Friday, May 29, 2009

2414 Growing up wild

Friday, May 29, 2009

Most adults who say they grew up wild say it with pride. They usually mean they grew up in the country, farmland or forest, and that they got to climb trees and race bikes and build forts in the woods and float rafts down the creek, and do some rather dangerous things. In most cases growing up wild was fun, and involved loving and approving (although hopelessly "tsk"ing) parents at home.

My siblings and I grew up wild, but not the fun way.

I left home for college at 17. My siblings were 12(M), 11(F), 9(F), and 2(M), so they did a lot of their growing up after I'd left, in a different place and time, which means that their experiences may have been different. I doubt that it was much different. We had the same parents, and they were still the same kids as when I left.

Our father was denigrating, unsupportive, and violent. More than violent, because he would set up traps a child would fall into, so he'd have an excuse to beat us. He left his mark on us, long after the bruises faded and the broken bones healed, and for the first 55 years of my life I thought the family dysfunction was all his.

Mom got beaten, too, the most often and the most severely. It made us kids feel protective toward her. It was only after my mother died and I was released from pity for her and loyalty to her that I realized she was a big part of the problem, too.

Her life was devoted to keeping her husband and herself happy. I don't know why she stayed with him, frankly. Anyway, she didn't pay much attention to us kids. We were like a pack of unwanted puppies someone had dropped on her doorstep, and she had to keep us and feed us until we grew up. That was pretty much the sum total of her responsibility.

We got no guidance, no support, no encouragement. I don't remember her ever hugging me. There was no love, no compliments, only criticism. When the kids got into fights, she ignored it. No mediation. No settling of issues between siblings. We got no socialization, never exposed to adult conversation. When we had problems, she didn't notice.

On the not noticing, one perfect example is my first bra. I was twelve. For Christmas my mother gave me a doll. A large doll, but a doll. The next door neighbor gave me a bra, a 32B, which fit perfectly. Mom hadn't noticed I needed one. I wore that bra every day for a year, patching it when it wore out. Mom didn't buy me another until I cried because I couldn't patch it any more. Which sort of points out another problem - I think she saw us girls, as we grew up, if she noticed us growing up at all, as competition for male admiration, so we were told to "go play in your room" whenever company visited. Imagine being 15 or 16, and being told to "go play in your room".

My siblings were savages when they were young. They learned that if they got something on their mother that would anger their father, they could blackmail her for favors. They learned that they could blackmail each other. If it looked like they were headed for a beating, they could deflect it onto a sibling, and they felt no guilt in doing so. They enjoyed ratting on each other. They stole or destroyed each other's toys or prized possessions with no compunction.

We grew up wild.

After I left for college, I didn't look back. I had to "live at home" for one semester, but I coped by locking myself in my room as soon as I got home, and not leaving the room until everyone else had left the house the next morning. After graduation, getting away from my family was probably one of the factors that pushed me into the unwanted marriage to Ex#1.

In my mid twenties, I went to my youngest sister's wedding, and ended up standing nose to nose with my father, telling him that if he ever hit my youngest brother, "ever again, and someone will tell me, you know they will, I'll get a gun, and I'll come back here, you won't know when I'm coming, and you'll turn around and I'll be there, and I'll kill you. And if I can't get a gun, it'll be a knife. But I will kill you. Don't you ever hit that kid, ever, never, never again." My next two siblings stepped up and told him that if I missed, they wouldn't. That was the first time I felt like we kids were something like family, more than just competitors and enemies.

After my father died, a few years after the episode above, I think Mom finally looked up and saw all the damage that had been done. I think she tried to fix things, but of course it was too late. Kids who grow up wild tend to live wild. It took many years for each of us to find ourselves and our place in the world.

Some of us never did.


The exception proves the rule.

Common expression, but few people knows what it means. Shouldn't the exception DISprove the rule?

It comes from contract law. Contracts must be clear, but it's sometimes difficult to list all factors. So if a simple contract says that someone would be paid $14 per hour, except that on Sunday they would be paid $16 per hour, that "proves" that Saturday it's $14. Saturday is not a bonus day. The exception proves the rule.

There were exceptions to my relationship with my mother.

