Passings:The Wound From Which We Heal – Part Two

Part two of a two-part series, starting with “Passings.” Caution dear reader. Some may be offended by this. I tell the truth, not out of meanness, but in the spirit of healing. I publish the personal to appeal to the universal. Read on if you wish. Take what you like and leave the rest. 

 ~ Suzanne copyright 2016

Every  step you take, every move you make, I’ll be watching you. ~ Sting

Each of us has wounds. They can result in feelings of desperation, fear, guilt, shame, hopelessness.

I’ll just say it. My wound was abandonment. In fact, it scares me, still, to tell it, as if it’s lurking around the corner. But it’s the truth. The wound from which I have been healing. All my life. Only now, thank God,  I know what to do if it returns. When it returns. Let me tell you more.

How did mine happen? Here are memories, fragments:

Born early, put into a wide sterile incubator, flailing my arms;

Being forced by my grandmother, while my mother was still fatigued from my sister’s birth, to go away, as if I were being thrown away. Wearing my green plaid skirt and screaming as they carried me out the door. Of course, it was only temporary, but I didn’t know that, at the age of four, I thought I was being replaced;

My mother, despondent over our circumstances, throwing herself into deep, swirling water despite the fact that she couldn’t swim. Me, aged 9, rescuing her. Screaming, calling her back. Wading in the water towards her. I wrote about this in another post, Underwater).

My father leaving because of it. No, not because of it. Because he couldn’t look at his part, at his out- of- control alcoholism. He stood there watching. He didn’t know what to do. He ran.

These were not bad people. They were people I loved, dearly, utterly.

Why do I write this?  See, I know people out there have experienced some of what I have experienced, or worse. I want you to know there is hope.  To know you won’t die from it. While it was harsh, it was only a moment, a memory. You can survive.

When a child  rescues a parent, there’s no room to be a child. No way  to tell the truth. Or to have childish needs.  No room for healthy disagreement, let alone achievement.

Alcoholism, if untreated, unless there’s recovery, results in suicide, homicide or death. It affects the whole family.

Suicidality (known in the psychology world as “suicidal ideation”),  in a parent creates a fear, a desperation, and a painful, unhealthy unspoken agreement in a child.

The child thinks she’s the cause, and that she must prevent it from ever happening again. The child thinks:

Don’t leave me. I’ll be good. I’ll die if you go.  If you die, I won’t ever see you again. We will be apart forever. And ever and ever and ever. Oh,  I’ll have to do everything in my power to keep you. I’ll watch you, I’ll anticipate your every need. I’ll  be good. I’ll never leave you, no matter what. I won’t disagree with you. I won’t outshine you. I won’t become the artist, or the writer, or the speaker.  I won’t live my life.

Instead, I’ll heal your sickness. I’ll sooth your fevered brow. I’ll never ask for anything. I’ll always be there for you. I won’t rock the boat. I won’t stand up for myself.

Later, people will walk over me. How could they not?  They  won’t want to, but they’ll feel stifled, obligated. They’ll hate seeing my face, clinging. Feel suffocated by the lack of emotional space. They’ll feel me judging them, wanting them to be perfect. No one can live with that.

I couldn’t live with it, either. My desperation spoke:

Someone, hand me a line. Teach me the secret, the secret of being loved. Help me!

I’ll try to be like you. Or you. Or you.  I’m flawed. I know that you have a secret that I don’t have. And I don’t know how to ask for it.  I watch how you do it, charm the people around you. I want to know. 

First,  we have to seek:

God grant me courage. Courage to face the wound, do something  different.

And before that we need to admit how pitiful we are, in spite  of how we wish we were. Admit that we have no clue.

You mean that I push people away with my so-called good intentions? I push them away because I don’t love myself?  Well, how do I do that? How do I love this pitiful two-legged being?

The search went something like this:

Meditations, retreats, conferences. Psychic readers. Palm readers. Horoscopes. Churches, temples. fasts, quests. Psychologists, gurus. Twelve- step meetings.

With each step, courage grew.

And that is what it takes to face a wound. Courage.

Blind, like a bat throwing its radar against the cavern wall, I navigated.

I read, prayed, chanted, meditated. Danced, walked, ran, knelt . Wrote, painted, drew. I returned to school. And, later, I returned again. Trying to become a new person.  Thinking I needed to eradicate her. The desperate one. I found out I was wrong.

Friends, relatives, strangers, all had wisdom. All gave a piece.

I took the pieces, and tried and stumbled and was disappointed and I thought I was still the old me but no that wasn’t  true because the moment we try something different, we are different. 

I learned to ask the right questions:

What will I do? What won’t I do? What do I want to do? What don’t I want to do?

I asked myself these things. I realized I couldn’t answer those questions. And they were important. So I started to think about who I am, which the questions helped provide.

What I will do? Try to be kind, respectful. Give what I can. Tell the truth. Set boundaries. Nicely.  In a good way. Respectfully.  Live up to my word.

And, do something I’ve always wanted to do. Figure out what that is. Live one day at a time. Cherish my friends and family.

And:

Pray for my enemies. Pray for myself.

Take action and review my thoughts if I feel old hurts.

Talk kindly to myself, catch myself thinking negatively.

Remember: truth, beauty, holiness. Pray, trust,  live.

What I won’t do? Many things (including some that I used to do but had to stop doing): Lie. Curse. Call people names. Hurt my body. Hurt your body. Or Let you hurt me.  Hurt any living thing. Talk politics. Argue.  Allow despair to take hold.

What do I want to do? Finish what I’ve started. Become a nurse. (I did). Paint more pictures (I did). Finish the writing projects I’ve started. (I finished many). Return to school (I did). Now: Try to paint again. Keep writing. Travel before I die. See the Northern lights. Dance. Sing. girl-562156_640

What I don’t want to do? Play cards. Talk too long on the phone. Go to South America.  Be around too many people at once. Wear high heels. Wear panty – hose.

The desperation is gone. Yes, I am still afraid.

