Never let go…

Dad let go of her hand but she never let go of dad's hand.

Dad let go of her hand but she never let go of dad’s hand.

 

Humans of New York (http://www.humansofnewyork.com) posted this photo with the caption “Dad let go of her hand, but she never let go of Dad’s hand.”

My earliest and perhaps most innocently poignant memory is of having to let go of my dad’s hand. I guess myself at around three. My mother and father were viciously arguing. My sister and I were hiding on the stairway. My heart was racing; scared of the fighting and petrified I’d get caught for sitting on those steps listening to all the loud yelling I didn’t understand and be punished for my curiosity. Two policemen showed up. They appeared larger than life and what frightened me most was the billy club each had dangling from their belt. Menacing, baseball bat looking clubs as big as my leg, which I knew were there to be used. In my confusion for sitting on the stairway…or maybe it was the automatic assumption I’d carry with me for the rest of my life that as usual, I’D done something wrong …whatever it was, somehow I knew instantly that billy club was to beat me with. The minute I saw it, I ran as fast as my legs could fumble themselves up those stairs in my panic, too scared now to even worry about being quiet!

I ran straight to the top of the stairs and turned into the first door on the left, my parent’s bedroom. My bedroom was straight ahead and the same distance to run, but somehow I felt sure that billyclub would come looking for me in MY room. So, I thought I was quite clever to hide in my parent’s room where they at least wouldn’t come first looking for me, maybe buying myself a few precious seconds before the beating.

The yelling downstairs had ceased. I could still hear talking; the policemen and my parents’ voices, but no more yelling. I wanted so much to hear what they were saying…to know what I had done this time…and get a clue as to how bad the billyclub beating might be….ohhhhh, how I wanted to know! Sheer terror kept me hiding behind the leather rocking chair in the corner of my parents’ bedroom, though. I didn’t DARE peek out and be nosy with the billyclub man there, no matter how overwhelming my curiosity was!

My sister had gone under their bed. I stayed behind the chair for what felt like my last eternal moments before my inevitable death, making myself as small as I could to hide completely and occasionally putting my head sideways against the floor to peek under it and see my sister under the bed.

That lasted forever and I must be missing some time in there because the next thing I recall is my mother standing in front of my dad by the big wooden front door downstairs. My mother facing my dad directly, his face looked sad and hurt, not angry and mean like my mother’s and I knew something was horribly awfully wrong. My dad smiled and laughed perpetually. I’d never seen this look on his face ever.   Not once on my entire three years! My mother held mine and my sister’s hands on either side of her, facing him and saying to us, who do you want to go with? This was a hard question. I didn’t want to hurt either of my parents’ feelings and I didn’t know what the right answer was. I love my mommy so much and I love my daddy too! And forever without one of them seemed an impossible choice. At that moment, I really believed this was the most final and permanent decision I’d ever have to make in my lifetime. My sister immediately piped up with, I’m going with you, Mommy.  She either knew the right answer because she was an older, wiser five years old or it simply wasn’t the dilemma for her that it was for me? I didn’t know. I was looking at my dad’s face right that moment, still that sad look that was hauntingly unknown to me and I knew I couldn’t leave my daddy alone no matter what. My sister had already picked mother. I couldn’t leave my daddy alone with that expression on his face and I could feel the hot anger seething off my mother, while my dad felt quietly just hurt and defeated maybe…somehow seeming much safer than the alternative. I stepped over to my obviously wounded gigantic daddy and said, I’ll stay with you, Daddy.

It was decided. My sister left with our raging, seething mother and I stayed with our wounded, broken hearted Daddy, just knowing I could love on him enough with hugs and kisses to chase that sad look away and bring back his usual jolly smile. Strange that the few seconds it took me to make that choice feeling afraid because I believed it would be forever and I’d answer wrong, was immediately replaced with as much confidence as any three-year-old could have after answering such a question. I knew I belonged with my daddy. I loved and adored my mommy like crazy as any child does, but I knew the minute I took those few steps over to stand by my daddy’s side, that that was exactly where I belonged in this world, even if it DID mean I’d never see my beloved mother’s face again. I felt sad, but I was no longer afraid that I’d answered the question wrong. Yes, I belonged with Daddy; my happy, laughing, loving daddy with the smile that lifted my heart high in the air full of joy every day.

