When I say I came from messed up origins, I mean that. Before I go any further I will say this; I know I could be far worse off and have many more problems than I do. I am in no way saying I have it worse than anyone else. We all have our own problems and they affect each of us differently. You will see as I tell this story just how far from normal my early years were though. I thank my mom and my mom alone for the way I turned out.
I was born on a Wednesday afternoon a few months before the seventies came to a close. My mother was 19 at the time, my father 21. Their union was not a happy one nor one born out of love. My mother had been given little choice by her adoptive mother, go with your boyfriend or become homeless because I’m kicking you out. Not much of a choice at that age. So they got married and I was the result. I blame neither of them for this, it simply was.
Although my mother was miserable she remained with my father for my sake. By the time I turned four she simply could not take it anymore and announced her intention to divorce my dad. I know she had a lover and that lover’s ex-wife (or ex-girlfriend) happened to be my babysitter in our tiny rural town. I remember very little of this time except for one event that stands out in my mind. My mother and I were in the trailer we lived in, my father was outside mowing the lawn. I was standing in front of the glass screened door watching him when he hit a rock with the mower. The rock hit this door and shattered the glass. It was loud and very scary. I wasn’t harmed, but this is what I remember from this time.
From this point what I’m writing will be a blend of memory and fact. I was too little to remember all this on my own, and I’ve done a damn good job of erasing a lot of it, but I’ll try to distinguish what is memory from what I learned.
When my father’s mother (Mim in these entries After Suicide – Part 1 of 2 and After Suicide – Part 2 of 2) found out that my mom was divorcing my dad, she decided that my mother should be punished. First she decided that because my mother carried around a spare pair of underwear for me that that meant she was molesting me and began spreading this around our small Georgia town. I don’t remember anyone talking to me about my mom supposedly molesting me. When that accusation wouldn’t stick and she found out who my mother’s lover was and thereby who my babysitter was, she decided the babysitter was molesting me. This accusation held more water for people, and so she spread that around instead.
You must understand that Mim was a very manipulative woman and well known there. She was a local artist with her own shop. This loving grandmother would go on to kidnap all three grandchildren, successfully gain custody of one, and later adopt this grandchild. Thankfully that wouldn’t be me. It would end up being my cousin, which was born right around when this whirlwind hell began.
During this period of time I began having migraines. I remember being in daycare and being so sick they’d put me on a cot in the supply closet until my mom could pick me up. During the short periods where I was at kindergarten they let me stand in the hallway and eat animal crackers to ensure I wouldn’t get hunger headaches. Mim also thought I had ulcers. And of course, because I was supposedly molested by someone, I had to deal with being inspected and tested by a variety of doctors and psychologists. The migraines were confirmed, but that was all. In the end I was molested by doctors instead, or at least psychologically that is how it ended up feeling.
There are two visits to doctors that I remember parts of in detail. One where I had to drink a barium solution that tasted absolutely awful and standing on a machine where they x-rayed my stomach. They had put the solution in a Dairy Queen cup and told me it was a chocolate milkshake. I recall telling them they were wrong about it being a milkshake. Another appointment I remember a male doctor having me lie on a table and remove my underwear. They were white with little yellow flowers on them. He put his hands on me and a finger inside me. I remember crying and feeling terrified. He found nothing wrong with me. For years after I grew up I was terrified of doctors, needles, and hospitals and they still make me very uncomfortable.
Mim kidnapped me for a few days during this period of time and drilled into me that I had to “tell the truth” about what happened to me or I would never see my mom again. She took me shopping in another town close by and I remember being in the passenger seat while we were at a fast food drive through. I recall vividly when my aunt was watching me one night at her trailer. My cousin *Mathew was an infant and had been put to bed not long before. My aunt put a tape into her stereo and pushed a button, but no music came out. I remember asking her at least three times during the ensuing conversation why no music was playing. I was four years old and knew that she was trying to get me to say something and record it. I find it sad that I could understand such subterfuge at that age. She kept asking me what had “really happened” and I wouldn’t tell her anything she wanted to hear. I would ask again about why the music wasn’t playing. She told me it must be broken. Eventually I remember getting up and taking the tape out myself and replacing it with music. I believe they did eventually get me to say what they wanted, but not that night.
I don’t actually blame my aunt for this. Mim had her, her own daughter, scared to death of being put into a similar position. Obviously she had reason to fear. Although my aunt *Jane had her troubles and has been an on and off drug addict her entire life, she never deserved to have her children stolen from her or to be manipulated the way she was. Mim always treated my dad the best. Jane and *Mike, my uncle that spent years in prison for murdering someone, were the second class children.
