The Friday Confessional – Carry on My Wayward Son

My son, Beast.  He’s . . . spirited.  I’d love to leave it at that, but this is The Friday Confessional.

I love my boy to pieces.  But, I knew he was going to be a handful long before he was even born into this world.  I had a rather difficult pregnancy.  And he hilariously went silent and still whenever anyone tried to “feel the baby kicking”.  While he was on the inside place, he managed to kick himself to a position where he was constantly ramming his head into my cervix.  He accidentally got his foot stuck in between one of my ribs and struggled wildly to get free.  Once he was free, he did it again for what I can only consider as fun.  People don’t seem to think that fetuses can have emotions or fun.  I know differently from my son.

My son was born with this particular temperament.  He was a lazy and impatient nurser, who refused to nurse and preferred the bottle.  That’s my son.  Obstinate beyond all logic.  When that boy puts his foot down on something, that is the word.  And we clash at every point.

It’s not entirely his fault.  In June 2011, he was diagnosed with Pervasive Development Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified.  In short, that puts him on the higher functioning end of the Autism Spectrum.  I wrote:

I’ve always said that nothing in life prepares you to be a parent like being a parent.  Truly.  In my youth, I’ve helped to raise so many people’s babies and toddlers, but it was nothing like becoming a mother myself.  Sure, I had the care basics down, but that’s not even scratching the surface.

So therefore, nothing can prepare you for a professional telling you there is something wrong with your child.  Not even if you suspect it yourself.

That was over a year ago.

In truth, I’m in denial.

The battle wounds are still fresh from my youth.In those days, I found I was the most comfortable in the tiniest of places, completely unlike today, where confined spaces are cause for the air being vacuumed from my lungs, and my brain to catch fire.  Those were only places I recall being safe; wedged between the sink and the wall, tucked in the back of a closet, curled up in a cabinet under the sink.  Those places were quiet and dark.  The only places I could find serenity and safety.

I remember instances where my hulking brother would hunt me down. Those were my go-to places.  As long as I took refuge when the violent fits started, I had a chance of being safe.  He may have tried hard to swipe at me, but I had the advantage.  I was a small girl who could ball up and disappear from this world.  In those places, I could be safe from brutal, unprovoked attacks.

Out of sight is out of mind.

And out of mind it out of sight.

The injustice perpetrated on me went far beyond that.  That was considered excusable behavior due to my brother’s condition.  I was told things like, “He can’t help himself, but you can.”  I never did anything to purposefully antagonize him.  I feared him.  And when my parents would practically reward his behavior by conceding to his every desire, I hated him.  Even to this day, I still hate him for all of the gifts and attention he siphoned off from me.  I was a model child with straight A’s and glowing reviews from teachers.  He was a terrorizing monster.

When my son was diagnosed in the same spectrum, I was crushed.  Some parents can say they were blindsided by the diagnosis, but I certainly was not.  I saw the signs long before a doctor had to confirm them.  I was just hoping that there was some alternative explanation.  I don’t love him any less.  But, in truth, I see him differently.  Maybe differently than a parent should.

I remember being pregnant.  And I remember having serious talks with the sky boss.  I pleaded, “Please, God.  Please don’t let my son have autism.  I can’t handle that.  I wanted to deny it.  I would tell people how high functioning he is, and how his developmental deficits were not that of a child with autism or aspergers.  When he was denied entry into a regular preschool because they aren’t equipped to handle him, I was crushed again.  My hopes that he was developmentally appropriated were dashed.

The truth is, my son is disabled.  And he needs my help, now.

And here’s the worst part of my confession.  I have a certain amount of resentment for his condition.  I find it difficult to interact with him appropriately.  When he acts out aggressively, I meet him with a certain amount of aggression of my own.  I refuse to be terrorized by my own son, a huge, strong little four year old.  It makes me feel small and scared every day of my life.

There is rare gratification.  Most parents have children that will play with them.  My son tries, but he can’t seem to make it happen.  I watch him struggle with basic things.  I feel like a failure of a parent, because he’s not potty trained and mostly refuses to wear clothing.  I resent him when I am cleaning up bodily fluids he carelessly threw everywhere, like a little animal.  And I hate myself when I liken him to a puppy in my mind.

But, there a moments where he looks me dead in the eye and says things like, “Look Mommy, out the window.  Look, the trees!”  Or, the day that we were outside and he scraped his leg.  He straddled me and we held each other, rocking for awhile.  Then, he grabbed me by my shoulders, held me away to look at me and sang, “I yuv you.  You yuv me!”

