Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cap and Gowns

It's been a century since I last wrote on this thing.  Lots of computer problems, work schedules and old lady exhaustion.  Forgive me.

So, what's happening now.  My mom is back in the nursing home and has begun to eat again, a very good sign.  They drag her, kicking and screaming, to PT (Pain and Torture...uh...Physical Therapy) and make her lift her swollen, rust red legs, bend her wobbly knees, and hit a balloon back to the therapist.  Her arms have gone from coal black to purple and red, which they tell me is an improvement.  Her skin no longer looks like greasy plastic wrap.  She gets lots of praise, which she enjoys immensely.  Her mind is severely affected by the low oxygen blood saturation; sometimes she knows me, sometimes she doesn't.  The nurses and staff adore her, which is also a very good thing, and she can speak to me for five minutes at a time before she runs out of breath.  One day she's very depressed, the next deliriously happy.  She's happiest when she can just lie in bed and watch basketball.  In spite of her having very little short term memory, she still knows everything about all the basketball players.  That's a big comfort to me.

We've been very busy at the restaurant; everybody has been given gigantic schedules and even the maniacs who work six days a week can't take it anymore!  But graduations are finally at an end so it should slow down some.  I went for two six day stints in a row and felt myself starting to go into one of my crashes so gave away two shifts this week, which gives me four days off in a row to regain my strength and hopefully NOT crash.  I slept the first two days for the most part.  Today, I cleaned the house from top to bottom and baked bread.  Baking relaxes me. 

I saw beautiful, beautiful things these past two weeks.  Tiny kindergarten graduates in their teeny tiny cap and gowns, glowing as they gobble macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers and french fries, fringe swinging from their lopsided caps.  Young middle school graduates, shyly proud and subtly nervous about the change ahead, high school graduates champing at the bit to be out and off to college, puffy-chested with the swell of adulthood.  I grin and congratulate, telling them, "You've spent all this time preparing your future.  Now go get it."  I watch the old timers smile their tissue paper smiles, reminiscing and happy to see the new generation taking the reins for whatever lies ahead.  So much promise, so much hope; even in the exhausting job of waiting tables, one becomes almost drunk with it.  I love when a person's batteries of hope are almost drained, only to be filled up again by a parade of shining faces.  Whatever they faced to get to where they are now, is in the past.  They'll drag along baggage, stumble and fumble and fuck up, but they'll keep going.  The comforting thought is that so many of them will make it.  They'll go on to the next level, they'll graduate, or they'll find a new path and walk it for a time.  But they'll all keep walking.  Even if they hit road blocks, fall down and decide to lay there for a long time, they'll eventually get up again.  Because they have these moments to draw on.  These shining moments to remember.  They will always have them, deep inside, where they can draw on when times get rough.  All they have to do is access the golden things.  Oh, it's been an exhausting, maddening, miraculously beautiful two weeks, my friends.  All those faces.  Golden moments for me to draw on for the rest of my life.  Take care.

Love, R

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Water Skitters

This has been an eventful month.  My mom's still alive but can't really move.  She has little idea of what's going on but seems relatively happy with all the attention she's getting, so that's good, I guess.  A close friend's relative fell off the wagon and went on a drug-crazed crime spree.  They caught him a few days ago; he's now incarcerated and thankfully no longer able to harm others.  Another friend's close to losing everything, due to a loved one's addictive behavior.  A pal of one of my relatives got drunk and bit someone at a bar.  The attack was so savage, the victim will need surgery to repair his bicep.  My relative thought that was a hoot.  He also got a kick out of a young woman stumbling into the local police station, blood streaming from between her legs, to report a rape.  The accused was a drinking buddy of the redneck cops, and they laughed her out of the station.  He thought that was hilarious as well.  My cousin Lydie's daughter had a friend who was murdered over the weekend by an ex-boyfriend.  He shot her then killed himself.  The girl's father found the bodies.

As I said, an eventful month, which isn't quite half over yet.

All this horror got me to thinking.  We all read of tragic events, watch terrible things unfold on the nightly news, experience terrible things ourselves.  We witness the devastation when friends go through trauma and to a certain extent, we feel the pain of all of it.  But for the most part, tragedy close to home has a far greater sting.  We feel bad for strangers we hear about but it doesn't tear us up; not like a loved one or ourselves suffering.  That's probably a survival mechanism; thousands of years of evolution working to keep us sane.

