Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ghosts of the Past

For a good portion of this year, I've been struggling to come to terms with certain portions of my past.  I've only touched very briefly on those portions in this blog, where they happened to coincide with other things that I was writing about at the time.  A major one of those came home to roost this evening after reading an article, and I decided it was time to do a bit of venting in an effort to put my thoughts into a more coherent order.

I've mentioned my maternal grandmother briefly, in regards to how she typically acted at family holiday gatherings.  Beyond that, I have refrained (until now) from saying much more on the rather sore subject of the woman that I've long referred to as "The Bat."  She's a sore subject in my life for a multitude of reasons.  Hopefully, by writing this particular entry, people will begin to understand a few of those reasons - and understand better why I am who I am.

I came to refer to my maternal grandmother as "The Bat" as sort of a standing joke, meant to explain why I frequently tell people that I'm "bat shit crazy."  After all - with all the various shit The Bat has pulled during my life, it should be understandable that it would drive me quite literally insane.  One thing to understand here: this is a woman who has spent the majority of her life being Emotionally - and sometimes Physically - abusive towards me.  She excels in emotional blackmail, degradation, humiliation, double standards of the worst sort, and makes the guilt trips a stereotypical Jewish Mother is capable of look like child's play in comparison.

My earliest memories of my grandmother start with getting yelled at - at the age of 3 - for something that my slightly older brother happened to actually be guilty of.  The yelling was inevitably followed by swats, usually with a thin switch pulled off the peach tree in the back yard.  For years after I became an adult, I couldn't force myself to eat peaches, or anything with a peach flavor, despite loving the taste - when I did, it brought back memories of that damned tree, being sent out to pick a switch to be used on my backside, and being sent out repeatedly until I brought back exactly the Type of thin, whippy, long green limb she wanted for the task of punishing me for whatever imagined crime I had committed that particular day.  From the day that she decided I was old enough to be sent out there, at around age 6 - saving her the trip herself - I had to pick the switch I was going to get a beating with.  Inevitably, my brother would do something - then blame me - and my grandmother would assume I was therefore the guilty party and punishment would commence.

At the age of 5, as I was just starting kindergarten, there was an incident that should have clued me in to how things were going to stand for the rest of my life when dealing with this woman.  School was still in the early portions of the new fall semester, and Monday was to be Student Picture Day.  It was early October, and here in Oklahoma, the days were still exceedingly hot, and even most nights hadn't cooled off significantly.  That weekend, my brother and I were sent - as we often were - into the back yard to play, while our mother and grandfather were at work, and The Bat watched TV and did what little housework there was to be done.  There was a wheelbarrow in the back yard, filled with dirt which our grandfather had dug up out of the garden in order to plant something earlier that summer.  It had turned into something rock hard, and much resembled concrete, due to being alternately rained on and baked by the Oklahoma heat all summer.  My brother had gone into the garage, and gotten one of our grandfather's hammers - the type with a ball on one end, and a claw for removing nails on the other - and had sat himself in the wheelbarrow and set to work digging at the rock hard mound of dirt with the claw.  Being 5, I rapidly grew bored with playing by myself, and went to stand near my brother - but out of the easy swing of the hammer - and asked him if I could play with him.  His answer was to shift his position just enough to deliberately hit me in the face with the ball end of the hammer, right smack in the eye, and then going back to digging at the dirt with the claw end, never saying a word.  I was in pain.  I was in enough pain that I screamed and ran into the house holding my face where my brother had just tried to knock my brains in.  Our grandmother's first reaction was to snarl at me to shut up and quit being - as she put it - a whiny brat crying over nothing but a scratch.  Then my hand got yanked away from my face and my chin was grabbed, in order to force my head up so she could take a look at the damage.  When I sobbed out that my brother had hit me in the face with the hammer, I expected (as any 5 year old child would) to be comforted.  Instead, what I got was told, "Well you obviously did something to deserve it - he's far to sweet a child to hurt anyone without a reason."  She admonished me again to quit making "a racket" to disturb her, and sent me to our bedroom to wait until Mom got home to deal with it.  By the time mom got home, my eye - indeed, almost that entire side of my face - was one massive bruise.  And it was obvious that it wasn't going to be gone by Monday morning in time for School Picture Day.

Things went down hill from there.

