Thursday, September 06, 2007

not a nice one. might want to skip it.

Kids, you were warned. Some of this is disgusting.

I woke up in the middle of the night again thinking at 90mph, this time about my mom. So, here goes. This is THE STORY.

I've mentioned before that the woman who raised me wasn't my birth mother-I was adopted.
I go back and forth. Sometimes I call this person 'mom' out of habit, and sometimes 'the woman who raised me' because she was not worthy of the title 'mom'...yet for the purpose of clarity, let's just do the 'mom' thing, 'k?

I grew up in a home where my mother set the tone. She was the boss, no question about that. For one thing, she was sober, and for another, she was the only adult who knew how to read. The prevailing atmosphere there was one of strange meaningless secrecy, grinding resentment, rage, unbelievable cancerous guilt and a complete acceptance of life as a miserable practical joke with disaster waiting just around the corner. That was home, and that was her. To a lesser degree my father too, but he was usually pickled and so his part in the equation wasn't as strong.

It wasn't that she didn't have every good reason in the world to be as messed up as she was. She did. Her early life was an absolute nightmare of poverty, abuse of every kind, starvation and abandonment, something only Dickens could make readable. I don't know if I can.

Truthfully? I don't want to. This my story. I don't want to drum up any sympathy for her. She wasn't worth it. When she was a child? Yes. But not by the time I got her.

Despite how that sounds, I don't see it as selfish. You see, I was treated like shit for 18 solid years. It was constant and it was comprehensive. Every single level of what went on in that house was tainted with this woman's twisted view and motivations. And as far as shit goes, it was pretty bad shit, too.
Whenever I got up the nerve to approach an adult to make it stop, I got the same treatment...'What was your mother's childhood like?.... Oh! That poor woman! You should be more understanding. Anyway, you'll be 18 soon and you can move out!'
I mean, it's bad enough when things go wrong for someone with no power. When they feel like they have to turn the situation into a pissing contest with their abuser just to try and 'deserve' help... that's criminal. That's just fucking obscene.*

Anyway, that's crucial to the way I've had to learn to think about my mom. No matter what she had gone through, how bad she was, or why she was the way she was, I wasn't responsible for it. More importantly, no matter what her past had been like, this was the present, and these were the things SHE was choosing to do NOW.

The woman was a fucking sadist. Yes, she had problems, yes, she needed therapy. Probably medication, too. But not everyone that goes through disastrous things goes on to inflict disaster on everyone else. The thing was, past aside, she just really, genuinely enjoyed being...mean. It made her laugh. Remember those schoolyard bullies? Yes. Just exactly like that, except older and sneaker, with all those years of experience to draw on for ideas.

No shit.

Just take it for granted that all the revolting, twisted things that the typical Irish Catholic woman of that era believed about bodies and sex were passed down to me, OK? That's all a given. Women are disgusting, soiled pants ground into the face, check.

Now add this: The woman sexually molested me. Not just once, either. Of course, it wasn't really molestation, it was 'toilet training', according to her. Occasional toilet training. That I didn't need. That went on up until the age of 4. Using red-hot water out of the tap and adult-sized products to administer it. While slapping me, hitting me, knocking me up against the tub and the door, and kneeling in my stomach.

Not bad enough?

She invited the woman next door to help.

The woman next door showed her how to 'make it feel good.' So I'd stop fighting.

What memories do you have from when you were four?

Over the years I'd catch my mother spying on me while I was getting dressed, taking a bath or using the toilet. I began stuffing a bathrobe under my bedroom door after I caught her LYING ON THE FLOOR PEEKING IN UNDER THE GAP. She even used to call home and then quiz me about why I was so out of breath when I answered the phone and what was I doing, hmmmmm? Well, running to get to the phone, mom.

I didn't catch on to what her problem was until later, but her reason for doing this shit was that she was obsessed with catching me masturbating. And even though she did a couple of times when I was way older (as in, flinging the door wide and yelling"'A HA! CAUGHT YA! WHADDYA THINK, SHOULD WE BRING YER DAD IN TO SEE THIS?" ew, ew, unbelievably disgusting and perverted, ew), it's not like I was a spider monkey way back in grade school for heavens' sake; hell, I didn't figure that stuff out until way later. But yeah. Religious tracts about 'self pollution'? Going though my belongings and taking 'usable' items? Check.

