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I'm a mom collector. It took me a long time to realize that. I'm super good at collecting sweet caring attentive mother-in-laws. At adopting mother-figures and grandmother-figures. I've been married twice, divorced twice, and have had awesome in-laws both times. I still am very close to both of them. Whenever I talk about my childhood, I give all the credit for raising me to my Gram. I feel like my mom shouldn't get any credit, since almost none of the positive things I've learned have been because she taught me. I learned how to be loving and protective despite her best efforts, not because of them. My mom was quick to backhand us if she felt we were "mouthing off." If she thought I was "giving her that look," SMACK! Sometimes you didn't even see it coming. She had a quick temper and saw us as a burden. The first mom I collected was my first husband's mom. She was kindhearted. I'll admit that as my MIL she was annoying at first, but I grew to love her dearly. My second MIL was sweet. At first I found her to be kinda bossy, telling my husband what he should do, asking how he was going to manage his addictions/treatment, etc. This was her way of showing her love. I didn't realize until later that he had misinformed (read that as 'lied to') me about many things. I thought she was being pushy, she knew that I didn't know the whole story and was trying to let me know before we got married. I love her dearly. It wasn't until I had been married to husb2 for about a year that I actually felt comfortable calling my MIL "mom" and not her name. Before that it'd seemed like an insult to call her mom. I had a mom and my mom was a fuckin monster. Why would I insult my MIL by calling them the same name? The third mom I collected came in a roundabout fashion. If you'd told the 15 year old me that the 40 year old me would have 3 moms, not including my biomom, I would have said you were crazy. Here's how that happened. I'll do the short version now and I'm sure I'll get into all the details in a later post. When I was 18 my biomom told me that my dad was not my real dad. Ffwd a few months and I got to meet my real dad. For the purpose of clarity I shall refer to them as S-dad(stepdad) and R-dad(real dad) for the rest of this post. So R-dad didn't know I existed. Like, at all. My mom never told him she was pregnant. He lived about 4 hours drive away from where I grew up. He was married. I had a stepmom, L, who was nice enough. (I didn't call her mom though, for the reasons mentioned above) She had 2 kids from a previous relationship and she and my R-dad had 3 kids together. Holy crap! I had a whole other family! I had 5 new brothers and sisters! This was kinda mind-blowing. They, my R-dad and L, divorced a bit later, and he moved to Oklahoma. We lost track of each other for several years. Honestly I thought he might have died, because the last time we spoke he was staying in an extended stay hotel and had told me he was going to go into see a Dr about his chest pains. I literally didn't hear from him for years after that. Finally, through his brother (my uncle) I got in touch with him again. He was remarried to a very sweet woman I'll call MomK, for blogging clarity. MomK is awesome. In person I just call her mom. She is my mom. So I've kinda been going through some shit this past year and all three of these moms have been there for me. MomK especially. I told her I've been writing to get some shit outta my head and asked if she mind if I send her some. Her reaction was just what my inner child needed. She said that she was proud of me. I cannot begin to describe how powerful those four little words are. I know I didn't hear them enough when I was little and that's why they have so much weight now, 4 decades later. She asked how I felt now, after writing. She said it was sad and she cried for me, but she read it all and she was so proud of me for writing it. That is why she's my mom. The mom I most closely think of when I say "mom." Because she cares about me, because your real mom isn't just there for the fun stuff, the happy times, she's willing to wade into the muck with you and help you find your way out. She's there for advice and reminds you to take care of yourself. She actually gives a shit about your well-being, physically and mentally. She's willing to see you through the worst and not shame you for it. That is why my biomom got renamed to biomom and my other moms are now just "mom." They are the real deal. My birthmom earned her demotion. Biomom is a more accurate description anyways. It states exactly what she contributed to my life. DNA. Sorry, every living thing on earth reproduces, ya don't get a special medal for that. That's all for now, RR
