Marjorie Writes…

Everyday Musings of an Extraordinary Woman

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Seriously?!

When I left the post office today, I thought I was going to be writing a very different blog post than what I’m going to be writing.

After procrastinating over half of the day, I finally went out to run errands this afternoon, my last day of “freedom” before my kids come home.  I didn’t feel like running mundane errands like going to the bank and the post office and the grocery store. I wanted to either chill and do nothing at home but read and/or watch tv and relax, or go to the beach (not such a great weather day for the beach) but I had to get certain things done before my kids get home tomorrow. So to the post office (etc) I went.

When I went into the post office, I waited in line to buy a stamped envelope (I know, lazy, but I didn’t have any envelopes at home and I use them so rarely I didn’t feel like buying a box). I got my letter ready and then mailed it. Somewhere in there, before I left, the few of us in there were all talking. A man in there asked me what business I used to have (he said I looked familiar) so I told him. He said that was why I looked familiar. So the clerk asked what I was doing now. I replied that I was doing freelance work while looking for a “real” job.  He asked what I did, and said I should work there. Further conversation ensued. He asked for my card, which I didn’t have on me (not having my purse with me), so I wrote down my name and numbers for him, and at his request, a list of my computer and other skills. Thankfully, I forgot to write down this blog address, which he had been interested in.

I left the post office feeling great. I thought, ah, there was a reason I was procrastinating. I was meant to be there then, to get into that group conversation and find the possibility of employment.  I went about the rest of my errands with a spring in my step, thinking about how often chance intercedes and changes the course of our lives. I was thinking about the uplifting blog post I’d be writing when I got home.

After running all of my other errands, I stopped in to see a good friend while she was working. After we caught up, I was about to tell her about what happened at the post office, when I got a text notification on my phone. So I opened it. I think my mouth fell open when I read it.

“Hi Marjorie this is MICHAEL from the post office. If you like give me a call, I enjoyed talking with you.”

OMG I said to my friend, and quickly told her the story, ending with the text message. I was pretty annoyed that he had texted me. This was over an hour after the post office had closed. It was not professional, obviously had nothing to do with a job. She told me that she had been in there last week and the guy basically hit on her too. He hadn’t overtly hit on me while I was in there, I hadn’t been flirting with him in any way. It was just friendly conversation, I thought.

I came home, still seriously annoyed and posted about it on Facebook. One friend suggested in a message that I go to another post office. I said no, I’m not driving off the island just to go to a post office because of some idiot. And I’m not letting him control my actions. He’s a blip on the overall landscape of my life, unimportant.

Needless to say, I didn’t respond to his text. THREE HOURS LATER, I got another text:

“Guess u didn’t want to talk”

Ya think? Seriously? Even if they had a job there that they would hire me for, I couldn’t take it at this point – I will not go into a work environment where sexual harassment is a very real possibility. As much as I need and want a “real” job, I couldn’t work with him, not in a tiny little post office with a handful of employees.

To think when I left the post office, I thought this would have a happy ending (to borrow a friend’s comment from Facebook on the situation).

Live, love, laugh…it makes it all worthwhile!

 

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Feeling Validated as a Mom

My kids have been gone for over 3 weeks now – they’ll be home in less than 2 days. When I talked to them this weekend (I’ve been talking to them everyday) they both indicated they were ready to come home. That made me feel really good, as they have been having fun with their father, but they still miss me and want to be with me, despite being with me 11+ months a year.

I should really be asleep – it’s very late and I have a LOT to do before picking them up at the airport Saturday morning (their flight comes in about 30 minutes before noon, but I’ll have to leave my house probably by 8:30 so I can get to the airport and get through security and wait at the gate for them.

However, tonight is the last night I can stay up as late as I want and sleep late the next day.  Hopefully my kids will sleep late when they come home, as I know they have been staying up very late. But I can’t count on it. And I want to spend time with them once they’re home, thus I want to get as many chores out of the way as possible. So, of course, I’m up late tonight, watching tv and playing games on Facebook, etc. You know, the important stuff.

