Sometimes in life, people have a certain perception of events that does not add up to the harsh reality of the situation. I blog about many difficult things because it is part of my experience and part of how I became who I am today, the good, bad, and ugly. I fact-checked my childhood memories with old newspaper clippings that I purchased to collaborate the timeline, along with the words and memories of a few older relatives. It turns out I probably should not have been such a stickler for the facts, because I was actually shocked how accurate my memories were and some things were actually much worse. Some things are better left unsaid…for the perpetrators. It is a shame we are so conditioned as children to protect those that harm us because of the fear it could be worse or out of some sense of forced “respect”. Maybe if I had been more vocal things would have changed then, but it is highly unlikely. It was definitely a different time. At least I am sure now that I am not unjustified in my strong feelings about the past, because our past is part of our present. Self doubt and lack of confidence is a side effect of those issues and I have had to battle those all of my life. I probably always will.
Immediately after my father’s death, my home turned into a war zone because of my older brother. By “war zone” I mean screaming that could no doubt be heard a block away, spitting, hitting, throwing things, demolishing his room and acting like a meth head ransacking the house looking for his next high. It was like living on the set of The Exorcist. These behaviors were turned on and off like a faucet depending on whether or not he was getting his way. He can also be very charming, like all narcissists. He had always been a handful, but without dad to be the governor on his engine he was totally out of control. He had become accustomed to getting whatever he wanted by acting out before my dad entered his life, and he was going to regain that control at all costs. He was definitely not unhappy about his new reality. His tactics were too much for everyone around him, especially my mom. The more my mom resisted, the more outrageous he became. He was what people today would call “extra”. Truth be known, he was so grandiose and self serving it bordered on psychotic. After a little over a year of constant fighting, temper tantrums and bickering between him, my mom and her parents, the process began to empty out what was our basement area that we used for entertaining friends, storage, playing, exercising, and showering so that we could house a pet shop named after my brother.
I was somewhat happy I could have a minute of peace before the next temper tantrum. At the same time I was very upset that I was losing any space in my home other than my bedroom. I had already lost my stability, and now I was being minimalized to non-existence. I had zero privacy or space other than to sleep and dress, and that was not even a given. My bedroom door had no lock and neither of them had any boundaries. The fighting continued anyway due to the fact that he was irresponsible and did not keep his promises. There was no respect there at all, or personal space, or consideration of the need for quiet and uninterrupted time. For an introvert, that is worse than a prison sentence. This “shop” was the brainstorm of a teenage boy that had no money and no clue how to run a business. He just knew he did not want a real job in a small town working for someone else, and he had expensive taste in everything and a hundred different fleeting ideas of things he would like to do even though he had no focus. He had no ability to see anyone else’s needs or limitations, and he would stop at nothing to get his way. Many times he wished me dead, and I still have a scar on my wrist where he cut me with a knife. This was not the act of a small child. He knew better, but there were no consequences. Living with a coddled psychopath was my reality. At least my mom finally stopped leaving me alone with him.
Turning the house into a fiasco of a business was forced on me without one thought. This was one hundred percent financed by our parents (my mom and my recently deceased father), again with no thought given to me or my future needs and education, braces for my teeth, or regular medical care by qualified physicians outside of that little town for skeletal issues that I had. This was also done with full knowledge that she would have no time to raise me and run this “business” with him. My mom had not had to work during the summer months like most teachers that take second jobs, and that was about to change drastically but instead of being a profitable job of her choice that could actually lead to socialization with adults and an improvement in her own happiness, it was a job she had to immerse herself in to supervise her overzealous and short sighted teenage son and protect her “investment”. According to the newspaper, it was strictly a gift to him and not an investment as she has claimed. Thousands of dollars and unending amounts of time and labor. It was the gift she kept on giving I guess, constantly needing more money, constantly having to be tended to while he did what teens do. Meanwhile, I went without basics.
There was no investment in my future. If money ever came up missing from the “shop”, it was always blamed on me. I took a small amount once when I was about twelve and nobody was home (as usual). I told my mom about it later. I actually felt bad about it at the time. Looking back, I do not feel anything but anger over it. I was a young kid that was still financially dependent, and left at home alone constantly without money many times. I felt I had no choice in the matter. This left the door open for money to be taken without accounting for it and mom would blindly believe him when he blamed me. I got tired of living in a war zone and just stayed away from home as much as possible. People talk about normal sibling rivalry as if all cases of this phenomenon fit neatly in one box. That is not the case. Normal sibling rivalry usually does not exist on this level when one child is much older than the other, and each family is different in how much is allowed and tolerated. Her time and investment in his future went largely unrewarded throughout his adulthood, having never learned how to take direction, focus, and work with others. Unfortunately, it kept her from developing a bond with me as well because all of her eggs were in his basket. When a parent takes the path of least resistance with a emotionally unstable child, nothing good ever comes of it. I guess in the long run, I am glad I was not the chosen child. Comparatively, my path was much harder and tangled with abuse, but I am good, I am strong, and I am independent. My relationship with my mother is much better now, thanks to my forgiveness, although we still have some issues that will not likely be resolved in this lifetime.
