Why Aren’t I Afraid of Guns?

imagesI have had a gun held to my head twice, and I feel as if should be a traumatic event.  There should be something defining about somebody holding a loaded weapon to your head and you facing your own mortality.  However, somewhere there is disconnected wiring in the innermost mechanism in her mind that did not bond; she came through these two experiences unscathed.

When I was 17 years-old, my second job was at a Payless Shoe Source at a mall; it was one of the stores with the doors on the outside of the building, so to access the store you didn’t have to go inside.  The store had a total of 4 full-time employees and there were usually only two of us there at a time.

Our manager had told us there had been news of a man robbing Payless Shoe stores in the local area for the past few weeks; he had a pattern of robbing them every Monday night.  On a Monday night, I was working with my co-worker Rich; it was around 8:30 when I started talking with a customer as I was putting away shoes.  “Do you like it here,” he asked me, pimp hat pulled down over his eyes.

“Oh, sure,” I answered happily, picking up the scattered shoes customers had strewn across the floor, “I love shoes and I get a discount.”

“The customers sure make a mess,” he opined as he watched me pick up the shoes.

“Yep,” I replied, “But, that’s just job security.”  We both laughed.

I walked away from him and took some shoes to the stockroom; when I returned, Rich was bent over the safe and the customer I had been talking to was leaning over the counter.

I asked Rich a question and he didn’t respond; I asked him again.  Nothing.  Finally, the customer stood up and pulled his arm out of his jacket, pointing his gun directly at me, “He’s busy,” he said, “Go lock the front door, then lay down at the back of the store.”

Just as I got to the front of the store, a group of shoppers came in; I tried to ask them to leave, “No, no, we just shop for shoes,” they responded to my pleas.  They did not understand English.  I turned to the robber, shrugging my shoulders.

“Get them to the back of the store and tell them to lie down,” he demanded pointing the gun at me.  I could see Rich as nervous and still struggling with the combination on the safe.

“Ma’am,” I said, turning to the woman as she walked down the aisle with her children, “We’re being robbed; I need you to come to the back of the store and lay down.”

“No, no, we just look at shoes,” she said in her thick accent.

Once again, I turned to the man directing the gun at me; clearly I was not going to get these shoppers to comply.  He must have been an empathetic robber, “Just forget them, go lay down in the back.”

As I lay down on the carpet, the shoppers obliviously looked for shoes; Rich finally joined me and started counting to 100 per the robber’s instructions.  The second the man left, Rich and I stood up and rushed the customers to the door; the whole time they were saying, “No, no, we just look at shoes,” as we closed and locked the door behind them.

***

The second time I had a gun held to my head was just a few months later; I had just turned 18 years-old.  I was in Nye, Montana, with my younger brother and sister for the summer where my father was working in a mine.  He had been up there all year, but since my mother had long since tired of moving, we had all stayed back in Nevada.

My father still drank a lot during his time in Montana; and, with my mother not there, he turned his abusive tendencies towards me.  I spent the summer either hanging out and partying with him at the local bars, or back at the single wide trailer with my brother and sister avoiding my dad’s physical and emotional jabs.

One weekend, he was on a particularly abusive kick; I cannot recall what his rant was about, but it has no bearing on the outcome of the event.

Dad came home from the bar one Sunday afternoon; he was drunk and in a total rage.  He began picking on my little brother for riding his four-wheeler in the neighbor’s pasture while it was still wet, something he had been told not to do.  The criticism escalated until my brother was in tears; things got out of control to the point of no return.

Soon, my dad had a gun and was threatening to kill himself for being such an awful father, a terrible husband, and a wretched drunk.  My 13 year-old brother, 8 year-old sister and I spent hours that afternoon talking him out of shooting himself.  He was waving the gun around wildly and talking about all of the horrible things he had done as a father and husband.  We did our best to refute his claims, though; it was difficult to come up with arguments to the contrary.

By the evening, his anger and rage turned towards me; he had hit me and eventually pinned me up against the dryer, holding the gun directly on my temple threatening to kill me.  My brother wanted to call 911, but earlier in the day my dad had already ripped the phone and wires out of the wall.  I spent hours begging and pleading for my life; one hand curled tightly around my neck, the other on the gun, his finger on the trigger, I finally demanded my brother and sister go outside.

