Sunday, March 15, 2009

Purging My Childhood...

My mother died when I was 11, and for 7 years after that, I lived with my Dad and brother. At age 18, my father bought a house with my soon-to-be stepmother, and my brother bought my childhood home from my father. Those seven years were both homey and sad.

I was always Daddy's little girl, so us getting on after my mother was gone was never a question. My relationship with my brother was a bit more iffy. He was 12 years older than me, so I always viewed him as more of a parental figure than a sibling and an equal.

11 - 18 are pretty formative years. It's only in retrospect that I've realized how much a lack of mother really had an affect on me in that way. For as much as I may have since questioned the "happiness" of my childhood - I never doubted that I was loved. And that knowledge carried me through those years. I wasn't part of the "popular" crowd in school, nor was I ostracized and tormented. I happily existed somewhere in the middle, probably where it is safest to be.

I had already moved onto public school when I was 10 and fortunately had a group of friends living close by. I went through the expected teenage awkwardness of dressing poorly, not getting my hair cut, and feeling "different" somehow. But doesn't everyone?

Home life was OK, but I was unsatisfied with it. My brother was "bossy" and my father, though kind and fair was not very expressive. He would find me crying and want to know what was wrong, but I couldn't explain to him what I was unhappy about. It was something undefined. Looking back, it doesn't seem to me anything more mysterious than missing having a mother figure around - but at the time that seemed to predictable, surely it must have been something else.

It's fortunate that I was always relatively serious and mature. I took on the role of cook at a fairly young age. (Not that I was a culinary genius by ANY stretch of the imagination). Although the role of housekeeper/cleaner I dove into with significantly less enthusiasm. At least things were relatively democratic in the house and I wasn't expected to do ALL the "girl jobs." Although, the fact that I never had to shovel or mow a lawn implies that perhaps I really didn't even do the half that was my share.

All things considered, it's actually somewhat surprising that I have such little faith or trust in men if you look at the fact that I was raised by two of them. My father was the most caring and wonderful man in the world and has never done anything to let me down. And my brother? Well, no one's perfect right? I actually didn't realize most of his faults until I was much older and became more emotionally mature than him. We're definitely closer now than we were in that era, since the age difference doesn't mean much as adults.

My grandmother moved down the street from us when I was 14, after she had a small stroke. This perhaps added more family to my neighbourhood, but added a burden to my father. His mother went from being an independent and vibrant member of her community to a needy woman with a gift for guilt trips. The second I turned 16 she was on me to get my license so that I could drive her places. In the meantime, my grandfather on my mother's side had moved into a rest home. Him and my father would occasionally take trips to Vegas where my grandfather would play Keno. My father was a saint to both of them. (In my eyes anyways)

Then, just as my father's father and my mother's mother died when I was 9 - the same thing happened when I was 17. Both my remaining grandparents passed away. By the summer of age 17 I had one parent and no grandparents.

I had a hard time letting my father out of my sight for anything other than work in those years - even before the grandparents passed away. I was terrified that something would happen to him. This didn't disappear until he re-married when I was 18.

It took a long time before I would her my friends criticize their parents with equanimity. It seemed like such an immature way yo behave when we should be cherishing their existence and everything they do for us. Looking back, I wonder if I wasn't really the immature and attention-seeking one.

It's odd to think back on those years. In some respects it seems like I was no more than a normal teenage girl. In others, I wonder just how troubled I really was and if I ever really did recover from the loss of a mother at such a young age.


Nance said...

There's a lot of honesty in this post, yet it's rather dispassionate. You really have a clear view of things that, in anyone's life, would seem to me to be obscured by a lot of traumatic emotions. You must have spent a good deal of time thinking about this and made your peace with all that occurred. I don't think I'd have been able to be so direct and so...calm.

Princess of the Universe said...

Nance- Hmm, perhaps TOO dispassionate? I kind of wonder about that with ALL of my writing...

Sheila (Charm School Reject) said...

I don't know what to say - just that I'm kind of humbled at you opening up like this.

I think that you are an amazing amazing woman and I love you.

Let me know if you need anything, okay?


Princess of the Universe said...

Sheila- thanks so much honey, I really appreciate it! xoxo

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