maarmie's musings

Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas card!

Surprise of all surprises! My parents sent a Christmas card this year. I wasn't expecting it at all, especially considering I didn't send my father a birthday card or Father's Day card this year. I didn't send them a Christmas card this year, either, the first time in my entire life I haven't done so. I'm trying to send the message that I'm done. I assumed that, considering they haven't bothered to contact me since we last spoke in January, they were done as well. But I guess sending a card doesn't mean they're not done. It just means they sent one. It doesn't really mean anything at all. And it doesn't not mean anything, either.

The thing is, this card, this Christmas card AND the other Christmas card, the one sent to my daughter that included the standard $50 check for her (I already ripped it up), the ones signed LOVE DAD and MOM and LOVE GRANDPA and GRANDMA, these cards sent me into quite the tailspin. My friend, Michael, asked me about the tailspin and I hadn't talked about the card thing yet with anyone and the first thing that came to mind after a good 20 seconds of thinking about it was

Let's say you get raped and the rapist comes by your house a year later just to say hi.

Now off to think about this some more.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The usual Christmas melancholy

I seriously doubt I will be getting a Christmas card from my parents this year. I actually don't think I'll ever be hearing from them again. I feel sad about it, but, in a way, it will make my life a lot easier.

I didn't send my parents a Christmas card for the first time in my life this year. I also didn't send dad a birthday card or a father's day card this year. In fact, I will likely never be sending them another card as long as I live. I will never be phoning them again, either. I feel sad about it, but, in a way, it will make my life a lot easier.

The only thing that could make me forgive my dad for his final transgression would be if he called me up (or showed up at my doorstep!) in tears, apologising for all the horrible things he has said to me over the years and all the good words and deeds that never came to be. He would have to weep and beg for forgiveness and promise that everything will be different. He would have to do so many things, things he's probably never done in his life. He's certainly not going to be doing them for me, folks. Of that, I am sure.

So what will be, will be.

I guess it's good that Elliot has only ever talked to them on the phone once and probably doesn't even remember the conversation. The only photo she has ever seen of them is the group shot at my wedding. To her, they are basically nonexistent. And it's not like they've ever sent her any gifts to know them by beyond a $50 check twice a year.

They don't appear to be treating my brother much better, either. Two weeks after Thanksgiving, they still had not contacted him about getting together for Thanksgiving. Two weeks after Thanksgiving, it was my dad's birthday, so my brother called them again to wish him a happy birthday and see if he could go by their house to give him a card. During this phone conversation (he should be grateful they at least answer the phone for him!) he made a point of asking if they got the message he left about Thanksgiving. Apparently, dad just kind of blew him off by not mentioning the message or why they didn't call him back. With just a "Um, we didn't end up doing anything that day" the conversation was over.

Brian says he doesn't see this knocking back as disrespectful. When I told grandma about the whole thing, she laughed and said it sounds like they're trying to send my brother a message by not contacting him after he left the message. I don't really ever see the humour in it, and, every time I hear of them acting not altogether nicely towards him, I am angered anew.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Letter #4

(Note: These letters are in no particular order. I have lost most of the envelopes, and there's no date on the individual letters)

Wednesday

Dear Julie,

Hi honey. Thanks for the note...yes I have been waiting - not actually sitting, doing nothing, hoping and praying...but nonetheless thinking of and looking forward to hearing from you.

Sorry I unnerved you about your "passion". Sometimes I get carried away with my sporadic enthusiasm for writing and am momentarily empassioned myself. Don't let it scare you.

No, I don't have an e-mail addresss as I am not on line...so phone or mail are all the tools I have to communicate with.

Tommy and I split up and he is once again ensconced in the safety of his NP Richey inherited home. Such a relief. Guess I'm not the marryin' type girl. With longevity, men bore me. Better on my own so must concentrate on staying in that mode and not let emotions sway me.

Erics car burned - engine caught on fire and my poor little chevy at 140,000 miles is a tired wreck...but I still want to come and see you. As soon as I get a reliable method of travel I will let you know and ok a weekend with you. Am going to borrow a car, if possible.

So, you're writing has impressed brass. That's wonderful...if it's what you want. Send me a copy of your latest, if you'd care to. I AM interested.

Helped Brian and Cindy move. The bigger stuff anyway - then was given a tour of the new house. Very nice - and roomy. Lots of light and storage space. AND the necessary garage. That will keep carburetors out of the kitchen.

Went back to work, our of necessity (that's the only reason I'd go). Sales and office administrative crap for a furniture repair company. It's a study in inefficiency. Oh well - if it doesn't work there's something that will. I shant panic yet.

Eric and Sheri are ok. Both working and hanging in with the relationship. It's work at times...as it is with all relationships. (I've a crude attitude about coupling...eh?) Sheri is going to college and Eric hoping to - as soon as he has a set of wheels under him again. (After the freedom of being able to roll at will, it's hard on him being housebound and dependent on others for transportation.)

Is Dallas/Ft. Worth still a plan? If so, do you know when you're leaving? You seemed rather ho-hum in your letter about it all. Enthusiasm shriveling? Maybe a little hesitation about the effort of re-establishing? It's a mammoth maneuver...unsettling too - but probably worth the energy expended. Let me know.

Even though I don't miss Tommy, my life seems drifty and purposeless now. I'm sure the feeling will pass when the experience has a chance to age and life fills with new and bizarre adventures. This is just momentary down-time. Not pleasant - or unpleasant either. Just different.

Oh, re: the Tennessee Clutch. Tandy went back up there a couple weekends later and saw Grandma, who knew nothing of my interest in her eldest, Talmage. She sent some plants back with Tandy for me and told her to be sure to tell me, "This plant is from Talmages grave." It was eerie yet fascinating. Maybe intuitively she knew of my interest in him.

Mom is coming to Clearwater soon. Will be here a few months...at Lisas house. She is going to have a knee operation and could not possibly care for herself at home. No one there but her and some scattered neighbors and friends. Guess we'll all look after her 'til she heals.

Julie, I miss you. Need to see you. Seems like I'm writing in a fog.

I love you,

Janine

Hi to Garreth!!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Road Dog Warriors

I graduated from junior college, went away to FSU, came back home for a summer, and graduated from university before I wrote to Janine. It had been at least 3 years of no contact.

During this time, I was busy, of course, but I don't remember ever particularly thinking about her or longing for contact with her. I don't remember wondering if she was thinking about me, if she was sad that we didn't have any kind of relationship, if she was regretting that she had desserted me when I was a baby only to come back into my life and effectively dessert me all over again. I don't know why I decided to write to her after I graduated. I don't know why she kept promising to come up to Tallahassee to see me, only a five-hour drive, only to never come. I moved to NYC and then on to Oregon and back to Florida before seeing her again one Christmas toward the age of 30.

During this long interval, we wrote to each other only a few times. I don't even think I gave her a forwarding address in NYC or Oregon or wrote to her at all when I was living outside of Florida. Seems odd that I could just disappear for years and not give one thought about any of it. Sound familiar? I thought it did!

To be fairer to myself, only when I left Florida did my anger towards my dad and stepmom really surface, an anger that took over a big chunk of my life that was otherwise filled with work, a boyfriend, the daily stress of living in big cities, and what seems like constant moves from place to place.

During that Christmas visit and the one visit after that but before the car accident that would eventually lead to her death, Janine wasn't working much and was obsessed, instead, with hanging out with Clearwater's elite band of homeless rogues. For a couple of years at least, she was working on writing a book she later titled "Road Dog Warriors," a book about their lives that never got published. During this time, too, she was dating one of said warriors, a much younger man with a penchant for drugs, alcohol, and violence and who thought nothing of stealing her money to buy drugs and cheating on her with anyone and everyone else who ever came along.

The only things I remember about her boyfriend were that he was terribly beat up looking and looked aged beyond his years. He had a broken arm from some recent altercation and was missing most of his teeth, probably from a combination of drug use and poor hygeine. During that visit, he was badgering me to dance with him, and, when I told him no, he told Janine to make me dance with him. I remember taking an almost instant and intense dislike to him. I remember not wanting to ever be around him again and was glad when he finally fucked off for greener pastures, though Janine would continue to have on again/off again relations with him whenever he needed some money or a place to stay.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Letter #3

Wednesday

Dearest Julie,

Hi sweetie. Haven't heard form you in a while so thought I'd drop a line and see if you're OK.

I just talked to you on the phone yet still feel a need to communicate with you further. God you've grown...surpassed the old emotional bullshit with Karen and are now in a workable relationship with her. What a hurdle. And your Dad...he doesn't mean to hurt you (it's not in him) - he loves you but perhaps for a time longer you have to be - to him - the little girl who became a rebel and revolted against the world he has worked so hard to be part of, a rebel against the mindlessness of societies bumblers, a rebel against the blind followers of societies mores, a rebel that had to be pulled out of a rough space...but then went on to conquer. When you come into your own, though, are steadfast about your own convictions, and proud enough to possess quiet dignity about who you are and what you stand for...he will have to accept you as an adult. You don't have to fight who he is, what he does or feels...you just have to be convicted without apology. Who you are is exactly enough and exactly right...for you...and my dear, who do you have to live with all your life BESIDES you. You're accomplished, educated, pretty, intelligent, and so worthwhile. You feel deeply for that which is important. You're almost willing to fight for your right to be all you are...but quietly and with dignity. Those who shout loudest don't always win.

