And Then The Weekend Happened

AGAIN!

What the fuck is wrong with these people!?!!

I’m not kidding. It would be amusing if it weren’t so fucking disturbing! I’m not kidding! THEY FRIGHTEN ME.

What kind of sick people are so married to punishing a woman that they elect to spend their honeymooning time sleeping under the same roof with his ex-girlfriend?

And the boy! He literally hid from me when they were outside wasted. We startled each other in passing, and a sweet, traumatized 10-year old jumped and hid from the scary woman mommy hates! I went in my room and started bawling. What do I do?

I can’t do this. I might be able to forget him over time, but … Come on, who am I kidding? I’m complicit in the trauma of a young person and I’m sick about it.

Jax and Carrie got drunk and trashed the kitchen. I will never believe that spaghetti was unintentional. Biggest impact for mess. They used my dishes, which I had to clean to make breakfast the next morning. I woke an angry, hungover Jax, who growled a demand to stop slamming the fucking cupboards, waking the boy who’d slept on a couch mere feet outside the scary woman’s door.

“One of my cupboards closes hard. You know that.” I answered calmly. “I’m not trying to bother you.” The boy ran through the kitchen into the bedroom with mom.

When I got home from rehearsal, I resumed packing and realized the last box I’d stacked the night before was gone. I’d wondered what they were doing in the wee hours snickering outside my bedroom. I almost opened the door to find out, but I didn’t want a confrontation. I know what they’re capable of sober!

And all the while, the boy was asleep on the couch. I don’t want to scare him anymore!

They’d gone away soon enough, laughing and howling outside in a wild thunderstorm. I honestly think I know the moment they lifted that stupid box.

I’m organized. (Plus, I know what I’m up against.) I have every box numbered according to room, and I know exactly what’s in each. Furthermore, I know where each box is in the house. I have to know. In addition, most everything is in bankers boxes, for neat stacking. (Except for these people, this has been my best move EVER.) (Like, I love it.) (I call this high Organasm, and my friends tell me to give my company that name and make money getting unnatural thrills off of organizing people’s chaotic spaces.)

I had placed a light box on the tippy-top of a pile that reaches over my head, behind a chair that divides the shared living space into 2 separate areas, which has also served to neatly divide us. Almost.

They took it. I heard them taking it. They deny it. I called the cops just to document it, but I had been lulled into a false sense of security with their absence during the work week and thrown off by their party, and failed to take pictures before I left for rehearsal. I don’t suppose it would have mattered then. They took it Friday night. Congratulations, you got me. Without evidence of it being there before they left, and gone afterwards, I had no proof that they’re now actually breaking the law.

The “fun” had begun elsewhere within walking distance. They left sober, I assumed for dinner. The neighbor girlfriend’s? The fair? Whatever. The car was still in the driveway, but they were out. Great.

But when they got home near midnight – tanked, 10 yr-old in tow – and started making dinner, I realized they’d just been out partying. For the next several hours, they left me the de facto babysitter of a sleeping child. I have no obligation to this boy, but obviously if he’d been injured in any way, they were too blotto to even be aware of him, let alone able to care for him.

But I’m so irrational, they have to be on property to “protect” it.

Under any other circumstance, box theft might be a harmless prank, but nothing about these people is harmless. THEY MEAN ME HARM, and they mean for me to know it.

God, I want out.

Jax was making merry the next morning about their exploits of the night before. “Did we eat spaghetti last night?!” har har.

“Oh, yes! Darling! Don’t you remember?” haha! *hair toss

Later in the day, I went to feed his cat and noticed something. There was spaghetti sauce all over the bed. They might deny they took that box and threw it outside somewhere in the rain. They don’t fucking remember! That’s how drunk they get in the company of an innocent child that deserves at least one coherent guardian.

Well, he had me. Poor kid.

Just 2 more weeks.

Also, I’m hoping against hope to catch Jax in another bluff. He tried to blame me for having to cancel his trip to Europe. God, I hope he got on that plane today.

I hope that boy is safe, loved, and happy after this unnecessary, protracted battle ends. I know he loves baseball. He told me all about the Dodgers. I’ve seen Jax toss ball with him. He has a cat named Sparkles, 10 years old, like he is. I know his mother wants him to have music lessons, because I almost loaned him my piano. I just send my love and energy to a good, calm, joyful family for him.

I don’t know this boy. After 2 weeks, I won’t think of him much. But I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when faced unexpectedly with a woman who frightens him that he was alone with, and hid from.

I know, too, that he’s seen more pain and trauma in his young life than any adult should have to bear, much less an earnest, smart, curious child. I hope I’m part of the last of such sorrow for him. My heart hurts.

I was 10 when my mom got remarried, too. I’d never known a father before then, and that period of my life is burned on my brain. I’d just been molested, and my new step-father moved us to a new neighborhood and stopped all that. (I realize now that I stopped it, for my sister, too. I told. Still, they echo, “Shut up, Christie. Shut up.”) And, unfortunately, abuse that had been set in motion long before my shiny new stepdad entered the scene never ended, but I remember that time and age like it was yesterday.

I’m so sorry to be mixed up in this. Wrong is wrong. Wrong is worse when it hurts a kid.

And, no, I won’t shut up about it. I’m fed up with this. I’m saying so. I will always so.

THIS IS WRONG.

*deeeep breath*

Two weeks. Hang on, Christie. Breathe, pack, rehearse. Two weeks.

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Murky Full Moon

I still feel spun near the center of a Universal smack-down, but I’m ebbing out of the survival zone. Last month’s eclipse is still with me and hurting, specifically because my ability to have fun with it made it all the more bittersweet. Sometimes it makes me sad to see how good I am at making the best of a bad situation. I don’t know how to explain that, except to say that the little girl growing up beaten, abandoned, furious, and scared to death just figured out how. And this middle-aged gal still has it. How can that be sad?

