- December 26th, 2008
I have decided to write.
I love to write.
I don't know what has kept me from it, but now that I'm doing it, I don't want to stop.
Sometimes I get quiet and have to think. The past couple of days have been reflective for me and this is what I have to write about:
For the last six years, Christmas has been kind of hard for me. I didn't have what you could call a good childhood. I left home at 17 after I graduated HS. My parents had divorced when I was 10 or 11 and my father had custody. He is an alcoholic and wasn't particularly nice. He said I could leave but if I did, don't ever ask to come back. He also said that he would never step foot in a house of mine and that if I wanted to keep in touch I would have to do the calling because he wouldn't call me.
He kept to the first one until I got remarried and paid to have them all come from Chicago to Arizona for my wedding. I was 36 by then, and it was the first time he stepped foot in a place that I lived. He did occasionally call though, for family kind of stuff, but it really was me that had to keep in touch.
He had remarried when I was 15 and my step mother told him that if they had children that he would not be allowed to beat them, so my two half sisters never had to experience the physical and emotional abuse that I did.
When I left my first husband (who was also emotionally abusive) and moved back to Chicago (from AZ) with my then 3 yr old son, it was 1986. The very first thing he said to me was, "Don't expect me to be watching your kid." (And I never did...) He always called Jon a brat and accused me of spoiling him. He never realy paid him much attention to him and so Jon has no memories of him, except one where he got spanked unfairly. And I still took it. We were only there for 2 1/2 years when I moved us back to Az. ~ it was only supposed to be temporary to help a friend of mine start a business, but you know how it goes...
Hindsight is always 20/20. There were so many ways that I tolerated continual emotional abuse from this man. I think that most children with abusive parents do this because children do tolerate things far beyond what they should have to. Even as an adult I still had such an overwhelming fear of him that I couldn't disagree or argue with with him on anything. It felt like I was a puppy wanting to be approved of and yet fearing a kick.
I have an older and younger sister too. The older one, Janice, experienced quite a bit of the abuse too, but she was a quite, shy and more fragile type and the younger, Laura, is mentally disabled, so the state took custody of her when my parents divorced. When Janice was 22 she was afflicted with a type of schizophrenia that is pretty severe. She was in Az at the time and became a ward of the state there. She and my step mother had never gotten on, and as the years went on and Barb's alcoholism worsened, her hatred for my sister did too. The youngest child from my parents is my brother. He got some of it, but my father pitied him greatly thinking he was 'sad' because of his mother and besides, he was his 'son'. I on the other hand, was outgoing, gregarious and very bright. He used to tell us stories about himself as a child/teen and often referred to himself as a 'punk'. So he somehow considered me to be just like he was and always told me I was a liar and a sneak.
After I left home, I still did my best to keep in touch and have a good relationship with them. My first half sister was born in 1975 and I left home in 1976. I ended up in Az in 1977 and my second half sister was born in 1080. Every Christmas I spent hours shopping for every family member, then loving wrapped each specially selected gift and sent them back to Chicago in time for them to have them for Christmas. It was so very important to me that they knew I missed them and loved them. I always sent my half sisters gifts and called to talk to them on their birthdays too. I really loved Christmas time and even if I never got anything but a card and $20 check in return, it didn't seem to matter.
Then, after I married Tom and my daughter was born, we ended up moving back to Illinois and I managed to bring Janice too. She had been a ward of the county for quite some time and they have crap for mental health care there. I worked with the county we were moving to in Illinois and the difference is like night and day ~ pitch black night and bright daylight even! My father and stepmother praised me up and down in public about how great it was that I had done that for Janice... but I knew that under the surface they would have preferred she remained two thousand miles away. I didn't care, Janice was thriving and today she has a terrific life and is happier than most.
