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Installment One: The Formative Years
I was born on a snowy winter morning in 1978. Originally, I wasn’t planning to reveal my age – but felt there was some importance in divulging the time frame. I DO believe that there is FAR more awareness now than there was back then. Maybe, just maybe things would have turned out differently. Maybe it would have set off an entirely different chain of events. Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this, now. As life is full of too many maybes and not enough definites, I’ve decided to chuck the what-ifs into the (digital) trash where they belong, because regardless of what the maybes are, they’ll never be proven and we cannot dwell on them.
My mother was a schoolteacher. She’d been teaching kindergarten up until shortly before giving birth and my father worked in insurance. They married young. I’d learn years later that I was not their first child – before they married, my mother, at seventeen, had become pregnant with my brother – that pregnancy was terminated, likely for a number of reasons but two main ones stand out – one – they were young and not yet engaged – and two – although my mother claimed she was ambiguous and would have birthed my brother, my father was of the mindset that they weren’t ready to have a child, yet. So, they’d made the decision to terminate, and didn’t have me until eight years later and after they’d already been married for seven of them.
When I was six months old, my parents noticed that I was not responding to loud noises or to my name being called. I think an investigation was sparked when my father set off the smoke/fire alarm, alerting all tenants of the apartment building we lived in, (I must say that his cooking has not improved) and I slept through it all. There was enough concern that they brought me to have my hearing tested. The audiologist took out a cowbell and stood directly behind me and rang it. My parents could hear it. The people in the office next door likely heard it, too. Hell, the people outside probably could have heard it.
I, however, did not. I remained stationary in my seat and unfazed.
“Your daughter is deaf.”
The diagnosis rattled my parents to their core. They thankfully didn’t waste time seeking out second or third opinions – they’d likely have gotten the same responses. They liked this particular audiologist, too, and felt comfortable with her and her advice to get me fitted with hearing aids as quickly as possible.
“What happened?” They did ask her.
I am the only one in my family history to have a hearing impairment, so they knew this was not genetic. After discussing any and all possibilities, the one theory that seemed most likely was my mother’s (while being pregnant) having come into contact with a student of hers that had come down with the measles. Another way that ‘back then’ was different from today – there wasn’t so much stress on the importance of vaccinations and kids were showing up to school with brewing illnesses and sharing them with their friends, or in my mother’s case, with their pregnant teachers. So, the reason that’s been put down in all of my medical charts is, ‘birth defect.’
It was also explained to my parents that I’d likely never speak, having never been able to ‘hear’ proper speech. It’s been suggested, although never confirmed, that I was born with a severe hearing loss and it had rapidly declined into a profound loss by the time of diagnosis. It was recommended that I be taught sign language as a primary language – which would have meant that both my parents, who combined, didn’t know a single word in sign language, would have to first learn it themselves in order to teach ME to communicate.
The sign-language route wasn’t an option that my mother was willing to accept as a primary plan. It quickly became a secondary, back-up plan as she decided to quit her teaching job and to focus on taking care of her special-needs child. I’m unsure if it was due to her strong background and focus in education, or if it was a personal mission of hers that she undertook at this point, but early intervention was her mindset and quickly became her obsession. If speech training could not be implemented into my day-to-day life, then they’d revert back to Plan B.
EVERYTHING was a lesson. A learning experience. I am partially glad that I have no memory of this, either. The way my mother tells it, every waking moment was spent teaching me. Every time she spoke to me, she’d place my tiny hand onto her throat so that I could feel the vibrations of her voice. She’d also say the names of things she’d pick up, and make sure I was looking at her when she did, so that I could see how they looked on her lips, and put the image together with the words. Cup. Ball. Book. Toy. The list goes on. And the colors….this is red, that’s blue…etc. There were flash cards, too…she’d cut out photos from magazines and make these herself. She would eventually be able to say a word and have me point to the picture.