It’s bittersweet, too, because though I was able to make a joyous occasion of it, I could simply have gone home and enjoyed my family, the spectacular countryside, and the magic. I chose instead to scrape out another miracle of mood-alteration. I guess I needed to believe I still could. Nice it didn’t take drugs, like the old party girl would.

I hope in the second half of my life, I’ll finally let go the need to prove myself to myself. It’s like the first half was so hard, especially the nascent beginning, that I simply refuse to believe that anything is real or solid or sticking around if it doesn’t just suck.

Thing is, that’s childish, and I’m the only one who can grow up, or refuse to. I’m in danger of not doing it at all if I don’t get this shit behind me, like, yesterday. I’m 44.

Christie, trust that the skills are in there to enjoy and appreciate magic and beauty every day. They don’t disappear or stop coming if you know that. Expecting miracles is different from taking them for granted. They’re your right and your routine.

I suspect that they’ll become more powerful if I let them in every day, rather than needing each one to be epic. It’s just the way it is. I’m connected and I know it. So are we all. Nothing special, just a walking marvel, ‘s all.

So, here I am in full moon energy during the day, a red-gray sun snuffed by wildfires severe enough to cause evacuations in northern Utah. It’s bad. The throat and eyes sting, mountain beauty’s blotted out, and the whole damned planet is burning or flooding or turning night at midday, just 2-odd weeks ago. It’s eerie and spooky, and everyday run-of-the-mill. It all is, and I’m busy cleaning up the mess I’ve made, of my life, my family, my namesake, my most important friendship, and my last relationship.

****

Today, this memory popped up on Facebook. It seemed especially poignant and timely, so I’m marking it here to make myself accountable. Of the memory, I wrote:

“Two years ago, the last of my 3 best girlfriends left Salt Lake City. At that time, I began planning my move, too, to the next phase/location of my adventure, but found continued wonderful reasons to stay, as one does. The last month+ has got me asking the Universe, sincerely, “Is Utah kicking me out?” I’m anchored through November with a passion project 24 years in the making, which would make any big transitions impossible until the end of whatever lease I’m able to come up with next month, which tells me: ONE YEAR. My life purpose for one year is to look at 20 years in the Promised Land and squeeze in all the personal goals I meant to reach but didn’t, face character deficits I ignored or pretended away, and set myself up for the second half of my life. I don’t want to leave next year, but I’ll have a picture of and real progress toward a clear 5-yr intention, with no particular destination in mind. What’s next? It’s terrifying, exciting, bittersweet. It’s time.”

jojo's good-bye

Jojo’s good-bye… Germany, here she comes! Aug. 29, 2015

 

Fun With Numbers

Today, my odometer passed 144,444 when the trip meter read 22.22.

Last week, I saw license plates with double ones, twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, and sevens. “Alright, angels,” I issued the challenge. “If you show me eights and nines, I’ll be impressed.” I found eights, nines, and zeros! (I watch the road, too.)

On Sunday, I saw a plate that said Y73 9LV, which I took to mean 1973 9 lives. I saw a reminder to hang on. I don’t really want to anymore, but that’s what I read. Maybe it meant, “You’re almost done.” I like that better.

I’ve been crying since Friday. I finally told my father what my sister’s husband did to me 5 1/2 years ago. Naturally, I thought he’d be disappointed in his son-in-law and feel for me, but he dismissed the whole thing as my “perspective,” which clearly deserves no credence or compassion. I told him to ask my brother, who overheard it (and didn’t even come out of the room). (There was time.) I told him to ask my sister, who held her husband off of me, though she still denies it came to that.

My dad told me that if someone crossed the line in his house, he’d make sure they left, too. “You’d tell them to leave,” I said. “You’d be firm. You might even be angry, but you wouldn’t scream and curse at them. If they refused to leave or became combative, you’d remain calm and involve the police. They’d understand you were serious about protecting your home.”

“That’s what I would do,” he agreed.

“You would never physically threaten, menace, and terrorize a woman, run at her from upstairs, with your chest puffed out, purple-faced, fists clenched, veins popping, in your holy garments!”

“No,” he conceded, “I wouldn’t.”

He wouldn’t, but he clearly doesn’t believe me that Dan did. That’s not the most hurtful thing right now. Dad’s unconscious bias favors Dan’s account, that I was out of line in some way. I wasn’t. I was talking to my sister. Talking. Is my dad sexist or is it just me he hates? It could be both. Like wicked Biblical Esau (also a redhead), I sold my birthright when I left the Church. I might have walked into the angel/whore dichotomy years ago that every wicked woman confronts. Did I disqualify myself from consideration – ever? – when my father could no longer hope that “Christie would come around”?

It’s true that Melanie and I were having a disagreement, but our voices never raised. I believe we would quickly have come to understand each other, if her husband hadn’t attacked me. I’m certain that my nieces, who witnessed the whole thing, didn’t notice the conversation between their mom and their favorite auntie at all. they were chattering and giggling in their sleeping bags. It wasn’t extraordinary.

He crossed the line! Even if Mel and I had been fighting, nothing can justify what Dan did. It was disgusting. It was violence intended to make me very aware of my vulnerability. I was meant to be terrified. And he didn’t tell me to leave the house. He just screamed, “Shut up, you bitch!” over and over and over. (I left.)

I told my dad that all these years I’ve dreamed that if he knew, he’d tell my sister’s husband he didn’t appreciate how he treated his daughter.

He defended him.

“Maybe you don’t consider me your daughter anymore.” He didn’t say otherwise. I really thought he’d find Dan’s behavior inappropriate. I would, even if I hated the person he did it to. It was wrong.

I don’t think I appreciated what that daddy rescue fantasy meant to me. It was ridiculous. My mother beat me for 19 years. He was there for 9 of them, and did nothing. When I finally punched her back… Well, she had me on the ground again, kicking the shit out of me. I finally stood up. Dad’s the one who kicked me out, and that was that. No one’s ever apologized.

