Monday, December 01, 2008

The Bootlegging Story Has Really Nothing to Do With Anything...

My Grandfather was arrested for bootlegging once. I'm two generations away from bona fide hillbillies. But apparently people find my family snobby. On my Mom's side anyways. I can't argue it. We are. It seems for no good reason at all.

So my cousin came in from out of town last weekend and stayed with me last night. We had a long talk. She's been hanging onto something for a long time and it seemed that I needed to give her some sort of absolution. I think when I tried at age 14 or so it wasn't quite good enough. I needed to have the conversation with her as an adult.

Abuse: bad or improper treatment; maltreatment: The child was subjected to cruel abuse.

It seems that some members of my family were concerned that I was being abused. Not sexually - just the usual old-fashioned kind as in the definition above. Not by my Dad of course. I am completely biased about him, but the general consensus of all who have ever known him is that he is a good, kind man.

The thing is, I think he is the one who may have been abused. By my mother. The one who's been dead for almost 22 years now. It physically hurts me to actually be writing something so awful about the woman who gave birth to me, but it seems like there was a genuine concern in my family when I was young that I never knew much about.

My cousin and her mother called Child and Family Services when I was 9 or 10. My cousin had lived with us when I was 9 and saw a lot. She was 18.

Since my mother dies when I was 11, all my memories of her are coloured with the thoughts, perceptions and feelings of a child. And I sometimes wonder whether everyone's childhood memories are as hazy as mine. My memories of my mother are at such extreme ends of the spectrum that it would be almost comical if it wasn't so sad.

But listening to my cousin last night was shocking, yet it reminded me so much of things that I had long forgotten. She compared me to a china doll back then. How I always had to behave perfectly and how my favourite restaurant as a child was some place much fancier than a child of my age should have been ever thinking about. In some ways I think I was a little doll for my Mom to dress up in fancy clothes and but jewellery for and take out to nice places.

But I can't quite reconcile that to abuse. I think my Mother was a very unhappy woman. I think she was also quite ill herself. Both in the traditional sense with heart and blood pressure problems, and in the mental health sense.

My cousin reminded me of how she came home one day to find me crying in my room because my Mother had dumped everything from all my drawers and the top of my dressers onto the floor and left me a note saying that I had to have my room cleaned by the time she got home. I don't remember the incident precisely, but hearing about it doesn't surprise me.

Is this abuse? I don't know.

Is it normal for a child to be afraid of their Mother? Is it normal that when my Mom was in the hospital for the brief time before she died that I was devastated when she said that she was taking 6 months off work for her health because I didn't want her around so much. Is it normal that I was a little relived when she died? Is it normal that while I still miss her every day, I wonder if I didn't turn out just a little bit better because I only had her moods and temper around for 11 years instead of my whole life?

I can't make myself believe that I was abused. But the rational part of me reminds me that even abuse must occur on a sliding scale. Perhaps I was in the low - mid range. There was a lot of good, but the bad was worse than non-abused kids would have to experience. I don't know.

I can't see how at age 33, suddenly deciding that I was an abused child could possibly do me any good. What would that do to my poor Father?

I know that the reason I'm not married and most likely never will be is because I'm scared that I will treat my partner like my Mother treated my Father. I know that the reason I pause before I say anything to anyone, ever, is to gauge their mood to make sure they're not going to snap at me or get angry at me for disturbing them. (Yes, EVERYone, EVERytime. That includes my person, My Dear Anon, Ali, everyone...) I know that the reason that I don't want children is because I'm scared that I'll be mean to them,

But abuse? Well, I think there's something to be said for denial. I just can't go there.
While a part of me felt validated by what my cousin was saying to me (cause how much guilt do you think I'm carrying, when there's a tiny buried part of me that just admitted that my Mom dying might have been beneficial?) but for the most part, I don't know that it wouldn't be better for me to forget the whole conversation. She's gone. Don't speak ill of the dead. If I have issues, I'll just go to therapy and then quit when I have to talk about the past too much.

I feel like I've lived my life backwards. I started out as a grown up and I'm becoming more and more child-like the older I get. I'm trying to make up for lost time?

Introspection sucks.


Jen said...

I think this post itself explains more than you realize.

I don't know you as well as your dear, good friends, but I think you're wonderful and full of inner and outer beauty. I wish you could see what we all see.

Don't sell yourself short. You deserve the good you have in your life now as well as what you'll find in the future.


phishez said...

Sometimes its good just to get this out on paper (or screen, in this case).

We are all shaped by our past. Shaped, but not completely formed. Do you regret who you are? Your mother had a big say in that.

Chief Rock Chef said...

