Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An Invited Guest - Part III

The age of the Pager. For those of you who are too young to know, a pager is a small device we used before cell phones where vogue. I had learned to send code by using police numbers to my then fiance.When I arrived at the hospital they asked me who I would like notified and I said my fiance. When I told the social worker what to send to him, he thought I was delirious. I was not.

                               number. ext.

Made perfect sense to my fiance. He stopped what he was doing, (taking his mom out for her birthday), and placed the call. He and MIL headed immediately to C'ville and to UVA hospital.

MOM was headed to the OR, her neck was broken in 3 places, she suffered a head injury which pressed into her brain, a broken leg and multiple cuts and bruises.

ME, I was in bad shape. My left foot was crushed. My large toe was protruding from my skin with other bones leaving a three inch gash. Gotta give credit to full time ER nurses, she and the head of UVA's orthopedics came in to look at me toe. While she distracted me and kept talking he grabbed my toe and yanked into place. I screamed, and without missing a beat she continued talking and said "I know that hurt but it was better to do it this way." (Later the podiatrist would say it was the worst broken foot he had seen.) Six broken bones total that would take 3 screws to repair.The wrist joint on my left arm popped off the bone, not an injury the orthopedic surgeon had ever seen. My left femur was broken so badly that surgery would be required. They gave me a shot that was supposed to numb pain so I could feel nothing when they decided to put my leg in traction for the night. I FELT THE PAIN! My sisters heard me screaming all the way down the hall. And lets not take about my face that went through the windshield. 

The Paper reported the next morning I was not expected to make it through the night and my fiance was instructed to cancel the wedding.

I will not forget how laying in my hospital bed my MIL feeding me soup a sip at a time. She barely knew me and yet was showing more love the my own family was. They were all with my mom. 

It is funny what you remember. I remember my sister Linda asking why we were shopping. I remember dad stopping in to bring me up to date on mom. I remember Leann (other sister) telling me they would not put me to sleep for the traction because I was too fat. But what I cherish the most was being spoon feed the soup before I went to bed by a lady who barely knew me other than her son LOVED ME. 

A lady named HOPE.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

An Invited Guest - Part II

After choosing my gown I began the next steps. I choose the invitations that I wanted without much resistance. I met with the lady who I had chosen to make my cake and planned the event. I spent over an hour choosing the cake topper that represented what my husband and I wanted to say. It was all white ceramic couple in a crystal (plastic) gazebo with white flowers surrounding it. I choose the candle we were going to light. We wanted to show that we were one. 

A few weeks later I wrote the program and choose the poem I wanted inside along with the covers. I asked my friend to be my matron of honor. She declined due to a previous engagement, so I asked a second friend to be maid of honor and she accepted. Even though I was alone it appeared to be going well. But the end was coming quicker than I had planned. 

I received a phone call that mom had been rushed to the hospital. My roommate, her kids and I raced home (2 hours away). When we arrived we were told that they were moving mom to UVA because she needed open heart surgery. They believed she had torn her aorta. When we arrived at UVA the doctors disagreed with the previous diagnosis. My roommate was doing a good job occupying her kids across the room while we spoke with the doctors. After a few minutes I asked my dad if he needed anything and he replied "take those kids and go home," so I did. We drove two hours back home with no answers as to what was going on. 

A few days later my dad called and said mom had a rare disease called "Guillian-Barre Syndrome." It was new in the states but common in Europe. She was only the second reported case at this time. We came down as often as we could. Being in retail it was hard to make schedules work and find the time off but somehow we managed. Over the next few weeks she improved and the doctors cleared her to drive.

Remember, I said "Cleared her to drive." January 4, 1995, I drove home to make more wedding plans. Mom had made appoints with the caterer and the florist for the next morning. We drove to C'Ville to meet the head of catering at the hotel she had chosen. We spent over an hour while she decided what would and would not be served. I said nothing the whole time. Yes, that is correct, nothing. After we finished we headed over to the florist. Mom was driving and I was asleep in the front seat. Fifteen minutes later I was awakened by the sound of my mom saying "oh my God." The next second I was flying through the windshield of the car, I looked around and saw mom but could not find her head. Don't laugh, I am serious, I looked around the car for her head. Her hair was the same color as the fur coat she was wearing and I could not tell it was her. She had broken her neck in three places and her right leg. She would spend the next four weeks in a coma in the ICU. 