(Incidentally, she had ripped my pajama top off. My father saw my naked breasts. In fact, he kicked me out while I standing there topless, still catching my breath.)

What should I have expected from the man who, when I confessed on my 17th birthday  that I wanted to kill myself, explained paternal responsibility to me?

My father said that when he married my mother, he had made a commitment to God that he would protect and provide for our family.

“I’m the head of this family,” he explained. My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it. I thought he was about to say, “And without you, we wouldn’t be this family.” I thought he was going to tell me I mattered.

Here it was! He was going to tell me he loved me. I was special to him. To someone.

“Until you’re 18,” he continued. “I’m responsible for what happens to you.”

“Kill yourself next year,” is what I heard.

He was afraid of getting in trouble with God! He didn’t care about me at all. He should have wrapped me in his arms. He should have cared that I was in pain.

He thought of himself. I was nothing to him. I’m nothing.

Not one person in my family has apologized for what Dan did to me. Not to take responsibility; Only he can do that and he’s not sorry. But I want someone to see me in here, to see that I’m hurting, that 5 1/2 years later this hasn’t gone away for me. Not one person has hugged me, held me while I cried, or told me they were sorry to see me in pain. Not one person has said, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” No one cares.

I should have protected the dream, I think, and never asked them to.

I was stunned to learn how truly unloved I am. I really didn’t understand how complete their disregard was. As far they’re concerned, I don’t deserve their concern. I’ve chosen a life of sin; I don’t matter. They absolutely do not care.

My heart is breaking.

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt loved. I don’t know that I could at this point.

I didn’t expect to be so upset. I just didn’t get it. I was living in a fantasy world. Well, yeah. The angels speak to me through numbers, but I believed this one. I needed it.

I don’t think they’re awful. I know they mean well. That’s different from saying they did their best. They didn’t, but it’s still true that they’re decent folk. They mean to do good, but they’re profoundly misguided. They’re sick. I mean, I’m sick. There’s a reason.

It’s best to divorce them for good. I’ve tried everything. I can’t keep doing this to myself. They literally make me sick. I need to recover at last and let these wounds become well-healed scars. I know that others have survived worse things. Some have gone on to live fulfilling, joyful lives, so certainly I can at least get by without this searing pain.

I have 9 lives. I have to be close to the end of those. Surely, I’ve saved the best for last.
chosen family

Oh God, this just keeps getting worse. I just asked my brother Aaron why he never stepped up for me, and he said I’ve rewritten history. He said he doesn’t remember Dan ever saying, “Fuck you, you bitch.” Neither do I. I’ve never said that.

Aaron just told me basically what my dad believes. So they’ve talked about this before. HE’S REWRITTEN HISTORY, TO DEFEND DAN! He told me he doesn’t remember any cursing or profanity, and that Dan never raised his voice!

He did! He screamed, “Shut up, you bitch!” over and over and over. I know, because I was screaming back the whole time, “All I’ve ever said to you is thank you! Thank you for being a good provider! Thank you for being a good father,” which is easier than the truth, that my nieces know their daddy loves them, so long as they don’t deviate from his very narrow command on what they must be and act like. Over and over and over and over, until my sister screamed his name and I ran upstairs. (Melanie almost never yells, and she was pushing her whole body weight into her husband to counter-balance the rage of his violent lunge at me.)

A couple of times he said, “Don’t you ever stop talking!?” Hahahahahaa! and “You ARE a bitch!”  (That’s my favorite. He actually thinks I didn’t know his opinion of me. God, he’s stupid. All strong women are called bitch.)

“Shut up, you BITCH!” (I was playing nice for 20 years! I coulda made him miserable! “You call me bitch? Watch out! You’ve never met my bitch!”)

I didn’t say that. I just said thank you. Over and over and over until Mel yelled his name and I ran upstairs. IT HAPPENED.

I can’t believe this. I can hardly breathe. I was counting on Aaron. At this point, I don’t think he’s lying, but he is wrong. He was my only witness. I thought he’d step up for me, but he forgot the truth and sold himself and the whole damn klan a lie. He lied! To protect him! I’m losing it! They care so little they’ve rewritten a history that completely and utterly vilifies me. It nullifies me! It erases me.

Aaron, the one ally I thought I had left, has rewritten a history that protects that man.

That’s it. That’s all I can handle. That’s it. I’ve found it. I cannot handle any more than this. It happened. I’ll tell you what it is: It happened to me. That’s why it doesn’t matter.

And I’ll tell you who remembers: Dan. He knows what he did.

I’m not kidding, I can hardly breathe. Aaron was the one person I thought had my back. He was the one person I trusted. And he’s been telling them the whole time it never happened! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.

I’m such an ass. Of course they’ve discussed this before. That’s what they do. They get together and judge me. Then they find ways to make it all my fault, so they never have to take responsibility for the things they do to me. Then they tell themselves they’re good people, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Oh my god, I’m so stupid. I don’t want to wait another 5-10 years for my cats to die. I want to kill myself today. Oh my god.

(Aaron took me to the bus station the next morning. “I don’t want to put words in your mouth,” I said to him, “but I wouldn’t mind if you told Dan you didn’t appreciate how he treated your sister.”

He said nothing. Now I know why. It happened to me, so it didn’t matter. And now he’s rewritten history. Worse, he’s forgotten. Dan first screamed, “Shut up, you bitch,” from the top of the stairs. He was right next to the room Aaron occupied with his brand new bride. What followed is not just my perspective. It happened. My brother heard it. Dan yelled again and again, “Shut up, you bitch!” until I ran upstairs and hid, crying, not sleeping until I could get online in the morning and find a bus. It happened. And, like them, Aaron doesn’t care. It happened to me, so he said nothing. He did nothing. He lies like all of them. And he believes it. They all do! I don’t matter. Period.)

