Guilt, Broken People & Stolen Childhoods

I was reading an article on Quora about a woman who discovered the past of an odd uncle she barely knew.  In going over his belongings after his passing, the family discovered his hidden past.  He had been a victim of  sexual abuse by a priest.  The why of the idiosyncrasies and oddities of this relative came to light.  Her putting the pieces together after going through his stuff was a feat in of itself.   She says about his life:  “It was a lousy life filled with sadness, failure, misplaced loyalty, an inability to nurture relationships. ” The person writing felt guilty even though she had not even been born at the time all the abuse transpired and obviously had nothing to do with it.  Why is it, abuse makes the victim feel guilt when the guilt is not theirs?  Sometimes this carries over to others who care about us. It’s a hard thing to wrap your head around, isn’t it?  Please understand, I am not a therapist.  My observations are that of a former victim.

Guilt.  It is a sad burden to carry, why does it torture us?  I can’t imagine her why.  Perhaps, because of their shared DNA, she felt compelled to shoulder some of his pain? I can’t say because I just don’t know.

Some people can overcome the trauma of abuse even if not forgotten. Some cannot. I can only imagine the suppressed anger and guilt, he must have kept inside all those years which stymied his growth, kept him from successful relationships and contributed to his reclusive later life.  One never knows what was in the mind of this person.

What many people don’t know is how much guilt is shouldered by victims and how that guilt affects all facets of their life. Guilt?  Yes, guilt. 

I have been doing my three pages every morning as my assignment and as I study the book, The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.  My assignment in Chapter Three is to describe my childhood room and what it was I liked best about it and what my favorite things were.  I had none.  NONE!  No memories. I could not describe my room! After stretching my memories a while, I could only remember a bunkbed that we kids would roll off the top of and that’s it!  Did the room have windows? Were there other beds?  I don’t remember anything other than my dad sneaking into the room at night to single me out for his perversity.  I’ve always wondered, where were my siblings? I couldn’t say.  I couldn’t sleep tonight, mourning the loss of innocence, the loss of not having a fond memory, no special toy or anything.  My loss. The earliest images I have of a bedroom, were later as a teen and not of my room, but my brothers and his model airplanes suspended from the ceiling. I have been searching my brain for a memory, but obviously I blocked it out.  All of it.  It’s no wonder my only fond memories as a child were being outdoors, far away from the house.

I’m not a therapist and I can only speak from experience, but a victim always wonders what it is about them that abusers seek out.  What did they do to “invite” the abuse?  Did they do it intentionally or is there an invisible brand on their forehead that tells others they are easy targets?  Do they trigger something in certain personalities that draws the perpetrators?

Victims experience so many false starts in life others cannot understand. Their self talk tells them they are not worthy.  Even when things start to look up and success looks like it’s coming their way, they inadvertently do something to self sabotage.  It is not the same for everyone and it doesn’t just relate to sexual abuse.  Like the uncle above, a life of constant fails seem to follow them.

They can be accusatory and suspicious.  But, it all stems from their own guilty feelings.

I had an attorney tell me once, while I was going through my divorce and in regards to my ex-husband’s philandering and infidelity, he said “you can’t put guilt unless guilt is there”.  I now think back on that statement and wonder if perhaps that wasn’t just to make me feel better but a narrow and prejudicial view of his own?  

Let me back track a bit here.  His comment was in response to me telling him that my husband, who was a constant cheater, blamed me for his affairs, saying I always made him feel guilty, as if to excuse his cheating.  I couldn’t understand it at the time, but the issue between us was obviously more complex than any of us knew.

Knowing what I know now and years after the fact, there were several dynamics going on.  We were both broken and because we were broken, and neither of us knew to what extent, we couldn’t help each other.

His background:  I don’t know his early, early years, but I do know his father was a womanizing alcoholic and was gone a lot.  He died the year we were married of cirrhosis of the liver.  The ex was a middle child, with an older sister and younger brother.  His mother was a nurse and worked hard to provide for her family.  She was obviously depressed because one day she shot herself.  She was found by his younger brother. That young man suffered tremendous trauma and died at a fairly early age of drugs and alcohol.

