I was The Preachers' kid - one of 4. The youngest, smallest, and most easily ignored. Timid, I, with teeth and brain a size or two too large. I never fit in, not even in my own skin.
I had a lucky childhood -- never beaten or molested, raped or otherwise abused, except through religion, guilt and fear. My closest sibling was nearly a decade my senior, and I grew up in the company of the adults -- never heard and rarely seen. We were Pentecostal/non-denominational boisterous praisers of the lord, and we younger 4 knew when to speak, and when we'd better not.
Christian School, always properly capitalized, even in speech, was where I spent my early years, getting demerits for raising the wrong flag to go to the bathroom. You never raised your hand, apparently our little sinner's hands weren't divine enough to be raised above the height of our privacy partitions.
My Preacher Father left my Reverend Mother when I was eight. Came back a while but was gone (for good) by the time I was ten. The last Father's day he was living at home I bought him an electric razor - I was so proud. The last day I saw him, as I got ready for school, he gave it back to me. I haven't seen him since, but I had that razor for years.
After that, Mama cussed and dated band members. It was her new religion I suppose, and she it's latest proselyte. The midnight noises from the room next door changed from prostrate prayer to a whole new version of "Oh God!" I was sure we'd go to Hell when mama first said "bullshit" and was equally convinced that hearing her have sex with a man I hated was just that, Hell.
I never acclimated to public school really, not until I'd been aloof for long enough to be deemed a snob, a teacher's pet, class brain, and a cry baby. After that, acclimatizing was a moot point, it felt more like a battle for survival. Eventually, in my freshman year, I discovered skirts short enough and little white lines long enough to distract the male eyes at least away from my buck-toothed insincere smile. I was younger than my classmates, with a July birthday and having skipped a grade, and felt a dire need to find acceptance. I found it in the opposite sex, mostly in the darkness of parked cars, between the smoothness of cotton panties and cum-slick skin.
I lost my virginity when I was thirteen, the same night I first got pregnant -- that was three months before the miscarriage I had alone in a white tiled bathroom. Another night Mama was out with the drummer, dancing with a tall glass of sloe gin and 7-Up.
At fifteen, I fell in love with an evil man who told pretty lies and I taught him, 4 years my senior, all I knew about sex. Shall I just say we each taught the other a lesson in life - though what I taught him was far more enjoyable than the bruised and broken lessons taught me.
I have health issues that, when I was sixteen they discovered. They told me then that I'd never have children. I'm a stubborn one and within 6 months, proved them wrong. My prize for accidentally winning that discussion was what I consider to be as close to a shotgun wedding as one could get. The main problem with that being that I was the one standing at the business end of the proverbial barrel.
I turned seventeen on July 4th 1989, Tommy was born eight days later. Over the course of the next three years or so, I made it to the hospital with various fractures and contusions, and learned that, though sex had once been my weapon, it had somehow, quite magically, changed hands.
I had sex with strangers and friends, white and otherwise, in an attempt to avoid hitting myself in the face with my husband's fists. It never worked though, since later, he'd become outraged that I'd had the audacity to sleep with whichever stranger or friend of whichever color. He had a short memory, or a selective one at least, and it seemed to slip his mind that he'd been the one to set up (and watch/participate in) the little rendezvous in the first place.
I kicked him out on April 1st (what a joke!) of 1990, only to let him back in when I realized that on one of his forced visits, I'd become pregnant again. I spent 9 months hoping my second child was indeed his, and not one of those friends or strangers.
Kory was born in April of 1991 - and not for an instant have I ever doubted he was his, he is his spitting image physically, even from birth. What I find amazing is that Kory has many of the same attitudes and mannerisms of his father, whom he hasn't seen since 1992. The final straw for us came when Kory was just 4 months old, as a blessing in disguise I suppose, when we went to a local bar with a friend of his, who promptly followed me to the ladies room and raped me over the back of the toilet. My husband found us there, as did security. We left, the 3 of us, giving my rapist a ride home. I still to this day don't know if it was a set-up by my husband. The broken nose and fractured ribs I got that night when we got home weren't any clue.
