Sunday, November 14, 2010

Make it right

While there were times, when I did not always like my mother .......I never stopped loving her.  I never did anything to harm her or treat her in a less than respectful manner.  The bible says to honor thy parents and while I have always had a fear of God's wrath, that part of the bible was redundant for me, because I truly loved and respected my mother.  My father too, but that is a story for another day.

Because of the way I grew up, when I became the mother of a daughter, I was fiercely protective of her.  I loved her fiercely and wanted to shield her from anything that would cause harm to her.   I never wanted the evils of the world to touch her.  Maybe I loved her too much.... she says I did....she says I do.
I know I never wanted to share her.  She was mine and I loved her...fiercely.

From the time my daughter was nine years old and I divorced her father, our relationship was contentious.  She blamed me for taking her father away from her. The more I tried to love her, the more she turned from me.  We fought, she ran away, she came back and we fought again.  I could never love her the way she needed to be loved.  And for that, I am so sorry.   Don't get it twisted, I was not your average 'Father Knows Best' mother back then,  because  I was fighting a legion of my own demons.  As I look back now, I believe I was quite mad, deranged, in need of psychiatric help.   I had never been allowed to show anger. I was always afraid of everything.  I just wanted to make everyone else happy and maybe,  just maybe,  I would be safe and perhaps...even loved.   Once I found my anger, I raged  at anyone, everyone, everything.   My rage became a living thing.   It made up for lost time.  I could not control it.

There are times ...even now, when my rage peeks out from the darkness that is me,  I loose control of it and it destroys.

My children were not exempt.  As a single parent I searched for the things I believed I wanted but could not have because deep down inside, I had judged myself unworthy.  I am not making any excuses for my anger and actions back then.  Only now as I am peeling back the layers of my mind, I wonder, that like an onion,  there will be nothing there left of me.  Will it all be empty layers? Or will there be a core.. that is me?   Even now,  as I get the therapy and the medications that that I need confront my past and to tame my rage.
I it too late?  I am finding the strength to fight for my sanity.  But is it too late?  I am Catherines daughter, but I am called by another name.  Who is she?  Is she crazy?  Is she just a bitch?   Is it too late to break the cycle?  My mother lost custody of me.  My daughter and I have divorced each other.  Who's fault?  Does it matter?

Perhaps while I loved my daughter, I gave her too many conflicting signals.  Perhaps I deprived her of the balance I have sought for my entire life.  She says I was inconsistent and smothering.   Perhaps, maybe...I don't know.

My best friend Pam says I spoiled my daughter to much.   Pam, my first female friend.  I broke one of Catherines rules: never let a woman get close to you.

 This is not the story of Pam's and my friendship.

My daughter.... I only know that our relationship has become....... I can't find just one word for it.  Loving at times....needy...spiteful...hateful...hurtful.. lost.  I accept full responsibility for my part in damaging the relationship.  There have been times when loving her became too much and I had to remove her from my life.  There have been times when she has done the same to me. We just never removed each other at the same time.  We have now.

People say... you will always love your children or you will always love your daughter and I have proven this to be false.  My children and I have proven this false.  And I weep.  I  so very dearly wish that things were different.  I just don't know how.  How can I make it better?  How can I fix it? 

God can you help me?  I really truly want to fix it.  I don't want my past, which never had any type of love in it,  to become the present.  My present.  My children's present.  My grandchildren's present.
The great event that brought me and my daughter back together,  was the birth of my first grandchild...her son.  My Zay....Xavier.   We were both so close.  What went wrong?  My temper?  Her conniving?  All I know is the first ten years of Xavier's life were my paradise.  But like my love for his mother, I did not want to share him with anyone else.  I wanted it to be me and them, our own little universe.  I was too scared to let anyone else in.  Perhaps I felt I was protecting them.  Maybe I was protecting myself.  I felt I had finally found my  "happy ever after".  But like a plant that dies when you over water it, my need  to have them to myself, wilted everything. ..killed it.    My love and my temper and my fear put a chasm between us.   Xavier turned away.  It is my fault.  I tried to hold on too tight.  I choked him with my love.  I alienated him.  I miss him so much.  But I cannot find the words to bring him close again.  How do I tell him that I always have and always will him.

 He is nearly a man...fifteen...and made in his mothers image.  Zay and I were once so close...I still love him. But he is his mothers son and this is not the story of him.   Perhaps I made him make a choice.  Perhaps I made her make a choice.   I wonder what will become the story of my daughter and I?  In many ways it is the story of sorrow.  I weep for my relationship with my daughter.  I fear that it is irreparable.  That it can never be salvaged. 

My relationship with him.  But I cannot start that story.  It has to keep for another day.  My sorrow is so deep, that I fear I will drown in it.   But life is about choices.  I have always said that.  I have made my choices.  I have made my bed.   For every action, there is a cost .  But dear Lord sometimes I find the price is too dear. Too costly and I am bankrupt.