I’m looking forward to the return of my kids – please remind me of that next week when they’re driving me nuts. But when they told me they were ready to come home the other day, it made my heard swell so much I thought it would pop out of my chest. Seriously, that’s mommy validation – even though they’re getting older and much more independent, and even though they’re with their father whom they only see for a few weeks every summer, they’ve been ready to get home to mom. Yay for me! (channeling whatshername from The Suite Life of Zach and Cody)

I have a long list of things I have to get done tomorrow, so wish me luck in that. But I know I’ll go to sleep with a smile on my face tomorrow night, knowing I’ll have my babies safe at home with me again the next day!

Live, love, laugh….it makes it all worthwhile!

Friends and Perspectives

When I first started this blog, one of the things I wrote most about was friends. I’m still grateful for my friends, that will never change. Both old and new friends are so important.

One of the great things about friends, aside from the obvious fun, sharing, being there for each other, is the opportunity to see things in a different light. And they can encourage you to step out of your comfort zones, or try new things. Or just look at things from different perspectives.

While I’m often good at doing that for my friends, I’m also sometimes not so good at doing it for myself. For instance, I’m looking for full-time work right now, so money is tight. My friend suggested we take the kids down to Washington, DC for a couple of days. When I told her I really couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money, she came up with a new suggestion. So instead of staying over, we’re driving down for the day tomorrow. It’s only roughly a 3 hour drive from here, so we’re packing up the kids and a lunch, and going. Many of the attractions there are free, and with our packed lunch and snacks, we’ll be able to have a fun, different day with the kids for a limited expense.  We’ll have dinner before we head home, and our kids should come home tired and happy, having had a fun day in a different city. (As well as them having spent the day in our nation’s capitol, which they are very excited about!)

At some point, once I’m working more (or at least have a stronger source of income) I plan to take them back. One day is nowhere near enough time to see everything there. I know it’s going to leave me wanting a lot more – I love DC, but haven’t been there for years. And this new perspective on doing things on a tight budget should translate well for the rest of the summer. A lot of the places I really want to take them in Philadelphia aren’t free. However, there is so much there that is so historical and free that we could easily go for the day and have a great time, and it’s also a great learning trip for them.

When I first decided to move up to the Jersey Shore, it was right after my daughter was born. One of the things I was most excited about was that there were so many historic areas in such a close area. I had grand plans to teach them history through trips up and down the coast. Sadly, about the only time we’ve done that was when we went to Gettysburg upon evacuating from a hurricane (which didn’t end up hitting us, thankfully). And that trip was infused with history and ghost-hunting. Very fun, even if it would have been more fun for me had I not spent half of the time preoccupied about whether our home would be there when we returned.

So thank goodness for friends. I’ve always loved my friends, and as I move through my life, I’ve always been thankful for the friends I’ve made along the way.

Live, love, laugh…it makes it all worthwhile!

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July, y’all! I hope everyone had a good day, enjoying the summer (we had great weather here!), celebrating with family and friends, watching the fireworks. I’m so grateful today to live in this great country where we have so much freedom and we are generally safe to live and enjoy our lives.

I had a peaceful, relaxing day. Spent the early part of the day relaxing with my kids, then my son’s friend came over and all 3 of them played well together – ok, so that part wasn’t fully peaceful, but it was filled with the sounds of kids playing and laughing, so it was good. I even bounced on my son’s huge bouncy ball and laughed like a child myself. Tonight, we went down the road by the bay to watch the fireworks – always a good time.

I spoke with my cousin tonight for the first time in a few years – I called to wish him happy birthday. I was so glad to speak with him because there was some discord between us a few years back, caused by my ex-husband. That has bothered me so much because he was always the cousin I was closest to, despite the 12 year age difference. It felt good to chat with him this afternoon.

Today would have been my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary, if my mom hadn’t died 24 years ago and my dad 4 years ago. My mom used to say she picked July 4 so my father would never be able to forget their anniversary. Smart woman. And that she told him it was an hour earlier than it was so he’d be on time. Now, I only remember my dad as being very punctual, but then I don’t know what he was like when he was younger.

I generally don’t get too thoughtful about the anniversary on July 4. This year, I keep thinking about it. And choking up (and tearing up) when talking about it. I don’t know why the change this year, but my guess is it’s because I’ve been missing my parents so much lately.

So many of my friends who are lucky enough to still have their parents complain about them regularly. And I was the first one to complain about my father, despite how close I was to him. He was incredibly stubborn (a family trait from his side of the family) and was always often certain his way was the better way to do anything. And while he was often right about some things, it wasn’t always the case, and it usually wasn’t what I wanted to hear. However, I would do anything to have him back. And my mom. And so I always tell my friends that as crazy as their parents may drive them, make sure they appreciate them and enjoy them and love them while they are still here.

