Sunday, May 15, 2011

Taking the "Fun" Out of Dysfunctional

To my first half-sister, I remember you when you were a baby. You had a little sky blue dress and a head full of brown hair. You were cute. And I loved you. When you were seven and I was seventeen, I was torn from the life I knew with you and our mother and your dad/my step-dad. It was the second beating and far worse than the first one. Our mother and your dad/my step-dad had shown up at the church I'd been attending drunk. Our mother dragged me out of the church on my knees, flung me down the steps. The people in the church began praying, loudly storming the gates of their heaven on my behalf. I could hear the church people as I was being forced into the car. The beating began in the car. Our mother sure could pack a punch. At home the beating continued. I can still hear our mother saying to your dad/my step-dad, "Hit her, T. Hit her." as she handed him the umbrella she had retrieved from the hallway. She was exhausted and needed him to continue the beating for her. The lights went on in the neighbors' house and just as quickly extinguished. My screams were that loud. The next morning, an elder of the church took the only meaningful action that anyone there that night had. He called my father.

My dad called me the next morning. It was a Monday. My dad begged me to come live with him. I said yes. The second beating had been much worse than the first. (I had the scars on my knees for years after). After the first beating, I comforted myself with the mistaken belief that this wouldn't happen again. But it did happen again. And so, right after our mother left for work I began to pack in secret. Over the course of the next three days, I took as much of my stuff out of the house as I could.

During that time, I lost track of you in my memory. In my memory, I cannot bring forth any accounting of your whereabouts. I'm pretty sure that you were left sleeping at home when our mother and my step-dad left the house in a drunken rage. Your grandparents lived upstairs so you would have been safe enough. Were you sleeping downstairs or upstairs? My guess is that you were sleeping downstairs. I was sleeping upstairs in your uncle's bedroom while he was in prison. Did you wake up during any of the commotion? Did you sleep right through it, or pretend to sleep right through it afraid that you would be next? Did you tell yourself that I was bad, that I deserved it?

You told me once-- many years later-- that you have no memories of your own childhood until senior year in high school. You remember being thrown down the cellar steps because you were refusing to practice the piano. You told me that you had thought that was "normal." I don't know what you went through after I left the household. I had to leave for my own safety. Did you become the target that I had been? I had a fantasy about rescuing you for several years after I had to leave. During my visits through the end of your high school years, you didn't seem to want rescuing. You did write me once about going to a concert and taking your first acid trip. I don't remember what I wrote back to you. I do know your letter shook me to the core and that I did write back. I had found recovery from my own addiction at that time. Your letter scared me. You were only fourteen. I was twenty-four.

There was your first wedding. I decided not to attend. I didn't feel that I would be safe there. Years later, there was my wedding. You and my other half-sister met for the first time. You are ten years younger than I am. She is twenty-five years younger-- my dad and his third wife's child. You don't know each other. You aren't related to each other. I don't know what happened at my wedding. Both of you were bridesmaids. You hated each other. Both our mother and my father indicated to me separately that neither of you wanted a copy of the picture that the photographer took of the three of us.

Your dad/my step-dad got older. He had a heart attack. I went to see him at the hospital. He thought he was going to die. In that hospital bed, he made amends to me. He didn't die then but the amends stuck. (Our mother to this day will not admit to our history). Years passed. Your dad/my step-dad had Addison's, developed Parkinson's. Began failing. He died. Our mother called me on the telephone two weeks after he was buried to tell me. (I found out later that she had "allegedly" called my aunt directly after he had died and told my aunt that she had told me). I was left out of the obituary that the on-line volunteers found for me later. I signed the on-line guest-book. I live, dammit. Your dad/my step-dad was important to me and I miss him. He wasn't my dad and can never be my dad. But he was my step-dad. And you are still one of my half-sisters.

You got married again, had a couple of kids, moved far away. Made something of yourself in your community. The last time I saw you was at Gramma's funeral, holding your little boy in your arms. You shunned me, ignored me. I needed my dad, demanded that he come to the funeral. After all, he had known Gramma and had loved her too. Perhaps that was the reason for our mother not telling me about your dad's/my step-dad's death, I don't know. I can only guess.

I talked with our mother on the phone on Monday. It was a polite but nice conversation. I do not need her to acknowledge our history together. Through the years, hope changes and my hope had changed. Our mother and I have been like two women waiting for a bus, seeking some sort of conversation and perhaps a tiny connection. And on Monday, I thought whatever healing was able to happen between us had. I misjudged her sense of vindictiveness, her need for revenge.

On Tuesday your second husband died. On Thursday, our mother called our aunt and asked her to tell me that your second husband had died. By Thursday it was too late to arrange for a plane. I scoured the internet for your address so I could send you a bereavement card. I did not find out the arrangements until last night-- courtesy of the internet once again. I looked up your address on Google Earth, saw your home and your neighborhood. Flew past the place you work, the downtown stores, the bay. It was not by my will that I am absent from the viewing today and the funeral tomorrow. All of those things are not really for the dead. We do those things for the living, for those left behind. I would have liked to have been there for you and for your kids. But we have become strangers. (Our mother sure knows how to take the "fun" out of dysfunctional). I am crying on the inside.

Tomorrow I will send you the card I got for you. It is the proper thing to do. My dad says it is and my husband concurs. I wish for you comfort from your family, friends, community. I hope your children will make it, grow up to be compassionate human beings and without any history of the traumas that you and I have both experienced separately. It is many years later, little half-sister. You are a grown woman with a family of your own and a dead husband. I am much older than seventeen now and you are much older than seven. I was not able to rescue you and for that I am truly sorry. Goodbye little sister.

sapphoq on life

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