When I get overwhelmed emotionally, I used to do a number of horrific things to dispel the tension.  When it's me personally, I have a tendency to retreat, hide somewhere where no one can witness my fragility.  That's about the extent of my self-destructive behavior nowadays.  When I was younger, it was a much different story.  I've been on the verge of fainting and still kept a smile on my face.  I've chewed holes in the inside of my cheek to keep from screaming, clawed my arms and back to gory ribbons in a frantic attempt to release the emotional pressure, slapped my own face until it was black and blue.  I picked fights with bullies and relished the joy of beating and being beaten to a pulp.  That's what insecurity addicts do when they've lost control, when they're under the influence of their drug of choice: overwhelming self-hatred.  We turn to drugs, sex, violence, self-destruction, even religion to find release.  Insecurity addicts will rush around like water skitters on the surface of a pond, zipping and zagging in seemingly random panic as they try to escape themselves.  Until I recognized that my behavior itself was an addiction, I flopped around in wallowing misery and repeated bad relationships.  I grew so used to things being so bad all the time that cynicism just took over my brain.  Everything was bad because that's how it was.  That was life.  More specifically, that was my life.  Men were pigs, women were backstabbing whiners and repulsive victims, old people were kind because they were too weak to be bullies anymore.  Even children were mean.  I'd experienced it all personally, and my own limited view colored everything I saw.  Life was pain.  Glean what little you could from it until you could finally check out and die.  Just keep slogging along in your manure pile until God let you drop dead.  That was how I thought and felt for years.  Do what you can to help your kids have a better life, make sure to let them know they're loved and precious, shelter them as much as possible from reality.  Hope against hope that they'll turn out to be the very very rare: kind and gracious human beings.

But something happened to my obviously fucked up thought patterns.  I was in a terrible marriage for fourteen years to a highly intelligent but quite sadistic man.  Slowly I let him beat me down emotionally until I was little more than a quivering jelly with moments of half-assed revolt against his tyranny.  Outwardly, I was tough and funny.  Inwardly, I obeyed him and loathed myself.

When my daughter tried to commit suicide, when my son turned to drugs, I was forced out of my own self-absorbed behavior.  Ironically, insecurity makes you very self-absorbed.  I'm a sack of shit, I'm a sack of shit, God, I'm repulsive, I hate myself, I wish I'd die already, me, me, me, I, I, I.  I didn't want to see the obvious flaws in myself, either.  Nobody wants to be told they're self-absorbed when they think they're being selfless.  I truly believed I was being selfless, even noble.  I really did love my children more than anything.  I truly did believe I was making their lives much better than my childhood had been.  And to a certain degree, I'd accomplished that.  Their dad was a jerk, but he was educated, working toward a higher goal, dedicated to bettering himself.  That was a good role model, so I thought, but I wasn't seeing clearly.  I was still seeing through the shit-colored glasses of my childhood.  The kids weren't beaten or raped, molested or brutalized, sure, but they were abused nonetheless. 

An abused-in-the-past parent has little idea of what is needed to promote a healthy environment for their own kids.  The logical part of our brains recognizes what to do but the emotional part flounders.  It's like learning a new language.  You suck at first, but keep at it and you'll get there, slowly but surely.  My kids' misery opened my eyes at last and through the ensuing years, we all learned a thing or two about ourselves.  I know now that it's okay to have had a terrible past but not okay to endure a terrible present.  It takes a lot of work to heal yourself.  A lot of work.  Like any other addiction, you're fighting against yourself to stop doing something destructive that you love and don't want to stop doing.  It doesn't matter that your addiction is killing you.  You hate yourself anyway so who gives a fuck?  At least I'll go out dramatically and very, very badly.  Good.  I deserve it.  Stupid bitch.  That's the mentality I began with.  I never did drugs or drank excessively but my patterns were killing me.  And I was glad.  Events like what's happened this month would have crippled me in the way a quadriplegic would be crippled by a broken leg.  Gangrene would have simply set in to an already incapacitated psyche.  But I've worked on myself these past ten years.  I'm still an insecurity addict.  I always will be.  There will always be a part of me that longs to slide back into that dark hole I clawed myself out of.  But I love this person I've become, this person I have always been, just hidden.  I'm not willing to let myself indulge in misery anymore.  I'll get knocked down, flattened by events, exhausted by sadness and tragedy in the future.  But I'll get up again.  Because I want to.  I want to be what I am now even more than I want to be the tragic figure of the past.  I am using my experiences to help others now.  I have become a force for good.  A goofy, fucked up, stumbling-over-my-own-feet force for good.  Something to be ludicrously proud of.  I'm a good person. 

