Yet, she couldn't let go of this life, and this is why. You see, besides me and Stephen, Mom never had a place where she felt truly loved and honored. If you have that, please cherish it-- because it is a gift. She (Carol, my Mom) had a mother (Leona) who had 10 children, 9 who lived... Carol had a father that drank and then eventually ran out on them, leaving them with basically nothing but an overwhelmed mother who had nothing but emptiness to feed her children, spiritually/emotionally/physically, nor any skills (she thought worthy) to barter for life's necessities. Public Welfare was basically begging who you knew for some throwouts. I've heard stories of them begging for coal for the stove or used coffee grounds to make something hot to drink in Indiana's cold winters.
Leona drank. Heavily. She latched onto men that treated her badly out of her own need for love and security- perhaps for her children, perhaps for the hole left by pain of her earlier life. She drank to kill the pain of what the men did to her in front of her children.
Mom felt like a throw away due to her Dad. He married another woman and "made another" family and never gave a thing to the other 9 children he abandoned, so the story goes. To add insult to injury, the 1940's version of DHS caught wind of Leona's drinking and leaving the children to fend for themselves and then took the children to an orphanage. My Aunt Patty (I think), Uncle Milford, Mom (Carol), Mary and my Grandma's favorite, Jane was taken away to the orphanage. Jane was the youngest. The other siblings were old enough to get married to escape that life, albeit in their teens. But back in the 40's you practically had to set your kids on fire for someone to come and take them away. It HAD to be horrible.
Leona came back for Jane, but no one else. What does that do to a person? Somehow, Grandma did clean up her act, married a wonderful man who was a great father to the kids named Butch. Thank you God. They came back and lived with their Mom and Butch.
But unfortunately, the modeling, the internal cycle and dialogue had already been recorded. Later, Mom married (or shacked up with) my Dad. To hear the story from their side, the only thing they had in common was fighting and the other f word. Out of my Dad's mouth... but he was bitter and she did "kiss his butt" a lot. He loved that. She loved him. Sometimes I resented her for it because it was self abuse, but it was the only thing she knew love to be.
Anyway, he beat her. Horribly... and in front of me, so hence the PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder I dealt with during Katrina, his illness and passing. (Its how I know what hell is and why I don't want to go back there.) He not only threatened to kill her, he tried to kill her. I sat on her lap for what seemed hours when I was (8?? 9?) and begged him out of it. I had to "side" with him (on this and many occasions) to get him to see the logical consequences of what would happen if he did go through with it. That had to be hard for her to hear, yet another stab in the back. I know she knew I did it to save her, but it still had to prey on the injuries of the past.
Nothing was ever good enough for him and most times and there were plenty of reasons for beatings. He drank too, but thats not an excuse, plenty of drunks just get happy. He had old wounds, too.
He tried to force her out more times than I can count. What is that like to live with a man, bear his child, only to have him tell you he doesn't want you and hates you? From my perspective, I was afraid to go to school, have a bath, go to a friend's house or even go to sleep for fear that she would either be gone or dead when I woke up or came back. Once, she was getting ready for a bath and he drug her outside and locked the door. I came out front (don't know where I was, perhaps out back playing with the dogs) to find her wet, naked and hiding in the bushes. I let her in and hid her in my closet.
I say that to say this: those years of being unwanted makes one hang onto what goodness comes your way with a vengeance. Before she dealt with part of the pain, she drank. Who wouldn't? What would those experiences teach you about yourself, especially if you never saw anyone behave differently? People are programmable only to what they have seen and witnessed real-live people do. Our parents are the primary models whether we like it or not. Teachers and other parents will give you envy and a feeling that you have to be someone else when you're not home, and from my perspective, thats about it.
She had gotten into AA and really sober when I was 14, then Dad turned on me because I was angry, defiant and not willing to cower for any reason. She was sober and stronger and no longer victim material... he soon found out neither was I. ER room visits should have happened, but didn't. This is when I was introduced to reading psychology books and studying healing broken psyches. You can understand why.
The last hurrah was when he threatened her for the last and final time. This time, she was sober, got a plan and moved us BOTH out of there. Homeless shelters feed you liver 2 meals a day, I know this from experience. At least it was food :) and we were safe.
We lived first with a friend, Paula, in Gautier and then the Belleville projects in Gautier. Yeah, this is when "projects" meant something. Carver Village might have still been up and running, but if it wasn't, this was the WORST place to live in south Mississippi. Undercover cops were beaten nearly to death there by people who had better things to do than worry about what info narcs were finding. You might find something on it if you look up 80's undercover cop beatings in Gautier, MS. I never tried.
We built our way up... cinder-block end tables with boards on top and hand-painted finds from the thrift shop (with paint from the thrift shop too) decorated out walls. No child support from my Dad, he threatened to quit working if we pushed that. He hated her more than he cared for my welfare.
We made friends of all sorts. Of course, you live next to gang members, the thing to do is make friends and keep your nose clean and your mouth shut. Thats how it works, fyi.
Mom worked odd jobs cleaning houses, under the table. Under the table was because we didn't get much in government help and anything we claimed put us further down on the food chain, literally. I eventually got a drivers' license and got a job, too. Later, I got a "starter marriage" that ended and I soon met and married Stephen.
Even busy with my own marriage, I tried so hard to make up for the love that was missing in her life. She fit in to the AA crowd like a perfect puzzle, found her own tribe and had purpose and meaning there. Most of her lifelong friends come from there. They are the deepest people one can ever meet and have empathy because they know pain and humility. Mom gained Spirituality there... a new definition of God, rather than the pentecostal holiness church she was raised in.
Throughout all that, I have no idea how she knew how to love. But she did... all the kids she came across, all the animals we rescued, all the troubles that came our way via the mouth of a burdened soul, we both listened and tried to sooth, help or just listen as best we could. We lend coffee, cigarettes and advice- whether it'll land you in jail or not wasn't the problem... getting you away from whomever is hurting you was the main issue at the time :) Everyone she met was special and they were HER children, no matter who they were or what they did.
After I married, we spent quality time together and I helped her as best I could. I carried an immense amount of guilt and sadness ofabout the loss of love she had in her life and even as a little child, I tried desperately to make up for it. But we sure did have fun! The stuff that spitfire did would leave you laughing so hard you'd cry.
Later, her health started to decline and in '01, she and I quit smoking. Damndest thing, you quit smoking after a long time and you develop copd worse... strictly in my opinion- because that is what happened to her. It makes sense: nicotine stimulates dopamine and norepenephrine... which narrows breathing and nasal passageways, which keeps COPD symptoms at bay. Stop the "meds" and the inflammation gets worse automatically. Health issue after health issue, there started the downward spiral.
Life was easy and enjoyable for a long time after that. until 03 when she was dxed with breast cancer. Chemo wasn't a walk in the park, but she did that and a mastectomy and ended up healthier than she was before! For some odd reason, she even gained weight. We'd been both underweight our whole lives and this was something extraordinary. Who knew?
Anyway, we did everything together, she was basically my best friend, one among a few. How lucky am I?
she then got sicker and I was afraid, after my Dad's illness and passing, that I'd have to deal with the SRHS (which does the best they can with what they have) with her health issues. We wanted a cooler place for her breathing to not be as effected as it was in the hot hot humid south. Plus, hurricane scares every season- whether they hit or not- is not a cup of tea for anyone. Especially after witnessing the suffering of Katrina.
As she started to decline worse, we picked up the pace, took the voluntary layoff offered to Stephen and moved us up here. It was and is still PERFECT. Weather wise, people, art, willingness to experiment with new avenues... its so wonderful.
So here we are. Now, onto the rest of the story...