Writing about my childhood is never a walk in the park for me, for my book or even just trying to keep a journal as a kid. The actual pain that’s caused by physical abuse fades, but emotionally attempting to justify what another human being and a parent on top of that was able to inflict upon you tends to linger. Yes, for years until you can find some way to integrate the “bad” with the “good”. By the way….I’m thinking this story o’ mine is gonna turn into a four part-er!! Sorry!! xoxo
My hope (as always) is that one person can read my story and not feel alone. You aren’t! The revelation that I didn’t walk alone came at fourteen when I read “Mommie Dearest”. That’s right the mutha of all NPD, abusive parents....Joan effin' Crawford! I felt so connected to Christina Crawford, particularly in all the ways Joan would find to humiliate her in front of others. That was my mother’s specialty. That tactic will mess with your mind until you’re in full agreement and have grown quite attached to your feelings of worthlessness.
Oh, and upon hearing Pat Benatar's tune "Hell is for Children" for the first time I recall thinking "Yeah, man, it really is!!"
You’ll become so fond of your lack of self confidence and your “I’m a fuck up” general attitude, you’ll decide to drag them around with your ass for many, many years to come!!
(Link to Part One-Who Are You? click here)
I was born to an eighteen year old “girl” who became pregnant literally the first week she was married. Physically she had become a woman but I would have to guesstimate that her emotional age hovered somewhere around that of a twelve year old. Upon returning home after giving birth to her infant daughter my mother was forced to face the fact that newborns tend to cry. It was because of this troublesome crying that at one week old I received my first of many slaps across the face.
My mother was the only female of four children. She was the Prima Donna in her father’s eyes, but not very well loved or taken care of by her mother who I believe was envious of the attention her husband showered upon their daughter throughout his lifetime. (My grandmother had her own mommy issues!!) My grandmother was also forced to bed for weeks at a time by debilitating migraine headaches brought on by an unfaithful husband and what I diagnosed years later as some raging depression of her own. My mother was not to be out of my grandfather’s field of vision except to attend school or church functions. The farthest she was allowed to wander was her front porch. My grandfather was extremely protective of her as most old school Italians were back in the day.
Upon learning from a non-family member that my parents planned to elope my grandfather attempted to strangle my mother on their kitchen floor. A concerned aunt, while screaming that he was going to kill her (she had turned blue), had to pull him off of her before my mother was a goner.
My father who was twenty two at the time was doomed from the start branded The Boy from the Wrong Side of the Tracks by my maternal grandfather. He was completely shocked when he learned he was going to be a father so soon after marrying my mother. From all I have been able to gather he was equally ill prepared to become a parent being uneducated (he was forced to drop out of school in the seventh grade and work to help support his two younger siblings and the household in general) nonetheless he worked two and sometimes three jobs in order to support his new wife and daughter. I now am aware that my dad was raised by a sadistic father who regularly beat him with a switch or a type of rod and a barber’s belt throughout the time he spent in the family home. He could do no right as far as his father was concerned and yet was the apple of his mother’s eye being her firstborn.
Needless to say these two were of no help to each other emotionally both being as badly damaged as they were coming into this marriage. That however did not prevent them from procreating. Not once but again three and a half years later when my brother entered this world. My mother then went to work at her family’s business where she quickly saved every dime she made, hired one of the top five divorce attorneys in the city and served my father with divorce papers with absolutely zero warning. There was no discussion. That’s what she decided to do and it being the early seventies fathers really had few rights. He left heartbroken, not so much because being married to my mother was a 24/7 good old time, but because for the first time in his life he was a part of a family he genuinely loved and enjoyed spending time with….just like that he was gone. My mother had decided to banish him. Poof! Dad is gone. Their marriage lasted about six years.
My father was granted visitation on Sundays from noon to five pm. (My how times have changed. Thankfully!) My mother would wake my brother and I up on Sundays and get us ready to be picked up at noon. We would sit side by side on the sofa in full coat, hat, scarf and boots get-up waiting for dad to show and sweep us away for the afternoon (sweating our asses off by the way!). Many times he didn’t show. No call either. My mother would turn to us about 1pm and say “See how your father doesn’t even care enough about you two to come and get you? One day a week for five hours is all he has to spend with you two and he can’t even do that. Meanwhile I get stuck all week long taking care of you both.”
It was not until my forties that I discovered from an aunt I am very close to that during that time my father was working several jobs in order to pay not only child support to my mother but marital credit card debt she had stuck him with. My father had always called to let her know a day or two ahead of our visits that he was scheduled to work and would not be able to make the Sunday visit. My mother would not relent and let him see us on another day that he had off of work. So all those Sundays that she got us up and made us sit and wait were for no reason other than “I want them to know what a horrible person he is.” as she told my aunt. My dear aunt in turn instructed her to cease and desist on that tactic stat! She did not heed her advice.