I am so blessed to have my kids and great friends and loving, fun extended family members. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling like I don’t have family, although I keep reminding myself that my kids are my family. And they are amazing and wonderful and annoying and everything in between. I just feel every so often that I’m letting them down since they aren’t getting the whole extended family experience.

Anyhow, today was one of those days that I tried to forget about all of it and just relax and enjoy the family I have in my home. And it was a great day. But then, how can it be a bad day if it ends with a beautiful display of fireworks on the bay?

Live, love, laugh….it makes it all worthwhile!

PTSD Stinks

Funny how things happen. I had gone to the store earlier this evening, and one of the things I bought was a package of cupcakes. So later tonight I decided to open them and have one. However, they were no longer in my purse. Since I knew my son wouldn’t have gone into my purse, I figured the dogs got them. Sure enough, I found the open, empty wrapper on the dining room floor. I picked it up and held it toward the dogs and the mama dog took off running faster than I’d ever seen her run. After a good laugh, I decided to run back to the store to replace them.

As I was turning the corner to come home, I saw a man on a bicycle riding down my street, in the direction I was heading. He looked back and saw my car, and pulled into a driveway two doors down. After a brief hesitation and another look over his shoulder, he continued to ride between the two houses there (there aren’t many fences in my area) and disappeared. Now, it was a little after 10 at this point. So I pulled into my driveway and called the police. I explained to the person that the man was on bike and rode between the houses, pulling off the street when my car approached. I gave the limited description I had gotten, and went into my house.

Some time later (not sure how long, but it was a non-emergency call), I had a knock at my door – the police. I stepped outside (fighting to keep the baby dog (around 2 yrs old) inside. In the light rain, he asked what I had seen, etc. I explained it was probably nothing but this is a quiet street on the end of my island, and it’s not usual to have adults riding their bikes between houses in the dark. He said he’d look but that I had my dog here (I don’t think he got a good look at her – she’s no more than 20 or 25 lbs – not a big dog by any means).

Now, I had a pit in my stomach for the rest of the night. I have PTSD, courtesy of my ex-husband.  I have a restraining order against him and haven’t seen him in a year and a half, since our divorce was finalized (he was incarcerated at the time, from a DUI charge). I haven’t had any contact with him since I’d gotten the restraining order almost a year before then. And even though it was a very brief marriage (2 1/2 months before I showed him the door), I knew he was the type to hold a grudge forever.

Now, my daughter is out at her friend’s house and I let my son camp out in the living room tonight, sleeping on the floor. Around 1 in the morning, the little dog started barking. And jumped up on the back of the recliner closest to the front door, where she likes to perch when she hears someone here – that way she can try to beat me out the door to greet them. So I went and looked out the window, accidentally turning on the light there on my way. Nothing. So I turned off the light and sat down at my laptop again. And again the little dog ran to the chair and started barking. That went on for about 5 minutes, with intermittent barks. Now, she’s sleeping soundly next to me on the couch, my son is passed out with the other dog on the floor, and I’m writing this, hoping by expressing myself I will get rid of the feelings and be able to go to sleep.

All of this over something that was probably nothing. I haven’t had any feelings of paranoia lately, as I got when I thought he was around, no nightmares waking me up, petrified. Yet the PTSD lingers, popping up it’s ugly head now and again, like tonight.

For a time after we split up, I would sleep on my couch with a baseball bat – afraid that if he broke into my house I might not hear him from my room and be able to protect my children and myself. And I didn’t sleep well back then. Thankfully, that is all in the past.

Yet, here I sit, almost 2am and afraid to go to sleep. But little dog will let me know, right, if she hears something? I think I’ll be sleeping on my couch again tonight, especially since my son is out here. I’ll have the phone nearby, but will not go in search of the baseball bat.

Live, laugh, love…..it makes it all worthwhile!

The Big C: Hereafter

I’m still crying after watching the final episode of The Big C: Hereafter. After 3 seasons (plus a 4th mini-season, the Hereafter) the series has concluded. For those of you who haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s serious and funny, black humor, about Cathy, a woman diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma.