First off, I second what Jen said - I wish you could see yourself as we see you!

Sending an email with the rest!

WendyB said...


the frog princess said...

I say don't place any labels on yourself that you don't want to bear. Your relationship with your mother is in the past, and neither your cousin nor you yourself should put any pressure on you to "define" it. Seems to me that you've got a pretty good grasp on it, whether you think you do or not.


Prunella Jones said...

Hope you make peace with it soon. I tend to recommend the Scarlett O'Hara approach to life. Enjoy what you have now. You can always think about that stuff tomorrow.

PinkPiddyPaws said...

Actually, I TOTALLY believe one of the reasons I've never wanted kids is because I'm terrified that I will beat them within an inch of their life (or worse). Better not to risk it, ya know? (that, and I find the little buggers annoying as hell!)

I hope you read what you've written and realize you are stronger woman for all of what you've been through.


Random Musings Of My Life said...


I have just been in contact with an old friend that brought something horrible up that had happened when I was 9. I had totally forgot about it. And it made me sick to think about it.
We often supress what makes us sad or hurts us.

I am glad you could get it all out there.... ((hugs))

Ali said...

Wow. Don't really know what to say to all that. We'll talk in person tomorrow :)

But don't worry about what you say to me - have you HEARD the stuff that comes out of my mouth!?!?

Anonymous said...

Hey Girl,

I love you and wow what a brave bold step to share this and reflect. I think processing is good, like Jen and Phisez said and that things will only transform in a good way because of this. My situation was not nearly as extreme from the sounds of it but I can relate to your experience and assure you that just because you have an un reasonable and harmful parent does not mean you will be unkind to a child or a partner. In fact in my case, I think it turned me into a bit of a pushover to compensate. You are a good person with a strong moral sense and a beautiful heart. Don't be a fraid to share that. We've all met moody people who had an idylic childhood so while bad experience does shape you and raise awareness it does not have to designate that you will do the same things. Take care and call me anytime:)*hugs*

lots'o love,

Jess said...

I've gone through a lot of similar thoughts and the only conclusion I ever came up with was that the semantics of whether or not the treatment of a child by an angry, moody mother qualifies as abuse isn't as important to me as the behavior itself was and the way it affected me. That and only that helped me stop constantly wondering and worrying about it.

sequined said...

I don't think you have to call yourself anything you don't want to--if you don't feel abused, don't force yourself to see it that way.

But thinking about it and learning from it is good. And therapy might be, too, eventually.

Less helpfully, the new Brad Pitt movie is about someone aging backwards; maybe it would give you some insight into yourself!

MisstressM said...

honestly it all depends on how people define abuse. She may have been strict and cold with her rules and such. Like for example, my daughter is not allowed to make an "ass" of herself in public. In other words she is not allowed under any circumstances to lay on the floor at Target kicking and screaming because I refuse to buy her a toy. I give her the "stink eye" and she knows that she is to behave herself.

To some parents or kids this may be abuse. I dont frankly care....but still. I can see myself emptying my daughter's desk on the floor and telling her to toss the junk and keep what she needs. Now would i do it if its already clean? No...thats just dumb. But if her desk looks like a tornado has passed through....yeah i would. I may even take it upon myself and throw away the things that look trash to me.

All that being said, only you can know if you were abused or not. Other people's perceptions and thoughts are not as important at this point in time. I do however agree with Phishez....its good to get it out and write about it.

Psychgrad said...

I don't know how I would even process this kind of information. I would also feel, in your cousin's position, conflicted about whether sharing it is helpful or not.

I believe that even experiences that we cannot recall form part of who we are today.

Was your mother's behaviour abusive? It's hard to say. I can understand why your family would have concerns about it.

I'm wondering, though, if labelling it abusive or not changes things for you today. I think I'm basically saying the same thing as Jess.

To put a positive slant on it...I think experiencing negative relationships can be eye-opening about what you want for your life. Growing up with an emotionally abusive step-parent has taught me a lot about the type of parent I want (or don't want) to be and the type of relationship I want with a partner. I hope to use that to my advantage rather than avoid life experiences for fear of perpetuating the negativity.

Princess Pointful said...

This is a heartwrenching post, but so insightful, too. I think, as Jen says, you know more than you realize-- and you are probably a stronger person for it.

It is funny how the act of labeling is the most impactful of all. To me, if you feel abused, it was abuse, straight up. No one is asking you to prove it in a court of law.

And, finally, big hugs from my end. You are one strong lady :)

All Mod Cons said...

Hell, there's SO much I want to say about this post. I feel your pain, and more, and this isn't the time or the place to be communicating such things. At least, not for me anyway.

Thinking of ya though x

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