Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Misery Didn't Get Me

I’ve been M.l.A. I’m sorry.

Right after getting my BFN, I had to go out of town to visit my family in Missouri which I will refer to as Misery for reasons that should become obvious.

I haven’t been there in almost three years, but K and I went to be with my mom for an early Mother’s Day weekend.

While labeling myself Zen is quite a stretch, I’m not a terribly anxious person.
All of that changes when I am preparing for a family visit when I become nervous and twitchy and generally difficult to deal with.
My family is a small, simple, uneducated, born-again Southern Baptist clan. We don’t have much to say to each other.

There are small towns with vibrant energy and there are small towns with their souls gouged out and my hometown is the latter.
If you’ve never been to this part of the
Misery Midwest, let me tell you that it is a brain-drained, economically depressed area. There used to be factories and chicken plants and dairies where young men with HS degrees would get a job and go about their lives, but with most things, the factories have largely closed and the plants now hire cheap labor.

Growing up, three kids to a divorced mom with a high school education, we were very poor. When I was five and my aunt was dying in a hospital from breast cancer, my mom fell down the stairs and never got back up. They took her away and for a year I lived with my grandfather while my mother lay in a hospital bed paralyzed from the neck down. She didn’t even have her own mother there with her most of the time because my grandmother was taking care of her other daughter in a city 4 hours away.
My father wouldn’t take all of us, so we were split amongst family members and I spent my first year of school playing by myself in my grandparent’s basement.

The year I turned six, my mother recovered from the rare and mysterious syndrome and came home again but our family would never fully recover.
That same year I was raped by a family friend repeatedly.
I told my mother and while she made sure I never had to be around him again, she never did anything about it. She neither confronted him nor went to the authorities.

My mom did without many things so we never had to go on welfare or be those kids who had to go to the front of the lunch line. She knew what that would be like for us and wanted to save us this humiliation. Nevertheless, everyone in this small town of 5,000 people knew we were poor. I had one pair of shoes for the entire school year in third grade and I remember other kid’s parents wouldn’t let them spend the night with me because my mom was divorced and we lived in an apartment. I hated her for this.
We used to roam the rural roads at dusk collecting cans and my mom made it a game and we never knew it was because she was selling the cans for money.

In the 4th grade my mom started dating her future alcoholic husband and he started sexually, physically and mentally abusing me.
I knew the last time this happened, I had told my mom and she had protected me.
But this time, I told my mom, I told her best friend and I even told my grandmother. They called me a liar and two years later she married him anyway.

When I was 14 and had devised many ways to kill myself, she left him after he chased her down the hallway with a baseball bat, pausing long enough in my doorway to ask me, “little bitch” if I wanted some of this, too.
I was sent away after that to live with relatives while my mother settled in a new town.

My high school years were a blur of alcohol and depression. I know I had good times because the signatures are in my yearbook, but I don’t really remember much.
By this point, I had become an expert at blocking things out--my mind like Swiss cheese with great gaping holes.

My senior year in high school, my mom, who was never really around, moved in with her soon-to-be third husband, leaving me on my own, working two jobs and trying to finish high school.

That year I met a rich Japanese college student who fell in love with me and wanted to marry me and take me back with him. When I told my mother he beat me she said, “but he loves you and he has money, marry him.”

Let me make this clear: I had no role models. Ever. I basically raised myself. There’s no teacher in this story who came along and made a difference or relative who took me in. I should have been dead or a drug addict or a teen pregnancy statistic or a domestic violence abuse victim or any number of things other than what I became.

My brother’s were not so lucky. But somewhere from all of the neglect and abuse came a fire and a fury in me to not only survive but to fight.

So when it’s time for Mother’s Day, it’s hard to find that special card because what ever I find, I never really mean it.

She’s come a long way my mom, but the best thing she could’ve ever said to me was when I asked her how she felt about me trying to get pregnant. Looking me in the eye last week she bravely declared, “I know you’ll make a better mother than I ever was. I made so many mistakes and I can’t take them back and I’m sorry.”
That was a great Mother’s Day present.

I love her, she’s my mother. But I don’t like her very well which makes going home very painful.

All I want to be is a good mother, to stop this cycle of poverty and abuse and show that I can raise a child the way I deserved to be raised.


Anonymous said...

Considering you basically raised yourself, I am amazed and admiring of the fact that you still feel the capacity and the energy to break this cycle by bringing your own beautiful baby into the world. You will be an amazing mother.

It is human nature for each generation to want to do a little better than their parents, but you have far exceeded this already. I'm so proud of you.

Carrie said...

wow. your post really moved me. I am so sorry to hear those things. I can see why you call your home state "misery." It sounds like your mom tried the best she knew how, but still made some egregious errors along the way. (ditto here with my mom) There were quite a few struggles in your past, and I hope things have become much better now at this stage in your life. Know we're all here, supporting you and wishing you the very best! We have the same cycle, so we get to have that extra kinship. haha. :) Thinking of you and hoping all is well.

1invermillion said...

Wow, I can see why you call it Misery and why you would find it hard to go back. You will be a wonderful mother, even if you had to learn on your own, and not always by example.

starrhillgirl said...

So you say there was no teacher who made a difference, no relative, no role model but I see somebody - I see you. Raising yourself and doing a damn good job, to judge by who you are now. And that, to me, makes for a fine mama-to-be. I hope I can do so well raising the child I hope to have as you've done raising yourself.

giggleblue said...

i'm right there, and totally understand what you mean...

Shaunna said...

My god, i never knew how bad your childhood was.......i really think you should write a book. you're a great writer. it's amazing that you have turned out as normal and well adjusted as you are. thank god you got out of "misery"!! your story is very touching, it made me cry.....

on a more positive note: i think may is your month!!! whoo hoo. i can feel it!!!

Cass said...

So I’m guessing from all of your venting that you didn’t have a good visit with your mom? Sorry that you had such a bad childhood, there are a lot of kids like that today it’s sad. It sounds like your mom holds a lot of guilt of your childhood, but I know that she thinks the world of you.

Yes, people in the Midwest are simple people….but that what I like about it. I love New York too; the most fascinating city ever and people are there are so nice.

Hang in there…you're living the good life, in my favorite city, NYC!

Marcia (123 blog) said...

Don't think I'm weird but I decided to get to know you a little better so I'm reading through your archives :)

This is SUCH a beautifully written post and I'm amazed at your resilience and forgiveness. Gosh, that girl I blogged about last weekend? I really need to move on after I read your account.