The next sequence of events I’m not positive on their order, but this all happened in the same year period when I was four and five and in kindergarten and first grade, which I missed the grand majority of. I believe that before I was scalded the court case for the divorce, custody, and the molestation charges for the babysitter happened. I remember being taken into a room with reporters, doctors, lawyers, police, and others and being interviewed. Mim tried, forcefully, to go in the room with me. I remember my mom begging the police to not allow that for fear she would try to influence my answers. They blocked her at the door. I remember her pushing her way in partially and being stopped. She argued that she had to be there for me or something along those lines. They didn’t allow her in. As scared as I was sitting at that table with all those people, I told the truth. Nothing had happened and I wanted to be with my mom.
She won shared custody. She got her divorce. The molestation charges were dropped. To this day I still do not understand how my father and Pop allowed these things to go on. Pop would spend nine or ten months a year out to sea, so I have a feeling he missed most of this. I don’t remember him being there for any of this, only before it and after. Still, he stayed with Mim until he killed himself and helped “raise” my cousin after he was adopted by them, so he had his involvement in the next scandal. Somehow I could never hate him though.
Right around this time, while staying at my aunt’s trailer, she gave me a cup of hot cocoa right off the stove that I spilled all down myself. I had second and third degree burns from the neck to my thighs. I remember her rushing me to the bathroom, the tub was olive green, and I noticed a black spec on the side and worried it was dirty and would give me an infection. I wonder how I knew that the tub being dirty could do that to me at that age. I remember vaguely my Mim rushing me to the hospital and running red lights. I think she may have gotten pulled over. I don’t recall anything about the hospital or healing. Nothing. It’s all a blank. I’m very thankful I have no scars. I’m thankful I don’t remember.
I know during the period following the court cases I went to see a children’s psychologist. I don’t remember if it was mandatory, but I believe it was. I have very few memories of these visits. All that is clear is that the psychologist was a pretty black woman with long fake nails that she kept in florescent colors. I remember I didn’t have to go for all that long, or at least that’s how it seems. I should ask my mom about that because she’s the one that took me.
Mim is now a very sick woman with dementia that I’ve only seen once in twenty years right after Pop killed himself. As mean as this might sound to someone on the outside, it serves her right that she can’t even recognize me. She thought I was my mom and kept talking about “her girls” when I saw her. She said over and over she was only doing what was best for us and we knew that. It was disturbing and creepy. Too many bad things are tied up with her in my memories. I was kind to her, but I felt no love during that reunion.
Mim wanted her first grandchild badly. She was thrilled I was a girl. Because my parents were young and poor she watched me a lot and had influence over the activities I participated in since she, well Pop, most likely paid for them. She wanted me to be a nurse or a ballerina when I grew up. She drowned me in dolls and toys, sent me to ballet and pageantry, and bought me the frilliest pink clothes she could find. I hated every minute of it apparently. There is a picture of me on a stage in a white and red dress holding a doll with about twenty other small girls during some type of show we put on for ballet. I’m angry and unhappy and it’s very easy to see I didn’t want to be there. I hate the color pink and most girly things. It’s not hard to figure out why.
When I was nine my mom would move for full custody and win. She moved us out to Arizona, which I still consider to be my home although I don’t live there anymore. The entire family, Dad, Mim and Pop, Jane and Mathew, would all follow eventually. We lived in a large city and they all chose to move to smaller cities in the rural southern part of the state. It was the state they had all moved from not long after I was born, so it wasn’t a big deal for them all to follow us back. My dad fought my mom on child support and was terrible about paying it. He used what tiny college fund they had saved for me to move himself back to Arizona from Georgia I learned later.
Once everyone was back in the west and we’d established ourselves near some of my mom’s adoptive family, Mim and Pop began pursing Jane and Mathew. They had ended up living in the same city we did. Aunt Jane had a bad drug problem. They kidnapped Mathew and won custody of him eventually. I was about 12 at the time and recall one of my last visits to see them after they’d already gotten Mathew where they lived. At the time I don’t believe Mathew was there for more than a long visit, possibly while his mom was in rehab, but as far as I know he never left again. I had been spending part of Christmas vacation with my dad and he took me to their house for a few days. It wasn’t my idea and I didn’t want to go. It was exciting to see Pop, but I was terribly uncomfortable with Mathew and Mim.