As I said I was going through the windshield. My head went through and then I fell back in the car. She had collapsed in the car and her full weight had gone into the gas peddle. She hit an extra large telephone pole and moved it 12" in the concrete sidewalk. The force on the impact sent all the energy up the middle of the car. My foot was crushed, my thigh snapped in half and my wrist joint popped off the bone. 

We did not make it to the florist. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

An Invited Guest - Part I

Every little girl dreams of her wedding day. We see pretty dresses and we wonder how we will look in them. When we have a boyfriend we think of our lives to together. We write Mr. and Mrs. Right on our notebooks. All until the next one comes along......, we are so fickle. We are girls, we are supposed to change our minds often. More than that we romanticize everything we do.

So what happens when we actually get engaged? We start to plan, and so I did. In 1994 my boyfriend, of very few months, and I decided we wanted to get married. I never wanted to be a June bride so I planned to marry in May. At the time we had no home church nor did we know any pastors. My parents arranged for their pastor to preform the ceremony and choose the chapel at UVA. When you marry at a place as popular as the chapel, the date is chosen based on what is available. May 6, 1995 at 7pm was set.

I started looking for a dress immediately. I didn't spend hours or weeks looking for the dress. The few times I went to look at dresses I was confronted by polite associates asking,"how may I help you" and then informing me that I was too large for anything in their store. I stopped looking, why bother. I started looking in magazines. I was fortunate to meet the owner of the bridal shop in the mall and told him what the problem was. He was amazing, he brought down his stock magazines for me to look at and told me to let him know what I decided.

I choose the dress I wanted and several alternatives. He wrote the prices down for me. I then meet my parents for dinner at a place half way between our homes. I told them I had picked a few dresses. Dad asked to see the catalog and mom informed me I was wearing my sisters dress and she was not buying another. (Now you need to understand, the dress had been worn twice already. It was pretty, knit, accordion pleat and a size 10.) In the '70's it was all the rage. This was 1994 and I was a size 26.

My father thumbed through the books and looked at the pictures I had tagged. My mom popped up and said that if she was being forced to buy a dress I could have $150. ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS, ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Not one dress I looked at was under $500. I barely held it together as my father suddenly said "I like this one, what do you think?" It was the one I truly wanted. I almost burst into tears as it was over the $150 mark. He then said "order it." I held my breath as mom asked the price and I told her and she said no. Dad said, "it is her wedding and she will wear this gown."


Friday, May 23, 2014

Oblivious-Part II

So that you don't think my mom was the only person on Crazy Street you should meet baby sis LL. She definitely was a piece of work to reckon with. Let me tell you one of her tales from when she was 17.

LL had a girlfriend, Kelly. They were certainly besties, not a term from the day, and came from the same pod. One evening while they were supposed to be at the movies, they met up with some fellas. LL had a strict curfew, due to other violations, so she needed to come home but Kelly did not want to. So, LL took her to the fellas house and came home.

The next day, Kelly's parents came looking for her. It was a Saturday so we were all home. My parents asked LL over and over if she had a clue what happened to Kelly. She continualy said no. Kelly's parents were worried sick. Both sets of parents went on a hunt going over to all of her friends homes asking questions. I called everyone I knew.

Several hours later the phone rang and LL answered it. She said she would be back soon and I did not give it a second thought. When she returned she said nothing.

A few hours later Kelly's parents returned home to find her in the kitchen eating a snack.

LL knew the whole time where she was. The phone call, it was Kelly saying she was ready to come home. LL, went and got her, took her home, and said nothing. She felt it was no ones business where Kelly was and she was not going to say a thing. We found out by accident when the girls were bragging about getting away with it to their friends. 

What happened to LL? I became her permanent chaperone for the summer.


When ever there is a disaster you brain will mark the location of where you were when you heard about it and what you were doing. I was working for a marketing firm as an account representative. I was not aware of the situation when someone from the office brought it up. I remember being shocked that kids where killing kids and wondering what kind of anger would be necessary for such an activity. 

