She asked, “is that from a song, or the name of one?” I smiled and only nodded, but when I said it, I was lost in thought. Confused by my lack of response, she ventured off in the other room, allowing me to be alone with my previous thoughts. There was something to be said for secrecy.
When I was a child, my best friend and I always seemed to have a secret to tell. We made a game out of whispering something in the others ear and then swearing that to secrecy as if someone’s life depended on it. Our pinkies crossed, we spit in our palms and shook as we saw the boys do. There, now we have a solid promise with double insurance.
What on earth did a couple of 8 year old little girls have to keep so private? I guess it was the first act of many that would prove the other trustworthy. It wasn’t that those secrets were so deadly, offensive or of trouble, but there was something in the process of swearing to God, the famous pinky promise and the disgusting exchange of slimy palms that just made it all so pensive.
Did we ever go back on our word? We shared a lot of those so called secrets over the years and I don’t recall any repercussions like my hand falling off, or my skin peeling away and we are still friends to this day, so I guess we shall never know, but can safely assume we did abide by that strict code.
I flash forward back to this present day and forget about the lyrics to that old song as I retrace those memories and wonder where they came from. What ignited the buried remembrances and why? Again I murmured under my breath this time, dirty little secrets, hoping to find the thread and rip it out.
My mind took control and before I knew it, together we were recapturing or more like trapping, the images that were replaying in my head. What do you want, I asked as if they had the ability to answer, but I waited nonetheless. No answer came and I was forced to watch what felt like a movie of my life playing only I wasn’t the star. Suddenly it had become clear what the fuck was going on.
I’ve lived a life this long and the story is so far from over yet for all this time, I have not been the leading lady starring in my own life. I got it, the message was clear. I am beginning to feel the cuffs are loosening, the chains are breaking and the bondage is slowly being freed…
Married at 18, 2 kids by 19, divorced by 21, remarried by 26, 1 more kid by 29, fading into the darkness by 33 and by 41, she was dead. So what happened to this lady during those in between years? Her death, though shocking and painful, was not too mysterious, yet a heart wrenching loss to those 3 children. Could she have known the ramifications that leaving them would hover over them for the rest of their lives? Her first 2 born already suffered from abandonment from their father leaving when they were toddlers and now there was new fuel added to the fire. Her youngest child would never fully heal from the shock and all of them would be left with this poor excuse, version of a worthless father. Well, technically a step-monster to the older ones and short-changed, selective, convenient, when it worked for him, weak father to his one and only blood offspring.
As life would have it, the abuse happening to her would later manifest into PTSD. She was a newly 13 year old girl, trying to cope with life the best she could when her once devoted, doting, loving and proud mom that she had known was beginning to fade. Shortly after marrying this man and the birth of her baby brother, mom began drinking, heavily, and daily as anger was ranging inside her. She remembers every detail of what mattered to her as she was growing up, but then developed amnesia for the parts that created her traumatized soul. What the fuck was happening? She couldn’t stop her world from spiraling down and the more she tried the worse it became.
This broken framework of a family would move to a whole new town, several hours from the only place she had ever called home. She now had to live in a town so small they only had one stoplight. Her anger intensified, but it had been serving her. It’s what kept her safe and from falling apart inside. It fueled her so others would perceive her as confident. What they didn’t know was it kept them at a distance, far enough so they wouldn’t learn her secrets. No one else lived this way she couldn’t imagine. This dark place where her mom drank herself into oblivion every night so she wouldn’t have to feel, could hide from the truth of her torment and his cruel, viscous ways. Take her into the land where no one spoke of the dismissals and discarding she experienced so he could continue his sorted affairs, blaming her for his indiscretions. This once beautiful, vivacious, confident, fun loving woman, reduced to nothingness. Stripped of her self worth and told of her undervalued existence. This replacement father wasn’t just an asshole, he was a fucking asshole and I had wished for so long that he would die.
She started maturing into a young, pretty teen and by 15 she had her first boyfriend. Really he was the excuse that got her out of her crazy ass house on a Friday night. She had convinced herself she was in love with this boy, as much as 2 teenagers could be, but they bickered more than they got along. Could her hostility have been the cause for that? She wondered today. The asshole, as she so fondly referred to him as now, had started snooping around in her room when she wasn’t home. She found this out when her mom brought the contents of her diary up in a private conversation, asking about her losing her virginity. She was fuming, seeing red and wanted to kill him, but her mom was gracious and kind about it. Now and then that loving, adoring mom would surface, in a semi sober state. Terrified her only daughter might end up a teen mom too, but was satisfied to know the 2 of them were “safe”. Humiliated and pissed beyond measure, she broke up with the boy she “loved”, leaving him confused and hurt, but she didn’t care, much.
