My cat is making me do this. I’m 100% serious. She wouldn’t leave me alone until I turned on the computer. She’s good at taking care of her momma like that, so I guess I just have to get it out.
My sister called me today to let me know she had been up to see our dad’s parents. On a Tuesday. She took the day of work because Jim had a stroke and I guess she felt like she needed to see him today. She called me to let me know he has cancer. He’s dying.
I will just let his be known that Jim and Shirley may technically be my paternal grandparents. Technically because they aren’t my grandparents. While my siblings got to grow up with two sets of grandparents who loved them, I got three total grandparents. I have my mom’s parents, Norene and Jerry (who passed away in 2001), as well as Jerry’s wife, Janis (no, my dog Janyce isn’t named after her). I really don’t know when or why or how it all started, but Jim and Shirley are a big part of my PTSD diagnosis. From as early as I can remember, they didn’t want me.
OK, so I know its not as simple as “not wanting” me. They never liked my mom, so that is part of it. Why they never liked my mom is something I will never know, nor do I think they can answer. As soon as they saw me, the comments were all about how I look nothing like my dad. Yeah, because kids look exactly like only one parent, they can’t be the child of the other parent (OK, so I do look exactly like my mom with some minor features from my dad’s side, but I can point out what comes from where, and its overwhelmingly mom). My dad’s family even went as far as to accuse my mom of having an affair. In this time, my dad never defended either of us, because while he may have been their golden boy of a son, he was a shitty father and husband a lot of the time.
I have memories from an early age of hearing Shirley and my dad’s youngest sister telling my siblings that I wasn’t their real sister, that I had a different daddy. This, of course, was a lie. I am the only one of eight grandchildren to get Jim’s eyes, which a lovely little friend of mine (she just turned 6) told me are teal and beautiful. I also remember Shirley finding any excuse she could to punish me, both physically and mentally. Being diagnosed with autism made it worse. Jim and Shirley both blamed my mom for it. They said it should be beaten out of me. And damn if they didn’t try.
They would have their time with each of us alone at their house, and I was the only one who came home afraid to eat or sleep. I have asthma and food allergies, but I’m far from a picky eater. Anaphylaxis to chocolate was probably the worst, and they would always give me chocolate. Chocolate milk at every meal. They would do it when we would visit, too, with my mom holding me in the back seat while we went home; my dad just saying I was overreacting. I wasn’t overreacting, I was two. My dad is an entire story on abuse without his parents.
So, apparently the idea of having a hyper-verbal, hyperlexic, autistic grandchild was too much for them. My blonde hair was the wrong color. My obsession with dinosaurs was wrong for a girl. Everything about me was wrong.
Over the course of the first 20 years of my life, along with my father and his youngest sister, they made sure that I felt I was unloved and unlovable, that I would never belong to their family, that I was a waste of space. I remember being beaten with brooms for doing exactly what my siblings were doing while they watched and didn’t understand. I remember them trying to stand up for me early on but being punished for it and then being praised for being abusive, my mom being punished for standing up for me.
It all came to a head in 2006, Easter Sunday. I was 20, home from school for the holiday. We went to visit and go to church like every other Easter (except those they had not allowed me at their house, which wasn’t uncommon. I apparently couldn’t behave, because being almost puking sick with a migraine and beating the shit out of your brother who is being encouraged to taunt you is misbehaving). Except this time was different. Shirley “lost” a bracelet. Gold with diamonds, something simple Jim had given her at some time. I was accused of stealing it.
I don’t like jewelry. I have never gotten excited by going into a jewelry store, even when I could buy something. I’m also allergic to gold. There are a few different stories I have heard about this particular
“lost” bracelet. The one I was told first was that the safety clasp broke and it fell off in the parking lot, was found by another church member, and returned the next weekend. That one is probably a lie. Another one is that it fell behind the dresser and she found it vacuuming a week later. I don’t think I believe that one either.
Honestly, the last one seems to be the most true. It was never lost. They were just mad that I was tired and slept and wanted a reason to pick a fight. This comes from things said to my parents and my siblings, separate from each other. The story was never the same. I did, however, get a phone call each from my mom and my sister asking if I knew anything about it, warning me my dad was going to be calling. He did call, and he was mad, though he was trying to fake not being so. He said all I had to do was return it and it wouldn’t be a problem. But if I didn’t, they were planning to press charges.
Yeah, they went there. They were going to press charges with no evidence. My mom lost it. She told my dad that either he could believe me or she would leave. She was ready to go, too. She said I had no reason to lie. I am a shitty liar to begin with, so why try. He said he had no reason not to believe them, that I had lied to them before (according to them, Shirley would regularly call me a liar when I would report anything she did to me that wasn’t right). My sister didn’t know what to do or say (she was just about to graduate with an education they paid for, so she didn’t want to make a fuss). My brother pretended it wasn’t happening and didn’t talk to anyone if he didn’t have to.
Eventually, it came out that the bracelet was “found.” My dad’s sister was still trying to convince them to press charges even though I had never had the bracelet to begin with (this woman, according to the Catholic Church that I am proudly not a member of is my godmother. She’s hated me since day one, so great job there). My mom didn’t want anything to do with my dad, she was having trouble forgiving him for picking his parents over his child and not caring how I would respond.
That was the last time I was at their house. The last time I saw Jim was in 2009, Memorial Day weekend. My dad was in the hospital, critical care, due to being found unresponsive. All they could figure is that he had developed encephalitis as a response to a sulfa antibiotic, which he knew he was allergic to. Yeah, my dad didn’t look at what the doctor gave him or have allergies on file with the doctor he had been seeing for about 15 years. Anyway, I tried my best to be pleasant and helpful. I don’t remember much from what they did during that time.
The last time I saw Shirley was in 2011 at my sister’s wedding. Honestly, if I had known that my day was going to be as bad as it was, I would have turned down being a bridesmaid, might have skipped it all together. Highlights including my dad dancing inappropriately with his youngest sister, someone thinking his mother was his grandmother and his sister was his mother, his sister saying she was my brother’s mother (to Janis, of all people. She got defensive because she doesn’t want anyone claiming her grandbaby if she doesn’t know them), and my dad not even making eye contact with me once or talking to me until they all were gone. He didn’t dance with my mom when it was his turn to dance with the mother of the bride, but his sister instead.
After the ceremony, during the picture taking before the reception, Shirley decided she needed to talk to me. She didn’t have anything to say, absolutely nothing. I just remember being panic stricken, which must of have been apparent because my grandma was quick to come to my aid, just beating out my sister’s mother-in-law, who knew some of the details. The last place anyone wanted me to shut down was my sister’s wedding. I’m glad they were there to save my ass. I was already uncomfortable. My shoe pick had been vetoed for being “too tall,” replaced by ones that weren’t as comfortable. My dress had no margin for error when purchased and I had gained 15lbs in the 4 weeks since it had been purchased. I honestly didn’t want to be there. I refused to drink, even though I was definitely old enough, because I didn’t know if I would be able to hold my tongue against those two women. It wasn’t the place or time for it. There never was and never will be.
I have had to fight myself, tooth and nail, my entire life, to convince myself that I am not what they said I am. I am loved by my true family and friends, by my kids at school, and the most important of all, by my husband. Hell, Bebe told me to write, so I did. All because she was worried. She’s still a cat. This entire time, Janyce has been laying on the floor and Ray has been guarding the door. They don’t like sad momma. PTSD means that I can’t get the bad memories out of my head when it comes to those who are at the root, especially when they are brought up in a way that is supposed to illicit emotion if the relationship were normal. All the emotions run the gauntlet. At least now, its out for someone else to see.