The Necklace

By the time my mother had been in jail for about five weeks for the murder of my father, it was my birthday.  As an adult in the midst of a family crisis, a rocky marriage, and a full schedule of work and a baccalaureate degree, my birthday was just another day on the calendar.

However, when my mother called as scheduled that day and asked my brother, sisters, and me how we were celebrating it, we lied and told her we were with our families at a restaurant.  We did not want her to know that we were at her house doing cleaning, repairing, packing, and remodeling, as we had been since that fateful July day more than a month earlier.  She had already been through enough, and we did not want her to know we

The necklace

all spent every spare minute at their home so we could sell it for bail and her defense fund.

We were there seven days a week working on the home, even though we all had full-time jobs and families.  We brought our spouses and children there, we ate dinner there during the week and all three meals there on the weekends.  So, I was not going to let something like a birthday keep me from doing my fair share.  Never mind the fact that the last time I had been in this home my father threw me out and told me never to come back; I wiped those memories from my mind, or tried to.

My little sister came to me that day, my birthday, away from everybody else, “Mom wants you to have this,” she said as she handed me a necklace.  My eyes welled up with tears as I saw the familiar piece of jewelry; it was a silver charm necklace.  The base piece was a wishbone with a silver strand across the bottom between the base where you would pull the “bone” of the wishbone apart.  There were at least ten charms on it, all made of pure silver.  I used to secretly steal into my mother’s room and sneak it off of her dresser, borrowing it from her when I thought she would not notice.

“Are you sure?” I asked my sister.

“Yes, she feels bad that we have all been working so much,” she answered, “and that she is in there on your birthday.”

I happily took the necklace, a little shocked that my mother actually wanted me to have something so special; we had never been very close.

A few years later, my mother started to distribute her belongings to my brother and sisters; everything I asked for was already spoken for, so she gave me nothing.  So it goes, so it goes.  Then, one year I was in the area for Christmas and she came over to my daughter’s house for dinner.  She had a gift bag filled with jewelry she wanted to give me; she opened the bag and laid out each piece as if it was something special.  It wasn’t.  “I wanted to give you all of the good jewelry,” she said, “I know you are the only one who will wear it and appreciate it.”  As she laid each piece across the bedspread, I tried to be polite and smile, but I was confused.  She had some nice pieces, and these were not those pieces.

The costume jewelry she gave me was old, worn, and most of it was not even fit to be worn.  I took it home and added it to my collection of junk.

A few months later she was visiting my home; she was in the guest room where the jewelry was laid out on a dresser, including the necklace my sister had given me for my birthday years earlier.  For some unknown reason, my mother started to go through the pieces of jewelry on the dresser; the junk jewelry she gave me, pieces of my own from long ago, and the necklace.

Suddenly, she calls me from the kitchen, “Come in here,” she screams, “what are you doing with this?” she holds up the necklace, fury in her eyes.  “I gave this to your sister; you aren’t supposed to have any of the ‘good’ jewelry.”  Her voice punctuates the word good, a direct conflict to when she made a point that she wanted to give me the good jewelry.

I explained the story about her being in jail on my birthday and how the necklace was given to me.  She was angry.  She claimed I was never supposed to get the necklace.  The rest of her visit was peppered with tension.

When she left the next day, I went in the room to clean and change the sheets, and the necklace was gone.

My daughter claims she wore it all that summer.

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.

How Did I Become the Flat Girl?

English: "Biggest Little City in the Worl...

English: “Biggest Little City in the World” arch on Virginia Street in Downtown Reno, Nevada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my quest for peace in my life, I have started to consider what could have happened in my life to make me so flat in my relationships with people.  Working backwards, the most significant event that has happened that changed my personality in a very profound way was the death of my father in July of 2004.

Actually, “death” may be too tame of a word, it was not as if he quietly passed from a lengthy illness, he did not die of old age, and it was not as if he even died in a violent car crash that somehow took our family by surprise.  No, he died at the hand of my mother in what would be one of only 9 murders in Reno in 2004.

When I look back on the day that I found out about the day of the homicide, I remember it as if it was yesterday.  I was at work when my younger sister called to tell me.  I called my then husband to ask him to come pick me up, but then I continued working, as I was in the middle of an important journal entry and could not stop.  The co-workers around my cubicle had heard me on the phone and came to offer me comfort, but I did not allow myself to be comforted, I just continued working.  When it was time to leave, I knocked on the conference room door where my boss was in a meeting with the plant manager and some corporate officers, poked my head in, he responded gruffly, as I had interrupted… I stated, “My mother just shot my father and I have to go.”  Then I left for the day.

Over the next several days, I was with my family as necessary, but worked when I needed to as well, never breaking down once.

The next several months were hectic, my brother, sisters and I, along with our families all spent our evenings and weekends remodeling our parents’ home so we could raise money for bail to get our mother out of jail and to put on a proper defense.  Additionally, I had just started back to school, so was attending every Saturday.

The following spring (April 2005) the murder trial began, and things were more hectic.  I worked full time, took nine credits at school, and attended the trial 40 hours a week (working at night to complete my work and projects).  Meanwhile, my marriage was falling to pieces and my children thought I was a horrible mother, but that is another story altogether.  Still, I handled everything with professionalism, never breaking down, and managing to earn A’s in school.

When the trial was over, the sentencing complete, and my marriage in chaos, I felt more mature, more weathered, more grown up.  However, I do not think I felt all that different that I ever had before in my interpersonal relationships.  So, in my quest to determine where my affect for being flat with people began – if I am ever able to delineate that exact moment – I do not think it was that event.

Although, that was a crucial period in my life, defining other traits I still hold onto.