There are those rare moments of hope that I hold to.  Even in my darkest hours.

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Taunts of Absolution : 30 Days of Truth

Day 4 : Something you have to forgive someone for.

In years past, my relationship with my parents was far beyond dysfunctional. Although we are building a mutually respectful relationship as adults, I do not feel as if I am considered a daughter. I am a family friend, the mother of their grandson. That extraordinarily detrimental relationship created a schism too great to have a distinct parent-child relationship. I have resigned myself to the notion that I will never be my parents daughter, and they will never be my mother and father.

I have touched upon the subject in prior posts, One Day, I’m Going to Grow Wings, Spitting Fire, and The Real Demons. Mostly, I fear I will remain unable to absolve them of the responsibility for the suffering they caused me, directly and indirectly.

I have to question every aspect of my childhood. The problem arises, because I don’t remember the greater majority of my childhood prior to age twelve. I could never figure out the reason for such an impenetrable block. It was only very recently that I discovered the numerous reasons for such incredible repression.

My brother has moderate autism. My mother was a raging alcoholic. And my father is a war veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. As if that wasn’t dysfunctional enough, it accumulated into an overall bad home life. I have fragmented memories, drudged up by raising my own son.

My father was largely absent prior to age twelve. Most of his time was spent in the psychiatric ward in the Veteran‘s Affairs Hospital. And when he released back home, he isolated himself from the family. I was far too young to understand what was happening. All I knew was that my daddy was sick, and he was never going to get any better. To me, it felt like my daddy didn’t love me. He didn’t love any of us.

required special accommodations. I was lonely, and felt as if I were nonexistent to them. Completely transparent in their world. I did everything I could for recognition. My grades were perfect, and my standardized scores were well into the 98th percentile. I had taught myself my instrument in one summer and My parents were busy handling my brother. He had special needs that ]gained first chair. My attendance in Sunday School was spotless, and I was a devout Episcopalian. What more could a parent ask for in their own daughter?

All of these achievements bred resentment among my classmates, and they alienated me from their social groups. My mother made it crystal clear when I was just a little girl that she had no desire to play with me. My brother was nowhere near my level of functioning to participate in games. I spent many nights in solitude, alone in my room with only my dolls and stuffed animals.

When I began middle school, I finally began to make friends. It was the best thing that ever happened to me! Finally, I wouldn’t be so alone. I was incredibly enthusiastic about the prospect of friendship and all of the wonderful kinship it entailed.

It was short lived. Only a year later, I began to suffer my first symptoms of bipolar disorder.

And that is the precise time my father emerged from his decade long hibernation. The man was disgusted with everything about me. He was certainly a far cry from shy about vocalizing his opinions. The criticisms ranged from my appearance, to my friends, to my music, and my hobbies. I was hurt. It was more evidence to strengthen my theory of his lack of love for me, as I was, instead of his idea of me.

I was also enraged. Who was he to come bursting into my life after so many years of absence?

He was merciless in his punishments. The greater majority of my teen years were spent incarcerated in the very same room I was isolated in as a girl. These were typically for minor infractions – “talking back” (which I considered to be expressing an opinion), disrespect, messy room, “feigning illness”, lying, etc. All because I wanted some independence and to assert myself as an individual.

In heated arguments, he would rough me up. He was careful not to do this when my mother was around, or leave any evidence. One time, I called him an asshole. Insistently, he got in my face and demanded I take a free swing at him. I refused. It would only provide him with an opportunity to lay his hands on me.

Ultimately, it didn’t matter. He grabbed my throat in one hand and pinned me against the wall, and lifted me high into the air. I tried to scream, but there was not enough air in my lungs. He screamed in my face, leaving me soaked in spit. He let me go, and I crumpled to the ground, nearly in tears.

I won’t cry. I won’t give him the satisfaction.

My mother found an even better excuse to take figurative and literal swings at me. She’d get belligerently drunk and deliberately provoke me. I would attempt escape, but there was nowhere to go. I wasn’t even allowed the privacy of a door on my room.

There was an instance where she followed me around the house, insulting me as I went. I begged her to leave me alone. I attempted escape to somewhere, anywhere I could possibly manage in the house. I ended up heading to my room, of course. She taunted me, saying, “You’re just a lot of fucking talk, you little bitch. I’ll teach you a lesson about that mouth of yours.”

