I see the elderly woman approaching us from across the mall. She is looking past me and at my children with that smile. My kids are at the perfect age to attract these smiles. They are just at the dawn of human interaction. Their speech is still garbled; their language and actions both aped from adults. They, in their search for the right phrase or movement, are often accidentally adorable.
Children at this age still act as if nobody is watching, and adults love them for it. We are drawn to this innocence, I think, for the same reason we are interested in the behaviors of chimps or sleepwalkers. We want to see what it is that people do when they don’t realize they have an audience. We want to see what we would do if we didn’t think so much.
She walks carefully and slowly over to accept the imaginary ice cream cone my son offers up and wins my heart by pretending to eat it. Taking the interaction a step further, she asks him which flavor it was. He tells her it’s chock-lick and her smile deepens with amusement. I am scanning her face, watching her the same way I watch the face of every stranger who approaches my children. I am waiting for the clues that all humans throw off.
I’m waiting to see why she’s doing this.
And so it is that I observe her lined face slip gradually from delight to despair. A line grows deeper across her forehead and her milky eyes fill with tears. Her painted smile is the last to go, proof in my mind that she didn’t even see the sadness coming until it was already written on the rest of her face. I realize that I am moving closer to her as her expression shifts, so that when the tears start to roll down her cheeks I am all but cradling her. She leans against me, frail yet adult-sized. I am not in the habit, anymore, of being needed by people who are not my children. It takes me a minute. I don’t know why she is crying. I only know what she needs. And I have it to give. So I hold her.
She wipes the tears away and catches her breath. “My husband of 49 years passed away 7 months ago. Seeing your children makes it hurt more. Even though they are beautiful. The holidays make it hurt more. Even though I love them.” I hold her tightly, softly offering my condolences. My son asks me why the old woman is crying, and I stumble for a second. I don’t lie to my children, but I don’t throw around words like “death” either. I tell him simply that this woman will not be able to celebrate Christmas with someone she loves.
As I say the words, my voice shakes and my own eyes fill unexpectedly. I close my eyes against the tears, while granting myself one full minute to be overwhelmed with this unforeseen grief. The woman catches me with my emotions and apologizes for making me sad. I shake my head: clearing it, emptying it. “The holidays can be hard,” is what I say as I help her right herself.
They told me back then that I needed to grieve my brother as though he were dead, but to expect the process to take longer, since he is not, in fact, dead. And although I am the type of person to tear at her flesh in hopes of getting the pain on the outside, in order to move past it, I am shocked to find that some days it is as if time has not moved at all for me.
The woman shuffles off in one direction as we continue in another. We meet up later, at the fountain, as I am explaining to my children the concept of wishing on thrown pennies. I have a wallet full of potential wishes, and so I do not need to accept those that the woman offers us. But I do accept because I sense that it will give her something to be able to give to us. I bend down, tuck my children in close. The woman steps in, and we all throw our pennies at the count of three.
You can’t wish for people to come back. It doesn’t work that way. Pennies can’t move mountains. A wish is only a goal, a direction in which to focus your thoughts. In my world, you can only reasonably wish for the things that you have some control over. So I toss my penny in and I hope, for all of us, that the future brings fewer and fewer moments when we are brought to our knees by our pain. We will carry it with us forever, and we should, because it makes us who we are and it honors where we’re from. But more and more we will be able to live with it.
The holidays can be hard. I have always known this. I push myself off my knees, smile at the old woman and grasp her hand for a minute before exchanging it for my daughter’s. We walk out into the cold air and breathe in the last few breaths of 2010. Soon there is chatter and laughter and bickering and sunshine against the cold. I rub my hands together for warmth, raising my face to the sun.
I always thought that PTSD was something soldiers developed – I was naïve; had no idea anyone could develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. After my teenage son began to get into trouble, I assumed we’d become another statistic – a family with an out-of-control teen.
After we started family counseling, my therapist suggested that I try private therapy. About a week into it, I was diagnosed with PTSD. The therapist said were several things that led to PTSD.
PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, can occur when something horrible or traumatic has happened in. It causes stress every time you encounter a situation is similar to the previously-experienced traumatic events.