I really enjoyed our conversation. You're so bright and love to delve into that which most people aren't capable of even talking about. It's such a pleasure to talk about that which isn't the day to day grubbles of work, the house, kids, price of groceries, or the dead squirrel that got bit by 770 volts as he crossed a high wire and got tossed by thoughtless gods into the path of a runaway semi. The rain, the malls, the cost of cabbage, or the new tombstones that bear a hologram of the "dearly departeds" face and a micro chip of their voice implanted in the stone itself so the family can still "communicate" with their loved one. The bullshit. You're real - feeling - and talk on that level. No games...makes life easier...and harder too. (God, does anything make any sense?) Guess there are few absolutes - and then only in math. All the rest is just winging it...maybe landing in a pile of crap (maybe not) and just keep on keepin' on until you find your niche.

I love you Julie and I'm extremely proud of you and the uphill battle you're fought to be who you are.

I will be up to see you soon...in the next month or two. Thank you for allowing me that BUT if you change your mind please don't hesitate to let me know. I won't push anything you don't want. You CAN be honest with me.

Hi to Garreth. My love to you.

Janine

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Letter #2 (which should be titled "Letter #1" or "I never did get that Christmas gift")

My Dearest Julie -

I am so glad you wrote. I wanted to but knew you were angry about Erics "party" and the outcome and I guess I didn't want to risk rejection from you.

Everytime I've talked to Brian he let me know what you're doing. Told me you were writing and that you had a nice guy that was good to you, as you deserve.

Sounds like you dove into the world of journalism and are doing well with it. Could it be any other way? You're talented! I still have some of your poems, have read them to friends, and gotten favorable response.

Seattle - that's a long way from home. Go for it! See and do all you can! Take those risks! I know you'll succeed. I really wish I had known myself as well as you do, at your age. I just drifted and never finished my education - more regrets. But...I have revised the book and only need to write the closing chapter. Then I'll send it to a company outside Orlando, whom I have already spoken with...and will see what happens. It means all the world to me to see it in print.

Have started another book of short stories. A twisted humerous view of life in a dysfunctional family. Also am planning to write another..."My Name is Day" about a friend of mine who has had a really temptous life. Many twists and turns. That's a year away though.

Eric has settled down finally. Since I've seen you, Eric has spent most of those years in Par Treatment Center...both in Bradenton and Clearwater. He now has 1 year sobriety...today. He has a nice girlfriend, Sherri, and a decent job. Seems fairly happy but who really knows.

I'm not working at present...except for my writing. Done some more freelance for St. Pete Times. I'll enclose my last one. God...don't know how I ever had time to work :) .

Eric, Sherri, Tommy, and I live in an old house. I love it. Windows everywhere. There's a jungle-like back yard filled with plants. (I'm in a plant obcessive phase now.) It's so nice to sit out there in the evening with a cool breeze fanning your face. Occasionally will even have a visit from a possum or coon. The house is right off Court Street by St. Cecelias school and directly across from Chi Chi Rodriguez's golf course.

Mom was just here from Montana. Stayed a week. If you two are planning to drive to Seattle stop in Big Sky and stay with her. The area is gorgeous...as her back yard is Yellowstone Natl. Park. She'd love to have you. If you're interested just let me know and I'll set it up.

Julie, I DO love you. I'm not too good at showing it, but I think of you every single day. Wonder how you're doing, what's going on in your life...and if we'd ever communicate again. I miss you.

If you and Garreth have the time - come home. Maybe spend time together...before you go off onto your new life. My daughter - the famous journalist - world traveler. God...the wondrous opportunities in front of you. You will accomplish all this...I know that in my heart. You're intelligent AND talented. AND I'd love to meet Garreth!!

Julie - I've made a mountain of mistakes in my lifetime...and I still make them. I want you to know that the two happiest times in my life were 1. when you and Brian came back into my life 2. and when Eric came home to live. My children whose absence caused the most pain and whose return gave the most joy!! Baby, I do love you...please don't doubt that. You're in the heart of this old crone. I do apologize for hurt I've caused you. I only hope you will keep in touch and that I will see you again.

Thank you for your letter!

My love -

Mom

P.S. Did you get your Christmas gift?
PPS Phone # is 447-6183

xxx



Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Life with drama on wheels

Not long after I graduated from high school, I knew I had to move out of my parents' house. I had been working part-time as a cashier at Publix - a Florida grocery chain - since the day I turned 16, but I didn't have any money saved. The only cheap or free place I could think of to go was to Janine.

One day a few months after I graduated, still without plans for college or any interest in plans from my parents, I called her up and asked her if I could come stay with her until I got on my feet. She said she'd have to get dad's permission first, which angered me. I was an adult, and I wanted to escape from dad. I most certainly didn't want someone asking his permission for me to.

I moved out of the house anyway, but I didn't move in with Janine. Instead, I was homeless for three weeks, living with a friend in her car in parking lots at Indian Rocks Beach. I didn't really mind being homeless - even sleeping in the car wasn't so bad. The only things I didn't like were life without a shower in the Florida heat and wearing a dirty uniform to work every day.

Three weeks into homelessness, my friend and I had saved money, and we moved into a one-room holiday rental with two double beds and a stove and refrigerator. We paid $70 a week each - a hefty price in 1990 for one room. We lived across a walkway from the owners, and we were under their very watchful eyes. They laid down strict rules of conduct for us that included "no male visitors." After we broke more than a few rules, we were tossed out and rented a slightly bigger studio apartment just down the road. After we broke more than a few rules there (I've never SEEN so many cockroaches in one place), we were tossed out yet again.

Lucky for me, I had reconnected with abusive first boyfriend by then (insert sarcasm here), so I moved in with him. My friend moved back home to go to college. After boyfriend dumped me, I moved back home for a short time, then back out and into the converted front porch. I was there about a year then moved in with a workmate and his sister. He and I moved to a few different places, and his girlfriend moved in with us when we rented a really nice two bedroom off Gulf-to-Bay in Clearwater. She quickly got pregnant, and they decided to break the lease and move in with her mother. So I was stuck with nowhere to live and only months before I was going to leave for Florida State University. I turned to Janine again.

This time, she let me come and stay with her and my half brother, Eric, then 18. I was to share Janine's bedroom and bed and pay a third of the rent and bills.

Things seemed OK after I moved in, but I could tell Janine was a bit depressed. I was busy with work and college, so I wasn't aware of the major downward spiral. Either that, or it came on quite quickly, but, three weeks after I moved in, Janine decided to go check herself into the nearest mental hospital for a nice weekend of rest and relaxation. The day after she left, her son thought it would be nifty to have a major street party and invite the neighbourhood juvenile delinquents over for some very public alcohol and violence. I came home from college as the party was just gearing up and headed straight to Janine's bedroom to watch TV. Not long after, Eric and his buddies ran in the house and headed straight for Eric's room. Cue the police pounding on the doors and windows and yelling for Eric to open the door.

Knowing that Eric was cultivating some very tasty pot on the roof, I told him to answer the door but not to let the police in the house. I stayed in the bedroom while Eric opened the front door. Of course, the police just barged their way into the house, permission or not, and started screaming at all the boys to sit down and shut the fuck up.

I stayed in the bedroom for about 10 minutes deciding whether or not to go out there. The party had nothing to do with me, and I didn't want to get involved. But I figured the cops would likely be searching the house soon, so I figured it was best to show myself. The second I stepped out into the living room, the cops were screaming at me to sit down and grilling me for my age and accusing me of contributing to the delinquency of minors and threatening to take me to jail. My scumbag half brother just sat there and let me take it and would've likely let me go to jail had Janine's sister not phoned at that precise moment. I answered the phone crying, and she wanted to know what was wrong. She didn't even know that Janine had left, and she came right over to get me.

Saved.

I stayed with my aunt for a week or less before I moved into the hotel at which I had been working. I lived at the hotel until I went away to FSU. Finally, I got to just work and concentrate on my studies. No bullshit. It was heaven.

Not long after I moved into the hotel, Janine, who had not contacted me since she came home to find me gone, cruised by the hotel to try and squeeze some money out of me for the bills. Considering I had paid a third of a month's rent to stay in her house for three weeks and considering I almost got arrested during that time because of her dickhead son, I basically told her to fuck off.

I didn't have contact with her again for a very long time.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Letter #1

Midnight

Dearest Julie,

I've been thinking about you all day, missing you. Things are weird and I'm alright. Everything is crumbling and somehow there is this quiet assurance that everything will turn out for the best. Guess I'm used to the crumbling, or the eventuality of it, and everything always does turn for the better.

Opted to take a class this semester at J.C., creative writing. Excited about it too. Hope to take a class or two each semester and maybe by the time I'm retirement age I'll have an AA in something less mundane than it already is. New avenues, different doors to walk through, new people to experience, new minds to share with.

Went to Tennessee with my friend Tandy and camped with her ex's family. Kentucky and Tennessee country people - some with the ageless wisdom found in the hills and others with a Bubba mentality. Spent the entire weekend taking notes and came up with a brief descriptive narrative. I'll send a copy along. Julie, Talmage captured my interest...and my heart. Strangely enough, Tandy went back up again last weekend and Grandma sent back some little plants from her garden for me. She also told Tandy to tell me that the pothos cuttings were from Talmages grave. I didn't even discuss Talmage with her but think somehow she became aware of my fascination (compassion, empathy, feelings) for her first born. Grandma is something special. She possesses such clarity and wisdom of human nature - and acceptance thereof.