I didn’t understand this was only for the night…or a few days…or whatever it ended up being. I can’t recall. The last thing I remember is feeling that odd confidence that I’d made the right choice and knowing I would be safe forever right next to my daddy, holding tight to his great big warm hand.

But it wasn’t forever. Not too long after this painful choice…a night…two or three days…my mother returned and took me with her and my sister. And, my daddy had to let go of my hand. I never let go of his though. Over the next 14 years, I held onto my daddy’s hand once in a while in person when I was allowed to see him, but every day and night I held onto his hand in my prayers, in my dreams, in my thoughts when I was scared, and in my heart when I felt unloved and unwanted or confused and beaten. And I continued to hold it the 27 years following that as I trudged my way through life, love, rape, abuse, and many scary choices.

Forty-one years later from the day I made that first great big life choice to hold my dad’s hand, I’m still holding that big warm hand in my mind and my heart. My daddy is gone. He let go of my hand again to go to heaven but I haven’t let go of Daddy’s hand.

Complete culpability

Thank you for loving me, Daddy.

Thank you for loving me, Daddy.

It’s pity party time. I’ve officially spent my second birthday and the second anniversary of my dad’s death alone. Without one single phone call on either day…not a “checking in to see how you are”, not a “hey, I’m thinkin of you”…not a single friend or family member thought of me on the two most significant days of my life: my birth and the day I lost the only love I was ever going to know.

After 44 years of life, millions of friends, several boyfriends, one husband, and two children of my own, I now realize what I feared most from my earliest days is literally true. My mother, my sister and all those other people over 44 years couldn’t ALL be wrong about me; I’m not someone who can be loved. I’m just not…
I suppose I could write of how it’s my mother’s fault. How being raised by a narcissistic sociopathic woman damaged me so cruelly, left me with huge holes in my soul that can’t be filled, making me so desperate and needy for the one thing that scared me most, love. I found it crazy ironic to discover at 26 that I have a flap in my heart which doesn’t close properly. What a perfect description of me…it was almost an explanation at last for what I am that I can’t seem to help or change. The pieces of me that are so just wrong that they’ll never be right finally made literal, physical sense when the doctors told me that back when I was pregnant with Savannah Grace.

I suppose I could write how it’s other people’s fault, as well. How being so painfully insecure and desperately needy for love and approval for as long as I can remember being alive led me directly to the kinds of people who would manipulate and abuse that…furthering the unlovable clause I was born with. Seriously, WHO gets molested as a 6 year old by a teacher and a babysitter? And WHO is ridiculous enough to get raped *three* times in 44 years? And WHO is blessed enough to have had so many wonderful men profess the most beautiful depths of undying love and still ends up alone? What kind of idiot runs so fast and so often over a lifetime from the very thing she has been praying for since the tender age of 4? I certainly could never convince myself that it was all THEM…that there was something inadequate with every one of THEM. No, the common denominator there is me…and only me. I chased, pushed, argued, and crazied every one of them away from me, even the most tenacious of them. I could try to blame any one of a hundred girlfriends who shit on me, stabbed me in the back, devastated and used me…..but again, who’s the common denominator there? Me.

And what about my daddy? I was fortunate that my mother kicked me out with just a trash bag full of clothes at 16 for lying about smoking a cigarette. Thus, I spent the majority of my life, from 16 to 42, with a most amazing parent who demonstrated love, acceptance, kindness, honesty, integrity, and joy. So many children don’t have that kind of example or love in their life from ANY where growing up, at ANY age. Hell, I was fortunate that my daddy somehow always found the strength and ability to love me at all. Why didn’t that fix those fucking holes I was born and raised with? Not everyone who is unloved by her mother is blessed enough to be unconditionally loved by her father. If the cause of this unending and irreparable unlovability issue isn’t ME, at my very core, then that shower of my daddy’s true blessings would have repaired that. It should have, right?

Yes, it should have. It would have. If it wasn’t me, my fault, my issue, my fault, my inadequacy…mine, mine, MINE.

