THE LOVE OF A MOTHER
A Daughter's Story
By Emily Hawk
Welcome to the World
I was born on a warm summer day in August in 1968. The President of the United States was Lyndon B. Johnson; Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been assassinated; and we were still fighting the war in Vietnam. So, with that being said, it is safe to say that there were a lot of mixed feelings about bringing more children into the world at the time.
I was brought from the hospital to a modest home in a modest neighborhood with tree-lined streets. I lived in this home for the next 18 years. Waiting at home for me was an older sister. She had just celebrated her second birthday without our mother there to share in the celebration, as she was in labor with me. So maybe the intense sibling rivalry that went on for years between us began even before I arrived home. My sister wanted to play with me, to hold me and even to change my diapers, but from the time we were very young, our mother discouraged us from playing together. She did not want to share my sister with me. As time went on, our mother always found a way to keep us separated. We never shared a bedroom and weren’t allowed to play with the same toys; we were always kept away from each other. As sisters, we were not provided a chance to bond like we should have.
One early spring afternoon in 1969, my aunt, who lived just three blocks away, came over to visit us, as she often did. She was a few years younger than my mother and desperately wanted to have children of her own but had to wait until my uncle came home from the war before they would try to start a family of their own. She loved to come over and play with my sister and me.
On this particular day, my mother was not expecting her to visit, as she had just visited the day before. As my aunt knocked on the front door, there was no answer. This was very strange because the front door was usually open, secured only by a screen door, and the radio was usually playing, which could be heard from the street. But on this day, something was different. My aunt knocked on the door again and continued to ring the doorbell relentlessly. She could hear me crying and screaming from inside the house. She began to panic because something wasn’t right. Climbing between the shrubs, she managed to peek through the window; she saw me tightly strapped in my highchair inside the kitchen. She could smell smoke and see flames. The house was on fire! My aunt was frightened. She could not get through the front door so she went to the back door, which was also locked. In a panic, she beat on the doors and windows, screaming for my mother, but there was no response. My aunt grabbed a loose brick from the yard, threw it to break the front window and was able to rescue me. After rescuing me from the house, she went next door to call the fire department. She then called my father at work; “there’s an emergency at your house - you need to hurry and come home!” “Wait, slow down, what’s going on? Tell me exactly what happened. Is everyone okay?” Once calming herself down, she took a deep breath and explained what had happened. She told my father that she could not find my mother or sister but that she found me home alone; my father rushed home from work and found my mother with my sister; they were hiding in a far corner of the backyard behind some bushes and were playing with my sister’s dolls. My father was in shock when my mother showed no emotion when she was told what had happened. She responded as though what he described had happened to someone else on the other side of the world. She didn’t ask if I was okay or inquire how the fire started. As it turned out, my mother set fire to the kitchen, leaving me to die. My mother later told my father in addition to everyone else, that my three-year-old sister had set the fire. Throughout my sister's adolescence and for the majority of her adult life, she believed there was something wrong with her inside because she tried to kill her baby sister. She later learned that it was our mother who was responsible for starting the fire, but the damage to her emotions had already been done.
Playing with my Sister
Over the next few years, my sister and I learned that we were able to sneak away to play together. We discovered that we had great fun playing together when we were alone. But the fun didn’t last very long. Soon our mother would find us under the beds or in the closets, and we knew we were in big trouble. We usually were scolded, spanked and sent to bed for the rest of the day. We never understood why we were punished or what we’d done wrong. Even when I was a small child, I knew that the punishment did not fit the “crime”.
In the formative years of a child, parents should encourage laughter, playing, singing, and getting along with her siblings. I never understood what I did wrong as a child. I tried to be a good girl but even so, I was often reprimanded but unsure why.
Still to this day, even though I'm in my forties, I question myself. “Am I doing something wrong?” even when I am certain that I’m not.
Some of the things I recall often being said to me when I was a child include the following: "What the hell is wrong with you?", "Are you retarded or something?", " I wish you were never born", "I should have had an abortion", and the one that really sticks with me to this day is "I should just leave you and let you fend for yourself; I don't give a god damn what happens to you."
I often had nightmares of waking up in the morning and finding my mother had left me. When I'd wake up crying because I was scared, my mother's reply to my nightmare tale would always be. "What the hell is wrong with you? It was only a dream. I'm not that lucky."
I was often made to feel as though I was stupid or inadequate, despite my need for acceptance and to just be loved.
I was just seeking the love of a mother.
I loved my dad. He was a good man and provided everything he could for his family. He was a very hard worker. He usually left for work before I woke up but was always home for dinner - well, most evenings. My dad was never home during the day to see the way my mother behaved and spoke to me. She wasn’t mean toward me in front of him; she always tried to make a good impression on my dad. I didn’t understand why my mother was such a different person when my dad was home or around other people. I never had a fear of my dad, even though my mother tried to instill that into me.
My dad married my mother because he loved her. He wanted to provide a good and easy life for her. I loved being around him, as did other people. He was so funny and always cracking jokes. He took us camping, fishing and waterskiing anytime he had time off from work. In the evenings after dinner, he liked to go out to his garage and work on project cars-fixing the engines and getting them running correctly. I loved to spend time with my dad in his garage. He’d often let me help him work on cars. He gave me little jobs to do, but to me they were big, important jobs. He always said that he couldn’t have done it without my help, which made me feel a great sense of accomplishment. In contrast to my mother, he repeatedly said how proud he was of me.
He was a wonderful dad.
We lived about a mile away from the elementary school. I attended this school from kindergarten through the sixth grade. I remember clearly, walking to school by myself having just turned five years old. I felt uneasy walking to school by myself at such a young age. I saw other children walking to school with their moms and sometimes I would walk closely behind them and pretend I was part of their family and that I was being walked to school. I often asked my mother if she could walk to school with me, but the answer was always no. She’d ask me if I was “retarded or something” and then tell me to get my “ass” to school. With my hurt feelings, I’d walk away crying, she’d say, “shut the hell up and stop that damn crying before I call the school and tell all the kids to make fun of you”. As I made my way to school, I always felt really nervous and scared that everyone at school knew everything about me because of the threats my mother made.