And my  Zorie.  My only granddaughter is caught in the middle of this.  Born at twenty six weeks... I was afraid to love her and now she is my one great love.
Everyone says that emotionally, mentally and physically... she  is my mirror
image, my doppelganger.  I feel a connection with Zorie that I have never felt with another human being...not even my darling Xavier.   Being a preemie, she had a hard row to hoe.  But hoe it she did.  She is a little fighter. And she has a capacity for love that is just incredible.  People say "Mz B....Zorie acts just like you, she talks like you".  I would love it when they said that.  But it scared me too.  I would never want her to fight the emotional and mental demons that her "franny" fought.

Her franny.  That's what she calls me.  That's what all my grandchildren call me.  When she says it...its sounds and feels like love.  I feel wrapped in love. She knows I love her to.  But her mother fears I love her too much.  She fears my love for Zorie is too much and she needs to be protected from it.  Three months ago my daughter and I removed ourselves from each others world.

But what of Zorie?  She doesn't understand.  I don't understand why my daughter would feel I was a threat to Zorie.  All I know is, she will not let me see Zorie.  All Zorie knows is she can't see or speak to her franny.  She is sad.  She cries.  I mourn.  I rage at the heavens.  I weep.  She sneaks and calls me.  She begs for me to come see her.  She told me today that she hates the word:  separate.

She is seven years old and has come to know what that word means.  It is nearly Christmas.  It will be the first Christmas she doesn't spend with her franny.

She wants me to make it right.  I don't know how to.  The separation between my daughter and I is too wide.  I tried to bridge it after I spoke to Zorie today.
I called my daughter.  The conversation was so false and stilted, it made me physically sick.  When I was on the phone with my daughter  I could feel the temperature rising around me.  I was nauseous. My head was ringing.  But I needed to make it right.  I  have always made things right.  When I was a little girl I was good at making people happy.  So they wouldn't be mad at me.  So they would love me.  I need to make things right for Zorie's sake.  Lord help me make things right.  I don't know how.  I am Catherines daughter and I do not know how to make things right.  I have forgotten how.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Birds of a Feather

I don't know why I find this so hard to tell.  I'm scared to revisit my past...afraid I'll get lost there.

My friends know me by a different name...they do not know who I am. They do not know what I am.  They don't know that I am Catherine's daughter.  They never met her.  But when they look into my eyes, she peers out.  She is long dead,  but she breathes through me.  They don't know that my past stains the canvas that makes up my life.  Would they still be my friends if they knew?  How would they judge me?  Would they see me as tainted and too dirty to be a part of their lives?  Birds of a feather....I remember someone else, a long time ago telling me that they could not be my friend, because they would be judged by associating with me....birds of a feather flock together.  It wasn't my fault... but I was judged wanting and unworthy.

I thought this girl was my best friend.... she was my only friend and I was thirteen.  I never had many friends.  I wasn't allowed to.  My world was Big Momma and Mr. Nap and their liquor house.  I knew how to pour a fifty cent shot by the time I was five years old.  By the time I was six years old I was keeping the books because neither of them could read.  People would come in through the week to get a drink on credit.  Friday's were when everyone settled up.  If they didn't ...either Big Momma or Mr. Nap would go looking for them with their thirty eight and they would way or another...sometimes looking down the barrel of a gun.   The sound of gunshots were as commonplace  as pigs feet on Saturday and church on Sunday.    People would fight and bleed and then come Monday morning they headed back to work, hungover and battered.  The police didn't bother about colored people shooting or stabbing each other with ice picks when I was a little girl. 
I thought everybody lived that way ....carrying a pistol. The juke joints and liquor houses always had weekend tragedies, it was a way of life, so  I learned how to use my imagination as an  escape.  But there was no escaping the hands of the men who came for their shots of liquor.  They thought that their money included me.  I remember the smell of them, how they looked at me and how it scared me, how they would time their moves for when we were alone and how they would act like nothing was happening if someone else came into the room.  I learned to be quick and to leave the room before I was alone with them.
Sometimes it worked...sometimes.  Then there were times when they needed a refill.  At those times I would try to become invisible and escape into my mind.

