Thursday, March 3, 2011

My Sister and My Mama and Another Dream

Another dream but first a little background.

My sister was born on my mother's 39th birthday.  Her third and last child.  I remember when she went into labor and my step-dad took her to the hospital.  I was seven years old.  A few days later my mom came home with a baby girl.  There were five of us kids at that point.  My step-brother and step-sister, my brother and me, and now my little half-sister. 

My step-father was a wheeler and a dealer.  A deacon in his church.  He was also a swindler.  He could sweet talk anyone.  Except for me.  I didn't like him from the get go and I think he resented me for that.  I had his number but I paid for it.

My mother once told me that they never paid for groceries throughout the four years of their marriage.  I remember the grocery store and those Saturday afternoon shopping trips with my mom pushing the grocery cart up one isle and down another.  It's a cheap furniture store now.  There was the meat counter where she picked out hamburger, chicken and pork chops.  We eat meat every night and they were big meals with several courses.  She was a good cook.  And we always had dessert too.  It was my job to set the table. I can still see her signing the credit slip for the groceries, never paying cash.   The store owner went to our church and was friends with my step-dad.  At some point, when my mom's relationship with my step-dad had soured, she had a meeting with the owner of the grocery store, requesting that he stop allowing her to charge groceries.  She told him that he would never be paid for the groceries we bought on credit, week after week, year after year--that my step-dad would never make good on the bill.  He told her not to worry, that her husband was a "good boy", that he trusted him whole heartedly.  She felt like she had done her part, she had warned him and he chose not to heed her warning.  She kept charging groceries and he never got paid.  Years later he told her that he wished he had listened to her.  He couldn't believe that my step-dad would cheat him.

My birth father, who I had never met, tried to make contact with me, my brother, and my mother once, a couple years after my mom had married my step-dad.  Knowing that my mother was a church going woman, he called one church after the next in our hometown, looking for us.  When he finally found us, the pastor told him it would be best if he didn't contact us, that my step-father was like a father to us, that we were a happy and a stable family, that my father should leave well enough alone.  I spent my whole childhood yearning for the father I had never met.  My birth father was a wheeler and a dealer who swindled people too.  Interesting, the men my mother chose considering what a kind, upstanding, hardworking, honest man her own father was.

My step-dad would drive our whole family up into the mountains on Sundays to a prison work camp where we would sing gospel songs to the prisoners.  Then he would bring one of the prisoners home with us for Sunday dinner.  I remember my mom complaining that she didn't like it.  She didn't think it was safe.  Another thing we did was read the bible every morning before school.  I think we read for an hour but maybe it was only a half hour.  Each of us kids would sit by ourselves, reading our bibles. We did this when I was eight years old and I remember the passages too, not really by heart but some of them from Genesis and John, "And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters..." and "In the beginning there was the word and the word was with God..."

He was an odd man. Two weeks after my mom and him were married (after two weeks of courtship) he told her that they would no longer have sex, that the time they would normally invest in this pastime, would now be spent in prayer.  That didn't last long but the proclamation disturbed my newlywed mother.

He was also mean.  And abusive.  He beat me with a skinny leather belt when I misbehaved. I misbehaved a lot.  The skinny leather belt wasn't his only method of punishment but it was one of his favorites.  I received the brunt of his physical abuse while my brother received his verbal/emotional put downs which caused him to stutter for many years.  Well, come to think of it, I got a heck of a lot of the verbal/emotional abuse myself.  I remember one night at the dining room table when my step-day chastised me for eating with my mouth open, like an animal.  He said that if I was going to eat like an animal, I should eat where the animals eat and he made me take my dinner plate and eat under the kitchen table. My mom didn't allow me to stay there for long.  I remember her coming in and pulling me up from the floor and sitting me up at the table.

