My Mother’s Day

I used to have a son. He didn’t die nor get physically ill lingering in a hospital. He just walked away. The story of how he came to be in my life is as intense now as when he first appeared 21 years ago next month in a phone call from a liar.

Matt winning awards for his academics and a scholarship

Matt winning awards for his academics and a scholarship

I hear the words, “Keep a stiff upper lip” ringing in my ears, maintaining my distance from the heartbreak I feel and felt.

Before he was born, I longed for him to come home to me. I created the “perfect” nursery in Looney Tunes theme. I filled the dresser and changing table with all the necessities. I made curtains, blankets, and diapers. I can’t sew, but I did because those were straight lines. I put up soft lighting, filled the room with whimsical pictures and loving thoughts.

I’d done the chlomid and pergonal to no avail. I’d taken my temperature faithfully every morning. I’d resolved to adopt a child. I resolved to adopt THIS child. I went to every doctor’s appointment with his birth mother, my step-sister (sister=same difference). When she was about 5-6 months along she was burned out of her apartment by her neighbor’s murderers. My church, at the time, put together a care package of clothes and cash which I brought to her to help her rebuild. She got really sick towards the end of her January due date. The plan was for me to stay with her until the baby was born.

Lies were told to she and I which kept us distanced just far enough to not realize it. A week before my “son” was to be born, my sister called me as I walked in the door from picking up the temporary custody with intention to adopt papers up from our attorney.

“Hey, uh, we need to talk but I don’t know how to say this.” She sadly said.

“Whatever it is, just say it and we’ll work through it together.” I commented as I unloaded my purse, my coat, my manila folder holding the precious promise. “Hold on a second while I finish getting in the door.” My intention was to finish loading up the car and head from Northern Indiana in Lake Station to drive to Knoxville, TN.

“Mare, I don’t know what to do.”

“It’s okay. Really, we’ll work through it. What’s on your mind?” I asked as I prepared to sit down on my couch.

“I’ve decided to keep the baby.” She whispered but the words I heard were deafening.
“What?” I asked as I held the phone away from my ear.

I was positive the phone had turned into a cobra that was striking viciously at me. I couldn’t hear anything but the tremendous amount of grief that broke me in two. I fell to the ground with my hands held above my head in complete surrender. Every pore of my body screamed the words of my soul to the Universe. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t take anything into my body. I couldn’t accept anything with any clarity because it was all nonsense. It was absolute void as everything I’d ever tried to become collapsed upon itself in a tumble of hopes, dreams, ambitions, goals, promises, vows, and possibilities vanished in six words. Poof. Absence.

Less then three months later, my good friend Jamie K Haley was murdered. I was completely lost in the bottom of a bottle. I couldn’t find my way out. I couldn’t drown the feelings fast enough or deep enough to have any success which, of course, didn’t stop me from trying. My friends intervened, forcing me to choose them or death. I opted to live. For the longest time, I had no idea why I made that choice. When I say that, I mean twelve years of bad choices and horrible decisions that continuously punished me for my failure.

Thanksgiving 2004, after the death of my father’s wife (Truthfully a horrid person, judge me if you want to about that, but it is not only my perception), I was passing through to pick up my best friend’s boyfriend to return him to her in Arizona where I resided with my husband. I stopped off in Tennessee to visit.

My father explained that he was getting too old to take care of a twelve year old boy. He wanted to know if I’d consider moving closer to build a relationship with the boy because, “My health isn’t all that great and he’ll need someone to take care of him that he knows when I die.” That sounded fair and logical. I said I’d consider it.

That twelve year old boy (nearly 13 at that point) was the same child that had been denied me in 1995. That was the same child that I’d dreamed of holding, comforting, crying over, teaching, feeding, healing, reading to, guiding, exploring the world with. That child was the manifestation of my heart. Okay, that sounds like I may have romanticized it a tad (YES! I know, a LOT!) but before I go any farther in the story, go ahead and guess what my choice was…I didn’t even finish that sentence before you knew. Yes. I did in fact go back and talk to my husband about moving to Tennessee.

Plans were made. My job as a radio DJ/personality/head copy writer got more complicated then it had ever been before, everything in my Arizona life pushed me towards a new life. I complied. In February of 2005, right after the boy’s 13th birthday, my best friend, her boyfriend, and myself were driven across the country by Charles Tupper and his son to live at my father’s house. My husband was supposed to join us later (which is a whole different story).

It didn’t take long before things were found to be amiss. The boy didn’t fit very well. He was skittish. Time passed, I divorced my Arizona husband, moved about finally landing in Oak Ridge with my joyfriend/current husband. In March of 2010, the young man came to live with me by court order because of the neglect and violent abuse he’d suffered at the hands of my father and his new girlfriend.