Eric suffered a small catastrophe - his car caught on fire. The fire department had to put it out, it was that bad. He's freaking now. His freedom went down the tubes. But...he has a great attitude otherwise and is grateful for what he does have. His actualization of the desire to go to school is quite a bit further off now but maybe he needs this time to grow so he can accept the responsibilities of college. All I know is that everything DOES happen for a reason and that reason will be revealed somewhere down the road.

As for me - I've learned that I'm not a master at relationships - never was and that I'll spare some poor boob, that may happen to be attracted, a great deal of pain - by travelling alone. I'm happier that way in the long run 'cause I don't compromise well and do detest putting myself in a vulnerable position with the "enemy" - effectively blocking intimacy. Don't know whether I'm not capable - or just don't want to. Either way, it's best I cruise solo.

Are you even interested in all this?

I'm just cruising along in my little brain warp, typing my feelings to you and I don't even know if there's any interest. But somehow I know if anyone understands me, it's you.

Guess I am forced to leave the life of "do as I want when I wish" and get a job. Doesn't really matter or cut into my writing time. Inspiration usually ignites about midnight. My brain is semi-comatose all day but the wee hours activate that convoluted blob. With the job of cleaning 301 (my AA building) and a part time thing, I'll be OK and still have time to wander. God Julie, I'll probably be a bag lady when I grow up.

I miss your letters, articles, and you. Are you OK? Depressed? Happy? Pensive? Is your brilliant mind engaged in anything that brings you joy? Are you and Garreth doing well? Will you share your thoughts with me? You are beautiful and dear, my dear. I love you...and still plan to come see you. Please write.

Love,
Janine

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Another story

When I was six months old, my biomom, Janine, sort-of tried to kill my brother and me and herself before dropping us off at her mother's house and checking herself into the nearest mental hospital. As she told the story, her father had recently died and she was still suffering post partum with me when dad told her that he was interested in some other woman. Knowing her default mental state to begin with, I'm sure she was more than a bit off kilter at the time and pushed over the edge with all these simultaneous difficulties and traumas. So, one day, she was driving down the street with us kids in the car when she decided it would be a good idea to close her eyes, keep driving, and see what happens.

I'm not sure how long she kept up this closed-eye driving (couldn't have been long, I imagine) but the rest is history. She came to her senses and left, and we moved from Austin, Texas, to Florida when dad got out of the military. Janine says dad, at some point, attempted reconciliation. But Janine was having none of it. She was off doing god knows what and just wanted to breeze in to see Brian (and me, I guess) whenever it suited her. Brian says that he remembers always getting very upset when Janine breezed out again, and, after a while of this, dad put his foot down and said no more. If it wasn't going to be regular, it wasn't fair. Good on him.

So, Janine disappeared from our lives both physically and in every other way imaginable. I don't know how kids know these things, but they seem to know what they can talk about with their parents and family members and what they can't. Maybe this "knowing" comes from before they have conscious memories. Maybe when I was 4, or something, I tried to talk about mom or ask about mom and was resoundly rebuked. Maybe my conscious self doesn't remember this but some part of me does and that's why I knew not to bring her up. It was never outright stated, but we all just knew that dad hated mom. Mom was this shadowy, messed up figure who was not to be spoken of. I knew absolutely nothing about her, not even what she looked like, until I found a wedding photograph at my grandma's house. I just sat and stared at the smiling blonde stranger in that photo for ages, wondering who she was, why she had left, where she had gone, what she was doing. But I didn't dwell on it for long. That's just the way things were.

When I was 16, she called out of the blue on Thanksgiving Day. Dad, stepmom, and I had just gotten back from wherever we were (Brooksville with grandma?) and the phone rang. I answered it and was stunned to hear, "Julie. It's me, Janine."

My eyes must have gone wide as saucers and all I could think of to do was ask her to hold on, lay down the receiver, and run to find my parents. They were just standing there near their bedroom looking all posed and awkward, so I'm guessing she had cleared this whole enounter with dad beforehand. Would have been nice, I think, to not have sprung it on me like this. But when was anything ever done appropriately or sensitively in our house?

So I went back to the phone after dad seemed at a loss over how to behave or what to say, and Janine and I awkwardly chatted for a few minutes and set up a time to meet.

I'm not sure how many times we met up initially. Quite a few, I think. I don't really remember what we talked about, but I remember having wildly mixed emotions and being really confused about the situation. I know now that I had a lot of anger towards her and that a lot of internal sadness was involved in being around her. She was pleasant and open and willing to talk about anything, but that was certainly nothing I was used to. I wish I had made better use of her willingness to share and her incredible candor and honesty than I did, but I didn't really know how to have conversations then, and I wasn't really aware of my feelings or how to relate to people in general.

The contact was sporadic after awhile, but it was obvious that I was very much like her from the start. She liked to write. I like to write. She loved to read. I love to read. She was an open book. I am an open book. She wore her heart on her sleeve. I wear my heart on my sleeve. She was very emotional. I am very emotional. She valued honesty and truth and justice and creativity and kindness and beauty and wisdom. I value honesty and truth and justice and creativity and kindness and beauty and wisdom. She loved theatre and art and nature and science and animals and poetry and music. I love theatre and art and nature and science and animals and poetry and music. She was sensitive. I am sensitive. She had a twisted sense of humour. I have a twisted sense of humour. She liked to thumb her nose at authority. I like to thumb my nose at authority. She was drawn to interesting and varied people. I am drawn to interesting and varied people. She was accepting and open and tolerant. I am accepting and open and tolerant. We were the same height, had the same hair colouring, were the same size, and, on the index fingers of all our four hands, the fingernails curve slightly inward at the end.

Suddenly, I didn't feel like such a weirdo in this life anymore, like I had been adopted or mistakenly dropped out of nowhere, an aberration. There, standing in front of me, in the flesh. This was where I had come from.

(to be continued)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Excuse me while I bite your fucking head off

Excuse me if I'm in a bit of a shit mood right now, but I used up all the hot water for Elliot's bath and now I can't have a shower, and Elliot has spent the last 20 minutes having a fucking tantrum at my feet because I wouldn't help her pick up and put away the pieces from a small puzzle she was working on.

Her tantrums really get to me. I mean really, really. So much so that I feel like pushing her down or smacking her face or locking her out of the house. Instead, I usually move from room to room in a misguided attempt to temporarily rid myself of her. I say "misguided" because all she does is move from room to room with me. None of the doors have locks on them. Except the bathroom door. And I locked myself in. And she went back downstairs to sob alone. Only I felt guilty that she was crying. That she was alone and crying. And I knew she needed a wee. So I went back downstairs and gave her a hug and chaperoned her back upstairs so she could do a wee. Yes, you read that right. Chaperone. You see, Elliot is afraid to be in any room in the house by herself. If I'm in the kitchen, she's in the kitchen. If I'm in the lounge, she's in the lounge. If I'm upstairs in the toilet, she's upstairs in the toilet. If I move on to my bedroom, she either follows me there or commands loudly that I remain in the toilet until she is finished taking a dump.

Now that I'm more than a bit miffed, I'm going to rant on about a couple of things that really piss me off. One: When I invite someone to do something by text and never hear back from them. Two: When people speak to their children in that high, whiny, singsong voice that leads one to believe that either the child or the parent has some sort of major learning difficulty. You know the one. Oh, Timmy! You are such a good boy! Yes you are! Such a good boy! You need a poo poo? You do? You need a poo poo? Are you going to do a poo poo on the potty? On the potty? Yes, you are! You ARE going to do a poo poo on the potty. Not in your pants. NO! Doing poo poos in your pants is for babies! And you're a big boy, aren't you? Yes. Yes, you are. Such a big, big, big, big boy!!!!!!!

All done in this super loud, super high-pitched voice, all of the syllables dragged out to the nth degree while looking around the room to see who is witnessing their super-attentive parenting that will undoubtedly only garner them the award of most super fabulously annoying parent of the decade.

Ungrateful bastard

About two years ago, I wrote my dad a letter asking him to pay off my student loan. C* had been gone for awhile by that time, and my American bank account was almost empty. At the time, I still owed just over $5,000, and I knew that getting that debt out of the way would make my life much easier and give me one less of a multitude of things to worry about.

Considering the long and illustrious careers of my dad and his wife, $5,000 would have been nothing to them. I'm sure they wouldn't have even missed it. In fact, I bet they could afford to buy me a car or put a down payment on a house for me - two things that would greatly increase the quality of life for me and for Elliot - without much effort or sacrifice.

I wrote a letter because I was too chickenshit to ask on the phone. I got a letter back a few weeks later telling me that, since they are retired, they won't be giving me any money. They didn't even offer to pay off some of it. In the letter, which was short and stiffly worded and could have been written to a complete stranger, my dad wrote that noone ever helped him and that I could do it on my own. He also said that he knows I can have a good life and that I need to take it one step at a time. Um...ok. Thanks for all the great advice and general motivational platitudes.

