Let me take a step back for a moment, I need to explain the circumstances with my parents a little better. After my mom was arrested that day she didn’t come back home for over 7 years. She was denied bond and had to stay in the prison farm here for over a year while they prepared for the trial. The trial itself from what I remember took about 2 weeks and I was not allowed to go, they were afraid for me to hear the details of the murder and all the things they thought had been hidden from me my entire life. The violence, the affairs, the alcoholism…. How my mother arranged to have my father to be murdered in cold blood because of all the hurt. How do you look your child in the face every day and conspire to take her father from her? He was not perfect, he had his flaws but don’t we all? That one decision by another person sent my life spiraling into a tailspin that took me years to recognize and readjust. The butterfly effect is real. One decision you make today can and will affect you and others around you months and even years in the future. I went from a spoiled child of a well-off dysfunctional family to unwanted, discarded and alone in a matter of weeks. The only time I was allowed in the courtroom was the day of sentencing. They brought my mother in to the room and she looked over at me and looked so thin, haggard…tired. She gave me a slight sad smile and mouthed I love you as she was led to the table to sit down. I sat in a row with my brother and sister on one side and my aunt on the other. I remember bit and pieces of those moments, snatches of time, before the sentence was read…..25 years and for the second time my world stopped turning. She was found guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder and would now not be coming home for the rest of my childhood. They couldn’t do that could they? She had a child, someone to take care of. How could they take her away from me to? I had never felt the heartache I felt that day sitting on the hard benches of the courtroom, tears streaming down my face and sobs being ripped from my throat. I was in a daze as we walked out into the hallway. My Daddy’s family were all there up and down the benches along the wall. Cold hard stares for the children of their brother, son, uncle….family. I could not understand why my aunt refused to speak to me and my cousins that used to play with me in the field behind my Grandmother and Pa’s house now turned their back as I walked by? Why were they mad at us, why did they hate us so? I remember pushing through the crowd, everyone trying to get around the news people as we left the building that day. People shouting questions to us? How do we feel about the sentence? Do we support her after she had been convicted of killing our father? A camera was shoved in my face and a picture snapped before my aunt or maybe it was my sister was able to pull me away shielding my face. That picture of a tear-stained face of a devastated girl made the front page of the Metro section of the local newspaper.
Over the next 7 years, I was only able to visit my mother a handful of times. I venture to say that I maybe saw her 10 times in those years. The state thought the place for her to be was a prison that was hours away from her youngest child and not many people would take the time to take me. I begged to see her more, she would call and there were letters but as a child I longed to simply sit in my mommas lap and have her brush my hair like she used to do, or simply have her close to me and make me feel safe again in a world that now seemed so very big and scary without her to buffer it for me. I grew up in a matter of weeks.
The next few months went by in a blur. To be honest I don’t remember much about that time. My mom and family tried to keep me busy. I know I spent a lot of time with my best friend, had my trip to Disney World that I would be old enough to remember , went to the woods in a hunting trip with my cousins, and had a birthday. But if you ask me details for any of those events, I am at a loss. It’s like it is a memory of a story I was once told. I remember it but have no feel of it. Not quite 5 months later, at home one day there was a loud and aggressive knock on the door. Not sure if it was evening, weekend or I just wasn’t at school that day. I had started to do that a lot, just stay home, away from the rumors and whispers. You see my Daddy hadn’t just passed away of natural causes…. he was murdered. I hated the way people looked at me now, a mix of pity and horror so I had started to stay home more than not. I got off the couch to answer the door as they rapped on the wood again, the sound echoing off the ceramic tile of the foyer. Being trusting and pretty naïve, I swung the door wide and looked up at two strangers. Two men standing at the door in badly fitting suits ask to speak