Earlier in this season, Cathy had decided to move into a hospice facility – she didn’t want her husband and son to have to take care of her; she especially didn’t want to die in their home, to have her son feel of the house as it were the place his mother died.

Several things struck me after watching the end of this episode (sorry if I spoil it if you haven’t seen it yet!). She didn’t want to die at home, but in my experience (and believe me, I have WAY too much in this arena) that’s precisely where she should have been in her final days and moments. My Mom died of stage 4 lung cancer when I was 18, at home. My step-mom died of stage 3 lung cancer when I was 30, at home. My aunt died of lymphoma (after 17 years and 3 remissions) in my uncle’s home. My father died of stage 4 lung cancer, in my home. My father stayed in his condo, on his own, for almost the full 6 months of his time in hospice. It was only when he’d gotten too weak and the morphine required to keep him relatively comfortable had grown to too large a dose that he couldn’t stay alone any longer. He fought tooth and nail, as Cathy did, but I won (he couldn’t walk at that point, so couldn’t run away). He moved into my home, my dining room turned into his bedroom, and died a week later. This just felt normal to me. They were at home, surrounded by the people they loved, in their normal surroundings (more or less), but at least surrounded by love and people who loved them, nothing clinical or cold around them.

Also, she died with none of her family immediately around her. After having breakfast with her estranged father, her son (who surprised her that morning with his principal and a year-early high school diploma), her husband, her brother and her friend/daughter/mentee who was living with them, they all scattered to take care of things. Her hospice nurse came, they were going to share pie. Her husband came home to have the nurse tell him she’d passed 30 minutes prior to her return. I remember being told that people often didn’t want to pass in front of their loved ones. Even if they’re not conscious (as she was), they somehow can sense when they’re not in the room.

So this episode made me cry. But I knew it was coming. Everything was tied up neatly, which is to be expected in any kind of series where they have the ability to create the perfect ending, unlike life. But it was still a good ending.

Remember to always tell your loved ones you love them. Life is too short and we never know how much time we have left.

Live, love, laugh…it makes it all worthwhile!

Stepmom

I just watched Stepmom. I shouldn’t have turned it on when I was flipping channels. But it’s a beautiful movie. Maybe I needed a good cry.

For those who don’t remember the movie, or haven’t seen it, it came out in the 1998, starring Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts. Sarandon played a divorced mother of two, and Roberts was her ex-husband’s young girlfriend/fiance. Of course, they didn’t get along in the beginning. But Sarandon was harboring a secret from her ex and her kids – she was fighting cancer. Eventually, it would come out and they would grow close.

The first time I saw the movie was with my Stepmom, Eileen. She and my father had come down to Houston to visit, and while he was out playing poker with his friends, we decided to go to the movies. We went to see You’ve Got Mail, and afterward snuck into another movie, Stepmom (her idea, not mine, I would never have done that not have suggested to her that we do that. (See my halo?) We didn’t know what it was about, and missed the beginning.

As we were sitting there in the dark theater and caught up with what was happening on-screen, we realized that the situation in the movie hit too close to home and it was probably as uncomfortable for her as it was for me. Of course, not wanting to make her feel more uncomfortable, I was trying to stifle my tears, which were definitely flowing.

Mind you, she wasn’t younger than my father and she had come into his life after we lost my mom. However, it was still close enough to home since my mom had died of cancer 9 years before.

Watching the movie again tonight, this time with kids of my own, touched me on different levels. I pray my kids never have to go through what I did – I fully plan to live forever. Grin. Ok, while I know I can’t shield them from the pain of losing me forever, I mean I hope they won’t have to deal with that loss until they are grown with kids of their own, who are also grown. Maybe even grandkids of their own. Great-grandkids would probably be stretching it.

Anyhow, in the movie Sarandon is talking with her daughter (middle-school age, again, hitting close to home tonight) about her not being around in the future. She told the girl that she would always be with her in her mind, that that was how people stayed around, when she graduated, she would be there, when she got married, she would be there, when she had her babies, she would be there. And I found myself talking to my mom. You WERE there when I graduated (in my case, from college, as I was lucky enough to have her until the end of my freshman year of college). You WERE there when I got married. You WERE there when I had my babies. Even though I so desperately wished she had been there physically with me, I had felt her with me at all of those times.

I had almost forgotten the memory of watching that movie with my stepmom. We lost her 2 short years later. That was just a random day in our brief history, not one of the bigger ones which come to mind when I think of her.