Around 10 that night, he had to leave for work, he finally let me go and left for work.  My brother and sister came back in the house and we cleaned up the mess that had been made during the mêlée.

***

I don’t know why I am not more affected by gun violence.

My Paranoia – Back Safely

So, I didn’t die in a fiery plane crash…

Here are a few pictures from the air to prove it.

Snowy Mountains

Snowy Mountains

I have lived another day to regale you with stories of my sordid past.

On the way to LAX

On the way to LAX

My Paranoia

imagesWhenever I travel by air, I always have this insecure moment where I just know it will be my last flight ever.  Usually, I have somebody in whom I confide a few secrets; always revealing a bit more of myself he or she previously never knew about me, secretly wanting to preserve a bit more of myself should I happen to perish.

Additionally, I leave them with valuable information as to what they should do with certain belongings or something I meant to tell people in my life.  Typically, said person finds my ritual to be prosaic if not a bit morbid and they usually lose interest, as indicated by their sighs and/or glares.

As circumstances would have it, I had some rather good news, and I am taking a flight on Thursday with a return trip on Friday.  Since I have had a rather helter skelter year in terms of my interpersonal relationships, there is nobody to listen to my paranoid speech about how I may not live to see the weekend.  So, I thought I would write about a few things that move me, entertain me, make me smile, and are important to me.

I have to preface this by saying I do not believe I possess some special psychic powers to see into the future where I see a plane plunging to the earth; this is simply something I do every time I take an airplane trip.  It can become quite ludicrous at times, as I love to travel, and there have been some years where I have flown quite often; still, it’s me, so I have learned to accept it, flaws and all.

***

As much as I have written about how my children do not speak to me, I love them with all my heart; if I could give them a different mother wrapped up in a big red ribbon for Christmas, I would give her to them.  They would surely deserve her.  I don’t suppose they have done anything spectacular or out of the ordinary; in fact, at times they have been quite rude to me.  Though, as has been pointed out to me many times, they didn’t ask to be born.  I love them and they deserve the best; if there is a mom out there willing to give it to them, they should have her.

***

Speaking of love, I dearly love the rest of the family; regardless of their current ability to reach out and communicate with me.  It is what it is with our family; no further explanation in a family where we were taught to keep secrets, where somebody was always “out” or nobody was “in”.

***

I have a blue Eeyore blanket that I have taken with me on every flight, to every surgery (15 of them) for the last 12 years or so; I sleep with it every night.  It is a plush baby blanket with suede like material on one side and a furry type material on the other side; the Disney Store had it for $75 and one year I bought it for myself for Christmas on clearance for $30.  It still looks almost new even though it has been washed countless times; once, during a pre-op needle stick, the nurse stuck me in the wrong place and blood soaked the blanket.  A little peroxide and it came out perfectly clean.

I am leaving the blanket behind this time, for some reason it just feels like the right thing to do.  I am travelling alone and it is a business trip, too much stuff to carry, I suppose.  It will be the first time.

***

There is a little song I knew when I was in grade school, I used to sing it to my girls, and it goes like this:

“I’m an acorn small and round lying on the cold, cold ground,

I’m a nut (click click click), I’m a nut (click click click);

Called myself on the phone just to see if I was home,

I’m a nut (click click click), I’m a nut (click click click);

Asked myself for a date, picked me up at half past eight,

I’m a nut (click click click), I’m a nut (click click click);

Took myself to a show, sat down in the very back row,

I’m a nut (click click click), I’m a nut (click click click);

Put my arms around my waist, got so fresh I smacked my face,

I’m a nut (click click click), I’m a nut (click click click).”

When you see the “clicks”, that is the clicking of your tongue, you don’t actually say “click”.

***

Many people who know me think I am flat; they have rarely seen me smile, and have never seen me laugh.  It is all a façade; I feel everything, I love deeply, I have been scarred and scared.  I put up the thickest shield I could so as to be impervious to any further pain; it doesn’t work.  I am hurt daily, but nobody knows.

