I’m not sure what love is.
I tried to write what I knew about love and I didn’t come up with a very long list.
So, I’m going to tell you what I do know.
I know what love isn’t and what love doesn’t.
Love is not the flush you get from your head to your toes when you meet someone who sparks your pheromones. Walk away or get burned. That’s lust.
Love is not the tingle you get between your legs when you see Sam Elliott in white briefs. Again, lust.
Love is not orgasm after orgasm. You could get that from a stranger who triggered your pheromones. Lust, again.
Love doesn’t manipulate, control and lie.
Love doesn’t run away emotionally and physically when times are hard.
Love doesn’t throw family or friends away if they screw up.
Love doesn’t hold you down by convincing you that you can’t do anything right, so you might as well give up before you even start.
Love doesn’t bind you in barbed wire because it’s afraid of losing you.
Love doesn’t lock you in because it’s afraid to let you out, afraid that somebody else might tempt you.
Love doesn’t control you by controlling your access to money.
Love doesn’t hit you or slap you.
Love isn’t cruel or verbally abusive.
Love doesn’t make you feel dead inside.
Love doesn’t care if you are pretty or if you have big boobs, gorgeous hair and a tiny waist.
Love doesn’t make you less…
Love doesn’t stand you up.
Love doesn’t break you into a million pieces.
Love isn’t a game of tug and war.
Love doesn’t capture your heart just to break it.
Love isn’t the presents you buy her after you made her cry.
Love doesn’t always last forever.
My first question was, why not everyday? Several women (angrily) asked me that same question when I posted or re-blogged articles related to domestic violence, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse. Well, I told them that I wondered that too, and that I didn’t name the dedication, I was just trying to honor the victims and the survivors because I come from that country and I am fluent in that language.
The question I have asked myself repeatedly this month is this: What does national awareness do for the victims? Does it change the abuser’s mind? Does he (or she) say, “Damn it! I’m not going to swear and scream at you until National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is over, you lucky bitch!”
Does he pay the bills, buy some food, keep his hands off his daughter because it’s National Domestic Violence Awareness Month?
Will the family have a month of peace? Will her neighbor buy ice for her black eye?
The abusers and the victims are all too aware of what domestic violence is and the people who don’t acknowledge it all year long because it’s easier to look away, well they don’t give a flying fig that this month is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month either.
The women who go to shelters expecting to find a way out, expecting someone to teach them how to stand on their own two feet, hoping for training so that they can get a job that will support them and their kids in the future, what do they think about National Domestic Violence Awareness Month?
How about asking the ones who returned home because the shelter was lacking in anything but a whole new set of rules, a bed and some used clothes.
The shelters where women in my family have gone provided a time out, nothing more. If you run a shelter that provides therapy, job training, education, legal representation and daycare, I apologize and I’d also like your hot line phone number.
I will post articles about abuse in October anyway, hoping that even one woman might find the courage to grab her babies and run for safety.
I have read the survivor’s stories and I have read the “he killed her” stories.
I have a “he killed her” story. I had a cousin who was murdered in front of her young son, while living in a shelter.
I cry and I hold every victim’s and every survivor’s story that I have ever read or witnessed in my heart. Including my own.
Victims and abusers, survivors and inflictors, well, to them every month is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. They just don’t talk about it.
So as this official National Domestic Violence Awareness Month begins, I feel helpless. I have no answers, no help for the millions who will go to bed hungry, crying and/or bruised tonight. For those who will sleep in their cars because it is safer than their home or because they have no home and friends and family are sick of helping them only to see them go back to the abuser.
I have tears, but Lord knows, they already have enough tears of their own.
Maybe we could make everyday Domestic Violence Awareness Day.
Cry until you laugh…Women Who Think Too Much by Jeanne Marie
A No Help At All Handbook
Many of you read my article about my daughter, Jodie Lynne, getting out of prison, The Big Picture, last week.
I said, “I am asking all of you who believe to pray for us. She is walking out the prison gates with nothing but the clothes on her back, a faith that God loves her, a belief that He will help her survive and a very strong desire to not return to prison.”
You responded with encouragement, support and promises of prayers…thank you so much.
I am thrilled to report that we got our miracle. One of many in Jodie’s Journey.
Her ex-husband, currently sober, has used his recovery connections to help her get into a recovery house for women. A very structured program designed to teach women to take responsibility for their own lives, while giving them a safe place to live. This is a big deal, definitely in the miracle category, because I have called recovery programs in the area and Jodie has already burned so many bridges that most of them wouldn’t even call me back.
When she is released, she will be taking a daylong bus ride back to Tulsa and as soon as she arrives, she will be going to the house for her interview. They have two openings and all she has to do is show up sober and say she is willing to follow the program’s rules. She will be accepted into the house that very night. She will not spend even one day or one night wandering the streets, looking for shelter.
She started crying when I told her. She had planned to leave prison with a list of shelters for the homeless and now she has a bed waiting for her.
If she wants to stay straight and stay out of jail, God has given her the opportunity. It won’t be easy, but it will be possible.
She has been calling me the last few weeks full of anxiety and nearly hysterical. I kept telling her that God had a place for her, we just didn’t know where it was yet and I believed that with all my heart, but nothing I could say calmed her down. I understood her fear, but this precious girl has helped me learn to trust God, so when I could tell her that I knew where her place was, my heart was overflowing with gratitude. I told her that I believed for her when she couldn’t and I reminded her that she has done the same for me.
Again, thank you for your encouragement, support and prayers,
Hi! I haven’t been around my blog very much lately because I am in the middle of packing up my house in Florida and moving to New Hampshire.
Crazy as it sounds, I would rather be cold than hot and I am from New England.
I do have other reasons for moving. Still, I’m either insane or very brave considering the snow they had there last year.
So, the day that I close on my house in Florida is the same day that my daughter, Jodie Lynne, walks out of prison in Oklahoma.
I am asking all of you who believe to pray for us. She is walking out the prison gates with nothing but the clothes on her back, a faith that God loves her, a belief that He will help her survive and a very strong desire to not go back to prison.
I can’t go to Oklahoma on that day and I think God wants me to let her sort this one out because the timing means that I have to be here in Florida and not there with her.
Her dad and I have set aside some money so she can get an apartment, but not many landlords decide to rent to a felon, a felon without a job.
In spite of that, I am praying that God already has a safe place picked out for her. He can do that…I can’t.
Jodie and I are writing a book about how hard it is to make it and stay clean when you walk out of prison.
It’s almost impossible to start over when you have been stripped of everything but your life. Your children, dignity, self-worth, confidence and possessions, gone, and now you owe thousands and thousands of dollars in fines.
It used to be that you’d go to prison and work off your fines but now they not only add them on to your bill, they charge you for the services you require to stay free.
She has to pay to see her parole officer and she has to pay for frequent urine tests.