Good luck with all the hard balls Life throws at you, my friends.  Hang in there.  Look in the mirror and find the sweet kid who's hiding behind your eyes.  Treasure them even if you can't treasure yourself.  Believe in the impossible miracle of self love.  Believe it even when you sneer at the very thought of anything so stupidly impossible.  As Rogers & Hammerstein would sing, impossible things are happening every day.
Love, R    

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Seven and Counting

My mom is...better.

Forty-eight hours ago, my mother had been given last rites and all the doctors were waiting for her to simply stop breathing.  I was discussing with my cousin plans for the coming funeral, weeping copiously and struggling with guilt over the simultaneous wave of relief that it was finally over.

Now she's better.

We are an amazing family.  Nuts and maniacs and galloping addicts but by God, we're hard to kill.  I went through ten years of debilitating illness and almost died on the table during the hysterectomy.  My aunt lived with pancreatic cancer for seven years with no treatment whatsoever.  She was in her nineties when diagnosed and refused any treatment.  Called the lump in her body "the little unwelcome guest."  My diabetic father, when he was seventy-eight, passed out at the wheel of his tiny Toyota and got broadsided by a gigantic SUV going seventy-two miles an hour.  It hit on the driver's side.  The accident broke Dad's back, neck, shoulder, arm, seven ribs and his leg, and he developed five pulmonary emboli in his lungs due to an unknown allergy to Hepron.  He's fine. 

But Mom takes the cake.  This is now the seventh time the doctors have told us to say goodbye, this is it, she's done for, and she's proven them wrong.  Even I had begun to believe that this was it.  The last three times were the worst.  Four years ago, an operation to put stents in her heart tore the artery in her leg wide open.  They had to give my five-foot-nothing teeny weeny mother ten units of blood.  The room looked like it "had been hosed down with blood" the nurse practitioner told me.  I saw when it started bleeding again; the bed was soaked in moments.  She was in the hospital for over a month but survived.  Then, right before we put her in the nursing home, before she'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she had forgotten how to eat, walk and breathe.  They told us she had maybe a month at the home, then she'd be gone.  That was two years ago.

And then this latest foray into Death's Doorway.  As I've written before, you all know about her mood swings and repugnant revenge scenarios as the Alzheimer's shook her mind loose from sanity.  She went into the hospital with double pneumonia.  She wasn't responding to the antibiotics and her heart went into A-fib.  I talked to a nurse friend of mine and she described A-fib as "a can of quiet worms that suddenly go nuts and wiggle all over the place uncontrolled."  Rather disturbing description. Mom hasn't been able to talk for almost two weeks because the oxygen saturation level in her blood was so low, it dropped to lethal levels when she tried to speak.  Late yesterday, I heard her garbled voice for about sixty seconds.  This morning, we talked for five breathy minutes.  She told me she felt better than she has in months.  She also told me that my brother Frank had come to visit and was such a good boy.  Frank isn't there, hasn't been there the whole time.  He lives out of state.  But she seemed chipper. 

I feel a bit like Tom Cruise's character in the movie Magnolia, when he sits by his unworthy father's deathbed and glares for a few defiant moments before becoming a sobbing basket case.  As much as a person wants to hate their parents, as much as they actually DO hate their parents, there's also that kid who doesn't want ma and pa to kick off.  Just a fact of life.  It makes me think about something I figured out about my father years ago. 