This is his story told to me by him, written by me to create a more gentle version of a vicious life:

Becoming Human

I was born abandoned. According to legend, I was either brought to my grandparent’s tattered life. Or I was saved from the state by them as a last resort; rescued from the hospital.

I had a brother, also known as God to Jack who was my grandfather. My brother was his everything but he was taken away by the courts. My uncle was murdered by fringe family members and my grandmother who died of Cancer. They were all gone by the time I was eleven, except for the worst one, Jack.

I didn’t get to say any goodbyes. The pain became my normal. It was the only thing that was real and tangible. I had nowhere to go and that’s right where I thought I was going.

Nobody heard me. Nobody stopped me. Nobody recognized me. Caine was gone and I was all that was left.

I became, over time, a non-entity. Nobody cared to listen to what I thought or felt.

My house was never silent. Rage filled the air with compulsive shrieks and blistering names that still sting. Jack and I had no quiet conversations at the dinner table. There were no jokes told. The questions that I had, of my losses, went unanswered.

Three weeks after my grandmother died, Jack moved Val into our house. Things became very different. At night, Jack gave me vodka and Val gave me beer to put me to sleep. It wasn’t long before Val started sneaking into my room and the nightly abuse began. In an attempt to protect myself, I slept in a bed of knives and swords that I’d collected. It didn’t work.

I screamed out to be saved, but Jack never came. I tried fighting against her, but my drunken youthful self wasn’t yet strong enough. I told myself it was all a dream. Nobody heard me. Nobody stopped what was happening to me. Nobody saw me. My family was gone and I was all that was left.

Boys I called my friends began to ask me to do things that I didn’t understand but soon learned. I became an object to be used.

Huffhead was the worst offender. He called me his friend and I called him mine. But I always returned to him. Even knowing that nothing I did for him was ever good enough, I returned. He always demanded more and more from me. No matter how he abused me, I accepted it. The abuse was normal. I’d learned my lessons well. I was so desperate for his “friendship” that I returned to him time and again. I didn’t deserve to feel good. I didn’t feel worthy of kindness or love. I didn’t know this wasn’t okay. How I was living was my normal.

The threat of losing another person was too much. I had no choice. I lost my identity and gave up control of myself. I deserved it. I no longer smiled because I didn’t deserve to feel good. I felt guilty about my basic needs. I felt shame for eating, drinking, using the bathroom, smiling, laughing, joking. In other words, the thought of me being considered a human was enough to make me cringe. Everything and anything I did was constantly criticized. I was never good enough. I wasn’t my brother and Jack reminded me of this daily. Jack called me so many bad names that it caught me off guard, sounded alien, when he said the name given to me at my birth.

I developed into an isolated zombie. Not the kind you see in the movies, but just as much of a non-human. I was an object who didn’t object to the abuse. I lived to serve in any capacity.                                                                                                     I screamed, “I HATE YOU!” in my mind. Nobody heard me. Nobody stopped me. Nobody recognized me. I was gone. Yet I was all that was left.

I started hearing voices after my brother was taken. Sometimes they’d get so loud that my mouth would speak their words. My body was no longer my own. The voices became people that walked, talked, and acted differently while using my body. That’s when the forgotten times began.

I woke up in the strangest of places; in a driveway during a winter storm, in a shed, in a storm drain, in a different state all together. I began to lose hours and days worth of time. People would come up to me on the street acting like they knew me, calling me by different names. I didn’t let on that I had no idea who they were. Time no longer had meaning because I lost so much of it so often.

I didn’t realize I was a human being. I was so detached from reality that nothing seemed real. I tried sleeping for a year so I wouldn’t have to feel what little seeped through the drugs I’d started doing. I’d mastered, as I was taught, to turn pain off like a light switch that kept turning itself back on.

When I turned fifteen, my screams were loud enough to be heard by the courts. I got in trouble with the law twice in two months. I went to court to accept my fate with Jack and his daughter. She was a woman that Jack called a lying, controlling, bulldozer that ripped him off. I despised her at his word. After all was said and done, I was placed in Jack’s daughter’s custody.

In the three years that I’ve been with her, I’ve learned what it’s like to be happy. I am grateful that the courts finally heard me. I’m glad the judge stopped what was happening to me. I’m glad that they finally saw me. I finally earned my freedom and another life to learn. Somebody heard me. Somebody helped me. Somebody recognized me. My success is all that’s left.