And bear this in mind throughout....this is a woman going into her late 40's. This is what she was doing to a little kid.** You get the picture?

It all factored in to a greater obsession she had with spying in general.
She used to sneak up on me. Outside... in the stores...wherever. Suddenly I'd feel eyes on me or hear a snicker and there she'd be; God only knew how long she'd been there.
She lifted the extension and listened in on my calls. At random. For no reason.

Meanwhile, I was a wonderful little citizen. I gave nobody any trouble whatsoever. I was a good girl. Quiet, shy, timid, well-mannered.
Because I lived in constant, unrelenting terror.

She went though my trash-and kept things! Hidden in the pantry closet! I found them, and I mean a stash of stuff covering years, freaked out and burnt it all in the fireplace. This wasn't state secrets either...this was things I'd copied out of books or figure studies I'd torn up. Stupid kid jokes. Drafts of letters. Stuff like that. Her 'blackmail file', she called it.

And all during this time, while I was supposed to be some kind huge grammar school deviant, the woman knowingly allowed me to be sexually abused by my cousin. Over a period of YEARS, beginning when I was six. I mean, she busted this kid numerous times! She blamed it on me for being 'such a sexy little girl'. By the time I was eight? No longer a virgin.

The reason another cousins' 30 year old shitbag husband had grabbed my 13 year old breast? "Because you're wearing a bathing suit top, Miss Sexy-Suzie! What did you expect? Go change into some clothes and start acting like a lady!"

When I was stalked by an actual serial rapist (Milwaukie Journal 1973) several months later and almost forced into the guys' car, I'd learned my lesson. I knew way better than to even mention it to anyone. The police needed information and I had a complete description of the man and his vehicle. Come forward? Not a chance. Not a fucking chance in hell. Nobody would believe me and nobody would care. Screw that.***

Now the worst thing this woman did was not any of the above.
No, it was the lying.
Lying to me, lying about me. For no reason whatsoever. Lying about things that never happened.
Telling me that things I remembered had never happened.
That last one was the worst.

This was an alcoholic family situation, and so everything that went on between the members was secret anyway. Nobody acknowledged it, nobody talked about it, nobody thought anything was wrong and nobody from the outside ever saw a thing.
On top of all this, the lying that I'm talking about was a thing that went on daily. She lied when the truth would have sounded better. About anything. She interrupted me while I was talking to people to tell them that every word I was saying was a lie. Not that I was passing nuclear secrets to the Chinese; either, I mean during the course of a casual conversation, out of the blue she'd pop up with 'Oh, ha ha, now, honey... don't go telling little stories now, ha ha..." all weird The person would look down at me with contempt, and she'd smile at me.

Fucking smile at me.

Would you like a therapy issue? Here! Have a therapy issue!

I might happen to ask her an offhand, innocent question about an event that had occurred in the past- no matter how trivial, now- and it was pretty much a crapshoot whether she'd remember it and continue on with the conversation, or turn on you like a dog snarling 'What in the hellarya talkin' about? You just make up the biggest stories-! EVERY WORD out of your mouth is nuttin' but a stinkin' lie!'

One of her favorite weapons was food. Piss her off? She took a favorite item off the menu. Forever.
Really piss her off? She cooked garbage.
She cooked garbage a lot.
If any particular item of food could be fit into a pressure cooker or, better yet, boiled, then by God, that's what happened to it. You'd get the mess handed to you and then the screaming-literal screaming- would commence, about how it was a sin to waste food, and we never had nuttin and was glad to eat what was put in front of us, and we were lucky to get oatmeal, and nothing pleases you, and on and on and on. Yes, it was done on purpose. Not even the dog would eat the shit.

Did she shoplift? Oh my. This deserves a post of it's own. One of her favorite things to swipe was toilet paper. She was big on toilet paper out of public restrooms. I rode the #30 bus many times with a double-sized roll of asswipe from the ladies room at Meier and Franks under my coat. We had money- money wasn't even an issue. She just stole shit.
Hell, she even stole from me.