But life for me being back there again was very hard. I now had a wonderful husband and a great life and he couldn't insult me and put me down any more. But he could still hurt me. Mostly by just ignoring us for the most part. It was like they were the 'family' and we were outsiders that kind of had to be invited but weren't really welcome. We really didn't fit in with the type of socializing they do anyway. We might only have one or two drinks in a night, where my father, stepmother, brother and sister-in-law could easily make the double digits.
The second Christmas in Chicago, the first we had at our house, I tried to help make a connection with my father, Barb (stepmother) and my daughter by letting them know what would be the absolute best present to get her (and it was only $20, which fit their budget) Weeks before I got them the information to order this stuffed JJ the Jet Plane, which was Steph's most favorite show. I thought that they would get it and it would be great. Then when everyone else is opening presents, Stephanie gets a card from them with a check for $20. O-o I was pissed and told Barb that I couldn't believe she'd done that. She apologized, but what can you say or do with people who are phony alcoholics?
A little after two years there, we realized that my husband job wasn't going to be around much longer so he started searching for a new one. There wasn't anything out there for him job wise or for us really as far as family went (except for Janice), and so we ended up moving to where we are now in NJ. We left at the beginning of October of 2000. They had made such a big to do about how could we leave and how they wouldn't get to see Stephanie and Jon (who was 16 and decided to go back to AZ to his dad rather than come th NJ with us) that we said we'd come back for Christmas. And we did. We even flew Jon back. It was during that trip that I realized that they hadn't meant it and that they were actually glad we were gone. We stayed at their house and I almost left Christmas Eve. I was trying to have a nice calm adult conversation with my father and Tom. My father was once again talking about what a problem I was and how if only I would have talked to him as a child/teen. I kind of laughed when he said that. I was never given the chance to talk most the time, once he decided what I'd done, that was it. I tried to related that to him ~without accusation, only to make a point, (and I was tired of his saying that )~ the incident that happened when I was five and we children had been called up to dinner from the front porch. I couldn't find my little sister Laura, who was three and couldn't open the door by herself ~ and in searching the neighboring houses for her, a couple of other kids told me they'd seen her and then gave me directions. Now of course I realize that they couldn't have seen her go down two blocks that way, over one block to the right, then turn left etc... but at the time I was frantic and as I was responsible, I had to go look. I got lost. Fortunately, a kind man saw me crying and I knew my phone number so he called my parents and even brought me home. My father thanked him at the door and without a word to me, grabbed me hard by the shoulder, drug me off to the bed room and beat me with his belt. (I also wasn't supposed to have dinner, but my mom snuck me a sandwich.) Well, he got very irate then and told me that that never happened, I had to have remembered it wrong. I wasn't really prepared for the anger or to argue with him, but then he started saying "Well you know what your mother did to ME when we live there?!!" And he then proceeded to talk about an experience I wasn't even there for, angrily as if I was the one that had done it to him... Fortunately, Tom was able to calm us both down. I was ready to leave, but since I had to pick up Jon at the airport shortly, and it was Christmas Eve, he convinced me to stay. We agreed that we would never stay in his house again, and probably wouldn't have even come back again at all except that my half sister Tracy was getting married the next year and we were planning to come back for that.
The rest of that trip sucked, but it was when we came for Tracy's wedding that things got really bad.
You know how the universe can often support you or seem to try to be killing you? The whole trip was a series of nightmares. First, the wedding invitation from my sister said absolutely no children were allowed. Stephanie was 4. No note or call from Tracy to say that it wasn't meant to include Steph. I was hurt and since we didn't travel without her thought we wouldn't be able to go. But I was talking to Barb (step mother) and she told me that Stephanie was invited. So we came and stayed in a hotel, but we were told that we couldn't stay with them because other relatives were already staying with them. LOL - as if.