The things that my mother started telling me from the age of seven about my father were unimaginable. I have never repeated some of these stories to anyone. I just can’t. It is unfathomable that anyone with any emotional maturity could confide in her daughter the way my mother did not only about my dad, but other family members as well. And unfortunately due to her lack of friends (she had and has none) I, as the only daughter, became her confidant. A role that fucked me up emotionally for most of my life and took away any chance of me being given an opportunity to enjoy my childhood worry-free. I had too many “big people” problems to contend with by the time I was nine years old. Most of the time I felt like the mom of the household. The only time I did not feel in a position of power was when the beatings came down on me and they were brutal and mostly out of left field. I blame most of my mother’s mood swings on the fact that she went weekly to a “Diet Doctor” in a seedy neighborhood to get “Magic Shots and Pills”
Many women in my family went to see the Diet Doctor. I’m fairly certain none of them were aware they were being shot up with and ingesting amphetamines. My mother would clean house until 3am, get up at 7am, get us ready for school (except on her day off which was Monday. My brother and I never went to school on Mondays. She liked to sleep in that day.) work until 5pm, come home, cook dinner, clean the house until 3am and get up and do it all over again. Seriously, she was a speed freak and didn’t even know it!!
She prided herself on “doing it all” with no help from anyone including her parents who she claimed her brothers were constantly borrowing from (I was eight when she started telling me that shit) or our father who she had completely banished from our lives about two years after their divorce under the guise of it being detrimental for her children to have to sit around waiting for his visit week after week. I remember my father being at the door to get us that last Sunday and my mother not allowing him to cross the threshold. She also told him to shove his child support up his ass (in front of my brother & I) and that she’d take care of us her damn self.
So now my dad was gone. Someone I thought might be able to be on my side and help me out from the beatings and ranting and raving. Nope. I felt like my last hope for some semblance of normalcy, real or just wishful thinking, in my life was gone that day as I looked out the window and saw him brokenly walk down our front steps back to his car, no kids in tow and banished permanently from their lives by an ogre of an ex-wife. The mother of his two children cared only about what served her and not what would be best for her son and daughter, their needs were secondary, if thought of at all. (More on my dad in part 3)
After my dad was permanently out of the picture is when I'd say my mother stepped up her game in the abuse department. I endured countless beatings from the age of six well into my teens ...with fists, straps, shoes, wooden spoons even a soup ladle. This soup ladle caught her some heat when she was called into school to explain why my arms were covered in black and blue marks in the shape of circles. The Catholic school did nothing, but my teacher was kinder and more patient with me after that. I love her to this very day for being the first person to call my mother out on her abuse. No one had dared prior and not many thereafter.
My skull was split open with a belt buckle. I required a couple of stitches as blood was gushing from the top of my head, but she didn't drive and I’m fairly positive she didn't want to have to explain that one to the ER attending physician.
I received a black eye once that I was given a hundred dollars for…. to alleviate her guilt I suppose. I gladly took the hundred and went out and did some serious underage drinking with friends.
These abusive acts weren't reserved for when she got you alone after you had displayed poor table manners or spoke when not being spoken to while out to dinner. Sometimes she’d take you right to the bathroom at the restaurant and dole out a bit of corporal discipline. My mother did NOT tolerate her children embarrassing her. Other times she gave you “The Look” and you just knew what you were in for upon arriving home and it was not gonna be good.
These were not your typical “spankings” (I did have classmates/friends who received spankings on the derriere...it was the 1970s) but rather these were an adult completely out of control, not looking to teach her child right from wrong, but to inflict pain on you for somehow disappointing her. Living in constant fear will make a kid sick and it eventually did take its toll on me physically when panic attacks started manifesting themselves while I was enduring yet another beating and cowering in a corner trying to cover my face.
Emotionally I see-sawed from the ages of 9-25 several times during the course of a day. Being beaten into submission until you could no longer catch your breath will start to mess with your central nervous system after a while. Sometimes I would just shut down because it was the only way for me to cope when I’d feel as though I were going completely insane. That kind of helplessness was debilitating. Your little brain can only handle so much before it goes into system overload!!
Next week Part 3: What growing up without a father present does psychologically to a young chickie poo when you're already living with a loony-tune mother. The double whammy, if you will.
Sending each of you so much love and strength. Just understand it can take a very long time to find your particular peace if you aren't willing to allow it. My blog is for all of you to realize everyday isn't a damn picnic, but you can find more and more wonderful days during the course of your journey if you're simply sick of being miserable. My blog is also for me....for all of the same reasons.