-Birthday presents, for starters. I'd see them once at the party, then a couple of years later I'd find them still in the wrappings in the top of a closet with one end torn open, as though she had slipped the gift out to see what it was and then put it back. Some of those things were re-gifted to other kids; I caught that happening a couple of times. Others are more than likely still there. A toy merry-go-round. A walking doll. Wind-up toys.

-Two inheritances. One from my grandfather, one from an eccentric lady in our neighborhood.

-My grandmothers' house. Held in trust for me.

No shit.

She hoarded, and I've already written about that. Mostly paper things, like pamphlets and books. Also food. We had food from-literally!-1962.

Alongside all this ran the constant bickering bullshit that went on between her and my father. People could hear it out in the street. I would ride my bike and be able to hear them from down the block. Lots of times I'd turn around and head back out until way after dark.

When she 'received the Lord into her heart' in 1974 it meant that she could no longer be a screaming harpy 24 hours of the day because that didn't look good. What happened to her then was like a form of satanic Tourettes...she'd be going along, all nice, and then suddenly out of nowhere say or do something just outrageously evil...and while you were standing there with your mouth hanging open, just keep right on going like nothing happened.

For example: I had an abortion when I was 19. My parents took me to the clinic. I look back on this now and I smell a set-up, but at the time I was desperate, and they were acting very human and supportive. So I (not in any position to look a gift horse in the mouth anyway) appreciated it. I was scared to death and completely ashamed.

My father left us alone in the car for a few moments to get some change for the meter. My mother suddenly turned around, smiled at me and said 'I just want you to know that I'm going to hell for this. Just so you know. Yep. I'm helping you commit murder. I just thought I'd tell you that. I just wanted you to know." She smiled again, I went in and had the abortion in a total state of numb shock, and she denied it ever happened for the rest of her life. Took me out for pizza afterward.

Oh, it gets better, though. She had the gall to recount the entire (edited) version of this story years later to my cousin Emily, with herself in the starring role as 'tolerant modern Catholic woman.' Imagine my joy upon hearing that secondhand. And from Emily, no less!

There's a perception about abusive families...that the primary abuser will be male. That women seldom sexually abuse...that when they do alcohol is a factor, and then it will be with a male relative. That most abusers are simply acting out learned behaviors. That women aren't 'as bad' as men.

None of that applied here. None of it. The first thing I ever saw or even heard of that sounded remotely like what had happened to me?
Sybll. Sybll's mother. Imagine my excitement.

And guess what else I had in common with Sybll? Her father knew, too.

Do I have anything good to say about my mom? I do, actually. I'm not going to say it here, because if one person in the comments mentions something like 'Oh, but you're SO lucky to at least have something positive to remember! ' I'll fucking lose my shit on them.
You see, when you survive something horrific, recalling those few moments when things didn't suck doesn't mean anything. It isn't even relevant. Its like saying 'Yeah, Ted Bundy was a killer and a necrophile and everything but the man did drive a very economical car!" There is no 'up' side to shit like that. The 'good things' don't make it better. You don't go' Damn, why didn't I think of that! That Bundy, boy, what a maniac... but he drove a Volkswagen! Wow! That sheds a WHOLE NEW LIGHT ON THINGS!"

She wouldn't stop. She never admitted to anything, she continued to refuse to talk about any of it, she refused to go to therapy with me, she refused to mend things. When she started writing letters addressed to my three-year-old daughter that said things like 'Why doesn't your mommy love me any more? We never did anything to her, just tried to love her the best we knew how...' I cut her off. 1987.

Not a moments' regret. It's been the best 20 years of my life.

I have a great life now. I've been through therapy, and it was successful beyond my wildest imaginings. Nothing in my life resembles my former world in any way, and I'm proud of that. Every now and then, though, this comes back, and reminds me that I have to say these things too.
Kind of a 'like me, like my dog' thing.

*I'd like to send out a big 'Die Slowly and Painfully' to Mrs. Mackie, my high school advisor. Another one goes out to Pastor Tomlin of the Adventist Church. Way to go! I hope someone who really needed it received the help they deserved!
And lets not forget to give a big ol' heapin helpin o' thanks to Dr. Lendon Smith, of 'childhood asthma is most often merely an attempt to get attention' fame, for providing my mother with a doctor-endorsed "reason" to deny me medical care.
I am also beholden to him for his assertion that 'frequent illness and allergies' were the sign of an 'overly sensitive or immature child' . I hope you died covered in seeping carcinomas, Smith. I really do.