I’ve had a few types of traumatic events. I had a rocky relationship with my father growing up and then his death was both very sudden and very traumatic. An abusive relationship with my ex. I’ve experienced abuse from my son. Lastly, I was bullied by a girl from second grade all the way through high school.
My reactions to everyday situations can be more intense than they need to be – but whenever I am in a stressful or threatening situation, I relive past experiences. It’s hell, reliving the same horrible day over and over.
Once, when I saw my grade school bully in the grocery store, while I was there with my kids and we were checking out. The sound drained out of the store. My heart began to race. Blood pumped in my ears. My face got hot. As soon as I was able, I grabbed my kids and ran for the car. I must’ve driven break-necking speeds home, but I don’t remember getting there.
I had a panic attack after seeing this woman! We live in a small town and the odds of running into her are probably higher than in other areas, but I never see her. When I did, I hit fight or flight mode, and flew! That was six years ago.
Since I began therapy, I’ve seen her again. My daughters were with me, and this time I made sure to make eye contact with her as I turned to my daughters and said, “Girls, let’s go check out. I think we’ve got all we need now!” I turned and went to check out. As we left I felt so proud of myself for facing her, and not fleeing like a chicken facing slaughter!
Thanks to the ways she traumatized me, I always tell my kids, “Don’t take anyone’s crap at school!” Recently my daughter was getting harassed by a staff member at her middle school. I contacted the principal and reported her. This woman has not bothered my daughter since I reported her; threatened to file a sexual harassment suit against the school.
Since starting therapy, I stand up more than I used to. Despite all the reasons my therapist thought that I was traumatized, I think the bully and my father’s sudden death were the two that really affected me.
I was a victim of domestic abuse, but I came to terms with it, and took a stand. I left my then-husband and married the man responsible for making me feel like I was worth more. I call him my White Knight because I was considering suicide when we met – he saved me.
My son and I have resolved many of our issues and are working on our relationship; things are getting better.
See, I was blamed for him dying. He died from cancer 14 years ago and afterward, I was told that being around stressed him out – caused his cancer to return after it had been in remission.
Being blamed for his death is a hard thing to overcome. But this year, I was able to make it past his birthday and the anniversary of his death (exactly a month apart) without being a total mess!
To all those out there who have been bullied, abused, or lost a loved one, don’t assume you are strong enough to deal with it on your own.
PTSD snuck up and took over my life. I’d been miserable for years because I didn’t know what I was trying to cope with on my own. I suffered for years without understanding why, until I didn’t want to live any more.
Now, I cannot imagine having missed one day of my kids lives. Good or bad, I want to be there for it all. When they graduate from high school, when they get married, go off to college, when they start their own families. I want to be there, protect them from the problems I had. To tell them, “You’re better than this!” Or smile for them after they avoid bad situations entirely!
Don’t hesitate to get help for PTSD. It really does make a difference.
I never wanted to go to therapy every week, but I am, and I am doing much better. My therapist told me last week that he thinks I am nearly ready to be done. I think that’s a remarkable thing to hear – I am better, I can do it.
My therapist told me recently that I’m a remarkable person for dealing with what I’ve experienced, and still managing to smile. I told him that despite any issues I’ve had, I have great kids and a loving husband.
my dad was, and still is, a serious control freak. he wants everything to go his way, all the time, forever. His need to control + my rebellious streak – any display of love or affection = a seriously fucked up child.
i’d love to write this on my regular blog, but it would upset the people who know me (and we both know that i shouldn’t upset others, right?), so i’m writing it on the down-low. anyway, this is more for me than for you, because you would never admit to fucking up. mom has put up with a lot of shit to stay married to you for 44 years, but i don’t feel sorry for her because we both know she loves to play the martyr. you two are a textbook case of how not to raise a daughter, and i’ll get to mom in another blog. this one’s for you-
i know that you and mom “had” to get married. i know that you weren’t thrilled about it. i also know that you really wanted a son, but you got me instead. while i made do with the john deere tractor and matching wagon, you and i both know i really wanted the barbie corvette. so barbie and her friends went on lots of hayrides, no biggie. because i loved you.