My step-dad saved the sexual abuse for his own children.  My step-brother who seven years older than me and a strong supporter of keeping it all in the family, passed it down line to me.  At the age of ten, my mother divorced my step-dad.  She was in the hospital recuperating from a hysterectomy after being diagnosed with cervical cancer.  During one of my step-father's visits he informed my mom that he had gotten his secretary pregnant.  Two weeks later my mom had moved me. my brother,  and my little sister out of the house and into the new home she had purchased (with no money down) for 11,000 dollars.  Besides having no money for a down payment, she was also unemployed (she had been working for my step-father in his carpet store).  Things were different back in 1964, but even so, years later when a bank manager was reviewing her loan, he looked at her, shaking his head in disbelief that her loan had ever gone through.   My mom always did what she had to do to take care of herself and her children.  In her own quiet and shy way, she made things happen if they needed to happen.   A while after her divorce, a minister who was a friend of the family, told my mother that my step-father had visited him shortly after their breakup, asking to be castrated, based on the biblical tenant of..."If your right eye offends you, pluck it out..." So there she was, my mom, a forty-two year old, newly single with a pending divorce, freshly out of the hospital,  unemployed, new home owner, with three kids, ages fourteen, ten, and three years, to support. 

We weren't an emotionally close knit family.  My mom worked 8:00 to 5:00, five days a week, came straight home to make us dinner, and took care of her home on the weekends.  We loved each other enough.  I fought with my brother and was a bully at times to my little sister. None of us had much interest in the others but my mom dutifully went to at least some of my brother's Little League games and to our school functions.  My little sister looked and acted like my mom--dark hair, dark skin, shy, and high strung.  She was a mama's girl and the baby of the family.  Matter of fact, my brother was kind of a mama's boy himself, in a different way.  I was not.   I was a rebel.   Although I was also a caretaker in my own right.  After my brother moved out of the house at the at the age of eighteen and then two years later I moved out at the age of sixteen,  my sister had her mommy all to herself and I think she liked that.  I think my mother liked that too.  They were like two peas in a pod and remained that way for years.

A funny (or not so funny) thing is that my eldest daughter and my sister are SO MUCH ALIKE, it's uncanny.  As adults, I could never tell their voices apart on the phone.  There was 15 years between them in age and both of them thought the universe revolved around them.  They never liked each other but my sister set the precedent by never being was kind to my daughter since the time she was a very little girl. She seemed jealous of my daughter's close relationship with HER mother and saw her young niece as an interloper. She didn't appreciate my daughter invading THEIR space.  She didn't appreciate me or any of my children taking any of my mom's attention away from her.  She and my mom were best friends.  I was not best friends with my mom.  She was just my mother and we weren't all that close.  But we weren't not close.  We loved each other and enjoyed a greatly improved relationship once I moved out of the house at sixteen.  I loved my mom and I knew she loved me.  She was a good mom and helped me out a lot.  But my sister was her baby and they were extremely close.   Some might say that my mother was codependent with my sister, always bailing her out of trouble. Not that she never bailed me out, because she did.  That's what moms do.  But it was different.  That seemed to be the nature of their relationship until my mom's Alzheimer's started really kicking in and she couldn't be there for my sister in the ways she had been before.  And even though my sister thanked me profusely, time and again for my role in caring for our mother, I think she ended up feeling very isolated and perhaps annoyed with some of the decisions I made in regard to our mother's care during that time even though I ran everything past her while she still showed some interest in being involved, even at a distance.  I was here in the thick of it, and she wasn't.

This is the point where I'm sure my sister's story diverges greatly from my own.  Well, actually, I suspect there is a great divide with most of my story versus the way my sister would tell it.  But she isn't telling it here.  Well, maybe I won't tell anymore of it either.  Perhaps I've said enough.  For now.  Or  maybe I just don't want to put anymore of this story to print.  It feels private I suppose.  And I notice that I feel protective or her, and of our mother.  Of both of them.  It's just a story after all.  It's my truth but it's not THE truth.

But I will say this.  It's been over a year since my sister has come to visit my mom.  She lives only a little more than two hours away.  And before that, it had been almost a year since she had visited her, when she came for a short visit on the birthday that they share.  I feel sad for my sister.  I feel sad for my mom.    My sister has a child also, my niece, who is eleven years old.  She hasn't seen her grandmother in all this time.  And it's possible that she may never see her again. My sister may never see our mother again.  She will most certainly never see the mother she once knew.  The mother that she abandoned.  I angry about that too.