Soon after, the leering was becoming more intense and uncomfortable to the point that she loathed having to even go to the kitchen for a snack or even water for fear of him being in the living room where she would have to pass through. Usually no words were exchanged, only a slithering, slimy look that made her shiver with ice through her veins and blood in her eyes. Sickened by the very sight of him, she found opportunities to be gone more than she was home. One day she came home from school to find a woman in the kitchen, a stranger to her. Thinking nothing of her until mom came home and asked if she saw this person. A few months later, these parents would separate for what ended up being 1 1/2 years this time. Another discard, the fond, control game he played. By this point she had deemed them both crazy and she wanted no part of their insanity. She declared to them she had a job, a car, friends, school and a life, finally and would not be moving. She further informed them that she knew they would reconcile and the fuck if she would turn her life upside down for them ever again and she didn’t.
She had chosen the worse of the 2 evils to remain in this God forsaken town that had grown on her. Convincing herself this was temporary and short term. He works a swing shift so she would rarely have to experience the abuse and inappropriateness of his behaviors. She could handle this. She had toughened up more than ever. Her life depended upon it. Less than a year went by and they proved her right when they bought their next home on the other side of town, big enough for us all to have our own rooms. It was 2 months before her graduation and she’d had enough. She was done. Dramatic exit scene. Her first experience with her newly developed dissociative behavior. A screaming match with her mom, explosive words of I hate you! Followed up with shaming accusations of you’re weak, why can’t you just quit drinking?! A quick packing of her things and she was gone. There may have been more expletives, but she was tapped out, checked out, already gone. She left behind an older brother whom she loved and wondered why he stayed after graduating the year before and her baby brother whom she adored and worried so over, but she feared to stay even though she was terrified to leave, but what choice did she have? This would start her pattern for the rest of her life.
The next 5 years would deliver her into the early makings of her first real, adult relationship with the man she eventually would marry and have 3 sons with. She never went back to their home, not to live, but now and then to see her growing up little brother and even her mom. She avoided interactions with her first abuser as much as possible. She often wondered if her mom ever knew, had any inclinations or concern for her only daughter’s well being, but then how could she as she was drowning deeper and deeper in her alcoholism. That was a word she had learned and identified with, qualifying her mom as one. Anger was still very much alive within her, seething at the core of her being. It was just showing up as less of a frequent visitor. As those years rolled on, her mom sank further into depression and into her bottles, hiding them more and better, so she thought. She came around less and less trying to normalize her own life, whatever that meant. It mortified her to remember this once shining light of a lady who was reduced to her darkness of hell. She blamed him for all of it. Mom’s shame, her pain and our abuse and neglect.
It was nearly the weekend and her mom called, wanting to visit her now grown, young, adult children and their significant partners. We lived close by one another and just short of flipping a coin, she surrendered and said mom could stay with us for the weekend. We all got together for a family dinner, just the 4 of us and mom. By Monday morning everyone had work to get to including mom. She needed to “get going” she told her. Reluctantly, they said goodbye, unbeknownst to any of them it would be the final time they would see her sad, sweet face. It had been a surprisingly pleasant weekend. She chalked that up to his absence. We parted ways, as we all went off in our separate directions to live our own lives now.
A week went by and it was 5 am on a Saturday. She was at work when she got the call. His voice on the other end, so blunt and cold, your mother was in an accident, she didn’t make it. She sank to the ground, the corded phone still in her hand as the tears sprung to her eyes and ran down her cheeks. All she could repeatedly ask him was, “was she drinking?” His answer never came, but in her heart, she knew. She sat there, numb, not knowing what to do, needing to do something, but what? Last week she had a mom. A mom she had forgiven after all those years of despising what she considered her weakness. A mom who loved her with all she had, but had none to give herself. A mom who she accused of neglecting her for some man who abused her, them, all of us. A mom who deserved to live because she had so much to live for, but she never knew any of it. A mom that was loved even though she couldn’t love herself. She will forever wonder… Where had she gone?