***

There is a man I love more than I have ever allowed myself to ever love; it took me eight years to let him in; I almost lost him because my heart was locked.  I have not seen him since April, but I’m going home in less than two weeks.  I have left him a journal on a memory stick in the room I have been staying in, it is on an Eeyore keychain; I would want him to have it, and my Eeyore blanket.

***

I miss my dad; I didn’t have a good relationship with him and he didn’t really like me, but there are times I would like to see him, to talk to him.  I would like him to be proud of me.

***

I love the song, “For Crying Out Loud” by Meatloaf.  The words bring me to tears every time I listen to it; even though it always feels like the end of a love story to me, like a tragedy, I love to hear it.  Maybe that’s why, I need it when I need or want to cry.  It feels like an aged love; I feel as if it is about finding love when you need it most.

***

I could go on, but I only wanted to open an envelope in my Pandora’s Box, not empty the entire contents tonight.

Discovering my Family was Different

abuseI remember the day I discovered my family was not like every other family on the block; I was 15 years old.  We had moved around quite a bit when I was younger, by the time I was in the tenth grade I had already lived in five states and had attended my fifteenth school, so to say I had been around the block was an understatement.

My experience with close friends was limited; I had a sort of “love ‘em and leave ‘em” attitude when it came to friendships; why bother getting close to somebody when we would probably be moving in the next few months anyway.  However, by the time I was a sophomore in high school, I was told we were going to “settle down here at least until you kids get out of school.”  Where had I heard that song before?

So, I had a rocky start; my cavalier attitude and propensity for dating other girls’ boyfriends made me an unwelcome and unpopular choice of a friend among my school mates in my new high school.  As the months wore on and I realized we really were staying, my prospects for friends seemed to diminish; until one day, the new girl came from California.

She was different, sort of quirky; she wore cowboy boots, but had a haircut like one of the guys from Duran Duran.  We hit it off instantly; she was the new kid, and so was I.  Where she was shy and somewhat nervous around boys, I was outgoing and could talk to anybody about anything.  She kept me grounded when I was manic and had crazy ideas, like stealing her dad’s Corvette to cruise the strip; and I pulled her out of her shell.

Soon, we spent every weekend together; either she spent the night at my house, or I spent the night at her house.  We watched MTV until the early morning hours, then we would get up and make “Egg McBreads” our version of the Egg McMuffin; egg, cheese, and bacon, on a piece of bread.

She was part of my family and I was part of hers; I had never felt anything like it.  I thought I knew everything about her, and she about me.

One weekend, she was with my family as we spent the day in the foothills of a historic mining town just driving around looking at old mines.  My parents were drinking as they usually did.  They started to banter; they banter turned to fighting; nothing unusual.

By the time we got home it was a full-blown police intervention weekend.  It was about time, it had been a few weeks.

My father had been antagonizing my mother; well, everybody actually, by poking her with his cane.  She was aggravated and asked him to stop.  He would not.  By the time we got home it had escalated to the extent that when he walked into the house she walked up behind him and crashed him over the head with a rock.

He never saw what was coming.

He staggered to the side somewhat, but continued into the duplex, his head bleeding profusely.  By now, my brother-in-law, both sisters, brother, my friend, and me had gathered on the front lawn and were yelling at them to stop.

My mother followed him inside and the fight continued down the hall as evidenced later on by the trail of blood on the walls.  My father walked along a bar of antique glasses and with one fell swoop, wiped them off, crashing them to the floor, breaking them to bits.  This enraged my mother, she took a stick that had been holding up a plant and began beating him across the back.

I do not know who hit whom next or the exact chain of events, but there was quite a bit of blood all over the walls and the household contents were in disarray and destroyed.  I ran in to use the phone to call the police, but the phone had been ripped from the wall.

So, I ran down the street looking for somebody; luckily, we lived in a bad neighborhood and a policeman was driving down the street a few blocks away.  I was able to flag him down and get him to come over to our home.  Upon questioning the family, everyone except for me claimed my father had started the melee.

True, his antagonistic attitude had begun the arguing, but if my mother had just let him walk into the house and go to sleep, it would have ended.  In my eyes, she had started it by cracking him on the head with the rock.  I was outvoted, and my father was arrested and taken to jail.