My last months of high school, I couldn't sleep, and wandered the house in the wee hours. Mom found me in the kitchen one night, and asked why I couldn't sleep. I said that I wanted to go to college, but I didn't see how I could do it. (This was the first time college was mentioned. I had won a full Merit scholarship covering tuition, but had no money for other costs, and, in 1962 campus and town jobs went to boys, since boys needed college and girls didn't, so if a girl went to college, she couldn't get a job to help.) She said of course I should go to college, that she'd "scrub floors" if she had to. She and I both knew there was no chance of that, but she did pull some strings and got me an Air Force grant, and a federal loan.

My last weeks of high school, I was passed over for valedictorian and salutatorian, because I "wasn't a regular student" (the Air Force paid tuition for us). My mother raised Holy Cain. She raked the principal over the coals for literally hours, and went to the (tiny weekly) local newspaper with the story. I was surprised by her reaction.

The day I graduated from college, we were in the car, and I wanted to draw her attention to something. I touched the back of her hand on the steering wheel, and I was shocked at how soft her skin was. That's when I realized that I couldn't remember ever having touched or having been touched by her.

The fact that those exceptions rank so high in my memories of my mother prove the rule that she ignored us. Stuff like that should have been normal, taken for granted.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

2413 Past Lies Can Come Back

Thursday, May 28, 2009

This little blurb,
had me hyperventilating, little bits like "For the most part, divorce hearings are presumed to be open to the public" and "Defenders of disclosure say revelations that come out of divorce cases can provide insight into the character and habits...".


I'll admit that when I married Ex#1, I didn't want to marry him, but I felt coerced by his threats of going AWOL if I didn't. Ten months later he was home on leave from his post in Germany, and I got pregnant, against my will. I was taking birth control pills, and he went to some of the most extreme measures to make sure they didn't work, like he'd suggest visiting his parents "just for the afternoon", take the pills out of my purse because his mother would freak if she saw them, and then trap me there without the pills (or clothes, or toothpaste) for four days. Reminder: in 1966, a man forcing his wife was not considered rape, even if it involved beating.

The following January, when I was 7.5 months pregnant, there was a fire in my apartment building. Arson, by a mentally disabled girl who liked to watch fire engines. I suffered some smoke inhalation, and the next day our daughter was stillborn (in the wheelchair on the way to a labor room). He came back from Germany on compassionate leave. I was devastated. The hospital wanted to keep me longer because I had an infection, but it would have to be in the maternity ward, and the sound of babies crying when they brought them around for feeding had me constantly crying. I couldn't go back to the apartment just yet. There was baby stuff there. So on the third day the hospital released me, we went to see a funeral director to make arrangements for the baby, and then left that day for Florida and stayed with my parents for a week. Then he went back to Germany.

A few weeks later he was transferred to Seattle. He had only six months left in the Army, so he didn't want me to join him there. I got a substitute teaching job to finish the school year. In the summer, he got out of the Army and joined me in Pennsylvania, where things went rapidly downhill.

A buddy of his expressed surprise that he had come home. Turns out he'd taken up with a Wac in Germany, she had been transferred to Seattle too, and they had shared an apartment there. There were a lot of things wrong, anyway. He didn't want to get a job. I had the education, so he figured I'd be the primary breadwinner, which would have been fine except that back then, high school teachers resigned or were fired when they were pregnant. So my job was not assured. And, he was flat out stupid. Our attitudes, goals, opinions, were opposite. He considered me "highfalutin'", and I was often yelled at or hit if I expressed an opinion different from his.

I finally got up the gumption to leave. I interviewed with The Company and got a job in upstate New York. I had managed to save $500, which was just enough to get me through to the first paycheck, but he went to every bank in town and finally found my savings account. Even though the account was in my name only, the bank gave him my money, because back then, anything a woman owned belonged to her husband. (Remember all this when you feel like sneering at libbers.) I left anyway.

I didn't file for divorce. I didn't care. Within six months of my leaving, he'd found a woman with two kids that he wanted to marry. I told him to go ahead and file. His grounds would be desertion, I'd left and had no intention of returning, and that's all he needed. I left with nothing, so there were no property issues, and I wouldn't contest it. It wouldn't cost more than $200, tops. I even sent him $100 toward the costs.