I’ve never felt good trying to blame any of this on other people anyway. Contrary to many people’s beliefs, I’ve just never been the person who could blame someone for anything at all really and feel confident it wasn’t really my fault. When the teacher molested me at 6, I even felt guilty when he got in trouble…even at that tender age; I felt it was me, my fault. After all, I had actually appreciated the special attention he had always given me, hadn’t I? I had looked forward to his smiles in the elementary school hallways that made his face beam whenever he saw me….it actually made me think of my daddy’s huge grin whenever I got to see HIM! And my favorite was the day he lifted me up to drink from the big drinking fountain. I had appreciated feeling special to a grown-up who saw me every day and still seemed to think I was someone special in this world. I would have never told on him intentionally. Not EVER! And I really didn’t want him to get in so much trouble either. Somehow, even way back then, at such a young and innocent age, I just knew it was my fault. Everything was my fault, so that had to be too. All three times I was raped, no matter how cruelly, I still felt deep down it was my fault…that I HAD gotten what I deserved. And I think I was always afraid to tell my mother because I knew she would be sure to bring that to my attention immediately and then all doubt of me “not deserving” to be raped would be totally eliminated. Hell, somehow I’ve been “asking for it” since the age of 6! I’m sure at 17 and older, I was REALLY asking for it. I just wanted to blame them because I never figured out HOW I “asked for it” and thus, couldn’t figure out how to stop “asking for it”. I only blamed them in my own mind out of frustration that I couldn’t fix what had always been wrong with me.

I’ve never minded taking the blame for things, actually I usually prefer it. After all, if it’s MY fault, then I can fix it. If it’s not, then I’m powerless to ever get it right. And yet, in spite of years of therapy, and so many wonderful years with a loving father, a zillion self-help books and strategies, I’ve never been successful at fixing it. And I still don’t feel satisfied trying to put the blame on other people for anything really… It’s been my life problem as long as I can remember; therefore, it’s still MY problem. My ex-husband even said to me once, “NO one in this world has such chronic shitty luck as you. The shit that happens to you regularly, just doesn’t happen to anyone…not even one of then usually, much less a lifetime of them!?” He was so right. I’ve always known that deep inside too. It’s me…it’s GOT to be. There is no other logical explanation. Hell, my mother abused the hell out of me physically, mentally, and verbally for 26 years and I was STILL desperate for her to love me. I’ve counseled so many children whose parents were fiercely abusive and still, they loved them and would do anything for their love. Me? I have two children who tossed me AND my love in the garbage without a second thought or one single look back to just wave good-bye….just threw me in the trash like the worthless garbage I’ve always been. And in spite of all my mistakes and failings as a mother and a human being, I gave those two children the very best of anything good I have ever had inside me to give, which was still apparently utterly worthless.

And since it seems to get worse the harder I’ve tried to repair whatever this is I was born with, what does that even really mean? If I own it all, I still can’t fix it; if I blame everyone else, I can’t fix it either.
I have so many of my daddy’s amazing qualities…deep down I think, where most can’t see them, but I have them dammit! So, why don’t they make me and my life even a fraction as valuable as my daddy was in this world to almost everyone who ever met him? Why can’t I fix what’s wrong with me?

Why?

I realized recently that I’ve never really been afraid to die… Well, as a mom I was because I felt my children deserved to know the love and nurturing of a mother…the love I never knew and started my desperate journey toward a life of failure lacking. Other than that, I never was afraid to die though. Obviously, my greatest fear is living. And figuring out why I’ve been forced to do something for 44 years that I’m just not able to do well. I’d rather not do something at all, than try for 44 years just to get worse and worse at the effort.

I did always hope that someday, before he passed or I did, I’d have the opportunity to deserve to matter in this world by giving back to my daddy somehow. I always told him, “someday Daddy, I’m going to get myself together and do something REALLY amazing for you to repay all you’ve ben and done for me over my life time”. It still wouldn’t have ever been enough, but I really always hoped I’d have that opportunity and ability someday. I didn’t. He is gone and I’m still fucking alive and every bit as unworthy, useless, and unlovable as the day I was born.

I’m sorry Daddy. I’m sorry I didn’t get it together in time to return your wonderfulness to you even a little bit. I’m really sorry. I know it made no difference to you whatsoever, but it really would have made the world of difference to me.

It seems so cruel. So much death all around me over the last two years since my daddy passed. All these beloved people and children dying and leaving behind heartbroken masses of hurting folks who loved and admired them. Yet, on and on and on I go…. 44 years of nothing but worthless efforts to somehow give the world what I always dreamed of. A life of nothing; worth nothing, for nothing, meaning nothing. No one notices or cares I’m alive and who can blame them? I don’t. So, why does God take the cherished ones and leave the insignificant failures to continue being a burden.