When we still lived in the city I broke my foot. Well, actually, what happened was I pushed my sister off of my dad's lap. He was sitting on a chair in the living room. As punishment he threw me across the room and I hit the wall. I landed and my left foot felt like it was on fire. Mom told me that I needed to stop crying cuz I wasn't a baby. I couldn't stand up. I missed dinner because my mom said "I'm not going to put your plate on the floor like a dog." I remember I couldn't walk on it. I crawled. They thought I was faking it. It took them two days to decide to finally bring me in to have a doctor look at it. When the doctor saw it he asked me what happened, so I told him. I even included the part about mom not feeding me on the floor. My mom just laughed and said "that was right after we locked her in a closet for a couple days and didn't feed her." The doctor just laughed along with her. I didn't know what was funny. They put a cast on my foot. I remember thatmy toes stuck out of the end of it and it made a clunk clunk noise while I was running around the apartment. I could only wear one sock. I was sitting on the brown wooden kitchen chair, swinging my legs, wearing a yellow dress and my cast on one foot and a shiny black dress shoe on the other, reciting the books of the Bible like a good little girl. "Gen-a-sis, Ex-a-dis, Love-vit-a-kis, and Numbers, too. Doo-ter-onomy..." Like a good little girl. It was Sunday, and I was doing what I was told. **************** When I was a senior in highschool I took a creative writing class. The only assignment I remember was we had to write a 2 page description of where we lived. How to get there, what it looks like, "include a lot of details." I thought I'd be clever and skirt the actual issue by researching what the brain looks like, and adding some philosophical BS about where the mind is in the physical body. A deep dive into "I live inside my own mind." The truth was that I lived in a trash hut and didn't really want to give the teacher or my class the opportunity of a front row seat to my personal hell, so I avoided the issue. Why would I share that the house i'd lived in for nearly ten years had no running water, no sewer, no electricity? No, thank you. Theother truth, the real real truth, the one I didn't even have the vocabulary to voice yet in that creative writing class, was that for much of my childhood (if you could call it a childhood) I WAS living in my own mind. I relied on myself because so often everyone else failed me. I trusted my Gram, my brother and sister. Period. And even that short list had some major exceptions. I didn't disclose the extent of the abuse to my Gram, though she knew or suspected to at least some degree. I figured she was powerless to change it so why worry her. And my siblings...they were younger than me, and I trusted them to act like that. I was more their parent than their sister. ************* When I was in first grade one of those special assembly speakers came to our school. Our teacher, Mrs. F., had us write four sentences every morning and most of us hated it. Usually it was four sentences about what we did for the weekend, or four sentences about the weather, or about whichever holiday was approaching. That last one was loads of fun for the only kid in class who's family didn't celebrate anything. But I was kinda used to that, having a year of experience sitting out the pledge every morning. Being the leftout one was far, far from the most stressful thing in my young life, and was nowhere near the heaviest weight on my little shoulders. Mrs. F. was mean, plain and simple. She didn't like me and I knew it. When a boy in my class shaded in a big rectangle on the top of his worksheet and then used the edge of his pink eraser to erase 'Mike' onto the top his paper, I thought that was very cool. When I copied it I got three letters into my name and was sharply shamed for my efforts. She made me stand up in front of the class and show everyone the "mess you've made." Ugh. Then she made me fix it. She hated me. So we had a special speaker. He was there to talk about the importance of goals. Our four sentences were supposed to be about our own goals. What is my goal for the day, the rest of the week, the school year, and my ten year goal. "Think carefully, think big" we were told. Ugh. I don't know anything about goals, I just wanted to be done with this writing assignment. Hmmm, "My goal for this year is to finish first grade." Haha. That's good and so true. I think and think about what I want my life to be like in ten years. This is hard. Ooh, I have another idea. I quickly write "In ten years I want to be comfortable." Yay! I'm done. I bring my paper up to Mrs. F's desk. I'm on my way back to my desk when she sharply says my name "RR! Come back here!" "You need to redo your ten year goal! You don't understand the assignment." she says sternly. "'I want to be comfortable' is a stupid goal. Fix it." I feel my face turning red. She said it loud and now everyone is looking at me. She shoves my paper back at me and I hang my head as I walk back to my seat. I'm sitting at my desk and peek over a girl's shoulder to see what she wrote. Something about girl scouts. I copy that and slowly walk my paper back up to Mrs. F's desk. She looks at it and says "Much better." She smiles big and I can tell she doesn't even care that I'm not in girl scouts. ************* When I was thirteen I finally said no to my dad. I said no more touching. Still, the physical abuse continued. The emotional manipulation. But when I finally told him 'no' the