PTSD


What happened surrounding Michael’s wedding was the beginning of the end of my relationship with my mother. I realized then how much she manipulated my father and drove him absolutely batty in exactly the same way. He would beg her to tell him what was wrong just like I had and she would just be bitchy and negative.

To this day I don’t know if I had done something to offend her or what the hell was wrong. She wouldn’t talk about it. That was over and done. The past. We didn’t need to dwell on it. For fuck’s sake, Mother, you damn near ruined you son’s wedding. You certainly put me in a precarious position having to explain it all. Aren’t I entitled to know what the hell was going on? Apparently not.

I never trusted her after that. And I didn’t get over being angry. That incident was such a revelation. All sorts of shitty memories started flooding back into my concious memory of the abuse my brothers and I suffered at her hands.

How she had stuck my finger under the sewing machine needle and deliberately rammed the needle into it for a few seconds as she held my hand there because she caught me playing with her machine. I was maybe three when that happened. Maybe younger. My god in heaven that ain’t that woman was cruel.

It had always bothered me that I could not remember large parts of my childhood but now I think I don’t want to remember. No, I’m almost certain I don’t.

B

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href=”“>Bless the beasts and the children
The Carpenters

There are so many ways we can abuse so much in this world. We can even abuse the planet itself as Al Gore has pointed out in his Academy Award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. I am not a Christian, I have made that very clear on several occasions in my Blogs but I believe the myths human beings tell to explain their occupation of this planet are powerful. The Christian creation story has a compelling message that I think that Christians and non-Christians alike can take a valuable lesson from regarding our role as stewards of this planet and its inhabitants.

I am going to use the King James 1611 Bible because I love the majesty of the Elizabethan Language. I don’t think it makes much difference which translation you use. This part of the story of “In the beginning…” is pretty clear.

1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 1:28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.1:29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 1:30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

This story is centuries old. It was almost certainly passed along as an oral tradition long before it was ever written down and there were many versions before it was recorded in this beautiful 16th century iambic pentameter. The main point that I want to dwell on here is that HUMANS have DOMINION over everything else in the world.

Dominion. That’s a strong word to use. We were to dominate or rule over all the animals and all of the fishes in the sea and the fowl that flies and all the creepy crawly things too.. We have complete charge of everything else in the world. The creator god gave it all to us. If you believe in this creator God I don’t see how you can fail to believe that you have been commanded by God to take care of his creation.

If you are a disbeliever perhaps you could take a moment to reflect that these supposedly primitive people back in the dark recesses of time recognized that it was OUR duty to take care of this planet. They believed that an almighty force, a supernatural being they believed to be the creator of everything around them, gave THEM the power to rule over everything. They recognized their status as the beasts highest on the food chain and understood the moral responsibility that that implied. Can we do any less?

Taking care of this planet and ALL OF ITS INHABITANTS, right down to the most seemingly insignificant species of fly in the muckiest marsh in the backwoods of nowhereville is essential to our own well being. This is it, folks, this is all we’ve got. This planet and its inhabitants depend on us to be good stewards. WE MUST STOP THE ABUSE!

Each of us can stop the abuse by choosing our own particular interest and taking a proactive part in being good stewards. Humananity has been thoughtless and cruel for far too long. There are many, many causes that need to be taken up and battles that need to be fought. You might find the destruction of our rain forests to be particularly reprehensible or you might have issues with substance abuse in your life or you might want to take up the cause of making sure that everyone spays and neuters their pets. There is something for everyone to do.

I have a particular interest in preventing child abuse. How do you prevent child abuse? You can make a determined heroic promise that you will never ever abuse a child and I will truly believe that you would never WANT to do that. But if you were abused as a child I would bet that the odds are better that 50/50 that you will abuse your own child in some way, shape, or form if you do not seek professional help.

Don’t believe me? Check the statistics on the ‘net.

I did. I hate the fact that I did. But I did.

I hit my children when I was angry. I said terrible things to them. Things that no mother should ever say to her babies. Eventually it got so bad I HAD to seek professional help because I was horrified by my behavior. I was horrified but I couldn’t stop. I was out of control.

