Awkward Conversation in the Shower

imagesThis morning, I had the most awkward conversation with my sister in the shower at the gym.  She and I had taken showers at opposite sides of the aisle and, for whatever reason, began a conversation.

“So, did you work out your shoulder today?” she asked me, over the din of the water.

“Some, but I think I need to move the weights up five extra pounds, I just can’t figure out how to turn that knob thingy,” I responded, explaining how I could only adjust the weights by ten pounds.

“Just ask one of the trainers,” she suggested, “That’s what they’re there for, dork.”

“Well, I probably won’t be here much longer, anyway,” I stated.

“Yeah, what is going on with you, anyway?”

“Well, I have been trying to reach Uncle B to ask if I can come there for the holidays,” I spoke loudly, as I could hear more showers come on.

“You don’t have to do that,” her voice started to crack; “You can stay here with us.”

“No I can’t,” I answered, “Things are starting to get weird here.  You guys need your time alone; and, besides, R’s boys will be here soon and there really isn’t enough room.”

“R just needs to chill,” she said, “He stresses too much.  If we need to be alone, we can always leave.  Just stay, don’t go.  What are you going to do at Uncle B’s house?  There is nothing there for you.”

“It’s fine,” I shampooed my hair as I spoke, “And, you shouldn’t have to leave your house if you want to be alone, it’s your house.”

“I don’t want you to be alone for Christmas,” she was fully starting to cry now, “You’re my sister and I love you.  Don’t go.  I want you to stay, it’s fine.”

“I really don’t think I should,” more showers coming on, a few turning off, people coming and going as we talked, “You guys seem really stressed.  I’m clearly in the way, it is so awkward.  Besides, last year I stayed alone in a hotel for Christmas, so this really is no big deal.”

“It is a big deal,” she was sobbing, “I don’t want you to be alone.  And, after the holidays, what are you going to do then?”

“I really don’t know,” I was being completely honest with her, “I guess maybe kill myself.”

“Please, don’t say that,” still crying.

“I’m finished showering,” I stated flatly, “I’m going to go get dressed.”

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.

The Best Christmas

(Sorry, I know this one is long… but, it is what it is…)

christmasOne year when I was separated from my now ex-husband, I was staying with my older sister for a few months.  I had previously been staying with my parents after suffering a nervous breakdown and leaving my job at the local community college.  The year had been a difficult one, nervous breakdown, walking away from my four-year job, bitter feud with my parents, eventually becoming a virtual squatter on my sister’s couch.

However, the month before Christmas, things started to improve; I landed a job as a manager at a local family owned business.  Still, I was having a difficult time as my out of control spending habits from my untreated illnesses started to creep into my real life.  Whenever I felt unhappy or alone, as I did on most days, I simply went shopping for things I did not want, did not need, and could ill afford; a classic symptom of borderline personality disorder.

I had cut up my credit cards months before the holiday approached, but I knew I could not afford to spend $10 on either one of the girls I loved so dearly.  Each day I watched as the stack of presents grew underneath my sister’s Christmas tree.  The presents were neatly wrapped in glittery paper, tied with ribbons and adorned with bows, all carefully marked with the name of her son, daughter or husband.

I was happy to have a place to live, but my heart ached at feeling so out-of-place at Christmas time.  My sister and I were not very close, and she made it clear I was in her way daily when she would sigh loudly every time she had to move something of mine that was in her way.  I felt terrible, even though she would profess, “Oh, knock it off, if it was a big deal, I wouldn’t have invited you to stay with us.”  Still, I couldn’t help but feel like I had been a pawn in the big feud between her and our parents.

At night, when everybody would sleep, I would sometimes cry, as silently as I could so I would not disturb them; I would wonder what part I had played in the feud.  My dad was not speaking to my sister over some letter he had written and had given each of us kids a copy of; I am not even certain if I read it.  In turn, we all had to take sides.  I needed a place to live, so I guess I chose hers.  The family became divided in a dispute that lasted until the day he was shot; me and my older sister on one half of a canyon, my mom, dad, brother, and younger sister on the other.

So this is Christmas, I thought, wondering what I could do for my girls as I looked at the presents under the tree.  Well, absolutely nothing.

My girls were coming out and spending Christmas Eve and Christmas day with me, their father did not really care about celebrations and we had maintained a civil separation.  I drove the 45 miles into town and picked them up, happy to see them, but sad that I did not even have the money to give them their traditional Christmas Eve pajamas.

They were excited to come, “Oh, Mommy,” they exclaimed, “We don’t care about presents.  We’re just happy we get to spend the holiday with you.”  I was so warmed to hear those words; but, still, I wanted to give them so much.  I knew their cousins were getting lots of toys; the tree was already buried, and Santa would be bringing even more.

When we arrived at the house, the girls didn’t seem very interested in sticking around and visiting with me; instead, they wanted to go outside with their cousins.  I agreed, wanting desperately for them to enjoy themselves and have a good time.  They disappeared outside in the cold for hours.  I looked outside and didn’t see them.  “Where are they?” I asked my sister as she started cooking their Christmas Eve dinner.