My mother never worked. She was a stay-at-home mom, yet my sister and I made our own breakfasts, lunches and sometimes dinners. I never understood why my mother could sleep in every day. Everyone else had to go to work or school, that is, except for her. When I was about 6 years old, I made the mistake of asking, “Why do you get to stay home when we have go to school and dad has to go to work?” I received her answer with a slap in the mouth, followed up with, “When you grow up and get a husband, you can do whatever you want too, BUT don’t hold your breath.”
My paternal grandmother was a schoolteacher. My sister and I often spent the weekends at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandma taught us both how to read by the time we were four years old. So when I started kindergarten, I was already reading at a third-grade level. There were times when a third or fourth-grade teacher came into my kindergarten classroom to take me to another classroom to read, while my classmates were all at recess or playing games. This made me feel like I had done something wrong and I was being punished. At the time it was not explained to me that they were pushing me to see how far I could go in my reading levels. Apparently, I was reading at a 10th grade level by the time I was in 2nd grade.
By the time I was in third grade, I continued to wonder why I was not allowed to play with everyone else during recess. I decided that I was going to pretend that I was not able to read at any higher levels, so that I could play with my friends at recess instead of being cooped up during playtime. Soon, I was able to partake in fun and games with my classmates and was never taken out of class for extra reading classes again. Soon afterward, I received my report card with the teacher's comments that read, "Does not apply herself" and "Refuses to progress as we know she is capable". After reviewing my report card, my mother became very angry with me. I was in trouble. I was not a science project to experiment with. But I guess they gave up on pushing me when I stopped cooperating.
I'm not sure why I was such an emotional child, always wearing my heart on my sleeve. Overall, I thought of myself as a happy kid. I just dealt with whatever I had to and then moved on.
Learning the Ropes
I was always very athletic; I suppose I was considered somewhat of a tomboy but I didn’t care. I played softball and also in the school band from fourth grade through 10th grade. I played the flute and the piccolo in the marching band, and I was pretty good. I was often praised by my instructor as to how well I played. Despite the fact that I was so active in extracurricular activities, my mother rarely attended any softball games, concerts or parades that I participated in. She made up excuses as to why she couldn’t attend, but she and I both knew that she did not feel it was important enough to go. This always made me feel sad.
When I won awards or trophies for my accomplishments, no one was ever there to applaud or congratulate me on a job well done. Even though there were congratulations when I got home, it just wasn't the same. Other kids had their whole families there applauding, hooting and hollering when their names were announced, but I learned to go it alone at times like that. I guess you could say it made me a stronger person, but essentially it made me feel lonely and disappointed.
By the time I was in middle school I had developed a chip on my shoulder. Like most teenagers, I was tired of dealing with people who didn’t treat me like I thought I should be treated. I still showed my mother respect; after all, she was my mother. I always helped with the housecleaning, laundry, dishes, and other household chores, but as I got older, my mother did less around the house; she made all of the household duties my responsibility.
Often times, I would come home from school and find that I was locked out of the house. I did not have a key to our house because my mother was always there. There were several times when strange men would come out of our home. Maybe I knew them and maybe I didn’t, but in either case, they shouldn’t have been there without my dad knowing about it. At that time, I was figuring out what was really going on; and it surely wasn’t that they were exchanging secret recipes!
I began to grow tired of seeing all these other men in our home.
One afternoon, when I arrived home from school, again I’d been locked out of the house, I finally had enough. I climbed through a window on the side of the house, walked down the hallway to my parents’ bedroom (where my mother was lying in bed with a man), pushed open the door and hollered, "What the hell do you think you're doing? You are a married woman! How would Dad feel if he came home and saw this jackass in bed with you?"
She was furious. While pulling the tussled sheets to cover her naked body, she shamed me, cursed at me and screamed at me, "Don't you ever talk to me like that again, you little pill head. You don't understand, so you need to shut your god damned mouth. If you say one word to your father I will kill you. You will wish that you were never born!"
I realize now that I probably shouldn’t have confronted her in such a manner, but I felt at the time that someone had to say something. And that someone was me.
I’d Never Be the Same
My paternal grandparents had moved to the country, which was about 150 miles away. Their property was really nice. They had a huge apricot orchard, which was especially fragrant in the summertime. Whenever our family would visit there, my sister and I would run through the orchard playing hide and seek. Sometimes we picked the fruit right off of the trees with our grandma and she would make us apricot marmalade to spread on toast the next morning at breakfast. As we became teenagers, my parents sometimes traveled to visit my grandparents for the weekend without my sister and me; which was not always a bad thing because sometimes we needed a break from our mother, even though she claimed she needed a break from us. This would happen maybe once a month when were left at home alone but we didn't mind.
While we missed going to the country, we didn't have to see our mother acting so fake around everyone in the family. My dad had no idea how my mother treated us when he was not around. I didn't have the heart to tell him what it was like when he was not there.
Not many children wish for their parents to divorce; however, I was a child who always hoped my parents would get a divorce so that I could live with my dad separately without my mother. When divulging this feeling to my sister, she confessed that she felt the same way. I realized that was a terrible thing to hope for; however, it is how I truly felt.
I felt that I held the key to end their marriage because of my mother’s behavior with the other men who would frequent our home. But I held onto my mother's secret in fear that she might make good on her threats to kill me if I said anything. Also, if she was able to convince my dad that I was lying about it, I could risk losing his confidence in me, and I didn’t want to break his heart. So I promised myself to keep the secret inside.
