Saturday, November 22, 2008

Dysfunctional before dysfunctional was "in"

Dysfunctional before dysfunctional was "in".

care to join me on a ramble about my childhood?

dysfunctional; that's what my family was. as a little girl in a neigborhood where homes stood so close together you could pass sugar between neighbors without leaving your kitchen.

the homes were built in the early 70's, starter homes, they were called.

everyone who lived there were working class; i.e. poor. poor white trash but i didn't know it at the time. the rest of my town did.

my family? we were the poorest in that poor neighborhood, it seemed. we were definitely treated different than others, some parents didn't even let their kids play with us.

as an parent, i have come to know why.

my parents were products of the 60s.

my mother and father drove a light blue VW Bug.

They were in the "indulged" generation whose parents were WWII and depression survivors.

I have heard them referred to as the "me" generation.

Having said that, some levels of "me" are just a little too, well, "ME".

My parents were best friends with the next door neighbors. They had a daughter and son, the girl was one year my junior, the son was only months older than my brother. The two families became close friends.

and then some things started happening. I am not sure exactly what, being I was about 5 years old, innocent and in love with my parents.

my father started to see the woman next door. I am told he was confused at first because while he lived with my friend's mother at the local ski resort; my sister was conceived by my mother.

eventually, he chose the neighbor's wife.....standing at the door one day with his guitar in one hand telling me that he would never see me again.

I remember the pain. the tears. and my little brother's hands holding mine tightly.

It didn't seem long before we had to move.

next door.

Seems my mother was having a baby by that woman's husband; and they were getting married.

the girl next door and I were best friends and in our innocence, overjoyed about becoming "sisters".

Memories of my youngest brother being born are fond. Moving to the other school district as our homes were on "the line" weren't so fond. Missing my father and his family created an ache in my heart. My new step father never seemed to like me nearly as much as he idolized his children, that he was raising with my mother because their mother left them to live with my father.


bad boundaries.

a family that if I met them today, I would not let my children play at their home.

There are just too many things that cause a red flag.

so today, some 35 years later, I wish I could tell you that everyone grew up and all is well.

they didn't.

they are still wounded, sick and stuck in that teenage mindset that they were way back then.

When I read stories about dysfunctional families...or see them on t.v.; a part of me says,
"hey babe, you don't know dysfunction" and I wonder why now it seems like people brag about their lives in this way?

mine was a horrible secret. a family i was ashamed to be a part of. a face i was ashamed to look at in the mirror. a life i tried to run far from.

dysfunctional before dysfunctional was cool.

and one generation above them?

there really wasn't that much dysfunction. Normal every day people problems. my mother was a military brat and hated moving around the country. BUT both my parents came from island families...generations of relatives living on Martha's Vineyard. Large extended families full of love and's that family that has kept me somewhat connected to sanity.

Lately, I dream about the social changes that the 60s fought for, I cheer the new FDR we have in office, I hope for return to a path of freedom for people....but there is a part of me that hangs on tightly; because some change can is painful for others.

The "me" movement instead of the "establishment" was much needed....but it is my opinion that there needs to be balance. Taking care of "Me" without respect to social norms should never be about neglecting children in your care; or causing pain to others for your gain.

It wasn't the divorce, or remarriage that made my life painful growing up; contrary to what the christian right would say. Nor the 60's lack of values and merge towards social changes. It wasn't secret affairs nor visits on Saturdays with dad.

It was the pain turned into hatred within the adults in my life that hurt my childhood. Selfishness to levels of insanity. Selfishness to levels where humans became monsters; not caring about the little eyes that looked to them trustingly and adoringly. Using children in a chess match to prove to the other set that they (the new couple) were better than the other couple. Seriously. moments where that insantity manifested by visitations ending well past the court orders. moments were one couple are screaming at the other couple in the car as children are piling in or out. a particular moment where my step brother was pulled; one arm by my mother, the other by his mother. the women screaming at each other that he was "their" child. my mother telling her that she abandoned him because she didn't care; his mother yelling at her that she gave birth to him but had to leave because of domestic abuse. adults telling teenagers that they left because the other spouse was a better sex partner. moments in hell.

I guess I ramble outloud to let the reader be ware. Fight for CHANGE. Change is needed. Just look at eyes looking at you for answers about their identity in your lives as their parents. Remember covenants that you make, outloud and silent ones. Remember most importantly that change should be about us lifting up; empowering each other. As soon as we step on another for any reason; we have walked off the path of change for the betterment of society....


sandwhichisthere said...

Your tale is heartwrenching. I remember times similar to what you describe but none so full of tragedy. Do you remember the child that you were then, the child so confused and scared and betrayed? That child is still there, deep in the recesses of your mind. Someone once showed me how to bring that child out, to take that child into my embrace, and tell him "Everything is going to be O.K. now. I will care for you, hold your hand, and I will never leave you or let anything harm you. I will be your Father, your big brother, and your best friend.". The child rests peacefully now.

P.S. I use three tablespoons of cumin and I love Wendy's chili also. I also love the Frosty that comes after the chili. Burger King has decent chili also.
There is nothing to regret about growing up poor. You learn to value simple things that most people aren't even aware exist. It also gives you bragging rights. "We were so poor that we used to leave the doors unlocked, hoping that someone would break in and lose something!". "Someone broke in while we were out and left a note saying YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!
I wish you peace in your heart and memories that learn to slumber.

oneperson said...

Thank you for sharing Tera. I had picked up bits and pieces of your story from the forum...and now a few more snippets.

Your strength is inspiring. Stories as yours, where folks have lived through trauma and somehow find the energy to transform that to help others, is part of what changes the action at a time.

I'm a big believer in the ripple effect. Thank for the ripples to bring more harmony.

Eyes of the children speak volumes. May we all learn to listen better...