lesson #1- be happy with whatever i get and don’t be disappointed; any affection i may receive depends on this.
we had fun when i was little. we played football with pillows in the trailer that i grew up in, you pretended to be a horse so i could ride on your back. except you always bucked me off, every time. you’d hide in the bathroom down the narrow hall and call to me and when i came to you, you’d jump out of the dark and scare me. i hated that game, and tried to refuse, but mom would insist i go every time. when mom called that dinner was ready, you’d always hold me back and say that i didn’t get to eat. even though i knew it was a game, i didn’t like it. now that i think about it, your sense of humor was somewhat sadistic. but i didn’t see it that way at the time. because i loved you.
lesson #2 – play along, even when i don’t want to.
when i was small, and did something wrong, you whipped me. you had that fucking collection of belts and always made me pick one. i took a long time choosing, hoping you would change your mind, but you never did. i always chose the red, white, and blue one, because if i had to get whipped, it should be with a pretty belt. and it wasn’t just one or two times. no, you beat my ass. and bare legs. and back. and arms.
i stole some of your coin collection to use in the gum ball machine at the trailer court. it was only a couple of wheat pennies and a dime, but you found me at the gum ball machine and my heart got stuck in my throat. you had a wire coat hanger in your right hand and it was summer and i was wearing shorts. you beat me with that wire hanger all the way to the trailer and that was a long way and i couldn’t run fast because i was only 4. and still, i loved you.
and that time you got mad ’cause mom made chili in july. i was still in a highchair, even though i was 3. i dumped my chili onto the metal tray and you swore at me for wasting food. you grabbed me by my shirt and pulled me out of the highchair. my legs got all cut up because you didn’t take the tray off first. then you threw me on the floor of the living room, and that’s how my favorite top got ripped. then you grabbed a belt from your collection and started beating me and you wouldn’t stop. mom finally pulled you away and threw you out. she let you come back, though. because she needed you more than she loved me. i asked mom to fix my top, but she threw it away instead.
lesson #3 – i am bad, and being hurt by someone i love is acceptable. in fact, i should expect it. i need to learn the art of survival, nobody else is going to protect me.
you have never told me you loved me. never. not once. you have never told me you are proud of me. not ever. not when i graduated from college, or grad school, or got straight a’s, or stuck with my crappy marriage for so long, or left said crappy marriage when it was time. i craved your approval like an addict craves that next hit off the pipe, knowing it will never be enough. and i chased after your approval the way a child chases their shadow, knowing that they will never catch it but always hoping against hope that this time might be different. and i never hated you for it. instead, i hated myself for not being enough.
lesson #4 – it’s not you. it’s me. and it will always be me, even when it’s you.
you had a girlfriend on the side, beginning when i was 5, and ending around the time i went away to college. i know this because i rode the bus with her son in high school. he told me all about how you’d come over on christmas day when he was little. i always wondered why you left after we’d opened presents. you were going to your other family. the one with two boys.
remember that time when i was a senior in high school and my friend viki and i saw your truck at your girlfriend’s house? i rang the doorbell and asked your girlfriend if you were there and i told her who i was. after viki and i drove away, we hid in a driveway and watched you speed past us in your truck, racing towards home. and we laughed because we knew you couldn’t touch me. not unless you wanted to tell mom what you were so pissed about.
mom still doesn’t know about that time i called your girlfriend at work and called her a whore and a bitch and demanded that army picture of you back. the one that mom kept asking about and you kept telling her that you’d left it in your locker at work. only it wasn’t in your locker, was it? it was on your girlfriend’s tv, because her son told me. you brought the picture home that night. that’s when you stopped looking me in the eye and started hating me. because you’d been caught by your daughter. and i began to hate you right back.
and when you suddenly decided not to pay for grad school, i became a stripper to pay for it myself. because i had learned the art of survival.
lesson #5 – i have nothing to lose and it feels good to be a bitch.
you stopped hugging me when i turned 10, and i’m pretty sure it had something to do with my going through puberty. especially when you went on a trip and brought me back that cleveland browns sweatshirt, threw it in my general direction while averting your eyes and said, “here, this will cover up your bumps.” nice way to encourage a young girl to have pride in her body. so i started covering up my bumps, all the time. when i was in my late 20’s, i got rid of my bumps altogether by developing anorexia. then i had to cover up my bones. i began to loathe myself.