I recall later telling my then husband,  “You’re just like your father who you’ve always hated”.  Even though he admitted it was true, did my saying it aloud reinforce his own lack or self talk of not being worthy? I don’t know.

I wonder if for some, like myself, guilt comes from not doing something or the inability to notice that others might need help and perhaps fall short of helping them?

It is my belief that broken people can’t help broken people, yet we tend to gravitate to one another.  I truly believe that.  Not because they don’t want to but because they just don’t know how.  They’ve not had the template of what a successful relationship looks like to go by.  So, guess what?  I felt guilty.  I really didn’t have the tools to help him. This person married several times since and once before me and each time, he created circumstances that obligated all the women in his life to leave or give up on him.  He is now living a loveless life with no one. He even pushes our children away from him.

I also always wondered how much is genetics.  I think genetics plays a part in our temperament to receive and counter information.  Perhaps its a conditioning from the womb, environmental absorption pre-birth? Theory.

Perhaps not though. My father beat mother, he beat us, but there was no way in hell I’d let anyone do that to me. When the ex raised his hand to me one time, I stood straight up, my 5’2″ to his 6’1″ and looked him straight in the eyes with my finger pointed at him and said, “Don’t you dare!”  He backed down immediately. The memory of that day still makes me chuckle.  He apologized.  It apparently wasn’t in his DNA to be a hitter.  Yet, he sabotaged every relationship he ever had and drove people out of his life.  Sad.

For some time, I felt guilt and a sense of obligation to not give up trying, despite the fact I did take him back three times.  Since that marriage and before this one and after the last one, I had extensive therapy and realized I was in no position to have helped him.  At the time, I was too broken. It took a while to learn and realize that.

When my sister died and after her diagnosis, I shared with all of you the burden of guilt I felt that fortunately has lifted since. I just couldn’t shake it for a long while.  The guilt of not having been around to help her and/or recognize her illness.  At some point, we have to let people make their own decisions.  We cannot force them to see the doctor, which I tried to convince her to do.  The guilt is not mine.  Resentment?  Yes.  I miss her and I am angry she left me too soon, but I will not feel guilty.  I believe her choice was intentional and the consequences of that choice was realized long ago.

I think of myself as broken china mended with gold. Each crack makes me more valuable.

I am okay, but then… maybe not yet, but I will be.


Let me counter what I said earlier on about broken people not being able to help broken people… the truth is many therapists are former broken people, so I think broken people may be able to help other broken people once they’ve been fixed .  I could be wrong.

Guilt and shame prevents growth. I’m digging deep and though I may not have many years left, I intend to clear out the junk and live wholly.

Like I said, I AM NOT A THERAPIST  and this is not therapy.  I’m only sharing this because I’ve had to come to terms with a few things in the last few months and I can tell with this new workbook, I will be delving deep and as I grow, I’m sharing. I hope you don’t mind.  It’s MY therapy.


I still wonder what my room may have looked like.

What’s Next?

Well, as of today, bars not serving food will once again be closed down through July.

Little by little we are being locked down … again.  So far just the pubs, brewery’s and bars that do not serve food or do not primarily serve as restaurants will close.


I hardly watch the news anymore because it pains me to see history being methodically erased as monuments are torn down and names being changed so as not to offend someone, somewhere.


History is history folks.  It is what it is.  We can’t change what happened hundreds of years ago and just because Christopher Columbus landed on this continent, not North America mind you, does not mean his discovery of this world never happened.  It did. Slavery much to our dismay happened.  In the book Centennial by James Michener, you will read about the morphing of this country.  Bad things happened, but out of those bad things, people survived and changed.  We grew strong as a country.  Change has been slow and in some instances unfair, but it has and will continue to change.  Erasing it fixes nothing.