I didn’t eradicate her: abandonment is inside me, a part of me. Sometimes things get riled up again, but now I know what to say to to you:

You  want to go? There’s the door.  Maybe we’ll miss each other, maybe we won’t. I can live with that. You don’t have to stay, or do anything. You can be yourself. I’ll be myself. If we get along, great!  But I like my own company now.

I can do what I didn’t think I could ever do. I can look at burning desires, and try new things, even though I’m growing old.

The wound from which we suffer, heals us. There is never total healing. There is a different way of looking at it. 

I can live with paradox. In fact, I love it. I can hold two opposing thoughts at a time.

I love you and I hate you. I want to, I don’t want to. I’m great and I’m awful. So are you. So are we all.

Peace be with you. Yes, I wish you peace, I wish you self-understanding. I wish you a sense of gratitude, humility, and contentment. I wish you healing.

Suzanne copyright 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Passings – Part One

Dear reader: This is part one of a two-part series. These memories are  from the point of view of the eldest of three children, (of my father’s second wife). Got that? When telling a truth, some are offended. No meanness is meant with these words, only the expression of my piece of the truth, and of hope. May not be copied without written permission from the author. If shared, this site must be credited.

Copyright Suzanne 2016

I seem to be on a road, standing still. ~ Annie Dillard (Holy The Firm, pg 68)

Juice flows in. We are infused, our waters receiving the flavor of our lives. We drift and collide with others, whose essences mingle with ours. Parents, brothers sisters aunts uncles cousins grandparents. Friends. Animals. Pets. Plants, trees. All combining with our essence. All one tide.

I started out dry. Fell from the womb early, landed in a glass bottle called an incubator, in which my arms flailed and my mother, weak and helpless, watched. I could have gone blind, for that often happened to incubator preemies in the 40’s. I lucked out. It took a long time for me to see it this way. I formed impressions.

Christmas eve. A phonograph playing Jingle Bells. The scratchy needle fitting into the round, turning record, on the small blue and white phonograph player.  My beautiful dark-haired mother; my sturdily built, short-haired dad. Santa Clause is comin’. The next day: a glass half full of milk, a bitten cookie on a white ceramic saucer.

Thunder, lightning, power- out darkness, my mother’s voice: don’t be afraid. Smoke in the air; my father smoking.

Mother sitting in the bathroom, telling me not to move, calling for my father: Walt, come in here right now.

My father’s thumb cut and bleeding as he puts a coffee can lid over a rat-hole. We move. 

Moving became our story. Away from relatives,on a road of isolation.

Life gives us new perceptions. If we are willing to see them. My recollections differ from those of a cousin, who lived near my father’s relatives, and whom I did not “meet” again until  years later.

He knew them – my father’s people –  personally,  as we, owing to the long distance and lack of communication, did not. I will add his description later.

First, what I remember:

My paternal grandfather, my father’s father, passed when I was fourteen.  When we were 2000 miles apart. I hardly knew him, just that he was from Germany, he was quiet, kind and rich. I remembered his image from the age of five:

He sat on the porch. I remember him this way: He wore a button-up sweater, even in spring. He loved to sit and look at the beautiful blue hydrangeas. They were huge! He died there, on the porch, I was told, as if napping.

Love was round and blue

Love was round and blue ~

 

 

 

 

Grandmother A-, my father’s mother, had white hair and a stern demeanor. She was a matriarch, whose 3 sons and one daughter did her bidding. I never saw her after age five, although I remember seeing her rolling dough on the kitchen counter, making pies .

Mother told me that we had been living with them in their big old H-Street mansion, since our father was between jobs. Our mother had just given birth to our sister. Grandmother A- ordered me to the home of an aunt and uncle, after telling our mother: You can’t stay here in the hospital, your husband can’t afford it. Being jobless, my father could not take a stand for his wife. Or for me. Mother returned from the hospital with my sister.

I was sent away, after seeing her.  I wore a green plaid skirt that day. I was screaming as I was pulled out the door.

They had a little farm, my aunt and uncle,and I remember the sound of the tall corn leaves rustling in the breeze. I remember playing with cousins, who tricked me often, leaving me alone in the corn field, but always coming to retrieve me.

After spending a few weeks at the little farm, I grew to like it. Then, my father got a job. My mother came to retrieve me, and I felt sad about leaving, for there had been peace and order there; regular meals at table. Regular habits that make you feel safe. Brushing your teeth nightly, bathing with a cousin, J-saying prayers each night before bed, which I shared with her.  Now I lay me down to sleep. It was a place where corn stalks grew ten feet high, and tomatoes spread out  in the garden.  I still love the earthy, somewhat acidic scent, the shiny red skin and thick stems of growing tomatoes. And the rustle of corn as it meets the blue sky. 

The train: I rejoined the family, and we went West, away from paternal family, never to return. Our father went ahead of us. Our mother, carrying the baby in her arms, led me from compartment to compartment on the train, the El Capitain. I remember the rocking, clattering, swaying of that large metal womb. I remember the anxious look on my mother’s face as she carried the baby and urged me forward. Still, to this day, trains soothe me.

Our father’s only sister, E. died at her mother’s home. She had never married, the story told  that her mother never approved of any of her suitors. Our mother said that she loved E. who used to babysit us. She had been a writer, and her letters were in blue ink,  I loved getting those letters, seeing the blue, wide, rounded cursive and seeing the word love at the bottom. Love has always been round and blue to me.

Hearing about grandmother A’s death years later when I was fourteen, meant nothing to me. I heard my father say “she was a great old gal,” and I couldn’t believe it. I just said I was sorry for his loss.

And yet, a different experience reported by distant cousins, told 60 years later.  As I heard this, I felt a new compassion for the grandmother I never knew:

Grandpa died of a stroke while sitting on the back porch of their house on ___. He had just returned from walking to the A&P store down the block. Grandma was with him.
She (Grandma) died in bed at our house. She had come to live with us after her daughter’s passing.She died peacefully with Dad and our family at her side.