lesson #6 – my body is sexual, and sexuality is bad.
the only birthday of mine that you ever came to was when i turned 5. i still remember it because that’s the birthday i got my first barbie. you took her away and wouldn’t give her back. you thought that was funny and i played along so you would stay. to this day, i occasionally find myself playing along, for fear of being abandoned or pissing someone off. when i was 17, you never came to my high school graduation. i know this because when i got home after the ceremony, the ticket i’d left for you on the kitchen table was still there. you were still pissed about me finding you at your girlfriend’s two months prior, and calling her at her job. because i’d stopped playing along.
lesson #7 – when i stop playing along, you will hate me.
in high school, you started to have me followed, instead of sitting me down and asking me about what was going on in my life, you got kids from the trailer court to tell you shit about me, a full $5 for each bit of information. that’s how you found out i smoked, drank, got high, and had a black best friend. you even sent two guys on my fucking spring break trip to daytona beach. i know this because on the last night, we all got drunk together and they told me. then they proceeded to tell me your name, my full name, where i lived and what you wanted to know. i wasn’t even safe from you 1,000 miles away.
can i just tell you how fucked up that is? that is seriously fucked up. i was the most paranoid teenager i knew, even without the pot.
you made me stop being friends with kim, you beat my ass when you found out i smoked and you grounded me for three months for drinking. fuck you. i started getting high with my dealer’s 16-year-old wife before school, i went through the bottle of vodka you had hidden in your cupboard, filling it with water instead. that’s right dad, the more you tightened the screws, the more i fucked up. i went to school drunk every day, or high, or both. i hid beers in my bedroom and drank them when you were asleep. i smoked in the bathroom after you and mom left for work. i feared getting caught, but the rush was incredible.
lesson #8 – my father is out to get me, and he will always find me.
you wouldn’t let me date the same guy twice, because you didn’t want me to get pregnant, the way mom did. you wanted me to get an education and be someone. or something. not for my sake, but so that you could say you had a college-educated child. and i was so terrified of getting pregnant that i didn’t had sex until i was 19. and then i slept with every guy i wanted to when i went away to college. because i could, and you had never taught me to respect my body. you had only taught me to get away with whatever i could. i never enjoyed the sex, but being sneaky felt awesome.
lesson #9 – sex is about power and revenge.
when i was in my final year of grad school, i met my future husband, only i didn’t know it at the time. i was smart and i knew about birth control. but when you should have taught me confidence, i learned fear. where self-esteem should have been, there was an empty well, waiting to be filled by someone else’s ideas and beliefs. fear of abandonment took the place of knowing my own worth. standing my ground was replaced by an aching need to please, at any cost. so when my future husband said “no rubbers, please” i said “ok”. because i needed to be loved, and i was afraid of losing him.
lesson #10 – do whatever i have to do make other people happy. my thoughts and feelings don’t count and should be kept to myself. they will only make others stop loving me.
and then i got pregnant. your biggest fear. and because you were my biggest fear, and because i didn’t believe in myself, and because my boyfriend didn’t want a baby and because i didn’t want to be abandoned, i had an abortion. then the self-hatred really kicked in.
lesson #11 – all decisions should be based on fear.
it has taken me 20+ years to undo what you did to me. everyday i untangle a bit more of the knot, trying to smooth out the yarn. it’s still good yarn, and everyday i knit myself.
lesson #12 – you made me stronger, smarter, tougher and braver. so fuck you.
The intangible that lives within and is expressed without but not with words…thoughts, deeds, drinks, and pills. Words seldom give justice to the turmoil within. And even when blurted out in a moment of weakness or vulnerability…if expressed to the wrong person they are still and float on the air like flotsam…better left wherever the journey began.
One might say “get a therapist” or “join a group.” Some psychobabble will surely help things along. Turn lemons into lemonade, bump inertia into movement. But, what to do without that ever-expensive, mostly elusive thing called health insurance?
Out of pocket expenses for mental health care are damaging.