But what I remember must was the anger I felt for my mother. She had nothing good to say about the parents of the teens that committed the crime. She condemned them as the criminals as if they themselves had pulled the trigger. She was full of "if only's". If only the had paid attention to their children, if only they had kept an eye on their kids, if only they had known what was happening. Coming from her it was most hilarious. Well I can certainly come up with my own list of "if only's" for her.

Oblivious, that is the word that describes the true state of mom. She angered me so much when she accused these poor suffering parents that I started to tell her how little she new of her own children. I preceded to ask her if she remembered telling me I had to quit cheer-leading because my grades where bad in Biology.

     Me:     Mom do you remember telling me to quit cheer-leading when I did not do well in bio?
     Mom: Of course I do. You were failing so we made you quit.
     Me:     Well I never quit.
     Mom: Yes you did.
     Me:     No I didn't, I just told you I did. When we had games I would tell you I was going over to Judy's to study bio. Mom, who was Judy.
    Mom: Judy was one of your girlfriends.
    Me:     Mom there was no Judy, you never asked her last name, you never ask for their number, you never confirmed with her mom. I left, went to school, dressed in the locker room and never missed a game. You were oblivious to what I was doing because you never suspected we would defy you. Do you remember telling LL she could not see her friends down the street any longer because they quit school? Well she went down almost everyday while you were at work. You never had a clue what we did when you were away from home. There was no one around to check on us so we did whatever we wanted and you were never the wise. As for what goes on in the house? In 15 years you have not gone to the basement of this house. You would have know no more than those poor parents did. You are being very unfair to them.

   Mom: (in her continued denial) Why do you make up these lies?

Oblivious, it is so easy to blame others for what they did not do then to look into your own life and accept the truth.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Roller Coaster

The roller coaster: a ride found in amusement parks designed to thrill and scare you all at the same time by going slowly up the hill and then speeding at uncontrollable speeds down and around the curves.

Sounds awesome and frightening all at the same time, unless it is your life. The trick is to survive the ride. The constant mantra in my childhood home was, "what will the neighbors think?" To which I would reply, "what neighbors? we live in no mans land". It never ended well after that. The house had to be clean, and I mean clean, at all times. Before school all beds were to be made, dirty clothes downstairs, dishes done and something out of the freezer for dinner. 

My mother would take hours to clean our house. Don't get me wrong it was a big house with 15 rooms, but 3 were in the basement. For mom, cleaning the house meant starting early, around 8 am. From there she would start to dust the living room, stop and have a cup of coffee. Then the vacuum would come out, stop and have a cup of coffee. Then she would move to the hall and downstairs bedroom, oh wait, stop and have a cup of coffee. Then the bathroom toilet, no need to clean the shower, we were not allowed to use it. If we used the shower water could get on the floor and this would cause the floor to cave in, right, isn't that what happens? Oh yeah, time for coffee again.

When little sis and I clean the house, it took about one hour. We obviously do not know how to clean the house. But wait, we didn't drink coffee. 

Today she will tell you we never lifted a finger and she had to scrub the house every day. That even when she worked split shift she would clean between shifts. Now keep in mind we lived 30 minutes from town and she didn't drive. It is what I call revisionist history.

One day when my parents came home, little sis and I went to the lake with dad to swim. While there we could here a women screaming. After looking around we realized it was my mother up in the parking lot yelling at my dad. I wanted to swim under the dock and hide. When we got up to the parking lot she was furious. Little sis and I had forgotten to sweep under my grandmothers bed. 

It got to a point that my father would call us before he went to pick mom up from work and say, "get the house clean before she gets home," so he would not have to listen to her.  

All families have dirty clothes. Washing those clothes may vary from family to family. Mom washes in some houses, each person washes their own in others or a designated family washes everyone's. 

In our house, I was the one responsible to wash the clothes once I turned 13. The laundry was in our basement. (You need to know it was an old house that was leaky. Mice were normal, even snakes at times. If the rain was bad, water would start to pour in.) 

Laundry had to be taken to the basement daily. Once in the basement it needed to be sorted, washed, dried, folded and put away. Yes I said put away. I had to put everyone's laundry away for them.