Around the time my brother went off to college in 1979 or 1980, the decision was made to sell the pet shop. It never had been profitable to the family and it was never going to be with limited hours in a small town. I think my mom had had her fill. She was finally free to do whatever she wanted. She still had me at home, but by that time we were not close at all. Neither one of them finished their job though, which is definitely not shocking. All of those hand made toys and antiques that were part of my heritage from my father’s side of the family that had been shoved into the attic at my maternal grandparent’s home, were never brought back to my family home. They had purged them to make room for the “shop”. I was a child of maybe 9 years old when they when they were taken away and moved. I was not even fully aware of where they were. They remained in my maternal grandparent’s attic until after they had both passed away, in 2006. At that point, my mom and her brother hired a company to auction off the contents of their home so that the proceeds could be split between them. This included all of my priceless heirlooms from my father’s family that can never be replaced. At no point was there any attempt to return them to their rightful owner (me), or to take them out of my grandparent’s home before auction. I assumed my things were in storage at my mother’s home, the same as my brother’s were. I did not remove those items, and I never benefited from their removal. She had plenty of room to store them until I could take them and care for them appropriately. My environment continued to be unstable due to my living situation with my ex, and I had no room to store anything with his hoarding disorder.
I showed up at the auction as she requested and came face to face with my things, which I could only get back by winning the bid. My mom was fully aware they were mine. Some of those were highly sought after antique toys. I was terribly upset, and even more so by her lack of acknowledgement of what had happened. It was barely more than a shrug of the shoulders. She had become so conditioned to me just accepting the injustices that had been doled out to me, and it never occurred to her that this was a major deal to me that I would never forget or forgive. I told the auction company those items were my property and not the property of the people that had given them access to them, and was told that they had received written permission to take possession of all the household items. I could call the police and make a theft report or I had to buy my own things, which naturally went for way more money than I could spare. Calling the police on my mom was obviously not going to happen. I was a young mom on a nursing wage with a financially irresponsible spouse. Some of those items went really high. I could never get my things back. Even if my mom bought them back for me she had to split with her brother. The sheer audacity of having to watch my items sell for more than I could afford so that my mom and my uncle could share the profits was more than I could take, because those items were never theirs. I left and it was a very long time before I spoke to her after that. Those things were all I had of my father’s family. I was upset about the theft of my heritage and the right to do with my items whatever I wished, including passing them on to my children and future grandchildren. The irony of being accused of stealing from their “pet shop” (which was just an expensive toy) when I hadn’t, and being shamed and punished for things I did not do by someone that had literally thieved my possessions was too much. They knew they were in the wrong, yet they continued on. They may not have done this with purpose, but they did continue with purpose when they auctioned off my items to line their pockets knowing that was all I had left of my father.
The level of disrespect that took place was unforgivable and it was very detrimental to any future relationship even though plenty of damage had already been done prior to that day. No one child should be made to feel so important that the lives of the entire family are disrupted, and all else is dismissed. Be careful what you say to others about their family relationships. You know nothing of the inner dynamics of a family unless you live it, and not all situations should be treated the same. I can’t change the past and despite all the issues my mom and I have had, I have been able to forge ahead and have the best relationship possible with her at this point. I will always show her more respect than I was given, but there will always be boundaries as an adult as to how much I will take from any family member. Her health has robbed us both of a chance for real healing but personalities don’t really change much with time and I have done all that I can over the years to keep from throwing the relationship away. I was never really expecting an apology or an admission of guilt, even though it would have fixed everything in her case. I don’t care enough to want one at this late date. I will settle for the moments we share that are mostly pleasant for now. One of my cousins bought one of the hand made wooden toys at that auction and recently returned it to me. One of my father’s first cousins recently gifted me a book about our family and I was able to keep some old photographs that were stashed away for me, so I will always have those. That will have to be enough. Sometimes acknowledging that things are as good as they can get at any moment in time is the best you can ask for.