So the cycle continues. The mood swings, the doubting, the bursts of mania. The decision to do one thing and suddenly another road is taken. All the while keeping things together. Feeling very little, looking very ill and fooling no one. Or maybe, just maybe, fooling everyone and that is the very problem that needs to be addressed.
The adjectives used to describe this current state are self-actualized and negative. But what is the alternative?
“Take these broken wings and learn to fly…”
No, these wings aren’t broken, my cape is not torn, I can handle everything that is happening. In the midst of accolades for “making it,” the pieces of my heart slowly tumble and quietly hit the ground while barely making a whisper.
And yet the pain is still devastating, immobilizing and nobody knows.
Admittedly this is my fault. Perhaps wiping away the facade will release magical healing powers, somehow I find that doubtful. So what if the alternative means holding it all in, weight creeping up and face looking as if I’m aging in reverse – teen years I’m back! Acne and all.
Sadly I don’t know how to remedy this. And so I sit. Waiting for the next thing in the pipeline and inevitably it comes and keeps me focused.
For a moment.
But in the quiet times (which are rare) my truth must be faced. I’m inert. Immobile. Dysfunctional and pray that someone will swoop in and take it all away. The likelihood of that happening? Nil.
And so I wake to face another day, I wear the mask and hope that no one notices.
As a child of a covert narcissist, who spent every day breaking down any self-esteem I might accidentally grow, I was a prime target for my malignant narcissist of an ex-husband.
Keep in mind that there never has been and never will be an actual diagnosis for either my mother or my ex. Both fought like hell against any hint of therapy because there was nothing wrong with them, everything was my fault.
There are many stories, some I have already told, and this one, which I never thought would see the light of day.
I don’t even want to think about it, never mind discuss it with anyone. But people need to know that it exists, that it happens, and that it’s not OK.
I married my “high school sweetheart” AKA, a predator who targeted someone vulnerable 3 years his junior. Now, the age difference wouldn’t matter if we had been grown, mature adults. As a matter of fact, my current wonderful husband is 7 years older than me. But then, my ex was my first real boyfriend, and as I said earlier, I was raised in a dysfunctional family in which the normal was not normal.
I was taught to serve, to ignore my own needs in favour of other’s wants. I learned that I didn’t matter. I had no choices, no opinions of my own. I was a mirror.
And that continued throughout my marriage. I was perfectly broken and ready to be used.
From the beginning, he taught me that it was my fault if he was in pain. Physical, mental, financial, it was all my responsibility.
That continued into the bedroom.
Sex was not a loving act between two cherished partners, it was a power play. If he had a need, I was to fulfill it. If he had a desire, I was to play the part. Women were his enemies and only to be used. His porn addiction was out of control, and this was before the internet, so our bedroom was filled with falling down piles of the most degrading magazines he could get his hands on. I was only the receptacle, not the object of desire. I was too fat, too ugly and nothing about me was good enough.
He groomed me to be meek and accepting that he was the only one in the world who would ever put up with me and I needed to be grateful that I had him, because otherwise I would die alone. I was only acceptable as long as I did what I was told.
I was expected to be “ready and willing” at any time, any place, because you see, blue balls are fatal.
I bet you didn’t know that.
My sex education was brief at best, back in 1980ish and I’m pretty sure that wasn’t covered. As the years dragged on, I was barely even worth being a receptacle.
The worst part was when he…couldn’t.
That would bring the rage. That was when the worst times happened. If he couldn’t do it himself, he used whatever was at hand, including a police issued nightstick. He bought this illegally, as normal citizens aren’t allowed to have these in my country. This added to the thrill, I guess.
What it has done to me over the years has led to a deep fear of police. It’s not a straight line, there are many other stories involved, but that’s a biggie.
As a boring, law abiding middle-aged white woman, I actually have very few encounters with police officers. (Yeah, white privilege at work, sigh).