Putting aside that dad has yet to give me any useful advice on being a single parent (I asked him once who looked after me and brother when we were very young and he replied "You were in daycare, I guess"), I take great exception to the statement that noone ever helped him. That is so not true, and it offends me to the core that he would write this. I know he thinks women are silly and stupid, but it just so happens that he would've been up an even bigger creek in his life had a whole army of women not stepped in to help him.

First, his mother - my grandma. A woman who always acted as a surrogate mother to me and who let him live in her house rent-free with his children, stepchildren, and wife number 3 and who took my brother and me for nearly the entirety of the three-month summer holidays until we were old enough to stay on our own. She is the only one I can remember from childhood who actually took an interest in me and seemed to actually enjoy planning outings and activities for us and spending time with and talking to us. She has a lot of faults, but I love my grandmother dearly. If he doesn't see and appreciate how much she helped him then he's blinder and more ignorant than I thought.

Second, my biomom's sister(s). My biomom has two sisters, and, after biomom left, I was told by my brother that at least one of the sisters stepped forward to watch us. My brother told me that when the time came for her to stop watching us, she felt like her own children were going away. That's how close she was to us at the time.

Third, his various wives. Dad has been married four times, in total, and, from what I hear, wives number 2 and 3 were pretty much psycho. I don't know if they did more harm than good, but I know they at least worked and presumably contributed to the family finances. Wife number 4 has been around since I was 7 and, while she caused mostly only headaches where interpersonal relations with the kids were concerned, she earned a decent salary as a bank manager and contributed well to overall family finances. Considering the supposition that money seems to be the only thing dad cares about, you would think he would consider this as someone helping him along the way. I mean, even my stepmother herself snarled at me one day that I wouldn't have a roof over my head or food in my mouth if it weren't for her. Though she was a nasty bitch for even saying it, she may have been right.

Fourth, my brother. My brother is 3 years and 8 months older than me. He was 4 when biomom left, and, after that time, he remembers changing my diapers and generally taking care of me. Grandma told me that Brian probably took more care of me than dad did. I asked her where dad was during all this time, and she said says she didn't know but that she stepped in so much not for my dad's sake but for the sake of us kids. I know my dad was working like a beast and going to college at night at the same time - a move that paid off very handsomely for him in the long run. Plus, it must take a lot of effort to meet, woo, marry, and divorce several different women in a short amount of time. He proved that he could work hard and dedicate himself to things that would presumably improve his financial and personal circumstances. My question is why he never put as much effort into being a loving and devoted father to us kids.

Lastly, he should be thanking my brother and me for being relatively hassle free and for looking after ourselves so much of the time without burning the house down. I swear, we were on our own so often that we could have gotten up to way more shit than we did. We got up to some hijinks, to be sure, but, all things considered, we were pretty good (that he knows of).

So, in conclusion, my dad had help from everyone under the sun when it came to being a single father. That he either doesn't remember this or doesn't value it enough to NOT say that he never had help from anyone speaks volumes in support of the person I know him to be.

To avoid being an ungrateful bastard myself, I want to express gratitude to C* for being a loving and devoted father to Elliot. Every week, he faithfully has Elliot two nights and pays child support. Without these things, my life would be much harder than it is, and Elliot would be much worse off for not having a father. I also want to express gratitude to all the wonderful women who have looked after my daughter so well while I'm at work and to my friend, Jane, who has helped me out in a pinch. Last, but not least, I owe the Scottish government a lot for the benefits I get which allow me to have a decent quality of life while working part time as a single parent. Without all this help, Elliot and I would surely not have a roof over our heads or food in our mouths.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving?

I didn't really do much for Thanksgiving this year. Last year, I did the whole turkey, mashed potato, cornbread thing with a few added British extras like roasted carrots and potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. The menu this year included baked salmon and rice. Not exciting, but nice, nonetheless.

Tomorrow, Elliot and I are going to Simpson's Garden Centre to meet a few other fellow Americans for lunch as a belated Thanksgiving event. Santa Claus is touching down in a helicopter around half 10, so I said we'd be there around 11 or half past.

What? Doesn't Elliot want to see Santa arrive in his chopper? No. I already told her Santa doesn't exist. Doesn't exist, you say? But, of course he does! He's the physical embodiment of charity and giving and blah, blah, blah. Hm. Don't think so.

I don't know why everyone protects the "existence" of Santa Claus as if it were some kind of worldwide imperative and why people get so upset to hear that a parent has told her child that Santa doesn't exist. It's not like I told her that monsters hide under her bed and are waiting for her to go to sleep so they can rip out her throat and play volleyball with her still-beating heart. Oh, wait. I did that, too. My bad!

I'm a shitty mum.

I'm horrible.

No...really.

Seriously, people are so protective of the Santa lie. The only thing I can think of is they feel horribly guilty for propagating the bullshit all the while trampling over the dignity of their children and taking advantage of their children's trust. They never bothered to figure out that this is, in fact, what they are doing by admonishing their children to believe in fictional characters in the first place. I swear to Christ, some people are just so used to parenting in a sheeplike fashion, no thought at all put into it. Well, MY parents did it and THEIR parents did it and my UNCLES did it to their kids, they say, so I do it to mine!

Fine. You go ahead and lie to them and rape and pillage their trust. It's up to you what you do with and to your kid. I'm not telling you not to. But the way I see it, you made the mistake. Get over it. I didn't. Get over that, too. I haven't derided you for your decision (until now), so leave me the fuck alone about mine.

In other news, as of 4:30 pm eastern standard time yesterday, the parents still hadn't bothered returning my brother's phone call from the day before asking if they were doing anything with grandma for Thanksgiving. In recent years, the parents and brother and sister-in-law would make the annual pilgrimage to Cracker Barrel, grandma's favourite restaurant, for some good Turkey Day fun. Brian wanted to know if they were doing it again this year. My parents didn't call back Wednesday. And, upon checking all his various phones in the time between visiting in-laws and visiting biomom's side of the family, he found that they had not phoned him back yet as of 4:30 on Thanksgiving Day. I'm wondering if they ever ended up contacting him at all.

Update: As of 5 p.m. on Nov. 29, the parents still have not called my brother back about getting together on Thanksgiving. This is all the more rude and insulting considering that my brother went to their house a few weeks ago and helped them set up some sort of GPS system. I think it's really fucking disgusting that they continue calling him to help them with all sorts of technical problems (mobile phone, computer, GPS) and they don't treat him with much dignity or respect beyond that. And when he does finally talk to them, it seems like stepmom blames HIM for their lack of communication. They really are warped in every possible way. I hope they aren't surprised if he decides not to take care of them in their old age. But he probably will - no matter how they treat him. He's the good son. And that's what good sons do.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Deconstruction

At counsellor number one this morning (yes, I have two!), I was talking about my parents (what's new?) and my blog, blah, blah, blah. I haven't seen this counsellor in a couple of months, so I was giving him a general update on my mood, what's going on in my life, my thoughts, and things that are currently bothering me or are on my mind.

We started talking specifically about my father and about the relationship we've had (or haven't had) since I moved out of the house and how it has changed (and not changed) since I was a child and after I grew up, moved out, moved on, got married, and had a child of my own.

It comes as no surprise that my father and I haven't had that great of a relationship in a very, very long time, if ever. When I was a child, dad was a god to me. The sun rose and set on him, and he could do no wrong. So it follows that when there are nasty things he's saying and doing or nice things that go unsaid or undone, it is all how it should be. It's the right way. It's just how things are done. It's what I deserve.

Then I grew beyond his view of things and started to have my own ideas. I started thinking that maybe he wasn't right. That the way he did things - things he said and things he didn't say or didn't do - wasn't necessarily the right way, just the way things were done in OUR family. That maybe he wasn't the great guy I had once thought. I started sometimes registering my upset at his hurtful words, at his inability to be there for either my brother or I in any meaningful way, and he couldn't deal. Instead of just sitting there and taking his barbed words like I did when I was a child or in my teens and twenties, I started sometimes objecting to his behaviour. Every time I did that, he would just tell me he was never talking to me again, and then he would hang up on me. Time went on and on with us sometimes speaking (briefly and superficially) but mostly not.

The last overtly hurtful thing my dad said to me was right after I told him I was pregnant and getting married. Right after I told him, he asked if I was going to register at the Salvation Army thrift shop and proceeded to snigger and guffaw at his hilariously snarky comment as only he can do. I'm not sure exactly what he meant by that, but it smacked of him thinking I'm some kind of scumbag. In any event, I didn't (and don't) see it as a very appropriate or thoughtful thing to say when your only daughter announces she's getting married. But I didn't say anything about it at the time. Like when I was a child, a deep sense of something close to shame washed over me. I felt like a child again, hurt and confused. Wanting love and acceptance but getting kicked in the teeth. I just sat there and let him be him that day but retaliated later by completely ignoring both of them at the wedding. And I mean completely. I didn't even want them there.

Since then, dad has either been eerily uncommunicative or has had only brief and superficial conversations with me. I can't be sure why as he would never tell me, so I can only suppose that maybe he realises he always (and I mean always) says the exact wrong thing to me and he's trying to avoid any strife. Maybe he doesn't feel free to talk to me like I'm an idiot anymore so he doesn't want to talk to me at all. Maybe he feels like he's been caught out now that I have a child and potentially understand what real love is between a parent and a child. That I understand and can fully see now how parents who love their child should be. Maybe he realises or fears that I now see how his own feelings toward me have always been so deficient and stunted and ringed with disdain. Maybe he is once and for all truly afraid or remorseful or ashamed? Maybe he can't bear these feelings so he responds by not responding?