This came to me when my brother emailed me his memories of my sister.  His memories were far different than mine which didn’t surprise me because that was a realization Diana and I had come to those years we lived together taking care of our parents.  The reality is, yes our lives were like a car wreck.  Just as bystanders and eyewitnesses in an accident will tell a different tale, so we would in telling our own story.  We all saw and experienced things differently.  The one thread of commonality which held us together as children and gave us strength was our love and bond for one another.  Our sanity through our love for one another is what preserved us. Out of our trials we grew stronger together.

The past… or history, I might add, is not unlike the news or our childhood, it is and will always be colored by the opinion of the day or our perception.

I hope someone has sense enough to squirrel away something, somewhere to remember it by.

Us four

That’s all I have to say about that.

R.I.P. Chloe Weber


Today, (last night) we had to put our sweet kitty, Chloe down.  We knew she was suffering, but not how much.  We  changed vets because the last one just kept changing her diet and she kept throwing up or refusing the food altogether.  We got to where we wanted her to eat something and kept hoping that the next thing we’d try would work and make her better, but nothing did. We learn she had extreme kidney failure. So, we let her go.

We bawled like little kids, but stayed with her til her heart was no longer beating.  She died peacefully with me stroking her head.  Hubby kneeled beside her and kissed her head goodbye.

All this taking place on the patio at the vets on a blanket on the floor.  Because of Covid-19, the only ones allowed in the vets office were pets.  We had to be out on the patio or in our cars.

It is what it is.

We knew she was starting to fail, but when I dug up these pictures, I could see it showed,  from the lackluster in her eyes, and the lackluster of her coat.  These photos are fairly recent, so we thought maybe not that long. Unfortunately, the vet reminded us that cat and human time is different, so perhaps in cat years, it was longer than we imagined.


Of late the non lap cat, became a lap cat, always climbing up to be near us and in this case, hubby’s tummy or the crook of his arm.


Given that I’d been preoccupied with my sister’s failing health, Chloe pretty much took a backseat.  I wished I’d been more aware.  The vet, trying to be consoling, did say,  “it’s hard to know sometimes”.

When I told the family, they sent their regrets.  She’d been with our family since she was a kitten.  She would have been 18 this fall. The kids would share a memory about her.  One of them said, they “will always remember her chasing that golden retriever down the street”, and she did, her feet hardly touching the ground, looking almost airborne as she ran after that big dog.  My niece loved her crooked ear, the result of an encounter with a huge, yellow tabby she was trying to rid our backyard of.  Unfortunately, she was a 3/4 cat and he twice her size. He won. When the cone was removed, her ear had healed crookedly.

When we moved from Alabama to here, she handled the drive marvelously sitting on the dash of my car most of the way.  When we flew her to Tennessee, she didn’t fair as well.  From Grand Junction to Denver, she howled unmercifully and defecated, stinking up the whole cabin.  Fortunately, it was a short flight and the layover in Denver was long enough that I could bathe her in the sink and clean her up.  The remainder of the flight went fine.

Hubby wrote a fitting eulogy on Facebook with the above photo announcing her demise to our friends.

“Chloe and I had a great run of 18 years that ended today. She was a most excellent blend of feisty, cuddly, ornery, loving. grumpy, mean, and playful. In other words, a typical cat. Gonna miss the old girl!” 

What he doesn’t say is, they had a routine.  A special bond. She would wait for him in the bedroom each evening before going to bed and he would throw his dirty t-shirt on her and they would wrestle.  She’d growl and he’d toss her about for a couple of minutes and then she’d purr.  If he delayed going to bed, she’d come and get him.  Towards the end, play was less rough and finally just the t-shirt on her and his hands on either side, a few sweet nothings and a kiss. She never stopped looking for it though.


Even though these two didn’t get along, cold weather brought them somewhat together. We lost him last July. Picture taken the year before.  Now that I see these pictures, I notice now how the serious decline was recent and not as far back as I’d imagined.

Pictures and stories from previous posts.  Chloe the Mighty Hunter and Chloe and the Rutabaga & more.

From her injured leg, to her hiding place and her gifts. She will live forever in our hearts.