I’d love to know what Ali thinks. I’m afraid to assume – now that I have a picture of how the incident has shifted, at least in Aaron’s view, and what he’s shared with our father – that she, too, has forgotten the seething, violent rage, the hatred of women-who-don’t-obey-men that Dan betrayed that night.

I can’t imagine it, though! She’s such a strong, self-assured girl. I just can’t fathom it. However, I also can’t imagine Aaron and Ali not discussing it thoroughly. They’re such a strong couple, with strong opinions, each, and respect and love for one another. I have to believe that she shares his memory of the event?

I’ll tell you, the only eye-witnesses other than my sister were my nieces.

My sister denied the whole incident completely, days after it happened, only to admit it when faced with evidence. Then she excused him, because I “didn’t act afraid.” (I was perfectly groomed after a life of violence to never show fear, duh. I’d die before giving him that. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t terrified. I was. It doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, simply because he failed to frighten me, or seemed to.)

My nieces were very young, but I can’t imagine they don’t remember the night Daddy’s thinly-veiled hatred for Aunt Christie finally boiled over into dangerous, violent rage. The night Mom yelled at Dad for the first time ever, probably the last. Melanie’s gentle, but she was scared, too. I can’t imagine the Christmas that Daddy called Fun Aunt Christie a bitch, over and over and over, at top volume, isn’t seared on their brains.

They don’t have challenging personalities and they’re all decidedly, devotedly Mormon. And they love him. He’s Daddy, their hero, as well he should be. I want that for them. That’s why I thanked him that night. I’d been thanking him, aloud, for years.

It’s true I’ve never liked him, or what he’s done to my family. He’s a shameless racist, homophobe, misogynist bigot. We didn’t spend every meal denigrating Others and explaining and rehearsing our hatred of difference until Dan joined our family. I’m endlessly disappointed my dad didn’t notice the shift in conversation, but instead joined and emboldened it.

Years ago, I consciously chose to focus on the positive. My sister was happy. Dan had succeeded in ways my biological father hadn’t. And he had a talent with animals, which says a lot about a person. So I started pointing out his strengths and successes. I even gave him a church magazine I found about Daddy/Daughter dates as the oldest, Rachael, was entering her teens. He didn’t know what to do with kindness from me, so after a brief experiment to reach out, I decided to live side-by-side in the same family, with no personal involvement together. I would always speak up against prejudice. It was never a secret where I stood or when I disagreed. It’s wrong not to speak out against wrong. And my nieces needed to understand that they were never alone, no matter who they were or would become.

There’s the slimmest chance Rachael would remember accurately. She’s the oldest, and she’s an artist. She’s had the most challenging relationship with her father, but that’s still cohesive compared to anything I’ve ever known of relationships.

Finally, I could never ask one of those horrified innocents to recall or report on what they witnessed. But having lost my one ally, I’m sorta dying here. My mind clamors for anyone else that was there, anyone to remember me. Anyone to see. Anyone to care.

They don’t. It happened to me. Disobedient women deserve it.

I’m a bitch. I had it coming.

Confronting My Molester

I don’t know if it was necessary. I don’t know if it did anything for me.

I’m still overwhelmed by the coincidence that brought me to the moment I felt it was time to accuse him. I felt like… well, hell, I’ve always nominated myself the one to speak for any disenfranchised “us” I’ve decided I belong to.

I started dating a guy a month ago who immediately read my blog. He got to the part where I mentioned having been molested by the neighbor, and knew him by name! I got sick. I haven’t said that name in 30 years. “How do you know?!” I learned that I had not been a fluke, as I believed. I thought that I just happened to get caught up in it because, as the best friend of the sister he was sexually abusing, I was in the home.

No. He targeted the entire neighborhood. In fact, he raped some of the young girls, including the ex-wife of this guy. She had been a childhood playmate of mine.

I was outraged. The first thing I did was call my sister and make sure she had not been victimized, as well. No, thank God, but not for lack of trying.

Then I wondered, why have I never sought him out? Everyone’s on Facebook. Sure enough, there he was, with his schmuck smiling face, boasting of his son’s military service. I typed a rapid-fire message and sent it before I could chicken out. Normally, I try to withhold words at a time of intense emotion, but he deserves no such sparing and I deserve to accuse my attacker. Panicked at the moment I hit “Enter,” I scrolled back to read what I could not suck back from the ether… to learn that he had contacted me 4 years earlier in a breezy message that went to a junk inbox I never noticed. He was casually wondering if I could put him in touch with my brother, as though nothing ever happened! I FLIPPED and wrote again, then blocked him.

I don’t feel any different. Was it necessary? It feels so strange to come from the trauma with Christine in Spain, wrestling with why I didn’t leave sooner and grieving because I know the answer: I was perfectly groomed not to. I went into a place of survival, where the little girl in precisely that circumstance couldn’t leave. I feel as though I’m recovering from my childhood all over again.

And now here’s my molester. I can’t face it all at once! How do other people process their foundational injuries and move on, meaningfully and successfully? I try so hard. I mean to rise above it every goddamn day. I just keep falling back into it, as though it’s happening now. If others are visited from time to time by the shaky beginning that formed them, it’s the exception in functional, happy lives. For me, it’s the exception to be well. It never lasts.

I’m so tired. I’m so confused. I want so desperately to believe that this confluence of early-life traumas is a poetic, timely event designed to help me at last to put my past to bed. I’m sad to know that it’s really all just random. It happened. It’s done.

And then Sunday came. I’m reeling anew.

Since Jeffrey’s death in 2011 I’ve been wrestling with shame and guilt for verbally abusing him during the lowest days of the heroin addiction that killed him. We were roommates. It was awful. I’ve made peace with the fact that I was fully triggered, and even a healthy person might lose it. Not at the level I did.