The other side:

My maternal great- grandmother. She and my grandmother lived half a state away. (I wrote about Georgia and Maurice in another post:2/26/16).

I remember great grandma J- as large, in loose dresses and sturdy shoes below thick ankles. Her face was round, her hair thick, her mouth a wide  slash. Dark-spirited, but then she had suffered in that convent, or so the story went. She was mean, she  made and drank moonshine, with which she acquired several husbands, including a mayor of the small town in which she lived, and later, a Swede,my great-grandfather, who worked as a boilermaker, who dressed in dapper clothes and inspected his daughters’ clothing for straight seams.

Great grandmother and grandfather 1924

Great grandmother and grandfather 1924

And yet, she sang with an angel voice, my great grandmother. And grew medicinal herbs. She “caught” babies, as a midwife . She slathered goose-grease on my mother’s chest when the cough came. She gave my mother castor oil, for daily habit.

She was Indian,  in the days when you kept that quiet. Or be punished. She had been punished, in that convent, into which she had been thrown when her mother died. Her siblings, whom we never knew, scattered. She suffered, but never discussed those early days.

In her sweet moments, she sang lullabies to my mother in Cherokee (Tsalagi). She died saying she had been poisoned. They found thousands of dollars beneath her mattress. Spent quickly by those who found her. None of it trickled down to those of us who were 500 miles away.

I felt bad for her, and now wish that I had gotten to know her better, learned about the medicinal herbs, told her I loved her.

 1955-56,  A year in which we had no nearby relatives, and few friends,  for this was the era of the Mad- Man. Madison Avenue advertising, emphasis on appearances, era of  one car, and the wife stays home. Of  partying after the paycheck, spending it before finally returning home, broke. Of bill collectors putting a foot in the door, threatening. Yes, they did that. I remember seeing Mother distraught, as she asked him politely to leave.

My true intimates were a beloved white shaggy mongrel dog and lithe, slinky black cat.  The dog always settled down beside us and guarded us. The cat curled warmly at the foot of my bed, there in the mornings. We were far from those cornfields, from  that safe rustling, from that blue sky.

In that year, both of my intimates were lost within a week’s time. The dog got caught under someone’s house and injured himself trying to get out. He had to be put down. The cat was hit by a car. My solace was gone.

Isolation. We were so far from family; grandparents on either coast, no uncles or aunts or cousins nearby, that ours was a pitiful time.  An isolated time, compounded by the disease of alcoholism. There were no neighbors or church families to turn to. We fended for ourselves. 

And then, on a gray cold day, in a few moment’s time, my childhood passed away. My mother attempted suicide, and I rescued her. Unable to swim, she plunged into deep water. That event colored everything in the mother-child dyad, for years to come. (See the post: Underwater – published February 9, 2014.)

From isolation,  I always wanted to belong. From a dry beginning, my journey became saturated with desperation. But this is only part of the story. Because with help, and new tools, we can experience renewal.

wave-683417_640

I am standing. Still. 60 years later. With gratitude, for what has been given, what has been taken, for all has been given. (From: Babette’s Feast, by Isaak Dinesen).

 

Each of us has passings, stories of loss, and of redemption. Of anger and forgiveness and compassion. Of round, blue love. In Part Two I will show what happened, and what beauty was to come.

Peace be with you.

Suzanne copyright 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stomp Dance

A sacred  dance of the Cherokee People.

Once they could not practice, due to brutal laws against it (approximately 1870-1934). Federal agencies punished anyone on reservation for practicing ceremonies and feasts.

Thus, native people were denied freedom of religion guaranteed in the first amendment.

Native peoples were not granted citizenship until 1924, “partially in recognition of the thousands of Indians who served in the armed forces during WWI. ” See link below.

Freedom to practice ceremonies feasts and practices was not given legally until 1978 in the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. However, many legal cases arose, and amendments were created by congress as a result. See the link below.

Disclosure:This author is white, with Swedish, Scot, German, and Cherokee heritage. Never living with the cultures of any of these groups, I nevertheless learned some “Indian ways” – such as self-sufficiency and love of nature- from my limited exposure to my half-Cherokee, half Scot great grandmother. I subsequently obtained a bachelor degree in Native American Studies at Sonoma State University. Native American issues have always been important to me.

Here is a poem I wrote about the Stomp Dance:

Hey – hey!

Hey-hey!

Hoo hey!

Hoo hey!

Ooh – hey!

Ooh – hey!

Uwoduhi!

Uwoduhi!

Cherokee words sung by the head singer,

repeated by the chorus of men and the jangling of the shells behind them.

Circle in the middle of the

circle man woman

man woman

women with shells, with cans filled and rattling,

circling around, around, around the world.

Women carrying the rhythm, as we all do

in the never-ending circle

the man, the woman,

it can’t be done without both,

holding up the world,

keeping the world going.

Man, woman circle circle stomp stomp sing out sing out sing  up

follow the head man,

circle circle,

all in a circle.

Night visions:

the men and the  women reaching  up from the circle

to the stars in the dark of night.

They had to do it in secret back then,

surrounded by stars dancing, dancing until they were in the stars.

We  are in the stars,

we go out and return,

one with the people,

one with Everywhere Spirit

man woman circle circle, song song

stomp stomp.

Reaching into tomorrow,

making tomorrow well

with singing, dancing, circle, circle.

Wado!

Thank you!

Suzanne copyright 2015

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Citizenship_Act

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Indian_Religious_Freedom_Act

 

http://www.cherokee.org/AboutTheNation/Culture/General/CherokeeStompDance.aspx

 

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Maurice and Georgia and the Galvanized Tub

Maurice & Suzie 1948

Maurice & Suzie 1948

Memories of the author. May not be copied. May be shared as long as this site is mentioned. May not edit or change. Copyright Suzanne 2016 

Scenes from the fifties:

In suspenders and long-johns, Maurice was winding the clock as he sauntered through the living room preparing to sleep at 8:00 pm, his thinning hair swept back in the Swedish style from his sloping forehead, his wire-rimmed spectacles sliding down his nose. He arose for work at 3:30 am, Monday through Friday.

