Dysfunky: Home is Where the Hurt Is


I was headed home.

When you have to drive a long distance alone, you get in a mode of thought: “Go straight”. You don’t have a road trip experience or stop to see anything, you barely stop to eat and use the toilet.

With the dogs, I had to be more careful, and stopped a few times to walk them, make sure they got water and food, then kept going. They were so good. All three didn’t want to sleep, but kept in the back seat and waited quietly for our destination.

Esther, my deaf pittie princess, likes to press her cheek against mine while I drive. I allowed it a few times, but mostly kept the kids in the back, where they used their bodies to makeshift an ever adjusting jigsaw that collapsed and reunited in three pieces.

Bakersfield.

My father was tracking me on his phone somehow. My mother called and said, “Your father sees you stopped at a Starbuck’s.”

Creepy.

Sacramento.

Mt. Shasta. I almost pulled over to take a picture, but my camera phone just couldn’t capture how majestic the mountain was, lit up with an orange dusk.

I kept driving and saw the night sun toss embers of light on the mountain side and a life size dragon sculpture randomly positioned on the side of the freeway.

Should I stop and take a picture? It would never turn out as good as this moment. (Even the photo below can’t capture my moment)

Yreka . . . I was pulled over and given a speeding ticket for 12 miles over. Fucker.


Then I made it to Oregon after 12 hours. I pushed to Grant’s Pass just over the border. It was cold, the kids had to go to the bathroom and I was starving.

We made it to a Motel 6, I grabbed some junk food and went back to the room to shower. We all ate and fell asleep on one bed in the hue of a quiet television set.

7am, we woke up, Momma got her cup of coffee and we were on the road again.

Dad texted me, “Good Morning.” This phone GPS thing is really a little too personal.

I pulled into Wolf Creek for gas, and saw the rain clouds crawl through the trees in one, infinite mist over a few broken down school buses. I was in the northwest now.

A boy came out to fill up my gas tank and asked to give my dogs’ treats. I went in for a cup of coffee but was a dollar short, the two girls at the register charged me a refill price for 80 cents. I tipped them 20 cents. I was definitely in the northwest now.

Eugene.

Salem.


Gresham.


Multnomah Falls . . . I was getting close.


My car engine was beginning to rattle. Shit.

Bridge of the Gods.


We crossed over to Washington State.


25 minutes later, we arrived in Carson, WA.

The dogs got out and I watched as Brad charged, barking, at my parents, Maggie wagged her tail and stretched out, and Esther slowly galloped circles in the yard.  I could see her begin to realize she could run here.

Exhausted, my father kissed me and handed me a glass of wine. I crashed in the back yard with the dogs, who finally got to dance and play after a day and a half in the backseat of my car.

I was here for the dogs. My parents had cleared out and carpeted the tool shed to make a large doghouse. The yard was lush and green. Everything would be seemingly perfect . . . if my parents and I just got along.

There has been tension for some time with my mother and father.  Its complicated and frustrating to revisit, even for this blog, but it’s a combination of their insistence that I have a mental illness, their refusal to help me when I was in an abusive relationship with my boyfriend (who I shared a year long lease with) while I was stuck in an equally abusive job . . . they wouldn’t let me move home then, but sleeping under all the phone arguments and disappointments, with one eye staring right at me, is the large, scaly monster of reckoning . . . they don’t understand me and I am not sure if they even like me.

They think if they express disapproval and criticism, I will force myself to change into a different person entirely. Who would I be if my parents could decide? A teacher, like my sister. A calm, mellow, sleepy teacher who is married to a man that could take care of her for the rest of her life.

Unfortunately, they gave birth to a wild child with boundless energy, an insatiable thirst for adventure, sex, art and love. No one wants that child. Though we may contribute to the arts, we may challenge society, inspire culture, slice and sculpt expectation to the point of enlightenment . . . maybe, if we are lucky, those people, my people, are championed as acquaintances, sometimes as friends, as personalities in entertainment or history,  as lovers for a night or more but we are never wanted as children.

So I sat with my glass of wine, and I waited for the first stab. I dressed in my armor and put my mind in the game. I try to always remember that it is out of love and concern, and acknowledge they never had parents of their own to use as role models- and with a quiet nod in preparation, I snuggly pulled on my skull cap of steel and awaited battle.

***

Now the house is small. Its a one level, three bedroom house with small rooms. Its the cheapest lay-out you might see on a mobile home plan. Its not a mobile home, but it’s really just one step up.

Its nice for a retired couple living in the mountains.
I didn’t grow up here. I really don’t feel like I lived in one house long enough to have grown up anywhere.

For 7 years, I lived in a large house in Milwaukee, WI. I still have nightmares about that house being haunted. Everywhere else was just a rest stop.

Here in Carson, I never even resided. My parents moved in after I started college. The room they prepared for me has a nice bed, a desk we are using as a dresser and on the far wall, a bookshelf. The rose colored carpet and floral bedspread remind me that I am a guest in a very empty bedroom.