Dad has a very hard time at Christmas.  He goes into these black sob modes, actually wailing and gnashing his teeth, but the cause is a strange one.  He misses Ian, my beloved brother who was killed in the motorcycle accident forty years ago now.  If you've read my memoir FREAK, you know exactly how horrible Dad was to Ian.  He beat the shit out of him all the time and told him he was the son of a rapist (a man raped Mom on a blind date when she was a teenager).  So for years, we all wondered what the hell Dad was talking about during his yuletide rants.  "Ian was the best friend I ever had!"  "Nobody understood me like that boy."  "We loved each other.  I was closer to him than anybody else in the world.  He was wonderful, just wonderful."  This is the kind of fantasy that pours out of my father's mouth between Thanksgiving and New Year's. 

Then I figured it out.  Dad's very smug about his own sadistic past.  He knows what a monster he is and he knows exactly how terrible he truly was.  But he also knows he has the option to apologize.  He never will, but he knows he has the option.  With Ian dead, that option's gone forever.  He blew his chance.  I think that's why he freaks out every Christmas. 

In us abused basket cases, maybe we too are waiting for that shiny wrapped gift of apology.  I know I've fantasized over the years, especially when I was a teenager, that my parents would suddenly become decent human beings and beg my forgiveness.  I didn't even need the drama of tears and bent knee; I'd have been perfectly, gloriously content with "sorry I fucked you, sweetheart.  Don't know what I was thinking" or "I really did you wrong calling you an incestuous slut.  I'm sorry I broke your finger that time."  The little kid in all of us wants the fairy tale of parental love and sturdiness, something strong and firm and kind to cling to.  It's tough enough just growing up without the Manson family as your foundation. 

So I did something strange tonight.  I stood in front of the mirror and put my palm against the glass.  Hand to hand, we looked at each other, my reflection and me.  I saw the shadows that shouldn't have been forced into those eyes.  I saw the humor and the good spirit, thanks to my daily exercises of self love.  It's a gift that I can see those at long last.  I also see the lonely longing, the brutalized kid peeping out, scared but hopeful for words that will never come from our parents.  So I said them.

"I'm sorry, baby.  I'm sorry you went through that.  I'm sorry there's still so much rage and pain and insecurity inside of you.  I'm sorry that in times of stress like these, you have to keep such a tight rein on the monster within.  I know you want to let it out.  I know how good it would feel to let it out.  So thank you for being brave.  Thank you for staying such a good person.  I'm here for you.  I'm your mother, your father, your sister and your brother.  I'm your friend.  I'm your family.  I will never leave you and I will always love you.  Together we'll keep on working toward accepting the past and refusing to let it eat us alive anymore.  It'll get bites in, but it'll never chew us up and shit us out again."

A strange litany to babble to myself in a bathroom mirror, but a profound one as well.  The insecurity addict in me has been hard at work these past two weeks, trying its damnedest to drag me back down into that rut I crawled out of.  I've fallen backwards into it so many times, sinking into that oh-so-familiar pit of misery and self-loathing, bad company and worse decisions.  But I stayed out of it this time.  Because I meant those words I said to myself.  I am here for me.  Always.  May you all find a champion in yourself, for yourself, and forever.  There's a steady war inside of us that nobody can afford to lose and so many of us do.  I've lost many, many battles, done things I'm embarrassed and ashamed of, been a coward, a loser and a repulsive whiner.  But that's not all I've been.  I've also been a hero, a friend, a good mother and a brave soul.  We're always changing.  There's always hope, defeat, sorrow, joy and victory.  So lighten up when you find yourself hating that fucker in the mirror.  Give them a break.  Love them.  You can do it.  Believe even when it's impossible.  You can do it.

Take care.

Love, R

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dropping the Meat Suit

I love and cherish life, so it's the strangest feeling in the world to want your own mother to die.  My mom's been in the hospital for a week with pneumonia, and is not responding to the antibiotics as quickly as they'd hoped.  She's seventy-nine, almost eighty years old, can't walk, has advanced Alzheimer's, rheumatoid arthritis, congestive heart failure (among other things), and has absolutely no quality of life whatsoever.  Her skin is tissue thin and so sensitive, creases in her clothing tear it.  And she's becoming really mean. 