Just after my 13th birthday, my parents made of their occasional trips to visit with Grandma and Grandpa while my sister and I stayed at home alone. My sister had rebelled in her own way over the years by becoming friends and hanging out with older teenagers as well as young adults at a very young age. This particular weekend, my sister decided that she was going to have a party with some of her friends. What started out as a small get-together became a big party. There were about 40 to 45 people in our home whose ages ranged from 15 to 30 years old. I was the youngest, having just turned 13. Everyone at the party was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. I had never drunk alcohol or smoked marijuana but I knew what it was and had been around people who did. I really wanted to fit in with all the older kids and young adults who attended my sister's party. Everyone looked at me as though I was just a baby and shouldn't even be at this party, but it was at my house so I had nowhere else to go. I admit that I did drink a couple of beers and smoked some marijuana. Before long, I felt terrible.
I knew I shouldn't have done it.
I decided that I needed to go to bed and sleep it off. So, I went to my room, closed the door, turned off the light and lay down on my bed. The music was very loud and all of the people in our home were very loud. Everyone was yelling, screaming, laughing and having a good time. I wanted everyone to go home, but that isn't what happened.
As I lay there in my bed, everything started spinning and eventually I began vomiting. I was so sick. I had never felt so sick before.
As I lay there in bed with everything spinning, I heard someone enter my bedroom. My bedroom was right next door to the only bathroom in our house. As this person walked into the bedroom, I said loudly, "This is not the bathroom, it's the next door.”
It was a man who had come into my room, and he told me that he did not need to use the bathroom. So I told him that he needed to get out of my room. He said, "I'm not going anywhere."
I began yelling at him and told him to get out of my room. He walked the rest of the way in and closed the door behind him. He pushed my heavy dresser in front of the bedroom door to prevent anyone else from coming into the room.
I didn't know what was happening and I was very scared. I began yelling for someone to help me. But no one came. No one could hear me over the loud music and loud voices of the party. I was screaming but no one heard me. I felt helpless. This strange man with the stench of alcohol on his breath, a man I had never seen before, was in my house, in my bedroom and touching me in places no one had ever touched me before. I screamed again. I was kicking and screaming and crying but no one came to help me. I was raped in my own home and in my own bed. I felt completely powerless. Why would somebody do this to me? All I wanted to do was lie there in my bed and die. How could this have happened to me? What did I do to deserve this? I cried myself to sleep that night.
The next morning, I woke up, desperately hoping that it was just a horrible nightmare, but the bloody sheets, my bruised jaw, busted lip and bruised thighs made it my reality. My innocence was violently taken from me. My trust in people was now completely gone. I was very angry and hurt. Why wouldn't anyone help me? I was afraid to call the police to report what happened because I was in my home and we were having a party with underage drinking. I was scared, humiliated and forever damaged.
I violently stripped the sheets off my bed and threw them in the washing machine. I took a long and very hot shower and cried. Even though I had showered for over an hour, I felt like I was dirty. I didn't know who to tell or how to tell what had happened. I knew I could not go to my sister because we were not very close. This is how my mother wanted it to be. Could I go to my sister and tell her what had happened? Would she know what to do? It was worth a try. I tried to tell my sister the details of what had happened the night before. But it came out something like: "I think I had sex last night, but I'm not sure." "What do you mean 'you think'?" she asked. I said, "Someone came in my room last night and made me have sex with him. I screamed for help but no one heard me. I didn't want him to do that to me. Why did this happen?" “Who was it?” my sister asked. I told her that I didn't know and that I had never seen him before in my life and the he smelled like alcohol. She saw my busted lip and I showed her the bruises on my thighs. My sister said, "You probably got those bruises while playing softball." I began to cry because she did not believe me. I explained to her how frightened I was and how bad it hurt me. I explained to her that I was screaming for her or anyone to help me get this man off of me. My sister looked at me with a blank expression and said, "You better hope you're not pregnant. And you better not tell Mom or Dad or anyone about this because I will get into a lot of trouble for having a party at our house."
I was shocked and hurt that my sister was more concerned about staying out of trouble for having a party than taking care of her little sister who had just been raped. Was there no one in this world who cared about me? I felt emotionally abandoned once more, but this time by my sister.
I helped my sister clean the house before my parents got home. She promised me that she would buy me a pregnancy test to take to make sure I was not pregnant. I took a pregnancy test and fortunately it came out negative.
When my parents arrived later that day, I did not tell them what had happened to me. I kept it all inside. I didn’t even tell my best friend. I was afraid that no one would believe me and I refused to allow myself to feel that way again.
I guess it was about a week or so later that I was walking down the street with a friend and saw a man who to the best of my memory (in the dark and under the influence) looked like the man who raped me. I was very scared and my whole body began shaking. I wanted to go home right away. My friend did not understand what was happening. She asked me repeatedly what was wrong, but I did not tell her. I didn't have much trust in people because of my mother and sister and so in my mind if my mother and my sister did not believe anything that I said and I was unable to trust them to comfort me, then I surely cannot trust anyone. That night, shortly after arriving home and being shaken up by seeing my rapist, I was crying and crying and did not know what to do or where to turn.
My mother had surgery on her abdomen several months before this all occurred. Afterwards she had to take various medications. There were several pill bottles in the medicine cabinet of the bathroom. It was at that time I made a desperate and terrible decision. I opened all of the pill bottles, dumped a handful of different pills into my hand, turned on the bathroom faucet, and swallowed all of them. There were about 12 pills of different sorts, from pain pills, to muscle relaxers, to tranquilizers, and I don’t know what else.
Shortly after taking all of the pills, I was walking to my room and collapsed in the hallway. My sister and mother found me lying there. My sister was scared and told my mother that we should call an ambulance, but my mother refused. Instead, she put me on the couch in the living room, covered me with blankets and put a wet washcloth on my forehead. I was unconscious for three or four days. Why would my mother not take me to a hospital? Was she hoping that I would not survive? She did not know that I took pills. Or did she? I would never be the same.