She didn’t do all of this, herself, though. She also took several trips into the city, sometimes as often as three times per week, where trained professionals would also work with me on speech and language development. Being at home was just a constant continuation of all of the work they did there. In addition to being my mother, she became my first and most important teacher.
My father wasn’t as involved with all of this. I’m not sure if this was where they started having problems or disagreements, but they were divorced before I had any memory of him living with us or being a constant within my very early childhood.
My mother was given sole custody. My father didn’t fight her. While I know he loved me very much, he was clearly happy with having her do most of the parenting and he’d take me on weekends and holidays. I was 2 when their divorce was final; Mom and I moved out of the apartment that my parents shared. My Dad would remain in the same place for the next decade. As she needed time to get onto her feet, she moved in with my grandmother for a little while. My grandmother owned a house that had been in the family since HER mother bought when SHE was a child. It was a brick, two-story place that had been converted into a two-family home when my mother was still a kid. Now it was the very early 80’s and my mother’s brother and his ‘friend’ (a male roommate/his best friend/possible lover?) lived in the upstairs apartment while my mother and I lived in the downstairs apartment with my grandmother. This was only meant to be a temporary arrangement, as my mother, following her divorce from my father, had returned back to work. As soon as my mother began to gain a steady income, (along with my father’s child support) we moved out of my grandmother’s house and into a small basement apartment just a few blocks away. My mother, until she eventually re-married, made sure to stay close to my grandmother – and also my uncle.
You see, she needed help with getting me to my appointments into the city for continued speech therapy. I was not yet in school, so my uncle, who was not working at the time, was tasked with taking me back and forth via city subway. There was a train station literally behind my grandmother’s house and it was one train from there to the city, where my uncle would bring me for my appointments while my mother worked. On days I didn’t have appointments, he was my babysitter – and would watch me at my grandmother’s house until my mother got home.
A pause here, to tell you a little bit about him.
He was (I suppose I shouldn’t say ‘was’ as he’s still alive – but my grandmother is not) my grandmother’s eldest. My mother also had an older sister, who at the time was married with a couple kids, lived elsewhere (although not too far) and had her own issues at the time – so was unavailable to help out. My uncle had joined the seminary years before I was born. I’m unsure if doing so had to do with his sexual orientation – or guilt and confusion relating to it. Either way, he became a Roman Catholic priest – and still lived with his ‘friend,’ a man I knew for my entire life and adopted as a second uncle. From when I was born, he was there. I’d never known my uncle to be without his ‘friend.’ To this day, they are still living in that apartment, even though I think now, he’s moved downstairs and is occupying the space that used to be my grandmother’s. But, anyway – I rarely saw him in anything other than the black pants, black shirt, priest collar. He never confirmed that my second uncle was anything more than just his friend, and no one wanted to ask. We all just went along with it, not wanting to know what went on behind closed doors. None of that was our business. My uncle was the equivalent of the ‘housewife’ while my ‘bonus’ uncle worked a regular nine-to-five – so unless it was a weekend or Sunday dinner at my grandmother’s or a holiday or family gathering, I rarely saw him.
While we lived within walking distance from my grandmother’s house, my uncle would walk over in the evenings to ‘say goodnight,’ and usually that consisted of him telling me a bedtime story and tucking me in. Usually it was the same corny story. He would put me in as the main character – he would also insert my cousins, (my aunt’s kids) but always make me the heroine. There was no doubt that I was his ‘favorite’ and he made sure to tell me often.
I spent a LOT of time with him when I was between the ages three to five. When I started elementary school, the trips into the city had lessened from three times a week down to two, and they’d likely be after-school appointments. He would still take me to those, as my mother’s work schedule often consisted of after-school tutoring, to earn a little extra.
All that being said, let it be known that I have no memories of ANY of this. I only remember all of the above as that’s how it was told to me.