If it wasn’t so late, I might have a drink in her memory. She liked white Russians. Too bad I don’t have any kaluah.

Live, love, laugh…it’s what makes it worthwhile!

Scattered Tonight…

Well, not completely scattered, but my mind is in a few places. I haven’t written in way too long, as I’ve been swamped with the business of trying to provide for my family, raise my children, deal with home repairs/insurance companies etc following Sandy, etc. 

So as I sit here tonight, desperately wanting a cigarette (I quit a 2 pack a day habit cold turkey 5, or 6 days ago now), I’m torn between focusing on my job search and Mother’s Day in 2 days.

Twenty-four years ago, I spent mother’s day at the hospital, visiting my mother. I hadn’t seen her since spring break, when I’d been home from college last. My dad had warned me the day before that she looked bad, wasn’t doing well, but I guess I didn’t want to believe it. Until I saw her. And found a bathroom somewhere away from her room where I could cry and cry until I could keep it together enough to spend time visiting her. She died a week later, give or take. 

So once again, I’m faced with another Mother’s Day without her. Yet somehow, as I’ve aged and my own kids have aged, Mother’s Day has become less about my own mother, even less about me, and more just another day. Is that really sad or just normal? I’m a single mom, my kids are 9 and 11. I know my daughter made me something in girl scouts (don’t yet know what it is) and I’ll get it on Sunday. And they’ll both wish me happy mothers day. And probably let me sleep in (they also do that so they can use the computer/watch tv/etc without being told to do something more productive, etc). And other than that, I have no plans. I lost my mom 24 years ago, my stepmom 13 years ago, and my dad 4 years ago. As I was reminded tonight, I have very little family left, and none around where I live, so it’s pretty much me and the kids. Which is fine – it’s our reality. And I adore my kids. So if I choose not to do anything special for mothers day, that’s my choice, right? As long as it’s not interfering with whatever my kids don’t have planned, right? 🙂

Not a day goes by when I don’t think about my mom and miss her – I decided years ago I wasn’t going to spend any particular days mourning her as she wouldn’t want that. So if anything, maybe we’ll do something to celebrate her life, as we do on her birthday. Or maybe I’ll just sit and knit and read – my mother was an avid knitter and reader – and know that I’m spending the day with my kids doing just what she would have wanted to do on a good mothers day.

A Survivor’s Tale

Once again, it appears public opinion seems to be attacking women after they have been raped. This has inspired me to pull out a piece I published in the Daily Cougar at University of Houston in 1992. I wrote this a couple of years after being raped during my sophomore year of college. They’re not new words, but I think they’re still fresh and relevant and moving. 

 

We’ve all heard about rape from people who have never experienced it. Now let me tell you the rest of the story. I know from experience.

I was raped two years ago, yet it is only now that I am able to talk about it. And the feelings are at least as strong now as they were when it happened.

I don’t want to tell you about what happened to me on that night. That’s not important now. I want to tell you about the aftermath – how it’s affecting me now.

It’s commonly said that the rapist takes something from his victim. This is very true. Let me tell you about myself before I was raped, and show you how I’ve changed. I used to be very happy and carefree. I really trusted people, especially my friends. I was very self-confident and always smiling. The rapist changed all of that.

The essence of my personality is still the same, but now it carries extra weight. Little things can upset or scare me. I worry more. I’m afraid to really trust anyone – especially men. I’m never carefree, even when I’m happy.

He took away my dignity, my pride. I felt cheap and dirty and humiliated, degraded. Worst of all, since he had been a friend, I felt like it was my fault, and I didn’t think it was rape. You see, I thought nice girls weren’t raped, and that friends didn’t rape friends.

After the rape, I was afraid to say no. I felt cheap, as if because he hadn’t taken no for an answer, no one else would. I was afraid that if I said no to someone, they wouldn’t listen, and it would happen again. In that sense, I was raped over and over again, emotionally. So, I tried to keep myself out of those situations.

Aside from taking me away from myself, the rapist left me with something. He left me with negative feelings about myself. He left me feeling dirty. No matter how much I scrub myself or let the scalding water burn my skin, I don’t feel clean. The feelings are inside, where no cleanser can reach. It’s similar to the scene in Macbeth, when Lady Macbeth felt she couldn’t get the blood off her hands, and it nearly drove her crazy. Sometimes I feel that way.