I loved to sit under a big tree that was part of our yard.   It had a large bench that was built right into the tree.  It was peaceful and quiet and I could loose myself in my daydreams.  We had three dogs....Roscoe, Spot and Fluffy.  Spot was my favorite.  I would sit under the tree with the dogs and be happy for awhile.   You see they loved me and asked for nothing in return.  They never beat me with a razor strap until there were bloody welts on my back or yelled at me and told me I was lucky to have a roof over my head.  I loved those dogs...especially Spot.  Everyone came to sit under the big tree.  They would play checkers or cards, drink beer, talk trash and laugh.  When I had the tree all to myself  I'd daydream about  a place where I'd be safe and feel loved.  Where everyone played in the sunshine and there were plenty of friends and everyone was happy.  My imagination was the only thing that saved me. It was my refuge.  At six years old I wanted live in my mind.  In the real world  I wanted to die.   Dead people were safe weren't they?    My life at 1721 Moore Street was one of uncertainty and fear after my mother left me, after she lost custody of me.  Big Momma and Mr. Nap were afraid of only one thing and that was the Revenuer's .  They would get a shipment of moonshine twice a month, usually late at night and they would need me to help them.   I remember the night that they forgot me.  I was six years old and it was dark.

The moonshine man had just dropped off the two large plastic containers of liquor;  we were in the dark in the big bushes and we needed to hide it until morning when it could be measured out in pints and quarts.  All of a sudden there was the sound of sirens and gunshots...lights were flashing, it was a raid and the revenuer's were coming.  Mr. Nap and Big Momma started running, they were trying to hide the moonshine and not get caught by the revenuer's.  But I couldn't keep up, I was six years old in the dark and they left me.  I could see the white shadows running through the trees and I thought that they would see me ...that they would get me...I couldn't find Big Momma.  Where was she?  If I was found, what would they do to me?  I remember running and falling and crying without making any sound.  I remember lying there...and mind just went away.  The next thing I knew,  Big Momma was leading me back to the house...she was talking...but I couldn't hear tears filled my head.  Why did she leave me in the dark?  She didn't hug me or try to comfort me.   She told me to go to bed.  That was life at 1721 Moore Street. 

Moore Street doesn't even exist anymore.  It was swallowed up by I-75.  If you go to Macon now, no trace remains....except in my mind.  We still sold liquor when we moved to Grants Chapel Alley.  I was older and starting  junior high.  My only friends were books and my teachers.  Especially Mrs. Espy.

I don't want to remember this.  I want to forget this.   Please God I want to forget this.  If I don't say it, it won't be so.  If I click my heels three times it'll go away.  Make it go away Lord. 

I was so naive so innocent.  I still didn't have many friends.  It wasn't allowed.  But I did have this girl.  She was my friend.   And then it happened and she wasn't my friend anymore.  I was a virgin.  And then I wasn't.  I was twelve, going on thirteen.  He became my friend.  He told me I could ask him anything.  He told me I was pretty.  He was twenty one.  One day, at school I heard a girl talking about kissing.  She said people put their tongues in each other's mouths.  I asked him if it were so.  You see.... I trusted him.
He wouldn't hurt me, he was my friend.  He wasn't like the men who came to Big Mommas. 

Lord I don't want to remember this.

One Saturday ... Big Momma always sent me to town on Saturday.  I would make a list and go to Mulberry Market and bring back the groceries.   I would take the bus downtown and then get a cab back home.  It was the only day that I had to myself...that I was free.   I would take my time and window shop and dream about the pretty clothes.  This day he was waiting at the end of the alley.  He told me he'd take me to town and he would answer my question, but he needed to stop by his cousin's house first.

No noooooooo .   I can't do this.   I don't want to remember this.

When we got to his cousins house, he asked me to come in for just a minute.  When we got inside, he said "let me show you how to kiss".  He touched his lips to mine.

 I don't remember.  No I can't remember this.

Then he touched my hair.  I remember saying I had to go.  He didn't listen.  He raped me.  I was a virgin and he raped me.  It hurt.  It hurt so bad.   He stole what was left of my innocence. When it was over, I felt broken.  I don't remember how I got there, but we were back in his car and heading downtown and he was smiling and talking.   I couldn't hear him.  My head was full of my screams.   He didn't hear.  Nobody heard.

I was twelve going on thirteen and I was pregnant.  The story of my pregnancy and how it reunited me with my mother is not this story.  This is the story of my friend and how she told me after I had my son, that she could no longer be my friend because people would think she was just like me. She said they would think that birds of a feather flock together.  The people in the neighborhood whispered that it was the quiet ones you had to look out for.  Still waters run deep.  She could no longer be my friend.  I remember being so hurt and feeling so dirty, so unworthy.    I can still see myself walking away and wondering if people were looking and whispering.  I felt their eyes on my back as I walked away and I vowed never to have another person look at me the way the girl did.  My friend who was not my friend.   I swore never to let another's words destroy me again.    My words would destroy first.  I would never need another person.  I would leave them before they left me. 

I am older now and I still find it hard to fully trust anyone.  I still believe, deep down, that they will leave.  Even my children.  But this is not their story.   I still imagine the whispers.  I say that I don't care.  I don' need anyone.  But I do and it terrifies me. What will I do when they see beyond the facade?    How can I endure that hurt again?  They call me by another name.  I am Catherines daughter and the birds are still circling.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Sober Mind

My mama use to say a drunk man spoke a sober man's mind.