worst of the sexual abuse stopped. I remember the look on his face. It was fear. He was afraid of me. He was afraid of me? He was afraid of me. I used that opportunity to secure my freedom, and buy my sister's freedom, too. I was too clueless at the time to think that I should include Lb on the deal. I said "no, not any more. None. And you aren't going to start in on Ls, either. None. It's over. Do you understand?!" It wasn't a question. It was a demand. His eyes darted wildly. "Do you get it?!" I asked. "Yes" he managed to weakly say. He seemed so weird. So deflated. This was not the end of the abuse by any stretch of the imagination. It was just the end of the worst of the sexual abuse. But it was the beginning of me using my voice in a way that changed things for me. So many times I tried to tell people how hellish my life was. Told my neighbor we were hungry. Told my teacher I just wanted to be comfortable. Told my doctor I was thrown across a room. I told my story. Over and over. I still have a gnarly bump on the outside edge of my left foot. It didn't heal right. When I was in my twenties I asked a doctor about it. He said that it's a combination of scar tissue and the bone healed funny. I could have surgery to fix it if it was painful or uncomfortable. It wasn't. It doesn't hurt. Its just a physical reminder of what I've been through.
When I was little, I think about first or second grade, I came home from school and asked my mom and Gram what an ox was. Gram said "it's like a cow, but bigger." Hmmmm... Mom asked "where did you hear that?" "At school. There was a play." "Was it Little House on the Prairie?" "No, they're saying about good touch and bad touch and don't let nobody touch your privates and stuff like that." "What does that have to do with an ox?" "They said your privates is what's covered by your swimsuit. So they said to tell somebody if someone touches your privates or your butt-ox." My mom laughed, she laughed and laughed and then made this little headshake like she thought I was dumb and just walked outside laughing at me. I was confused. What was funny? Did I say it wrong? Did I remember the word wrong? Did I do something wrong again? I asked my Gram "what?" And she said "honey, that's just a doctor word for your butt. Like the doctors have special words for all of your bones and muscles. Special doctor words. And the muscle in your butt is called a buttox." "Well, why didn't the play people just say butt then?" "I don't know honey." *************** The next year there was another good touch/bad touch presentation at my elementary school. The play people had us line up and sit on the bleachers in the music room. It was a small school. K-6th was was probably 40 or 50 kids. I remember walking past the students artwork pinned up on the wall in the hallway. Coolwhip fingerpaintings on large pieces of black construction paper. "Paint what the music feels like" was the guidance the music teacher gave before she started the record player and it belted out a happy upbeat orchestra piece. We did the same assignment in kindergarten, too. But now we were big kids. Old enough to go to the big kids presentation about touching. I remember being told that sometimes the "bad guy" will trick you. Don't take any candy from strangers. Don't go with anyone you don't know. If someone tries to grab you when you are walking on a sidewalk, scream and run away. (That's easy, I live in the country. I live in the woods. There's no sidewalks here.) Sometimes the bad guy is someone you know. Sometimes the bad guy will ask you to keep a secret. Don't keep the bad guy's secret. Don't let nobody but a doctor or your parents touch your body. Someone raised their hand -"what about getting spanked?" A mixed confused look flashed on the presenter's faces. Spanking was ok, rubbing was not ok. Spanking-yes. Rubbing-no. Ok then...yup...that was perfectly clear. *********** My two cousins were taken away from my uncle because my uncle didn't take care of them right. For punishment he'd handcuff them overnight in their underwear to the bumper or side mirror of his truck to teach them to listen. The next day they were covered in mosquito bites that looked like a bad case of the chicken pox. So they told somebody at school and then some people from the state came and took them away to foster care. The thing is though, thatmy two cousins who were rescued had two little sisters. The sisters were allowed to stay. This one little fact wiggled its way down into the base of my brain. If I said something, if I told someone, someone might come get me and take me away from the groping hands of my dad and my mom's temper. Someone might save me from my life. The state people could come and swoop in and save me and take me somewhere else...but my siblings, what would happen to them? ************** Ls (little sis) and Lb (little bro) were sheltered from the worst of the sexual abuse. By sheltered I mean I was the shelter. I kept them safe. The physical and emotional abuse and manipulation came down like rain on all of us, though. I tried to shelter Ls from my dad's affections. My dad used my protective instinct against me. He would