As we grew older, my brother became more Creative in the mischief that he would perform - and less subtle as the years went by in hiding the fact (at least from me or our mother) that he was doing a lot of it out of spite, because he knew that our grandmother would never punish him, instead taking out his transgressions on me.  Food was taken from the window between kitchen and family room?  Must be Her, because he would Never steal - besides, she's "the fat one."  (I was by no means "fat" at that point - but because I also wasn't waif thin and emaciated, my grandmother referred to me as "fat.")  Something got thrown in the family room, while The Bat was on the other side of the house, and a vase/lamp/knicknack got broken?  Well he Assured The Bat that it was Her - and he would Never Lie.  Her homework is missing in the morning when getting ready to go catch the bus for school?  She must have lied about doing it, because he would Never destroy it - he said so.  The dog got kicked, the cat got thrown, a window got broken?  It couldn't be Him - not her precious grandson - he'd already told her who was REALLY to blame - his Sister.

And then the other, more subtle, forms of emotional blackmail and abuse started up.  If I got a B in one subject, it should have been an A.  If I got an A, why wasn't it an A+?  It didn't matter what my teachers said about my reading level being 8 to 10 grades higher than my age - according to her, I would never be a good reader, or speller - because I was stupid and useless and just in the way of Her Perfect Grandson.  And of course, when he got something less than a perfect grade - it was never his fault - the teachers were picking on him, or they were trying to teach him to far above the level of whatever grade he happened to be in.  If he wasn't picked for a sports team - the coach was obviously biased against him for some reason.  (Could it be that the "bias" was favoring kids who could actually Play the sport in question?)

I thought - rather mistakenly, it turned out - that when I graduated high school (my brother had dropped out and taken a GED, saying he was "bored" - when in fact what he was, was rapidly becoming drug addicted, and had skipped to many classes to successfully graduate without being held back at least 2 years, placing my graduation ahead of his own) the Bat would finally ease up and start admitting that her Other grandchild had some inherent worth as a human being as well.  What I got instead was castigated for not being Valedictorian.  Then came the diatribes about my intention of going to college (Worthless, elitist, snobbish hogwash that would simply make me put on airs above my allotted station in life) and that I was going to be attending as a Music Major - Performance major, education minor, with an intention of teaching at the high school level when I finished.  According to her, I was jumping feet first into a life of drugs, promiscuity, recklessness, and virtually proclaiming myself a harlot to the world - because "everyone knows" that all professional musicians of any sort are worthless partying drug addicts who sleep around with anyone and everyone!

And then I dropped out of school.  Only to hear about how I was "neglecting Gawd's Gift" to me as a talented vocalist.

And then I got pregnant, despite being on the Pill, and using Condoms and spermacide - and back we went to the whole "worthless harlot" thing.  But only AFTER asking me why I was doing this to HER, and declaring that I would be getting married or would be getting kicked out of the family - that she simply wasn't going to have the rumor mill at Church churning about how such a God Fearing Christian woman could have one of her own turn out so.......... Un Godly.

27 years, a divorce, several live ins, and all of life's ups and downs later............... I'm 47, my brother is 48, and The Bat (89 in March) is one of the few remaining Relatives I have left other than idiotboy and my children.  Things haven't really changed.  He once again lives in her home, mooching off her while she proclaims to the world that he's actually somehow "helping" her with her bills.  And I'm still "the fat one" (he ain't no skinny minny these days - he outweighs me, and now looks like the stereotypically fat, balding, raggedly dressed, ego driven biker)...... I'm still "the failure" because I don't have a job (my bills are paid, I don't require public assistance, I'm not leeching off the public teat or constantly asking her for a handout to catch up) never mind that I'm medically retired with the same thing that put her daughter in an early grave.  I'm the "ungrateful" one - because I would never allow her to successfully Purchase my respect or my love, and I still won't.  I'm the "ungodly one that's doomed to burn in hell" because I'm an out and proud Pagan who shuns her version of deity and the religion of guilt and fear she believes in.  (I won't call it Christianity - and it's Certainly not anything remotely resembling being a true follower of The Carpenter.)  I'm the "spiteful one" who insists on not lying to people to keep her reputation untarnished.  I'm the "dishonest one" because I tell Painful truths that she would rather stay secret - and that she's convinced herself over the years never Actually happened, because no Good Christian Woman of Her Standing would do something of those things!  (Lie to yourself and the rest of the world often enough, and even you begin to believe your lies? Is that how that works?  It must be.)

I'm scarred.  I still have wounds that never really healed, caused by one of the people who - during my infancy and formative years - I should have been able to trust implicitly to do what was best for me, to love me unconditionally, and to nurture me.  I will likely carry some of my trust issues with me until the day I die.  Those never completely go away - especially when people further down the line reinforce that lack of trust over time - regardless of how many good, trust worthy individuals happen to come along as well.  There are pieces of me that are stunted.  Pieces that I'm not really sure whether they developed and then hid, or simply never developed. 

I simply am....... who I am.

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