Georgia and Marie hitch-hiking019

Georgia and Marie hitch-hiking

After working all week, red-haired, coiffed and permed, grandmother Georgia mashes fresh-cooked, steaming potatoes for a sit-down Sunday supper. On the table, Autumn Leaf china, with its orange and brown leaves, at each meal.  A whole set, including a pitcher, a sugar and creamer, gotten from Jewel Tea*.  Georgia was thrifty, and yet always had money for chocolate eggs and starched organdy dresses for her grandchildren’s Easter. In her youth, she had a wild streak, but once she met Maurice, they settled into a steady domestic life.

In their living room:Big stuffed chairs. A maroon-colored rug with big white and green blossoms.

Out in the small yard: white sheets and plasterer’s overalls drying on the line, lifting in the hot breeze.

In the driveway: A white and blue Pontiac with chrome stripes, a practical vehicle.

Grandfather Maurice  was from Sweden, and wore long underwear and suspenders and arose early for work as a plasterer. Many beautiful homes in Los Angeles were crafted  by his master hand. In their mid to late forties, he and my red-headed grandmother Georgia, (who had my mother at age 15), lived quietly, at least for a time, with my uncle, (our mother’s half brother).

Maurice and Georgia were a team. They met at an annual Swedish picnic. (Her father was Swedish, a man who worked as a boilermaker). Maurice was Georgia’s third or fourth husband, the one that lasted. He rarely spoke, but when he did, he meant it. He set limits. He told the truth. The two of them were Scorpios. Loyal, blunt, economical. Loyal.

Georgia, my mother’s mother, was 1/4 Cherokee. Indian women are industrious and strong. Though she was not raised among the (Tsalagi) people, she had these traits, from her mother, who had learned stubborn self-sufficiency the hard way.(Another story). Great grandmother Josephine never experienced the culture after she was thrown into a convent, but her instinct told her never to rely on others, to do everything herself.

Georgia worked, as often as she could; if one  endeavor (a dress shop) didn’t pan out, she found something else. Like her mother, she was industrious. After the dress shop, (on Lincoln  Blvd. in Venice, CA) closed, she was head cook and manager at an elementary school cafeteria.

Every day, after work, she prepared heavy Missouri mid-western food for Maurice, even though they were in LA. Working man’s food: meatloaf, mashed potatoes, carrot-and-raisin salad, sun-tea with lots of sugar.

Their home was immaculate and plain. Maple furniture in each bedroom. Hand-crocheted doilies on the arms of each chair, which she made, along with stiffly starched skirts for story-book dolls, as they were known then.

At their house, in a neat quiet suburb in the San Fernando Valley. everything was in its place, order prevailed. At speckled Formica kitchen table- tops, with matching gold chairs, we ate our meals when we visited, once a year. Garbage was emptied daily. Bottles and cans and paper were recycled. Clothing was washed weekly; hung to dry in the hot valley breeze.

“Time to get up!”Georgia would urge each morning when we visited. You didn’t stay in bed, you got up when the sun shined in, through the gauzy white curtains, through the sparkling windows that had been washed with vinegar, rubbed dry with newspaper. Order. Consistency.

A tea-totaller. Grandma did not like Maurice to drink, and told him so.

One day he told her to get a large galvanized tub, and fill it with bottles of beer. “When I finish the last beer, that will be it**. No more,” he said. She did what he asked, filled the tub with beer and ice, (which was replenished from day to day). Over a week’s time, he drank every single beer. He never drank alcohol again.

Mother and her brother

Mother and her brother

They both dressed up for any occasion. She in lacy blouses under smart black suits. He in a blazer and straw hat and white shoes.They socialized with other Swedish friends who had gatherings on great green lawns, out in Northridge, CA,  before the suburbs. There was a pinto horse named Kickapoo, which we got to ride. While we grand-kids played outside, the adults played cards.

Grandfather Maurice died of a ruptured ulcer after eating strawberries.  I was fifteen.

He died of worry over his only son, my uncle. A red-head like his mother, Maurice Jr. had turned 16, and took to burning rubber,drag-racing in the blue and white Pontiac,  down Roscoe Boulevard. Until joining the Navy. By then, Grandpa was already bleeding inside.

We lived 500 miles north, and I was in school, so I didn’t get to go to the funeral, but the resonance of their steady ways stayed with me always.

After his death, Georgia re-married. Out of habit, possibly; she’d never been alone for long. This time she was snagged by a braggadocious man who owned mines, and wore gold nuggets on his fingers. He smelled of cigars and booze and dirt, and his voice tumbled out of the side of his mouth. He interrupted any conversation we tried to have with her, and wouldn’t let her out of his sight. She tried to leave him but he threatened to harm her grandchildren.

She died under mysterious circumstances. We were told by an investigator to leave it alone. We did. Although I deeply missed her, I was glad to never ever see him again.  Maurice was our real grandfather.

Our dear mother, her daughter, passed in 2002.

Red-headed uncle grew out of his rebelliousness, worked in construction and became the father of five. We never conversed or communicated.  When we called to tell him our mother had passed away, we were told by his distraught wife that he had just died of a heart attack.

We live in a life and in a time, our time. We are made of that time, those places, those memories. So many cycles have passed, only memories now. This is what is hard about growing old. You meet people who didn’t  know you in your youth. Who didn’t know your people. You have to tell it, because it is your story.

Or part of it. There will never be a complete story, because it depends who is telling.

Images, stories, memories and even disappointments. What are yours? Have them, feel them, know them. Threads of life are sacred. Your life story is part of the all, world without end.