Or maybe he just doesn't give a flying fuck and has finally convinced himself somehow that I never was worth any of it from the beginning, after all, and that losing me (and his granddaughter) is no real loss, anyway.

Maybe it's a combination of all or some of the above. But one thing is for sure: I will never, ever know for certain.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More dreams

I dreamt last night that I was being fired from a job from which I was actually fired, a public relations agency in Tallahassee, all over again - a dream I have on a periodic basis. In the dreams, I am ultimately rehired and then sit there for the rest of the dream in a panic worried and wondering if I've got what it takes to keep working there and not just be fired all over again - and again - and again - and again. I'm so tired of this dream. One: it feels so real every time I dream it. Two: The actual firing from this place was over-the-top traumatic and resulted in therapy, antidepressants, and a PTSD diagnosis. For anyone who has never had PTSD, I don't recommend it. It's not fun.

The other night, I dreamt that C* and I were breaking up all over again, this just on the eve of me turning in my application for legal aid that will cover the cost of our divorce. I'm just wanting this whole mess to be over, for me and C* to finally be once and for all completely over. Like most other things in my life, marriage was one complete and utter disappointment, a mistake I am most unlikely to ever repeat.

I can confidently say that I have absolutely no plans of future marriage or of even ever being in a romantic relationship again. I have come to realise that I'm just not cut out for it, and my expectations are just really, really out of this stratosphere these days. Considering these expectations and going on past experience, I don't see myself ever liking someone else enough to want them around ALL THE TIME - hogging the remote, expecting me to clean up their messes, taking time and attention away from my daughter, demanding that I put up with their shoddy treatment. It's just not in me anymore. I simply don't have the energy.

That said, my life will be simpler but perhaps more lonely and certainly filled with considerable financial strains and hardships. Ah, well. What's a girl to do?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dreams

Last night, I had bad dreams.

That's nothing new or unusual. I have been having bad dreams my entire life. Sometimes, I wake up crying or talking, finishing the sentence in my dream as I'm waking up. Most times, I wake up with a deep feeling of unhappiness or dread. I'm not sure why I have bad dreams. Perhaps they are just my mind's way of playing out the negative thoughts that run through my head at various times throughout the day, of playing out the crushing disappointments, frustrations, and abandonment that I revisit and revisit and revisit.

Last night's dreams involve people being nasty to me. I can't go into details as I don't remember any, but some of it involved K****, and it had something to do with rejection.

I was just rereading old posts from 2007 and came across this one. It is making me very sad. I had forgotten that my dad laughed at me when I crapped out on my LSAT and then told me he was never talking to me again and hung up on me after I told him I didn't like him laughing at me. Interesting that some people think they can treat other people any way they want to but the other person isn't allowed to say anything about it. I guess it has to do with his perceived power and dominence over me. It's also pretty clear that there's a serious lack of love, regard, or respect for me as well.

I was telling a friend earlier that I know I just need to forget about my parents completely. But how do I do that? Can someone tell me how?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

96 bottles of beer on the wall...

So I get this text message last night from CF replying to a text I had sent him a week ago asking how he was doing. CF and I have kept in touch sporadically through infrequent texts and contact on Facebook. Mostly, a million annoying pokes from CF on Facebook. We have only ever met in person once and have only talked on the phone three times or so since then. I met him on Plenty of Fish, a dating site that, considering the vast array of mouthbreathers who can't even spell or have one original thought, should be renamed Plenty of Fucktards.

So, in case you don't remember, CF has a fiancee who lives in England. They travel quite often to see each other and keep in touch a bit on Facebook as well, where they post strange public proclamations of undying love and show off their tattoos of the others' name. Last time I was on the phone with him, we talked briefly about meeting up again sometime in person but have not talked since, and, supposedly, his fiancee had seemed supportive of he and I meeting up in person for a catchup.

So, this text. I sent him an innocent text just asking how he was doing and I get this text back a week later saying things were fantastic because his fiancee had been in town for the week. Then he tells me not to text him anymore but to keep in touch only on Facebook to "keep things on an even keel" at his house regarding his fiancee. He said he wouldn't like her receiving texts from her male Facebook friends, and he ended the text with a cheeky grin emoticon!

The cheeky grin did not lessen the sting but somehow enhanced it. So completely clueless. How does someone send a text saying "I don't want to be real-life friends with you anymore" and then end it with a cheeky grin?

OK. I can't even comprehend this right now.

OK. I will now attempt to deconstruct.

As best as I can figure out, this text means one of two things:

1.  He's full of shit. His fiancee isn't or wouldn't be angry about the text but, for whatever reason, he has decided he just wants inane comments or pokes from me on Facebook; or

2.  His relationship is completely insecure and filled with jealousy and unrealistic/controlling demands. In that case, I don't think my text is his biggest problem.

My first instinct was to get mad and to be hurt. CF and I had been more than Facebook friends, I thought. We have talked about really personal things on the phone and shared all our problems with each other. The last conversation we had on the phone had been really good.

I immediately wrote out a text in response asking him if he was kidding. Deleted that. I thought about writing another text asking him if he was crazy. I thought about writing another text telling him that he needs to get some trust in his relationship. I thought about writing another text saying that he should just be honest and tell me he doesn't want to be friends with me anymore. But I never wrote out another reply, and I will not be sending him one.

The only reason for replying would be to somehow try and bolster my wounded ego. But he and his cheeky grin have shown me what he thinks of me in the end, and some people just aren't worth the effort. One good thing about Facebook: The "delete" button is just so easy to use.

Now, I have one less bottle of beer.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Halloween

Halloween was one of the holidays we celebrated as a family when my brother and I were young. I used to love going out door to door that one time of year, my parents standing at the road and my brother and I traipsing from doorway to doorway in pursuit of massive amounts of treats.

Need I say here that my parents are highly regimented, both in their behaviours and in their choice of activities. If something isn't planned two months in advance, it doesn't happen. And I grew up with my parents doing and saying the same things every night from the time I can remember until I moved out of the house. Special occasions - holidays - were out of the norm, exotic...different. It wasn't just come home from school, eat an apple, watch TV, parents get home and drink a glass of iced tea and change into their home clothes and make and eat dinner before switching off for the night in front of the TV. Halloween nights involved my brother and I in their evenings, the four of us together doing something, and I savour the memories.

I was a hobo for Halloween one year, but I don't remember any other costumes. I don't remember any of my brother's costumes, either, except for the one he wore when he was 16 or so and going out on his own with friends in a ninja outfit with nunchucks and prowling around people's gardens only to have the cops called on him and be forced to call my dad from the police station. But that was a different time altogether.

On these nights, when we were young, when we lived at the apartment complex near Tampa Bay, there were millions of kids out scouring the streets on Halloween nights. And every Halloween that we went prowling, every door opened, and every person gave yummy treats. My brother and I were focussed on the other kids, the next door, the next treat, so we didn't have great family conversation on these nights. But it was nice to all go out together, our parents waiting by the street for us to return. To be having their attention for a good part of the evening. And on to the next door. And the next.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Why am I doing this?

During a recent counselling session, I told my counsellor that I started writing about my childhood on my blog. She had only one question: Why?

The answer came quickly but surprised me. I said I was writing about my childhood because I want it to exist, I want it to be in the world. I want it to be more than shadows and sadness inside my own head. I want to shout to the world that this is what happened. Maybe show people that I have become more than what my childhood role models taught me, didn't teach me.

I've only just begun sharing, but I don't entirely know if it has been - or will be - good for me in the end. All the stories are swirling. I can feel them wanting to come out. Will they help anyone else, though? Will it help me to write it? To have others read it? Will it make any difference?

I think most people, before they die, want to feel they have made some kind of positive difference in this world. A difference to their children. A difference in their chosen career. A difference to society. A creative difference.

It's obvious to me now that I will not be making much of a difference in any kind of career or work pursuits, but I am hoping, through my relationship with my daughter and various volunteering efforts,  to make some kind of difference in the world, nonetheless.

I think the biggest difference I can hope to make is to break the cycle of sadness and abuse that runs rampant on both sides of my biological family. That certainly seems to be what I've focussed my energy on since Elliot was born and is not at all inconsequential. If I can make Elliot feel valued, respected, and loved and raise her to be a confident, loving, capable, and healthy person, that will be energy well expended. That will also be a minor miracle considering the experiences I have to draw on from my own childhood and the piss-poor parenting role models I have inherited.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

First Halloween

This Halloween is the first one that Elliot will be properly celebrating. We are going trick-or-treating on Halloween night. I can't wait to see what Elliot thinks of begging for candy!

This year, Elliot is a Frankenstein ballerina. She likes the makeup more than the Frankenstein mask, though, so I'm thinking by Wednesday night she will just be going as a ballerina.

Here's a picture of my boo in her costume taken Friday night when we got back home from the haunted Ness Islands, and there is a photo of the entire costume. It just doesn't look right, does it?

Boo!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Show me the money

On a solo vacation to Hot Springs, North Carolina, one year, I stayed at a lovely B&B run by a pair of gay guys. The B&B is situated on a small farm a short walk from the centre of Hot Springs, a sweet little town that boasts natural hot springs and fabulous restaurants and is the only town through which the Appalachian Trail runs.