Actually, I think I will put a little more of my story to print...As we've grown older, I've also grown to appreciate my brother and my sister more.  Up to a point, before this current great divide with my sister.  The feelings were mutual too.  At least I think they were.  My brother and I have become good friends over the years and we enjoy one another's company.  It's not that we are super close and see each other all the time, but there is a mutual respect and we do visit fairly frequently and don't let too much time go by before we connect with a phone call.  We've spent most Christmas Eves together over the last thirty years, along with some graduations, weddings, and a few other holidays and birthdays sprinkled in.  He usually makes a point to come and visit me when he comes to town to visit our mother. We genuinely like, as well as love each other.

I've had good times with my sister also. When she lived in San Francisco and other parts of the bay area, we visited her often for many years and she always put us up.  We also connected during her frequent visits with our mother and there were many shared, sweet moments and laughter.  It warmed my heart getting closer with her over those years.  I miss her.

So, this morning I had a dream.  After my husband left for work, instead of getting myself up and ready for work,  I fell back asleep and dreamed about my sister.

I was in a big city with someone.  I don't know who.  It wasn't my husband.  It might have been my boyfriend.  It seems as if he was there in the dream somewhere.  We were in a room in a run down hotel and I was somewhat afraid.  For whatever reason, I didn't feel safe. 

Then I was walking, maybe with him.  I don't know were I was going.  Maybe I was going to visit my mom--then I was walking by her house, the one that she bought in 1964 for 11,000 dollars.  This was our family home that I grew up in, that she sold in 2007.  I looked up into the drive way and there was my sister, sitting outside with a group of people who turned out to be her children.  She was there, at my mom's house with seven or eight beautiful, gorgeous, lovely children.  She was stunningly beautiful herself.  And graceful.  I was so touched.  My heart was so happy to see her.  I went up to her.  I didn't hug her but I was just over the top pleased and amazed to see her and her incredible children.  So that's what she had been doing all this time, in her absence--giving birth and raising these exceptional kids.  I just couldn't get over it.  She, on the other hand, was not happy to see me.  And these children who had never met me, only knew me through their mother, my sister, and her stories of me--whatever they were,   I knew they were not nice stories that held me in a good light.  My sister was angry with me.  Hostile, in a mellow, but intensely energetic sort of way.  But I noticed her beauty just  the same.  And our mother's house was intact, still full of her belongings.  And there were two men there, gay men it seemed, who were the caretakers of my mother's home and all of her belongings and they weren't overjoyed to see me either, but they were friendly enough, and accommodating in a mildly territorial sort of way.  They were aware of their places ultimately, and knew better than to act in a way to usurp me. 

Some of my sister's children I did know after all.  A few of them had light complexions, with blonde hair and blue eyes.  They were familiar to me and we had met before (even though I didn't know my sister had any children).  They recognized me also and were excited to see me also (but not showing it too overtly).  The other children had dark hair and swarthy complexions, dark eyes with long eyelashes and they were very exotic looking.  I just couldn't get over their beauty and I was just totally in love with every single one of them.  They were fairly standoffish to me.  Nice enough.  But not really.  They were being protective of their mother.

I left my mother's home and crossed the street to another hotel/motel type place where I was going to stay.  As it turns out, my sister was staying there with her kids also and I saw one of them as I was walking by one of the rooms.  The door was open and there he was, this beautiful young man in his late teens or early twenties, very striking and I spoke to him, still so excited over their existence and that they were my nephews and nieces.  He said something back to me, something along the lines of, "Cant you just let it go and leave us alone."  It was almost as if I was sort of stalking them.  At one point he stood up to me, as if I was a bully of sorts and he was rallying for his mother's cause.  I spoke back strongly to him, in protection of myself to make him back down, which he did.  I was just so amazed at his beauty.  I think my boyfriend might have still been with me, or was with me for the first time at this point...

I woke up so tired, almost paralyzed.  It was an intense dream.

1 comment:

I AM ANOTHER said...

I just had this wild insight into my dream. These are my kids.