A nurse told me that in Alzheimer's, a patient usually exhibits one or two personality changes as the disease progresses: childlike infantile or hostile aggressor.  Mom is the latter.  She invents the most repulsive, vicious revenge scenarios and fantasies I've ever heard of; strange and ghastly tortures to do to all sorts of private anatomical parts, threatening other residents in the nursing home.  She dreams of grinding a little old lady's hand up in a meat grinder then making her eat it on toast...really terrible stuff.  At first, these fantasies were sporadic and easy to steer her away from.  For the last few months, they've become all she can talk about.  Her oxygen saturation count is very low and her poor brain is simply fried from all the trauma.  The doctor told me, when she was first diagnosed, that the disease had progressed so rapidly because it got a good foothold in a brain that was damaged to begin with.  Between the cluster strokes she's been having for a decade and the years of drinking and pill-popping before that, her brain was "like damp peeling wallpaper in an abandoned house.  Black mold spread like wildfire.  That's what the Alzheimer's is doing."  Those were the doctor's words way back when.  Medication has helped her learn how to eat again but she still has a problem remembering to breathe.  Maybe that's how the pneumonia set in.

Mom doesn't know she has Alzheimer's.  We decided not to tell her, since that and paralysis have always been her two worst fears.  But she knows her mind is going.  She can feel it.  We skitter and dance around the subject.  I ask if she's doing her breathing exercises and she says "yes," then goes on to describe how she'd like to tie the therapist to a barbecue spit until he pops in his own juices.  That is, when she could talk.  She hasn't spoken for two days now.  They've got her sedated because she panics when she's awake.

So I want her to die.  I want her to just go to sleep and not wake up.  I pray for my beloved dead brother Ian to come and get her, for Charlie, her boyfriend of twenty-six years, to spin her onto the dance floor and out of that train wreck of a body.  I don't want her to stay in it anymore.  I want her to leave.  I keep thinking about the doctor's prayer for the crazy preacher in the HBO series Deadwood.  How the once nice old holy man is robbed of his senses and control over his body until everybody wishes he were dead.  That's how I feel about Mom.  I wish she could slide out of that raggedy meat suit she's in right now and be free.  And selfishly, I want to be free of it as well.  It's hard to witness.  I watched her decline every day for the four years I took care of her in Illinois until she became too much for one layman caregiver.  I just want her to stop suffering and I want to stop watching her suffer.  I heard a segment on NPR this morning about a woman who cared for her mother for years before she died.  They asked people to call in with their caregiver stories and I started bawling because they were all so familiar.  Such a terrible familial link of exhaustion, misery and broken-hearted love. 

So I tip my hat to all the brave souls out there, struggling every day with their infirm loved ones.  Take the time, find a moment, hide in the corner and just...breathe.  Love you all.  Hang in there.

Love, R

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Drift of Petals

As many of you already know, my mom's in the hospital with pneumonia and a low oxygen/hemoglobin count.  Since they gave her blood, the hemoglobin seems to be a lot better but the oxygen count is still around eighty and the pneumonia is still gurgling away in her lungs.  I had a rage meltdown, of which I wrote about in my last post.  Yesterday at work, I simply freaked out at the end of my shift and they let me leave half an hour early.  I burst into embarrassed, furious and heartsick tears as soon as I hit the pavement outside and began to walk home. 

A series of events compiled to get me to this state, most but not all of them associated with my mom hovering at death's door yet again.  She's a "tough old bird," as my boyfriend and daughter say, and I agree.  Mom has been dangerously ill so many times, the doctors shake their heads over the fact that she's still breathing.  I always tell people we get sick but we're impossible to kill.  But she's suffering and I certainly don't want anybody to suffer needlessly like that. 

The most unexpected thing that happened after I heard the news of her hospitalization was my brother Frank calling me.  I haven't spoken to him in over a year and a half.  I'd never given him my number; he got it off Mom's phone the last time he visited her.  He also got a current photo of me from her room.  That's what he wanted to talk about.  After starting the conversation saying he "didn't want to call Mom in case she croaked on the fucking phone" while he spoke to her, he launched right into how great I look now.  This is the brother I am almost certain molested me with his high school buddies when I was nine.  The traumatic amnesia, which I've worked years on to break through, is still patchy.  Last time I saw Frank, I was a comfortable and safe-feeling butterball.  Frank is repulsed by heavy women.  I've lost a lot of weight since then.  He wanted to know how much I'd lost, am I dating anybody, made a comment about how attractive I am, and started to reminisce about one of the old gang banger pals.  I mumbled something about books to get him off the subject of my sexy new bod (shudder) and we hung up half an hour later.  Afterward, I beat myself up for speaking to him at all, for not yelling at him, for a hundred and one things I shoulda coulda woulda done if I wasn't such an insecure wretch.  I felt dirty, cowardly, repulsive and weak.  My insecurity addiction reared up and started gnawing on me.  I immediately began damage control, trying to ward off the tsunami of self hatred and disgust that was drowning me.  That's why I lost it at work.  That's why I started bawling the moment I hit fresh air and sunshine.