Yet, on I go…

Velvet Validity

It felt like his innocence was gone. I saw that in him in glimpses before of his cruel apathy, but this time was different. And not just an age thing either, it was a sexual thing… I think any time you go back to someone you had before, it’s never the same. And it’s certainly never exactly the way you have formed the memories in your mind over the absent time. For me, it’s always a bit of a disappointment; it’s somehow just less than it was before…or maybe than it had been in your rose colored hindsight.

And yet, not exactly; not with him. No, my every moment with him, comical, serious, sexual, friendly is all blanketed with the velvet validity of everything I remember. All my time with him is though. He is my exception. My exception to every rule. I said to him, “I do want to be friends…and I get sad when I think we can’t be. I mean, I love you…I love you either way, you know?” He responded, “I know you do.” Yes, he does know.

I’m playing Rose Colored Glasses – the song that in my mind always defined my dad’s unconditional and enduring love for my mother. How strange that even as a child with no comprehension of my parents’ marriage or romantic love at all really, I always felt that song was my daddy’s song for my mother. Maybe it’s the conversation we had one day while riding in his red Bonneville with the pin striped velour seats I thought were so soft and pretty. I was maybe 10 or 11 and this song came on the radio and he turned it up and said in his deep joyously loud voice, “Oh baby, your daddy sure burned this one up!” I didn’t know what that meant, so I asked him what he meant by that and he laughed and said, “I used to play that one on the jukebox over and over and over again until people would tell me to knock it off!” Wise beyond my years even then about lost or unrequited love, Daddy didn’t even have to actually say the words, I knew he meant this happened during the worst of his heartbreak era after my mother left him.

I am undoubtedly my father’s daughter. My mother never suffered from silly nostalgic memories or wasted time wallowing in a broken heart from lost love. My sister surely doesn’t suffer that affliction either. Neither of them would ever be such ridiculously silly romantics. Just me. Just me…and my daddy. So maybe it’s my family legacy that I uphold with this unconditional and enduring love I have for D? Maybe this kind of everlasting depth of devotion just runs in my veins?

Perhaps the only love that could have forever kept me from accepting my love for D again is my daughter’s… Her beautiful heart was the only thing which gave me the strength to at least minimize the depth of emotion I have for this man and place it on that tiny back burner. …And as life’s cruel steel-fisted irony would have it, I now no longer have hers.

For the love of Pete, will my life ever cease to fully represent the sappiest of country songs? Having been born into a situation of unrequited maternal love, chronic loss, regular betrayal, a thick aura of unrequited love surrounds me as I live my silly old Lifetime Movie life. And I don’t fool myself anymore into believing my happy ending might come. I think this is just what my life was meant to be for some reason: a cautionary tale about love and loss – the kind where you cry at the end because your heart aches, not tears of joy that it all turned around and the heroine overcame at the end. Hell, maybe I’m not even the heroine? Maybe I’m just the sideline story going on in the background, as the good guy gets the girl and rides into the sunset hand in hand with the love of his life? Maybe my daddy was the star of the show and it ended bittersweet…or maybe it’s one of my daughters’ show? And the happy ending will come for her life?

Oh well, I just love him. And just as I feel some sense of resentment at that blasted stubborn truth I can’t seem to change no matter what I do(ugh!), I hear another song which perfectly identifies my daddy as well, Here For a Good Time.
Daddy enjoyed life to its fullest all the way to his very last second. He may have felt the acute sting of lost love just like I do, but he never let it stop him from laughing, loving, and living to the fullest for very long. He had hiccups from it and he kept right on going. Unlike him, I have full-on break downs.

So, in his honor, I’m not going to beat myself up today for loving this man the way I do. I’m just not. It isn’t going to change anything, so I may as well just embrace it. After all, the unconditional love of my daddy is gone now and my daughters don’t care either way anymore. And even brief moments with D give me the bittersweet glimpses of joy my daddy miraculously maintained with his rose-colored love for my mother till the very end of his life. Bittersweet was good enough for my daddy till his dying day, so it’s surely good enough for me to appreciate and not resent or fight.

After all, it really just is exactly what it is.