I had to admit that I needed help if I was going to to end the cycle of abuse. If you are a parent who is in the position I was in, please, seek help. You can get help through your local Child Welfare Services, Domestic Abuse Crisis Lines or family doctor. The professionals you turn to will understand. You will not be punished and your children will not be taken away from you if you come forward. YOU are NOT a bad person but your behavior can and must change.

If you were abused as a child but don’t have children yet, PLEASE, seek professional help. Not only for your own sake, for the sake of your future children.

If you see a child being abused or know of a family where children are being abused DO SOMETHING. The child abuse hotline is 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4253) You can also help by getting involved in Child Abuse Prevention organizations

Make a decision to stop the abuse. Choose Hope.

Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world they have no voice
They have no choice

Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be
The world they see

Light their way
When the darkness surrounds them
Give them love
Let it shine all around them

Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from a storm
Keep them safe
Keep them warm

Light their way
When the darkness surrounds them
Give them love
Let it shine all around them

Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from a storm
Keep them safe
Keep them warm

The children
The children

Eyes seeking the response of eyes
Bring out the stars, bring out the flowers,
Thus concentrating earth and skies
So none need be afraid of size.
All revelation has been ours.

Robert Frost (1874-1963), U.S. poet. “All Revelation.”

My little brother was nine years old when he lost his eye. He lost it because of sheer neglect and the outright refusal of my parents to follow medical advice. He lost it because my father was in a paranoid deluded state of mind, quite likely manic as hell and my mother refused to stand up to him and put her children’s welfare first come hell or high water.

It began when my brothers were repairing boxcar pallets for my father at the Verona Grain Elevator. A nail-head Chuck was pounding on (or maybe trying to pull the nail out of the wood, I don’t remember) sheared off and struck Jimmy Dale in the eye. A simple accident that was no-body’s fault. It could have happened to anyone.

I don’t even have a recollection of hearing about him getting hurt. Did he run to Mother crying? I don’t know. Was he bleeding? I have no idea. But I can guess what might have happened if he did.

My parents did not take their children to doctors. I broke my arm near the elbow when I was roller skating once and my mother bound it up in a dishtowel until it healed. How do I know it was broken? A Doctor mentioned it when I had Xrays as an adult.

I walked to the Doctor on a broken leg without permission from my parents because it hurt so bad I knew something was seriously wrong. My Grandfather loaned me a cane. My mother was furious.

But this story is about Jimmy Dale and how he lost his eye. They didn’t take him to a Doctor right away. Grain Elevators are dirty environments. There is dust and chaff from the grain everywhere no matter how hard you try to keep it clean. The farmers bring it in with them on their clothes along with manure from the barn and animal hair from the cows they’ve been tending.

Jimmy got an infection in his injured eye. Still they didn’t take him to the doctor right away. Not until he could barely close his eye because it was so swollen and he was in so much pain. Then it was nearly too late.

They had to rush Jimmy to Hastings for emergency surgery on his eye and the prognosis was about 50/50 that he’d be able to see again. I remember waiting for him to come out of the operating room outside on the hospital lawn, sitting with my other brothers, trying to read a book and not being able to concentrate. I remember the three of us crying because we all tried to protect Jimmy Dale from everything and this time we failed. I remember Chuck cried hardest of all.

Then there were the long days of waiting until the bandages came off. Every day we would make the drive to see him. We kids couldn’t go up to see Jimmy Dale but we could stand on the lawn and yell hello up at his second story window. A few times they let him come down to the lobby to see us from a safe sterile distance.

We missed him very much. According to him, he liked being in the hospital and getting all that good attention. It was safe. I bet it was. The food was better. It probably was; my mother was a lousy cook and besides they gave him all the ice cream he wanted. He didn’t want to go home. I understand why.

But time marched on and eventually they declared him well enough to go home with instructions to change his dressings several times a day and keep the wound clean. He had some vision back and it was improving daily. Within less than a week my father wanted all of us out at the Grain Elevator, including Jimmy and Mother.

