My Schizophrenic Mother
I was twelve years old when our Dad told us that a neighbor informed him that our mother had been arrested by the police where we lived. Apparently she had hitchhiked from Montana to Idaho to find us. My heart leaped with joy. For the longest time I had thought that she didn't really care about us. I always wondered why she didn't come for us, why she didn't fight for us. We started asking our father about visiting her, we begged him, I was so crushed that the police had taken her away before we could see her.
Just before Christmas he told us that we were going on a trip to Montana to visit her and our grandma who she lived with. I was ecstatic. We piled into the station wagon that weekend to make the long trip. I watched out the car window as we went up the pass and noticed the scenery changing. We stopped along rest areas along the way to stretch and get something to eat by donating some change at the stands. Pretty soon the pine trees dissipated and I saw why they called Montana “big sky country.” The sky was blue and clear and the land was as far as you could see with very few houses for miles and miles. We had talked to our Grandma on the phone and she had asked us what we wanted for Christmas.
When we walked in the house the first thing I noticed was our Mother. She asked us how old we were now and she seemed surprised that we had gotten so big. She sat in a rocking chair in the corner of the room watching QVC and chain smoking cigarettes in between gulps of Pepsi. I noticed her wrist; there was a blue tattoo on it. She wasn't anything like I remembered from my childhood. She had very short black hair like a boy and she was bigger. She asked us if she could bathe us and do our hair. We balked, we weren't babies any more! She asked me to call her Mommy but I felt weird doing that. She said she still had a picture of Marlene from when she was little and then she went back to watching television again and acted like we weren't there pretty much the rest of the visit.
Our Grandmother, Delores had long salt and pepper colored hair that was tied back in a pony tail. She wore a long sleeved top that was different colors of denim fabric sewn together like a quilt with matching pants. She had cold sores around her lips and when she talked her tongue looked like the garter snakes we used to catch at our other Grandma's house. She kind of scared me at first but she turned out to be sweet, and more talkative and normal then our Mom. She showed us a huge porcelain doll collection she kept in her bedroom and she let us play with her toy slot machine. She told us when she died we would inherit all of it. They lived in a tiny cramped house and I surveyed my surroundings. There was a brown davenport which converted into a pull out bed that we slept on that night. It smelled like pee. There were ash trays all over the place and a few air purifiers running to no avail. The fridge was covered with comic strips from newspapers taped up like a collage.
Our Uncle Denver had long black curly hair and gave us Hershey chocolate kisses for Christmas, he was an instant hit. Our Grandma gave us sandals. They looked like something from the sixties, they had high heels and they tied around the ankle, they were the ugliest thing I had ever seen, aside from maybe Grandma's denim outfit that she didn't change the entire weekend we were there. Of course I didn’t want to hurt her feelings so I pretended I liked the shoes. They also gave us each a piggy bank with a few dollars in it and suggested we go roller skating at the local rink.
I loved roller skating and had only been a couple times but always caught on really quick. The first few times I held onto the bars as I wheeled around the floor and finally I got comfortable enough to do it on my own. They played eighties music on the loudspeaker by Debbie Gibson. We had a blast; it was probably my favorite part of the trip. I had built up this image of my Mother in my mind but it turned out to be a huge disappointment. When we got back to the house after roller skating she was still sitting in her chair staring listlessly into space, not speaking.
They eventually opened up the Davenport and we went to sleep. In the morning Grandma cooked us a weird concoction where she took a piece of bread, cut a hole in the middle, threw it in the skillet and placed an egg in the hole. She packed us something to eat for the trip back home, bologna sandwiches and we said our goodbyes. I don't even remember hugging my Mother goodbye.
We piled into the station wagon and headed home, it was snowing and after being on the road for about an hour the car broke down. We were out in the middle of nowhere and it was freezing outside. Our Dad got on his radio and somehow called our Uncle Mitch in Idaho to come get us. We had to wait a few hours for him to get there.
While we were driving back home in the car our father made jokes about Grandma and how she had tried to kill him by not cutting off the plastic around the bologna. He told us that our mother had slapped him on the behind and he talked about how crazy she was. I guess it was his way of telling us that we should stop whining about seeing our mother, that we were better off with him. Our Uncle Mitch eventually picked us up and drove us the rest of the way home, he chatted with our father about electronics and other things we didn't care about so we tuned them out and fell asleep.
Later on that winter my sister couldn't find one of her shoes when we were getting ready for school one morning. She looked all over and dad started yelling at her that he didn't care; we needed to go to school. So we started walking to the bus stop even though she wasn't wearing shoes. By the time we got to the bottom of the mountain she was crying. I felt so bad for her because her feet were freezing that I let her wear my shoes the rest of the way. When we got to the school I was so embarrassed and self conscious because all I was wearing was socks and they were soaked. The principal noticed us immediately and sent us home.