“Oh, I think they are in the trailer,” she said as she looked outside noticing a swinging door open on the tractor-trailer door.  Their yard is reminiscent of a car graveyard, old vehicles lined up, rusting away in the sun; my brother-in-law used to own his own trucking company, so they have two of the box type trailers as well.  The kids would often play in there to get out of the wind and cold.

When they came in late in the afternoon, their cousins settling in for Christmas Eve dinner, I assumed we would be eating as well, “No, Mommy,” they urged, “Put your coat on and come with us.”  I followed them as they led me outside to the trailer.

As soon as I stepped foot inside, my eyes filled with tears; they had transformed the inside of the trailer into a festive Christmas hall, complete with a paper Christmas tree.  There were paper chains, ornaments made of Popsicle sticks, tinsel from the Dollar Store, candles, candy, and presents sitting on floor underneath the construction paper tree.  They had even constructed a fireplace and had hung three stockings over the make-believe fire.

“How did you do this,” I asked them, not believing my eyes, “where did you get the money?”

They explained that their dad had taken them shopping at The Dollar Store and had chipped in some of his own money, wanting us to have a nice day; and their cousins had spent the afternoon helping them set it all up.  I hugged them tighter than I ever had in my life.

They had stacks of sleeping bags, apparently we were to spend the night outside as well; just as well, I thought, I did not want to wake up in the house full of gifts my children couldn’t have.

We spread the sleeping bags out and sat down to a feast of Dollar Store snacks and junk.  Later on that evening as we were singing Christmas songs and telling funny stories, my niece and nephew came out and begged to stay the night with us, claiming it was more fun out there than in their boring house.  They were allowed to stay about an hour until my sister came out and demanded their return.

Christmas morning we awoke to stockings filled with lotion, soap, body spray and candy, Santa had been good to us.  We opened presents they had bought for us and each other; I have never been more delighted with things purchased for under a dollar.

I am teary eyed as I think of that year and the love I know my girls had for me then, and I for them.  I couldn’t give them anything, but I wanted to give them the world.  I can only imagine when they saw how much their cousins had, and how they received nothing, they must have known how much I screwed up.  Yet, I wondered who taught them to love that way…

 

I Have OCD

Every day while I am at the gym, I work out on the treadmill and step very carefully, guaranteeing each time the logo on the belt wraps around my foot will land in the same spot.  If it starts to come up a little faster than I expected because I have increased the speed, I change my gait so my foot will land squarely in the middle of the logo.

When I shower, I pump the shampoo dispenser eight times, not seven, not nine, but eight.  Occasionally, if I am feeling a little spunky I may change it up and pump it only four and do half my hair and then pump it four more and do the other half of my hair.  When my shower is over, I put five pumps of lotion on each leg, five on my stomach, and five total for my arms.  If the count is off in any way, I feel like the rest of my day is completely off.

It is not like I am superstitious, or as if I believe I will have bad luck; however, if my “counts” are out of sorts for any reason, I feel completely out of sorts and in a fog, the way you do when you are walking around in the naked dream.  You know the one I mean, when you are naked, but you cannot figure out why and you keep going about your regular tasks but feeling out-of-place.

I do other things, like count stairs when I walk, count words when boring people talk, and I spell words frontwards and backwards, especially words that have eight letters in them, just for fun.  The counting and spelling are mostly a sub-conscious soothing mechanism I do mindlessly when I am stressed, nervous, bored, tired, or trying to keep my mind from thinking of things that will send me over the edge.

When I look as these few silly little nuances of my personality, I don’t even let them bother me anymore, they are so much less of an interference in my life than some of the other things I used to do.  When my children were little, I saw myself on video throwing a class one conniption fit because every single teaspoon to a tea set of theirs was not in place.  They were 3 and 4 years old at the time; on the video they were staring at this crazy woman throwing things out of a closet looking for a plastic Little Tikes teaspoon.

Even if the video was not enough to make an impact on me to notice my annoying idiosyncrasies, I watched my older sister later; she was screaming at my five-year old nephew.  He had been playing with his collection of over 500 Matchbox Cars and one was missing.  She was irate because a very specific car was missing and she wanted to know where it was; I watched as she berated this waif of a boy over a missing $0.96 car.  I was stunned as I saw myself in her; she knew exactly which car was missing, but he could care less.

Another sister, same disorder; same uncomfortable feeling whenever I am around her.  She cleans her house incessantly.  As a guest in her home for longer than an hour, you will become witness to vacuuming, counter wiping, and a constant barrage of orders to everyone who lives there.

As adult children of alcoholic parents, I realize our chances of obsessive compulsive disorder is higher than the American average; and there are four children in my family, other than my brother, the three of us girls have had major issues with the disorder.  However, after witnessing the effect my sister’s behavior has had on their families, I have made a conscious decision, to try to control my outward conduct as much as possible.

I described it this way the other day to my brother-in-law: if it is so unbearable it affects other members of the family, it is no different from being an alcoholic.  Both of my sisters have let their condition poison their relationships.  I am certain I have been guilty of that as well.

Today, though, my counting hurts and annoys nobody… except maybe those of you reading this.

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.