Moments of beauty happen at such times.  One usually doesn't notice because every thing's blurry with tears and burbling misery, but they do happen, whether we notice them or not.  I was completely wrapped up in death scenarios involving my mom and almost missed this one.  But a drift of scent hit me and I looked up, startled out of myself.  Directly in front of me stood a fence, running the length of a manicured lawn and almost groaning with the weight of dozens of roses.  It was windy, and the blooms were bobbing and grinning in the breeze, soaking up the sunshine and almost smug in their beauty.  In spite of my stubborn determination to hang onto my despondency, the sight and scent of those roses was soothing.  I wandered over to one huge bush, resplendent in girly pink, and buried my nose in a blossom.  A dusting of pollen stuck, and I grinned as it tickled.  It was a flirty, fragrant moment.  I started to walk away, still sad but grateful for such a lovely distraction.

"Would you like some roses?"

It was a woman's voice, carried on the wind, and I turned around.  A lady had come out of the house and was grinning at me.  "Oh, no, no, thank you," I said.  "They're all so beautiful."  A rather inane comment but sincere, and I waved at her gorgeous flowers. 

"Let me cut you some roses," she said, insistent.  "I see you walking and you always stop to look.  That one was planted by my mother fourteen years ago.  She died eight years ago, and every time it blooms, I see her smile.  She'd like you to have some roses.  I'm going to cut some for you."  And she hurried back inside.

I stood there gawking, looking at the biggest rose bush nodding at me, its leaves and scent holding me captive as much as the words of the kind stranger who wanted to share.  She came out with a big sheet of aluminum foil, wet paper towels and a pair of scissors.  She cut a bouquet that laid like an infant in the crook of my arm, nestled in damp towel and shiny foil backdrop.  I stood there mute, struggling with tears of a different sort, and watched as she walked over and cut one perfect white peony to lay on top of the pink splendor.  "There," she said, satisfied.  "You have made my day."

I had made her day.

I thanked her and turned away, staring at the bouquet of her mother's flowers, crying all over them as I walked.  The teardrops ran down into the nautilus shell centers and I just started to laugh.  It was overwhelming, this unbelievable gift at such an unbelievable moment, from an unbelievable woman whose name I didn't even know.  Sure, there's shit and terrible things in the world; ugly things that cast greasy shadows, worming their black-mold destruction down deep, where we think it can never be cleaned out.  That shit blinds us to anything good.  It lies to us that there is nothing else in our existence but it.  Anywhere.  And it lies very convincingly.  I've believed that fucker for decades.  But if you step outside of yourself and let a drift of petals come your way, or a ray of sunshine, or an unexpected smile, you can begin to see the truth.  The truth that there are people like the rose cutter all over, that there are gem like moments that sparkle and sweep away shadows, and that they are happening far more than the gloppy black stuff.  Scrape the crusty scum of a lifetime off your glasses and you'll begin to see clearly.  Life is beautiful, even in the midst of chaos and horror.  Hang in there, work on your emotional eyesight, and enjoy the soft warmth of goodness when you finally see it.  There's a whole world of it out there, just waiting to be noticed.  Good luck, fair weather, and all the best in the world to you, my friends.  Take care.

Love, R  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Moo Foo Slut Pappy

I am enraged right now.  Probably not the best time to write on the blog or, perhaps the perfect time.

My mom's in the hospital.  She'll be eighty next month and has had health problems since I've known her.  At the moment, she's laid up with pneumonia and dangerously low hemoglobin and oxygen counts.  They've pumped two units of blood into her five foot nothing frame and she can't talk on the phone because her oxygen goes even lower when she tries to speak.  For anybody who'd read Freak, you know she wasn't the best of mothers at the best of times, but these health problems, although exacerbated by her own addictions to alcohol and pills, are caused in no small part by my dad.  My mutherfucking, slut fucker father.