Words are weapons, and he got my worst. I abused his parents, too. They came into my home, in what felt very much like an ambush, to accuse me of stealing from Jeff through the utilities. (How do you figure? Half is half.) It’s amazing how addicts can convince themselves of anything to get the money they need for a fix. It was more amazing, and beyond insulting, that his parents believed him and challenged me to prove my innocence, which I refused to do (though I kept meticulous records and made copies for Jeffrey that I explained, and he agreed to, EVERY MONTH). Basically, I told them to go to hell. Actually, I told them they were enabling him to death.

And then he died.

Sunday, his brother and I were headed to the drum circle when his folks pulled up to deliver fresh garden veggies. I haven’t seen them since that day 4 years ago. They couldn’t see me in the car, but I was moved to act and terrified to do so. I had to apologize. I knew through the grapevine that his mother had forgiven me. I’m not surprised. Jeffrey was the most forgiving person I’ve ever known; it came from someplace. But I needed to ask for it, and simply to tell her how very sorry I am for contributing to his suffering and theirs. So I did.

She hugged me. I … feel terrible.

Why EVERYTHING? Why all at once? I suppose I will put this behind me. Even if we don’t consciously put the past behind us, that’s where it goes. But I feel like I’m drowning in regret and failure, while yet knowing I’m doing better than I ever have before. Why don’t I feel good about it?

I’ve had a headache for weeks. I’m exhausted, though neither sleep-deprived nor sleeping too much. I can’t sit with a book. My food addiction is out of control. My eyelashes are getting more and more sparse. (How can it be psychological when they hurt?) I’m irritable and weepy. I’m not coping well.

Thank god for drumming. It’s my happy place right now. Thank you, angels.

***

TO THE SEXUAL PREDATOR OF MY YOUTH:

July 14, 2014

“I just found out I’m not the only girl in the neighborhood you molested. You made the rounds victimizing everyone! You are a sick, violent pervert who traumatized precious young girls. You fundamentally changed us. You robbed us of our innocence. You raped us. All my life, I thought it was a fluke, that you got out of control with your sister and I just happened to be injured because she was my best friend and I was in your house. But you sought us out. You went out of your way to pursue us, to degrade and mock us, and force us to gratify your twisted sexual appetites. In truth, you know as well as I do that the rage it took to perpetrate your crimes was born of your own impotence and weakness. You’re a disgusting loser who has to act out on children in order to feel empowered. That hasn’t changed. Til you die, you’ll be a child molester and rapist. I don’t know how you live with yourself, and I don’t care. I’ve long-since been rid of you, but I found out just hours ago that I wasn’t the only one. You can never make up for what you did to us. You can never restore what you took. I finally decided to reach out and identify you to your face. I see you. I know who you are. You’re a fraud and a liar. You’re a rapist and pedophile. When you take the Sacrament, you are spitting in the face of God, who made me and all of your victims. Shame on you.”

and then…

“oh my god! are you insane? i just saw that you contacted me years ago asking after my brother, as though nothing ever happened! how are you not HUMILIATED? how do you look in the mirror? how do you not kill yourself? i couldn’t live with the burden of being the monster you are. you’re sick. don’t contact me again. I have the right to speak. you do not.”

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

I’m working through it, presently.

Sergei Bongart

Portrait of a Young Girl174_01
“Signed lower right. Note: Authentication by the artist’s wife lower right: Sergei Bongart 1989. [In fact, it was 1984.] Certified by P. LeG. Bongart. Provenance: Estate, San Pedro; by descent in the family to the present owner. Condition: Visual: Generally good condition. Scattered spots of minor crazing. No evidence of restoration under blacklight.”

I modeled privately for Sergei and Patricia LeGrande Bongart for several weeks in Summer 1984. I must have whined enough that they let me take off the beautiful blue Russian shawl I wore in the Spring session at his school in Rexburg. They wanted me in the same wool dress mom made (that I had worn for warmth in the cold Idaho Spring) and it was SOOO hot! My mom, brother, and sister got to go swimming!

I had no idea my brush with greatness. WOW! I’ve been looking for this for years!!!

“Portrait of a Young Girl” sold through John Moran Fine Art & Antiques Auctioneers on June 18, 2013 for $459.38… Wonder who has me now! (On the back is the original price, handwritten… $5000!)

http://www.sergeibongart.com
Sergei Bongart, Notes on Painting: http://www.nasonart.com/writing/bongartlessons.html

“[Sergei] purchased a log cabin, with acreage, near Rexburg, Idaho, and quickly added buildings for a second school. His heart took a big leap when he visited this part of Idaho and found it was the same latitude as his home in Russia [Ukraine]. There were magpies in the trees, lush lilac bushes and the same animal life. At last he felt at home! Many of his paintings came from this rustic setting.” – Patricia LeGrande Bongart

Patricia told me in an email (in 2006 or 2007) that my one of my portraits hangs in the Santa Monica gallery, but when I emailed her again letting her know I was visiting (in 2009) I didn’t hear back. I found the gallery, but didn’t get an answer. She also said one of the portraits from this sitting was featured in an art magazine in New York.

I am utterly honored, humbled, and amazed.sergei bongart gallery

aunt mary's wedding
Mom made my flower girl dress for Aunt Mary’s wedding in 1980. Four years later I wore it over jeans to keep warm (with a blue Russian shawl from Mr. Bongart).

Red Bows

I danced that year with girls a grade higher than me in school. All year we prepared for the big recital in May. My favorite number was the tap dance. We were sailors, in little blue pleated skirts and matching vests, which our mothers made, worn over a white, sequined leotard. It was topped off with a sailor cap, but the best part was the big red bows on my shiny black tap shoes.

I loved those big red bows!

The big night finally arrived. I was smack dab in the center of the front row. And mom forgot my big red bows.

I was so upset!