She owes $50,000 in child support and as soon as she gets a job they garnish her wages.
I will never defend the choices that landed my daughter in jail, but I will say this, people do horrendous things and walk away every day. All you need to walk away is money for a good lawyer.
She has no crimes against people, no violent offenses, just a bunch of petty crimes that added up to doing time as a habitual criminal.
Plus, Oklahoma has more women in prison than any other state and it’s not because they have the highest crime rate.
I make no excuses for my daughter, but as we have traveled the prison system together over the last eight years, I have realized that the women and girls who come out of prison are setup to fail.
I don’t know how anyone could come out owing about $70,000 and make it, excepting for a big miracle or a few medium size miracles.
My daughter is a beautiful woman, inside and out and when she is straight, she is my best friend in the world. When she is not straight, she is my biggest heartache.
I would like you to pray with me that she finds the strength and the courage to walk out of prison and stay sober, that she will find a job allowing her to pay her child support and fines, at least enough to stay out of jail. She doesn’t have a driver’s license because she owes child support, so her job options are very limited, confined to the area where she finds an apartment.
I never did understand how losing your license because you didn’t pay child support would help get child support from you. How do you get to work without a license?
And as for me, please pray that I stay strong as I pack about a hundred boxes, while trying to get rid of everything that I don’t care about because it costs too much to move it all and even some things I do care about.
I have to remember that in the big picture, possessions really don’t mean anything, people do.
I am moving for many complicated reasons, reasons that are far more important than fine china or knickknacks.
I care deeply about my writing, my books and my computers and even most of the books I own could go.
I’ve already gotten rid of hundreds of books and I pray for the strength and the stamina to make this move.
I am praying for the courage to allow my daughter to walk out of prison and stand on her own two feet.
My daughter and I are also writing about how going to prison damages the families of the prisoners, the parents and the grandparents, siblings and family members, anyone who loves them, moms who like me, never give up hoping and believing because they love their child.
Please pray that God and the angels cover our backs as we each struggle to do what needs to be done to change our lives for the better and please pray that we continue to move forward in faith despite the enormous odds that we have against us.
Amen and XO, Jeanne Marie
I AM SHE
There was a time when my mother was middle-aged and me?
I was young and naïve, not a care in the world
the arrogance of youth was on my side.
I was a footloose hippie girl and I thought love was free.
Her skin was firm and tanned, black waves of hair fell to her shoulders
softly surrounding her fair face, bosom quite generous,
legs as fine as any model, she was my mother,
but with flower child simplicity, I used to call her Grace.
She was spirited back then, although she seemed quite old to me,
and how did I become imprisoned while she has learned to fly–a butterfly set free?
Tonight, as I glance into the mirror, my middle-aged face stares back.
Have I become her, and she, the child I used to be?
At seventy-three she’s still a beauty, but time’s fire has burned its’ trail
and when she had a stroke last year,
I realized how deeply she had aged; yet, become so childlike, so frail.
My firm skin, my shapely legs, will soon bow down to time,
much as my bell-bottoms and tie-up tops gave way
to blue jeans and then on to stretch pants and a baggy tee.
I will lose this interval named youth and as I look into her face,
I see my future and
I am she.
by Jeanne Marie
My mom went to play with the angels in 2009.
I decided the best way for me to celebrate today is to share some of my mum’s writing. I used to write a newsletter and my mum contributed poems and articles on a regular basis. I love you, Mum, and I know that even though you are playing with the angels, you still watch over me. Love, Jeanne Marie
A NOTE FROM GRACE
When my children were growing up and got into their “teenage problem” years, I’d become exasperated with them. I’d think, “They’re just like their father!” Then, one day the light dawned on me, (Marblehead) because after taking a hard, honest look at myself, I realized; they were just like me. The me I had suppressed and hidden deep inside, where no one else could see. I was as wild and rebellious as they, but I had put up a shield of adult perfection, striving to become the perfect mother that everyone expected me to be. I have now learned that I need to let this child in me come out to play, or the adult becomes a cold hard shell. I must confess, now that I’m older, I have to do this through my books and old TV movies. My mind wants to run through fields of flowers with all my clothes flung aside, but my body slows me down to a stroll through Wal-mart, wrapped in warm sweaters.
RANDOM THOUGHTS from Grace Christine
Life has taught me an important lesson. “Put your money where your mouth is.” I brag to everyone about my clever daughter and her newsletter. Her beautiful public letters to me fill me with pride. Sometimes they make me cry to see the love flowing between us, and it makes me feel so undeserving because I only did what any mother would do…I loved my daughter. I remember how I tried to convince my jealous husband (jealous even of his own children) that “Love shared is never divided, it is multiplied.” My love was multiplied by him, and my four beautiful children, not divided amongst them. The years have shown me the strength in my children, and while I may not like everything they do, I love them and respect their right to be themselves. They have taken some of what I taught them and rejected what they found didn’t fit into each of their life styles; but, the base of our relationships have always been that I love them…unconditionally. So, Jeanne Marie, enclosed is my donation for stamps, and although I love my gift subscription, I want to contribute to WWTTM. Love, Mom
Thanks Mom, and by the way, I’ve met far too many mothers who don’t love their children unconditionally, so take credit for the gifts you have given me. You do deserve it! Love, JM
MY MUM WAS A TOUGH OLD BIRD BY Grace Christine
My mother had a quick wit and she always had a snappy come back. One day at the doctor’s office she complained about an ingrown toenail. The doctor had started to perform the minor surgery when the nurse asked, “Aren’t you going to freeze her toe before you cut?” “No,” said the doctor, with a grin on his face, “she’s a TOB.” Turning to Mum, he asked, “Do you know what that means?” Mum snapped back, “A tough old bird.” Then, she added, “You’re a DOLL. Do you know what that means?” The doctor reluctantly admitted that he didn’t know, so Mum gave him the answer. “A Stuffed Dummy.” Behind the doctor’s back, the nurse gave Mum a thumbs-up for putting the doctor in his place.
From my mom, Grace Christine 1926-2009
I was born during the “Great Depression” in 1926. It was a sad and poor time for most of the people in our country. However; as a child, my world revolved around my parents and I was untouched by our country’s struggles.
My dad was a barber and my mother was a happy homemaker, in every sense of the word. My parents welcomed friends and relatives into our home, and fed the occasional strangers who knocked at our door, looking for a meal and a place to spend the night.
We had a small garden in the backyard which supplied the family with fresh vegetables all through the summer and enough preserves, jams and pickles to last the winter. The chairs around our table were never empty because my parents loved to invite people to share our meals, and I believe our company came for the generous measure of love and conversation that was dished out with the food.
Mum made cooking an easy chore and she always had a smile or a funny joke as she stirred her pots and pans. Her cakes and pies were rumored to have come straight from a heavenly source to our table. Saturday was the high spot of our week because it meant a trip to Boston for our weekly supply of meat and staples. My sister and I loved the little treasures Mum bought us, such as a pomegranate or an orange, and Dad’s favorite treat, chestnuts.
