices in questionnaires are not based on my “Hispanic” background but that of my “white” father’s background. Questionnaires always want to cubby hole. When I worked in a clinic, I had several patients come in who were mixed. Half black half white. Are they white or black? Neither but both. We would sometimes laugh and say “a coffee blend” then. Their answer would generally correspond with the side they relate to most. Sounds fair enough. Am I right or am I wrong?
Back to Sandy. Sandy was really kind of like the Rainman, yet not. I think she may have a mild form of autism or maybe even Asperger’s because she simply processed things much differently than others do. That’s my diagnosis of course, based on my own observations. I also discovered she was definitely not stupid.
When we were little she had trouble with math. So, Dad got this idea that he would beat it into her, which he did. He thought it was her memory, so he devised this drill to get her to learn. He sat her on a chair in the front yard then gave her equations with the solutions, then had her get up, run around the house and come back and give him the answer. She would come back and just stand there. In theory, it may have been a good exercise, but not for her and if that was all there was to it.
The scenario would go like this. “Two plus two is four, remember that, now go” She would give him a blank look and he’d point and she’d run around the house and back to him. He’d say, “Two plus two is what?” She’d reply “Two plus two is what!” and, he’d get frustrated and say, “No dummy it’s four, two plus two is four!”. She’d look up at him bewildered. He’d sit on the chair, lay her over his lap, fanny up and spank her hard with his club like hand. Then he would say again, followed by “now, repeat it after me”. She would say it then run around saying it, but when she came back and stood before him, she’d freeze. I recall standing on the sidelines crying my eyes out. I think it took about 6 or more tries before she got it. To this day she has a memory like a steel trap. I can’t believe the things she remembers.
Sandy and I are not good friends. I want to be her friend, but find it difficult. A long time ago, mother took refuge with the religion of JW’s. My siblings and I feel that in some way that alliance was our protection because it gave us sanctuary when everything in our lives was so tumultuous. We have all since left the church, with the exception of Sandy and she feels compelled to preach at us or talk down to us either to chastise us or entreat us to return. That and her erratic behavior make it difficult to bond, but I do feel her pain and have a deep compassion for her. It’s complicated.
My brother Dave is next in line. He was the only boy and suffered for that. Why? I don’t really know, we all want answers I guess. We all want to understand, to blame but he’s undergone much therapy for the abuses of our childhood, the parents and his siblings. I’m sure I’m in there somewhere as well. I’m not sure what he may have perceived I’d done, but he’s alluded to it a few times without saying and yes, it bothers me some, but not too much. Why?
I had a great deal of responsibility being a small kid always being told to take care of the others and if anything went wrong when my parents were away, it was my hair that was yanked and my bottom beaten, so whatever it was I may have done was probably in self defense. I was a kid.
Besides he was the most rebellious. Always reminding me that “You’re not my mother!!”
Dave was the only one of us who realized his dream. I love and admire him for that. He became a successful airline pilot, made good money, has a beautiful new wife and family. BUT, he also has a son he’s ashamed of. Dave is all about good looks and style. He’s a beautiful people person. A is not like that at all. Yes, he could have good looks but he hides behind a lot of hair, rasta hair and turban. Oh, there’s more, but that’s all for now. In short, I like my nephew, he’s a bit eccentric, but he’s smart. His sister’s are cool too. Gorgeous in fact.
He is followed by our baby sister Diana. Diana was the youngest and for many years I was horribly jealous of her and she of me, yet we grew out of that and became very close. When the others were unable, she, being single came to live with me to help care for my parents. When she could hear and sense in my voice that it truly was killing me, she moved from Florida to Alabama to help. At first she got on my nerves and me on hers, but we worked it out. She makes me laugh. I see pictures of us when we were little and her in whatever clothes she is wearing triggers a memory of her doing something funny, and I have to smile. Di and I are only 5 years apart.
Her coming to help was a mixed blessing. It was a painful time because I hated to see her suffer too, but I will cherish the bond we now have. We were trapped, but trapped together.
Diana and I share our love for art and that’s a lot of fun. We encourage and cheer each other on, me with her crayon art and she with my writing. The downside however is her moral compass causes her to censor my writing and keep me from being too graphic. I nipped that by not showing her the final draft containing bad language, violence or sex. 😉
Her feeling is that we, I, need to make the world a brighter, happier place. There’s enough negativity as it is, we need to take people to a happy place. Bring joy, smiles and happy tears to them. I guess my work can be a bit dark, but hey look at where it comes from?! I was watching the Hallmark Channel the other day and I cry and enjoy those movies, but they are all the same. They are like a country song played forward then backward.
Never mind. 😉