brush Ls's leg or arm. I would tell her to go out and play with Lb. Then I would stay inside with him. Sometimes he'd just threaten her in front of me. He did this to gain my compliance. He'd say "maybe RR should go outside with Lb." I knew what he meant. I'd whisper in her ear to go out and play in the treefort with Lb. "Don't come inside til I come get you." ************ Childhood sexual abuse hurts everybody. I was 19 and married and had moved a few thousand miles away from my hometown before I was able to admit to my husband what had happened to me. He was in the military and after a long day of training and drills would come home often very late and he liked to sleep spooned behind me with his left arm lying over my chest, his hand cupping my breast. He especially liked to fall asleep like this after we'd had sex. To me this position made me feel like I was going to barf. It was as if someone was taking sandpaper to the base of my brain stem. Like chewing on a fresh stick of chalk. I'd move his hand down to my stomach, turn over so I could be the big spoon, lay flat on my back, just get up and go to the bathroom, anything to get away from him. Anything to get out of that position. Finally, one night he snapped at me to just let him hold me. I exploded. I furiously told him everything. Told him how much it made me want to scream when I was in that position. How it made my skin crawl. How I wanted to barf. He was in shock. He wanted to kill him. My husband was furious but it kinda seemed more like it was a personal insult to him that I'd been violated and an insult to him that it had taken me two years to finally tell him. He was pissed that I didn't trust him. He was pissed that he'd had the "guy talk" with my (step)dad and been given a lecture about how to treat me. He was insulted. ********** Childhood sexual abuse hurts everybody. When my sister was 18 she came to visit me. I used the opportunity to ask her a question I dreaded hearing the answer to. I was scared but I asked anyways. "Ls, did he ever touch you...like that?" She burst into tears. My heart sunk. How did I not protect her from this monster?? "You can tell me, it's ok." Ls "No. You don't understand." Me "Yea I do." Ls "No you don't." Me "Ok, then tell me..." Ls "Whenever he would do that to you, I was so glad it wasn't me. Whenever he touched you, I was glad it wasn't me!" She is sobbing uncontrollably now. Crying so hard I can barely hear her words. "I was glad, I'm sorry, so so so sorry. I'm awful. I was happy it wasn't me." Then I told her it wasn't her because I told her to go away. To go be safe. I looked at her and said "I'd take a bullet for you Ls. Dead fucking serious. I'd take a bullet for you." Ls "I know. But do you forgive me? I'm so so sorry." *********** I was a horrible murderous person. In third or fourth grade we learned about the respiratory system. We learned not to go inside old refrigerators or freezers or whatever because there's not enough air in there and if you breathe up all the oxygen then your lungs can't get oxygen to your blood cells and you will die from not enough oxygen. The same kind of thing can happen in a fish house. If it's sealed up tight and you have a stove in there going too, you and the stove can breathe up all the oxygen and then you would die. My teacher also taught us about heart rates, and how your muscles and your body use way more oxygen when you are doing work then when you are "at rest." Your "resting respiration" does not demand much oxygen. Your "exercising respiration" demands a lot of oxygen. She talked about scuba divers having only so much air in the tank, this was a good example since they have to keep track of how hard they are swimming to not use too much air up or they will die. Lightbulb moment. I am little. I am big for my age, tall and muscular, but compared to my dad I am little. I will kill him. Well, more accurately I will wait for him to kill himself. I tell nobody of my plan. When the ambulance people come to take his dead body away I will say nothing. I will wait for him to run out of air. There's only so much air in a room, right? I am little and I only need a little air. He is so big and breathing so fast. He is sweaty. He is snorting and out of breathe. I am looking at my mother's alarm clock. It is gold with two bells on top and a little gold hammer between them. It has an off-white face. It has gold Roman numerals around it. I think the Romans must have liked straight lines. Their numbers don't have curves and curls like our numbers do. No 6s, 3s, or 9s. Nope. Just straight lines. I and V and X. All lines. No curves. I breathe in slowly and hold my breath. I hold it for a long time. Then exhale. Then do it all again. Inhale, the second hand reaches the 1, hold it til the 2, exhale slowly until the 3, inhale again. I count and count and count as the seconds tick by. Inhale slowly for 5, hold for 5, exhale slowly for 5, inhale for 5, hold for 5, exhale for five. Four breathes a minute. The second hand goes round and round and round the clock. I am awful. I am a horrible hateful person. I am waiting for him to die. I am waiting, taking hummingbird sized sips of air, while he unknowingly, greedily sucks down big gulps of it. He is sweaty and breathing fast, and I am so little. He doesn't even know it. He doesn't see it coming. Soon there will be no more oxygen in this room for him. Soon he will breathe it all up and I am little and I do not need a lot of oxygen, and he will die and I will survive.