to my mother. I never asked their names, I never asked them what they needed I simply shrugged in the typical preteen way and left the door standing open as I turned to go back to the couch and my TV show as I called out to my mom. I had no idea that my life was about to change drastically yet again. The trio walked into the living room together as the men uncomfortably glance my way and ask to speak to her privately and they walk down the hall. I am not sure who else was there, I don’t know how I ended up surrounded by people holding me back as I screamed and cried and begged the men to not take my mom too. Dropping to my knees crying in the yard not fully understanding what had just happened as the car leaves the drive way. Those two men were police detectives, homicide detectives. My mother had just been arrested for the murder of my father. I vaguely remember sitting on the couch and staring at the TV without really seeing it. People smoothing my hair and whispering everything was okay. I wasn’t sure how they could say that. I was trying to wrap my 12-year-old mind around the scene around me. When had all these people gotten there, why are they all whispering and crying? What was going to happen? There had to be a mistake, they would bring her home any minute and she would make us dinner and the nightmare would be over. That is not what happened. I went to bed that night without either one of parents in the house. My brother and sister and a half dozen or so other people were spread out in bedrooms and on couches that night but I had never felt so alone. Funny how tragedy brings people together, some we had not heard from since the day of Daddy’s funeral. I stole snippets of information from conversations over the next few days when they thought I wasn’t listening or out of earshot. I had learned long before now to make myself small and to be invisible in the house to avoid the chaos and now I used this skill to blend into the background to listen. She was denied bail, sell the house for attorney’s fees, what are we going to do with “her” meaning me. No one would talk directly to me, they talked over or around me in code they thought I didn’t understand. I suppose in their way they were trying to protect me but it just left me feeling lost, isolated and scared. Over the next several months, I learned I wasn’t really wanted much of anywhere and people lose patience with a wounded angry teenager rather quickly. People took me in out of pity or for the social security check I now received because of my father’s passing but no one knew how or wanted to invest the time to try to understand or really help me understand what was happening in my world. I was unwanted and bounced for one person to another moved out of the only home I had known, out of the town I lived in since the day I was born and bounced around between family that I barely knew and in a town I grew to hate. I had never felt as unwanted and discard in my entire life. If I had only known it was just the beginning of a life that followed the same pattern over and over. It’s hard for anyone to go from the spoiled baby if the family to a basically orphaned throw away over night. I lost my childhood mementos, had only a couple of suitcases of clothes to my name and no one had even thought to save a picture of my parents for me. After just a few months of a week here with this cousin a month there with that cousin I was sent back to a place where I no longer had a place or a home. I was glad to be back to a town that felt familiar and at least with my brother but I still felt unwanted and in the way. He hadn’t been married very long and didn’t have a clue what to do with a 12/13 year old girl. There were at one time 4 of us, siblings that is. My oldest brother had passed away when I was only 6 and left a hole in a little girl’s heart. He was 14 years older than me and I was his little sweetheart. He gave me a love of the Pink Panther and was my hero Marine when he came home from boot camp. We had a special bond that was born out of his loving protection he wanted to offer me for the world of verbal and physical abuse I witnessed most days. He was an old soul as they say, a kind heart in a cold world. It makes sense now why he was taken so early, he wasn’t meant for all that was to come. That left 3. I have another brother that is 8 years old and a sister that is 7 years older than me. The three of us had never really been close, we were just far enough apart in age to not know each other and they had no real desire to spend time with their baby sister. We were no more than people who happened to have the same parents and live in the same house. So here I was in the house, in the way of a newlywed couple that was not quite in their twenties they were trying to live a life most young people do and learn how to face the world