“If you wear your biggest smile, no one will see your feet,” she promised.

I was so mad!

Of course they’d see my feet! It was TAP! Did she think I was stupid? What difference did a smile make to my shoes? I was going to be a fool, and it was all her fault!

“Just smile,” she instructed me again, “and no one will notice.”

I would never forgive her, I vowed, as Teacher readied us offstage. I walked into those bright lights near tears and shaking.

The strangest thing happened. I heard my mother’s voice and I smiled, cautiously at first. The music began, and I smiled more. I loved that dance! I loved everything about it. I loved the music. I loved the sound my tap shoes made. I loved my costume.

My smile grew.

Then I saw something, two women on the front row leaning into one another, grinning from ear to ear, looking at me. They were smiling at me! I couldn’t help it, I smiled bigger. And bigger and bigger!

They started giggling, and so did I! I’ll be damned if my feet didn’t grow wings that day. Red bows would have weighed them down.

1980

Happy One-Year Blogiversary! A Review:

Have I accomplished the goal I set with this blog?

I’ve chosen estrangement from my parents. That feels like failure, so I’m inclined to answer, “No.” However, my stress set-point is reduced. Knowing I expect nothing from them has calmed me down. I still get depressed; I still get annoyed; I’m still attitudinal. I’m less defeated. Until I sent that letter to dad after Thanksgiving, I still hoped to someday be included in the circle of things/people they accept/love. Now I don’t. Nothing’s changed. Any change took place more than a year ago, when I realized, “Holy crap, I’ve been delusional. They’ve never accepted me and they never will.” Once dad saw that I would never tow the line, I became second-class, a stepdaughter. Mom is silent. I am the former Mormon whose disapproving family merely tolerates her. Somehow, writing them off, literally, put me at ease. It’s profoundly sad, but it’s done. Now I can heal.

I feel like I’m lying to myself, that the only true healing is reintegration with them. Maybe that’s the lie. I don’t know how I feel about my progress. I guess I’ll tell the story.

****

In November 2011, I was fired from a job I worked for over 5 years. It was a very untoward sacking, and I didn’t handle it well. I had a breakdown and called my mother for support. She panicked, hearing only my “attack” voice, and began attacking me. We have never communicated successfully, peacefully, or even kindly. Since I was born, it was war or walking on eggshells. Offended, and out of habit, I did, then, attack her. She went crazy. It actually scared me. She was speaking nonsense. It was so strange and confusing it shocked me out of our pattern, fight to the death. (In my youth, I won by getting smacked around. “When you lose your temper, you lose,” she advised me, not intending irony. “Brain over braun,” I gloated. I remember taunting her that she had to hit me because she couldn’t outwit a 6 year old.)

On this day in November 2011, I realized for the first time, “Wow. I cannot turn to my mother for comfort. She has none to give.” It was ultimately softening as to my lifelong strife with her. She is at wit’s end at all times. There’s no comfort, even for herself. I was sad for her, and ashamed for taking so long to notice that my continued demands on her were chipping away at her sanity.

I was disappointed in myself. I have wonderful support. I couldn’t be satisfied by my mother’s past attempts to help me, because I wasn’t satisfied by her understanding of me. And I didn’t trust her. Anymore, she can’t even try to help. She’s… different. She’s old. She doesn’t have to do this anymore! It was actually one of the most freeing, loving moments of my life. At the time, I was in such a state that I simply got off the phone quickly and called my best friend, as I should have done in the first place.

Then the texts started. Mom has generational electronic anxiety. She’d never texted me before. The messages were vile. They were crazy! I asked her to stop. She didn’t. I called and explained precisely what I wrote above, that I understand now something I’ve never seen before. “I was wrong to keep coming to you. I’m so sorry.” But she wasn’t listening. She was screaming more disturbing, frightening things than she’s ever said before. In our long violent history, she’s hung up on me innumerable times, often rightfully so. This was the first I’d hung up on her. The texts kept coming. I took the bait, and three days of verbal volleys ensued.

Finally, I sent an apology to mom for participating in the latest battle, and promised it was the last. I told her I loved her, but wouldn’t be speaking to her for now. “I have to set new boundaries in order to avoid falling into our traps.” She mocked my new-found maturity, finding it “interesting that [I] would set these boundaries without first consulting [her].” (“Personal boundaries don’t require consensus!”) My friend forbade me reply.

(I saved the exchanges for weeks, rereading and reliving them until my friend insisted I delete them. I needed my proof and righteousness so badly I’d let it kill my soul, but she loves me too much to watch me choose my demons over my truth.)

I called dad. “Obviously, you’re privy to what’s been going on. I want to apologize for my participation in it. I was wrong, and I’m done. I tried to explain it to mom, but she can’t hear it right now so I want you to understand that this time is different. I see things in a way I never have before.” I explained the life-altering epiphany I had, that she has no comfort to spare and I was hurting, even damaging her by continuing to demand it. “I’m telling you, this will never happen again. I’m sorry it took so long for me to see.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

“Thanks, dad. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

Christmas 2011

I was nervous, but excited to see my mom. I felt, like I said, a new softness for her. I regret the years I’ve made her pay for the abuse that started my life and shaped the way I see the world. She made very serious mistakes that caused me real, lasting harm, but I see in the lines on her face how deeply she regrets her choices. I’m her greatest heartache. That makes me sad. She’s just a little girl with a cold, disapproving father (spare-the-rod sort), who’s known since she was twelve that she was depressed, whose life ran away from her, whose anxiety took over in the form of blinding rages against her mouthiest child. (No, I will not shut up!) I hate to say it, but I pity her. I love her so much and I admire what she survived. I admire her convictions. I admire her intent to live a righteous life. She is the least hypocritical Mormon out there. She lives her life quietly, honestly, honorably, by the credo, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” She is self-sufficient and shy, and loves the Church for reminding her to extend a hand of service to her fellowman. She’s just the well-meaningest thing you ever saw. I feel so bad for her.

