Parental Life Lessons and Reflections

I am five foot two and quite proportionate. I have ash blonde hair and blue eyes. I think that I have a good heart and am for the most part a good person. It is situations like the one I have just mentioned that concern me. I seem to have a poor track record even from the earliest love relationships I can recall. I think this is the beginning of the emotional enema that I so desperately need to move on to the right path.

Where is it that we learn to love ourselves? How do we learn to feel worthy of love? Maybe I have not achieved these things and that is why things are in this state. Maybe I try too hard. Maybe I am too nice. You know what they say about nice guys.

I was an average girl. I never thought I was anything special. I am an only child. I never realized that ones first memory in life should not be of the police taking their father away in handcuffs. I could not have been more than four. I had called the police because my mother told me to call the police. My father was drunk and was yelling at my mother about what I have no clue. He had a gun out and was threatening my mother. That was back in the day of dial zero for the operator. What if my father had pulled the trigger on my mother? It would have been a total tragedy. My family did end up pretty close to a Greek tragedy fifteen years later. My mother was screaming for me to leave the room and call the police. Well I did and the police came and took him away. For the longest time I believed this to all be normal. Well as we all know it was not normal.

I wonder where and when I realized that things in my house were not normal. No one ever wants to be different. I must have sensed it early on in my life. The fatal flaw in my family was denial. There was denial of substance abuse, denial of emotional abuse, denial of physical abuse. The biggest denial was that we were totally normal. The things that were said in that house to each other were unimaginable. I think a crack across the face would have been kinder than the verbal attacks. It eats at you and you remember it, whereas a bruise will go away. It will leave a mark, but the verbal wounds go deeper than any bruise. They take longer to heal, and some never heal.

My father was and still is an alcoholic. He always wanted a son, all he got was me a daughter who tried to please him. I was a tomboy for a long time. I would help him in the garage. I would organize things in the garage. It made him crazy. The Virgo tendencies came out early and never left. The fact of the matter is I am a princess and girlie girl. I cannot change who or what I am. I love dressing up, wearing makeup and looking good for myself.

The fights that ensued in our home in the late evening were violent and loud. I usually was locked in my room pretending everything was normal. I knew it was not. My dogs were always in my bed comforting me. I was an only child and I pretended that the dogs were my siblings. They always were keeping watch over me. I would wake up in the morning to find the house totally disheveled. I was always trying to make it a new day. I would wake up first and clean the house. I would put the furniture upright. I would throw away all of the broken glasses and ashtrays and empty beer cans and anything else that got in the way and was subsequently destroyed. I am sure that on some level I thought out of sight out of mind. This behavior I can remember as young as seven. It continued until my parents separated when I was twenty. One time I remember discussing my need to clean up the house after the violence with my mother. I said I did not understand why I needed to clean it up to feel better, her response was that it was the only thing I could control in my life. Children should be in control of keeping their room clean not keeping their families lives together. I look back and say I was a parental figure to two people who refused to take the reins and grow up. Oh I am sure at one time that they loved each other. The fact is that love should not hurt all involved all the time. The true test always came in my father buying something for my mother to make up for the drunken episode. Well that was a pattern I think I learned in life. I think I believed for a long time that things make people love you. It is a sad statement that the gifts were the glue to the family.

I myself can recall in the seventh grade, having a crush on a boy named Steve . I remember that I bought him a Pac Man baseball hat and some other foolish crap. I really believed it would make him like me. I see that this too was the beginning of a very destructive pattern in my life. You cannot buy love or make some one like you. It is the square peg in the round hole. It is not going to work, no matter how much you want it to fit it will be incomplete. That is a theme in my life up until this point. The theme is changing.

My father was always demeaning my mother verbally. They could go at it in such a way it made to movie “War of the Roses” look like child’s play. The tongue wounds in places that the hand could never reach. It goes deep inside and penetrates the most vulnerable areas and never leaves. It stays with you for years after a bruise would have faded. I have been the recipient as well as the giver of such comments. I try so very desperately to not fall into the pattern. The comments that were made to each other were horrible. The comments about my mother’s weight and looks were so vicious I was hurt. Fat ass, lard ass, lazy Mary, mother-fucking pig they look innocent enough alone but aimed at the right time devastated my mother. The conversations if they could be categorized as such were horrible.

It is easy to see that I resemble my father in my looks. I have the same skin color and facial structure. I remember overhearing my father question if I was even his daughter. I was well beyond the age of reason. It hurt me. I am not sure of my mother and her response. That comment showed me a lot about my father as a person. He is a very self-centered unhappy human being. I am sure he loves me on some level, but as of today I cannot have contact with him. The fact that we are so similar on some levels scares the living wits out of me. I fear being like him, unhappy, mean and vindictive. I strive to follow the good path. I love and give freely. I want to say it is very hard to do that after growing up in the situation I grew up around.