The Reality Check
After the events that took place in the summer of 1982, I knew that I was not able share what had happened to me with my mother or with anyone else, for that matter. I guess I could've gone to my dad, but I was afraid that it would break his heart. I'm not sure how my dad would handle the news that his baby daughter had been violated in the worst way. So, I decided to keep my secret. This became very detrimental to me - mentally and emotionally. It was at this point that I knew I could not rely on any one, not even my family. This horrible event in my life changed me forever. Despite what happened, I tried to be happy and forget about it. But it stayed with me for my entire life.
Between the ages of 13 and 15, I didn't care much about myself. I was anorexic and bulimic; I didn't eat much and when I did, I would force myself to be sick. I began experimenting with drugs, smoking pot, cocaine and pills. I knew that it wasn't good for me but everyone else around me was doing it. I realize now that was not a good reason, but at the time, what did I have to lose? I had already lost my innocence and my trust in people. I knew that I could not count on anyone to help me out of a tough situation. This had been proven to me time and time again.
When I was about 15 years old, I really began to act out. My sister and I were always fist fighting, chasing each other through the house with knives, and pulling each other’s hair. We were out of control, but our mother never tried to put a stop to it. She encouraged us to fight each other. She would rather see us get into physical altercations and get it over with than to sit us down and try to work it all out calmly and come up with a resolution, which ultimately may have just been a misunderstanding. But that required her to act like a real mother and she would have to listen to us and our problems and help resolve it peacefully. So it was easier for her to tell us to fight it out and then “shut up about it”.
I held a lot of resentment towards my sister because she did not save me from that unforgettable scarring summer night. It had been two years, but still it had changed me. I wish things had been different between my sister and me. She was also just a child when it all happened. I would later forgive her.
I blamed my mother for what happened to me. Keeping my sister and me separate as we grew up did not allow us to learn to trust and protect each other.
During one of our many fights, my mother would defend my sister; she always took my sister's side regardless of what was going on. I was just about to take another swing at my sister when I saw my mother crying and screaming at us to stop. My mother grabbed me by the hair and told my sister to leave the house. I repeatedly apologized to my mother for fighting with my sister. I was afraid she was going to really lay into me when she began yelling, "What in the hell did your sister ever do to you? Why have you always been so mean and hateful? What is wrong with you? There is something seriously wrong with you!”
I knew my mother would not try to understand or care about what had happened to me and how my sister had not protected me or told anyone about it to get some help for me. So I vowed not to tell her.
My mother continued yelling and screaming “You are such an evil person. You are going to burn hell for being so hateful”. I was crying and confused. If I just told her what had happened, would she understand why I was so angry or even care about what I had gone through?
So, I asked her, "Do you really want to know why I’m so angry at her all the time?"
With hate and doubt in her eyes she said, "You better tell me right now what your sister has done to deserve all this from you. There’s nothing you can say that will justify your behavior."
While wiping the tears from my eyes, I blurted it out, "I was raped two years ago in my bedroom during a party that my sister had when you were at Grandma and Grandpa’s."
Within a split second my mother's reply was, "You are a god-damned liar. Your sister would not have a party in our house. You are just jealous of her because she is prettier than you and she has more friends than you do. What the hell is wrong with you? There is something seriously wrong with you to say something like that."
I desperately replied, "I'm not lying. It happened. And this is exactly why I didn't tell you because I knew you would not believe me. You never believe anything I tell you."
My mother said, "You are a god-damned liar and I have never trusted anything you say."
I was so hurt. It broke my heart but I knew for sure that she could not be trusted. It also validated that she did not care about anything that would ever happen to me.
The conversation lasted about three minutes. Then out of nowhere my mother slapped me across the face and again said, “You’re a god-damned liar. How dare you say something like that! If that really happened-and I doubt that it did-why didn't you tell me or your father?"
I tried to explain, “I knew you would react like this, that’s why I didn’t want to tell you and I didn't want to hurt dad, because it would destroy him!”. She mother slapped me again and said, "You just need to get over it and get on with your life. Now get the hell away from me and leave me alone."
It was official; my mother did not care about me. I needed her to hug me and tell me everything was going to be okay. I didn't expect it, but that is what I needed.
A week or two later, as I began getting ready for school, my mother called me to the living room where she was having her morning coffee and briefly brought up the conversation again. I thought maybe she had thought it over and wanted to offer me some kind of understanding or maybe an apology for her over-reaction as well as her under-reaction to what I had confided to her. But instead, she had this insane look in her eyes and all of a sudden, she relentlessly began slapping me repeatedly in the head and face while yelling, “You are a god-damned liar!”
I was so scared and confused. My mother started chasing me through the house yelling, cursing and swinging her fists at me. I ran into the bathroom and locked myself in.
As I sat there on the cold ceramic bathroom floor crying and disgusted with what my life had become and the people in it, I began weighing my options. I then found myself digging through the medicine cabinet again and found some prescription pill bottles. I needed to end this miserable life that I was trapped in.
So I ran the water from the faucet, took a handful of pills, left the water running in the shower, crawled out of the bathroom window and left the house. I continued with my plan to go to school to escape my mother’s wrath. When I arrived at school, I was greeted by several school friends, as was usually the case. No one recognized that there was something wrong with me, but the pills I had ingested were starting to take effect on me. I felt very light-headed and I was barely able to walk or talk clearly. My best friend at the time knew that I was not my normal self and confronted me sternly. So I confessed that I had been beaten up that morning by my mother and had taken some random pills from our medicine cabinet. After my confession, my friend dragged me to the school nurse’s office; the nurse asked me “what kind of pills did you take?” I replied, “I don't know and don’t care. I just hope that they would do the “trick”. They were prescription bottles that belonged to my mother. They were from a surgery that she had six months ago, maybe painkillers or tranquilizers”. The nurse warned me, “I am required to call an ambulance and report this to the authorities for your own safety. So stay right here and I will be right back, I need to make a call”. Knowing the she was going to call an ambulance and report my suicide attempt, the moment she left the room, I fled. I didn’t know where I was going but I wasn’t going home.