My mother is incredibly clean. It’s the polar opposite of me in every way. If I leave an empty glass out for a second, I turn around, and it’s gone.

There aren’t any real family photos out, one or two of my sister on the wall, my family dogs (now passed) on a wall in the hallway, a halfway assembled puzzle on the dining room table, and a few choice decoratives my mother has picked up on her travels around the world, though not enough to really appreciate how much they actually travel.

I fell in love with Frank Sinatra on the ride up and began playing, “That’s Life”. I sang:

♪ ♫ I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king
I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing
Each time I find myself flat on my face
I pick myself up and get back in the race ♪ ♫

My mother, “Oh God, here she goes.”

My father, “Stop. Shut it off.”

I shut it off and had another glass of wine.

There is a red stain on the carpet by the living room window.

Me, “What is that stain?”

Dad, “I tried to grow tomatoes inside. The mold came down and ruined the carpet so I bleached it. (sip of wine) And then I tried to dye it back to pink. Obviously that didn’t work.”

I laughed.

The dogs were happy outside. It was more space than they have had in a while.

Me, singing again, “♪ ♫ I thought of quitting, baby, but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it . . . ♪ ♫”

Mom, “You are obsessing again, honey.”

***
The next day, the first attack happened on the couch. I don’t know what led into it- only that my mother said:

“You are lucky your family [financially] supports you.”

Me, “You don’t support me.”

Mom, “We do, a lot.”

Me, “Families are supposed to come together during hard times.”

Mom, “True.”

We moved outside, to the sunshine and the happy dogs.

Again . . .

Mom, “You are lucky your family supports you.”

Me, barked like a showgirl, “I am the success story of this family.”

Mom, “You wouldn’t be anywhere if we didn’t give you money.”

Me, “You really haven’t given me that much. $500 for the car. $300 before that.”

Mom, “And then $200.”

I guess we are factoring in Christmas gifts . . .

Me, “I am very independent.”

Mom, “No, you’re not.”

Me, “I work my ass off to support myself and my dogs.”

Mom, “You work hard for no money.”

I got up and put myself in the room. Was it my room? No. Not yet.

Does my mother realize a grand could barely get me through a month in Los Angeles?

I popped something on my computer to watch and laid on the bed, all the dogs dutifully followed.

A few minutes later, my mother burst through the door, squeezed my breasts (really, she grabbed both my breasts and squeezed) and said in a playful voice, “I am sorry . . . “

Me, “Why do you want to make me feel badly about needing help?”

Mom, “I only said that because you said you were the only success story of this family.”

Me, “I was joking to keep you from crushing my self-esteem.”

She kind of yodled a “ooooh, come on!” and squeezed my boobs again.

Me, “And can you please knock on the door? Seriously.”

Even now, I really don’t know how to properly react to that apology.

So you see, as much as they position themselves as the role models of a normal, successful and calm life, they are still crazier than me.

***

My father and I went into Gresham to pick up business cards, since I knew I would need them for my trip to Cannes. I also needed new contact lenses. Half of my disposable cash was about to vanish.

I wanted to promote the blog without associating it to my identity, so I printed mailing address labels I could affix on some business cards but not on others.


The two boys at Staples didn’t have my stickers ready yet, and printed 5 pages for free. They even knocked $10 off my business cards order. I think they liked the name of my blog.

I love boys.

Back in the car, I let my father know what happened and swooned.

Dad, “You can get any man’s attention for 5 minutes.”

Me, “Longer than 5 minutes.”

Dad, “You think so? I would be outta there after 5 minutes. Too much emotional baggage.”

Me, “Talk about emotional baggage . . . what about you?”

Dad, “I let it all go.”

Me, “I let it all go, too.”

I mean, let’s face it, the reason I have baggage is because of him.

Dad, “No you don’t. That’s why you have no friends.”

Let me take a moment to note, my parents have never met my friends. My parents have no idea who I am anymore.

I have great friends. God, I wouldn’t be here, 3:41am on European time with three healthy dogs if I didn’t have friends. Who the fuck is he to think he can say these things to, not just his daughter, but to ANYONE?

In the car, a blanket of silence fell over me and I felt bad. My skull helmet was still on, however, and the voice in my head said, “They don’t know you anymore.”

It did occur to me that they put me down to manipulate my behavior in some way. They think if I feel badly, if I question myself and feel unpopular, unliked, maybe I will change my course.

Could that be it?

***

That night, my mother sat me down to show me a book she recently acquired on the Orphanage she lived in as a child.

Why there is a book on an orphanage? I really have no idea, but here it was.


She opened the book with a glass of wine nearby. Her hands caressed the cover before opening to the first page, which was routine for her. She touches things almost erotically before flickering dust out from under her fingernails. I despise the quirk.

The first page with a group photo, including her ,was easy to find. She obviously studied the book beforehand.

Mom, “This is one. Look how big my head is.”