I did see a lawyer, but only to confirm that it would all be very simple, and I didn't need representation.

And then I kinda forgot about it....

...until I got the letter announcing the date of the hearing - that very afternoon! Um, shouldn't I have had more notice? In the envelope was also what he intended to swear to.
That I had many affairs during our marriage.
That I had never told him that I was pregnant.
That it was an attempted back-street abortion that landed me in the hospital.
That when he appeared at the hospital room door, I had screamed and thrown things at him and told him that the baby wasn't his.
That after he got out of the Army I refused to have anything to do with him, did not perform my "wifely duties".
That I had brought lovers home, in front of him.
That I had stolen money from him when I left.

Never even mentioned desertion.

I was furious! I called my lawyer. Even though he had not been listed as officially representing me in this matter, he had also received the letter, and figured I'd call. I went to his office. If I got on the road quickly, I could make it to the courthouse in Pennsylvania in time for the hearing, and I wanted to fight it. It was all lies!

The lawyer calmed me down. He said all that garbage didn't come from the Ex, that is was all from his lawyer, who just wanted to make sure the judge declared the marriage irretrievably broken, because you sometimes get Catholic judges who hate granting divorces if there's any chance, blah blah blah, so I shouldn't be angry.

"But, he signed it! He denied his own daughter! His own dead daughter! How dare he make me sound so bad when he's lower than low! He signed it! He swore to it! He didn't have the guts to tell his lawyer to leave his child alone!"

The lawyer kept talking at me until it was too late to head for court.

And besides, he said, "divorce records are sealed, and no one would ever see or hear any of it." There's no reason to fight it.

Not true. I guess I'd better not run for office. Or try to marry anybody important.

2412 Dinner, with bugs

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I drove to New Jersey for dinner yesterday. Several people in Daughter and Hercules' geocaching group have birthdays this week, including Hercules, so they got together to sing Happy Birthday and to trade travel bugs.

These are travel bugs:

A cache is a container hidden somewhere, containing a log book, little goodies, and/or travel bugs. The coordinates of the container are posted online, and the geocachers use the coordinates with GPS devices and online hints to find the cache.

When you find a cache, you sign the log, take a goody and/or a travel bug out, put another goodie and/or travel bug in, rehide the cache, and then log the find online. Travel bugs have dog tags with serial numbers (you can see the corner of a dog tag in the photo above, all those chains lead to more tags), and sometimes have a note indicating where it wants to go. One of the bugs last night started out in British Columbia, and wants to travel around the world.

So the folks last night were trading found or new travel bugs depending on what direction they plan to go soon, to help the bugs along.

Some pictures (Daughter and Hercules are there, but maybe if I don't actually identify anyone, no one will mind):

Some red eyes in there. Too much trouble to bother fixing. Deal.

Hercules picked a baby rose in the parking lot for me:

It seems to be the custom to put photos of food in blogs, so here's my crab cakes on mixed greens:

The drive home was a hair over two hours, so I popped Santo & Johnny in and sang and danced all the way home.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

2411 My First Tick

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Becs and I are both experiencing the creepy-crawlies, she from working in her yard, and I from Sunday's woods-walking.

We hate ticks.

The comment I left on her post:
"Ticks are single-minded, bloodsucking, disease-carrying, robotic, spider-like, sneaky, scourges of the earth. They don't even have the excuse that they are a major food source for any other more pleasant beast. I hate them. In Washington we had them walking up the walls, waiting to drop on anyone who entered the room."
And that's their positive attributes.

Almost everyone has a horror story about their first encounter with a tick. (And with leeches, which are, as far as I'm concerned, merely aquatic ticks, but with the saving grace that you can usually look at a body of water, and say "That's full of leeches", and stay out of the water, and the freaky things at least won't crawl out of the water to get you, like ticks would. Leeches don't follow you home. And they squash easily. Sheesh. How bad do you have to be to be considered lower than a leech?)

I picked up my first (known) tick in third grade. The new school had been built on a cow pasture (there were still cows on the other side of the playground fence), backing up to woods and a wide creek. Prime tick country.

One day my mother was brushing my hair and kept hitting a bump on my scalp on the top of my head. She parted the hair, and completely freaked out. The skin was swollen and red and puffed up, and in the middle of the puffiness was a huge beige-gray leathery "thing". She'd never seen a tick before. She totally panicked.