**Not an out of control teenager, not an icky adolescent. A little kid with health problems.

I claimed that karma and I pay it back proudly. I was a helpless kid then, but now I can make a difference. When the chance comes to do that, I get involved.


  1. I am trying to process all of this and I want to hug you, tell you how much I admire you, kill that f*cking bitch, and say that you are an unbelievable writer.

    Having experienced sexual assault as a child, I can acknowledge how it literally rips your brain in half. You try with all of your might to understand and adjust the enormous, crushing, weight on those small shoulders.

    It is like being sucked into a black hole of shame, secrecy, guilt, and utter, nagging, incompref*ckinghensibility.

    You're just a kid.

    This revelation was a gift. It was a gift from an amazing woman who just reached out and grabbed my little 6 year old hand and walked me out of that dark room and into the sunlight.

    You are as brave as you are brilliant. The way that you handle such tragedy with controlled venom and stinging shards of reality was magnificent.

    OK I am a total mess now, please don't ever stop writing. The world doesn't necessarily deserve you, but there are millions of others who need to hear your voice.

    Now, let's run across the field and never stop.

  2. *cries, as another who knows, but then joins hands with FN and HE and takes off across that field with the two of you*

  3. Having also had a truely insane mother, I have to agree with you that pity or sympathy for the adulut in the situation who also had a crappy childhood STOPS at the point they choose to have a child. When they know what they're doing is wrong because their parent did it to them and yet they still do it. That's wrong.

    It's not easy to change yourself. It's scary how many habbits you gain and retain from your childhood. It's freaky how easy it is to DO EXACTLY the awful things if you do not consciously work at it. I know this because I had to get to that understanding when I had a child. I had to consciously remind myself to do everything opposite of what my parents had done to me.

    Thanks for being brave enough to say these things.

  4. Skip it?
    Absolutely not!
    I often find your posts a little long for my attention span, but this had me riveted. I'd forgotten, you've done stuff like this before. Always has my full attention.

    Homo escapeons says so much with which I agree and so eloquently.

    It's useful for us, who have been blessed with a loving caring child hood, to know how things can be in the worst scenario. My first knowledge of such things, was watching the film, 'The Color Purple'. The second was when I stupidly got involved in my ex wifes family. I made mistakes as a parent, but I'm proud to say my two girls were the only female cousins that weren't abused by their Grandfather. I never left them out of my sight when he was around. It wasn't just sexual, it was bullying.

    Consider yourself hugged from Grandpa Tickers.

  5. " brave as you are brilliant..." Pretty much says it, I think.
    Have a Dinah-hug.

  6. homoE: the litte kid won, too. you're here and you aren't giving in.

    mj: this is fucked up. i'm so sorry. lets all go have a beer instead, ok? maybe visit the garden center at Zellers?

    qiwi: welcome! sorry you came in on such a downer. i was fortunate in that i had a perfect example of exactly what NOT to do. it gets easier. it really does.

    tick: thank you. and good for you! you're a good dad. go kiss the new one for me!

    dinah: thank you. sorry it was so gross.

  7. thank you for not being her.
    i had a really wonderful childhood and I am glad you were able to do that for me, I really am.
    I love you mom.

  8. I can only imagine the emotions you felt as a child/yougn adult. It hearts me so, to read what has happened to, who I 'know' today to be one extraordinary woman.

    I have never experienced anything like that, but I know once, when I was 12 an uncle told me he wanted me to kiss him with my tongue. I ran screaming--disgusted. But I never told anyone.

    I don't know why I didn't tell.

    You are one courageous and outstanding woman, and I admire you.

  9. Anonymous8:15 PM

    Isn't it interesting to find Lendon Smith on a site called "Quackwatch"? Ordered, at one point, to confine his practice to pediatrics, presumably so he couldn't do as much damage? Wha?

    This is all just the tip of the iceburg, isn't it?

  10. Why do I find misery memoirists like Dave Pelzer so earnest and dull, while FN is funny and life-affirming and (above all) entirely lacking in self-pity even as she recounts the horror?

    Still, I suppose a book called Fuck Off Mom, You Rancid Whore, If I Had My Way You'd Spend Eternity Sucking Larry Craig's Soiled Butt-Plugs In Darfur might not leap off the shelves.