I didn't go home for three days; yet to this day, I still don’t know where I was.
My mother never looked for me. She never called my friends’ houses to see if I was there or if they had heard from me. She was probably hoping I would never come back.
When I finally arrived home, there were no questions asked as to where I had been, if I was okay, no apology or any understanding as far as our last interaction. I was somewhat relieved for the lack of concern. I wasn't questioned. We never discussed it again.
At the age of 16, I dropped out of high school. School was just not my "thing." I had a job, which to me was much more important than going to school because I was making money. A couple of months later, I decided to return to a continuation school. This continuation school was usually reserved for troublemakers, pregnant students or students that were failing miserably in traditional schools. The point of the school was to provide a place for students to accumulate their credits to graduate from high school quickly. This was the reason that I decided to enroll there. I wanted to be done with school as quickly as possible. They didn't have a music program there; thus, I no longer played my flute or piccolo again. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make. While attending school, I worked a full-time job and a part-time job on weekends to save my money so that I could move into my own apartment as soon as possible. My dad was working out of town; he was gone five days a week and only home on the weekends. So I kept myself busy during the week with school and work; then I would go out partying with my friends and not go home until after I knew my mother was in bed.
My mother set a curfew for me; I needed to be home by 2 AM during the week and no later than midnight on the weekends. Our earlier curfew on the weekends was because my dad was home. My curfew was set so late during the week so that my mother would not have to "deal" with me. And then in order to make herself look as though she was a conservative and protective mother, she set my curfew earlier when my dad was home. I never told my dad my curfew was 2 AM when he was not there because he would have flipped out and my curfew during the week would have changed.
It was sometimes awkward. On weeknights while partying and hanging out with my friends, they all had to be home by 11 PM; I still had three hours until I had to be home! So, I was always home well before curfew and for some reason my mother would tell me to leave and not come home until curfew; it wasn’t time for me to be home yet. There were several nights that I would fall asleep while sitting in my car while waiting until 2:00 am so that I could go sleep in my bed.
This often made me feel lonely and unwanted.
My sister moved out of the house the year before; she was 17 years old. She had escaped. I couldn’t wait until the day I too would be out from under the control and unpredictable moods of our mother. But for the time being, I was there in the house at 15 years old without my sister. It was sort of nice because my sister and I didn’t fight any longer. The only fighting that happened for the next few years was with my mother. But this was something I was accustomed to. However, I was receiving the entire wrath of our mother’s anger based on all of her delusions. She constantly blamed me for my sister leaving home and reminded me often that she wished that I was the one who had left home because she could easily deal with that. She talked to my sister on the phone periodically and asked her to come home. To sweeten the deal she would tell my sister that if she came home, she would kick me out of the house. My sister always declined and our mother would become very angry; she had lost control of my sister.
When I was 17 years old, I began dating a boy who was handsome and kind. He was from the nicer side of our town. A year later, we moved in together. He made me feel safe and cared for. He was also very protective of me. This was a new feeling for me. So, one day I decided to confide in him that I had been raped that summer. He apologized and wept when I told him how it happened. He promised that he would never let anyone hurt me again. Finally, someone cared.
My mother really liked him. My relationship with her soon changed. She was very nice and understanding of everything around my new beau. I didn't understand why, but I did not question it. It was a relief to have a better relationship with my mother. She would often say, "This guy has changed you. I like who you are now". It made me feel as though I had a mom, something I had never felt before. I didn't trust it, but I liked it. I finally felt like my mom had become my friend.
When I was 20, we got married and were expecting our first baby. My mother was excited and happy for us. This new acceptance from my mother made me feel great. It was something I had been longing for my whole life. It was at that time that my mother befriended me and ostracized my sister. My mother often said nasty and rude things about my sister to me. I wasn't sure how to feel about that, as I was still angry at my sister for what happened to me at the party that night when I was 13, and for leaving me when she moved out of the house, but my mother was now my "friend". I just let my mother say what she had to say about my sister. Essentially, she was still trying to separate us, keeping a wedge between my sister and me. My mother attempted to force me to agree with her, regarding the rude comments she was saying about my sister, and sometimes I’d agree with her, because it was easier to get along with her that way. Otherwise, I would be the next one she’d talk nasty about and I didn’t want to lose this new found friendship with my mother that I had always yearned for.
Our mother would say some really mean things to me as well as to others about my sister, like, “The only thing that is ever going to teach her anything is if they find her half dead in a ditch somewhere.”
Even if some of the other nasty things had some truth to them, this was her daughter and my sister, so it was wrong. I didn't question any of it for quite some time but it really bothered me. My sister and I were both seeking our mother’s attention and approval. But it seemed that the only way that we would receive her attention, was to allow her to speak badly about one of us compared to the other. She was always very manipulative.
My sister and I were both pregnant at the same time, so we finally had a lot in common, other than dealing with our mother. Unfortunately, my sister was in an abusive relationship with the father of her baby and I felt really bad for her. My mother often said, “It’s her own fault. If she was a better person, she would have a better relationship.”
My relationship with my new husband, on the other hand, was wonderful. We were so happy and excited to be starting a family of our very own. However, I had some real concerns that I had never discussed with anyone. My main concern was whether I was destined to become the same kind of mother that my mother had been to my sister and me.
One day my sister and I decided to meet for lunch. We were both nearing the end of our pregnancies, and we began discussing our upbringing; I began, “Does it bother you the way mom never wanted us to be close so that she could control and manipulate our relationship with one another?” My sister quickly replied, “Yes, the closer I get to my due date, the more I worry about what kind of mother I will be.” She and I both felt the same way about our mother. As we finished our lunch, we agreed to help each other make sound decisions regarding our unborn babies. My sister continued to express her concerns “Are we going to become the same type of mothers as mom has been?” I replied “I always wonder the same thing. But we’ve seen what she has done over the years and have been able to recognize it as wrong. That is already in our favor and will help us avoid making the same mistakes”. As we left the restaurant, we hugged and left in separate cars. This was the last time my sister and I spent together for a very long time.