One day, while in high school, my father made a point to tell me that he needed his undershirts washed. So when I got home from school, I washed and dried his shirts. Unfortunately for me I failed to put them in his armor. Instead, I put his folded clothes in the chair in his room. The next morning I was awakened by my bedroom door being kicked in. There stood my dad, yelling about not having his shirts. 

The roller coaster in motion.

We kept two deep freezers full of food and a rather large pantry in the basement of our home. Each day, little sis and I would take something out of the freezer and place it on the counter to thaw for dinner. This day I forgot. Not little sis but me. It was my responsibility to have the meat out so little sis could cook before mom got home. When I did get home, my dad opened the door to let me in. I had a glass dish in my hands that he offered to carry for me. I started to walk past him only to find myself planted in the stairs. He had had to go to the store and buy something for dinner and listen to mom complain. I was sent to my room for the rest of the night, no dinner, and told I would be paying for his dinner. 

Abuse comes in all forms and I was experiencing them. L/J did not try to help even though they had moved on and little sis was fighting her own way, with defiance. She would fight to the breaking point.

Where to Begin?

Where to begin? The kind of question I ask every morning when I wake. I start to look around the house, at my girls, and what I have on my to do list and say, "where do I begin". To quote Rogers and Hammerstein, "lets start at the very beginning, it's a very fine place to start". But which beginning?

We all start life the same, cute and innocent. But as we start to grow our lives diverge in many different directions. The first few lessons we learn will shape our lives for years to come. For me, those lessons would haunt me as I got older.

Obedience, that was the key word in my home. You will be obedient or you would learn to comply.  You may ask yourself, what does comply mean? Just what you think. If you were not obedient the consequences may be as mild as go to your room or as severe as a beating. I don't mean spanking, I have no problem with spanking. I mean beating. But since spankings were normal in most households at that time it never occurred to me that what we were experiencing was not normal. There were other forms of punishment that we will explore at a different time. 

I remember when my husband and I were first married and I started telling him stories of my childhood. Although he never said anything, I know he felt I was exaggerating. Then one year, at a family thanksgiving dinner, he heard all of my sisters telling stories. They were the same stories with no divination. He later apologized and said he could not believe that we really lived that life until he heard it from all of us. 

I can only tell you stories that my sisters have relayed to me and know that they are accurate memories of theirs. We seem to have run in pairs, the oldest and youngest fought to do their own thing regardless of the rules and myself and other middle sister tended to comply to avoid being punished. It was a game, if you knew the rules you could play and win, if winning was possible.

L/J have very vivid memories of being locked out of the house as children. When my mother cleaned she did not want anyone in the house that might make a mess. So, if they needed water, she would shout use the hose or if they need to go to the bathroom, she would say go to the neighbors. The house was far more important than they were. As even smaller children they remember a night that the folks came home late and mom found a dirty glass. She woke them both up, pulled all the dishes out of the cabinets, put chairs in front of the sink for them to stand on and made them wash every dish they owned. The sad part is she does not deny these things. She says "she likes a clean house". This is the stuff movie scripts are made on.

My father, who does not like conflict, did nothing.

My earliest memory? When I was approximately two, my sister was turning cartwheels in the yard and came too close to my stroller. She ended up kicking me in the mouth and knocking my tooth loose. Now we all know that the teeth will reset if the child is taken to the dentist and he braces one tooth to the other. But that would require spending good money and that was not going to happen. So at age two my father took me to the bathroom and twisted my tooth until it broke from the root and came out. I am convinced I remember this only because it was so traumatic at the time. 

My next memory was as traumatic as the first. I was only four at the time. In the sixties, doll houses were made of metal instead of wood or cardboard. The edges were rolled under and not sealed. One day while playing I was startled and jerked my hand out of the doll house. I sliced my hand wide open and blood was everywhere. Again, instead of seeking medical treatment and spending the money, my fathers answer was to take me to the bathroom and pour an entire bottle of alcohol over the wound and wrapping it in gauze. I still have a scar on my right hand. When asked about it today he says, " well, it didn't get infected did it?"

As I grew experiences become less physically traumatic and more of an emotional roller coaster. A roller coaster ride that would leave a lifetime of scars.