2014

In August of 2014, he disappeared. My husband and I went to work, came home, and he was gone. He didn’t say goodbye. He didn’t say anything. Like the phone call so many years before, he’d decided to keep the baby.

I see Facebook flooded with wishes of goodwill towards mothers. I do not resent or feel anger towards anyone who is a mother. I do not feel jealousy or unkind thoughts towards that are successful. I feel like a liar and outsider when it is wished to me. That chapter of my life is the most painful I’ve ever endured of which I have no control or power over in any way shape or form. It is my deepest grief and my truest human moment that I cherish because at least I got to understand, be, and for a short while, know the joy a parent feels.

The Little Magician

This is me wearing my very stylish top hat. My stovepipe hat is taller and is one I wear with my super hero cape.

This is me wearing my very stylish top hat. My stovepipe hat is taller and is one I wear with my super hero cape.

When I start out in the morning of a day off, I’m never quite sure what I’ll end up wearing (other than my pj’s) at the end of the day. Today was no different. I started out in my black with pink pinstripe pants, a thin maroon waffle style long john shirt (long sleeve) with a brown shirt that has yellow letters declaring “I’m a Hugger” on the front with a picture of a bear. Around my neck I decided to wear my mini-harmonica necklace and my Chinese chime necklace so I’d have music all day long. Although I normally opt for a hat to wear, I instead bottomed off the outfit with some black and gray DC skater shoes that I got at the Salvation Army store for a quarter.

I showed up at the first event of the day which was an end of an era rummage sale reminiscent of the video game Skyrim’s Whiterun General Store proprietor, Belethor, who states with great creepiness, “Everything’s for sale! I’d sell my sister if I had one!” But seriously, they were selling everything. On the table I migrated to tidy and fix were all the Unitarian Universalist shirts left over from various events. They were nearly all children and youth sizes which I kept folding and arranging according to style. There were also some Halloween costumes which included a rather boring flapper’s dress, a sofa cover floral skirt, an adult’s clown costume with bells at the ankles and wrist but none on the hat, a child’s clown costume that looked as if it were as old as the church (1956), a stack of 10 sombreros (one of which was bright purple and traditional in decoration), a flattened witches hat, and a black graduation cap with the tassel that read 2006. SCORE!

I put on the cap and let the thick yellow tassel dangle around my face. It fit surprisingly well. After straightening a few other tables, I discovered a white beard (no mustache) with a working elastic string to hold it in place. On went the beard to add to my growing ensemble. I engaged people in conversations, helped them sort through the things we had left, moved 80 chairs to be moved from our soon to be absent church to the Ecumenical Storehouse (where the not so well off can get home furnishings (and those who lost homes to fires or the like) transport truck. I chatted it up with friends, rearranged merchandise and enjoyed the time. One of the ladies, an artist, Ms. Seely, found a pair of Harry Potter glasses which, surprisingly were wearable and didn’t give me a headache. I found a gold framed mirror to check my appearance and stared into the eyes of a professor wizard. It made me giggle.

I traveled from that event to the next wearing my new attire feeling incredibly lucky to be gifted with such oddities. When I arrived at the phone bank venue I was about to work, my friends didn’t recognize me until I spoke. That made my heart do flip-flops because these are people I work with on several important issues such as abortion rights and climate action. I removed the costume to demonstrate that I was ready to get down to business. Four pages of phone calls later, I was able to get the message out to about 35-40 Tennessee voters requesting their support if they didn’t already feel the same. When I left I felt accomplished as I redressed in my Professor’s costume. I drove home to collect my little dog and change attire.

When I go out to do public service, I like to wear my super hero cape that has the same Love Thy Neighbor logo on it as the shirt I shared yesterday. This one:

I wear the cape because I feel that when I’m doing community service (this time on behalf of Neighborhood Watch National Night Out), it is important to demonstrate in action, word, and mindfulness of others why you’re actually going there. I wear it as a reminder to myself that with great power comes great responsibility which I take, believe it or not, seriously. I don a top hat or a stovepipe hat in tribute to Honest Abe who is one of my favorite American heroes via his humanity. I feel strong and spiritually powerful when I wear the attire (plus, the cape was a birthday gift from a dear friend of mine named Max and was modified by another I adore Manderley). Yes, I would feel the same without the attire about myself and my actions, but it’s a physical manifestation for me, it harms nobody, brings delight and joy, and fills my spirit with even more loving feelings.