as a married couple but we had never had a healthy example of what that should look like so it was difficult and often emulated my parents relationship. Drinking, friends over all the time, no time to make sure a seventh grader did her homework or had dinner that night. My sister was never around or when she was she was drunk or high with a new guy trailing behind her. A constant stream of parties and people. There was seldom anything to drink in the house but we always had alcohol of some kind. My sister taught me to take shots of straight Jack Daniels to win bets at parties because no one believed someone so young (and I looked even younger than my real age) could handle the burn of Jack. She thought it was funny and “didn’t hurt anything” and didn’t hurt that I passed out quickly leaving them to do as they pleased without needing to look after me. I woke up many times at night to an empty house because they had went out after I fell asleep. Never sure of who was in the house and never wanting to be there I took to staying with my best friends and staying out on the streets a lot. I was taken from a world that I had everything and thrown into a world I didn’t understand or much like. We had chaos and drama and hurt in our house but to the outside world it seemed that we had the American Dream. My dad owned his own successful business so showed his love with money. We had a house on the river, a boat at the dock and never had to worry if we would have dinner, lights or clothes. Now it wasn’t anything for me to be out running the roads well after midnight. We lived in a beach area so walking and riding bikes on the boardwalk into the morning hours became the new normal for me. A long way from the over protected years before. Most time there was nothing to eat in the house so there were times I wouldn’t eat that day, my friends mom would make sure I ate if I was around or we were even known to do a dine and dash if we really got hungry and no hopes of anything at home. My brother tried but he was young and busy living his life and dealing with the damage that was done. He had been the target of the physical abuse many times and with all the turmoil that followed it is little wonder he had learned early to drown his pain in alcohol and drugs. After all it was what we knew growing up with and alcoholic Dad. My brothers marriage couldn’t hold up to the stress and they broke apart. Then it was just him and a teenager he barely knew living in a duplex with a sister that we would find passed out on the back porch or that she had broke in through a window and sprawled on the couch reeking of barroom and alcohol sometimes with a strange guy wrapped up around her sometimes alone. She had been taught to seek her love and acceptance in the arms of men after the rejection and hurt at home. I had almost stopped going to school. I had went from a A-B student taking mostly gifted (what is now known as advanced placement) classes to failing out of school for missing 28 days in a 9 weeks. And that is when she stepped in, I’ll call her the guardian because the other names the come to mind are not nearly as nice.
I know I have glossed over almost a year here rather quickly trying to have some idea of where I was at this point in life. I know others had it much worse and compared to some I have come out the other side virtually unscathed. I am simply trying to write my story out to understand where it all went wrong. Where is that moment that I broke? If I identify it maybe I can fix it. Looking for a time I can look back at and possibly undo the damage I feel. The pain and loneliness that still haunt my days, how do I find the source of that and snuff it out?
To be continued …..
Where do you begin the story of a life? At birth, at first memory… maybe a defining moment? I can never decide. Sometimes I am not even sure where my life truly began. I never had the idyllic childhood that I have led some to believe. Some of my earliest memories are of laying in the bed at night listening to screaming arguments and abuse in the next room. The smell of alcohol with a bedtime kiss, crawling through the bathroom window into the arms of my older brother to “go get ice cream” at the neighbor’s house, flashing blues lights in the driveway. It was all I knew, it was normal. I am not saying it was all bad, I remember crawling up in my Daddy’s lap in the before the sun ever broke the horizon. Him sitting at the kitchen table, preparing himself for his day ahead. A cup of coffee in his hand and his youngest child on his knee. Talking to me, telling of his dreams for me. Car trips, singing to the top of our lungs with my Momma. Then one day it all turned upside down, the world stopped turning and even the simple things like dinner on the table at night, a bed to call my own, a roof over my head …. They all stopped.