Way back, almost sixty years ago, when Mom was pregnant with my brother Frank, it was found that she had chlamydia, a nasty little std that really screws up your immune system.  When she was in labor, they scraped her out and poured an entire bottle of rubbing alcohol into her vagina, holding her down while she screamed in agony and labor pains.  This was to prevent the baby from contracting the disease on its way out.  She'd gotten it from Dad.  During their catastrophic thirty years of marriage, he fucked every female he could get his sweaty hands on, including thirteen-year-old me.  When I was so ill in my twenties and thirties, the doctors tested me for everything, including AIDS and chlamydia, on the chance that my incestuous pedophile pappy might have given it to adolescent me.  The tests were negative.  I was lucky.  Not so my mom.

Ever since I was a little girl, Mom's had something wrong with her.  Breast problems, gastro-intestinal problems, arthritis, easy bruising, lung problems, female trouble and, like me, a hysterectomy at the age of thirty-five.  She'd get pneumonia at the drop of a hat. Add all that together with her heavy drinking and Valium affection and it's a wonder she's still alive.  As I've said before, we're impossible to kill.  We get sick, we get horrifically ill, but we don't die.  That's Mom.  I remember her having her "cyst baths" as she called them, telling me as a child that she had a "very dry female area" and the doctor had recommended these baths every once in a while.  It wasn't until four years ago that she admitted the truth.  I saw red then and I'm seeing red again today. 

It's so strange to feel love, hatred and pity for a person at the same time, but that's the curse of the abused child.  I'm sure Dad and Mom both feel the same for their shit kicker parents.  They were both abused far more than I ever was, but it's not a contest and abuse is always painful.  That's its definition.  I love both my parents but right now, I wish my father would just drop dead.  Who knows how many hapless women and girls he's infected in the "sixty year hard on" he likes to reminisce about nowadays.  Who knows how many unknown brothers and sisters I might have out there, diseased or not, but all victims.  My dad is a victim as well but abuse does strange things to a person, so often easily categorized but also as individual as a fingerprint.  People either learn from it, become crushed and bitter from it, grow to need it, learn to carry on the tradition, or an amalgam of some or all of the above.  Mom became a sort of sado-masochist but Dad really took the ball and ran with it.  He was a vicious, sadistic pig who dreamt of being punished for being such a bad, bad boy.  He told me, when I was around fourteen, that he was in love with me because I "didn't let him get away with shit."  Ugh. 

When stuff like this happens to Mom, I immediately think of Dad and the disease he spread because he couldn't keep it in his pants.  I usually have little anger toward either parent but when it wells up like this, I know it's just waiting down in the cellar, lurking.  It'll always be there.  I can't get rid of it any more than my mom can get rid of the std her husband gave her.  But I can live with it.  That's the real triumph in us nutball insecurity addicts; to recognize that the feelings will never go away but we can sure as hell pull that stinger out of the wasp.  An abusive parent passes that legacy to the child they brutalize.  We all go to school and learn to be just as cruel to ourselves as anybody on the outside could ever be.  That's why we stay in horrible relationships, keep choosing carbon copies of our maniac pasts, pat ourselves on the back for being loyal, loving, forgiving to somebody that no one in their right mind would ever stay with.  That's the secret we keep from ourselves.  We're not in our right mind.  We're clueless, self-abusive idiots until we take ourselves in hand.  And I don't mean backhand.  Been there, done that.  Literally.  I took myself in hand when my son was in rehab.  I looked without the shit-colored glasses and saw with clear eyes everything I'd done to myself and I made a concerted effort to clean up my own mess.  And it was hard.  Sometimes it's still really, really hard.  To love myself.  So many years of self abuse, so many bad relationships and ghastly childhood memories, so many terrible thoughts forever ingrained in my beat up brain.  But I do.  I love myself.  Who'd have thought it?  Who'd believe that somebody so low could climb this high?  And I'll never stop climbing.  Poor little abused and miserable Becky O'Donnell has, at long last, a strong and loving protector: Big old tough loving adult Rebecca O'Donnell.  I'll always be here for her, that little crushed girl and her bleeding broken self. 

Still want to drop my father down a mine shaft but that's okay.  Small steps.

Love, R