Then there are the nights I wake up crying, saying no, trying to push an invisible, non-existent person away from me. One night I awoke from my own screams. I have never been that scared, even when I was being raped. I woke up one of my roommates and talked to her for awhile. When I thought I was okay, she went back to bed. But as soon as I was alone, I was afraid again. I turned on the lights and checked under the beds, in the closet, in the bathroom. I even checked under the papers and clothes on my floor. That’s how paranoid I was. Then I sat up and smoked and walked around for several hours. Finally I fell into an exhausted but fitful sleep – every little noise awakened and frightened me.

Also upsetting are the visual images. I can see him on top of me, ignoring my struggling and protests. These won’t leave me. I’ll be walking across campus in daylight, and there he’ll be, clearly. As many times as I blink to clear my head, the image won’t go away.

It got to the point where I had to talk out loud. “Go away. You can’t hurt me anymore. I won’t let you.” Or, “Leave me the hell alone. I won’t let you lead my life.”

Being a survivor of rape has affected my relationships with men. I’ve been afraid to get too close to anyone, afraid to commit. And I can freak out at things that remind me of the incident. Recently, a close male friend tickled me. He was half on top of me and I could not get up. As I struggled, the scene began to remind me of the rape. Instead of my friend on top of me, I saw the rapist. I started crying and hitting him and saying no. Unaware of my fright, he continued. When he finally stopped, I was crying and covering my face. When I finally told him what had happened, he was upset. And I was still crying.

All of these feelings are only internally based. The ones triggered by external actions can cause more anger. People react strangely to learning I was raped. Responses can cause as much anger as the rapist did.

One of the worst responses was to be “reassured” that “at least you weren’t a virgin.” That’s not a fair statement. That makes it seem like it was okay for the man to have sexual intercourse with me, even against my will, since I had been in a previous sexual relationship with someone else. That makes it sound as if it was no big deal, as long as I was not “deflowered.” That’s not true. That just makes it sound like it was my fault, like I had aske for it. I didn’t.

Another reaction, from a close male friend, was the incomprehension of the feelings that haunt me. He acted as if I had just experienced bad sex, like, “sure, it was against your will, but get on with your life.” How he can say that is beyond my understanding. I was raped. When people say that the land has been raped, don’t they mean that it has been used and abused and left destroyed? Well, it’s worse with people!  We have feelings. The rapist took something from me, something nobody has a right to take. He took my security. He took my personality. He took my pride and my dignity. And in their places, he left humiliation, degradation, fear, pain and terror. NO ONE has the right to do that to another person.

I am not ashamed of what happened. I am not embarrassed. But I still can’t tell my family. I don’t know if I will ever be able to. How can I tell them something like that? How can I do that to them? Especially since I was raped by someone I had invited over, someone I thought was a friend. How can I explain that? And their not knowing about something so traumatic makes it hard. This summer I went to visit my family on the East Coast. The Kennedy rape investigation was in the news, and my grandmother and I began discussing it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my grandmother dearly and I am close to her. But I couldn’t tell her. I wanted to, but that’s not something you can just say. Anyhow, she said that a woman who went home with a man at 3 a.m. was asking for it. She was leading him on. I was so upset by the whole conversation, it felt like she was telling me that I hadn’t been raped, that it had been my fault. Yet she didn’t even know. Driving home that evening, I shook and cried, feeling shameful and guilty and dirty all over again.

Right now I’m very angry. He had no right to do this to me. I’m reduced to a frightened, crying child whenever something brings back the vivid pictures. This from a woman who was once self-assured, trusting.

There is no way you can understand how I feel unless you have been through it. But rape is much more common than you think. The guy who raped me, who did this to me, probably would never think it was rape.

I am left with these feelings, this terror, this anger. And I am told that I led him on. Or that I should get on with my life. Or that at least I wasn’t hurt. Well, I have scars. Deep scars. But no one can see them because they’re on the inside. Maybe if I had a big, ugly scar on my face, people would understand that the rape was not about sex – he didn’t just get carried away. Rape is about power. He took away my power to be happy, and I’m fighting to get it back. I hurt inside. I see him in my mind all of the time.

But I’m a survivor. I’ll never forget the pain, the feelings. But I won’t let him ruin my life forever. I’ll never get my old personality back, but maybe part of it will return, or at least the bad feelings will stop.