Peace and blessings, Suzanne

*

The Jewel Tea Company began in Chicago, later moving to Barrington, Illinois in 1930 and sold household products through salesmen traveling the country from 1901 to 1981. The company supplied housewives with everything from baking powder and other grocery items to cleaning supplies, linens, cookware and china.  Autumn Leaf, made by the Hall China Company, has become one of the most popular of the china patterns.  The pattern became exclusive to the Jewel Tea Company in 1933.  

http://www.neaca.com/Jewel-Tea-Company-Collectibles.html

** http://www.beerbooks.com/cgi/ps4.cgi?action=enter&thispage=1417&order_id=!ORDERID!

 

 

 

 

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SPOILER

This is fiction based on a true story of a Jekyll-Hyde situation. The opinions in the story are not the opinions of the author. It was originally written in 1994. I just needed to get it on paper. For her.

Names have been changed, and some facts rearranged.  It was terrifying to witness, and to write. And is still terrifying now; it seems that hatred is all around us, as if it is contagious. Truth is stranger than fiction. May not be copied. If shared, may not be changed. This site must be mentioned. – Suzanne

THE SPOILER

It’s him again. I turn my head for a moment, literally lift my fork, then turn back – oh, why did I stop paying attention?

That look in his eyes. Unfocused, wandering in two directions. The grim mouth – tight, compressed. Something, someONE has taken hold. My James is no more. HE is here, in his place.

No one would believe me. He’s brilliant, charming, dangerous, this one. So different from my James, from the one I love. This one knows how to slip in beneath – he’s had a lot of practice. If I look at the pattern, we usually have about 3 good weeks before this one shows up. But it always startles me.

“The food here is terrible, he says now. “Can’t you pick a place with food fit for a man?”

“You told me you wanted a place with a salad bar.”

“You should know I really want meat.”

I look at my plate, the salad piled high. I was hungry when we came in. We held hands. Made love today. I let go, even ran around naked.

“This is another example of the way we don’t mesh…” he continued.

“We have just spent ten years not meshing,” I said, as calmly as I could.

“Ten years of a roller – coaster. Oh God, a fly!” His voice drips with disgust.

I am no longer hungry. This is not the James who prayed on his knees with me for spiritual unity. Who knows I don’t like to be kissed, who can dance like he was born doing it. Who inspires others with his wisdom. Tall, handsome, wise….It is the other man who lives in the same body, his wraith, his demon, who has emerged.

“I’m ready to go,” I say, looking at the un-eaten salad.

“I left my money at home.”

“You owe me. Again.”

“Some wives take their men to dinner.”

“Some husbands work.”

“There you go again with your nagging.”

“Who is taking you to dinner these days?”

“And your paranoia. Let’s go.”

We entered holding hands. We leave with invisible walls around us. When will I learn?

***

I put my purse beneath the cupboard by the back door. In case he starts in. His hands have been around my neck one time too many.

“I”m sleeping out here,” he says.

If I go to the bedroom, there will be no way out. Night has come so quickly. Neither of us makes a move.

“You know my bladder,” I say, finally, walking over to the mattress.  Keep away, I think.

Darkness is falling as he moves to the bedroom. Sits down at the desk and lights a candle. He stares into it, his back toward me.

After so many years, I still try to make sense of the senseless. “James,” I speak through the thickness, “what happened?”

“You took me for granted,” he says tersely, coming to the door, slamming it. The man in my house is not my husband.

I cannot stay, wondering what state of mind will follow this séance, how it will escalate, like before. I cannot stay. There are a few dollars left in my purse. And I have the checkbook. I will have to leave everything behind.

Gorkey, darling kitty, rubs against my leg. No, not everything. I’ll put him in a pillowcase, grab some cat food, go –

A laugh from behind the door. Mindless, mirthless. Has he started using again?

Gorky jumps up on the wooden box we call a table. Ten years, with little to show it. Mattress for a couch, boards and bricks for a bookshelf. Books. Faulkner. The Great Gatsby. “Next to Hemingway, the greatest writer, Fitzgerald.” he said.

”I met him once,” he said. The Spoiler.

“James, he died before you were – “

“I met him in space.”

No use thinking of this now. The photograph catches my eye in the waning light . The silver frame infuses the room. The two of us, on the day we met. At the race track. James , siding up to me:”I’m going to marry you next week.”

“I’m already married.”

“So am I. But we’re both about to end it. I came to wait for you. You came.”

Yes, the red flag. Then, my own crazy voice in my head: “I can tame him.”

***

Next to the photo, the roses he gave me yesterday. What a jerk I am. How stupid, to forget. To hope, maybe now it will be better.

“Kylie,” his voice jars me. Oh, too late – he’s standing in the door, a shadow within a shadow. I can’t turn on a light, can’t move.

“It has been decided.”

The pause. I know better than to speak.

“I’m going to be a millionaire,” he says.

“Then we can pay the rent.” I say hastily. My mouth.

“You’ve always had a negative attitude,” he says calmly, with a matter – of – fact tone, “but it bounces off me now. I have a new name. It comes up with all of the numbers. Master, Avatar…”

He’s in it now. I should go to the kitchen, pretend to feed the cat, slip out the door.

“Kylie, you need to hear this. I’m doing it for you.”

The hook. I wait.

“It came to me through the fire. MacBeth. Jason MacBeth. My new name.”

I shuddered. MacBeth. Blood. Depravity. I’m afraid now. He begins, the way he does during such a diatribe. I mustn’t argue, or he will anger.

“I’m going to stop the aggression of the blacks and the Jews and the Indians and the Mexicans, of everyone who isn’t white. That’s what I’m here to do. I knew there was a reason. For being here. Stuck on this planet. Penalized. I thought. But no, I’m to do this great thing. Stop the aggression.”

I swallow, my mouth dry. “Oh my God!” I whisper. I take a breath. Finally, I ask.

“How. Will you do it?” I”m caught now, in deadly fascination. I wonder about the mind of this man with whom I have lived. About my own, for staying. Wishing that Mother didn’t live in New Jersey. Wishing that I could go, before he starts in again. Wishing that we had never met. Wishing that I had had a child, thankful that I hadn’t; I wouldn’t want to pass on this – schizophrenia? No one would believe this moment. Or any of the others.

He continued. “We’ll live in a house with a waterfall. We’ll have a pool with dolphins.”