Tweet-tweet memories

Early morning,  birds chirping….so many memories…

She was a junior in college, working the swing shift at a casino in Mississippi…driving home with Jennifer at 4 am, laughing,  feeling so brave, fresh, young, self-confident, and maybe just a teensy bit cocky!  Arriving home at daybreak and lulled to sleep by tiny spirited chirps.  Birds chirping sweetly mean freedom and independence and they whisper softly to you in your dreams that life is just beginning…

Later, she was married…waiting and worrying through sleepless nights for him to arrive home safely.  Sitting up with exhaustion night after night as she heard the birds sweetly start chirping, like an alarm clock confirming another full night of his absence…wondering why…  Wondering what…  Remembering his stories of frighteningly excessive cocaine use and bird chirping confessions regarding his first wife.  Realizing that this alarm clock no longer brought happy thoughts of freedom and a life unwritten, full of opportunities to create future happy memories.  Now this charming sound indicated it was long past time to lock the door.  Yes.  Lock the door.  Birds chirping sweetly mean your husband is still using drugs and your marriage might be a terrible mistake.

Some years and a nasty divorce later, she often stayed at his house.  Him….the only him for her.  The one who brought joy to her simplest thoughts and hope from her worst fears.  The one who showed her how  to smile while sleeping and taught her to wake with excitement and promise…the only one. She loved that he would wake early and go fishing…  Birds chirping sweetly as nature’s background music as he made love to her.  He hated leaving her alone in his bed and simply had to have her in the wee early mornings when watching her sleep made him want her more than anything else in the world… Sometimes it seemed more like a dream and the gentle chirping reassured her this was no dream….he was real and he loved her.  Kissing her softly on her still sleepy mouth before he left, she would linger in the land between dreams and reality waiting for sleep to return….knowing that when she next awoke it would be to his adoring smile and passionate, I-missed-you-so-much-before-the-sun-came-up this morning wake-up kisses.  Birds chirping sweetly mean that you are the luckiest, most loved and adored woman on earth and bring millions of kisses….kisses that taste like falling deeply in love  and smell like the fresh ocean breeze.

A newlywed’s conversation

It was 2 days since the wedding.  A simple, beautiful wedding in a tiny white gazebo in the park over-looking the big lake, gorgeous summer day, fresh green grass, and even a few butterflies attended the ceremony. Understated and simple, the bride wore a white sundress and the groom wore khakis and a white linen shirt.  Other than the butterflies, it was attended only by immediate family… The perfect casual summer wedding!

A well-loved and favorite memory of this wedding, for the bride, would always be the groom’s mother hugging her so warmly immediately following the ceremony. She whispered in the newly married girl’s ear,  

I finally have the daughter I’ve always wanted! Thank you! 

As a girl without a mother, this was particularly precious to the bride and made the day even that much more perfect.

The wedding night was not so perfect, but that’s another story altogether.  The couple didn’t go on honeymoon…that was not in the budget and this really didn’t matter much to either of them.

Two days after the wedding, the newly wedded bride is speaking on the phone early in the morning with her mother-in law and discussing various things like the children and the wedding.  God was always a big part of these conversations she had with her husband’s mother too. The bride appreciated this and valued not only having a “mother” at last, but one who could provide such guidance and support on spiritual matters. She felt truly fortunate and blessed!

During the conversation, “Mom” starts explaining that she keeps the picture of her son and his ex-girlfriend up in their living room for the child’s sake because she wants her 5-year-old grandson to have happy memories of his mom and dad together.  Something about this statement feels just a little strange to the bride.  She’s not at all jealous of her husband’s ex girlfriend, after all they had broken up many years earlier, long before she had known him.  So she doesn’t mind the picture staying up, there’s just something that feels a little funny about the conversation when “Mom” says this and she can’t quite put her finger on what exactly it is.  So she smiles into the phone and says, I think that’s a wonderful idea!  Children need to have memories of their mother and father together.  It’s probably a really good idea to do that for <grandson>.

Having shrugged off that weird feeling, the conversation continues as it had and the bride is practically gushing with love, adoration, and gratitude at this great relationship with this Godly woman, who is now actually her “mother”.  Ohhhh so blessed!!

Toward the end of the conversation, “Mom” revisits the photo subject.  She adds,

I really don’t want to take that picture down anyway.  They really looked so great together, you know?  Everyone always said what a beautiful couple they were, but I was always quick to remind the kids that looks aren’t everything.  A relationship can’t be maintained on just looking so perfect together.

The bride says quietly, Yes, I agree.

“Mom” says, Still, no one could ever argue that they sure did make the most beautiful couple!

Not so sure what response is appropriate here and feeling terribly uncomfortable at this moment, the bride decides to end the conversation and go attend to the children.

Thanks so much for talking this morning.  I’m so happy and blessed that I finally have a “mom”!  I love you. Have a beautiful day!