I hope so.

A Letter to Mom

Written May 7, 2009

 

I’m sitting here, Mom, reflecting over the past 20 years. I can’t believe you’ve been gone for so long. When I think back to who I was back then, and who I am now, it seems like it has to have been a lifetime ago, not just a generation ago. 

While you were still here, I was still confident, sure of myself and my beliefs, just starting out in life but feeling like I knew it all. Yet you had faith in me – you knew I’d find my way. At the time, I didn’t know any better than to not question that. How many times over the years I have wanted to sit down and talk to you; to tell you about my life, to ask you for advice, to have you hold me and stroke my hair and tell me that everything would be allright. 

Once you were gone, I learned of your greatest regrets – that you wouldn’t live to see me (and Jay) graduate from college, to watch me walk down the aisle, to hold your grandkids. Mom, Joy is you reincarnated. I give Nana so much more credit than I used to (not that I ever didn’t) – from the stories I’ve heard of you, and from knowing my daughter, you had to have been quite a handful as a child! What perspective 20 years brings. You were only 47, young by anyone’s standards. And 20 years later, well, ok, just shy of 20 years later, Dad has joined you. And although everyone says he was so young at 66 to be dying, we know that he was the lucky one, the one who lived a full life. You gave him the perspective to go in peace. He said frequently in his last years that he had lived a full life, had done everything he wanted to do. He watched us graduate from college, he watched me walk down the aisle, he held his grandkids, he had the two best wives anyone could have wanted. You gave him that – and he did that for you – he was able to enjoy what you weren’t granted enough time to do yourself. 

When I look at all of the changes I underwent over the past 20 years, I sometimes think that you wouldn’t recognize me, the person I have become, the person I am today. But I know you would – you’re my mother and you’ll always be inside of me and around me, watching me, guiding me, loving me. As proud as you were of me 20 years ago, as confident of the way you’d raised me and happy at the young woman I was becoming, you would be (and I like to believe are) even more proud of the woman I am today. 

When I find myself struggling with the eternal perplexities of raising good kids (not to mention their high spirits and stubbornness – gee, I wonder which one of you (BOTH!) passed on that gene) I remember hearing from Aunt Amy after you were gone that at one point during your brief but oh-so-long illness, that she asked you to whom she would turn for questions on raising her children. Apparently, you’d done such a good job that she asked you for advice. And you told her to ask Margie. What faith you placed in me even then. (Somedays I wish I had that confidence in my own mothering skills – although I know that I am a good mother – how could I not be with you as my guide?) 

When I was getting divorced and wondered where I would find the confidence I would need to stand up for myself and my children as a single mother, you were there. You made sure to give it back to me, in spades.

I miss you so much, Mom. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years next week. Somehow, it feels like only yesterday, yet at the same time, another lifetime ago. I remember so much about my childhood, so many things you did for and with us. The strength and values you instilled in us. I remember how smart and talented and creative you were, how confident and loyal. I also remember so much about those 4 1/2 months that are somehow frozen in time. Coming home from Virginia Beach over winter break to be told you had a tumor on your lung. I can almost feel myself sitting in the car, in the dark of night, with Dad driving and telling me and trying to give me hope. I remember going with you to the hospital for the needle biopsy. I remember that fateful Friday the 13th afternoon when the doctor called with the results, you on one phone and Dad on the other. I remember holding you and consoling you when you were scared because you’d been diagnosed with cancer. That was the only time I ever saw you cry. I remember telling you it was just a word. Cancer. You were stronger than it was. You could beat it. But it’s a scary word, you said. I know, I replied, but you can do it. 

I remember packing to go back to school, just 2 short days later, despite my uncertainty. Against my better judgement. Would it have made a difference? Would I somehow have been able to help you more or provide you comfort or ease your pain? But you wanted me to go back to school, even though you didn’t want to see me go. You didn’t want me to give up, or even postpone, my education. So I went. I left with the promise that you would call me home if it got to that point…….little could I have known then that if the semester hadn’t ended when it did, you would have done just that. 

I remember coming home over Spring Break – how could I have not known at that point? How could you have gotten thinner than you were then? I remember sitting at our kitchen table, talking about when you got better and could come visit me at school, Dad sitting there saying I would come home to visit, you saying, no, you’ll come visit me. You had to have known, were trying to help me stay positive and keep our future in sight. 