“James -”

“I’m Jason now!” I pause, unable to call him by this name.

“ Don’t you need to rest, then?” I finally ask.

“I have writing to do, have to call the radio stations, have to call New York.”

“It’s too late, James – Ja—”

“It’s not too late for my wisdom.”

I resign myself to the mattress – still in my clothes, in case I have to run – as he sits with the bedroom door open, calling radio talk shows, and in between, writing. With only a candle for light. Just the orange fire, surrounded by black.

I awaken. Still dark. Stumble to the bathroom. The bedroom feels cold, menacing. The door is open. He is not there. I grope towards the kitchen. The light from the all – night gas station glares through our second-story window. The faucet drips its’ metal – laden rhythm. Plunk, plunk, plunk. Without seeing, I know that the rust stain in the sink is enlarging, leaving its’ trail to the dark drain.

Where has he gone? Groggy, exhausted from the emotional toil, I fall back on the mattress and sleep dead.

The alarm rings as it usually does. I lumber to the bedroom. He is still gone. I change clothes. Cannot afford to lose work now. Tonight, I’ll pack.

Work is a gray blur. No light, now. Shadow. How did I get here? How have I stayed for ten years?

After the marriage: he tended bar. Once, home late. That’s when I first noticed the look.

“I had to teach someone something.” he said as explanation for being late.

“Like how to get married before getting married?” In those days, I had grit.

“No. How to pray.”

Today, he still catches me off guard. I wish, now, that I could pray.

***

A manuscript lay on the table. He’s nowhere in sight. It reads: Preventing Dilution: How to keep Elements from Polluting Our Society.

I am sick. I go to the kitchen to look for the coffee can with my getaway stash. This time, I’m going. I’ll swallow my pride, call Darlene. Won’t tell her why. Just ask for asylum. I’ll have to take some clothes, and Gorky.

I’ll take an armful of blouses, skirts, underwear down to the car. No – he might find them. I’ll put them in a basket in the laundry room. Then grab Gorky. And run….

There’s also Sue, if Darlene can’t have me. But she’s a bit nuts, too. The last time I saw her, she was doing the Ouija board, and it told her to start a business. She decided to practice astrology. She’s good at it. Doing surprisingly well, now. I could stay there, in a pinch.

“Kylie.” He has just come up the stairs. I didn’t even hear him.

Oh, no.

“We need to go. Got an appointment. Getting a photo for the back of the book.”

“I’ll stay. I’m tired.”

“Wives should stand by their husbands.”

“I’m too tired to stand.”

He comes and kisses my cheek. It’s a power kiss, not a love kiss. I shrink back. He laughs.

“It’s what I do, now,” he says, then, “you won’t have to work much longer. I might buy you a diamond ring tonight. You’ve been waiting too long for me.”

“James, we have to discuss the rent.”

“Damn!” he hollers. “There you go with your negatives! All right, I’ll go. Going to meet someone. Work on the project.”

“Who’s paying?” I ask.

“Jason. Jason MacBeth.” he says, glaring. I hold out the keys, limply, still carrying the clothes.

Back up the stairs. He has put another rose on the table. “We’re on our way to glory,” he has written.

In the other handwriting.

Gorky jumps up on my lap. I fall asleep, sitting there.

***

Two days have passed; James has not returned. I rode to work on the bus yesterday, but when he wasn’t home when I returned, I called the police.

Darlene called a minute ago, out of the blue.”You’ve been on my mind,” she said. I spared no small talk.

“James has disappeared.” I said, offering no preamble. No explanation.

“Let me feed you,” she said, “He’ll be back.”

“You think I’m nuts for staying.”

“That is not the subject right now. The man has two sides. We all do, but his are – miles apart. I’m concerned about you right now.”

I cannot answer. I think about the good times. How I saw his potential. The “P” word has been my downfall.

“He took the car,” I say, finally.

“Then I’ll come up to you. Hope you’re hungry.” she says, hanging up.

An hour later, red – haired, red-nailed Darlene, is carrying, between her large bosoms, homemade spaghetti, garlic bread, wine, a flower.

She coaxes me to eat. As I take a mouthful, I realize it’s the first I’ve eaten since – when?

“One day, this will all be behind you,” she says gently.

I wolf it down, tears flowing.

I am sipping the wine when the phone rings. She gives me a look of recognition.

“This is James,” says the voice. The old voice. My heart pounds. She comes near, holds my hand.

“Kylie, I’m at a bus. I can’t read the sign. Kylie, I’m scared.”

“Where have you been?” My voice trembles in rage and relief.

“I’ve made a mess. I’m scared. I’m messed up. I need you. Help me, please help me.”

“What did you do, what have you done, where are you?”

He cries. The sob, not the sniffle. The sniffle is the pseudo – tear he produces when he wants sympathy. When he is manipulating. The sob is the real thing. How cynical I have become about him. How hard. And how utterly vulnerable to this, now, his plea for help.

“Is there someone there with you?”

“No one – a boy.

My heart jumps. “How old?” I ask, testing.

“About eight. Kiley, can you come?”

“Ask him where you are now.”

I hear a muffle, then,

“Excuse me, little boy, can you help me? Where are we?”

“Read the sign, mister!” I hear the boy say.
“I can’t, I can’t read it.”

The boys’ voice softens. “Fort Wayne, man. Downtown.”

Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“James,” I say when he’s back on the phone, “get on the bus to Albuquerque. I’ll meet you there.”

“I have no money. My pockets are empty. I don’t know how I got here.”

I don’t know if he’s lying or not. I never do, with him.

Darlene is doing the dishes.

“Stay there, James. Hold on.”

Darlene says “I”ll call the police. Keep talking to him.”

She puts on her pink coat, gives me a squeeze.

“Keep talking to me, James.”

He babbles on about the day we met, and being in a bus station, about how cold it is, about how he didn’t want it to be this way.

***

He is home now, with me and Gorky. The car was found. It will cost a boatload to return. We’ll have to do without. The “treatise” has disappeared. Has it gotten into evil hands?