When I close my eyes, I can still see my mother at our kitchen window, and I can hear her saying, “Here comes Aunt Georgiana and the children. I’ll have to put more water in the stew and another potato in the pot. I should have made more pies!” (She might have had two apple pies cooling in the pantry, but she always wanted to have more than enough for everyone at the table.) Here’s Mum’s (Harriet/Great Nana) recipe for Baltimore Stew, our all time favorite!
Put the following ingredients into a large, heavy pan.
Two pounds of stew meat, cut into small cubes.
Two pounds of fresh carrots, peeled and sliced one inch thick.
One small can of whole tomatoes. One large diced onion.
Two slices of fresh white bread, broken into pieces.
Three whole cloves. One teaspoon of salt. One-half teaspoon of pepper.
Cover with cold water and simmer for about three and a half hours.
Add one can of drained peas and simmer about thirty more minutes. Remove cloves.
Add two heaping tablespoons of regular tapioca.
Cook uncovered for fifteen more minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
Serve with mashed potatoes.
As Mum would say, “Eat hearty and enjoy! There’s plenty for all!”
Grace Christine Doucette, October 12, 1926-July 27, 2009
Dear Jeanne Marie,
I’m dysfunctional? What’s that you say?
Well, I’ll deny it to my dying day.
I look at the world with rose-colored glasses,
It’s the men I find that make the wrong passes!
I’m so innocent, I believe all their lies
I think that’s true love deep in their eyes.
I see only what I want to be there
And accept love unafraid, not a care.
I function perfectly straight every day
And don’t allow reality to get in my way!
When I kiss my prince, he instantly
becomes a toad,
And I’m covered with warts,
alone on the road.
But I keep going, living my dreams,
Life just can’t be as bad as it seems!
Dysfunctional? Nope, not me!
I’m still waiting for my prince at seventy-three!
Guess Who? (Love, Mom)
by Grace Christine
How many times must a heart break,
before it falls apart?
How many times can we sift the ashes
and force the flame to start?
In the pain of loving and dying each day,
the smallest flame can light our way,
And as crazy as it may seem to some;
it’s the hope of love that’s yet to come.
So we bind the fragments together with
glue, and place our faith and hope with You.
You alone, can see the other side of life,
You alone, know the purpose
of our heartache and strife.
ODE TO THE MAILMAN
by Grace Christine
You keep the mail flowing between
my daughter’s house and mine,
It’s worth the price, for this way we find
That loves keeps alive with each letter
So tell me, sir, what could be better?
Through snow, rain, sleet,
or hot humid day,
We know our thoughts are on their way.
You guard our hearts,
sealed in white paper
And we trust your devotion,
what could be safer?
I just wish I could squeeze me
I know I’d be safe
throughout the long ride.
And when she opened
my extra-large letter
I would pop out and hug her…
that would be better!
Love ya dear, Mom
Are you crazy? Not yet? Well, you can always try motherhood! It worked for me. Okay, so most women love babies. Women are attracted to babies due to a very basic, maternal instinct. Reason and logic are only slightly involved in this picture. The longing to have a baby is so strong in most women that those who can’t conceive are devastated. Babies are so precious, all soft and cuddly, and they’re even more adorable when they start to smile and coo.
Additionally, there’s no sweeter fragrance than the aroma a baby sends forth, fresh from his bath, swaddled in a Downy soft blanket. Combine that with the essence of Johnson’s baby powder and rare would be the woman whose hormones could resist the “maternal urge.” You visit your friend and her new baby one afternoon. When your husband comes through the door that evening you say, “Oh honey, I want to have a baby!”
Well, I’m here to set the story straight and reveal some well-kept secrets about motherhood. I’ll tell you secrets that will expose the reality behind the charming, family portraits from Wal-Mart, those costly, cheap pictures we love to hang on our living room walls. The things that women who are already caught never tell to the women who are still free. Misery loves company and we can’t bear to see the smug expression on your faces as you say, “My kids are going to be different.”
Let’s start with the pregnancy. One night, you and the man of your dreams make wild, passionate love and as a result you become pregnant. (Sometimes, this occurs even when you’re using three different types of birth control. What a miracle!)
Pregnancy. An awkward word, don’t you think? Rightly so, because in about eight months you will be as awkward as your worst nightmare. By the ninth month, you can’t sleep more than twenty minutes without waking up to go to the bathroom. You’ll forget what your feet looked like. Shaving your legs will be a fond memory. You’ll be praying for labor pains and once they start, you’ll be praying for the strength to get out of those stirrups and kill the man who did this to you. As you begin to scream swears in the labor room (swears your husband has never even heard before) little does he realize, you are saving the superlative curses. They will come out of your mouth, unbidden, in the delivery room.
You’ll think, thank God, as the nurse lays the baby on your stomach. The doctor lets your husband (if he hasn’t fainted or run away) cut the baby’s umbilical cord and you both count the ten, tiny fingers and toes. One nurse takes the baby off to be bathed and another nurse kneads and beats on your stomach. (I kid you not!) They wheel you back to your room and you fall asleep thinking, it’s over. (No, I’m afraid it’s just beginning.)
You’ll be so sick of maternity clothes (designed by men who have never carried forty extra pounds around their waist) that you’ll give them to the first pregnant woman you see. Even if it’s your husband’s old girlfriend. Your husband might gently ask, “Why don’t you keep them for the next time, sweetheart?” and that’s when he will learn about post-partum blues. I don’t think I’ll give all the secrets away; let’s save the “baby blues” for a surprise.
The baby is home. Your friends and your family have left. Your husband has gone back to work. At that moment, reality rears it’s ugly head. You are out of diapers (the baby has soiled twenty-four since yesterday), so you decide to get dressed and go to the store. “Whose jeans are these?” you ask. “Why can’t I get my jeans up over my hips?” You double check the closet to make sure these are your clothes. In tears, you pull on an old pair of stretch pants and one of your husband’s sweatshirts. Get used to them. It’s the uniform of motherhood, and will soon be as comfortable as an old friend.
The baby pooped his last diaper while you were rummaging in the closet, and as you pick him up, he regurgitates down the front of your sweatshirt. (That’s part of the uniform.) The fragrance that your friend’s baby radiated the day you held it, is lacking in your infant. She forgot to tell you that babies don’t stay clean. You sit down, crying, and you call your mother. She brings diapers and advice. “Save your tears for when he is a teenager,” she tells you. “This is easy, compared to that.” You don’t believe her. You think maybe she’s just being sarcastic. (However; years from now her words will haunt you, as your child goes to school, learns to drive and chooses his own friends.)
