continuing thoughts from my journal

  • Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  You see, family is a major issue with me because the foundation for who you are is all about where you came from and how that place in life treated you.  I firmly believe this.  Every child is born with a different temperament.  I found this out when I had my children years later.  The temperament of a child is likely genetics and possible connected to the development of the child in the womb, mitigating factors being drug use, the lack thereof and nutrition and likely even the environment in which the mother experienced during pregnancy.   I’m no doctor so I can’t say if chemicals in the brain affect a fetus, chemicals triggered by happiness, or sadness, or fear and anger.  It stands to reason to me though, that all these things can affect the way a child develops.

    My oldest, Alley, I talked to her a LOT because I had no one else to talk to, no one I trusted anyway.  I cried a lot when I was pregnant with her and I walked between fear and indifference.  I did a lot of solitary walking to get out of the house so I could speak freely out loud.  The first three months I took no other vitamins than B complex.  Label said it was good for the brain and from how she turned out, I believe it.  I assumed that the nerve tissue was the first thing any baby would need for the rest of it all to come together.  At three months I went to the clinic and got on the pre-natal vitamins and quit taking the others.

    When Alley was born the cord was wrapped around her neck twice so the doc had to have me stop pushing so he could fix that.  She was blue and silent, she took being born in stride and when she looked at me and our eyes locked, there was this sense of “oh, so that’s what you look like.  Hello.”  They had to work on her some so it was a bit before I got to see her and when they brought her to me her hands were clasped in tight fists.  As soon as we were alone I worked my finger in there and opened her hands and told her, promised her that we would not live in a home with aggression in it.  She didn’t make fists after that and I kept my promise.  We were alone in the hospital for three days, nothing like I imagined my first time to experience such a magical thing would be.  No father beaming with pride, no flowers on the nightstand, no planning for the future, no one telling me how remarkable it was that WE could create something, someone, so beautiful.  Just me and Alley and a close friend who knew how the Indians used to swaddle their babies to wean them from the womb so they wouldn’t cry.

    You see, my biological dad hadn’t been in my life and it affected me deeply.  I knew my way of looking at things was nothing like my mom or my step-dad, I had to get that from somewhere and I really wanted to understand me better.  I guess I thought if I’d known him I would have.  Years later when I did get to know him I found out I was right.  If we’d been wealthy, we’d have been known for being eccentric, but since wealth wasn’t a luxury, weird pretty much fit the bill.  Alley was missing that element in her life as well and circumstances surrounding her creation and her welcome into the world told me that MY family wasn’t going to be there for her either.  If they weren’t there for me, they definitely wouldn’t be there for her, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.

    When my son, Jesse was born, he sounded like a baby deer crying and he was lethargic, lazy, and just wanted to be left alone.  He’d been through enough in one day.  When they handed him to me he turned away from me and I wondered would his whole life be like that.  As it turned out, he had autism.  He’s high functioning, but still different.  A nurse had forced me to take a flu shot when I was pregnant with him and I’d been sick for two weeks after.  I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but I was pretty sure it hadn’t helped.  This time there was a family at the hospital to welcome him into the world and they were so proud and treated him with joy and pride……….until they found out in third grade that he was autistic.  Ever since then the vibe I get is “what a shame.”  If I get that vibe, I know Jesse does, he just won’t talk about it, any more than he would embrace me at birth.  I don’t know if he realizes these things consciously, but his internal dialogue tells me he does.  I can’t say a simple flu shot caused this because his dad seems to have mild autism as well.  I didn’t know it when I met him because I wasn’t myself then.  Life has a way of giving you filters through which to analyze the world around you.  It happens with temperament, treatment by others, personal experience (it never lies) and the impression others leave on you about yourself.  Childhood rhetoric becomes internal dialogue and internal dialogue is a really tough thing to re-program.  I’ve never been successful at it yet.  A firm foundation of acceptance and love is SO important to a healthy internal dialogue and a healthy filter for viewing the world with.  Humans are SO complex because of all these things.  They fascinate me and always have because when you grow up in a family of six and no two of you are alike and every one of you has a different way of looking at and handling life, then it tends to make a person take notice and wonder how that happens.

    If you are a loving person, it tends to make you want to be very careful how you raise your own children.