Because I was busy with volunteer work over the last couple of days, I haven’t been home to check social media very much. I missed the announcement that cancelled the dog costume parade. I was disappointed in that because Piggy was subjected to two coats of strawberry shampoo (I swear that stuff requires a spoon it smells so good) and a purple and pink striped sparkle collar with matching leash to show off her shiny blue coat. They weren’t going to let me in until I promised to hold Piggy and keep her away from the food booths. I complied.

I was just about to leave when a little girl in a pale blue dress, long blonde curls to her waist, and a pink balloon sword approached me with eyes wide.

“Do you do any magic tricks?” She asked me while swinging the sword around in the air.

“Well that’s a great question. Why wouldn’t I know a couple of magic tricks when I have an awesome hat like this?” I retort, more out loud than to her. I addressed her directly, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, I just like to wear top hats and super hero capes.” I felt really bad. Actually, that’s not accurate. I felt guilty. I rubbed Piggy behind the ears as if she were suddenly going to pull a rabbit out of my hat which she didn’t do.

“Well that’s okay.” She sighed with disappointment on her face for but a brief moment. “I can do a magic trick.” She declared.

“No kidding? What can you do?” As I looked down into her face, I saw her thinking rapid fire of a response.

She held up her balloon sword above her head. “I can turn this sword into a hat.”

“I don’t believe it. Will you show me?” She had me in the palm of her hand, the suspense was building in my guts as I wondered how in the world she’d pull off this impromptu show.

She wriggled the balloon sword around in her hands, trying to remember or trying to discover the secrets. With inspiration striking, she worked the “sword” tip into the handle and placed it on her head. “I now have a hat.” She declared with a grin.

If I wasn’t holding my little dog, I would have applauded. “That’s pretty impressive.” I chuckled, “I wouldn’t have thought of that.” I said as the balloon tip slipped out of the handle with a lightly audible pop sound. She grabbed the balloon sword and remade the hat, crowning herself once again.

“I can do another magic trick, you wanna see?” She asked taking the converted hat from her head.

“Sure. What else do you have in your bag of tricks.”

“I can turn this hat into an umbrella.” She twisted at the waist which made the hem of her dress flare out a bit. I glanced the crowd to see who else was watching but it seemed this was just a one woman show with an audience of two (Yes, I’m counting Piggy Suey).

“No kidding. Let’ see.” I watch fascinated as this seven-year old-ish girl starts pulling the balloon this way and that and ends up with a wad at one end which she proudly places over her head declaring it an umbrella. “Well I’ll be. That sure is an umbrella!”

“I told you I could do it.” She glowed with pride.

“You sure did. You’ve now taken a sword and transformed it into a hat. Then you took a hat and created an umbrella out of it. Do you know any other tricks?”

She paused, deep in thought. She tilted her head to the left listening to her guardian spirit that whispered giggling into her ear. The girl smiled with her new adult front teeth not at all looking out of place on her face. “Yes. I can make this umbrella into a flower.”

“No kidding? Wanna show me?” Piggy snorted with impatience as I stroked her neck near her shiny new collar. Piggy settled back into my arms and I was so intrigued with this little magician’s tricks I just HAD to see how the show concluded.

She nodded confidently and tugged at the wad until it was a looser wad but generally resembled a child’s drawing of a daisy.

“Hokey toot!” I declared with genuine appreciation. I listed off her accomplishments and as I stated each new creation she grinned widely nodding in agreement. “And here you came to me asking for magic when you already had it yourself!”

“I know!” She giggled. “I can do one more. I can make the sword sharp.”

I have no idea who this little girl was, but she was completely engaging. As I stood there in a room bustling with over 100 other people, I realized I was being given a far greater gift. I stayed for the finale. “Okay, let’s see how you do this.”

She pulled the balloon back into the shape of a sword and if I didn’t know better, I’d swear she winked before she began to twist the tip of the “sword” into about a three inch ball. With a flourish that would make D’Artagnan proud, she thrust the sword forward, then slashed the sword with a backhand followed with one final riposte with the unsuspecting chair she’d attacked in earnest and her balloon popped.

She stood there with the pink former sword/hat/umbrella/flower/sharpened sword dangling dead in her hands. She looked more surprised than shocked or disappointed. She smiled at me. I smiled back.

“Thanks for the show. It was spectacular.” I tried to comfort her with my appreciation.

“I know it was.” She grinned, dropped the dead show on the ground and ran into the crowd.

I’m not sure, but I believe with all my heart, I created more magic by not knowing a magic trick than if I had been knowledgeable. I’m still grinning from ear to ear. I am indeed a blessed and lucky woman because I see the magic around me in every day people doing mundane things with such perfect humanity that it just makes my heart sing. Thank you little magic girl. May your magic always be in your hands.