I think you’ve got the general picture concerning babies. Let’s move on to my personal favorite. The terrible two’s. This usually strikes when the child is between one and two years old and lasts until he moves out. At the onset of this natural childhood disaster, he learns to talk and how to say “NO!” He may forget how to poop on the potty, how to pick up his toys or how to eat with a spoon, but he will never forget how to say, “NO!”
He will get into your record collection, he will get into your books and he will get into your child-proof cabinets. He will climb into the refrigerator at 6:00 a.m., but he will never climb willingly into a warm bath! He will climb into your bed when he is sick and vomit on you as you sleep. “Momma, I’m sick,” will be his excuse. ( Just because the child is six years old and knows where the bathroom is, don’t expect him to use it.)
Young couples fall in love and get married, usually thinking that having children will be the ultimate expression of their love. Survival of the human race is ensured by our urge to reproduce and by our raging hormones. However; if given a choice, how many women would actually go back and do it all again? Ann Landers took a survey on that subject and was shocked at the response. The majority of people who answered the survey voted no, they would decide not to have children, if they had it to do over.
Somewhere, there is a perfect mother who has raised healthy, well-adjusted children. She has balanced the demands of motherhood and a part-time job. She has never had any major problems with her teenagers. She has no guilt or regrets, and she is happy that she gave up her life for her children. When you find her, let me know, because I’d like to meet her.
Each child you bring into this world will brand you. My body bears the scars of my children’s births. I had three cesarean sections and my scars cover the area my bathing suit used to bare. (I’m not even going to discuss stretch marks.) I’ve been doomed to a one-piece suit for all eternity.
My heart and soul bear their own scars. Years of toddler temper tantrums, hyperactive children, teenage mutiny, rebellion, hard rock and rap music, they have all taken their toll. Clothes borrowed and never returned. Disappearing makeup. Teenage pregnancies that made me a premature grandmother. School meetings with various principals and teachers, meetings where I was made to feel like an incompetent mother. (As the years passed, I began to have my husband go to these meetings. They never yelled at him.) Motherhood strips you of your dignity, your rights and eventually your vocabulary.
Some women manage to save their brain and can take it out of storage after the last teenager moves out. With a little dusting, it can be restored to an adult brain. Warning: attempting this restoration with even one teenager still living at home can cause further damage! For example, when I asked my teenage son to turn down his stereo so I could do my college assignments, he told me, “You don’t need to go to school; you’re too old.”
What was he really saying? “I want my mother’s attention. I want her to cook me a big meal. I want her to clean my room and entertain me. Unless one of my friends comes by and then I’m out of here!”
He was also thinking, “You’re not a student; you’re my mother!” I was thinking, “You’re not too old to slap!”
Motherhood drains you, uses you up and leaves a huge hole in your heart when your children leave home. If your child gets pregnant or decides to abuse drugs, it will be considered your fault. Even if it isn’t your fault, you will eventually accept society’s diagnosis, because mothers are supposed to be perfect, in complete control. This theory does not allow for the fact that children have their own personality, outside influences and other people in their life.
When will your child become mature enough to thank you for all you’ve given him, given up for him? Usually, that doesn’t happen until he has children of his own. However; with daughters, you can be almost sure it will happen right after the birth of her first child. Maybe even during the delivery.
Sometimes, your husband leaves, long before the kids are grown. He has a choice. You do not. Your time, your energy and all of your resources will go into raising your children. Did I mention the mounds of laundry, the piles of dirty dishes and the mountains of meals you will cook? Well, that’s another story in itself.
There is a positive side to motherhood, but when your children are teenagers it’s hard to remember that fact. I enjoyed having babies and I loved staying home with them when they were small. As I watched my first grandson come into this world, I was overwhelmed with an incredible rush of love and excitement! It was breathtaking to see the miracle of his birth. My grandchildren are precious and by far the best gift motherhood has given me.
As I read Parents magazine the other day, I noticed that most of the articles concerned problems that arise when raising children and how to solve them. The title of this article really caught my eye: “Survival Guide for New Moms.”
So, even Parent’s magazine concedes, it’s a question of survival!
When you’re thinking about that beautiful baby you’d like to have, remember this advice–babies are easy to have, labor included, compared to the strenuous task of raising them. Your career will be motherhood, trust me. Everything else in your life will come second. I’m sure many women would disagree with my views on motherhood. But don’t even let them approach me, unless they have already raised at least one child.
Do I love my children? Yes, enormously. Would I choose to become a mother if I had a chance to start over? I’m not sure. I can’t picture my life without them in it, but my children needed so much more and I had so much less than what they needed.
Motherhood has taught me numerous valuable lessons. We learn how to raise our children by rock, hard experience and by the time we’ve developed the necessary skills, our children are grown-up and they have children of their own.
On the plus side, the experience does prepare us for grand-parenting.
I have fourteen grandkids and three great-grandbabies. Their ages span from twenty-five-years old to four-months.
Happy Birthday, Jodie Lynne
Today is my younger daughter’s fortieth birthday. Since we couldn’t be together, we created a substitute plan. We would celebrate over the phone.
When she called me, we only talked about things that made us happy. We talked about her silky-haired Chihuahua that I am raising, Maggie Mae, we talked about other dogs that we have loved through the years and we spoke of our happy dreams, instead of our nightmares.
We talked about peanut butter and marshmallow fluff being her favorite birthday cake (today) and how grateful she was to have snacks in her locker so that she didn’t have to go to the cafeteria to eat on her birthday.
For me, as on this date every year; I am thinking about the morning that she came into my life. She made a grand entrance, all 5-pounds 6-ounces of her. Her daddy had ordered me to have a boy and he meant it, so when they told me I had a beautiful little girl, I started to cry.
It had been a rough birth, a planned C-section, but the spinal that didn’t work before they made the incision was not part of the plan, so I was a bit overwhelmed and the moment she was out, I was over-drugged to compensate for their mistake. Then, they brought her to me and the moment I saw her little face shaped like a pink heart, I fell in love with her. She was so tiny and so cute that she looked like a dolly, not like a real baby.
Everyone’s life is complicated, hindsight is an incredible tool to beat yourself with and you can do some real damage. I often find ways to blame myself for every unwise choice this beautiful woman has made, but I’m not going to do that today.
Today, I am going to celebrate her life, her birthday and the fact that when she is sober, she is full of Grace and Light. I will celebrate the day twenty years ago when she taught me to open myself to the spirit of our Universe, the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, the Stars, the Wind and the Rain. The day she taught me to stand barefoot outside and to raise my arms up to the sky so I that I could ground myself in the beauty and the strength of God’s love through the elements He created. I still try to remember to do this every morning and what my daughter taught me that day changed my life.
Today, I will celebrate the precious gift that her aliveness gives me, no matter where she has to rest her head on her birthday.
As my daughter falls asleep tonight, in the gritty gloom of Eddie Warrior’s Correctional Center in Oklahoma, I will fall asleep in sun-drenched Florida. But we will be together in spirit. I will hold her tight in my heart, I will keep her ever constant in my prayers and if I am blessed, tonight she will stop in for a visit as I dream.