I loved being with her, drunk or sober.   When she was sober, she never made excuses for her behavior when she was drinking.  It was a part of who she was.  Drunk or sober I loved her.   Sometimes she had seizures.  I was so little and they scared me so bad - I'd think she'd be dying.  I remember people putting a spoon in her mouth and how her body would thrash around.  It was only when I became older that I found out she had been diagnosed with a tumor on her brain.   I'd later  see the scars on her lips where she had bitten herself and I would want to kiss them to make them better, but I was afraid to.  Maybe I was afraid she wouldn't let me.  I'd want to but I never tried.  When I got bigger she told me she had meningitis when she was younger.  I didn't understand how fragile she was.  It was only until I was much older ....when our roles would be reversed and I would become the mother that I would understand.

When I became an adult my mother's dependence on me never felt like burden. I always wanted to protect make her safe. When I was eight years old, during a drunken fight with her then lover...he hit her in the face with a piece of wood and took her eyesight.  His name was Mr. Johnny.  By the time she sought was too late...her sight was gone.    One eye gone and the other covered by a cataract. She was blind but she still drank and she still got beat by Mr. Johnny.  Years would pass.   She became able to make out colors if there was a strong light.  But she was still blind.  During these years I would come to know how much my mother loved me .... when her power had been taken. Things would happen.  She was blind. She could see colors.

I would need her and be old enough to go to her.  She would welcome me. 

They took me away from my momma and gave me to a father I had never known, who almost beat me to death in a drunken rage when I was four years old and  who then went home and shot his wife to death during an argument.  They gave him custody of me and sentenced him five years in prison. He was familiar with the liquor lady, so I went to 1721 Moore Street and became a ward of Mr. Nap and Ms. Alberta.  This became the address of my own hell for the remainder of what I remember of my childhood until when we moved to Grants Chapel Alley.

For the first part of my life on Moore street I missed my momma so much.   She and Mr. Johnny had  moved to Sandersville.  But she didn't forget me.  She came to Macon on the Greyhound bus every month to pick up her check which came to the Moore street address.  It was quite a feat for a blind person.  She would catch the bus in Sandersville and get a cab to come to Big Momma's.  That's what I called Ms. Alberta.  Earlier in my life I had renamed them.  It was during the day that I remembered them hanging out laundry in the sun and laughing.  My first memory.   I said " One of you is big and the other one is little".   My mother became  Little Mama or Lil Ma, for short  and Ms. Alberta became Big Momma. 

I think Lil Ma had her check sent there so that she would still have some kind of contact with me.  She didn't have custody of me, but she made sure...every month...that she was a presence in my life.  It was during this time that I remember her hugs and her kisses.   And she stayed a presence until she had a fight with Ms. Alberta and was told she wasn't welcome anymore and that she couldn't come to see me.   I remember crying and wanting to go to her - go with her- but they wouldn't let me.  I wonder what she felt when another woman told her she couldn't see her own child anymore.  I know how bad it hurts to be deprived of seeing someone you love.

She could see colors.   And there came a time when I needed her  and she was there. When an event happened to me that tore me finally... bodily  and forever from childhood, she was there.    

The last sight my mother had of  me before she was blinded,  I was six years old.  The next time she saw me I was seventeen.  She had regained her sight. The story of how she regained sight is not for now.  Not yet.  Nor is it time to relive the event that brought us back together.  Not yet.

A week ago I found out that I had some kind of  inflammation of the brain or a tumor.    Life comes full circle.  I wonder how my mother felt when she was told.  Was she scared?  Back then they didn't have MRI's or CAT Scans.  The medicine certainly wasn't as advanced.  I remember her taking a white pill every day.  It was Valium.  It was the best that they could do for her back then.  Maybe that was why she drank.  Maybe it numbed the fear.  She probably felt so alone.  I know I do.   I'm scared.  I mean Lord haven't you thrown enough at me?  I've been a good girl.  I know the story of Job.  But God I'm getting so tired.  I know you've walked every step of this with me. But I'm not as strong as I use to be.  I'm tired.  I don't know if I can get through this.  And this morning God, I get the call that says they're adding Lupus and Sarcoidosis to the mix.  Enough.... please....enough.

I've always been afraid of dementia or strokes.  Because then you had to rely on strangers.  Their kindness or their cruelty. Who will take care of me?   Will anyone miss me?  Have I made a difference?   Will anyone sit down and write about me and call me by name? Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.  

Lord  I need you to carry me but if you have to take something.  Take my life.  Don't leave me here without a mind to protect myself with.    I know I've made mistakes.  The ones I've made,  I've taken full responsibility for.

I am Catherines daughter and  I make no excuses for myself. .. I speak a sober man's mind.