Bye Chloe.  May there be a special place for you, a heaven or wherever cats go. You were our special kitty.  I’m so glad you were in our life. You will be missed.

The Red Bra

woolworthsSeveral years ago, my sweet sister came up to Alabama to help me care for my mother who had Alzheimer’s.  It was a difficult time for me and there were times, I thought I would surely die before she did.

You see, mother not only had Alzheimer’s but she was a bi-polar schizophrenic with Alzheimer’s!

When my step father died, I had asked her doctor for some meds to keep her manageable, which he was kind enough to provide me.  The problem however was getting her to take them.  Getting her to take them resulted in me getting a black eye, which had my brother not seen it coming and blocked it would have resulted in a far worse shiner than it was.  It was still bad.  Mother had not handled the death of her husband well and I had noticed a marked difference in her behavior afterward. Understandably of course.

There were many times early on in their relationship that I had wondered if those two even loved each other. I had always thought he married her to give his four children a mother.  He was in the Navy and gone all the time and his kids had been taken away from their mother due to abuse and neglect and were now in foster homes in Boston.

Little did he know mother’s mental state, as she was absolutely charming when she wanted to be. So, here these poor kids go from one abusive parent to another and he’s away at sea.

Mother on the other hand, was needing to get away from her abusive, inattentive, unambitious husband (my father).  Mother had grown up poor and she aspired to be rich in America and that was the last thing my father would ever strive for. Even so, she’d learned some bad habits from him when it came to discipline which we paid for dearly.

Many years later, we’d all managed to survive and they, my step father and her, had managed to stay together.  Granted early on he’d been away most of the time.  When he retired from the Navy, he went to college for a short time, but with her ragging on him all the time, he finally took on as a trucker, where he’d be gone for long periods.  She had many solitary days in the middle of nowhere on a couple of acres in California.  Eventually, they’d move to Tennessee.  While he was away she’d go on about how much she missed him and how hard he worked.  Five minutes after his return, she’d be yelling at him!  I would get so aggravated that his only response was always, “yes Vicky”.  He never fought her, argued with her or anything. Now, I look back and realize that he knew and accepted her state of mind. She did make sure the kids were well fed, well cared for and though her discipline was harsh and often unreasonable, she did make sure their physical needs were met.  I guess he figured it was the best he could give them and that she did the best she could. He was never mean or ugly to her no matter what she dished out.  Never.  For that I loved him.  As I’ve mentioned before, she was harder on us girls than the boys, so my step brother and brothers grew to love her in ways we girls could never.   And, so it went.

I was walking with my step dad one day and noticed an almost imperceptible wince.  I asked him if he was alright and he said, “yeah”.  I told him I didn’t believe him and had he gone to the doctors yet?  He said he had an appointment the following week and I insisted I wanted to know as soon as he knew anything.  Two weeks and four days later, he’d laid down on the floor to watch TV with mother on the couch beside him.  The two of them had fallen asleep as was their routine.  When she went to arouse him, he was gone.   He’d been diagnosed with liver cancer the Friday before. He died on a Tuesday. She’d fortunately had the wherewithal to call the police, but they took their time to get there.  Given her state of mind, she was notorious for calling them all the time. I would later find regular bills (amounting to thousands of dollars) from the police department for excessive false alarm calls.  Did you know they did that?  I didn’t.

So now he’s dead and there’s no will to be found.  Single handedly, I spent days going through tons of paper trying to find a will.  There was one record book with my name in it, but it was nearly forty years old and it wasn’t formal. I would later find 4-5 half started wills and that was it. Mother in her state of mind would hide things. I found so many multiples of documents and items around the house.  She would hide them so well that if they couldn’t find them, they’d buy another. Oh, and QVC was her best friend.  As she wouldn’t leave the house, she shopped online!  But I digress.