Happy Birthday, Jodie Lynne
Special thanks to Michelle Marie for the awesome family picture above.
You think you know who your friends are and then BOOM out of the blue, one of them attacks you.
I was out working in the garden the other day and I enjoyed it so much. My husband and I planted new plants; he raked up leaves and we cleaned the gardens.
The sun was shining, just strong enough to gently warm my soul.
When we were done, I went in the house to wash up.
I set my pruning shears down on a little table on the porch.
As I turned to walk away, they jumped down on me with full force.
Bam… off the table they flew and one Nasty Point jammed itself right into my foot, traveling almost all the way through my flesh to the floor.
I was shocked by the fury of this attack.
I take good care of my pruning shears. I gently wash them off every time I use them. I dry them, I oil them and I put them away in a soft cloth.
So, can you see why I didn’t understand why one of them would attack me?
Maybe they were upset because I usually take out the other cheap pair and maybe they were jealous…I just don’t have a clue. I wasn’t vengeful; I cleaned them as usual and put them away.
However, they are on unpaid leave until further notice.
I washed, soaked in Epsom salts and cleaned out the wound, antibioticed and bandaged the puncture, but all of that didn’t help much. Within two days I knew I had a problem.
It was time for WebMD. Yup. WebMD confirmed that I had screwed up. Puncture wounds in the foot are a serious business it seems.
Should have been seen by a doctor right away and maybe a foot surgeon.
Now, I am at Urgent Care waiting for the teenagerish doctor’s verdict.
The foot is swollen, the skin is stretched taunt, it’s shiny and it hurts like a son of a gun. (I don’t know what that means but my mom applied the term too many pains.)
“Oh yes, it’s infected! I’m going to give you some antibiotics and you should come back in a few days if it doesn’t get better.”
Well, that wouldn’t happen because the next day I would be flying to Oklahoma to visit my baby granddaughter, limp and all.
Just for fun or maybe because she was having a slow day, she gave me a Tetanus shot.
“I had one about four years ago,” I protested. “I got it here when I came in with an allergic reaction to an ant bite!”
She left to look up the date and came back with a needle in her hand.
“Two weeks past five years,” she said, pretending that she felt bad.
The foot turned every shade of lavender and blue imaginable, but the next day I took my colorful foot to Oklahoma.
I had a fantastic visit with my son, his wife and my four-month-old granddaughter, Mile Mae.
Although I would really like to win the lottery to help my family and friends, have money to fund shelters for the homeless, find ways to help women just released from prison and to be able to donate to dog rescue organizations, I am already rich.
I have flowers, fruit trees, a pink and yellow porch, the love of a damn good man who is sometimes cranky but accepts my crazy, three beautiful kids who at this minute are all speaking to me, fourteen grandchildren who think I’m Santa Claus, three great-grandchildren who will learn that I’m not Santa Claus, two funny angel Chihuahuas, a heated pool, an awesome house, my angel daughter-in-law Jessica, two incredible sisters, one whacked-out funny brother, a blue tooth speaker, a karaoke machine, butterflies who come when I call them….and I live in Florida.
I have thinkingpinkx2 to keep me on the Pink road and my wonderful friend who is the best half of thinkingpinkx2, Michelle Marie.
I have unlimited, low-cost air travel and I can grow an African Violet.
What else could an old (er) lady want?
Well, maybe some new skin and better bones, fake boobs and the hair I had at seventeen, but I have to say, even without those adornments, I am already rich.
I think we all wonder what we could have done differently, at least once in a while.
Well, I did some intense wondering the other day.
If I had it to do over again, I would pack up my three babies and a trailer full of supplies and I would drive up into the mountains.
I would build us a home in the woods, a big log cabin.
I would add a huge screen room for us to play in when the weather was rainy or snowy.
When the weather was good, we would tramp through the woods and learn about plants and flowers and butterflies and birds.
I would teach my kids to respect nature.
We would grow our own vegetables and then we would can and preserve them.
We would make jellies and jams from the berries that grew wild and apple pies from the apples growing on our own trees.
I would be their teacher, not the radio or the television, not the gang on the corner. I would teach them about music and we would play vinyl records on our record player, which would be powered by our solar generator. No Satanic music in their ears, no lyrics demanding that they “kill the effing pigs” or screaming “I want your sex.”
I would teach them how to read and how to write.
I would teach them everything they needed to know to go out into the world, but the world would not have polluted them.
They would not have watched me fight to hold on to myself. There would not have been angry, controlling, critical men in our lives.
They would have never seen commercials that used sex to sell everything from shampoo to cars.
They would never have eaten at McDonald’s, getting hooked on disgusting hamburgers made with pink slime. They would have home-baked bread that they helped me cook and they would learn to cook and bake.
They would have squirrels, butterflies, rabbits and the birds in the trees as pets.
Our little home would be surrounded by trees, grass, flowers and vegetables.
My supplies would include books for all ages, finger paints and crayons, scissors and tape and glue, glitter and paper. I would encourage their artistic spirit because we are all born with a creative spirit but it is fragile and so many things can crush it. They would be encouraged, not held down by a limited, biased school agenda.
In the fall, we would twist branches into wreaths and decorate them with pine cones.
We would decorate our Christmas tree with homemade sugar cookies, popcorn and nuts and the flowers we dried in the summer.
We would sit under the stars and roast marshmallows. Oh yes, I would bring cases of marshmallows.
They would have a chance to grow up without negative influences and they would not spend hours watching other people live on the television set.
Angels would surround us as I tucked them into bed each night.
I think we all wonder what we could have done differently, at least once in a while.
Okay, I have been taking flak from my family all winter because I live in Florida… Well, it’s time to set the record straight.
Yes, I live in the only warm, perfect little piece of the United States.
Yes, I have year-round sunshine, plenty of rain for my flowers and just a few cool nights when all the plants have to come in the house.
Yes, I have a yard full of tropical flowers that are gorgeous and there are no gardening limits beyond my imagination.
Yes, we have flowering hibiscus trees in every color. Yes, the blooms are as big as a salad plate.
Yes, I have a pool that now has a solar heater so I that I can swim year-round because I am NOT getting into 60 degree water!
Never mind that I swam in the ocean in New Hampshire with water that had permanent icicles for thirty-six years.
Never mind that my sister and I once streaked naked through that ocean in November. My body has changed and it does not like cold.
Still, I would stand beside you all, stand right by your snow drifts with you, if I could.
With all that said, let me tell you what I have been through this winter.
I have been snowed-out while you are all complaining about being snowed-in. I have been kept out. I have been kept out of Maine, New Hampshire and Oklahoma. I have been stopped from visiting my sisters and their families, my son and his wife and their new baby, my brother, my granddaughter and her baby boy, my newly found niece and my daughter.