By the time I turned six, my mother had just re-married. My new stepfather was a decent guy and a hard worker. My first sister was ‘baking,’ my mother had become pregnant shortly after her wedding. My father had also remarried within months of my mother. I now had two ‘bonus’ parents aside from my biological parents – I still lived with my mother, though, and we’d moved into an apartment further away from my grandmother’s house – meaning my uncle could no longer walk the distance to ‘tuck me in’ at night anymore.
I’m not sure how this came to be – it might have been suggested that I was struggling socially in school, but my mother eventually decided to put me into ‘play therapy.’ It was church sponsored and free – but being six, I didn’t care about the ‘therapy’ aspect of it all. All I cared about was the fact they had a Barbie Dream House in one of their playrooms, and I LOVED the idea of being able to go play with it for an hour. There were a WHOLE lot of toys to pick from…blocks, puppets, stuffed animals…but that Dream House was all that I’d go for. They had a range of Barbies that I could play with, too, which only made it all better. I remember a Dream House of my own being added to my Christmas list, but it never did show up under the tree. Damn that Santa Claus!
That’s where my memories start. I remember nothing before going to play therapy. I, however, remember THIS particular afternoon at play therapy where I clenched a Ken doll in one hand and a Skipper doll in the other. This is where it gets fuzzy. I don’t remember what the dolls were actually doing. Perhaps I’m not allowed to remember. I DO, however, remember the lady waving her hand to get my attention, and then when I looked at her, asking me who the Ken doll was. What was his name?
I could have said, ‘Ken.’ Even back then, I’m sure I was a smart-ass. I did know that was the name of Barbie’s boyfriend. But I didn’t. In this representation, he wasn’t Ken. Instead, I named my uncle.
The lady told me I could play for a little while longer. She would be right back. I didn’t care that she left me alone in the playroom. Thinking back, I’m sure she was going to speak to my mother and properly ‘reporting’ what had just been said. At the time, though, nothing registered. I was oblivious and uncaring, as long as I had a few more minutes with the Dream House, I was golden…
I never saw that woman or that playroom again. I think I was more disappointed that I never saw the Dream House again, either.
Shortly after my last play therapy session, two women showed up at our apartment. They sat on either side of me on the couch. My mother was there, too, standing across from where we sat. I remember her telling the women that I was deaf and I needed for her there to interpret, in case I didn’t understand them. I remember vaguely one woman beginning to speak slowly. She started out with some simple questions. What was my name? How old was I? What was my favorite color? What was my favorite toy? When she was sure that I could understand her without my mother’s help, she put down the clipboard she had in her lap, and slightly opened her legs.
“Do you know what this is?” She patted her own crotch. It was quick, a pat-pat when the word ‘this’ was said.
I remember looking at this lady as if she were bat-shit crazy. Of course I knew what THAT was. I had one too. I knew the name, but I called it a ‘private part.’
I remember there being a brief dialogue between my mother and these two women. My mother was someone that there was NEVER any issue lip-reading. The person I had NO choice but to understand. She was suggesting to the women that she’d spoken to her brother and he’d disciplined me because I was being ‘fresh.’ He’d admitted to swatting my bottom. Additionally, maybe that was why I was confused, and THAT’s what he’d touched, instead of where Ken had touched Skipper. I assume that is why they asked me what (pat-pat) ‘this’ was. ‘This’ and my bottom are not in the same place. In hindsight, even at six, I knew the difference between that was in the front and what was in the back.
Why would I deny this, though? My mother was the one person I knew I needed to obey. Whatever she said was the truth. One of the not-so-good things about her being my first-ever ‘teacher’ – I took every single thing she said seriously and as being the truth. She was right about everything. Whatever she knew, I was supposed to also know. And like most students try to do with their teachers – I was eager to supply the right answer and to make her proud. I wanted to please her, I wanted to be right and not wrong.
So, when the women turned to me and asked if that was what happened, and that my uncle had spanked my bottom, I nodded. Yes. If Mom said that’s what happened, then that’s what happened. I DID remember him doing that, after all. Not details, but I DID remember being warned by my mother not to give my uncle a hard time on the subway. I was six, of COURSE I was going to get out of line a few times. The subway had poles in the aisles and I’d love spinning around them…he’d probably complained about that and said I’d misbehaved. I’d probably been swatted a couple times because I didn’t listen. It wasn’t something done regularly.