  11. My mother was an asshole and an abuser. Not as bad as yours but not good. I've tried to embrace that 'she did the best she could' thing because it was better for me to give her a hall pass than to be angry but really? Didn't work. I guess the real pay back is that she died a few years ago and I don't miss her - at all. It feels a little weird but it is what it is.

  12. Fucking hell!

    Please, let me be the one that buys the beers...infact beers and shots all round!!!

    I've read Sybill....several times...and to be perfectly honest, there's a mean and nasty part of me that would love to send some 'Scot's lads and their motorbikes' to your 'mothers' door....and they wouldn't be bearing gifts!!!!!

    Bloody hell woman, you can write so passionately about something so fucked up, without doing the self-pity thing (not that you wouldn't have had EVERY SINGLE GODDAMNED RIGHT TO IT), that all I can do is offer my respect and admiration to the woman you have turned out to be!!!!!

    Thankyou so much for writing I gotta go call a friend and send them your way...they HAVE to read this post!

    Please, never stop writing, whether it's about this topic or recipes, as either way you have a reader for life.

    I wish you the best possible weekend for you and your biker and daughter! Take care.

  13. My mom was great, she had an unhappy childhood with her real mum dying and having a bitch of a step mother.

    I wonder if thats why she strived to make me & my sisters lives so much better.

    Thinking of you. F x

  14. Fucking shit. I don't know what else to say. Everyone else here has been eloquent. All I want to do is tell you how awesome you are and go back in time and hug little FN and take her to safety and do something awful to your mother that I don't even want to really think about.

    So much of your childhood reminds me of my mother's. I find it amazing and revelatory that two of the most awesome women I know had such fucked-up childhoods. You two are the cream of the crop. I know how SSA feels, because my mother could have carried on the cycle, just like hers, but chose to be a better person. I'm proud to know you even just a little bit, FN.

    They say living well is the best revenge (even if you'd rather have a more primitive kind). I wish you the best life for ever after, amen.

  15. the best part of this whole post is SSA's comment.

    like you, my mom came from an abusive home (though i don't think quite that bad, but there was alcohol and psychological torture and physical and sexual abuse galore), and like you, was able to break the cycle. like SSA I had a wonderful childhood. mom told me when i was an adult that whenever she didn't know what to do when i was a child she just imagined what her mother would have done... and then did the exact opposite.

    breaking the cycle is so difficult, and only the strongest and bravest succeed. congratulations on surviving such misery and horror and coming out a wonderful, caring, compassionate, brilliant, passionate, fabulous woman at the end. you are a model for us all.

  16. I imagine that in years to come your daughter's ode to her mum will be very different for which you should be immensely proud. breaking the cycle of abuse is difficult in all circumstances but when it starts as a childhood abuse it is almost unthinkable.

    My heart breaks for the Sybills and Pauls of the world who aren't being heard and I thank you for reminding me because some things need to be remembered.


  17. Did you ever confront the evil bitch and ask her why she treated you like she did? Oh, she will deny it, but you just say, come on now, "mom," its just you and me here and I want to know why you did what you did to me? She will continue to deny, but you just continue to ask, maybe describing along the way some of the more despicable things she did. Don't let her off the hook. She probably will never admit it, but at the end, just tell her she WILL pay, maybe not in this life but in another one. And, I guarantee you that after that when you think back on these things that happened to you, they won't hurt as much as they did before. I had a psychotic foster mother for a couple of years (nothing NEARLY as bad as you went thru) but she affected me so badly that as a young adult, I would have recurring nightmares about her all the time. I finally decided I was going to call her up and ask her just what was going on in her head that she would do what she did to a little 5-6 year old girl. I actually found her phone number and when I called her, her husband said she had died several years before. Well, apparently that is all it took was my intention to confront her because since that day about 40 years ago, I have never, ever had another nightmare about her.

  18. hI,

    I was sent here by another blogger. For a while I had part of my life up on a blog, we have similar lives. Sometimes when reading I could not tell between your childhood and mine. Your father knew mine participated with her along with my brother, uncles and cousins.

    I want to say that I am happy that finally your life is in a place where you can smile and know it is over. Your words still feel angry but then so do mine. We can forgive, but forgetting is truly another story.