I have been trapped in this sunshine and it hurts and I don’t want to hear no more hoo-haa about living in the land of sunshine while you are a living in the land of six-foot snow banks and having to put your kids out in the parking spaces with cones on their heads to save your parking spaces after you shovel.
No, I don’t have to shovel but I have to sit here and miss everybody and I am snowed-out.
You know, we have problems here in Florida too. We are expecting a cold front tomorrow, record lows in the 70’s.
So, the next someone says squat when I post my pictures of flowers glowing in the sunshine, they are going to get a smack upside the head because I miss you, my family and I am snowed-out.
It’s not my fault. I tried to move back to New England. I sold my house. I put a contract on a house in Laconia, NH. Both deals fell through. I would have been moving January 31st, just in time for the first big snow storm, but God said, “No, you just stay right where you are little Missy,” and that’s the way it happened…
Family, I love you, I miss you and I would love to be snowed in with you instead of being snowed out, I promise.
So please shut up.
Last week, my husband and I painted our porch. We did the ceiling in sunshine yellow, some bright pink on the trim and we weren’t sure what to do with the panels on the bottom.
After painting the first day, I took a shower and tried to relax. When it was dusk outside, I went out on the porch just to see the colors again. First thing I noticed was the yellow ceiling carried its glow to a wall outside.
Looking at all the changes that we had already made, I got in the mood to paint just a bit more. I stood there, trying to decide what color would go best on the bottom panels, but I drew a blank. I said, “Oh God, I don’t know what color to pick.” (I was serious.)
The light out there was low and I didn’t want to go in for a flashlight to shine on all the paint cans, so I opened a can of what I thought was a pale pinkish gray lavender that I had gotten on sale. Somebody had ordered it up and then had come to their senses, that’s my guess, and it had just been waiting for me to come along.
I opened it and began to paint the bottom panels. I couldn’t really judge the color that I was using without a stronger light, so I just hoped for the best and after painting a few panels, I went to bed, thinking if it looked awful I could always paint it again.
When I got up and went out on the porch, I said to my husband, “Wow that lavender actually matches the paint we used to trim the house. It looks pink.”
He took a look and he said, “Yeah it does, because it is the same color as the trim on the house. I got another gallon to touch up outside.” We started to laugh.
The color was perfect because it brought the porch in line with the trim outside and it blended well with the sunshine yellow and the hot pink.
I never would have picked that color for my inside porch, but when I blindly reached for a can, prayed and hoped for the best, it turned out perfect. Maybe that’s how things happen when we give it to God and we let go.
Maybe painting in the dark is the only way to choose the right color. I don’t know but it worked for me.
I have to believe that He helps me with the little things, the minute by minute decisions I make each day or I couldn’t believe He helps me with the huge things.
Even so, it was a wonderful surprise to see that my hand had been led to open the soft pink paint because that shade brought the room together with the outside of the house.
Sometimes, you just have to paint in the dark and hope for the best.
Jeanne Marie, 2014
I dream that I am Cinderella and I am running and running and I have lost my glass slippers and I have lost my dresses. I have lost everything because the man I loved has taken it all away.
The next morning, I start walking back to the castle to reclaim my dresses, my glass slippers and my books.
I will tell him, “I want everything but the castle, the crown and you, my Prince.”
One day later…and there is a new Princess in my place. She is beautiful and she is young and she has my slippers, she has my books, she has my dresses, she has my castle, she has my crown and she has my Prince.
I tell her that she can keep it all except my slippers, my dresses and my books.
Wait! I am Cinderella and I will clean his dirty ashes no more.
Yes, I am Cinderella and I am beautiful and I will flee from this dark castle.
I don’t need the damn slippers. No, I don’t need anything that I left behind when I ran away.
Now I understand, I have everything that I need in my heart and he can keep the castle, the crown, the slippers, the dresses and my books.
I turn and I walk away. I am no longer naked. I have found my old dresses and my old shoes in a shack behind the castle.
I see my grown son walking toward me and I say, “I’m sorry. I can’t stay. I feel as if I won a million dollars last night.”
He says, “Then you have to go and do what you do and be wonderful, use your wonderful, Mom.”
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” I tell him as he hugs me.
“That’s okay, it doesn’t matter if you did. It’s fine, as long as you’re happy.”
I don’t want to leave him and as I walk away, I’m glad I told him I was as happy as if I had found a million dollars, because he understands money, but my freedom is worth so much more than a million dollars.
At last. Freedom. I have found my wings. I can fly.
I have my old dresses and I have my old shoes and I am still Cinderella.
The Prince can keep the castle and all the belongings.
I have my freedom and I can feel my glitter returning.
I cried in the castle because I was sad, but now I am happy and I am free.
My heart is torn to shreds, lying in pieces on the ground, but my soul, oh thank you God, my soul is healing.
The castle is behind me, the Prince and all of my belongings are in the hands of another woman, my shoes are old, but who needs new?
I sigh as I slip the last reminder off my finger, the gold wedding band that once upon a time, made me feel proud when it shone in the sun.
For just a moment…I hold it in my hand.
Then, I fling it over the water fall, watching it disappear.
Let the Prince buy her a new ring.
I run and I run and I am me, I am Cinderella.
I wish I lived in a little New England farmhouse with the wood stove burning and a fire in the fireplace. Beans would be cooking on the wood stove, snow would be falling outside my window and you, living right down the street.
I would sneak over and I would throw snowballs at your bedroom window at midnight so you would come out to see who it was and then I would dance in the snow under the moonlight and it wouldn’t hurt because the cold snow would make my foot pain better, and you would shiver in your doorway and say, “Get in here, you idiot!”
I would grab two icicles from your front window and dance into your warm kitchen and we would have hot chocolate with pink marshmallows and we would laugh.
We would talk for hours like when we were little girls and we would forget that we are not little girls anymore because when we are together we are just sisters. We are not old, we are not crippled, we are not grandmothers, we are not great-grandmothers (me) and we are not old ladies.
Because when we are together, we are young girls again with our future in front of us and we laugh…and I would throw snowballs at your bedroom window at midnight…
This beautiful Pink Door is just one of my many 32nd anniversary presents from my husband. He wanted a green door but he painted the front door PINK to see me smile. This is the first song my husband dedicated to me 35 years ago, so it just seems like it all works together, my honey, the song, the PINK door and me.
For my Partner in Pink
A beautiful Sand crane was standing on a wire looking down into my porch when she waved her wings at me.
I said, “Hey, come on down here and visit.”
She didn’t fly down to me, so I assumed that she didn’t have much to say.
She simply stood on one leg and waved her impressive, white wings.
She stared at me for a long while, until I began to wonder if maybe she was my mother.
Yes, I believe that our deceased loved ones can visit us, in numerous forms.
I sat watching her and I was entranced by her grace as she balanced on one foot.
