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.