Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mother, Sister, Daughter

Mother, sister, daughter. I am all of these. Growing up as the only girl, behind three brothers, was not always easy. Add to that the chaos that comes with the living, breathing addictions and depression that inhabited our souls and well, it pretty much sucked ass most of the time. But there were moments of escape. Reading, writing, always writing something. Watching TV only made things worse. I mean seriously, how could a family have eight kids and nobody's punching fists through the walls? Eight is enough to make me want to throw up. It just didn't make sense to me.

But then there were the times when I got to pretend I was part of a different family. I had two older cousins that would indulge me; allowing me to be their bratty little sister for a day. They let me go through their make-up drawer, listen to their albums and occasionally sneak a peak at one of their trashy romance novels. I said sneak a peak - they really didn't allow it. I have always wondered if they knew how bad my life was and therefore took pity on me. 

Betty Sue, crazy Betty Sue had a nickname for me. She never once called me by my real name.  I was Tug Boat to her or Tug, for short. She was a hair dresser, as they called them back then.  She is responsible for frosting my hair at the age of 13, making me instantly look 45. Don't believe me? Check it out. I took a bus to Kansas at the age of 15 to stay with her for a week. In the middle of the week, I received a phone call that one of my best friends had been gunned down at the Sirloin Stockade. He was forced into the meat locker with five other workers and systematically shot dead. That woman, who was known for pure, unadulterated silliness, sat me down and let me cry while she somehow found the words to ease my pain.

"It doesn't make sense Tug, I'm so sorry but it never will". That, I could understand. That made sense to me.I guess you could say I've always been able to grasp the essence of senseless absurdity.

Then there was cousin Debbie.  We looked alike. She used to take me to work with her, finding things I could do to earn money. Sometimes we would just run around together, take our Granny to the grocery store or go shopping. She was only eleven years older yet everyone who saw us thought I was her daughter, which gave us both a kick.  She would laugh and I would revel in it. Yes, I am her daughter, I truly wanted to be. She was always funny, beautiful and blissfully calm. She didn't scream at me or belittle me and when I was with her, I had her full attention.

Their mom, my aunt Sarah, my daughter's namesake, was also there for me when I needed her. After Betty Sue and Debbie were long gone, living their own lives, I would beg aunt Sarah to let me spend the night with her. Maybe that's when I was sneaking a peak at those trashy books, I can't remember.  I had a few hours last week to stop and see Sarah, Debbie and her daughter Megan before I had to catch my flight back to Milwaukee.  I asked Sarah if she could tell me anything about the grandfather I never knew.  Her father, my dad's father, had died when they were 13 and 11.

She told me he was an alcoholic who would rage when he drank. She remembers having things thrown at her. As she spoke, you could tell by the look on her face she had been injured both physically and emotionally by this man. She remembered protecting my dad and my other aunt.  My granny spent the rest of her 92 years as a widow. When she became infirmed and had to live in a care facility, aunt Sarah visited her every single day. After a long day of work, she was there - day in day out - every day for years. I don't remember ever seeing my dad visit, though I'm sure he must have. I loved my Granny dearly.

My dad and Sarah suffered the same shitty childhood but she chose normal. She chose healthy. She chose to not suffer addictions, other than those damn cigarettes, and she is still alive when my family are all all dead or currently dying. 

Can you see the juxtaposition here? Is it any wonder I tried to will myself out of my family and into theirs? Seeing them last week was wonderful beyond words. We made the adoption official. I am conclusively their daughter, their sister, their mother - as I begin to make myself a part of Megan's life. She looks like me, they have always said so. I am flattered because she is breathtaking. That's her in the photo above.

And did I mention, she survived a helicopter crash when she was training to be a rescue diver for the US Navy? Her back was broken in four places yet she was able to scale the side of a mountain to safety. Two people on that mission died. Oh yes, she and I will have much to talk about. She is strong and I'm not gonna let her make the same mistakes I did. For just as I was with her mother, she is a part of me.

Mother, sister, daughter. I am all of these. Again.


  1. I'm sitting at my desk with tears in my eyes. My heart is aching because of the pain you have suffered, yet full because you are officially ours! I'm so happy you want us to adopt you and that you feel at home with our family. It was wonderful spending time with you on your visit and I look forward to hopefully seeing more of you in the future. I admire you so much and hope to someday be the strong, amazing, and beautiful woman you are today.

  2. Oh, thank you beautiful Megan. You already are all those things - strong and amazing. You just have to remember it every day of your life. I will be here to remind you. Don't cry for me - remember, pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Love you!

  3. I fully understand the value you find in this family and being part of it. I am so happy for you. You have always needed feminine arms around you. As we all do. I see how you thrive with it. As do I.

  4. Angie, I never knew any of this. I can remember how you marveled at my unbridled optimism and shameless confidence. Now I get it! I am so proud of the writer you have always been. I am so proud we are friends!

  5. Robin - Yes, I know you get that part of me, just like you can routinely crawl into my brain and access my every move before I make it. Did you happen to notice our toes were painted the same dark green color last week?

    Coco - you are so right - how much I marveled at you and envied your life. Such a bright spot for me, still to this day!


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