The man in front of me is broken. His right eye is puffy, his nose swollen. His arm is bruised. I dare not speculate. I dare not ask.

The dark pupils of his eyes obscure the green. He trembles. His voice quivers. He has remembered something:

“Jason MacBeth is gone.” he says, finally.

Finding courage, I ask.

“What are those marks on your face, your arm?” I’m quiet, shaken. I feel sick inside. What if he has hurt someone?

“You will leave me one day,” he says.

“James, what happened?”

“Oh, please, will you have me now? I’ve never needed you so much.”

Before I can answer, my stomach is churning, he says,

Don’t answer now. Let me prove myself. I’ll look for a job tomorrow.”

“The one you had?” I ask warily.

“Jason had that one. And he’s gone. Gone for good.”

“Did you have a fight?”

“We did. He – Jason- he was going to kill someone. I told him to go away. Told him he had a dark hand coming down and ruining things. Told him he was manic-depressive paranoid schizophrenic.”

I am feeling crazy. Is this manipulation, or insight?

“Is he – what did he say?” I finally ask.

“He didn’t. He laughed. And disappeared. Now, he’s gone.”

I take a deep breath, and phrase my next question carefully.

“Did he hurt someone?”

“He tried to kill someone,” said James.

“Did he succeed?” I thought that my brains would fly out of my skull.

James giggled nervously, his eyes darting back and forth, rapidly, as if watching a silent enemy.

“I didn’t let him. But he put up a fight.”

“James, who did he try to kill?”

He was silent for a moment. His eyes darted back and forth, before he screamed, “Keep him away from me. Don’t let him come back!” and then he broke down in sobs.

The police in Fort Wayne had turned him over, no questions. He wasn’t a danger to himself, they said. He sounded sane, they said.

When they arrived, there he was waiting calmly, talking to me on the phone as if nothing had ever happened. The got on the line, and agreed to put him on the bus; we’ll have to pay them back. I gave them the phone number. I picked him up and brought him home. They advised me to take him for help.

I haven’t slept. My imagination runs wild. I wonder what happened, yet I am frozen with inertia. I know that I should speak out. I fear that someone, somewhere has been harmed. By the Spoiler, no, by my husband, James. I call and talk to them. No they have had no reports. They’ll keep my name on file.

***

He got a job today. As a waiter. He’s bringing home his tips. He brought me a picnic tonight. Food, wine, himself.

“I’ll do anything to make you happy, from this day forward,” he says.

“James – “

“I need you. You are my life.”

I try to remember when the Spoiler last visited. Remember that he hasn’t gone away. Remember the facts.

“I’ll understand if you don’t want to.”

“James, you need help.”

“Have you no belief in me? I’ll prove it to you, you’ll see.”

He speaks like a forlorn child.

I want to speak, to have courage. To tell him no, tell him that he must go with me for help, or it is the end. I look into the face, the face which is in so much pain. I won’t abandon him now. The scratch marks have almost healed. There has been no word in the papers, or from the police.

Tomorrow, I’ll make the call. I’ll make an appointment. Tonight, tonight, I must think. I’ll keep it light, non-threatening. Tell hm about friends, neighbors, work. Tell him about the strange phone call I had from Sue.

“James, this is so bizarre,” I said. “Sue, my friend the astrologer called me today. She said she had had an illumination. She said it came over her like a trance. She’s decided to change her name. This is weird, James. She’s changing her name from Sue to Jill. To Jill Mac Beth.”

-Suzanne copyright 2015

************************************

Post script:

The author witnessed the delusional personality changes, and the subsequent return to”normal.”

Kylie (not her real name) died of her second bout with cancer two years later, surrounded by loving friends and family, including this author.

She and James (not his real name) broke up just before she was diagnosed a second time with a different cancer.  Rest in Peace dear friend.

James lives. He teaches about spirituality. In his lectures, says he has been clean and sober for many years. He does not discuss his lapses of reality.

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The World As It Moves Around Me

World of beauty, bright shining blue sky with yellowing leaves falling, me smiling;

World of numbers and money and inspection dates and repairmen and statements and emails and receipts; I hate moving.

World of cabinets and drawers reams of paper with symbols of inked words written by me, I think.  Trying to sort through, throw away. Head into cabinets pulling things out blowing off dust, wiping the cabinet inside twice because of the streaks. Dust will outlive us;

I don’t want to end up stuck in a cabinet somewhere;

World of people far away but even if they are here I don’t see them I wonder why that is everyone is so busy and so our voices have turned to phrases and incomplete sentences;

And I am the worst offender;

World of a picture or two sent; frozen in a moment which has already passed I see them more in my prayers and dreams than in person;

I have been calling people honey lately as if I know them but I don’t. But  because they are sweet and I like that, I call them honey. I think I sound like my mother. Do I? Do I sound like her? When she was nice, when she  called people honey? Oh, I miss my mother, I call them honey because I miss her.

Strangers took my picture yesterday as I enjoyed the big blue and yellow shimmering, shining sky; I looked like myself yesterday;

You have to let people be, even if you want more from them. I know some people want more from me too and I know how that feels it’s much better to enjoy what you get and walk around in that beautiful sunlight blue and yellow shiny day being happy.

And the world changed. Another month and here it is November in the cycle we have invented, not the cycle of nature but we have to be able to keep our minds organized or somehow make meaning from dates and times, and yet I like the emptiness and the silence best of all. The shining glimmering silence as light bounces around in the blue and yellow and sometimes gray world comforts me more than any schedule.

I remember your voices  and I remember how you walk. And laugh.  And I think Oh, look at all of the human beings in this world!

All the human beings, and  cada cabeza es uno mundo – every head is a world.

Suzanne copyright 2015.

May be shared as long as it is not edited and site is mentioned. May not copy without written permission of the author.

 

 

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As I Hovered on the Ceiling in 1972 – I Can Talk About it Now

Dear readers,

This is about a near-death experience, about the end of a marriage, about a page, turning.