So, before I jump into this I should ask you, the reader, if you'd like to respond, to please just sit next to me. I'm actively afraid of sharing my story and being belittled or pitied. Please remember that I survived. My earliest memory is lying next to my dad in bed. I am three years old We are in our apartment in the city. My little sister is in a room we share down the hall. I'm pretty sure that my mom is heavily pregnant at this point with my soon to be little brother. She is in bed too, sleeping, I think, on the other side of him. I am curious about my dad's body. He sleeps naked. He has a winky and I've been told it is a boy part but it is so different. I've showered with my mom before. Seen my sister's diaper changes. Seen my own body, obviously. But I still am curious. I reach out and touch it. It moves. How weird is that! I pull my hand away. He takes it and gently brings it back and says "Its ok, I like that" in a voice barely above a whisper. Several months later I remember lying in my own bed. My sister is sleeping next to me. My little brother is across the room in his crib. I'm am wondering if it is possible to get awinky of my own. I think that must be why my dad is in charge. That must be why my mom babies my little brother and is mean to me and my sister. I wonder what about it makes them special. Something is wrong with my mom. She never gets out of bed except to use the bathroom. Or to storm into the kitchen and scream at me for making a mess. Or scream at me to keep my little sis (Ls) and little bro (Lb) quiet. She can't stand the crying. I tried to change Lb's diaper, but got poop on the kitchen floor. My mom backhanded me across the room. I was startled and afraid, but it was my fault. After that I changed it in the bathroom, and wiped it up with toilet paper if any went on the floor. Lb is 6 months old now. Dad works all the time. Mom pretty much never comes out of her room. We are Jehovah's witnesses, so we go to the kingdom hall (church) kinda often. I sit on the couch reading the story "Each peach pear plum" to Ls and Lb. The couch is floral tith brownish red roses (I think) on a tan background. We are hungry, so I put my shoes on. I carry Lb down the stairs and Ls walks beside me. Our apartment is on the 4th floor. We walk, well, Ls and I walk down the stairs and go outside. I am carrying Lb and tell Ls to hold my arm because we have to cross the street. We are going to Rusty's house. Rusty is an Irish setter. He's very nice. He has the same color hair as me. The lady that lives at his house has a bunch of boys that live there too. And sometimes their friends are there. They are her kids but they look like grown ups to me. They yell to her "mom! Angel and the babies are here!" Ls doesn't like being called a baby. I climb the stairs. The lady takes Lb and walks into her kitchen. Her table is round (the one at our apartment is a big rectangle) and she uses a big flour sack towel to tie my brother to he kitchen chair so he doesn't fall off. At my apartment we have a highchair, but we only use it for suppertime because for breakfast I sit on the floor in front of Lb with his back to the cupboard and give him food like that so he doesn't fall bckward. I'm not tall enough to put him in the highchair. We eat at Rusty's house. Sometimes pb sandwiches, sometimes Mac n cheese, sometimes chocolate pudding out of these little glass dishes. The lady is nice. I dropped a little glass bowl on the floor and she didn't hit me. It didn't break but chocolate pudding splatted on the floor and she wasn't even mad at me. She said it's ok, rusty will get it. And he did. We are done with lunch and go back to our apartment. I carry Lb again and make Ls hold my arm again to cross the street. When we are back on the other side we turn and say bye to the boys. We cross the gravel parking lot to go see the train tracks on the back of our building. Sometimes I tell Ls to put little rocks from the parking lot on the track and we check later and they are just dirt, no rock left. When trains go by we step back to the edge of the parking lot, away from the train. I warm her that trains are dangerous. It could kill us, but we just need to stay back when it goes by. We get tired and go back inside the apartment. We climb back up all the stairs. Mom is still in her room. Lb has a wet diaper, which is easy to change. I put him on the floor in our room and hand the yucky wet one to Ls to throw away in the kitchen garbage. When she gets back I tell her to close the door. I climb into the crib to get Lb's blankie, then climb back down. Ls gets her blankie and I get mine. We sleep on the floor. I sleep next to the door so I will wake up if Ls wakes up and tries to get out. Or I will wake up if mom tried to come in. We are safe and sleepy. I keep us safe, even when we are sleeping.