One day, the guys invited me on a short hike through the surrounding woodland. I started talking about my parents during this hike, and, at one point, one of the guys told me not to feel guilty for any monetary gain I had received from my parents, who, by the way, had long been making salaries I can only dream of. Monetary gain?

A current friend of mine, an American who is married to a British guy and lives in Edinburgh, is the only person I personally know who had a worse childhood than I did. Her mother is more of a bad friend than a loving parent, and her father is a violent man who has a host of mental illnesses. Mom and dad split when my friend was young, and mom sent kid to grandma so she could party and really live it up. Mom remarried some rich dude who didn't want kid around, so they shipped her off to boarding school for a number of years. Now, rich dude is dead, and mom is loaded. She's still a bad friend and not a mom, but she dishes out tons of cash to make up for her other deficiencies. As it should be, folks. As it should be.

I'm not saying that money can buy everything. I'm saying that it can buy me.

Just recently, friend's mom has paid for friend and friend's daughter to fly to the United States for a visit and hosted them for a month in her home. Friend's mom also has recently paid for friend to take a course in Malaysia studying primates and has offered to pay for flights for a Christmas visit. That's just the beginning...

No, her mother doesn't call her. No, her mother doesn't offer the loving words and gentle reassurances that only a mother can. But she tries to make up for it in the only way she is able. It's not right, but it's something.

I'd take it in a heartbeat if I could get it.

When I was a child, my dad was dirt poor. My mother left him on his own with two kids. He was just a kid himself. I honestly couldn't imagine the struggle. He had just finished his four years in the military and moved back to Florida with his two kids, one under the age of 1 and one who was 4. My dad was working as a butcher in a meat market and going to college at night to make a better life for himself. Even with help from his mother and my mom's family, he never did finish college but he somehow got a job in a bank and worked his way up with sheer hard work and dedication. That dedication paid off handsomely for him, monetarily, but cost him other things. It cost me everything.

Dad lived with us in a house owned by his mother for awhile. At other times, he was renting crappy apartments and burning through wives faster than I can fathom. After he married his fourth and current wife, we moved into an apartment complex in Clearwater and lived there until they had their own house built in Largo. I was 10 and my brother was 14 when we moved in. I finally had my own room, but it was all so isolating living in some suburban house on a suburban cul-de-sac road. I had no friends there, no kids in the neighbourhood to play with. I had to share a room with my brother in the last apartment, but at least there were plenty of kids in the same complex to hang out with. At least there was Tampa Bay nearby, fiddler crabs and mangroves and other sea life to marvel at at low tide. In the new house, I had nicer digs, but my quality of life started to suffer. And it only got worse from there.

It's interesting to think about it now, but it seems that the more money my dad made and the bigger the pot of money there was, the less I seemed to get. My parents picked out all my clothes until I was 15. In middle school and the first couple years of high school, I was a laughingstock because of my clothes. I know my parents dressed me to their taste, pleated shorts, white socks, and white Keds, but I don't really remember what they bought me to wear to school. I only know that I was mocked for my style until I turned 16, got a job and bought my own clothes, clothes that were considerably more pricey than the ones my parents were willing to pay for.

I know that my dad bought my brother a car - he pitched in $500 after my brother saved and put up the other $500. I was offered the same deal but rejected it in favour of better clothes for myself. My parents were only offering $50 per outfit for school clothes, and I was tired of being made fun of. After I started buying my own clothes, I never got mocked for them again.

But they certainly had really nice clothes for themselves and three cartons of cigarettes a week. They certainly had brand-new cars and a maid and someone to wash their cars and cut their grass.

I had crappy clothes, a baton, pom poms, a basketball, a TV, and a radio/cassette player. All the cassettes I had were blank ones that I used to record my favourite songs from the radio. When I was 15, my dad bought me Guns N'Roses "Appetite for Destruction" and the "Thriller" album a few years before that. That was all I had.

My dad had a subscription to Playboy. I had books from the library.

My parents only ever bought me two books in my entire life: Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends" and "A Light in the Attic." I have gotten rid of so many books through years of moving around, but I still have those books and am just starting to read them to my daughter.

The only two films my parents ever took me to see were Top Gun and ET. We seldom went out to dinner, but, when we did, it was always to dad's favourite restaurant. We never got a choice.

My parents bought a bag of apples every week. That was my snack every day after school. One apple. Every day. For my entire life. No deviation. After I left home, I couldn't bear to eat an apple. Only just recently have I started eating apples again.

When I moved out of the house, my parents changed the locks and had an in-ground swimming pool and hot tub installed. They paid for it in cash. I only ever went in it two or three times. After I moved out, they started going on all kinds of vacations. While we lived at home, we only ever went to Michigan a couple of times to visit stepmom's family and one time to North Carolina for a week. The only times we ever went to a theme park or to the beach, or, indeed, even to the park, were when my stepmother would have family from Michigan down for a visit.

Christmases and birthdays weren't much better. We each got about 7 gifts for Christmas and one gift each for birthday. Christmas didn't even exist anymore after the age of 15. I remember sitting alone in the dark in my living room when I was 16, crying and staring at the lit-up tree. There wasn't even a tree anymore after that year. Nothing. And birthday ceased to exist at the age of 17 (or was it 18) when my parents took back the single wrapped gift they had gotten me because I came home an hour late. I never did find out what the gift was. What was the point of asking? Only more pain, more pain.

Love as a weapon. Cash as a cloning incentive.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Still waiting

I had a mini nervous breakdown in May that peaked near my 40th birthday. Midlife crisis, I guess, and one that is only getting better with acceptance of what my life is and what it will likely become. I'm not really any happier with my life five months on, but I have learned to accept that I alone made the choices that led to where I currently am and that I would have made very few different choices if I had it all to do over again with the knowledge I had at the time.

I called my parents sometime in April or early May after phoning my grandmother only to reach a disconnected line. I left a normal message asking if they knew what was going on, asking where my grandmother was. Noone ever called me back. In mid to late May - as my breakdown intensified - I phoned again and again all times of the morning, day and evening trying to reach them and leaving message after message on several lines, each one increasingly more desperate and teary and begging my dad to call me back. Saying that I am alone and scared, that I want to move back to the United States, that I need his help. I still have yet to hear from him.

On Father's Day, my brother was visiting dad during the two hours allotted to him on special occassions (10 am to noon) and, during that visit, told him I wanted to hear from him because I was in a bad place and wanted advice, given that he had been a single parent himself at various times throughout our childhood. He was generally creeped out by my dad's response and told me that dad just looked straight ahead the whole time and never said a word or even changed facial expression. He said it was like dad didn't even speak the same language, like what my brother said never even registered.

And here I am, still waiting for something I know will never come. I guess the key is in accepting that as well.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Keeping secrets

I have written about my parents a few times on here thoughout the years but have never before written in such detail. I've always been afraid that my parents would somehow find and read the blog posts and punish me for my insolence.

I've known for quite some time that I have been one step away from complete parental abandonment. The last time I tried to talk to my dad about my childhood, something he refuses to do, he responded by saying that he would stop talking to me if I ever brought it up again.

Fast forward at least a decade and here we are with no communication. I'm not quite sure why they aren't talking to me. I'm thinking it's one of 3 things:

1.  They found my blog and read previous unfavourable posts.
2.  They decided that since I'm safely stuck in Scotland, now would be a good time to finally detach once and for all with minimal muss or fuss.
3.  It was because of something I asked my brother to talk to my dad about after the last time my parents and I spoke. It was in January of this year after more than a year of no contact. Night after night, I couldn't sleep. I had written a letter to them letting them know that I desired no further relationship with them and why. I couldn't post the letter for some reason, so I decided to phone them. If they were nasty, I was going to just tell them on the phone. But they weren't nasty. Well, he wasn't nasty. She had a few snarky comments to make, but it went largely ok. Then time passed. One week. Two. And I became angrier and angrier the more I thought about that last phone conversation, one in which I shared details from the last couple of year of our lives - information the parents would and should have already had if they bothered to keep regularly in touch.

So, after a counselling session in which I ended up basically yelling about this phone conversation and my subsequent feelings about it, I decided that I didn't want any more similar conversations with them.

My stepmother was an easy target for my anger as she was the one who made snarky comments, but I couldn't really tell my dad that I didn't want to talk to my stepmother anymore. They come as a package deal, those two, him on one phone and her always listening in and adding a comment here or there on another. I have only very rarely had a conversation with just my dad. But I decided that I couldn't bear the two of them at once anymore, so I asked my brother to talk to my dad and tell him that I find it overwhelming to talk to the pair of them at once and that I'd prefer to speak to them individually. That was it. That's all he said. And my dad blew a gasket. And hasn't talked to me since.

Could that really be it? Could that be the reason he has decided not to have a relationship with his only daughter and his granddaughter? I guess I could understand him being angry if brother had told him that I couldn't stand stepmom and only wanted to talk to him from now on. But, really. To freak out because I asked to talk to them one at a time? It doesn't make sense.

Then again, nothing else about them makes much sense, either.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nice things

I've been feeling guilty all day at work thinking about my blog and the things I've been writing lately. After all, like my brother says, my dad could have given us up for adoption after biomom left. He didn't go that route, as don't the millions of women who go it alone after dear old dad gets up and goes, and here we all are.