In the past few years, my PTSD has made me absolutely terrified of even the briefest encounter. Why it waited 20 years to fuck with my head like this, I have no idea, but my therapist does. I’ve been working on my fragile mental health for about 10 years now, one thing at a time, and she tells me that my brain will withhold things that I am not prepared to deal with yet. As I have gotten other things somewhat under control, my suicidal thoughts, my OCD, my anxiety, and depression have a little less hold on me. And then, slowly, over a few years, I found myself avoiding anyone in a uniform that might remind me. Whether a soldier, a police officer, or even a security guard if he has a nightstick or a gun, I will freeze and go into a panic attack.
This is interfering with my life dammit!
I am so angry at my stupid brain. I am absolutely terrified of getting stopped by the police, even for something benign.
What would I do?
My big fear is that I will bolt and not be able to communicate why I am acting erratically and get arrested. I fear my heart would stop, like a terrified rabbit caught in a trap. I
fear that I will have another nervous breakdown. I fear I would never recover.
But I’m working on it. I am going to beat it, I swear.
This particular mind-dragon is a powerful one, but not invincible. I have proven that over and over again in my recovery. I am worth the work, I deserve peace.
Session by session with my trauma therapist, day by day with my husband, we are all fighting for me. If you are reading this and you have experienced marital rape, you are worth it too! It’s not right, it’s not OK and it’s not your fault. Please use the resources here at The Band, and know that there are people who care and who can help.
An intro: Judgmental people are my pet peeve. The event that precipitated this Letter happened 5 years ago, and as badly as I would like to let the entire world know about these people, I have changed all names to protect the guilty.
Dear Ex Sister-In-Law:
You don’t know me and we’ve never met. I’m Evil Stepmother #3. For the past 10 years, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing your sister and her son, Lucifer. Thank you so much for not only the note you sent acknowledging the flowers we sent for your mother’s funeral, but also the note addressed to Forever Man laying out your concern for our family’s spiritual health.
It was so kind of you to let us know how evil we are. We had no idea! I’ll bet the dictionary has a picture of you next to the definition for “thoughtful.”
We really didn’t mean to ruin your mother’s funeral. My sympathy for your loss was very real, believe it or not. I did meet your mother on several occasions when we picked up or dropped off Lucifer for visitation. She treated Lucifer’s younger half-brother like a blood grandson. I don’t know whether you, as a mother yourself, can begin to imagine what that small act of kindness meant to me.
Having lost my dad and grandmother during the holiday season, I understand more than you might think. But, given your little note, I’m now left wondering how such a kind, caring woman could possibly have raised such assholes for daughters.
You said in your note that you “feel sorry for my children?”
Maybe you should focus more on your own children.
I totally understand your normal, human reaction to need to blame someone for the chaos that surrounded your mother’s visitation. But you know, my normal human reaction is: who the fuck do you think you are telling my family that we need to get right with God?
Who died and made you the Judge of the Entire Fucking Universe? You don’t know the half of what you think you know. If your opinion was even partially based on facts, we might agree on a few areas in need of improvement. But it’s obvious that you are judging from a position of ignorance. Remember that Bible verse about how knowing the truth shall set you free?
Here’s some truth for you: your sister Saint D and Lucifer are assholes.
You don’t owe me anything, and I don’t need your forgiveness. But if you really feel like you need to blame someone or judge intentions, you should blame me, not Forever Man. Why?
Because I exist.
Because I am the latest Evil Stepmother. Because Saint D never expected a sibling to take the focus off of Lucifer. Because I agreed with FM, Saint D and Evil Stepfather #2 (her live-in boyfriend) that it was unacceptable behavior to flunk out of school and live in an online fantasy world. That it was unacceptable behavior to disregard personal hygiene. To be disrespectful. To not apologize when you’re wrong. To not help fix things you broke. To not right wrongs. To lie when it suited your purpose. To be ungrateful for the opportunities and help you’ve received, all freely given even when you didn’t deserve it.
In a nutshell, there must be someone to blame always when something goes awry with the Upbringing of the Crotch Parasite (love you AB!). That someone is always either the ex or the stepparent. Another truth for you: Lucifer is a parasite and so is his mother.
This is, incidentally, an insult to ticks, maggots and tapeworms.
What the hell ever happened to “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone?”
Did it never occur to you that there is something inherently unfair about judging someone without first asking for their side of the story?