Then, she lifted her wings and let the wind gently flow beneath them, moving like a ballerina on a tight rope, a dance so beautiful to behold.
Now I know why someone wrote the song, “You Are The Wind Beneath My Wings” because that’s exactly what she needed to touch the sky.
When the wind had lifted her wings sufficiently, she bounced on her feet and lifted off, a precious free spirit with wings that could carry her up, up into the clouds.
When I went out in the yard, a single white feather blew by my feet. I bent over to pick it up and brought it in the house.
I gave it a home in a glass mug, home to dozens of feathers from other visitors.
Broken shoulder, crippled girl. Always in pain, always aware of every muscle and every bone, every bump in the road, every slight movement which jars her shoulder.
I know her. She is safe, familiar and predictable. She is not who I was, but she is who I have become over the past ten years. It started so innocently, shoulder pain I couldn’t manage. Then, two botched shoulder surgeries, rotator cuff torn twice, arthritis, the shoulder of an old woman. A fall off a porch which completely tears the rotator cuff off the bone. The doctor’s assistant says, “Your arm is f—–and she does nothing. Orders no tests, has no solution. She says, “Why bother, we know it’s destroyed.”
Broken shoulder, crippled girl spends thousands as she visits three more doctors in three different states and they politely tell her that they can’t help her. Two more doctors in Florida. (Four states total.)
One doctor she turns down, she doesn’t trust him and he is arrested a short time later for Medicaid fraud. Doing unnecessary operations. Good instincts.
The other doctor says he can help her, but she will never lift her right arm above her waist again. He shows her a device bigger than both her shoulder joints! She actually considers it and schedules the surgery because at this point, she would allow a doctor to cut her arm off.
Then her husband, God bless him, he says there has to be a better solution. He does research on the internet and he finds a doctor he thinks she should consider. He shows her the doctor’s web site and they watch the surgery together, the same surgery she would have on her right shoulder. She calls the doctor’s office and expects the usual run-around (fax us all your medical records and we will let you know if the doctor will see you) but she is given an appointment for the next week. When she meets the doctor, he says he not only can, but he will fix her shoulder and she will have complete use of her right arm again.
Hope, barely visible for so many years, hope rises like a mist in her soul. Surgery with the doctor who promises she’ll never lift her arm high enough to curl her hair again is cancelled.
Hope rises like the bright orange and peach rays of a sunrise over the Oklahoma prairie.
But wait. What will happen when her shoulder is fixed, no longer a crutch to lean on, an excuse to leave herself out of life, too hurt to move, too aching with the pain to even want to breathe, who will she be when that is gone?
She never asked to become the crippled girl, it just happened, but she did her part, learned to adjust, learned to live in constant, agonizing pain. Even a living Hell, if it is home, even Hell can become the place where you learn to live. When you are stuck there, you fix the place up, do the best you can and you own it. Where did she live before the pain, who was she before she became the broken shoulder, crippled girl? When did she become this handicapped woman?
It was a slow process from there to here. One bad surgery changed her life and then another to fix it made it even worse, the pain became unbearable, but she had not chosen the pain.
She didn’t want the pain, she searched for doctors to help her and she visited doctors in three states and not one doctor would touch the mess.
So, she lived with the unbearable, she adjusted, she compensated, but she changed.
She has never quite given up the hope, even when the hope was a ghost she could not touch, years of chasing a dream that if one doctor could cause the pain, maybe, just maybe, another doctor could find a way to take away the pain.
Now, here she is, miracle of miracles, on the edge of being fixed after so many have said no. Now, one young doctor has said yes, I can help you. Young enough to be her son. As the day draws near, she is excited but she is also afraid.
He tells her he will do a reverse shoulder replacement. He will return full use of her arm and now she is hoping, hoping with all her heart, with every breath, hope shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow and all the glimmers in her soul, hoping that it’s true, praying that he can do what he has promised.
Yet, pain has become a way of life and she knows from experience, he could actually make it worse. Plus, if you take away the pain, what will replace her obsession? Who will the broken-shoulder, crippled girl be when she is a girl without a mission? Her mission for the last ten years has been simple. Find a doctor who will fix her arm.
Her daily chores now are simple, manage to get showered and to get herself dressed, do a little laundry, clean a tiny corner of the house, survive, just survive, collapse after supper in tears from pushing her broken shoulder to its limit all day.
Sometimes she just barely manages to get out of bed and get herself showered, crawling back into sweats and a tee-shirt by 4:00 P.M.
Sometimes, that is the only chore she can complete in twenty-four hours.
She will need a new mission, a new attitude.
Is she so attached to the pain now after all these years or is she attached to the pain pills that she has needed to swallow in order to move her shoulder, to dress, to eat, to live? Pain pills that barely touch the bone scraping on bone agony, just enough relief to stop her from screaming aloud, to stop her from jumping off a bridge in total desperation.
If the operation is a success and she believes it will be, because Doctor Levy has looked directly at her and promised with words that touch her heart, then she knows the pain pills have to go away too.
Ten longs years of four pain pills a day. What has that done to her brain, to her motivation? Are you afraid broken shoulder, crippled girl? Are you afraid to be whole, free from excruciating pain?
Is pain addictive or are the pain pills you have counted on addictive? Are you still strong underneath the pain or has your spirit been damaged too? Are you strong enough to fight when the pain is stripped away?
You have been fighting so hard, for so very long, but you always knew the enemy. PAIN. Pain has ruled your life for a decade, so what will rule your life after your pain is gone? What ruled your life before the pain?
Writing. Will you write again, will the ideas pour out of your mind and once again stream into articles, will the keyboard return as your best friend and will it be an extension of your right arm again, an extension of who you are once more?
Yes, I think so. I remember that woman who would write day and night, night and day, write and write. Will she come back to me? Wait. I think I see her at my keyboard. Yes, that’s her, writing, inspired by a glimmer of hope, flirting with the very idea, the hope of becoming more than the broken shoulder, crippled girl. She will trust this doctor, take a chance.
Post Note: My shoulder operation was performed one week after I wrote this article in October, 2011. It was a total success. My surgeon was Dr. Jonathan Levy from the Holy Cross Hospital, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. He used a prototype that allows full movement (his own invention) to replace my shoulder joint, in reverse. Besides a twinge now and then when I forget to exercise the arm or to take a break from the computer, my arm is healed. I’ve had 99% range of motion since just two months after the surgery. I have several types of arthritis, and I still have a severely damaged spine and a broken joint in my right foot, but the pain from each is bearable with one-third the amount of medication and this pain, while keeping me from wearing pretty shoes or walking any distance, this pain does not run my life.
Once more, I run my life. I finished a book that I started twenty-odd-years ago, the year after my surgery and now, once more, I write something every day. I started this blog after my surgery and then I met Michelle Marie and we started thinkingpinkx2.
The creative thoughts flow so fast that I cannot even keep up and yes, I am truly living once more, not just surviving.