They fought about it. I remember the fight. The gist of Dad’s arguemnt was that Mother did the books and she was very far behind. She had to come back and get caught up and stay current or there would be hell to pay and they would lose the Elevator Gig–the family livelihood.

I remember getting involved in the fight and offering to stay home with Jimmy and tend to him. I could change his dressings and put the salve in his eye. I was, after all, almost 14 and had been minding the boys while my parents worked since I was 9.

No effing way that was going to happen my father roared. The only reason I wanted to stay in town was so I could run all over the place chasing boys. That was part of his paranoia. Part of the reason we all had to go to work with him everyday. So I wouldn’t be left to my own devices to chase boys.

Mother caved in! She took that child back into that ungodly filth place and the inevitable happened, he got another infection. Once again those monsters did not rush him to the doctors right away. They kept treating him with the salve that they were given when he left the hospital thinking that would cure it if they doubled up on it.

By the time they decided that they had to take him in the prognosis was so dismal that my parents were flat out told before he went into the operating room that he would not see out of the eye again and it was doubtful they could save it. But they tried.

Within two weeks the eye was essentially dying and had to be removed. All told, my Jimmy spent more than 6 weeks in the hospital that summer.  He got very attached to one of the nurses there.

My little brother was going to be blind in one eye for the rest of his life. All because my pathethetic excuse for a father was too paranoid to let his family be out of his sight and a big enough of a bully to get his way. All because my crazy Mother could not or would not stand up to my selfish father and tell him her children came first no matter what the consequences might have been.

But you know what, I don’t think the children ever came first with her. SHE came first. She would do whatever was expedient to avoid any serious conflict with my father that would cause HER problems and we children were always sacrificed for the cause. Over and over and over again.

Jimmy Dale may have paid the highest price of all of us.

B

The summer I was 13 there were two very traumatic events in my family’s life. I started the wheat field next to the Verona Grain Elevator (which my Daddy managed) on fire on the 4th of July and made the local news and my baby brother Jimmy Dale lost an eye. It wan not a good summer.

I don’t remember much more than those two events from that summer other than bone crushing boredom and being pissed as hell at being stuck in a ghost town isolated from my friends. For some reason my father had gotten it into his head that Mother and us kids had to accompany him to work every day. I suspect that my mother was virtually his prisoner in some ways.  But she was his assistant and book keeper at the elevator.

I know my brothers and I were. He would get very paranoid and imagine us being up to all sorts of no good.  Me especially.  He was certain I was chasing boys around and I spent most of my time that summer confined to a small camper trailer, hidden away.

Mother’s rule of thumb was to do whatever Daddy said and don’t complain. Don’t ask questions. Don’t make trouble. Don’t fight back. I fought back. At least often enough to be a big PITA. But that isn’t how or why the fire got set. <heh>

The fire got set because Mother told me to go out and burn some trash. Handed me the matches. Harvest was in full bloom. The trash barrel was about 2/3 full of ashes and I wasn’t overly cautious about making sure everything was securely inside the barrel. It was a hot, dry windy day. I set it ablaze and went back to the camper trailer to read my book.

I got to see what a prairie fire might have looked like. Horrifying. Luckily the wheat fields that burned had been harvested that day and they got the fire out before it spread to the acres and acres of pure gold in the surrounding fields. It could have been a horrible disaster. It was nightfall before they finally got that blaze put out and and every last spark extinguished.

One of my classmates, Jimmie Dedrickson was there when it was finally all over. He turned to me and said, “Boy, Gavin, you really know how to celebrate the 4th of July!” A few of the men standing around chuckled and I laughed.

Out of nowhere, my father grabbed me by the hair and threw me on the ground and started kicking the shit out of me screaming at me about starting fires and then laughing about it. There were all these people there and news reporters from as far away as Lincoln and Omaha and he went berserk. They stopped him, of course, but he got away with assaulting me in front of at least 50 people.