I suddenly felt very afraid. Of what, I don’t know. Maybe it was of these strange women and them being here and asking weird questions. They’d seemed friendly when they arrived. Now, they were just intimidating, and I wanted them to leave. I’m not sure how much longer we were talking but to an anxious six-year-old, time drags and it’s hard not to get restless.
“I made it up.”
Yes. I said it. I said it so they would leave. Sure enough, shortly after, they gathered their papers and clipboards and left. My mother let them out and said nothing more of this. Ever. Not a single word. You’d think something this serious would be followed up on. It would be something that I’d need facts on. Something that would be too hard to ignore, but it’s something my mother had too little difficulty ‘forgetting about.’
I do think, though, my uncle was spooked, and if there was indeed something going on, it stopped here. I did always remember that meeting with those women and telling them I’d lied and that I’d entirely made up what Ken had done to Skipper was always in the back of my head, bottled and stored in a place that would remain undisturbed for the next a decade and a half. It perhaps stayed in the back of my mother’s mind, too, but unlike me, she’d never get around to re-opening this bottle.
I’m not sure if the behaviors began before or after this meeting with those two women. I remember nothing from ‘before’ I started to believe that I was a liar, for having made up something so terrible about my uncle. And now, looking back at the behaviors I remember so clearly, I was having to believe that there really was something wrong with me, too.
I remember beginning to take my own baths at the age of seven. My sister had been born shortly before I turned seven, and my mother was now often busy with an infant. So, every night, I would go into the bathroom with my bucket of bath toys and take a bath on my own.
This next part is one of the hardest things for me to admit – but I will do so anyway, as I’ve promised not to hold back, not to kick certain details over to the side because they’re too shameful or embarrassing. It’s important. It’s another huge, significant, blinking question mark when it comes to the whys behind it. Another black void that I truly cannot shine a light on, to see what started it.
But – at age seven is when the masturbation started. Water was how I did it, mostly with the shower head/spray. I don’t know if this means of masturbation was ‘discovered’ by accident or it was a previously introduced method, but it regardless became a routine. At the beginning of ‘bath time,’ I would turn on the shower head and let the water hit me ‘there’ until I couldn’t anymore. I had no idea what an orgasm was, but there was a point I needed to get to – a point where I could no longer spray in that spot, because it was throbbing too much. While a child knows nothing about masturbation – certainly not the proper term for it - she somehow knew that it was how to arrive at that ‘feeling’ at the end.
To experience that feeling soon became a bath time obsession for me. While it was something I had grown used to doing, and I am ashamed to admit I enjoyed, too – I also knew, deep down, that it was wrong. There was something about it that didn’t feel right – and I ignored that nagging feeling. Instead, I hid this from not only my mother, but from everyone else in the household. It was my secret, something I never told anybody about. A few years in, my mother did eventually realize what I was doing when she walked into the bathroom and caught me in the process. She’d confirmed my fears – it was wrong, it was a sin and it was disgusting. And because I’d become so intent on doing it, I felt even more so that this meant that I was not normal, I was a bad person, I was a disgusting, vile human being. It was something she would tell me that I needed to confess to our parish priest (we were Catholic…I only say ‘were’ because I no longer follow the Catholic) before receiving Communion at Sunday mass. So, every week, I’d shamefully admit to the priest (the face-to-face confessional was how I had to do it) that I touched myself. I’d grow increasingly ashamed of it, and of myself, as I got older.