When I had gotten married to Tom in 96, Tracy had come out a day early with her then bf Joe (not the guy she was marrying) and they stayed with me and Tracy and Joe helped me do all the stuff I had to do for my wedding... decorating the small banquet room we rented and such. We had a blast. But her wedding was a really huge affair so I didn't really see her before or have the chance to be involved. It did hurt that everyone else in the family, including my sister-in-law had some kind of role in it. Stephanie would have been a perfect flower girl. Everyone who knew we were going kept asking if she was going to be one. Little girls are only little once... and Stephanie wouldn't (and didn't) have any other chance at this experience. They did however have the 3 yr old son of a friend of the groom be the ring bearer. o.O
The wedding was on a Saturday and the Friday before was the traditional rehearsal and dinner after where the wedding party, family and friends go to dinner. I got a call at the last minute from Tracy saying, oh yeah why don't you come. I was very hurt and PMSy so we were about 45 minutes late because I had a hard time stopping crying. My father pointedly ignored us. We stayed to the end and were the last to go so we could chat a bit with Tracy, it was the only time I had to talk to her face to face and other than a couple of quick words in the bathroom at her wedding, the last time I've talked to her since.
As I said, the wedding was HUGE. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception was at a very large banquet place. When you came into the place there were places to hang coats, then you waited in line to leave you gifts, sign the guest book and pick up your seating assignment before you even made it to the room the reception was in. We had Janice with us and had made it thru everything well enough but then there was no name tag for her. (I personally believe that Barb swiped it just out of spite, no proof, but I'm 99% sure she did, 100% sure she would) I asked Barb about it and it was the way she replied that gave me the impression I got. So we decided that she was probably seated with us anyway. We found our table and expected to be sat with someone from our family, since everyone was there. But no. The four of us were seated with Barb's second cousin, whom no one I knew had met. My brother was up at the wedding table. His wife and her neice and nephew were with our cousins and my other half sisters friends were seated with my Aunts. I couldn't help it, I felt slighted. Even insulted. I probably made those people feel slighted, because I wasn't at the table unless I had to be. I was off visiting my Aunts and other relatives and friends. And as I mentioned, the only time I got to talk to Tracy was a moment in the bathroom when she said she would come find me for a picture. She never did. But I had a really great time visiting with other people I hadn't seen in years.
The next day we went to my fathers house again. Stephanie was having a good time and wasn't being annoying or rude or anything. Not that she ever was anyway... I was standing talking to my father when Stephanie walked in the room and he said and I quote " You know, she has the same spirit you did when you were that age... and I did my best to break you" Well, I was too shocked to speak. And I have to admit that he finally broke me at that moment. I went home and cried a lot for many months. The wedding was in Sept and when Christmas came, I couldn't even open cards from anyone. No one had called either. The cards got put aside and eventually tossed. We never got a thank you for coming to the wedding or for the gift. Though it could have been in the Christmas card... but I wasn't able to deal at that point. It was probably June or July of the next year when I thought I might be able to call his house and not cry. So I did. He answered the phone and when he heard my voice he was using his cheerful 'Hey~ how ya doing.' voice. Then he said 'so we haven't heard from you in a while' (really?) 'anything wrong?' and I really did just want to be able to talk to him and tell him how I felt (not that he'd ever cared before) about what he said and how it hurt me. So I did. And I was very calm about it too - but no sooner did I mention that I was had been hurt and upset by something he said, then he started screaming at me telling how I think I'm so much better than everyone else and who do I think I am and how I was keeping his grand-daughter from seeing him. And that was it for me. I said, "NO, I'm protecting her from YOU!" And I hung up the phone.
I haven't spoken to him since. No one else in the family has called me or written either. Janice is still out there and we are in touch all the time so she fills me in. But she's technically an outcast too. Tracy has three kids now and apparently my father babysits them!
Every year at Christmas since then I've gotten very depressed.
This has been the best year though.
I'm not sure if it's just time, or if being out of peri-menopause and into menopause has made a difference.
But this year I'm better. Much better!
Yeah, I cried when I wrote this, but not the heart wrenching wracking sobs that I usually had. Just drippy eyes.
It's the best Christmas in many years.