Them..

She was a beautiful woman….but she never saw it or felt it.

She was tall, had beautiful thick blonde hair, a curvy figure and beautiful brown eyes. I would love to say she had a beautiful smile, but I can’t, she rarely smiled if ever and this is confirmed by every picture ever taken of her, there a blank stare and no smile.

Her eyes told a story, one that I wish I knew. She had anxious eyes that couldn’t focus, the fact is, she was always somewhere else in her mind.

She was such an unhappy soul.

She met my father at 19 at a gas station while he was working for a tree company. My dad, a handsome and reserved man from upstate NY. My dad courted my mom from afar, and they embarked on a long distance relationship consisting only of written letters. After a year or so he finally moved closer to her and eventually, they married.

I don’t know much about their relationship, however, I do know she was quite young, 19 and he was 27. That’s a pretty significant age difference. She was his first and only girlfriend which I found a bit odd for a man of 27 although he is a bit unusual, very socially awkward, a true introvert who didn’t have many friends, if any, and liked (and needed) to be alone….a lot!

She was beautiful, social, creative and more extroverted. She made friends easily and enjoyed the social aspect of life. Having come from a very strict and abusive household though, she was willing to take the first man that got her out of the house and away from her family. It didn’t hurt that the man was handsome and charming (who looked so much like Elvis, its eerie).

Again, I don’t know the exact details of their life, I do know they struggled financially. He worked many jobs and she was alone, a lot. She struggled with the responsibilities of domestic life. Her depression definitely got the best of her.

They eventually had my sister, although she was told she couldn’t have children. I think that would have worked for them having had only one, very well behaved child. Six years later, after being told she couldn’t have more children, I was born. The reality is, she didn’t want me, nor was she capable of taking care of me. I assume that her, what we refer to as postpartum depression kicked in and in those days that was not fully recognized nor treated. This is where the true abandonment took place.

We didn’t bond mainly because she rejected me as a newborn. I was one of those babies that didn’t even cry out for their mother in the crib. I only cried when she held me. How sad is that? My poor and super sweet sister, all of 6 or 7 years old became my main caretaker. My mother would sleep for days so my sister would have to feed me, hold me and change me. It was too much for a 7 year old and cruel for them to put this responsibility on her.

Where was my dad? I have no idea! Working one of his three jobs to support our family, maybe?

At the time I was born we lived in a 4 family house, our apartment was tiny and only had one bedroom that we shared with my parents with a sheet separating their side and ours (me and my sister). It is so strange to think of that now as I sit in a home that would have been considered a mansion to my parents back then. Things have changed so much.

We lived in a very low income neighborhood that was full of multi-family homes and apartments, near the center of town. My mom didn’t have a car so we walked, everywhere. It was the 70’s so our doors were unlocked, we walked into our neighbors houses without knocking and believe it or not the kids were outside playing with no parental supervision. Imagine! At that time, the older kids were responsible for the younger ones even though some of those “older” kids were like…7. So crazy to think that in our times now, a 7 year old is never out of an adults sight.

My how things have changed.

Me, I was a very active and what they considered “Hyper” child back in those days. I couldn’t sit still…constantly moving or talking. I had no focus in school despite being very intelligent and I was angry….intrinsically angry. I had melt downs, often. It’s odd because I knew even at a very young age that my mother wasn’t right and it pissed me off. I had no other way to process this information but to tantrum. My ultimate goal was to try to get my needs met by them.

My mother grew more depressed as the years went on. She was very vocal about how I ruined her life. You see, she wasn’t supposed to have more children, the doctors told her she wasn’t able to conceive and then 6 years after my sister was born, I came along. Truth is, I was too much for her to handle. Unfortunate for me that she did not have the coping skills to deal with my “hyper” behavior and “tantrums” and what she didn’t realize is that I was struggling with massive anxiety. Its interesting and fortunate that I finally put two and two together a few years ago when I recognized my issues with adult anxiety that I realized this was something that developed at a very young age and I now had a name for it “anxiety”.