An addendum to the whole ‘confessing my sins’ bit – I wasn’t thinking to add this as I was almost finished writing this installment when remembering this part. As my mother insisted on my going to confession before church, and her brother was a priest, she would sometimes have HIM listen to my confessions. There was a room in his apartment that he’d made a mini-chapel out of – he had an altar, his statues, the communion dish, the wine goblet, the incense thingy…there was a single pew where we would once in a while hear him say mass. Or it was where I’d sit next to him and avoid eye contact while I told him the same things I’d tell our parish priest. He would absolve me of my sins every time, and then give me my three Hail Marys or two Our Fathers to recite as penance. I never really thought about how messed up this was – not until much later. I can’t help but wonder, looking back, what HE was thinking when hearing me say these things?
Another behavior that also began when I was very young was soiling myself. This, I cannot explain the reasoning behind. I would literally ‘hold it’ even if I needed to go to the bathroom – and usually would have soiled underwear at the end of the day. I’d taken to hiding them when I took them off, fearful that I’d be yelled at. My mother would indeed yell, but usually it would be when she either realized that there weren’t too many pairs of my underwear in the laundry or when she’d find however many pairs that I’d hidden when she ‘cleaned’ a certain place in my room. She also knew about my soiling – she’d shame me for that, too, telling me I smelled, and that nobody would want to be near me. Perhaps, deep down, I knew that. Either way, this, along with the masturbation, was likely one of the several reasons I met my first therapist when I was eight years old.
Dr. M had her office in the basement level of a brownstone in downtown Brooklyn. She was a Jewish lady with an 80’s perm, glasses, and a fondness for saying ‘what do YOU think?’ whenever I asked her a question. Her office had a playroom, too, but alas, no Barbie Dream House. She did have wooden building blocks, plenty of paper, crayons and other crafting supplies. Most of the time, we’d converse while I drew pictures or built something out of the blocks. I don’t recall what we talked about, but I do remember wanting to know more about her. How old was she? What was HER favorite thing to eat? It would piss me off to no end when she would smile and ask what I thought. I’d tell her, “I dunno. That’s why I’m asking you.”
I saw her for once per week, for one year. It became something I looked forward to – it was hard, at eight, to view Dr. M as a therapist or to wonder why I was seeing her. Mom would later say it was because I was having trouble at school and that I was imaginative. Hmm. Imaginative. Meaning, I guess, I was a liar, and that was just a nicer word for it. I think she also threw in “well, your being deaf was making it hard for you to make friends at school.” That doesn’t quite top the ‘imaginative’ reference, but it was also true that school SUCKED for me. Kids were cruel, I kept to myself mostly, and shied away from as much social activity as possible. Not that seeing Dr. M improved on that – school was a nightmare all through middle school – being deaf was simply what was wrong with me now, and what would be wrong with me for the rest of my life. While the other stuff that was wrong with me was a secret, this wasn’t one I could keep. There was constantly attention being drawn to my disability, and my classmates, not being mature enough to be able to see past it, would be merciless and consistent with their bullying.
To me, Dr. M was a kindly lady who talked to me, who drew with me, who let me tell her stories. Perhaps those were imaginative, too? I honestly have to wonder if any of my ‘stories’ raised any red flags, because suddenly, one Saturday morning, I was prepared to go for my therapy session and my mother informed me that I’d not be seeing Dr. M anymore. “It’s too expensive,” my mother said. In hindsight, I cannot imagine that being the case, as my father, who has always been comfortable with money, was funding all of this. That’s basically his role in all of it. My mother would tell him what she needed – money, take me to this appointment, pick me up, drop me off. Dad never questioned anything or the cost of anything – he just did it. She said to jump, he’d ask how high.
There was never any closure with Dr. M. My mother stuck to the story that her services were too expensive. I remember being disappointed – sad, almost, that I would no longer see my ‘friend,’ Dr. M, but almost as quickly as it became a routine, it became a thing of the past.