She swung at me, and caught me across my right jaw. Instinctively, I pulled my right hand back, and swung down toward her face, backhanding her as hard as I could. Disoriented by the blow, she stumbled backward, nearly falling down a flight of stairs. (It wasn’t the first time, and wouldn’t be the last). I grabbed her arm and pulled her forward to standing.

A look of shock and malice spread across her face as she spewed, “Just wait until I tell your father.”

So many things were said. Hurtful, awful things.

My father:

This is not a democracy. This is a dictatorship, and I’m the dictator!

I wish you were never born!

How dare you defy me, you little bitch!

Go on! Run up to your room and play that gloomy noise you call music. I dare you to cut yourself! Cut to your hearts content, I don’t give a shit!

My mother:

You are the little bitch that ruined my life!

Go on out there and be the little slut that you are.

I am ashamed to even take you out in public.

If it weren’t for you, your father and I would never fight. You’re going to tear our family apart. I hope you’re happy.

These haunting words still have a faint echo in certain corridors of my mind.

– Staind

I cried out for help. I was dismissed as spoiled, going through a phase, and attention-seeking. I did need attention. By the time I was in high school, I had attempted suicide twice and was cutting at least weekly. And still, they turned a blind eye to it. I had to force their hand to get the help I needed. I can’t help but feel if they were more involved, they would have noticed my behavior was amiss. They failed to get me diagnosed correctly.

For a great duration, I held them accountable for my screwed up mind. In my eyes, all of the neglect and abuse made me crazy. I went on to have dysfunctional and abusive relationships. I was devoid of self-esteem and vulnerable. My baggage would have been too much to check at the airport.

As I have grown, I have come the realization that certain things were beyond their capacity for parenting. They could not have been better parents, given the circumstances. It’s not as if there weren’t moments where they tried. By that point, the damage had been done.

I have tried desperately to forgive them for those awful behaviors. But, each time I find myself getting close, another hurtful experience comes to pass, reviving old memories that I relive in my mind over and over again. Some scars will never fade. I can never forget. But perhaps, one day, I will have the capacity to forgive all of their wrongdoings.

The Scorpion and the Frog

In one of my previous posts, The Family Furnace, I described a situation happening with my family, and came to some conclusions about the situation.

What I failed to mention is the circumstance of the situation.

Prior to the last month, I had lived in one of my family’s properties for six years.  I went to live there in the summer of ’06 after I was facing certain eviction from my apartment.  When my parents heard about that predicament, they offered to help me fix up the property, so we (my ex and I) could live there.  In preparation for our arrival, the bathroom was completely gutted.  The only bedroom with a remaining ceiling was plastered, and an extension cord was run from their house to mine.

Temporary patches to a desperate situation.  Which became more critical as time passed.

The house was fatally flawed.  Winter started to approach, and I started to inquire as to how I was going to get heat.  I was told that I faced thousands of dollars of work, replacing the furnace, hiring professionals to install a furnace, water heater, and rewire the entire house in order for it to be up to code with the electricity company.  It took me by surprise.  The only other option was to improvise.

I lived in one room with a futon mattress in the corner, and a kerosene heater in the middle of the room.  The floors were bare, and the house was not insulated.  My ex had the place covered in garbage, wrappers, used glasses, empty bottles, etc.  Essentially, we were squatting in a hobo house.  The only luxury we had was running water, but it wasn’t hot.  The rest of the house was so cold that the water in the toilet would occasionally freeze.

When I was not thinking about the misery of the weather, I brainstormed ideas on how to improve my life. That’s when I discovered that constantly wearing a hat increases body temperature, but has the unfortunate side effect of making me dirtier with sweat.  I learned how to warm a bowl of water over a kerosene heater so I could sponge bathe.  I also came to the conclusion that this was rock bottom.

The obsessions started.  When those thoughts were not enough to occupy my mind, I considered all of the ways that I could die.  Exposure.  The constantly recurring infections I picked up from unsanitary living conditions, chronic health problems, and a weak immune system from inadequate housing.  I could die in my sleep from asphyxiation due to the kerosene heater.  Even better, I could be consumed by smoke and fire.

After living without heat through a Pennsylvania winter, I learned to appreciate the basics of life that others often forget about.  The essentials of life are not guaranteed, and sometimes, we are forced to fight for them.  I count my blessings each day to not be cold, hungry, and dirty.

However, I still have a problem counting my other blessings.  Particularly with people in my life.  I often find that I have difficulty letting go of wrongs and seeing clearly in the present without the past forming a cloud over it.  I despite being left to fend for myself, getting kicked out of the house that I poured thousands of dollars of time, manpower, and money into that pit, and all of the rest of things in the past, I was set on putting the past in the past, and working toward a better future with my parents.