I heard my name over the intercom that day, I was going home for the day. As excited as I was to be getting out of school early, it left me confused as I gathered my things to leave. I couldn’t think of a single reason my mom would come get me early. She did show up randomly at times. Pick me up for a shopping trip or the day we had cable installed for the first time and they told her there was a channel dedicated to cartoons or to have lunch together. But today as I pulled the door open to the front office it was my sister that sat in the chair waiting on me. She didn’t say anything as we walked back out to the parking lot. Even with the excited chattering of an 11 year old bouncing along beside her she was silent which silenced and concerned me. I climbed in the truck beside my sister in law and as she pulled out onto the road my sister simply said “Daddy’s dead” and with those two words the earth stopped turning and a light went out somewhere. I now know that the childhood I had was dysfunctional but it was mine, it was all I knew. My father had a temper, a drinking problem and was unfaithful in his marriage but he was mine and he was all I knew. I was the youngest and thought that he hung the moon. I was taught early to overlook the screaming and harsh words. I was taught it was an acceptable expression of anger. He never laid a hand on me, but violence was very much a part of our family life. I do not know why I was not the target of his rage and pain. I was a witness to many nights in our broken world, behind the closed doors of the American dream family we were when we were not at home, that left the child that lives inside of me scared of raised voices and anger. I was taught that anger equals pain. Then the next day apologies were made and promises that would be broken were spoken. So I was taught that pain equals love. All this things witnessed at home left me thinking this was how marriage…life was done. But even knowing that the constant chaos of life at home was now changing it was a loss that ripped my heart out and it was just the beginning. Just the start of a series of events in this life that has left me living broken.
Since that time in my life I have learned of generational curses and how behaviors like this can and will usually be passed from one generation to the next. I always thought I was okay, that I had survived and that meant I had healed and convinced myself that the damage never existed. They say hindsight is 20/20 and looking back I see how the damage that started so long ago become the very broken foundation I built my life on. It was like building a house on shifting sands. Only recently did I surrender all to God and finally lay it all at his feet and admit defeat in being able to or even know how to heal.
To be continued…..
We said goodbye to a man today that has been in my life for over 30 years. My ex-father in law passed away last Thursday, he has had health issue for many years now but it still feels so unexpected. I went to the services and have spent the last several days with a family I was once a part of, watching my children grieve the loss of a grandfather, my ex-husband, and first love grieve the loss of a father. I wanted to be there to help, I wanted to be there to say goodbye. I looked around at this family, large Italian family and wondered what it would have been like to have stayed.
I entered their lives at 13, a young and wounded girl with a large crush on their son. My life had just changed so very drastically a little more than a year before (another story I may tell at another time) I was hurt, lost, abandoned…..discarded. I had no parents in my life. I lived with a family that hated me but for reasons that are their own I lived in a small back room there. I went to dinner one night and meet the family that would one day become my own. We did not always see eye to eye and I admit to making numerous mistakes with how I handled situations through the years and experiences with them but I look around now and realize that they never gave up on me and even in my absence I was welcome. This couple loved my children with a fierce and unconditional love and for that, I cannot even express my gratitude. They helped to build a foundation of love, responsibility, and family for them and in all these years I have been too broken to see and appreciate it properly. I am unable to express how much this meant to me to Joe now but I do think he knew. I hope that this lesson of loss and realization of a family stay with me and touch my children profoundly. There was every reason to turn their back and never try again but every time I would show up for a random holiday or special occasion (yes I was invited haha) I was always welcomed like it had been last week they had talked with me. Sometimes home isn’t a place, sometimes it is a feeling, a person, a family. I hope that tonight there is peace knowing that Joe is no longer suffering and is in a glorious Heaven in the presence of our Lord. Rest in Peace Joe, you will be missed.
This first post has been months, years in the making. I wanted an outlet to tell my story. An outlet to vent the pain. An outlet to allow for healing. I know some say that people are not “broken” that we all have had circumstances in this life that have hurt us and changed us but that we are not broken. I disagree. Yes we have circumstances that change us and yes if these are few throughout life and considered normal in the world we will then yes I think you are hurt and can heal. There are some us out here that have one after another traumatic event happen, rapid succession, never allow us to catch our breath or make sense of one before must then face the next. In these situations I feel there is a ….shift…. a fracture …..an undeniable and irreversible change inside of that person … inside of me….a brokenness that I carry throughout my life. I want to use this blog as a walk along my journey. From start to finish. Maybe if I can pour it all out in words it will start to make sense. Not looking for followers (but you can walk along if it will help), not looking for sympathy or for someone to approve or even understand. This will simply be the story of my wanderings in this world and journey back to myself. You are welcome to walk with me if you feel the call.