Life went on after the discontinuation of therapy. My mother and stepfather eventually had another baby. Another sister. My father and his wife remained childless; Dad always insisting that his one daughter was enough for him. I was with Mom most of the time and spent every other weekend with my father. Family gatherings continued to be held, most of the time at my grandmother’s house. We did all of the holidays – Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, birthdays. My grandmother was a non-driver – as my uncle too, never got his driver’s license, either. So, we always went to her house, as to simplify things for my grandmother and uncle – and us, as if we wanted them elsewhere, someone would have to pick them up and then drive them back home. My grandmother, up until she became sick, would insist on our visits on Sunday. Without fail, we went there on Sundays for dinner – even if it wasn’t a holiday. She wanted her family together – it was what she loved more than anything. This, I’m realizing, was something she passed down to my mother – I am finding that this family closeness is what my mother wants, as well, but it is, unfortunately for her, not how it unfolded.
Still, life went on as if what had happened when I was six – had never happened. My uncle was no longer my babysitter, but he remained a constant. He was present at all the holidays and birthday celebrations. He would, on occasion, take me to movies during visits to my grandmother’s house. He didn’t seem to begrudge me for what I do remember having gone down with the dolls, and like my mother, he said nothing about it and carried on as if it was nonexistent. I will never know what was said between brother and sister – and what the plan was between the two of them – perhaps because keeping the family together was of paramount importance to my grandmother, it was decided that nothing would become of any of that – especially if I wasn’t remembering it…or at least, giving off signs of remembering.
After all, as I entered adolescence, the abnormal behaviors (the bath stuff, the soiling) ceased and stopped. My mother had gotten her wish – I’d ‘forgotten’ about it. It no longer existed and it had effectively been swept under the rug. I carried on as ‘normal’ a relationship with my uncle as possible and ignored those little things that I would randomly remember for no particular reason. He has a birthmark on the knuckle side of his right hand – situated between his thumb and forefinger. His favorite breakfast cereal is Puffed Rice. Whenever I’d pass the Puffed Rice in the supermarket, I’d think to myself how much I hated it. He would call me ‘baby girl’ (his nickname for me) and I realized as the years went on, how much I hated that, too. Still, I said nothing, and would shift my thinking whenever any of these things came up.
Several years went by without a mention of anything. Still, I remembered, but mentally, leaned more toward the theory that because I couldn’t remember any actual details, then I probably was confused and DID lie. I did, however, see less and less of my uncle, as my grandmother eventually became much older and too weak to host the weekly Sunday dinners.
I know that this particular installment is really only supposed to discuss what I remember of my childhood and my young adulthood doesn’t really fall into this category. I however, need to fast-forward for a moment, to when I was twenty-two years old. This took place after I’d been raped at seventeen – after I’d moved out of my mother’s house, after I’d already given birth to my son and married his father. After a series of poorly-made choices that I’ll get into detail on in installment three. It was after life had succeeded in deepening the cracks that were likely made in childhood.
My grandmother, sadly, had succumbed to osteoporosis and other health issues, and died in her sleep at home. A day or two following her funeral, my mother and I stopped by her house to sort through some of her things to see what could be kept, what could be donated, what could be thrown away.
The minute I walked into her house, I was hit by a feeling of dread. Of unfamiliarity. My uncle let us in, and we saw that he’d already began to ‘move on.’ He (or the ‘bonus uncle’) had transferred all of his religious statues from his chapel upstairs and there they stood, wrapped in protective plastic, in the bedroom that used to be my grandmother’s. He told us of his plans to relocate his chapel downstairs, as well as take over my grandmother’s part of the house for himself – as his knees were declining and it was becoming increasingly difficult to climb up the flight of stairs every day. He was already beginning to fix the cracks in the floors by replacing the rotted wood squares with new ones.
It was like a flip was switched. For the first time, I became angry.
Grandma wasn’t alive anymore. I no longer had to pretend. I looked again at my uncle and realized how much I fucking hated him. I hated the sight of him. The smell of him. I hated the ‘baby girl’ every time he saw me, I hated seeing that ugly fucking birthmark on his hand every time he reached out to hug me. And he didn’t look like my uncle anymore. Not the uncle I’d been telling myself for all of these years, was probably innocent and that I was a lying piece of shit for having put him through that investigation that nothing ever came out of. No. Now, a look at his face made me want to insta-puke. All over his Jesus statues and new floors. Floors he could have had installed while my grandmother was still living and might’ve had the opportunity to enjoy them! Her body wasn’t even fucking COLD yet, and you’re redecorating!?