Me, “You are cute.”

Mom, “You think so? My head is so big, and my body is so small.”

She took me through to a photo of two priests.

Mom, “These are the two priests who helped take care of us. (pointing to the one on the right) This one was nice. We all liked him.”

Me, “And handsome!”

Mom, “Oh yeah. He was so nice. (pointing to the other priest) This one molested us. He used to touch all the girls.”

I looked at her eyes, though her gaze wasn’t steady and passed maniacally from me to the book.

I looked for her eyes and held them.

Me, “That is horrible.”

She tossed off my comment like it was a hat that didn’t fit quite right, “I know. He used to (she wiggled her fingers in the air) do this to our crotch and ask (her teeth protruding like a rodent) ‘What’s that? What’s that?’ We knew if he took us, that would happen. So we all wanted [Mr. Handsome] to take us.”

She took a sip of wine.

My mother was molested as a child. I guess I should have assumed that since she was an orphan. I think I already assumed in the back of my mind. In this moment, however, I didn’t know what to do. I sat close and quiet, as she continued to fumble through the book like nothing was said at all.

Mom, “And this is the nun who hated me for no reason. She used to just look at me and whack me. No reason.”


Mom, ”  . . . (down the page) Here is her funeral.”

Me, “Is she the one that was murdered?”


Mom, “Yes. It was horrible. He beat her to death in her own room. He was from the home and came back because he thought he knew where they kept the money.”

Me, “He used to be an orphan there?”

Mom nodded and swallowed some saliva, calmly, “She was hospitalized and they tried to find out who he was. She knew, but she refused to tell. She died later.”

I remember her telling me about watching a nun being beaten to death. When you are young, you kind of store the words somewhere until later, when you know how to assemble them into a memory or thought.

Mom continued to leaf through the pages, “Funny how they make everything look so warm and happy. We actually posed for these pictures.

She continued, “I met Sergio Franki and Tony Martin. That was exciting.”

I muttered, “Not sure who that is.” Maybe I didn’t need to say it out loud but I didn’t want to lie in my eyes.

Mom, “They were famous back then. It was exciting for all of us.”

She closed the book.

Mom, “So . . . yeah, thats it.” She rubbed her hand over the cover one more time, as if it was necessary to clean the memories off before putting it back on the shelf.

I sat there.

Mom, “Ready for dinner?”

She got up to finish making our food.

I was still stuck on molestation. Was I supposed to do something? I mean, dinner? Now?

I filled up my wine glass one more time. Thats all I really can do here.

***

In the few days I spent there at the house in Carson, I tried to catch up on this blog. It was difficult. My mother associates the computer with leisure, and felt the need to interrupt me whenever I was seated.

Mom, “Can you do the dishes?”

Mom, “Can you whack the weeds? Your father needs held.”

Mom, “We need to sit down and repack.”

I couldn’t concentrate.

I would say, “Ok, but please. I will need to write soon. Without disruption.” I lie and say its for school.

She organized my scented lubricants on my desk, later I realized, she thought they were small bottles of hand sanitizer.

The truth was, my mother was excited I was here. I am so used to having my time to live the adventure and write, that any interference really rubs my nerves raw. Its costing me time.

I only had 4 days before leaving for France and tried to stay up late each night to catch up on writing.

I didn’t catch up, but I got damn close.

The morning of May 10th, on the way to the airport, we passed by a terrible semi-truck accident. My father barked for my mother to call 911.


I said, “I will call.”

Dad, “No, Mom call.”

Mom, “Ok, how do I turn this on?”

The engine was still running on the overturned semi, smoke billowed out of the engine and over the wreckage into the forest.  I called 911, calmly relayed directions and the situation. They said they were on their way.

My Dad got in the car after checking with the driver.

Dad, “YOU called 911?”

Me, “Yeah.”

Dad, “I am proud of you.”

Me, “Why? Its not a big deal. I am 34 years-old.”

The driver pulled a woman out of the back seat with blood pouring down her forehead.

Dad, “Why do you keep reminding us of your age, like we don’t know?”

Me, “Because you treat me like a 5 yr-old.”

Da, “No we don’t.”

Me, “Yes, you do.”

Dad, “Ok, we gotta go.” He maneuvered around the other cars, scattered and pulled over to the scene, and we took off.

We dropped my mother off at her weekend job in Stevenson, one town over. She waved and kissed me goodbye.

Mom, “Have fun, and behave.”

Me, “Ok . . . (to the first part).”

We kept driving.

Me, “I am just nervous about what will happen after France. Where will I live? How will I make money?”

Dad, “Don’t worry about that now. Life is a magic carpet ride.”

That day, I got on a plane and flew out, away from the home God assigned me and off to a place where my identity locked, where I felt comfortable with myself, where all the warmth and comfort you would expect from family and familiarity, snuck in and wrapped around me like a big meal on a warm night, kissed with the music of laughter and sleeplessness of a child . . . France.

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