I came to the realization that my parents were never parents when I was a child.  What would possibly make them such now that I’m an adult?  True, I have a Mommy and Daddy complex, so badly that I accidentally married a man under false pretenses of not being like my father, when it turns out that he is.  Worse, I spend time daily obsessing about the similarities between my mother and me.  And the worst, I attempt to find family in other people.

But, all of that is fine.  One day, I will be able to resolve that.  But, I knew that if I dropped the inexplicable unreachable expectations, maybe it would possible to move forward as friends.  Seeing as how we have had some time and space, literal and figurative.

I made an effort to drop my suspicions and stop reading into things my mother says to me.  We actually had a good conversation, and I was happy with her offer to clean out my refrigerator.  I was ready to resign my key to her when she asked.  She was excited to hear that we were stopping by in the evening, and she couldn’t wait to see Beast (my son).

We did stop by in the evening.  When I asked if she would mind watching him for twenty minutes so we could go to the store, she attempted to make up some lame excuses.  Her voice was noticeably displeased, although she was completely enthusiastic less than twelve hours ago.

I noticed that I accidentally left my keys at home, and requested Zen’s (hubby).  He put up a fight, and I became extremely frustrated, feeling as if this was going to become a serious battle.  Yes, my mother brought up the refrigerator, but never requested the key exactly.  My parents were pleasant enough.

Until we were going to cross the street to leave.  We were about to climb into the car when my father called after me.  “Hey, when are you going to have the rest of your stuff out?”  I carefully explained that we’ve been taking serious and unexpected financial hits, and we’ve had to take it weekly in our PT Cruiser.  That’s when he dropped the bomb of complete betrayal.  “Well, I need to get in there so I can fix the place up and have it rented out by winter.”

My mother had lied to me.  She told me that it would be impossible to have it rented due to the numerous code violations that stood between them and a renters permit.  My family was passively-aggressively bounced so they could turn a profit.  And, I was stung by the memories of living in abject poverty while they stood by.  The memory of spending my last two months of pregnancy alone, because my husband was fixing the house.  And all of the money siphoned out of our account by $700 electricity bills in the winter and repairs to every emergency situation that happened to that place.

Betrayal could never be enough of a word to cover all of the emotion coursing through every nerve and vein.  I was stung, and the venom made me lightheaded and nearly paralyzed.  I climbed in the car and assured him that we would do so swiftly.

I was quiet for a few minutes.  Zen asked, “What’s wrong?”

I replied, “It’s unbelievable.”

Zen said everything under the sun to try to make me feel better.  He attested how it would be impossible for them to get it rented, because nobody in their right mind would take it.  Even so, they would never be able to do it legally.  We could vindictively turn them in to the township, or repossess the furnace in the middle of the night.

“I’d rather draw up that contract for the furnace that they will inevitably default on, and have to drag them into magisterial court.  There would be nothing more embarrassing, and it would cost them more money,” I insisted.  Still, it was nice that he would go out of his way to settle my vendetta.

I asked, “Wait, why aren’t you upset?”

“Are you surprised?”

When I made certain promises to the man upstairs (my higher power), I asked him to give me a sign as to what I should aim for.  He responded, “Put others before yourself.” The problem is the inability to accurately anticipate wants and needs outside of the basics.  I assumed that my higher power would want me to forgive and start over with my parents.  But, after some thinking, I came to a realization.

There is a parable about a scorpion and a frog.  At the end, the scorpion betrays the frog’s trust.  When asked why, he could only reply, “Because it’s in my nature.”  Sometimes, we have to be reminded that there are ugly truths in the world.  And sometimes, things are exactly as they seem.  My gut reaction when my mother asked for the key was that she was intending on pilfering belongings she did not expect that I would miss.  Zen admitted that was the reason he withheld his key.  He knew better than I did, because my mind was clouded with optimism.

Optimism can be just as dangerously perilous as pessimism.  We can be misled into believing in the best in people, when it just simply nonexistent.  I realized that I am not a scorpion, and I didn’t have to be the frog either.  Instead, I know better than to play the game.  It is the exact reason why I am put off by gambling.  There is too much risk to be manipulated into losing it all.

I resign myself of that life.  And just because I can’t have the relationship that I want with certain people doesn’t mean I am unable to have a relationship at all.  I don’t have to hang onto the past to remind me to not let it repeat.  I only have to keep one piece of it, the least poisonous as a reminder.