Within a few days, our mother soon found out that my sister and I had met for lunch. She was livid. She was so mad at us. She called me nearly every day, saying things like, "You cannot believe anything your sister says," and "Whatever she said about me was a lie." She was so paranoid and delusional that we were sharing with each other all of the things she had said about each of us. I later found out that our mother was also calling my sister nearly every day and tell her the same things.
But I guess my sister and I accepted the fact that our mother was who she was. Our mother tried the same tactics on my daughter and my sister’s son-- keeping them separate by telling one of them that they were better than the other. My sister and I recognized this very quickly. We simply put a stop to it. The children were not allowed to visit our mother without us there to monitor her behavior around them. It offended her but we didn’t care about that; we cared about our children.
My sister’s abusive relationship with her husband worsened, and she had no financial choice but to take her son and move in with our parents. It soon became a fiasco. Our mother tried to take over as a mother to my sister’s son. My sister and I both knew that she and her son could not stay there much longer. We knew what it was like to be a child under our mother's care. We could not allow our children to feel the way we did as children.
My parents had moved three hours away from our hometown, close to where my paternal grandparents lived in the country. This was okay with me, but I really missed my dad. My dad was happy to be living closer to his parents. My mother liked it too. But soon after their move, my mother called me on the phone nearly every day to complain about my father. She no longer had my sister or me to complain about or fight with, so she started going after my dad. She would say how he was not a good husband, that she didn’t trust him and wanted to divorce him, but that she wasn’t going to leave him because she couldn’t afford to. She began asking if she could come live with me and my new family. I told her she could not. My mother told me that I shouldn’t trust my dad and that he was always up to no good. She was extremely jealous of my dad’s relationship with his parents and resented him for moving her out to “the middle of nowhere” and how she was “always alone.” She was trying to drive a wedge between my dad and me. I would not allow her to do this. My dad was my hero. There was nothing my mother could say that would dictate the relationship I had with my dad.
During these frequent phone calls from my mother, she would also complain about my sister. I had finally had enough and said, “Mother. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then you don’t need to call me. I don’t want to hear all your negativity”. She was offended and hung up on me. She stopped calling me for a long while, maybe to try and teach me a lesson. But the lesson that was taught was that she was no longer in control of me. It was actually nice and peaceful when she wasn’t calling me and trying to poison my mind with all of her negativity.
I soon became pregnant with our second child. My husband and I were very happy and excited to be having another baby. Everyone was happy for us. I had cautiously mended the relationship with my mother and when I told her the news, she was very happy for us.
During this time, I was very close with my cousin, my mother’s brother’s daughter. We are still very close to this day. My cousin and I both became pregnant about the same time. It was exciting for us to share such a special time together, but it certainly didn’t start out that way.
My mother learned about my cousin being pregnant from my cousin’s mother, who called my mother because she was so upset. My cousin was 16 years old, far too young to be having a baby. As my aunt told my mother about how upset she was, she said something that would forever devastate my mother.
Apparently, my aunt had “spilled the beans” about my mother giving birth to a baby when she was 16 years old, a baby she had given up for adoption. My mother was livid at my aunt. She screamed frantically at her, “I never told my girls! They have no idea. I hate you for this!” and slammed down the telephone.
My aunt thought that my mother had told my sister and me, simply because my mother always told everyone, “I never keep anything from my daughters. We share everything and have no secrets between us.” My mother’s secrets were about to be revealed for everyone's knowledge.
My mother felt she was forced to call me and tell me the truth about this pregnancy before I heard it from anyone else. She knew my cousin and I were very close; she certainly did not want my cousin to tell me this news because she wanted me know “her version” of what had happened.
When my mother called me to tell me about the secret she had been holding onto for over 25 years, I was four months pregnant. I thought my mother was just calling to engage in her regular negative conversations as she always did, but she said, “I know you are probably still upset with me but I need to tell you something. I don't know how to say this, so I'm just going to say it. When I was 16 years old, I fell in love with the captain of the high school football team. He was tall, dark, and handsome. He finally asked me out on a date. We went out on our date, one thing led to another, and we had sex. He never talked to me again, after I told him that I was pregnant. That was the first time I ever had sex, and I got pregnant. I didn't know what to do, so I told my mother. My mother and my stepfather made me go away to an unwed mother’s home. They sent me away to have the baby and forced me to put the baby up for adoption. So you can judge me all you want, but that’s the truth.”
This was shocking! My mother had always told my sister and me that the first time she ever had sex was on her wedding night. She would go on and on about how beautiful it was. She made us believe that she had never done anything that my grandparents would not approve of. She programmed us to believe that she was always a good and innocent girl and how if she did anything like we did, she just couldn’t ever look our grandparents in the eye again.
I asked my mother why she never told me. Her reply was, "I promised myself I would never tell you girls about this." I confronted my mother and said, "So all the talk about you having sex with dad on your wedding night being the first time you ever had sex was a lie?" Her reply was, "No, I wasn't lying. I just didn't want you to know the truth." I said, "So, that means you lied. Why would you feel that lying was better than the truth?” My mother asked, "Are you mad at me?" I replied, "No, I'm not mad at you. But I am disappointed. I feel as though you have sort of betrayed me and my sister." My mother snapped, "How dare you judge me, you bitch! You’re sitting there knocked up with your second child and you are judging me?" I said, "I’m not judging you, mother. But why is it that my feelings or opinions are wrong? I've always been honest with you. But you always thought I was lying. And here you are telling me that you were lying when all the while you told me that you were being honest."