To recognise my dad and stepmom for their good deeds, I will list the nice things they have done for me since I moved out of the house in 1990.

  1. Let me move back home...twice...however briefly.
  2. Take me out to a fancy dinner for my 21st birthday.
  3. Pay for the removal of a wisdom tooth when I was 21. I was a poor college student with no insurance.
  4. Transport me home from community college one night a week for one term because one of my classes let out after the buses stopped running.
  5. Pay for tuition during my time at community college and textbooks at FSU. They also gave me $200 a month when I started FSU so I wouldn't have to work but stopped that one year into it when my stepmom retired.
  6. Let me stay at their house one summer when I didn't take summer classes at FSU. The one thing I remember from that drive home with dad was that he refused to hug me when we got back to Largo and stopped at a shopping plaza that contained the bank at which he was working. Why? He said he didn't want anyone he knew or worked with to see and think he was having an affair with a young college student. Huh? It still boggles my mind, and I never got that hug.
  7. Attend my college graduation. But they didn't clap or cheer when my name was called. Complete silence. Dad later said I wouldn't have ever finished college if it weren't for him. I quickly and angrily corrected him.
  8. Pay for several dinners out during several visits home.
  9. Loan me $1,000 when my boyfriend and I moved to NYC. Dad forgave the rest of the loan after I had paid back half of it.
  10. Let me stay at their house a few times when I would visit home. The rest of the time, they wouldn't let me stay, so I'd have to get a hotel or stay at my brother's house or at my brother's office in a scary deserted industrial park. After awhile, I just stopped visiting.
  11. Come to my wedding. And dad only complained a little about the inconvenience of it all. I'm a lucky girl!
  12. Come to Tallahassee to see me one last time a couple of weeks before I moved to Scotland. My idea was to visit them for a long weekend, but they didn't go for that option as their schedule was too jampacked. So I got one night and one dinner, instead.
And the nice deeds end there. Since I moved to Scotland five years ago, they have phoned me only a dozen or so times. They have been sending cards for Christmases and birthdays, but that's about the only contact they have with me. I have phoned them a lot in the past, but they don't call back. Stepmom told me years ago that they didn't have an international phone plan so they couldn't call me but that we could certainly e-mail to keep in touch.

I'm wondering why I can manage a good international calling plan but they can't? I'm also puzzled because my brother told me that he told them how to dial me for free using his Internet? If money is the barrier, it's not adding up.  I'm also wondering why I would write long, detailed e-mails and then receive nothing in reply until weeks later when I'd get one sentence asking for photos of Elliot.

I really, honestly am not sure what they are expecting but it seems like they want me to make all the effort while they keep treating me like shit. Hm. That doesn't really seem to be working for me anymore.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Whistle while you work

Growing up, chores are a part of life for most kids. I think chores are a good way of teaching kids about responsibility and getting them involved in the daily or weekly care of the home. The completion of chores is also a good way for children to learn about taking pride in their work and allows them to earn money to buy some of the little extras they want that aren't supplied by the parents.

Though I think chores can be a positive thing for kids, I think the demands parents can make on their children can be unfair and damaging if taken to the extreme.

My story:

Whenever I tell people about the chores I had to do on a daily and weekly basis, they come away from the conversation comparing me to the same fictional character: Cinderella. I'm sure the evil stepmother in both stories aids with the comparison, but what was required from me (and my brother) was way over the top - especially considering the meagre compensation involved. I come away from the experience feeling like little more than cheap child labour, keeping in mind that my parents and I didn't have much of a relationship outside of the context of what was expected and required from me to keep them off my back. When my brother lived at home, the chores were just about split 50/50. When he moved out, all the chores became mine until I got a job after school at which time my parents hired a maid who worked one day a week for 12 years until she was let go with a note on the kitchen counter.

Daily chores:

  • Make my bed (before school)
  • Check the post and put it on the desk outside my parents' bedroom
  • Empty and clean dirty ashtrays
  • Empty coffeemaker of used grounds and put in fresh filter and grounds
  • Boil teabags and make a pitcher of sweet iced tea for my parents, if needed
  • Dry and put away dishes out of the dishwasher
  • Clean my bathroom (countertop, sink, toilet, mirror)
  • Set the table for me and TV trays for my parents for dinner
  • Wash the dinner dishes and pots/pans and clean up the kitchen after dinner
  • Brownie points were given for massaging my stepmom's feet (with lotion - cringe!)

Weekly chores (completed after school on Fridays):

  • Dust my bedroom and my brother's old bedroom
  • Clean my bathroom top to bottom (including bathtub and sweeping/mopping the floor)
  • Dust the two lounges and my parents' bedroom
  • Clean my parents' bathroom top to bottom (including shower and sweeping/mopping the floor)
  • Windex all sliding glass doors inside and out
  • Vacuum entire house
  • Clean entire kitchen (including stove/microwave and scouring sink and cleaning under cupboards as well as sweeping/mopping the floor)
  • Dustmop parquet entrance hall
  • Sweep/mop laundry room and dust off tops of washer/dryer
  • Vacuum back screened porch and dust porch table
  • Empty and sweep entire garage and sweep out area housing outside garbage bins
Weekend tasks

  • Fold and put away empty paper grocery sacks
  • Help with dinner prep if needed
  • Set the table for me and TV trays for my parents for dinner
  • Wash the dinner dishes and pots/pans and clean up the kitchen after dinner

Plus, there was the immensely exciting Spring Cleaning Bonanza every year that involved lots of cleaning of baseboards and window blinds and closet louvered doors and tons and tons of daily hovering around the edge of the kitchen offering to help and being rejected while my stepmom loudly sighed and made it clear that she was so completely overburdened and why wouldn't anyone help her? And let's not forget all the holidays when the family would gather together, the women busting their asses in the kitchen and the men making jokes about women and black people in the living room and later watching football while the women cleaned up the entire mess. I was the only child/nonparent expected to contribute to all this misogyny/general unfairness.

I could literally go on forever. But I digress.

My stepmother did all the laundry and ironed their work clothes. They both cooked dinners and made meals on the weekends. My dad did all the yardwork (but I had to sweep the driveway and sidewalk after he finished the edging). Cars were taken to a carwash. As far as I know, neither one of them did a lick of housecleaning. How much was I paid for this hard, hard graft? Three dollars a week, an amount that never increased through the years. Our maid was paid at least $30 a week for doing the same or less work, and I was paid $10 a pop for helping my neighbour with her housework sometimes, a task that required far less of me than I was doing at home.

In my house, cleaning wasn't just cleaning. It was CLEANING. Lucky for me, my stepmother was (is) an OCD clean freak who pretty much reviles me. Any fingerprint on the phone or crumb on the kitchen counter was met with scorn and derision. Any drop of water left in the kitchen sink (it has to be dried every time it is used) was met with...I'm not sure. It just didn't happen. In my house, you were scared to move. You were scared to breathe. It might leave a mark.

Floors were mopped on hands and knees with a rag, and everything was cleaned to perfection or you'd be hearing about it later. And hearing about it. And hearing about it. And maybe, just maybe, she'd grab you by the back of your neck and push your face down to the countertop so that you can better see the crumb that you missed cleaning up earlier.

Really needless to say, my brother is a packrat filthmonger, and I live in a house full of wet sinks. I hate clutter and massive filth, but a light layer of dirt is nothing to get worked up about. I've got better things to think and worry about than dust. I wonder what I'm going to require of Elliot when she reaches chore-doing age.

I'm currently of the mind that less is more.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

At the end of a hard day behind the wheel


High school graduation

It takes a lot of effort to get from the first day of kindergarten to high school graduation. Given that I was generally an overachiever who chose advanced courses, it took an above-average mix of genuine hard work and sneaky cheating to get that diploma in my hand on graduation night.

The only memories I have of school before grade 5 are these: lying on a purple and white checked towel during nap time in kindergarten (pre-K?) and getting hit on the knuckles with a ruler in the early grades by a teacher who didn't appreciate me wearing my brother's mesh football jersey to school.

In fifth grade, I was one of the school's few crossing guards and spent a good amount of time sharpening my skills as a geek, loner, and general outsider.

By the middle of junior high school, I spent most of my time by myself and had very few, if any, friends. My grades were amazing as a result of this, and I was on a good track for college-level courses in high school. In high school, I continued my habit of being thoroughly unlikeable and completely unable to fit into any one social group. I was bullied and mocked, shunned and laughed at. I may have had one or two friends at any given time, but, by the end of high school, I spent my lunches alone in the library or smoking off campus with my boyfriend.

These great grades slipped mightily during my junior year of high school, the year I got both a job and a boyfriend and spent less and less time studying. I was working a lot - up to 30 hours a week - as a checkout girl at Publix, something I would never let Elliot do while she's in school. I was also becoming more and more aware that who I was required to be by my parents was not who I actually was and that who I really was was not going to be loved or even acknowledged by them. As I became more and more who I really was, I slowly disappeared.

It seems strange to say that I can't recall even one positive exchange between my parents and me from the ages of 16 and 18. If they weren't getting onto me about how I looked or my chores, they weren't talking to me at all. We didn't eat any meals together. We didn't have any weekly or monthly family events or outings. We barely even ever laid eyes on each other. During this time, I worked more. I smoked more. I spent more time with my boyfriend. I got more and more depressed. I started to realise how I was being treated - how I had always been treated. I cried a lot. I wished I was anywhere else.