So here I am, mulling through everything, going to court to get custody of her and her estate and afterward tracking down insurance policies and VA benefits and doing this all alone. I would talk to my sister on the phone and after two years of this, she made up her mind to leave her job and come up to help me.   She had asked me a number of times if I needed her to do so but I vacillated saying yes.  My other siblings, including my steps couldn’t.  She was single and in a better position to come up but she’d be giving up her hard earned clientele and I couldn’t promise her anything that would match what she was making there. After some time, exhausted, I relented and said, yes.  A few months after, I would have a mini stroke and end up in the hospital.  By then, we were pretty settled in tag teaming mother’s care, but for the next ten days, she was on her own.  I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Later she would tell me why she’d been so willing to be there for me.  It wasn’t just because I was her sister or because mother needed our help.  The tyranny of mother’s mental illness and the hardships we’d endured with her resulted in there being no love lost there,  not for either of us but for some reason more so for her.  She told me she could stand to lose mother, but she didn’t want to lose me because of her.  It would be later that she and I would heal from that.  Now, years later we are able to mourn the mother we never had and the mother she may have wanted to be or could have been.

What took me down this road and reminded me of all this is a story Linda Bethea has been sharing on her blog: Nutsrock .  (There’s still time to catch up on it, so you may want to check out my link to her story. BTW if you want to go to the very beginning, it starts in April and is a worthwhile read of “Charley’s Tale“)

It was her latest installment that triggered the memory of my sister and the Red Bra. I’d not remembered the incident until my sister shared it with me.  She calls it her “story of the Red Bra.” She said, it was in part, the reason she came to help me. It was because she would never forget how I stole a red bra for her.   Incredulously I say, “I stole a red bra for you?! I don’t remember that.” As she tells her tale, I begin to remember what and how it all happened.


My sister was the youngest of my siblings at the time.  (This was prior to the reincorporation of the families)

It happens that she was just starting to mature and her little breasts were just budding.  The boys in school were absolutely merciless and would pass by and pinch the girls, thinking it was funny.  I don’t know why no one tells them that this can be extremely painful to us during this growth state. Dad was still around and he was just as bad, if not worse, thinking it was funny.  We girls would walk around the house with our arms crossed when we passed him. It was not a good time.

Mother in general was unapproachable so you can imagine how difficult it was for my sweet, shy little sister to even broach the subject, but she did.  Mother did not disappoint and proceeded to laugh and rail on her about how ridiculous her request was, saying.   “you’re too young”, “too small” and too everything.  The answer was an adamant “No!”

It was humiliating, but she sucked it up, retreated to our room and didn’t ask again.

In those days it wasn’t unusual for us kids to walk into town and on some occasions we’d take the bus.  We’d hang out at the rec center and park or the plunge which was all within a few blocks of each other.  It was a different time then.


As a kid, I was quite the thief.  If I wanted something, I’d take it.  (Not one of my proudest moments, but I was a natural) Although we weren’t poor, we kids weren’t allowed to get and or have the many things my peers were allowed to.  As it was, I was an outcast and I was so desirous of being accepted and being “one of them”, that I guess I reasoned this was how I could do that. If I could just have what they had perhaps they’d like me.  I really don’t know how my mind worked then.  I was just a kid.

As I recall, it was shortly after her denied request, that I took my little sis into our local Five & Dime, i.e. Woolworth’s or Kresge’s, I don’t recall which. We had both.

In those days merchandise was all laid out neatly in bins. If you picked up an item, you folded it back up and replaced it to the best of your ability as neatly as you found it.  It was common courtesy in those days.  The only counters that didn’t seem to make it were those with cosmetics.  For some reason, I’m guessing girls especially,  would open up a tube of lipstick and forget to roll it back down before putting the cap back on it, resulting in quite a mess. For some reason, I don’t recall ever kyping makeup.

bra section of 5 X dime

None the less, we went to the bins where all the bra’s were and started digging in, selecting a few before proceeding to the dressing rooms for her to try them on. These bins were the least neat given the nature of a bra’s composition.

I remember her trying on several ones and yes, at the time, many were too big for her, but that wasn’t the point.  She needed body armor and that was all there was to it.