My mother became very angry with me and told everyone that I was mad at her, disappointed and hurt. She wanted pity and sympathy. Again, she wanted to be the victim. It was hard for me to understand at that time why she never told us about this pregnancy. When she told us about how she had never been with any other man than our dad, she’d go on to elaborate about how that’s the way it’s supposed to be and it made my sister and I feel as though she was better than us somehow.
My dad knew about my mother's pregnancy as a teenager. At the time my mother was pregnant, my father and my mother were friends. My dad had gone to my mother's parents and asked them for their consent to marry my mother and that he was prepared to raise another man's child as his own, so that my mother would be able keep her baby. My grandparents, apparently, told my dad that it was not his responsibility and that my mother would have to face the consequences for her actions. Not only that, but back then in the early 1960s, it was considered an embarrassment to the family to have their teenage daughter become pregnant out of wedlock.
I felt a little betrayed by my mother but also sort of excited to know that I had an older brother out there somewhere. I asked my mother for permission to find him. I was worried about how my dad felt about this, so I asked him. He was hurt. I'm sure he knew it was wrong of my mother to keep this from my sister and me our entire lives only to find out about it in our 20s. I told my dad I wanted to know who my brother was. With tears in his eyes, he looked at me and said, "This has nothing to do with me." My mother was embarrassed but I didn't care. She created this scenario by not being truthful. If she would have been truthful in the beginning, it would not have been such a huge deal.
My sister and I did not search for our half-brother until we finally had our dad’s consent. It took us 11 years to find him.
About halfway through my pregnancy with our second child, my husband began not coming home some nights. It was a stressful time for me but I managed to get through it alone. Ultimately, he began cheating on me. He denied it when confronted, but I knew it in my heart. Ironically, my mother was finally being honest with me, and my husband, who I trusted, was now being dishonest with me. We smoothed things over, my husband and I, but our marriage would never be the same. We moved away from our hometown about 45 min. away, for a fresh start, a nicer town and less expensive rent.
This new start was exactly what we needed. Our two babies were beautiful baby girls. To complete our little family, we decided that we wanted to try for a baby boy. Before long we were pregnant again. Mid-way through my second trimester, we found out that we were indeed having a boy. We were very excited.
Shortly after we found out the sex of the baby, we started having problems again. My husband started staying out all night or coming home several hours late from work. He said he was working overtime but his paycheck never reflected this "overtime”. I felt alone and devastated when I learned that the woman I suspected he was cheating with turned up pregnant. He denied having a relationship with this girl but when she had a miscarriage, he cried and cried. I know in my heart it was his child. I was told by several people, mutual friends, that he had a relationship with her and that she was married as well.
What was I going to do? Here I was, pregnant with my third child, and I would soon have three small children. I did not want to raise three babies by myself without their father present. I could not imagine my father not being there when I was growing up, and I could not do that to my children. So I decided to try and make it work, to ignore anything I thought was going on regarding my husband's extramarital affairs that he always and forever would deny.
About 5 years later, I couldn’t take it anymore. Between his affairs and my denial, we ultimately ended up divorcing when our children were four, six and eight years old. It broke my heart, to split up the family. But to have happy children, they must have happy parents, and I was not happy. I was essentially living as a single mother, as their father was never at home.
It was rough on the children, but it seemed to be the right thing to do in the long run. I didn't want to teach my daughters that it was okay for their husbands to cheat on them and I didn't want to teach my son that it was okay to cheat on his wife. That would not be healthy and would not be good for them. All I ever wanted was for my children to be happy and healthy and just to be good people, to be honest and forthcoming.
So, I ended up moving closer to my parents. My mother continually told me that she knew my husband was no good when we had just started dating. She sort of did the "I told you so" thing. I needed support. I needed her to give me a hug and tell me that everything was going to be okay, but that did not happen. I was still seeking something I would never have from her.
I struggled financially taking care of the children by myself, but it was worth it in the long run. I worked very hard; working odd jobs mostly, but I always made sure that my children were well taken care of.
I soon found myself dating here and there but nothing serious. I was too busy raising my children to worry about dating anyone seriously.
Months later, I met a man who had never had children and had never been married. He was handsome with a youthful smile. My children really liked him and after a few months of dating, we moved in together. Within days, he began abusing me. He would beat me, pull my hair and throw me down the stairs. He was always good to my children and they never saw the way he abused me. So, I tolerated his abuse so as to not move my children again. I dealt with it for about six months until I realized I had to get out. I explained to my children that “we just needed to move”. In retrospect, I should have taken more time to explain to them but I didn't want to subject them to that type of evil any longer and make them afraid of people. I later told them some of what I had endured.
The children and I moved in with my parents for a short time, just a few weeks until I could find a place of our own. It was nice being home with my dad there and at that time, I guess my mother too. The kids were happy; so I was happy. We eventually found our own home and moved out. It was about 5 miles away from my parents’ home – so close enough but not too far away – just in case.
About a month after the children and I moved into our new house, something devastating changed my life forever.
It was a Saturday evening in November 1999. I was working that day and my parents were watching my three children until I got off of work. My dad really enjoyed playing with the children. He would go swimming with them and they would play games. My parents were going to barbecue that day and told me to save my appetite because there would be plenty of food and asked me to stay a while when I got there.
I arrived at approximately 6 PM. I had worked all day and I was very tired. I was happy to see my kids and they were happy to see me. They all came running out of the house to meet me in the driveway when I arrived. They couldn’t wait to tell me all the fun things they had done that day with their grandpa. As we made our way into the house, my mother said, “We have already eaten; everything is out, so help yourself.”
I asked my mother, "Where is Dad?” She said, "I think he's in the bedroom, changing his clothes. He ate too much and is miserable" I hollered to my dad, "Hey, old man, come out here and say hello to your daughter." But he did not respond. I walked around the corner, and saw that the bedroom door was slightly ajar. I knocked on the door and said, "Hey, old man, what you doing in there? Are you okay?”
