Snapshots

The first twelve years of my life are remembered in a series of snapshots.  The first snapshots I remember are of my mom.  I remember seeing her feet while I was sitting in the floor, we were all getting ready to leave for church. I remember chasing a butterfly and knowing she was planting flowers nearby. There is a shot of her sleeping on the couch while I “cleaned” with toothpaste (oops…).  Another one captures her picking me up and putting me on the back of her car to examine my knee after I fell skating – I still have a tiny scar on my knee.  She is washing dishes and watching as our parrot asks for and thanks me for kernels of corn. Waking up in the middle of the night and seeing my mom asleep on my favorite pillow in the floor beside my bed because I was sick that night.

Then suddenly, the subjects of the photos change.  Mom is no longer there.  Sometimes there are shots with my father, but more often than not, I am alone.  There are many photos of my father telling me to be quiet.  One of him yelling at me because I made a 99 in a class, and that was not good enough. Another of him standing in my doorway telling me that my mom did not love us, and that she was a slut.  Then there is one where I spent all day cleaning and dusting and he announced that he there was dust on my freshly polished table – so I was going to have to do it all again.  Immediately after that moment, there is one of me looking at dust in a sunbeam and thinking that my efforts were always going to be hopeless.  Being yelled at on Mother’s day because I wanted to show my real mother my appreciation for her.

Then there are the snapshots of me.  Crying in the bathroom after being whipped, while my father yelled to hush up, or he would give me something to cry about.  Long rides in silence because children should be seen and not heard.  Being embarrassed to ask teachers to sign the homework form my parents made me make.  Being late for class because I had to wait for teachers to sign my homework form.  Looking for quartz crystals – alone.  Riding my bike, once again, I am alone.  Playing house, you guessed it, alone.  Crying on the phone while telling my mom we could not come see her that week – because my father said so.  Whelps & bruises.  Hearing my father say, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.”  Wondering how whipping me really hurt him at all.  Being locked outside and having to ask permission to come in, just to go to the bathroom.  Retreating into my closet because no one looked for me and life was just easier when I disappeared.

There are many other snapshots from those years, most of which are lonely.  From these snapshots I am able to learn many things.  First I learned that my mother was always there.  She loved me. She cared for me.  She never really left me alone.  My father, however, abandoned us every chance he had.  Don’t get me wrong, he was always there with us, but he was never really there for us.  Whenever we wanted attention, we were always told to go play.  If we were invisible – we still were not good, but we were less annoying.

This is my first twelve years – not exactly the best time of my life, but it was life as I knew it.  These snapshots in my memory are all that I have from those times.  It is funny how that is all I can remember – maybe because there really was not much in my life worth remembering until I moved in with my mom…

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The Legacy…

Back in 2000, when my grandmother passed away, my brother and father had a very nasty falling out at her funeral.  My father invited my neice, my brother’s eldest child, and her mother, his first wife to the funeral.  His reasoning was that it was her great-grandmother, and she had a right to be there, and if my brother would not go get her, her mother had to bring her.  He also said that, just because he and her mother had gotten divorced, it did not mean that we considered her mother any less a part of the family.  He felt that she knew my grandmother, and if she wanted to be there, she had a right to be.

That did not go over too well with my brother.  He said that he and his new wife could not grieve our grandmother’s passing properly with her there, and that he did not appreciate the fact that dad invited her.  He and my father yelled and screamed at each other, and I suddenly realized that this was exactly what would have occurred if my mom had come to the funeral.

For days, other family members had been asking why my mom did not come to the funeral home.  They said they missed her, and she was still a part of the family.  They told me to let her know that she was welcome any time, and that they wanted her to be there. I kept telling saying, “You know that daddy would have a fit if mama came here.”  And they assured me that he could, “Just get over it.”  But even after 20 years, I knew that he would still cause a scene if she were to visit.  I also knew that she would never go because she did not wish for him to act an a** in front of my brother and myself and cause us more stress.

Every cruel word he had ever said about my mother was never more vivid to me than it was on that day.  I saw my father in my brother, and it hurt.  It was at that very moment that I finally understood everything that my mother had endured and realized how hateful my father really was.  I was enraged that he passed this anger and rage on to his own son, and that it had the potential to destroy another child.

Fortunately, my oldest niece’s mother left before it was too late to spare her daughter the pain of growing up in a home with so much rage.  My niece is now a well-adjusted, normal teenager who understands that she is loved.  She also understands that, though she deeply desires to have her father’s love, it is not required for her to feel whole.

It makes me so angry to know that this is the legacy my father has left for us.  And although I have chosen to reject it – it is still being passed on.