She called the doctor, who laughed, calmed her down, told her it was, given the size, an adult tick, and that she should lift it with her fingernail and pull it off. (This was pre-Lyme, and nobody worried about squeezing ticks.)

The skin was so swollen that the tick was completely embedded, and she couldn't get under it to lift it.

Now, this is the part I don't understand. My mother was not stupid. With all the tools at her disposal, I don't understand why she chose the one she did.

She picked up a pair of large dressmaker shears, opened the blades, and used the point of one thick sharp blade to dig into my scalp all around the tick. She bared bone, swearing the whole time. I had a weeping hole for a while, and a bald spot for decades.

For a very long time after, when I felt threatened by something in life, I had nightmares of the ground thickly covered with tiny black crawling things advancing on me.

I hate ticks.

Monday, May 25, 2009

2410 I am not destined to have wildflowers...

Monday, May 25, 2009 the section of woods close to the house.

The first year I planted them too late, and then when a few of the more courageous started to sprout, they were mowed by The Hairless Hunk's teenage helper. $150 worth of seeds down the tubes.

This year I planted them at the right time. Some were actually beginning to bloom - a little white and lavender flower, some blue violet-like thingies, and a tall yellow spikey thing. The others seemed to be getting a good foothold. Sometime in the past few days, when I was out, somebody mowed the yard.

Guess what.

I guess I'll just plant flamingos again.

2409 Explain this!

Monday, May 15, 2009


2408 Dog Walk

Monday, May 25, 2009

Yesterday I went on an easy hike with one of the groups I joined last week, the dog people. I guess because it was a holiday weekend, there were only three other women and two dogs. We met at the upper parking lot of the Comeau property in Woodstock, and then followed the trail through the woods and along the creek. Along the way, we met a lot of other people with their dogs, including a beautiful pair of Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

The other women were about 30 years younger than I, with long legs, so I had to hustle a bit to keep up, but it was ok.

It was all fairly flat, only two or three short banks to climb, and only 1.5 hours, much of which was spent throwing sticks into the creek for the dogs to fetch, but I guess I'm out of shape. My hips and upper thighs are snorting at me today. But that's good. I need more of that.

Driving through Woodstock was an experience in itself. The place was packed! There was a drum circle on the green, and all the cafes' outside patio business had spilled out onto the sidewalks. Of course, being Woodstock, people just crossed the street randomly, stopped cars randomly, even parked randomly.

By the way, when all the parking spaces in the village are full, there's still parking available in lots off Comeau road. Seems like nobody knows about those lots, even though there's a sign on Tinker Street pointing to them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

2407 Ballet Dancer

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A ballet is on the tv in the background. This one has a lot of male dancers, and I am reminded of a conversation I had in the lounge in college, 1963.

Those were the days of heavy gay-bashing. Gangs of otherwise intelligent male college students would roam the streets at night looking for suspected gay guys to beat up, while avoiding the gangs of townies looking for college students to beat up.

I've never understood what the straight guys had against gays. They absolutely hated and feared them. Violent anger. Why?

Anyway, one day we're at a table in the lounge, and the guys were going on sneeringly about how "all male ballet dancers are definitely gay."

I said, "Wouldn't you like to be in their place?"

Quizzical looks.

Me: "Well, they spend all their working day in rehearsal with hordes of beautiful, young, slender, graceful, superbly flexible women, AND they are paid to touch them in sometimes rather intimate places that you guys won't get anywhere near without practically begging. They have to be careful on stage, but in rehearsal, well, slips happen. You've seen where their hands go." (1963. A college with strict curfews and moral rules. These guys were likely virgins, and would stay so for a while.)

Silence. Wide eyes. You could hear the brain-gears grinding.

Me: "Maybe they're not gay. Maybe they're just graceful and smart. Ballet has got to be a lot more fun for a hetero than running numbers in a sterile office."

Long silence, followed by a change of topic.


Post script - of the five or six guys at the table, all of us girls, but none of the other guys, knew that one was gay, and one was at least bisexual. The gay one was so flamboyant in his gestures, I don't know how he managed to stay alive.