The county Sheriff was probably even still there. He’d come out to investigate and ask questions as to how and why the fire started. I remember my mother was angry that ultimately they blamed her for the whole thing because she told me to burn the trash. According to her I should have known it was too windy to burn the trash. I was always supposed to know things without being taught or told. If I hadn’t gone out and burnt that trash, if I had argued with her that it was too wind, you can damn well bet I would have caught hell for that.

B

When my children were small they would ask me to tell them stories about what it was like when I was a little girl. I told them funny stories about my brothers. They called them the Uncle stories. I don’t think they even noticed that I told them hardly anything about myself.

I wish I could remember good times. I’m sure there must have been good times. It couldn’t have all been bad times could it? No. It’s just that the bad times over shadow all the good times, drawing a dark curtain over what was good. I remember times that started off good but turned out bad.

Mostly I remember being afraid to be happy because if I was happy something bad would happen. I remember laying awake in my bed at night and praying that nothing bad would happen. I remember making deals with god about what I would give up if only he would stop the bad stuff from happening. It never worked. I gave up being happy but the bad stuff kept happening. I could never be good enough.

Why do bad things happen to good little girls? Because shit happens and there is no one there to care. Especially not an all-seeing, all-powerful god.

B

Learning to live what you’re born with is the process, the involvement, the making of a life.

Diane Wakoski

I had a conversation with a young friend about the Blog last night. I don’t even know how we got started on the whole thing. I think I was telling him about the advertising gig on Living In the Edge of Madness and how the piece I had written about the worst idea in religion had gotten so many hits which led to a discussion of Blogs in general and this Blog in particular.

My friend is pretty therapeutized and pretty blunt so he asked me why I was doing this. I told him my therapist suggested it so I was doing it. Wasn’t it possible it was making me more angry? I told him that that was a distinct possibility but that maybe I needed to ge madder to get over beeing mad. You know what I mean?

I havn’t ever really written down what my mother had done without making excuses for her behavior. Cutting her some slack by blaming her actions on my father. This time I wasn’t making any excuses and I was telling all. Without going to much ito detail I told him what this Blog was about.

He asked me what I was going to do with it when I was done and I said I wasn’t exactly sure but I supposed that I would send my mother the URL. He told me I sounded angry. I told him damn straight I’m angry. He was worried that that anger might not be good for me. We talked some more and I told him the story about my nephew and the last four years and my recent conversations with my mother.

What ultimately came out is that I am furious with that bitch because all these years I have been protecting her from what she did by my silence. I chose not to tell my children or my brothers because it was me she did it to and I didn’t want to put anyone in the middleof my issues with her. The truth of the matter was I didn’t want anyone to say I had to be the one to forgive and forget and get over it already. I didn’t want anyone minimizing what happened and telling me that she was getting old and really couldn’t I find it in my heart to be the bigger person and let it go.

I just didn’t want to deal with any of them because there was too much hurt and too much potential for more. Besides, I didn’t go anywhere. They could have called me but they never did. Years went by. It’s like if I didn’t make the effort to stay in touch with the boys, I didn’t exist for them. And when they finally did wake up and realize I was missing from the picture, it was too late. I’d taken myself out of their sphere and I didn’t want back in. And I didn’t want them in my sphere either.

My mother said to me that I was only hurting myself by doing this. I asked exactly how she thought I was hurting. She said I had lost my family. I laughed at her and said said I had a family or did she forget I had two children, a son-in-law and a grandchild and oh by the way, one of her grandchildren had come up to Wisconsin to live. Did she know that? He calls me Aunt B. He’s part of my family too. And his girlfriend Natasha. I have as much family as I want to deal with right here thank you very much. What do you think you peopl;e are offering that I’m missing?

She had no answer. She has never once said to me. I love you. You are my daughter and I love you. I’m sorry I hurt you. Never.

I’m not going to protect her anymore. I don’t give a rats ass what my brothers do with the information but I’m going to make sure they see this Blog.My young friend said to me that I can’t change my mother I just have to accept that she is who she is.  He had to do the same with his mother.  He is of course right and I accepted that years ago.  That is what allowed me to walk away from her.