I’d also, by now, experienced a sexual assault five years earlier – so I am thinking that, combined with the passing of my grandmother, was what made possible the swift, rude uncovering of those bottled-up suspicions that had been collecting dust in the back of my mind. It became harder to believe myself when that tiny six-year-old voice said, “I made it up.” Nothing made sense anymore. I had more questions now than I had answers.
Guess what I realized on that afternoon, other than the fact that I hated my uncle?
I didn’t make this up. Something happened. Something so horrible, that my brain will not allow me to remember it. A six-year-old kid doesn’t pull this shit out of thin air. Where the hell would she get it from? This started somewhere!
I have seen my uncle only a handful of times since my grandmother’s passing in 2002. I cut him out. Completely. I wanted nothing to do with him. I wanted my KIDS to have nothing to do with him. I refused to attend any family gathering where he would be present. I no longer invited him to ours. I had to suck it up at the weddings of both of my sisters – he was there, and I’d had to be polite as not to arouse curiousity. I’d say hello and goodbye and avoid any interaction beyond that. There was a time during my mission to remove him from my life when he’d been hospitalized with an infection, and my mother, thinking he was going to die then, insisted I go see him – the hospital was, after all, just down the street from where I was living at the time. I’d told my husband to leave the car running and took the elevator up. As soon as he saw me, he broke down into tears and blubbered, ‘I didn’t mean for us to be enemies.’ Not knowing what the hell to do with that, I left minutes later, saying that there was no parking and they were waiting for me to come back down. That was as good enough to a confession I was going to get out of him, and I left the hospital that day further convinced that cutting him out was the absolute best choice I could ever make. THAT was what convinced me whenever there was question, whenever there was that moment of doubt.
My mother, who, for many years, had seen me ‘carry on’ as if everything were normal, eventually began to ask me why I was so angry with him, why I no longer called him ‘uncle.’ Why I snapped at whomever dared mention his name or sing his praises. Why whenever someone said ‘he’s a priest!’ my face would scrunch as if I’d bitten into a lemon. I would never be able to say anything more than that initial feeling I’d gotten when walking into my grandmother’s house and seeing that he’d gutted it and been so quick to ‘remove’ her from it. He’d treated his mother like shit, he’d likely been anxious for her to die, so that he could redo her house and conform it to his selfish needs. Additionally, I added that he’d cheated my mother out of her inheritance – something I’d find out not too long after. Yes, she would have more reason to be angry with him over that, but it ‘fit’ and it was something more to add to my list of what to be angry with him for…but whether it was enough to hate him was probably unlikely.
I also realized that I was becoming increasingly angry with my mother. This, though, was tricky and I couldn’t help but feel incredibly guilty each time I looked at my mother and felt periodic bouts of anger, mixed in with bits of hatred and disgust. To this day, I cannot hug her with my heart – only my arms. I believe this is only because the physical affection was obligatory – a greeting, a farewell, a special occasion – all those things that require hugs and shows of affection – those were easy, mostly because there was usually more than just one person to greet/say goodbye to/congratulate on whatever. I find it sad though, that I cannot hug my mother to show her love. I cannot go to her for comfort. I cannot trust her. But I do love her, in my own distant, detached way.