My grades sank from the 5 As and 2 Bs I had gotten every grading period my entire life to a mix of Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs, without any comment or apparent notice from teachers or parents. Even though the last two years of high school yanked my 3.8 GPA to a final 3.2 and even though I failed an entire semester of physics (3 Fs on report cards and an F grade on my final exam), I happily and proudly graduated from high school in 1990.

On graduation day and in the weeks beforehand, nothing had been said about the end of my compulsory education, and no conversation had been had about my post-high school plans. Continuing the years of no communication, my parents were mute on graduation day as I got ready to go. I had left an invitation for my parents on the dining room table, and I had given another invitation to my brother, who moved out years before. That night, as whoever it was called my name, noone clapped and noone cheered. Noone in my family showed up that night, and as I reached my favourite teacher in the handshake lineup, I grabbed a hold of her and broke down crying and saying "Noone's here for me. Noone's here."

Years later, I asked my dad why he never showed up to my graduation. In true "my dad" fashion, he said he was probably busy watching something on TV. I'm this close to crying just thinking about it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Non voyage!

The only time either of my parents ever mentioned anything about coming over here to visit was a few years ago when my stepmother talked about a cruise in May around the British Isles that was to dock in Invergordon for half a day. She asked how far away it was from our house and if we would agree to meet them at the dock and spend the half a day together. I said that would be great (half a day is better than nothing!) and kept the following May in my head throughout the winter.

Months went by and I hadn't talked to my parents, and, during a phone call with my brother, I found out the trip had been cancelled. I was a bit peeved that they thought to tell Brian that the trip had been cancelled but not me and, the next time I talked to them, I asked why they hadn't let me know. My dad was on one phone and my stepmother was on another. The three of us sitting there and my dad says he didn't know what I was talking about. That there never was any trip. A boat? Invergordon? What?

I said that mom had told me they were coming on this cruise ship that docked in Invergordon for half a day blah blah blah and stepmom just sat on that second line and never said a word while dad repeated that he had no idea what I was talking about.

Since then, there has been absolutely no mention of ever coming here. They don't even lie and say they wish they could or offer to help me travel to them. They can't even pretend they care about ever meeting their granddaughter.

They so better not be expecting a card for grandparents' day.

How to make the funnies completely unfunny

So many stories are running through my head this morning. I think I had a bad dream about my parents last night, so I'm feeling pretty down. The stories are battling for dominance. Which one should I tell this morning? Newspapers? Letter? Birthday? Grades? Graduation? Plays?

I'll just go with newspapers.

On weekdays, I didn't see my parents in the mornings before school. They would both be in their bedroom (my parents designed and had built the house I lived in from ages 10 to 18 and their ensuite bedroom was on one end of the house whilst our bedrooms were on the exact opposite end separated by two lounges, two hallways, and a kitchen) getting ready for work after downing a pot of coffee and reading the morning newspaper. On weekends, they would usually be mid-pot and mid-newspaper when I awoke, and I would stumble into their lounge to say good morning, procure the comics, and generally try to be part of a family.

On a weekly basis it was always the same and never failed to leave me feeling sad and awkward. I would walk into the lounge and say "good morning." I'm assuming they would respond with a "good morning" though I don't quite remember. If they - or one or the other - did, it was with a brief movement of the newspaper from the face but my memory is of being met with a solid wall of raised newspaper that didn't move. I would ask for the comics (god forbid me disturbing their precious newspaper to get it myself) and my stepmother would get them for me. I would lie on the floor in the same room and read them - again with no conversation from anyone. Finally, I would either leave the room filled with the same wall and the same silence or be left sitting there after they got up without a word and started their day of laundry or nail painting or bill writing or who knows what followed by lunch and sports on TV and a nap and more of who knows what.

Every day with Elliot, I stop whatever I'm doing and look her in the eye and smile and beam my good morning and give her a huge hug and kisses (if she'll let me) and ask her how she slept and whether she had any dreams and talk about what's going on for the day. On weekdays, she eats her breakfast in front of the TV and gets ready (mostly by herself) whilst I prepare lunches before we leave for nursery and work. On Wednesdays and weekends, I always involve her in plans for the day and nearly always make one or two plans just for her, things she enjoys doing and that we can do together.

I don't remember much from my childhood, but, from what I do remember (especially once my brother was older and never at home), I spent my weekends by myself listening to music, reading (a lot), throwing a basketball at the lightpost in front of the house or twirling the baton outside, or playing board games by myself in my bedroom. I was even alone at meals once my brother was out of the picture. We ate the same food at the same time, but my parents ate in front of the TV in their lounge while I sat by myself at the table in the dining area. Then I silently washed the dishes and retreated to my bedroom without any interaction or conversation once again. For years.

I guess that's probably how I ended up at age 15 having an affair with/being successfully preyed on by the 33-year-old married neighbor across the street. He was all too happy to give me attention, and he actually smiled when he would see me.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

A place of my own

My first boyfriend was an abusive alocholic who raped me once when we were living together. Good times. Good times.

I was with him for about four years off and on between the ages of 16 and 20. We lived together twice. The first time it ended while we were cohabiting, he dumped me off on my parents' doorstep in the middle of the night. The second time, my parents came to get me one afternoon after he threatened to throw me out on the streets. Understandably, they didn't want me to be with him anymore and let me move back in with them the second time on the condition that I would go to university and never again get involved with the guy.

Fair enough.

Stupid me was temporarily wooed back by the idiot, however, and my dad saw us kissing from his office window near a shopping centre. When I was confronted by my dad, it was decided that I would move out, and my parents set about finding me a place to live while I was at work. At the time, I was working in fast food and couldn't afford much. What my parents found me wasn't much, either: a converted front porch with sloping floors, indoor/outdoor carpeting, no heat, no air conditioning, no locks on the windows, and a dodgy lock on the only door to the place. I moved in that week.

Things were OK there even though the conditions were quite crappy. I still dated the guy for awhile, but he treated me well, I'm guessing because I had my own place and relied on him for nothing. He didn't have any power over me anymore. I ended up dumping him not long after I got my own place, though. I guess I had finally decided for myself that I deserved better than what he had to offer. But not long after I stopped seeing him, I was home alone and it was the middle of the night and I heard an unfamiliar male voice outside the open window calling my name:

Julie. Get dressed and come outside.

I turned off the loud music and yelled out to the darkness asking the person who he was and what did he want, threatening with lies that I had a gun and would certainly use it. My handbag came flying in through the open window and landed on my bed. Whoever it was had been in my house, had maybe stood right behind me. I didn't have a phone. I was in my pajamas. I was afraid to run out of the apartment. I was afraid to stay there. I was afraid of some disembodied voice, what it might belong to and what its owner was capable of doing.

Eventually, the guy parted the curtains so I could see his face. He wanted to know if I really wanted him to go away. I yelled "yes" and he was gone. I turned off all the lights and crawled around on the floor with a knife. I got on my clothes. I shut the open windows and rifled through my handbag. Whoever it was had been in my house and gone back out with my handbag, looked at my ID and found out my name. He threw it back. He didn't take a thing. I was terrified.

The next day, I phoned my dad from a nearby payphone and told him the story. I don't know exactly what I was hoping for from him or what he could have done. But his response was as brief and final as it was strange:

"I have to go. I'm in the middle of dinner."

The midnight stranger made a reappearance some months later but my dad was never to hear of it. What would be the point, after all, when it was obvious he had more pressing things on his mind.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Home movies

Now that I'm an orphan, I'm going to be telling all the stories that I remember most vividly from my childhood and beyond, stories that play through my head like unwanted home videos I am forced to watch again and again, stories whose morals are that bad things happen to children who are born defective and that children who are born defective don't deserve good things from the people who are supposed to love them the most.

A friend of mine had her first child more than a year ago. This friend comes from a truly amazing family that has always had all the time in the world for her, is always interested in and supportive of her endeavours, and gives her all the unconditional love and attention that I desperately crave from my own family. I went with her one weekend to visit her family many years ago (such a warm and accepting and lovely family!) and was sad the entire visit and ended up spending at least half of it chain smoking in her front garden and thinking about my own parents who are so unlike hers, mourning for the family that I wanted and saw before me but never had and didn't feel worthy of.

Recently, this friend wrote on her blog that having her own child and realising all the hardships that come with the job has made her appreciate her parents all the more for the job they did with her and that she hopes she can be  even half the parent to her own child that they were (and are!) to her.

I feel quite differently, of course. From the time Elliot was born, I have grown more and more sad about my own parents and  my own childhood  and how I was always and am still treated by my family. I know how much I love Elliot and how her best interests are forefront in every decision I make. I know how much time I devote to her, how I take an interest in her personality and interests, how we talk and joke and sing and dance and laugh, how I bring her little surprises to show her that I love her, how I want her to know me as a person as much as a parent, how I never want her to feel alone.

If anything, having a child, and feeling the intense love I feel for her, a love that rivals no other I've ever known, makes me realise exactly what my father doesn't feel toward me. I asked him once what he thinks of me, and he hung up the phone on me and didn't talk to me for months. I think a normal person would find this behaviour to be completely bizarre, maladjusted to say the least. But I'm fucked up, and that's just dad.