I left him, for Scott, in June of 1992. I aborted the child I was pregnant with at the time. Since I hadn't had sex with him in more than 6 months, there was no doubt who the child had been fathered by. I simply couldn't raise a child knowing that each time I looked at his/her face I
would see only the grime and fingerprints on the back of a toilet in an infinitely dirty bathroom stall -- or that each time it sighed in its sleep, I would be reminded of the lumbered breath of its father, gasping in ecstasy as I held mine.
Thirteen years have passed since then, I'm no less fucked up now then I was then, just more aware of how, and why. There's a sense of satisfaction in just realizing why I do some of the things I do. I am a control freak, a workaholic, and with my husband, I always have to be right. I feel useless and helpless when I'm not the sole support of the family, which is most of what bothers me now.
We had a child in 1994, she was planned and named before she was conceived - Kassandra Cheyenne. The only one of my children I can claim to have planned. In 1997, our second child, our only son was born. Brendon went for stomach surgery at three weeks of age, but in general, they were perfect babies born in perfect health. In 2001, Alexis was born - with multiple heart defects that no one knew about until she was 36 hours old.
I had long since given up any hold I had on religion and church but held onto some vestige of faith. I had never really stopped praying over the years and figured that if ever there was a time for it, it was then. There were 3 congregations, hundreds of people, praying for my daughter then. She never came home from the hospital. When she was twelve days old she had open heart surgery. For ten hours she was in an induced coma, and medically paralyzed. We saw her twice after the surgery, for a total of five minutes. The doctors revived her twice and told us we needed to decide what to do and left us alone. She died at 10:54 PM, August 29th, 2001. The next time I saw her, she was already cold -- dead bodies are so hard -- stiff, but more than that, solid, like an overfull Water baby. I held her, wrapped all up in that pink hospital blanket and said my goodbyes. I was afraid to speak too loudly, for fear I'd disturb her, afraid to move her in case she was in pain.
You cannot say goodbye to a child when you haven't yet quite realized that she's dead.
But I knew before she was born that she was never really mine. I stood beside her beautiful new crib, all done up in Noah's Ark theme, and cried. I wrote in my journal that even the crib was sad, as if it knew it would never hold her. Some Freudian is bound to call that transferal. Call it what you will. I call it cruel, and I will never forgive the God I prayed to for so many years for taunting me that way.
It's been four years since then. My anger and grief still color everything I do, especially what I write.
We've had another child since then. Terra Celeste, Latin for "Earth Angel" I named her that in hopes that it would be 'heavenly' enough to appease god, and earthly enough to keep her grounded, here, mine.
I found out I was pregnant right after Scott went to prison. I spent the next eight months terrified, alone, supporting 4 children and working full time. It was probably the hardest time in my life, aside from the death of Alexis. But maybe it happened the best way it could. I was too busy to obsess, too worried about the children I had to lose my mind over the one growing inside of me.
I suppose I've found what therapist call "my new normal" -- that place where you are after death or tragedy, and isn't where you were before it. The new place you learn to accept as where you'll be for the rest of your life.
Where I'm at now is far from perfect. My marriage is just like everyone else's I guess, not as good as it could be, or even as good as I wish it was. We've both been unfaithful in our own ways, and dishonesty has cracked our foundation. We could talk more, fight less, have more money, be more forgiving - but we love each other and the life we've found, and we're dedicated to making life better for our kids than ours was.
As a child I was a misfit and an outcast but as an adult I've begun to discover just who I am and where I belong in this world. My poetry has been my savior a thousand times over and the poets I've met online have certainly held my hand their fair share. I've since been published many times in ezines and now have a book of my own. I've launched a grief support website for parents who've lost children and I'm in the middle of becoming a non-profit organization so I can legally be a charity to help people who've lost a child.
I'm a mother, a wife, a sister, a waitress, an artist, a poet - but through it all I'm a woman - and that's just not an easy task. I wake up every morning trying to remember to be myself, and be OK with that - most days I am... and that's the best I can do.
COMMENT: You are a woman and a goddess and radiant in all you do because you are still standing and open enough to share this in a community of women - you should commend yourself daily for your courage.
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