    I do not understand how those we love can tear us inside and out and have no feelings except joy about it. They were suppose to love us, be there for us, and protect us. Instead, they ruined our childhoods and had we not taken control as we grew into adults, they would have won... so kudos to you and all who have taken back their lives from the evil that infested in those who we are suppose to call our loved ones.

    They are many of us out there. you are not alone.

  19. Good God! This human is still alive? I hope that she is rotting somewhere miserable to the bone!! I am so sorry. I wish I could give you a hug, I really do.

  20. ssa: i love you too. and all you'uns. you are groovy in a happenin way! XXXOOO!

    awaiting:XOO. shit happens. whaddya gonna do.

    kristy: OMG what a trip! gold star for the day, kristy! what a validation! thank you!

    tim: depends where you shop.

    21st cent: that's a gift. i didn't feel much either. thank god.

    pumpkin: thank you! she wasn't as bad as syblls mom, but that was the first thing i'd ever read with a mom who sexually abused a daughter. ew. ewewewew.

    frobi: XOO thank you my darling. you are lucky and loved. kisses to your mom, too.

    danator: i have and i do. or do and have. i like things pretty well, now, anyway! XOO

    cb: oh geeze, sweetheart, i had no idea. my love goes out to your mom. she raised a great daughter.

    amy: i promise it isn't always like this around here. just sometimes.

    sunspot baby: that is awesome! her reason for anything was 'we did the best we knew how'. which was horseshit, but there ya go. she's dead, and died of cancer. it hurt. it's done.

    Inside/outside: I'm at a great place now. I still feel anger because, well, i guess it's something that should piss a person off, i guess. thank you for the support. the shit does improve!

    gale: no, she died of cancer about 7 years ago. and honestly i hope her afterlife is a lot better than the life she had here. i mean, yeah, she was evil, but that shit didn't come out of nowhere, either.

  21. But shes yer mother........ sorry only kidding but I'm sure some cunt has said that.

    Sure its bad someone getting abused and growing up to be an abuser but as soon as they choose to be an abuser as an adult they aren't worthy of sympathy.

  22. Recently I saw the shithead at a family gathering and was able to have a laugh at how badly he's aging and how his ears have somehow gotten bigger and are sticking way out from his head. Another family member pointed out the huge ears as well thus making me feel even better. I take my laffs where I can get them.

  23. Anonymous8:31 AM

    You said it...this is your story. And you've written your own pages not blindly copied someone else's mistakes.

    Facing your demons takes guts and they never truly leave us. But maybe sometimes we need to be reminded of them just so we can remember that we aren't in their clutches any more.

  24. well I dont know what to say....sounds absolutly horific.So rather than make a trite dumbass comment am gonna say nothing. I am glad you came thru it tho , other wise I would never have read the geriatric toilet horror :-)

  25. why do they always steal toilet paper?

    You are completely amazing I wish I were as brave as you.

  26. Anonymous9:40 AM

    There is almost nothing one can say to this other than to applaud the tremendous strength you must have to have not only survived but to have been a mother, and a real one, to another human being. I hope you have made up in love with yours for every act of hate and evil from her.
    I think you've probably helped alot of people with your post, if nothing else than to come to the conclusion that it's okay to be pissed and not excuse everything that was done to them.
    Hugs to you and yours.

  27. Anonymous1:42 PM

    FN – Absolutely, you should scream it – YOU broke the cycle. My heart pains at the facts so bravely spelled out. I want to have stopped the horror before you knew it.

    My father would not continue the abuse he and his siblings experienced at the hands of an alcoholic father. My childhood privileged with daily kindness, safety and love. Was it his unuttered horror that caused the cancer that killed him at 58? Yet he laughed and smiled much.

    Your story alerts us. We should all be informed enough and concerned enough to save even one of today’s or tomorrow’s children from a similar fate.

    Your voice is singular. Long may you reign and write.

    Love from Ireland by way of So Cal.

  28. Anonymous9:32 PM

    For a while now I've been reading through your posts when I felt lonesome or pissed off, when I wondered why I persist doing what I do. Or why you do. When I needed to feel I was in good company. You never miss a fucking beat far as I'm concerned. bless ya.

    I've had some craziness too.