As my mothers “condition” grew worse life became unmanageable for her and ultimately and more importantly for us. Her untreated depressed morphed into multiple addictions such as compulsive shopping, hoarding and I suspect some pill taking (as there used to be many bottles of prescriptions in the kitchen basket). She would do one of two things, shop or sleep. That was it.

Home was a terrible place to be. There was never any food, the house was beyond messy because it was a hoarder house so yep…we had piles and tunnels. The worst, in my opinion, were the piles and piles of laundry that never got done.

All I wanted was clean clothes and a home cooked meal.

– me

As a very young child I developed what my therapist would soon call “incredible survival skills”. In the mid 70’s we finally left the multi family house and moved into a lower middle class neighborhood in the same town. It was a great neighborhood for kids. The houses were single family homes which were situated about 8 feet apart from each other. There were tons of kids, and the roads were mostly cul de sacs so there wasn’t much traffic. It was a great place to grow up because there was always someone to play with. Back then, parents kicked their kids outside and didn’t let them come in till the street lights came on (which was awesome). So, outside we went and we created adventures, played sports, tag, hide and seek, street hockey…you name it, we played it. It was awesome.

I would go to my neighbors and ask them for food, they knew my mom was sick, but no one really talked about it. My neighbors would feed me, teach me to cook, talk to me about my period, help me with school projects, teach me about money and buy me new clothes. I had no problem asking for what I needed because my parents just couldn’t provide those needs.

It was a very very lonely childhood mainly because there was no love in the home. The kids in the neighborhood were all I really had. I also developed a really cool “fantasy” tool. I started playing with Barbies and eventually they became my own little world. I created the fantasy family that I so badly wanted. It was amazing and to this day I think those Barbies saved me from losing my shit.

I was only allowed to have one friend over, because our house was a hoarder house and my mom was always sick and sleeping my friend Erin was the only person who was allowed into our world. Erin and I would build forts in the yard made of blankets, play house, and office. It was great, our imaginations went wild, something kids know nothing about anymore now that technology has replaced imagination and creativity.

I digress…

Our neighbors were amazing people and in those days people stayed in homes for a lifetime back then. Everyone knew everyone. Everyone helped everyone. It was such a different time. There used to be paper B’s in the windows which would indicate that a Block Mother lived there. Which basically meant all latch key kids could go there if they needed something. How cool is that? It got me to thinking does anyone really know their neighbors anymore? I have been in my neighborhood four years and I have only met 2 families out of like 100. I think that is nuts!

My first boyfriend was my paperboy and I was his paper girl. We each delivered different papers. Through my paper route I was lucky and gained four babysitting clients. It was hard work but I had been motivated to make money from an early age. I knew I wanted to be successful, independent and get out of my parents home as soon as I could.

And I did! I left at 18 and never moved back home.

I have been so angry at her for being such a horrible mother, in fact, I have been angry at her my entire life. This unresolved anger has followed me and driven me to have the most toxic relationships and choose the absolute worst partners for me. I finally woke up a few months ago and asked myself “how long do you want to drag this baggage around with you?”.

The answer “not one minute longer”.

So…I am proud to say that I have been working diligently in therapy and on my own to resolve these childhood issues. I am working to heal this inner child who did not get one ounce of what she needed from her emotionally toxic parents. I am also working on forgiving them for what they weren’t capable of doing, which is being a normal parent. I look back to who they were as people and I know now that they really weren’t healthy enough to be able to meet even our most basic needs and I have to forgive them for that. That forgiveness is real progress on my end because I used to refuse the concept of “they did the best they could”. I used to think, BULLSHIT, no way! Now, I am the wiser and think that they probably did do the best they could. This is hard to swallow.

They are old now, in their 80s and have moved away to my sisters out West. I didn’t say goodbye to them when they left and the truth is, I haven’t seen them in years. I had to cut ties a couple years ago to save myself. I couldn’t have listened to my mother tell me one more time how she never wanted me. Does anyone know what those words do to a person? You can’t unhear them.

My therapist says I have to forgive them even though they are not sorry, and that forgiving someone who isn’t sorry is the hardest thing to do.

I agree with her.

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