Yes, life is not fair and the benefit of the doubt does not apply to divorce. If there are children involved, you are doubly screwed, no matter how good your intentions are, how hard you try, or how much you love them. You accused FM of treating Saint D “disgustingly” after the divorce. We should all be so lucky to live in a world where “disgusting” means loving your child so much that you would willing stick yourself with paying all the bills on two houses, alimony, college tuition for two (ultimately useless) degrees, child support (even when it should have been reduced or stopped), extra cash beyond that, legal bills to defend a constant stream of court actions, and personal attacks directed at FM’s employers and siblings.
You’d be quick to condemn anyone else who used their child for money and sympathy.
To be honest, I’m tired of hearing the stories. It’s not a fucking competition to see who had it worst.
If only my ex had treated me so badly!
When Preacher B divorced me, I was supposed to feel privileged that I was “allowed” my freedom. I got no child support, even though Preacher was the only father Number One Son had ever known. There was no settlement or alimony. I got no share of all the property gained – cars, land, home, camping trailers, royalties – because I willingly worked my ass off as a helpmeet, while being spiritually and sexually abused in the special hell known as fundamentalist Christian patriarchy.
I was shunned by my church family.
I got nothing because I believed in educating my God-given brain. That divorce was the best Christmas present I ever received, even though it meant starting from nothing (for a second time) as a single parent. I tried to fit into, to trust new church families – Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, unaffiliated, you name it . When I was brave enough to tell my story, I can’t count the number of fine moral upstanding Christian eyes which glazed over and I became invisible again.
They have to answer for it, not me. I am not ashamed of being a survivor. I kicked stigma in the crotch.
Me! Fuck you.
All these years, FM has held his tongue, because it wasn’t anyone else’s business. Problem is, Saint D has been sharing her opinion loudly, indiscriminately and constantly for the twenty-five-plus years since the divorce. We’ve all heard her side of it.
But consider this: we have a big-ass storage bin full of court papers and check registers – it weighs about 75 pounds – to prove that the story Saint D has been feeding you all these years is a veritable cornucopia of bullshit. All for sympathy. If it weren’t for Saint D’s lawyer getting his license revoked for soliciting a prostitute, we’d probably still be tied up in a court action for something.
Forever Man is also a survivor.
I think Saint D and Lucifer have had a pretty privileged existence. Saint D’s repeated financial and emotional vengeance for the privilege of being divorced from her, even now twenty. five. fucking. years. later, is what is disgusting here. Saint D has elevated martyrdom to both a science and an art form, and passed it along to Lucifer, who has internalized the constant stream of complaints, lies, and dad-bashing since he was a toddler. This is what you’re calling values?
Rational people would call it child abuse. It is a travesty of justice that the family court consistently sided with her simply because she bears a c-section scar. Unfortunately for FM, having possession of a big-ass Bin-O-Facts does not mean justice. Joint custody and the privilege of being bankrupted maybe, but not justice.
So, let’s change gears and talk about what happened on visitation day, shall we? For the record, FM made travel arrangements with Lucifer two days before the visitation. Given the weather forecast (winter storm watch), we offered to bring Lucifer with us, mostly because we thought it would be helpful to Saint D. Because, you know, compassion. When someone dies, that’s what you’re supposed to do. We thought of her, even with the hell we’ve been through with her. Offering to help someone who’s brought FM nothing but misery for nearly forty years, since he was 18 years old?
Yeah, FM and I are the dictionary definition of assholes.
Just so we’re clear here: the ensuing crisis wasn’t because FM made any rash, selfish, last-minute decisions. Lucifer was the one with anger issues; he couldn’t handle the thought of two specific riders occupying space in the same car with him and FM. The crisis was caused because Lucifer has the social and reasoning skills of a two year old parasite. Oops, I forgot. It’s my fault because I should have known how inappropriate it was for me and Little Brother to offer FM moral support, since it was also his loss. Lucifer’s full transformation into Satan couldn’t have happened at a better time.
Last we knew, Satan had a car and a job. He could have driven himself, if he’d wanted to. Surely you could come up with a better excuse than we ruined the funeral because Satan’s mother had to drive over and pick him up!
