I am in no way a psychotherapist, these are just my views…of my life
(Starting out talking about Dan has been more difficult than I imagined. I still haven’t forgiven myself for his death, though I know it wasn’t my fault. Maybe this has prevented me from fully grieving..? but I’m getting there)
I was adopted at 6 weeks of age to a couple (dad-44, mom-41) who already had 3 of their own biological children. My sister, their youngest, was 13. My brothers, 15 and 19. I have very few childhood memories that aren’t lonely. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather and my dog. My mom always introduced me as their “chosen” one, but trust me that only singles a child out. She felt good… “look at what we’ve done for this child”. We lived in the country on a small “farm” (my Pap had 3 cows that were essentially pets). I was sent to Sunday school and church (*) every week, I had friends at school, but was seldom allowed to go anywhere… sleepovers were a seldom treat. God was my ‘friend’ back then as I remember feeling him with me as I sat in the Apple tree, talking to him, singing childhood songs learned at Sunday school.. wishing I had someone to play with.
I was 10 when my grandfather became sick and was in the hospital for a long time, I was never allowed to go visit, but he did come home for a week before he died. I was told I could go see him, but under no circumstances was I to cry because it would make him feel bad. He wasn’t able to get out of bed, he looked so sad. He told me he loved me and I ran out of the room because I started to cry, and even though he called to me to come back, I never did. I would not make him feel bad by crying. The remainder of the week I sat outside of his bedroom window, crying and saying all the things I wanted to tell him..to myself. The night he died, I was sent away to stay with relatives. In this early stage of my life I learned to be pleasing..to be loved.
A little over a year and a half later my parents decided to move into town. Not far from home, but a whole new school. I had the summer to try to make a few friends before starting 8th grade. This school was a lot different than my previous and it was hard to settle in. At this time I also began to resent the whole “chosen” title, being placed on that pedestal and finally realizing how much it felt that love was conditional on my behavior. Being alone most of the time before was all I knew, but these new friends had families that were involved, cared. I found that negative attention was better than no attention, so began my rebellion.. but even that worked in her favor, after getting into trouble at camp one weekend (and being an embarrassment that apparently warranted being told I was “worse than Her 3 kids ever were”, I was no longer allowed to go camping and at 13 spent every weekend staying home taking care of my shut-in grandmother. We also changed churches and as rebellious as I was the pastor had a soft spot for our class, and I was confirmed to the local Lutheran Church (*)(*)(*)
When I would act out and get in trouble my mom would buy me something.. pretty good deal right? Unless what you really want is to know for sure that you are loved… to hear the words, that were like pulling teeth to get. Even then it was more of “you know I do”. But I didn’t. So I replaced that need with my friends, by 16 not even bothering to come home some nights, especially after I got involved with my first (sexual) boyfriend. I also experienced my next heart crushing loss at 16, when a neighbor boy was killed in a car accident on his way to a party. And I again took that loss into my soul of responsibility as he was originally supposed to ride with us to the party, but had ordered food and wanted to wait, telling us he’d find another ride. He was like my little brother. We would sit out in the backyard countless evenings talking about life, giving him advice on his love life, school. We were connected, in a way I didn’t yet understand. He was such a great kid, he would have done great things in this world, in that I have no doubt.
So, back to the boyfriend.. part rebellion turned into teenage love, on my part anyways. He’d say it often, it was great to hear. 3 years my senior with his own business, a great car, money, and an apparent dislike to fidelity. Even he tried to change me, wanted me to be a certain way. Bought me things to control me (believe me I wasn’t smart enough to know that then), and expected me to stay home unless I was with him. Put up with it for 2 years. Not long after I met my children’s father. We were together on and off for 7 years. Had my first born son (*) in October 1984, I was 19. Our 2nd son came in 1987 and we finally decided to be a real family and bought a house. A year later we got married and a year after that we got divorced. He stopped wanting to be intimate, he would go weeks without speaking to me (or the boys), he would say derogatory things to me, and he didn’t say he loved us. I had my boys… and they loved me.
The kids and I moved into an apartment and I got a job bartending. A year later I met my next boyfriend. We had a lot fun in the beginning, he brought me out of my shell and gave me a level of confidence I didn’t have before (so did the job actually but still).. He had never dated anyone with kids, but he did his best, even coaching my oldest son’s little league team one summer. But, I just didn’t quite fit into his life plans, even if he did try, a little. I was a bartender, that wasn’t good enough so he encouraged me to go to school for nursing and I got a job as a nurse aide. Not that this was a bad thing, but I did it more for him in the beginning than for me. I remember bringing home a report card with 3 A’s and a B, and all he could say was I could do better. All in all, it was essentially a 2 1/2 year relationship based mainly on sex, and no matter how good that was, even he was incapable of fidelity. Maybe I was never going to be enough. (one side note here is that it was during this time that I found my birthmother, but that’s a story for a different time).