I remember coming home the day before Mother’s Day, after the semester ended, and Dad taking me out for lunch – how did so many of these fateful conversations occur in diners over food? I remember Dad telling me you were in the hospital, getting over pneumonia. I know that, I said. He said, she looks bad, Margie. She’s gotten very thin. I said, I know, Dad, she was tiny when I was here in March. But I didn’t know. 

The next day, Mother’s Day, we went to visit you in the hospital. How I hope I put on a good front for you when I saw you, how I hope you didn’t see my despair. I remember excusing myself sometime later to go find a bathroom, and going in there and crying and crying and crying and feeling like my world was falling apart and not knowing how it had come to this. And I remember splashing water on my face and smiling back into your room to put on a good front for you. Knowing now how my eyes get so puffy and red after just a few tears, it had to have been obvious. But you didn’t say anything. 

I remember riding home in the ambulance with you, in what had to have been the longest ride of my life. How excruciating that ride was – for both of us. For you, every time the ambulance turned, slowed, went over a bump or anything, you cried out in pain. For me, watching you, feeling so helpless even though I was in there to help you and to be there with you. 

I remember hospice finally coming out, we finally let go of hope, didn’t we, Mom? We couldn’t avoid the truth any longer, and that was good, because you couldn’t hold on any longer. The nurse came out in the late afternoon and examined you and then told us in the living room that you wouldn’t make it through the night. No, I cried out, she’s not going to die tonight. The nurse told me that I had to accept that she wasn’t going to make it. I know, I said, but not tonight. 

That evening, I wanted to go buy more lollipops for Jay for his student government campaign. It was raining out. We were all gathered in “your” room, our dining room. Remniscent, huh, of Dad in my house at the end? And you wouldn’t let me go. With what little strength you had, you were adamant. And I just wanted to get out of the house for a little while. It was so hard to watch you like that. That night you couldn’t talk anymore. Jay and I were telling you we loved you…it was all you could do to get out “I love you” back. One time. We told you it was ok, even though it wasn’t. It still isn’t. But at the same time it is, because what can you do? I told you you had to try to get along with Grandma Sadie this time. But honestly, if I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have bothered. 

Uncle Ricky slept on the couch that night. I stayed up until midnight to give you your morphine. You couldn’t even drink all of it, you didn’t want it all. In hindsight, you were on your way out and didn’t need as much since you weren’t feeling as much pain anymore, being half in both worlds. I went upstairs to my room, my window opened a crack, with a towel on the ledge to catch the little bit of rain blowing in. I cried myself to sleep, cried harder than I think I’ve ever cried, hurt more than I ever thought was possible, desperately not wanting this to happen and knowing there was nothing I could do. Finally, drained from crying my heart out, I fell asleep. I awoke at 2 to an eery stillness. And a strong sense of peace. I knew you were gone, no longer in pain. I tiptoed downstairs, around the room in which Uncle Ricky had fallen asleep with the tv on, and crept to your bedside. You’d pulled the oxygen tube out of your nose and the mask off your face. Your eyes were open, staring ahead, and you were at peace. I kissed you, told you I loved you one last time, and went back to bed knowing you were now safe. 

Fast forward 19 1/2 years, to when Dad’s lung cancer (can’t seem to get away from that awful disease) started to take him. Just the hospice part of his illness was longer than the 4 1/2 months you had from the day you were diagnosed to the day you died. In his last 5 months in hospice, I took care of him, day by day. You know that was in part for you, since I’ve always felt that I wished I could have done more for you. What I hadn’t been able to do for you, I did for Dad, for both of you, and I think he wouldn’t have made it as long as he did without my love and care. (During the whole 3 long years of his illness, not just the last 5 months). 

So in 20 years, we’ve come full circle. You and Dad have been reunited. I know that someday, hopefully many, many years from now, I’ll see you both again. And in the meantime, I’ll dry my tears, hug my kids and hold my head up high, following my path. I’m thankful that I had you for my first 18 years, but also wish that I could still have you here, physically. But I know that wherever my life takes me, you’ll be right here with me. 

I love you, Mom. And I miss you more than words could ever express. I can see your deep brown eyes and your almost-smirking smile. As I re-read those words, I realize again just how much like you Joy is. Thank you.

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