Here’s another truth for you: Satan is an equal-opportunity hater; he hates all of you, just like he hates us. He was looking for an excuse not to attend, but one that wouldn’t look like he was deliberately trying to avoid seeing his family. You’d have thought he would have covered his ass better. I mean, come on now, most rational adult humans would have the presence of mind to reschedule a doctor appointment on the day of a close relative’s funeral. Especially since it took four days to make funeral arrangements.
It sure was awfully convenient to manufacture a crisis, blame the whole mess on FM and get out of attending a funeral. Unfortunately for Satan’s sake, we got the EOB for the doctor’s visit a few weeks later. Yes, Satan’s still on our insurance, which is by the way, just another of those nice things we do for him even though he wishes we were all dead.
We’re going to hell for sure.
When I emailed Saint D to let her know that we wouldn’t be able to come, she said that Satan had been expecting time alone with his dad.
See, another truth you need to know is that Satan has not once, in the twenty. five. fucking. years. since the divorce, asked his dad for “alone time.” “Alone time” is Saint D’s code for marginalizing Evil Stepmothers. Satan has our phone number and emails. He could get “alone time” anytime. We haven’t heard a word from Satan since that cold, snowy December day five years ago.
Yeah, we’re awful, valueless, evil personified. We’ve invited Satan over every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, anytime just because, since he moved out of our house ten years ago. Well, not for the last three years because we moved to another state and since he doesn’t speak to us, we didn’t tell him we were moving. When FM handed him the check containing his college fund and helped him move into the dorms at Big State University nine years ago, Satan’s last words to him were, “Well, be sure to let me know when this one ends in divorce, like all the others.”
As long as there was money flowing from the First Bank of Dad no questions asked, everything was fine. Until there were questions, like why he flunked out of BSU, which required thousands of dollars more to settle the final bill, which resulted in Satan’s faking a crisis to get everyone off his case. I know. See, awful nasty jerk that I am, I sat there in the ER waiting room, trying to keep everyone calm. I provided the insurance information. I made sure his prescriptions were filled. I brought clothes and other stuff to the mental ward for him. I offered to let Satan come back to our home until his apartment was ready, because he didn’t have anywhere else to go.
He didn’t seem to have a problem choosing a comfy warm bed and home-cooked meals over sleeping under a bridge. I figured out before the doctors did that it was a giant snow job. But I let it go. Yeah, more reason to hate me, since I’m a terrible, evil, valueless person for caring. He didn’t say “thank you” when he left.
He didn’t say “good bye” to his little brother. Fucking parasite.
You spoke of values. Little Brother certainly learned some important lessons about values, courtesy of your family, for which we cannot thank you enough. Like being born is the only qualification necessary for hating someone. How do you explain that to an eight-year-old child? That compassion, honesty, forgiveness and reconciliation are not in every family’s vocabulary. That families define “family” differently; no one considered it inappropriate for Saint D’s boyfriend to attend the visitation. That it’s acceptable to talk out of both sides of your mouth if it suits your purpose. Which is it: “inappropriate” or “alone time”? I would suggest neither, but who am I to judge if being petty, vindictive and immature makes someone feel better? We heard over and over, “it’s not fair!”
Little Brother understands the concept of fairness, you know. You made him cry. You people are despicable.
I’ve been calling bullshit on Satan for the 14 years I’ve known him, but telling a parent he has to choose between his children? Him or me? A child is not a paint color, a new car or a bag of potatoes. This was cruel, monstrous, despicable, evil beyond reason. I would say I hope Saint D and Satan both burn in hell, but I’m not sure I believe in hell anymore. Why do we need “Hell” when we have family? It seems to accomplish the same purpose.
So, in closing and just in case I wasn’t clear, it’s a really good thing that I’m not God, because if judgment and justice were left up to me, the Plagues of Egypt, the Crucifixion, the Inquisition, would be too lenient for your whole fucking family. You say you “don’t pretend to know [our] beliefs.” Then please do yourself a favor and save the lecture about getting “right with your Maker” because you might end up next to me in the hellhole you mentioned in your note and that would be even worse karma than occupying it with FM.
Until then, I wish you a lovely bouquet of Mushroom Prints. Asshole.