Of course, back in those days he would only be held for as long as it would take to “sleep it off” and he would be released.  It would not have mattered anyway, as my mother would move earth and sea to bail him out anyway.  The whole matter was an exercise in futility.

We all got back into my sister’s Bronco and headed to Burger King; we ordered our food, and sat down to eat.  It was then that I noticed how stunned my friend looked, she had been so quiet.  My brother-in-law broke the silence as he dipped a fry into the ketchup, “Hey, doesn’t this look like Dad’s blood when mom cracked his skull?”  He was simply trying to lighten the mood, we all accepted it.

My friend stood up, in the middle of Burger King and screamed, “What is wrong with you people? Are you all nuts? What just happened?  You are sick!”  Then she just sat back down in the booth and started crying hysterically.  It was my turn to look at her, stunned.

Later, when we left the restaurant, my mom said, “Okay, I need somebody to volunteer to sleep at the house,” she went on to explain, “When your dad gets out of jail, he is going to be mad and I don’t want him to come home and destroy the place.  I can’t come home until he calms down. You can have a gun.”

I volunteered my friend and me to spend the night; we slept in the living room amongst the broken glass, shadows cast over the bloody walls.  As we sat there, I shoved the gun under my pillow and said, “I don’t get it, your parents must have fought.  They’re divorced.  Isn’t it like this for everybody?”

She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “No, not everybody lives like this.”

That was the first time I knew.

Life with Father

Life with Father (film)

Life with Father (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This past July 1 was the eighth anniversary of my father’s shooting.  Normally, it comes and goes without any fanfare from me, and this year was mostly no different, except for the fact that I happened to be staying at my sister’s house so we had the chance to discuss it and commemorate it together.

As my sister and I are 10 years apart, we did not necessarily “grow up” together, but we did go through our father’s death together.  So, instead of reminiscing about life and childhood, we talked about what we did in the days following the homicide, the epic, the incredulous, the depressing, and even the ludicrous. Our memories of that time were bittersweet, we laughed a bit, no tears, as we just aren’t that way with each other, but we had our memories of that day, then we moved on from there and went about our business.

Since then, I have had occasion to think about my relationship with my father, especially as it relates to my exploration as “the flat girl”.

It has never been a secret that my father became very abusive when he was inebriated.  However, he was completely different when he was sober.  He was intelligent, well-read, and could hold in-depth conversations about a number of topics.  Yet, there was still something missing, at least with me, in his interpersonal relationships.  I never felt particularly close to him.

When he was sober and not being abusive, I could talk to him for hours about so many things, we seemed to have so much in common, but he could have been a college professor for as close as I felt to him during those times.  Then all of that would be washed away with one drunken abusive night.

I always felt that his relationship with my two sisters and my brother were different than the relationship that he had with me, but, for all I know, they felt the same as well.  They seemed to have an easy banter, lower expectations of each other; I wanted something more from him, and he from me.  I wanted perfection, a father that I had seen on the little bit of television that I had seen, like Michael Landon on Little House on the Prairie or Mike Brady from The Brady Bunch.  He wanted me to be a straight A student who didn’t smoke, break curfew, cut school, or break the rules.  He (mostly) got what he wanted from me, I did not.

Growing up, I do not recall ever being told I was loved or being hugged by either one of my parents, something that is probably not a surprise in an alcoholic abusive household.  I certainly did not know any better.  But, it was at my high school graduation that I was hit with something that was so powerful that it affected my life forever.  My father walked up to me, shook my hand and said, “I expect to see you again in four more years.” I took this to mean he was indicating that I should be graduating in four years again from the university.

That was it… nothing more.  I was hurt at the time, as when my older sister had graduated three years earlier my parents had a huge party, invited relatives, and made a huge deal.  My graduation was much more low key, no fanfare really, just a level of expectation of what I was to accomplish, and that I was expected to accomplish again in four years.

Looking back, that was me and my dad.  He expected more from me than he did from my siblings, but with no touchy feely subterfuge that other relationships may have.  He wanted great things for me, but did not necessarily have the ability to show me in a way that was demonstrative in a loving, caring way. So, was this way I learned my flat affect?  Possibly.  Possibly.