At dinner, my father and brother in-law started throwing out hypothetical situations in which to hate homosexuals. I hate my sister’s husband for this change in my family, and I am endlessly disappointed in my father for not noticing, and participating. We didn’t spend all of our time judging others before Dan appeared. Now it’s all they talk about! My sister married a good ol’ boy from Mississippi, who told her when they were engaged that he left his home because he didn’t want to raise his family around black people. Now, we’re from the potato part of Idaho, not the neo-Nazi part, but a boy that far away wouldn’t know to make the distinction. He handpicked Idaho for reasons of complexion. Once there, he found the Mormon church. I’m ashamed of how easy it was for a weak white man to find empowerment in the priesthood, as well as a pretty girl who survived a turbulent family by disappearing into the woodwork, a properly opinionless woman.

You might think, knowing me as you do, that I disliked him from the beginning. Well, yes, I did. I was bratty and snide. But I grew up. I began to appreciate his talent with animals. Mostly, I came to respect how much he adored my sister’s growing family. My biological father didn’t care if I lived or died, as far as I knew, and it meant the world to me that my nieces knew their daddy loved them. I thanked him again and again for that, and for being a good provider. I went out of my way to use specifics and make it personal. My sister is happy, and I’m grateful. I gave my brother in-law thoughtful presents, like Church magazines on Daddy Daughter Dates and a framed black-and-white I took of his beloved golden retriever, Maggie. I took endless photos of him and his daughters laughing and playing. He’s never spoken to me, except to make fun of me once in front of his buddy. (I didn’t know that Bear Lake is one body of water straddling Utah and Idaho and not 2 lakes with the same name.)

One time, I complained to my brother before driving to Mel and Dan’s for Easter dinner. “Every time we’re there, he’s going on and on about another group he hates.”

My little brother was in junior high then. “You don’t know him,” he responded. “You haven’t been here for a long time.”

“You’re right,” I thought. “I haven’t,” and off we went. Walking through the door, we were greeted by Dan’s voice and the end of a conversation. “Well, I don’t know about you,” he jeered, “but I wouldn’t want to live next to a bunch of Jews either.”

I shot my brother a look.

“Don’t!” he ordered.

“Mmm hm.” I walked off, sanctimonious.

No, I never liked my sister’s husband. It is with much chagrin that I think of my girls learning his values. But it is in this that I find purpose. That’s what Fun Aunt Christie is for! Someday, somehow, they might see, “There is another view.”

Christmas 2011 was different. It was never so egregious as to take place at the dinner table, or if it started to, dad would joke, “Watch out for Christie.” (Hilarious.) Til now, it had always been conversation I could avoid or disagree with in a passing manner. I knew Dan would rather I just shut up, but I had a job to do. And for heaven’s sake – literally! – can we not talk about hatred on the night of our dear Savior’s birth? You call him your Lord and yet you seem to forget the very message of his life: To love the OTHER. This is holy celebration! And you’re using it to advance hatred? I expect as little from that Klan member Dan, but not my dad. I sat in silence for as long as I could, but I just kept thinking, “What if one of my nieces is gay? What if a little heart is breaking right now? What if someone at this table at this second is just dying inside?” I don’t really think any of my nieces is gay, but that’s not the point. It’s not okay to teach that, ever. At Christmas, it’s downright sinful.

I was adversarial, I won’t deny. I didn’t yell, but I was self-righteous. “I cannot believe you’re sitting here spouting off [such and such]…” and “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”

Dad argued that a gay urbanite would be more likely to die in the Alaskan bush than a straight city-sweller. I think sexual orientation has no bearing on adaptability, but in our dictatorship family, dissent is not allowed.

I’d never seen my dad so angry. He’s very mild-mannered, but he was hateful. “You can call me a bigot if you want, Christie,” he snapped, “but that’s how I feel.” Whoa. I never saw my father as a bigot, until he accused me of calling him one. That’s what bigots do. My sister’s husband is a bigot, racist, sexist, all of it. My father’s just a guy from another generation who’s only ever known people who look, think, and act like him.

(I consider my restraint heroic for never having screamed at him, “How do you not see that your brother, the tap-dancing rancher, is GAAAAAAAAAAY!???) (I admire and love my uncle more and more. Faithful practicing Mormon, celibate, never-married, one of the most pleasant, generous, loving people I know. A kind, joyful man. And fabulous.)

My folks left after dinner. Mom thanked me for their gift. Dad wouldn’t speak to me.

Before bed, my sister pulled me aside. “Christie,” she started, “I don’t know how to say this.” My stomach dropped to my toes. “Don’t go to mom anymore.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“She can’t handle it anymore.”

“I know. What are you talking about?” I asked again. “Oh.” It all made sense now, dad’s hostility. He didn’t believe me when I shared my epiphany, or if he had, he didn’t care. He was still mad at me, and talking about it behind my back to the rest of the family. They get together, decide what my behavior means, and tell me about it during the holidays.

“You can come to me,” my sister offered.

“I’m the one who said I wouldn’t turn to her anymore.”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she cut me off.

“Melanie, you just said I could come to you…”

“Go to bed, Christie,” Dan ordered me from upstairs. I looked at him, then turned back around and continued with my sister.

“You unload misinformation on me and then won’t listen to my perspective?”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she said again.

“Are you even listening to yourself? ‘Come to me. I don’t want to hear it.'”

“I’m not as smart as you, Christie.”

“Wait a minute. It didn’t happen like that. I told dad I wouldn’t go to mom anymore – and I haven’t – so there’s no point in you saying it now.”

“CHRISTIE!” Dan roared.

“I’m having a conversation with my sister,” I sneered.