My mother she has her own issues as well. The comments I will never state to my children are as follows: “he is my husband before he is your father.”, “I lived a long time without you and I can live a long time again without you because you need me more than I need you” and finally “ If I reject you my whole family will reject you and you will be on the street.” I guess I do not need to clarify why I would never repeat any of these statements to my children. I have learned to deal with the past and its disappointments. I do wonder why I landed on my feet. I seem to have had so much negativity that success would seem impossible. Those phrases were embedded into my brain. I can tell you they still make my stomach turn. My mother is a tortured soul. Besides being tortured she is lost. I am not angry with her I feel more pity than anything else. The fact she told me that she stayed in that abusive relationship for me says more than enough. It is wrong to place blame and guilt on a child. A child cannot make the huge life change and they surely cannot survive on his/her own.

I wonder at what age I could sense the change in my relationship with my mother. It became obvious as I grew up that there was a sick competition brewing. I was never playing to my knowledge. I was just living my life. I was an attractive young woman. I always had a boyfriend or one in the wings. I hung out in many circles of guys. I went to an all girls’ high school. Therefore I met boys at the boy’s schools. I was and am the epitome of the true girlie girl. I always had my nails done. I wore nice clothes and my make up was always perfect. I received flowers and cards and I never missed a dance. I loved and still love getting dressed up and going out.

I could sense there was a level of jealousy but at the time I thought it was just tension. The fact is as an adult this pattern just mushroomed. It is part of the reason I to this day do not have a relationship with my mother. My fathers cousin told him that the same tension happened with his wife and daughter at thirteen. He said it was short lived and would pass. The tension never went away, it only grew stronger. It became more and more abusive

I joined the band at Brother Rice, the boy’s school next door to my high school. I was in the color guard and I had a good time. I eventually dropped out over a conflict in my social schedule. The band was scheduled for a competition and I wanted to go to my boyfriend’s homecoming that same day. The competition was in Central Illinois and the dance was on the south side of Chicago. I was dying to go to a Marist High School dance. I was not missing out on this dance. The band director would not let me out of the competition. I said fine I am out of the band. My mother was fit to be tied. Not because of the dance but because the band was scheduled to play in Dublin over St. Patrick’s day. So she had not excuse to go to Ireland. I screwed that up for her. I have heard about that so many times it is disgusting. She could have gone if she had really wanted to on her own. But it was so much easier to blame Joyce. This pattern has been strong and evident as long as I can remember.

The band situation almost ranks up with the Atari story. I was in fourth grade when Atari came out. I was sick and I wanted the Paradise Theatre album that Styx had just released. My father took me to Sound Warehouse, a music store to get the record. They did not have it in stock so my father took me to Service Merchandise in the same shopping strip mall where he bought me Atari. I did not ask for it, he bought it for me. My mother’s jealousy ran wild for years to come over this incident. I was a child for Christ sake. She would tell everyone how I had my father around my little finger. It was really a dig because she did not have him around her finger. “She had a cold and he bought her Atari, she is so spoiled” she would rant. I heard this story up through college. It would wound me every time I heard the story. I truly was sorry he did not give her the love she craved, but she chose to stay in the relationship.

I could always sense the tension between my mother and me.   An outsider would not have seen it or even felt the tension. I always wanted to believe that she wanted the best for me. It is hard for a person to want the best for another if they do not even know what is best for himself. We always played the loving family role for the outside world. Never tell the family about our problems Joyce. I heard that repetitively. I can tell you everyone knew the situation but we were to pretend they had no clue. My mother had no clue. I recall staying with cousins who were older than my parents, when I was twelve. I told my mom that I wanted to have a marriage like theirs. I said they are loving and kind and I want that too. She told me never to tell them. As if they really believed my parents had the idyllic marriage. Me complementing them was really a statement about my parent’s relationship. My mother was aware how dysfunctional her marriage was but I was to pretend it was normal.

I am writing this to try and put things in perspective for myself and maybe help others see they are not alone. I also hope that on some level it will help others see that they are worth more. I have sold my soul more than once. I have sold it to try and assimilate the love I so craved in my life. I tried to fill the void with empty shallow physical relationships. The void would never filled until I learned who I was as a person. Who my parents are or were should never have been a factor in my calculation for loving myself. I now have a surrogate family of friends who love me just as I am. The trials and tribulations I have gone through have made me a stronger person. I have learned more about myself from my mistakes than I could ever have hoped to learn from my parents.

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