Trust the process, baby, trust the process.  The process is that you learn to live the life you are given with as much dignity and joy as you can possibly muster in spite of the assholes you run into along the way.  If you aren’t lucky enough to be given the appropriate guides when you are born, by damn you look until you find one that suits you who can lead you through the Process! These guides are generally known as therapists but can sometimes be found pastoring churches, in Alanon and AA groups and other self-help groups.  Whatever.   Trust the fucking process!

B

Children walk away from their parents and stop speaking to them.  Lack of any REAL communication.

My mother was/is one of those people for whom De Nile is not just a river in Egypt.  She has built one of the biggest barges I have ever seen and has probably been floating down that river  her entire adult life if not her entire life.  I sometimes wonder if she ever grew up at all.

She was the youngest daughter in a large family and was the Princess who could do no wrong according to her oldest sister who has a son nearly as old as she is. Spoiled rotten according to Aunt Cleo.

I used to go and stay with that Auntie in the summer and with a great Aunt on Daddy’s side. And of course with Grandmother who I started helping to take care of when I was just eight years old because she had corns and bunions on her feetand needed surgery on them.

My grandmother was very vain about her small and dainty feet but she probably ruined her feet with shoes that were too tight.  She was always  after me to put my shoes on and quit running around like a little heathen because I was going to runin my feet and not be able to wear nice shoes when I grew up but I didn’t listen to her anymore than I listened to my mother.  I don’t know if my Mother suffered from corns and bunions at Grandmother’s age but I guarantee you I won’t because I won’t wear shoes that don’t accomadate my short wide feet.  I buy boys shoes for running shoes because they fit better and I pay extra to get a wide shoe.  They aren’t pretty but I like chunky substantial shoes like birkenstocks so it’s fine with me.

I was Gran’s run-and-fetch-it nurse/maid and my mother came in to put her on the bed pan and change her clothes three or four times a day. It was OK because my other Grandparents lived one house and across the street. However, this is the Grandmother who had had several strokes since she was forty-two. Leaving her alone with an eight year old child after fairly signifcant surgery seems a bit irresponsible to me.

I wouldn’t leave and eight year old child alone much less leave them to take care of a 66 year old woman who can’t get out of bed or the chair she’s been transferred to. But then I’m bitter.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Gran dearly and I was tickled pink to be her nurse maid but I shudder to think of what might have happened if I had set the place on fire making her tea on the gas stove or toast in her cantakerous old toaster.

And I was all alone there at night with a woman who couldn’t do a thing to take care of either one of us. That was far too much responsibility for a child of eight in the second grade. My Grandson has just turned seven and I look at him and marvel thinking of all the responsibilities I had at his age.

The Aunts I stayed with let me be a child when I stayed with them. Absolutely no responsibilities other than making my bed and helping with dishes but I loved helping my Aunt Cleo (Mother’s sister) with her chores because she was so cheerful and loved her animals so much. Both she and Uncle John farmed more so they could have a big petting zoo than because they wanted to make any money. Every one of their animals had a name–even the chickens and they had a lot of chickens since they sold eggs.

Their cows were so gentle we kids could ride them from the pasture to the barn.  Except for the bull.  We didn’t mess with the bull.  He was pretty mean.  I remember not taking Uncle John’s warnings seriously and getting chased by that bull once.  Once was enough.

Uncle John still farmed with a team of horses slear up into the mid50s when one of his horses just wasn’t up to it anymore and he was forced to buy a John Deere Tractor.  That was the end of an era and I don’t think he ever felt the same about farming after that.  It became work then when it was communing with anture before.  Just him and his horses out there plowing up the fields and being stewards of the earth.  I don’t think Uncle John ever quite came to terms with that John Deere.

See, I can write all this stuff about these other members of my family but where’s the stuff like this about my Mom?  What can I say about my Mom?  She locked us out of the house and sewed pretty dresses for me that I hated wearing.  She wanted a little princess and got a tomboy who wouldn’t stay clean and always had scabbed up knees.  But most of all she wante her dead son back and I couldn’t give her that.

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