Why, we settled on the red one I don’t know, but there was obviously no accounting for taste in our selection, so we did.  When things would get tough for her; when she thought there was no one else who would rally for her, she’d remember the Red Bra.  She said the memory of the Red Bra would always be a reminder that she could always count on her big sister.  Over the years, jealousy on both our parts would cause our relationship to wane and at times waver, but our love never did.

My stealing of one Red Bra so many years ago, now serves as a reminder for us both and how we could count on each other.  She was there for me when I needed her, as I was for her so many years ago.  It is the memory of the Red Bra that moved her to come to my aid and the story of her memory that makes me grateful for the bond that grew from the experience.

We now live on opposite ends of the States but we talk all the time and I miss her horribly as she does me. For a little while we got to be girls again and I miss that.




Memories – The Back of the Bus

My mother in law and I got to talking about childhood memories.

Because my husband is considerably younger than I, my mother in law and I share generational memories.

She was just a kid during the war (WWII) and I was born shortly thereafter.

We got to talking about D-day and about this video that has been circulating on YouTube of a kid that stood for an hour and half saluting the envisioned soldiers coming to shore on that momentous day. It was extremely touching.

We teared up watching the video not only because here was a youngster whose father had also not been alive at the time, but were sharing a moment in memory of that event and in loving appreciation for the sacrifices our military perform on our behalf.

She shared with me her memory of a young man in her neighborhood in White Plains, NY who loved to play golf and how she remembered how she and her friends would tease him about having a girlfriend.

Her email:

“My eyes are filled with tears..I remember H.M., a young man that lived in Apt. 2.  We were just kids and we would tease him if he had a girlfriend…I remember him with his golf clubs.  He went off and never came back.  I remember that gold star banner in his parent’s window.”

She later described him as a “tall good looking Irish boy”. Whether he had a girlfriend or not, they really didn’t know but she remembered the gold star banner which meant he’d died.

I have to smile because I wondered if he was truly handsome or was it just the uniform?  It reminded me of a similar experience, thinking a young man in uniform appearing larger than life and dashing.

I wrote back to her:

I remember on our way to California from Alabama we took a bus home. After we’d boarded, a good looking black guy in a military uniform came on board walking past me to the back of the bus and sat down dead center on the back bench.  

In those days blacks were boarded last and sat in back. I flashed him a big smile and he smiled back at me when he walked by, but he was so dashing in that uniform that I kept staring at him (I don’t know if he was really handsome or if it was the uniform but he stood tall and looked smart). As he passed I followed him with my eyes until he sat down, still smiling at him until he became noticeably uncomfortable and shaking his head slightly. I remember feeling confused because he smiled earlier and now he was almost angry but trying not to be maybe?   When my mom noticed, I got smacked and told to keep looking forward and to not stare (and leave that poor boy alone). That was the first time I became aware of race.  I was about the same age as you, 10. Sad.

In retrospect looking back and knowing what I know now, what I thought was disapproval may have been fear. I remember sneaking a peek now and again anyway, but she was constantly on top of me.

I didn’t know any better. It wasn’t until “To Kill A Mockingbird” came out a few years later that I was impacted by what it meant.

So many memories came up that started to make sense.  The separate fountains, toilets, entrances and how self conscious my mother was because of her dark skin and how when I would go out to play my granny always made me wear this huge bonnet, so that I wouldn’t get any darker and look like a “pickaninny” as she would say.

I don’t know why it was a big deal. The kids at school envied my dark complexion and some of them (my cousins included) would lay out in the sun trying to get as dark as me. But, that would be years later.

I don’t remember my father or grandparents being racist per se, so much as adhering to the laws then, as many did.

When mother was in a home and when my fathers Italian wife became senile I noticed racial slurs surfaced in both of them.  The black nurses never seemed to mind though.  I would apologize, but they’d laugh it off and tell me how “they all do it”. It’s just how they talked in “those days” and once they are no longer in control of their minds, all that old stuff just comes out. I think they were being nice because I’m sure there had to be some patients that may really have had issues at one time and that now in their demented state the meanness “comes out” totally unrestrained but then I could be the one reading more into it than really was.