Thank you, Doctor Levy. (First picture)
The two cuties in the second and third picture are my husband Jerry and my son Rick. Thank you guys, you are my heroes. Rick was in a serious car accident just two months before my surgery and when he flew from Oklahoma to Florida to help me out after my surgery, it was a miracle to see him walk in my door under his own steam. After what I saw him recover from, just having him with me gave me courage. But that’s another story…
We choose a corner table in the cozy country restaurant, two grown women, yet…I feel that we are playing dress-up. Pangs of guilt and anxiety needle me. I had to sneak away from Mom to steal this time with my sister. She looks as guilty as I do.
My sister and I are two pieces of a puzzle, day and night, the sun and the moon. We complete each other. Years of clinging together through the dark nights, years of my father’s rage, my mother’s silence, dysfunctional machinery that welded ropes of love, hope and faith that even we have not been able to destroy.
It doesn’t matter how long we’re apart; we begin our conversation where we ended on my last visit, as if no time had passed. Once, after a serious argument, we didn’t speak for three years and still; when we made up, it was the same way.
We talk about how we are workaholics, always working for (or loving) men who try to control, use, abuse, manipulate, annihilate and dominate. She tells me that at least I always fight back and stand up for myself. It’s true.
However, we agree that I accept the abuse too. I just make a lot of noise and end up quitting or running away. I’ve never resolved the situations. My life is paved with unresolved relationships.
I talk about starting my hypnotherapy to quit smoking and how when I am under, I always end up in deep, murky moats, smoky castles with walls built from bricks of terror and abandonment. I tell her that they dumped a baby out of a shopping cart into the smoke and her eyes open wide. I didn’t know if it was Sue Sue or me in that carriage. It felt like we were the same baby. I start to cry and light another cigarette. Two years of therapy and I’m still smoking.
“I’m almost fifty and I don’t want to deal with my childhood anymore, I just want to be okay. I just want to quit smoking.” I tell her. Tears fill her eyes.
We order breakfast and settle in with our coffee, letting it soothe us as I light another cigarette.
We need to talk about Mom, the reason I’m home this time. Our oldest sister has already agreed to take responsibility for Mom when the time comes. I’d always planned to be the one, but find now that the time is near, I’m not able to take care of my own needs, let alone imagine caring for anyone else.
“Is she still able to take care of herself?” I ask Susanne. “Keep track of her medicines and her doctor’s appointments? She has cried wolf so many times that I don’t know if she is honestly too confused to function on her own, and even though I just spent a week with her, I still can’t tell. Isn’t that crazy?”
“Alice in Wonderland,” says my sister. “Alice in Wonderland. I have been Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party my entire life. Nothing is ever what it seems.”
She talks about the falseness of our “loving, nurturing mother.” A mother who nearly destroyed her by trying to be the man in her life, her father, her husband, her daughter’s father.
I cringe as she talks, remembering my sister trapped, pregnant, the husband to-be my mother drove away, how I helped my sister work and escape when she turned eighteen. How she ran away into a world crazier than the one she left behind and preferred it still.
“Do you remember when dad was ranting and raving and he used to tell us that someday we’d find out that Mom was the reason he was crazy? Well, he was so right. My life has been nothing but a Mad Hatter’s tea party.”
She has mentioned Alice a lot these past few days. It has been years since I heard about Alice, so I know there is something she needs to say.
“Don’t you know?” she demands. “Don’t you know that Mom is your father figure? The dominating male figure in your life? How could you go through years of therapy and never figure out that your inability to deal with men is her fault?”
I know by the frustration in her voice, that she has wanted to tell me this for a very long time. I start to cry. Her words cause my stomach to flop over, my heart pounds with panic.
My gut knows that she is right. I just can’t believe that I have never seen it for myself. If my sister is Alice, I must be Sleeping Beauty.
“With all the therapy you’ve been in, haven’t you ever focused on Mom?” she shouts.
“No. I didn’t. I knew what she had done to you, how she controlled you and kept you a prisoner with Danielle ‘till you were eighteen, but she never wanted me. I was always the one that could handle her. Now I can’t handle her anymore and I realize that when I thought I could, it was only an illusion, I never had control. It was all just part of the game. She controls me too.”
My voice is soft and teary. Her voice is shrill and full of angry emotion. Her pain is the lighter fluid that sparks our conversation.
She cries out, “I can’t handle being around Mom. When I’m around her, I start to pull all of my eyelashes out again.”
I am startled, shocked by the degree of my sister’s torment. Yet, as she speaks the words, she is touching her eyelids in a familiar way. I have seen her do it a million times. How could I have ever thought that she had mascara in her eyes so often?
She continues, her voice taut with pain. “Mom is not normal. She hates everything about babies and childbirth. She hates kids. She is so sick. You know how I eat so fast? Well, one day when we were eating she said, ‘Watch me eat. Watch how I chew each bite slowly. Eat like this. Watch me. This is how you eat your food. Look at me.’ It was awful.”
“When you were little?” I ask.
“No! I was forty-one years old!”
We sit surrounded by elderly couples who pretend not to listen as we talk about our mother, our childhood.
Do they wonder if their own children sit in crowded restaurants exposing family secrets?
I feel as if I should shush my sister because the details that are pouring from her mouth are dirty and tattered, personal, best left to a therapist’s couch.
Her passionate grief, the shrill horror in her voice, the way she touches her eyelashes as she speaks, all these things freeze my words.
I decide that she is the only person in this room that I need to be concerned about.
“Why can’t you see the way that she has damaged you too, why do you think you never feel good enough? You had the same mother as me! You suffered the same things that I did. Do you think you escaped her mind games, her torture? Nothing was ever good enough for her; we were never enough for her. That is why you can’t deal with the men in your life, the same as me.”
My blind eyes are wide open now.
“We are so strong to have even survived, don’t you know that? We are both miracles. We are both so special, so gifted and she has not been able to destroy that in us. We are survivors.”
As we stand, we hold onto to each other for a long moment before we walk away with our heads held high. You can almost hear the people in the room let out a collective sigh of relief.
“Do you think we should have charged admission?” I ask her.
She laughs as she says, “Ya, cause then we could have used a microphone and sat in front of the fireplace.”
Ironic. When Dad was screaming, we used to hide in the old, unused fireplace in our bedroom.
I am grieving the loss of my sister even as we drive away from the restaurant together because I’ve learned that each time I leave her and fly home to Oklahoma, she will wipe me from her heart, erase me from her mind and that I won’t exist until I walk back in her door. I have to accept that it is the only way she can deal with her pain and her anger when I leave her.
Sadly, I know that one day I will knock on her door and she will not open it. She will erase me along with her past, leaving me behind as she runs away to another Mad Hatter’s tea party, an insane event that makes much more sense than her reality.
My baby sister Alice and me, Sleeping Beauty.