As I sit and reflect on my childhood, I can’t help but wonder how many other children -right this minute- are being raised the same way. Terrorized, scared most every second – except when in nature or otherwise absent from your own family’s house…
Dysfunction was the order of the day, every day, not only in my house but every house in the (government housing) neighborhood. Just to be clear, I did not grow up in the subsidized housing but directly across the street from it. These were my playmates, school friends and neighbors.
As I lie awake @ 2:38 a.m. I am aware of pressure and discomfort in my chest. My heart feels sad. Heavy. I drop deeper into the hurt and allow the feelings of despair to overtake me. So sad. I am aware of the torment of so many people. I feel so many things at once, so many memories, people, situations…The large scale of addiction, abuse, neglect, filth, lack, suicide, attempted suicide, death – way too early. Way too young. Neighbors succumbing to poor choices, leading to an early exit from this life. So many didn’t stand a chance. So many, either by their own hand or years of self inflicted, ineffective numbing, died in their 30’s and 40’s. Poverty, hopelessness, government housing, theft, screaming, violence, mental illness, – people trying to make some sort of normalcy out of their generational deprivation. Never had a chance.
A woman, stiff, only legs moving, arms down by her sides, no blinking, no head turning… expressionless as she walked from sun up to sun down all around the town. Long black hair, Native American looking. She kept jars of snakes in her house. She had two beautiful children who, if it wasn’t for their father, might have starved. She would talk in a monotone voice about aliens who came down and stole her soul. As a young, impressionable, I kind of believed her and for a while, I was afraid someone would steal my soul. 😳. (Well they did, but not the fucking extra-terrestrial)
The family across the street with a completely pickled man of the house. 2 skinny, snotty nose, pole bean kids with stringy blond hair. Don’t remember if there was a Mom there. Father went into a rage and kicked the TV screen out (well at least that’s what we were told- and I now question everything I was ever told, unless I observed it with my own eyes). He was hauled away in handcuffs and stuffed into a police car. We watched. Didn’t take him long before he hung himself in jail.
There were young men, my Mothers’s friend’s kids. Homeless and sleeping under a small bridge in town. Seemingly cursed by the ages. The hidden trauma and abuse, now visible in the choices they made for themselves. Compounding tragedies. An endless stream of them. One of them fell onto to the tracks just last week and was hit by a train.
Violence which kept you staying low on your living room floor. Crawling in the dark, all 9 of us- afraid to stand because surely you’d be seen in the streetlights illumination by the man loose in the neighborhood with the SHOTGUN. He was apparently looking for someone. The next morning, one of my older siblings informed me that WE were hiding – the person he wanted to kill – in our garage. GOOD PARENTING – great judgement. Just pray to Jesus and we will all be safe. 😳 How bout the police? How bout I just walk outside and get it over with 😳.
As a child I doubted there was a God or Jesus. I would pray. Pray for the bad people to be taken away. No action. Pray for the abuse to stop. Nothing. Pray for my father to live. Nothing. Pray for my mother to listen to me and protect me. Crickets. Yet RELIGION was crammed down our throats. Everyday. I hated a God who apparently saved everyone but me. (I don’t now, but that’s for another blog 💜)
What I’ve seen, heard, felt, touched and tasted…Stored in my body, my brain, muscles, bones, connective tissue. It’s there. Until it gets triggered. Little by little it streams out. This exposure to all that was rotten and scary and overwhelming, this, THIS – generation after generation- is the making of mental illness. Solid mental illness. A young, little brain/body can only process so much. Too hard to understand. Too much. Too young. Fuckers.
I think my mother prob was pleased on some level. This level of terror OUTDOORS kept us loyal, afraid and compliant INDOORS. How convenient that we didn’t want to be independent 🤬. We needed the CRAZY PERSON , in our house, to keep us safe – what a disaster. She would even go so far as to DENY these things happened or DOWNPLAY the seriousness when I recounted a situation in front of others. This was an additional MIND-FUCK for us.
Whole families picked off, one by one. There was a Family of 5, down the street- the father was our garbage man (it was the family’s only source of income) He had an old red pick-up truck with a handmade wooden bed. He would circulate around the neighborhood, weekly, getting everyone’s trash. His eye was turned upward and discolored, kinda creepy as a small child observing. They kept a very clean house which smelled of sweet perfume and fried food. The youngest child raped someone as a teen, spent some time incarcerated and later committed suicide. The sister, my friend, got extremely ill in her early 40’s with autoimmune illness and died. The two eldest sisters also passed away, one in her 40’s and the other 50’s. There is one surviving member of that family. Apparently incredibly resilient, Jonathan. He took a mountain of ridicule as a child as his lips were very big. He, against all odds, is running youth centered programs in the very town we were raised in. He is an incredibly positive and happy man. He helps sooooooo many children as a mentor and a great example of decency.
So as I sit with my broken, shattered heart and weep softly for the lost souls, the ones who couldn’t or wouldn’t do any better for themselves. I feel incredibly blessed as I sit here free of disease, not addicted, cherishing my existence, the honor, the privilege to be here, crying over what turmoil I knew as my childhood.
And my family was lead to believe that we had our shit together. The crazy was OUT THERE. This is probably why it’s like nails on the chalkboard when I see, dishonest, lying, cheating, evil bastards – demand and expect others to treat them with respect. The older I got I had a REALLY hard time respecting and honoring those who were inflicting harm on others – especially family! But when you’re raised with no self, no boundaries – everything you have and are belongs to others whenever they want – you HAVE to respect people who are literally fucking your existence. Then these fuckers get everyone to believe they are holier than Christ at Sunday mass. Disgusting injustice. Lies. Make me vomit in my own mouth. They would have been burned at the stake if I could have had some influence.
I cry for what I was reared to think was JUST misfortune, I cry because I was raised to appreciate the “good” home I came from. I weep for what could have been. I wail because my siblings are still caught up in varying degrees of this “white trash” mentality.
And sure, some will say that my parents did the best they could with what they had and knew. That might be my favorite response ever. But my response is, that does not make me any less worthy of sanity.