Please do not copy without my written permission. May be shared only if not changed and if this site is credited

Caution: if you are pregnant, don’t read this; there will be plenty of time, after you have tended to the sacred time of childbirth. To those who read this, think of it as a true story, a dream.

And I dreamed I was dying
And I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly….Paul Simon,  American Tune  1973

 

As I hovered on the ceiling,

Looking down on my fainted self, I also looked at them.

I saw the doctor, embarrassed  now, that he hadn’t listened, afraid he would lose me.

A boy who always tried his best;

I saw my husband wringing his hands, (in his real self. a boy, wearing a choir robe and quenching the candle-fire on the altar, seeking with bright blue eyes, the Lord Jesus). Regretful for the redhead, vowing to try again;

I saw the nurse, her glasses slipping down her nose, wishing she could have started the IV herself, instead of having to wait for the doctor. But back then, in 1972, nurses were not yet allowed to do what they can do. She was five again, her shoulders hunched, seeing the world with more clarity, like that day she first got glasses. Next time, I’ll start it anyway, she thought, as she handed the doctor the curette package for the d&c. Dilatation and curettage. Scraping of the womb which is bleeding, bleeding.

I saw myself, lying down there, pale, weak from bleeding, weak from childbirth the week before, wondering if I’dever  see my confused little 4-year old boy again, remembering how he had clung to my neck as I was taken away, my neighbor taking his hand, leading him away, as he cried: Mommy! Mommy!  

I saw myself wondering if I’d live to nurture my new infant, who had been given to my breast, only to find me dry. He was given to our neighbor who had never had a son, to nurture, to hold him safe. She hoped I’d return.

Up on the ceiling, I remembered the events which preceded this emergency intervention:

Awakening with a sense of fullness, seeing the blood;

Calling the doctor, telling him I’m bleeding; he responding: you’ve worked too hard, get some rest,

Telling my husband, I’m bleeding; he responding: rest, it will be ok I have a business trip tomorrow.

After waking up three times, after calling the doctor three times, I lost the ability to think, I could barely move, I felt the room closing around me. I grew weak.

Then, the gray light of day, after I’d told him all night, I’m still bleeding, my husband awoke and saw me, astonished.

He saw the blood and finally believed me. My neighbors who arrived saw me gray and pale, and hid their worry to calm the children.

I let them take my children and he carried me to the car and I lay  rumpled and weak in that back seat of the old car in the choking Arizona July heat, but feeling cold, shivering,  as my neighbor’s husband drove through lights, tires screeching,

Driving toward help, toward the doctor who hadn’t listened when I called, three times, and told him that night:

I’m bleeding, bleeding.

And it all became a blur as I watched my dying self, unable to move, feeling like I was floating, leaving my body.

The doctor was beside himself as I fainted and flew up to the ceiling. He tilted my head down, then did a d&c right in the emergency room, without waiting. Retained placenta, particles of afterbirth still clinging there, keeping veins open, bleeding out. Remove it, replace the lost blood, restore her, hope she lives, let her live,oh God, I wish I had listened.

I was saved, by the crimson life fluid flowing into me, un-screened in those days; by the caring neighbor who drove fast to get me help, by the women in the neighborhood who took care of my kids.

I was saved, to return to worried days, slender and pale. I was saved and from there began the final trip to the end of my marriage, to the wide-open, fearfully empty road ahead.

I was saved, to care for the children as best I could, to begin the hard journey of returning to independent life, of baby-steps to gain confidence.

***

We mark our lives by events, large and small.  The event was a turning point. As if something, someone, was turning a page, and I could only watch. Then, a new chapter, as I returned to school, became a nurse, raised my kids alone. I attended teacher conferences, baseball games, bought groceries, alone, alone.

I looked for a substitute, but did not know how to find one: a substitute husband, substitute father. Wholeheartedly I tried, but deep down, remembered, feared abandonment.

2014:

We would have been married 48 years this year.

We have been divorced for 42.

Since he chose the redhead, and quit what we had made.

***

January 2015

The children grew, and the story continues.

I am a grandmother. My sons are such good fathers. I  have a cat now who is constantly hungry, and another who is happy in his skin. Needy one, confident one ~ a scruffy pair. Both of those traits, also within me.

Today I listen: to people in need, to the true voice within, to the deep and sonorous chimes in the wind, to the doves on the wire, to the trees clapping their branches in storm, to the sound of the water gurgling in my hand-made fountain.

The trick was to make myself heard.

He left because he couldn’t help me be like him, he said. I thought that made me a failure.

Now I know, I had to learn to be myself,to be the best ME, I could be. That is what Life wanted. Why the page of expectations turned.

Today,  I conjure whimsical trinkets, and read and write and sometimes draw. I plant seeds for flowers, for food. I feel my bare feet on warm ground. I enjoy good friends. And I pray. Yes, I do. Yes, I do.

Last year he sent me a single sentence: thank you for the two boys.

He didn’t answer when I replied,  but it doesn’t matter.

I know that I was meant to be who I can now call myself.

I thank Time and Grace and all the people I’ve known along the way, for helping me find her. All my relations

Suzanne

Addendum: July 2015

He passed away this March; the two boys and his lady friend – not the redhead – were with him.

She’s nice, like me.

I didn’t get a chance to review it all with him. His thank you was his goodbye. I wish we could have talked, but then we never did. A relationship has a shape, a character, and talking about what mattered was not part of ours.

Still, peace and blessings rain down us, even when we don’t feel the moisture.

Gratitude brought me back down from that near-death ceiling, and the will to live,  let me live.

I couldn’t leave them, could never leave them.

Thank you for our two sons.  Yes. And now, for their wives, and their children.

There is a peace which passes all understanding; it is there I find my home.

Phillipians 4:7

Suzanne Zahrt Murphy c 2015

In  memory of T.C. M., father of my sons, Navy veteran, fisherman, story-teller, owner of bright blue eyes.

This essay may be shared, provided no edits are made and this site is acknowledged. May not be copied without written permission from this author.

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