    Then there was Paige.  She was laid back in the womb, her first ultrasound was crossed feet and I grinned when I saw that.  When she was born she was mad as hell and she’s been full of moxie ever since.  She’s my accountability partner.  That kid knows I don’t have all the answers which makes me think of me when I was young and my relationship with my own mom.  I don’t let myself get too angry with her when she disagrees with me for that very reason.  I just do my best to explain myself like I used to want my mom to do with me.  I wondered as I watched her through the window if that time would ever come.

    When I was twelve my grandma gave me a picture album, it was dark green and it wasn’t very big.  It was special to me because grandma seldom had money for presents but she knew I was getting a camera for Christmas and she wanted me to have somewhere to put the pictures.  We were looking at her own pictures and there was this one of mom that grabbed my attention.  Her hair was short and silver, she had on those long white gloves that fancy ladies wore, she was dressed really nice and her make-up was perfect.  The thing was, she had this look on her face, this anger in her eyes.  I felt that if I could know what was going on in her mind in that moment captured in time, THEN would I understand my mom and sometimes all it takes is a little understanding to bring about a lot of forgiveness.  As I write this NOW, I ask myself, what is it I don’t forgive her for that I so desperately want to forgive her for?  There’s a lot of sewage under that bridge, I can’t say water on account of the feelings I’ve dealt with over the years.  When I was six she repeatedly told me to leave if I didn’t like her rules.

    Just that told me two things:  I wasn’t wanted and I had no voice.  My guess is that those are two of the main things anyone mostly wants in life, to feel wanted, and to have a voice.  My grandma also gave me a bell.  It was aluminum I guess, it had a dent in the side and…….why was I crying?  She presented it to me for the first time so far as I knew but I was crying, I was so touched by the gesture that I couldn’t hold back the tears.  Where were these feelings coming from?  Then she told me the story of how when I was little they put it up at Christmas, it had a pull string instead of a ringer and it played jingle bells.  I had loved it so much when I was little that granny had kept it out year round just for me.  When she told me that I knew that no matter how old a person gets or what they forget, when presented with the past, they always know how they felt about things, even if they couldn’t remember why.  Mom had disposed of that bell either before I moved out or shortly after, receiving it and losing it both were important to me.  I suspect she’d gotten rid of it long before I moved out of the house but she used me moving as a ruse so that it appeared to be my own fault for not remembering to ask for it before I left.

    When I was a teenager mom used to accuse me of being on drugs all of the time despite the fact that I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere very often or do very much so I found it odd that when I finally did start smoking pot with Terry and his friends she let up on accusing me of it and seemed much happier with me.  I asked her later in life if she quit doing that because pot made me less moody so I seemed more normal when I was smoking it.  She said she guessed that was true.

    When I was a teenager I had few friends but the ones I had were good ones.  When we lived in Texas there was Donna, Delanea and Kim but Kim was more my friend than theirs.  She was the one I confided in the most.  I didn’t meet Kim in school, I met her in church.  I was painfully shy and she actually spoke to me and showed an interest in being my friend.  I was starving for friends.  Kim was one year older than me so our friendship at school was sporadic over the years like a swinging door though we generally seemed to always catch up when we were in the same building.  I thought it was cool that her parents helped her have a car, she lived like an only child although she had a sister that I never met and she couldn’t seem to get close to.  My tenth grade year gave me some freedom because of Kim having a car and open campus lunch but both of us stayed away from the party crowd.  Donna and Delanea had gotten close over the previous summer.  My brushes with the party crowd were sparse but I did manage to drink a little at Delanea’s house and my first experience with being drunk was at Chris’s house when her parents had an anniversary party.  It started off with mostly adults but the teenagers somehow had heard about it and by the end of the night that place was crawling with people, people who thought I was a prude.  I remember having trouble standing up straight and being outside and one of the long haired “cool” guys exclaiming “hey, she’s DRUNK!”  I didn’t know if that was a badge of honor or my first pass at being accepted by them.  I wanted to be one of them because it seemed to me that every other clique was into things that required progress, cool people just accepted one another’s coolness and moved on.  Donna’s boyfriend had mentioned inviting me along to a concert before but she let him know real fast that my mom didn’t let me do things like that.  I wanted to so bad though, music was my refuge at home and to see it in person, to feel the crowd, to observe the people and to have the street cred of saying I was there.  I wanted all of that.