My mother was the one who supposedly loved me the most, the one who molded me into this greatly improved version of what they told her I would be. She’s been there whenever I needed her to be. She helped us financially in the past, and she continues to, if she sees us struggling. She genuinely (and probably) does more for me than she does my sisters. While I’ll always appreciate what she’s done, I’m stuck on what she didn’t do. What she refused to see. For that reason alone, I’d chosen to not tell her about the things that would happen afterwards. My thinking on it – if she failed to help me when I needed it as a child, then she certainly would fail to help me at an older age. She had her chance to help me deal and cope with the aftereffects of abuse, whether it was child abuse or abuse I’d suffer in adulthood, but she failed. I’m unable to find it within myself to give her another chance. Especially now, in adulthood, where she continues to inadvertently insult me by repeatedly throwing her brother into my face. Especially now, that his health has severely declined and he’s actively experiencing end-stage congestive heart failure on top of not being able to walk or do much for himself without assistance – and she’s made efforts to get me to mend fences, even if by way of a greeting or a brief conversation with him before his (long overdue) death. Her efforts have failed, and will continue to fail, for he’s been dead to me for years, already. He ‘died’ on that afternoon in his house when that bottle of memories that I’d tucked away for years, was suddenly knocked off its shelf and had shattered.
The idea of him had died. My connection to him – dead and severed. Unfortunately, his physical body has not yet died, despite a heart attack, a quadruple bypass, diabetes, obesity, knee and hip replacements, arthritis, that infectious disease he’d been in for when I’d visited him, and countless bouts of pneumonia and other respiratory issues. I swear, this disgusting, vile, rancid, sorry excuse of a person has more lives than my five cats combined!
Anyway – I’ve seemingly gone off course. This installment was supposed to deal with just childhood and what I remember of it. It just seemed pertinent to discuss a little bit of my more recent attempts to reduce contact, especially since some of you have seen me bit*h and complain and moan about my mother and about having to be at the same family gathering as my uncle as recently as a few months ago.
In closing, I think that it is safe to say there were many victories within my childhood. I succeeded where kids like me who didn’t have the extensive training did not. I was always ‘ahead’ in language, vocabulary. I thrived in the ‘hearing’ community, when it was told to my parents that the likelihood of that happening was very slim. I’d be more likely to graduate high school with a fourth-grade reading and vocabulary level – but that didn’t happen. I’d learned to function within a hearing community, and I wasn’t that . Granted, my mother had gleaned most of the praise for my accomplishments – having done all of the required foundation work. Perhaps that’s another mother-issue to analyze in another piece of writing – it won’t be done in this one.
As there were successes, there were also several failures. Most of them, though, were not my own. Those two ladies who came to our apartment? They failed to persist, to follow up, to see through my mother’s version of events. They believed my mother when she said that I likely misunderstood. I was easily confused, and probably didn’t understand the difference between bad touching and a spank on my ass. So, they let this go. Dr. M? She failed, too. Maybe she had been getting close to uncovering what had really happened. Maybe not. Either way, she’d later tell me (more on that in a future installment) that there had been no resolution, as my mother yanked me from therapy at nine years old. My father – although he is someone I think my mother constantly lied to and therefore the person I truly believe was the most clueless of all of them, also failed by not assuming a more active role. Him, though, I’ve forgiven and don’t begrudge. My mother is a powerful force – and a master manipulator. She knows how to cover things up, how to lie, how to sway a child’s thinking. How to self-protect. Next to her brother, who also quite obviously failed me, she was the one who failed me the most, and in the worst possible way.
And for years – I failed myself, too. Even unintentionally, I did so by denying, by burying, by ignoring things, by keeping silent. By lying about what I thought, even if they were lies by omission. By allowing someone else to speak for me, to tell a story that didn’t feel accurate. To always agree, because I was a liar and it didn’t matter what I said – it was wrong. By also giving in and accepting the idea that there was something wrong with me and that was the reason for all those ‘abnormal’ behaviors.
It’s time to make this right. Make those things I thought were lies, a truth. Although I cannot correct what others have or haven’t done, it is time to turn my own failures into a victory - even if I do it here, first - behind the safety net that I know will remain intact and where I know I'll be met with the love, support and validation that I truly need. I do not know if I will ever be able to tell this story outside of this forum or to confront those responsible, but to be able to do it here at this time, is a freeing start.
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