While I was there I remember playing with Mathew in the back yard. I didn’t like him much. He talked about his mom like she was the worst person in the world. My mom and Aunt Jane were still friendly and although she had problems, she never seemed evil to me. I could hear the influence of Mim’s thinking in his words. Mim made a point to ask me again and again if I wouldn’t like to come live with her and Pop and Mathew. It made me very uncomfortable. I remember calling my mom while I was there and telling her to have my dad come get me. He did and took me home to my mother. After he left I stood in the yard of our ghetto trailer and looked down the street. I was happy to be home even though I hated school and life there in general (I was bullied horrendously). I told my mom what had happened and what was going on with Mathew. I made it clear I did not want to go back and be left with Mim ever again. I would see her once or twice more over the next decade and never by choice. Pop must have known how I felt because he snuck up to the city we lived in to visit my mother and I over the years.
Aunt Jane had another son that was an infant around this time. Mim and Pop tried to take him, too, but she got herself cleaned up and succeeded in fighting them off. *William grew up with her, but I can’t say he’s had any better of a life for it. Even with as poor as we were while I was growing up I remember my mom taking groceries to my aunt and William. I know he left home at 18 and moved to California. I have no idea where he is now or what has happened to him.
As for Mathew, he has grown up to become a terrible person. I want to call him a sociopath, although I know that term is overused. He lies, steals, and manipulates. After Pop died, because Mathew was their adopted son, he was given control of their estate even though my father, Mim’s biological son, was right there and much more capable. Mathew had stolen all of Mim’s jewelry, the entire collection from their years of travel all over the world, which was supposed to be my inheritance, and sold it. That was what got him kicked out of their home five years before Pop’s death. He was the last person that should have been in control of Mim’s care or their money. Before he was legally removed from control of their accounts he stole over $20,000 in under a month’s time.
Mim taught Mathew at home until high school. She led him to believe he was the smartest, brightest, most important person in the world and that his mother, Mim’s daughter Jane, was a horrible devil of a human being. He lies about his past and his present. He claims to have been in the Navy although he never was. He scares me. It seems there’s no limit to what he will do to satisfy his desire for power and importance. When I saw him after Pop’s death he was conniving and pretended he’d been on good terms with Pop and Mim even though I knew the truth. I have not seen him since and do not plan to. I feel bad that I’m the one that called him and told him of Pop’s death. He wouldn’t have shown up otherwise, but I felt I had to tell him at the time.
My last encounter with Mathew before Pop’s death was horrible. He called me broken down on the freeway on the way to the city I lived in needing a ride. At the time I was barely 20, but I went to get him. When I arrived I discovered he had a car full of people with him that he forgot to mention. A girlfriend, kids, friends. Far more people that would fit in my little car. I made them follow me on the access roads in their car to town since it was actually running, just not well. I took them to a cheap hotel, where Mathew then tried to get me to pay. I told him to call Pop because I couldn’t pay for them or stay as I had to work in the morning. I did not take him or his friends to my house. He called the next morning wanting me to let him and this group stay in my home until they could get their car fixed while I went to work. I flat out refused. On a trip not long before he’d stayed with his mom under the guise of getting to know her again and then robbed her while she was gone for work and disappeared. That was the last time I saw him until almost twelve years later when Pop died.
Who I am as a person has been defined, at least in part, by these events. Thankfully my mother was determined to give me the most normal life she could without the influence of these types of happenings. She has always loved me and cared for me and I for her. Our family consists of her and I. I speak with my father occasionally, on holidays and when major events happen, but that is all. He made it clear that once my mom had full custody that I was her problem. I saw him more often after he remarried, but only because that’s what his now ex-wife wanted. I wish he’d been more of a father to me, but I can’t change that now. Mim will die without ever seeing me again. Jane is still in Arizona, but with her moving around so much I’ve lost contact. I follow Mathew on Facebook, but we don’t speak. William I haven’t been in contact with since he moved to California at least ten years ago.
Many people that know me have no idea that my past consists of this insanity. I have had a very fortunate life and many successes. My mother and I both were able to get out of the ghetto and have a middle class life (more on that later). I do wish I had more family and friends closer around me, but life hasn’t allowed that. I know that I have developed the ability to forget most of what I choose and to emotionally recover from things quickly as a result of my past. Although I carry around daddy issues and cannot stand being alone, I think I came away with far less scathed than I could have. I try to live life for the present and enjoy what I have. I have no doubts my life could be much, much worse.
* Names have been changed to protect my privacy and the privacy of others.