School full time, 3 part-time jobs and Thank God for my sister. She was a stay-at-home mom and had my boys as much, sometimes more, than I did. They grew up seeing both sides of motherhood and I feel that they are better men for it, though at the time there was guilt over not being there enough. I always thought in the back of my head that maybe she was better for them than I was. I really didn’t have a great learning experience on how to be a good mom.. but I sure did tell them I loved them. It was also during this time another life changing tragedy occurred. A girl that I had been in nursing school with (her good in the books, me with hands on, so we were paired together and began riding to school together) came to see me at the bar one night when I was filling in, as she was down having broken up with her boyfriend. I invited her to stay as a group of us were going to breakfast after work, but she declined. It bothered me enough to call her after work to try to get her to change her mind, but I only got her answering machine and left a message where we’d be. The next morning it was still nagging me, so I called to check on her. A police officer answered her phone and told me that she had committed suicide. I was devastated, we had a big test the next day, I walked out and essentially wanted to quit school with only 1 semester left, and it was the psych rotation. How could I do that when I had no clue she was saying goodbye to me that night? That I had no clue of her mental state all this time? My instructors were amazing. They gave a little time, let me take the test later, counseled me, and convinced me to stick with it. Another addition to my responsibility box….
After I graduated, my first job didn’t pay as much as I’d have liked, so the boys and I moved to a less expensive, but bigger apartment in a more country setting with better ‘adventures’ for two young boys. And I went back to bartending regularly part-time on the weekends to supplement. New friendships developed and it was an amazing 2 years of weekend picnics, swimming, fishing, and good friends. No complications. But if I can give anyone some advice here, if you find yourself with a best friend of the opposite sex at some point in your life, and you don’t really have any intention of it truly being more.. don’t make it more, things change.
The soul mate (if there is such a thing) comes next to the picture near the end of that two years. I had known Billy, and been friends with him for at least 10 years, from my bartending days. He always flirted shamelessly, and I loved it. But I was seeing someone, and then when I wasn’t, he was. There was a very brief time when neither of us was, between my first husband and Mr. “go to school” that we hung out, got very close to being intimate, but he asked me if I was sure, I said no, and he immediately stopped. I loved him for that. It was years before we reconnected, and he was with someone. I even went to his wedding, with his best friend at the time. He told me he made a mistake, that it was ‘always me’. Right or wrong, he got divorced and in less than a month we moved in. The boys loved him, loved the neighborhood.. and for a year and a half everything seemed close to perfect. He drove truck during the week and was home on the weekends. He left me love notes, wrote me cards, loved my boys, and loved me… the way I always thought it would be. While I was making our home, I sat down and said out loud to myself, “I’m finally home.” Then I noticed, what I probably should’ve earlier, things changing. He ended up between jobs and was home more, he became more possessive, called me at work, wanted to know where I was.. his professions of love now came with an almost threatening air about them, once grabbing my face in one hand, saying no one will ever love you like I do, and pushing my head back hitting the wall. What just happened? Ok, he’s just had too much to drink. A couple more incidents, then the Super Bowl party with his friends. We won the football poll, $2000, but his friend accused him of never paying him back for the square. They ended up in a fist fight and on the way home he started yelling at me and finally it came.. the black eye. How did I get here? I put myself here. He promised he’d go to therapy, please don’t leave, he loved me. And I loved him, and maybe this time I would be enough. I would help him. I started seeing a pattern of mood behaviors, it cycled nearly every other month. But, he was trying. Then the night I knew he wouldn’t be able to stop. This time at home, the boys were home, his eyes were black like he wasn’t there. I told the boys not to come out of their room, but my oldest did when he heard me yelling for him to get off of me. My face in one hand, the other clenched in anger. My son yelling at him to leave me alone. I pleaded with God to not let his anger turn toward my son (it didn’t, he instantly softened). My heart was broken. I put the kids in the car and we left with him following right on my bumper. When he left for work the next day, my sister got her truck and moved us out. He met and married someone within 6 months, divorced again maybe a year later. I’ve heard he finally conquered his demons. I’m very happy for him, regardless of everything he’s got a good soul and I will always have a place for him in my heart.
The boys and I lived in a one bedroom apartment that my sister had available for the next year and a half. I was so emotionally wounded over this (and my sisters cancer has returned) I ended up in a psychiatric observation for a couple days over taking too many Xanax. I did not want to kill myself (I would never do that to my children), I only wanted the pain and tears to stop as I had been crying for nearly 36 hrs at that point and nothing seemed to help, I didn’t even realize I’d taken what I had, they just weren’t working. I firmly believe it was this weekend he was first with his soon to be wife. I had always been able to feel all of his emotions so strongly even when we were apart, and I felt everything. So, I finally “get my shit together” and decide the change obviously has to start with me (thanks to the assistance of an amazing therapist). I had a part-time office job that I loved, but it wasn’t enough. I changed jobs to a full-time position making enough money to buy our own house and get us out of town, as now my oldest is hitting his rebellious age. There were a couple of snags but I tackled them head on and closed on the house at the end of September 1999. I was finding my own confidence and my own strength. From now on, there isn’t anything I can’t do…. God is Good.
*you’ll notice a few of these (*). they are a reference reminder to Faith related events worth mentioning at another time.
Also, in my mom’s defense, I don’t think she truly ever meant anything bad, I don’t think she had the necessary tools. I do not blame her for any of my mistakes or choices as an adult. She loved me the best she could with what she had.