“NO!” he screamed. “SHUT UP, you BITCH!” My face must have registered shock, because he said, “You are a bitch!” (I was surprised. At his behavior. My brand new sister in-law was in the house and all 4 of my nieces were sleeping in the living room. I could see them!) (Oh, and… all strong-willed women are called Bitch. Idiot.)

“My sister and I are working this out just fine, thanks.”

He charged down the stairs with his fists clenched, chest pushed out, face purple, and veins bulging. Melanie jumped out from behind me and held him back. The whole time he’s screaming, “Shut up, you bitch! You’re a bitch! Shut up!”

“All I’ve ever said to you is thank you,” I yelled back. “I’ve always appreciated that you’re a good provider, Dan! I’ve never said anything but thank you!”

“Shut UP! Shut up! Don’t you ever shut up? Shut up, you BITCH! You’re a bitch!”

Melanie finally screamed, “DAN!” and broke his gaze from me. I ran upstairs. I couldn’t sleep, cried all night, and had my brother take me to the bus stop in the morning. “I don’t want to put words in your mouth,” I said to him, “but I won’t mind if you tell Dan that you don’t appreciate him talking to your sister like that.” (He didn’t.)

Later, instant messaging, Melanie denied that Dan tried to attack me. “His veins bulge all the time,” she excused him. “And you didn’t seem scared.” (So it’s okay what he did?) I reminded her that I grew up being beaten, and learned to choose Fight over Flight… to the death. I remember 2 times specifically as a small girl that I believed I was going to die, once while I watched my arm turn blue and once running down the street in stocking feet in the rain. I didn’t get far. Flight failed. Stand your ground and show no fear.

New Year’s 2012

I began having a strange cluster of health problems and pain that ultimately resulted in a diagnosis in March of auto-immune disease, but not before going under anesthesia for tests. I reported a reaction to Sudafed when I was a baby. The doctor wanted to know what happened, and I couldn’t tell him. He wouldn’t put me under until he knew, so I called my parents. They, of course, screened the call so I left a detailed message. And another. And another. Finally, I said, “I understand. I won’t answer when I see it’s you, but it’s very important that I get this information. Please leave me a message. Thank you.” NOTHING.

I left one last very stern but calm message. “How long are you going to shut me out? This has gone on long enough!” I scolded them. “I require medical treatment and I cannot proceed without information that you have. You should be ashamed of yourselves.” Within an hour I received a breezy voice mail with the info I needed and not a hint of acknowledgement of having ignored my pleas for weeks.

We never spoke again.

Thanksgiving 2012

My parents have held Thanksgiving for my immediate family at their new house in Twin Falls, ID, for years. I didn’t have a car so I rode with my aunt to Thanksgiving at Grandma’s in Pocatello. I’ve been the only representative from our branch for years, so I had no expectation of seeing anyone last year other than cousins and my beloved grandmother.

Imagine my surprise when, days before the holiday, I received a text from my sister. “Mom, dad, Ren and Alicia (brother and sister in-law) are coming over after dinner at Grandma’s. You’re more than welcome to come.” I was sick. (And astonished. In what world am I welcome in that house? WHAT COLOR IS THE SKY ON YOUR PLANET?!) I was only just beginning to look at the pain from the year before. Whenever that anger and heartache would boil, I just looked away. That’s not my style. I believe only by facing our fears can we hope to understand, learn from, or conquer them. This one was so big I gave myself permission to pretend it didn’t exist. It worked. And then that first anniversary was here. I had to look. I was furious. I allowed myself to seethe. I know me, and I know anger is part of my process, but I was terrified to see those people. I was too bottled up, too disgusted to see them. This was a holiday, a time to celebrate gratitude and grannies, not a time to explode.

I sought the council of my best friend. “What do I do? I can’t talk to them! I can’t face them!”

“Stick to your Grandma,” she advised me.

“I can do that.”

Wednesday night, I had total insomnia. Thanksgiving Day I was fairly twitching with fear and lack of sleep, but doing okay. I was enjoying the company of my cousins and nieces and feeling like maybe I’d worried for nothing. Coming down the stairs, however, I realized that dad and I would be bottle-necked alone and I began to panic. In my mind, I was running. Looking back, it feels like I had tunnel-vision on the bottom of those stairs. My dad elbowed me in the side and laughed, “You still not talkin’ to us? Har har.”

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!!!

I flipped around, finger in his face. “You owe me an apology!” I yelled under my breath. “You accused me of calling you a bigot. I have never called you a name in my life!” No one was the wiser and I took a seat with an uncle’s family rather than with my own.

I didn’t sleep again that night. I didn’t sleep for sixty hours straight.

I wrote my dad a letter apologizing for snapping at him. “I’ve learned that anger is easier to feel than pain and that pretty much sums up the first half of my life,” I wrote. “I really want a better second half.” I told him that 2012 had been one of the most difficult and rewarding years of my life, “and I did it completely alone, without support from my family and very little communication. I must conclude, then, that I’m better off that way for now. May it bring peace for all of us. I love you both.”

****

I don’t know. I’m still in it, I guess, far from forgiveness. I look at what I just wrote and think, “Is this just more evidence-gathering?” Am I just arguing my case to an obliging faceless, virtual public? “I’m RIGHT!” Is that all this is? It might be.

Or… Is this out of me at last? I’m the kind who has to tell the whole story until I’ve worked it all out. I try to be conscious of that dangerous place where you switch from working it out to rehearsing the script. I’m not even close to getting stuck in this. Right? I feel like I’m barely beginning to look at it. I was so raw last year, I couldn’t even think about it. It took more than a year to process the indignity of how I was fired! I only started looking at the holiday collapse of my family during the holidays. I think I’m gonna cut myself a break and say it all this once without judgment, without questioning my own motives. That’s my experience of what happened. There. It can only get further and further behind me.

Cluck like a chicken if you read all that, ha! That’s alright. I wrote it for me. Now I’m done.
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