He responded faintly, "I can't take it." I said with urgency, "Dad? Are you okay?”
I open the door and peeked inside the room. My dad was shirtless and had his jeans on. The jeans were unbuttoned and he had no shoes or socks on. My dad had always worn his eyeglasses since he was a small child; he couldn't see much without them. However, I saw his eyeglasses on the floor.
My dad was rubbing his fist very hard and pushing against his chest. He said, "I can't take this pain, kid.” His face was full of fear. I had never seen my dad in such a condition. His eyes were glazed and tearing up. He said again, "I just can't take this pain." He sat down on the bed, still rubbing his chest.
I yelled to my mother, "Call 9-1-1, now!” My mother, in her nonchalant way, yelled back to me, "Oh, he's fine; he just ate too much, as usual. He'll be okay; he is just being a baby. He just needs to learn how to quit eating so much. He is just acting like that because you are here. Just leave him alone; he'll be okay." I screamed at my mother, "He is having a heart attack! Call 9-1-1 right now, damn it!” My mother argued with me again, so, I yelled, “Call the paramedics right now.” My mother's reply to this urgency was, "Do you realize how much they are going to charge us to come out here to tell us that your father has indigestion because he ate like a pig at dinner?” My reply was, "If you do not call 911 right now I swear I will freaking kill you." At that point, she knew that I was dead serious. My father was sitting on his bed, holding his chest, and in severe pain. My mother had opted to argue with me about the seriousness of the situation.
Once my mother called 911, I brought my father slowly into the living room. I had him sit on the sofa and put a cool wet washcloth on his head as he had been complaining that his head was hot and he was sweating. I was scared. I knew that my father was having a heart attack. I knew he needed help.
As I was trying my best to take care of my dad, my mother was in the kitchen doing dishes. She was behaving as though there was nothing going on. She told my father (while she was doing dishes), "You need to quit being such a big baby. You are fine. You need to quit being such a damn drama queen."
As we waited for the ambulance to come, which seemed like forever, my dad looked up at me and said, "I love you, kid. I'm sorry. I am so proud of you. I have always loved you so, so much.
I need to take a break from writing this, as my heart is wrenching. This was a very tough time, and even though it was 13 years ago it feels like it was yesterday.
Okay, where was I? Whew…
So as my dad lay there on the sofa, awaiting the paramedics, I replied to my dad, "I love you too, Daddy. And you have nothing to be sorry about. You have always been my hero. Don't worry about anything; I will take care of everything for you." My dad and I exchanged a look that was almost a connection of souls. He and I both knew that life would never be the same. This was the defining moment.
My mother never came to my father's side. It was probably just as well, because I was able to share that moment with my dad without her interference. But I could not believe that she did not want to be by my dad's side, supporting him, letting him know that he was going to be okay. Giving him a hug and telling him everything was going to be fine. But she did not.
The paramedics arrived; they immediately started working on my dad. My mother was trying to influence the paramedics, telling them that he had eaten too much and that it was probably indigestion. They somewhat ignored my mother and continued working on my dad. The paramedics displayed a sense of urgency and concern for my dad. The paramedics explained to me what was going to happen; that they needed to take my dad to the hospital immediately. My mother was irritated because she was wrong; it was not indigestion. He had been suffering a major heart attack.
When we arrived at the hospital, no one could tell us anything about my dad. Several hours had gone by and finally the doctor came out to speak to us. The doctor said, "He has suffered several heart attacks and we have been working on him. Every time we start working on his heart, it stops again."
Finally, my mother realized that is was serious.
Several more hours went by. The doctor came in and said, “There is a procedure that we can try, but we cannot guarantee that he will survive. If he does get through the surgery, it will work wonderfully. We just need to make sure that he is strong enough to make it through the surgery. What do you want to do?" I asked the doctor, "What are his chances of survival at this point?" The doctor said if we do not do the surgery or at least try the surgery he may not survive." I said, "Then do the surgery now." The doctor said, "You do realize that he may not survive the surgery, right? ”I said, "Yes, but if he doesn’t have the surgery he may not survive anyway, from what you said."
They started one surgery and I was scared to death. The doctor came out again and said, "We are having trouble with his heart stopping during surgery. His heart is very weak. We can continue with the surgery, but as much as his heart has stopped, he is losing oxygen to his brain. Should he survive, he will never be the same. He will have some brain damage. We don't know how severe or how minor, but he will definitely have some damage." My mother quickly said to the doctor, "Let him go; stop the surgery. He wouldn't want to live like that." My mother did not discuss this decision with me. I had become the decision-maker in this terrible event, but my mother was the decision-maker legally as my father's wife. The doctor said that it might be minor damage to the brain and that is something we could have dealt with. He could have gone to a rehabilitation center to help him recover. But my mother made the decision to let my dad die. I would never forgive my mother for that decision. My hero was gone.
While we were still in the hospital, and the doctor announced to us that my dad had expired, I wanted to see my dad one last time. I walked into the room, picked up his lifeless hand and held it. I hugged my dad and kissed him on the forehead and said, “You don't know how much I will miss you, Daddy. I love you. You will always be my hero.” I kept waiting for a response from him. I wondered if maybe the doctors had made a mistake. Maybe he would come back to life. Maybe my hero was not gone forever. But as I held his hand, it had grown cold. I knew he was gone.
I went back out to my mother and gave her a hug. She hugged me back and said, "I don't want to see your dad. Is that wrong?" I was crying and said, "I needed to say my goodbyes. Don't you?" My mother replied, "No." Then she asked me, "Will you and the kids come stay at the house with me? I want you to live there with me. I am afraid to be by myself." I said, “Yes.”
I figured it was going to be a temporary arrangement. My mother had never lived by herself in her entire life. She married my dad as soon as she turned 18 years old and had been with him ever since. I
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