    Mom decided it was time to move when dad’s job was about to be gone.  He could have gone into some other venue in the oil business but he didn’t want to I guess.  I wasn’t privy to the conversation but I do distinctly remember mom saying that town was full of crooked cops.  I’d heard rumors that they tended to break up parties and confiscate party material without so much as writing a ticket.  The kids liked that about them, it kept them out of trouble with their parents.  Upper middle class had a tendency to hum right along.  Just before we moved mom had made friends with a girl in Kim’s grade.  It was Sonia who had herself a twenty something year old boyfriend who was refurbishing her skill set I suppose.  She was professing to having used drugs but was cleaning up now.  It sucked having her in my house for any reason because she’d run with some girls who’d tried to beat mine and Kim’s asses one night when all of us had been cruising college drive.  We had three boys in the back seat of the car and one of them had flipped that car back off after they’d flipped us off.  We’d dropped the boys off early, telling them we were headed home but we didn’t go home, instead we had to out-smart those girls and then get an older girl to talk to them in order to avoid a fight, one I was pretty sure we would have lost.

    In any case, mom had Sonia speak to me alone about using drugs and evil thereof.  Sonia told me drugs were fun and I should try them sometime.  I told mom a totally different story and went on with my life.  Mom had no idea what had happened that night on the drag and Sonia and her friends had laughed it off later at school.  I saw no reason to put myself in that position again and besides, telling mom anything she could turn into a crusade was not on my list of things to do.  Mom had a tendency to call authorities when she had a problem and I tried to fly under the radar to avoid problems in the first place.  That’s just the way I rolled.  It always seemed to me that there were too few authorities and too many problems in the world, I was pretty good at math.  Her calling the authorities was alright for her, but we had to show up at school.  I’d lost my best friend on account of mom years before and Paula never would tell me WHY she quit sitting with me and being my friend, she only told me who to blame and it was mom.  I never asked mom about it because I was pretty sure  I knew what the problem was and it all boiled down to me wanting to do what Paula did.  I wanted to babysit and earn money and have a bank account and buy myself cool clothes and things.  Mom’s way of dressing me was to get sixties hand me downs and tailor them roughly just enough so they fit me for school.  Me being cool at school was not on her agenda, sometimes I stuck out like a sore thumb.  My sisters and my brother did not have this problem.  Paula gave me her hand me downs which were cool, but not anymore.

    When we moved back to Arkansas I decided that being shy hadn’t helped me much in the past and I was going to say whatever I thought and be more bold in the future.  I was astounded at the difference it made.  I had a wider variety of friends and people noticed me in a good way.  When Terry noticed me and we became a couple I finally found myself in the party crowd and all of them were older than me.  I finally found where I thought I belonged and was accepted.  Course, if you think about it, fish like bait and they accept it.  We had pot under the couch and beer in the fridge, of course I was accepted.  I didn’t see it that way though because when I was out of party supplies, I’d go looking too.

    This life hadn’t been what I saw myself doing really.  I was thinking of buying a house, having kids, proving to my parents that they’d done it wrong?  Yeah, proving to my parents that they’d done it wrong, that was high on my agenda for life.  But Terry and him forcing me into an abortion, well, that’s not doing something right and if you can’t get that first thing right……..let’s just say I’d thrown in the towel for that whole segment in my life and Terry wasn’t going to let me start fresh.  He said he loved me, but you don’t love someone when you have them do something that goes so much against their grain that they hate themselves later.   You don’t give them that kind of burden to carry and expect them to love you back.  Was this my chance to do with my life what I’d wanted to do?

    You see, I was pretty sure if you had children and raised them with dignity and respect and mostly love, they would love you back unconditionally.  I was pretty sure of this because I hadn’t received those things in my life from my mom but I loved her stubbornly and I took that to mean I loved her unconditionally in spite of herself.  I thought if I could understand her better, I’d leave behind my resentment for the past and move on.  Was this my chance to get to know her better?  Would she finally tell me what made her tick?  I didn’t know.