There was a time I found our father peeing off the balcony of the house onto the grass below. When he came inside he said something about how he had been circumcised and we asked what that was. He said it was when they cut off the tip of your pecker. So I started teasing him and calling him stubby. He got really angry and did his typical “1, 2, 3” warning which meant if he got to 3 then you were about to get your butt beat. I ran up the stairs because the look on his face scared me and into my room. I curled up on my bed in a fetal position and braced myself for a beating. But when he got there he backed down to my surprise when I apologized and screamed to please not hit me. He went down stairs and I thanked my lucky stars. Another time he told me he had a hernia and when I asked what that meant he said that his penis had shrunk back inside of him. He was also very open about the fact that he had Herpes. He took Lysine and kept it in the bathroom cabinet and when we found it he told us it stopped him from having breakouts. When we were older he told us the new rule about cussing. He said it was okay to do as long as you didn't do it around an adult.
Our Dad decided to move down into the basement where he worked on his electronics and ran his own small business fixing electronics. So I moved into his old room and for the first time in my life had my own room. Up until then Marlene and I would fight like cats and dogs, we would separate our bunk beds and try to re-arrange the room or hang a sheet up but that never did much good. Marlene was usually the aggressor, or at least she was tougher then me. This was pathetic since she was a year younger. She would leave scratches up and down my arms and pull my hair; I still have the scars because she would draw blood.
After two years with us our nanny decided it was time for her to move on and do other things. She saw how miserable Marlene was living with our father and actually offered to take her in and adopt her but our father refused of course. He didn't really care about us but I think he liked the control he had over us and he wasn't about to give that up to anyone.
Instead he found another babysitter named Leslie who lived next door to us. We used to cross our yard and go through the trees to visit her anyway so she seemed like an obvious choice. She had a boyfriend who was abusive, I noticed more than once he had given her a black eye. On her first day of babysitting, Marlene and I decided to have a fight with the poop the cats had left all around our house. Marlene and I started throwing poop at each other. Marlene hid behind the door that led into the basement, there was a keyhole and we were peaking through it at each other so I shoved a piece of poop into the hole and it remained there until we moved out. Cheryl freaked out and quit, who knew that was all we had to do to get rid of a sitter.
Dad hired another babysitter that was young and blond, can’t remember her name but she was probably in her early twenties. She took us to the big city where she went car shopping and quit after a few days. Dad told us that she probably just wanted to get a car and that's why she left. After that I guess Dad gave up trying to find a sitter because we didn't have any more, we were on our own for a few hours a day until he got home from work.
I used to snoop around in Dad's basement room while he was at work and one day came upon his divorce papers and read through them. It said our Mother refused to take parenting classes or seek help for her mental illness. At the end it said that our father should retain custody but the mother should be allowed visitation rights if she cooperated with the parenting classes and counseling. Along with the divorce papers I found my birth certificate and noticed something interesting. It said my father was 33 years old when I was born and my mother was 18. He was twice her age. As an adult, I asked my Grandparents (his parents) if they thought that was strange but they said no. Their son could do no wrong in their eyes.
I hated Physical Education Class. I had it every day with the same teacher; she was an old hag with blond and gray hair who wore track suits. Most of the students didn't like her and would say that she was a lesbian because she forced us to undress in front of each other and she had a window in her office to watch from and we all had to shower after P.E. She told my friend Christine in front of the entire class that she smelled and needed to get some deodorant. The P.E. Teacher used to lecture me too about wearing socks and white socks at that, I only had a couple pairs and most of them were colored. She would make us run laps around the gym and I would get a stitch in my side, and if you went over the black line she would make you do another one. She was strict and I hated her guts. I would constantly make up excuses to get out of gym. We would have to play volleyball and run laps around the gym or school.
Eighth grade was hard; I struggled with my schoolwork and the continuous bullying. For the first year ever I didn't get an award for my English class at the end of the year. We got our yearbooks and I asked my friends to sign it. For three years I had a crush on this guy named Keith; he had blond hair and blue eyes. I didn't think he noticed me though. I asked him if he would sign my yearbook and to my surprise he did. When I got it back I ran over to one of my girlfriends and we read it together. He wrote something about how he loved me and I was so beautiful and then at the bottom in huge capital letters he wrote NOT!! I was mortified.
After the school year was over our father told us he was looking for another job. This time he found a job very quickly in Washington State. He came home with a newspaper from the new city and told us that things were going to be better since he was going to be making so much money. I was sad because I was leaving everything and everyone I knew. While I was packing up my room I got out a black felt tip marker and wrote a poem on my bedroom wall, or to be more accurate the ceiling that slanted down at an angle above my bed:
In the dark,
I trusted you,
I trusted myself,
How did I allow myself to get so close?
I'm only a teenager,
Yet I know,
The weird thing was I didn’t know who the poem was about. I had lived in that old mining town in Idaho for three years and made a lot of friends and a lot of enemies. But it was my home and I loved it. On the other hand I was excited about moving to a new town. I was fourteen years old and I had never kissed a boy or even been close to having a boyfriend. Everyone my age seemed to be dating and I felt lonely and ugly. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I find a boyfriend? Maybe moving to a new city was the answer. I pictured walking into the new school and just owning it, I practiced saying hi to new guys in the mirror and kissing the reflection that stared back at me. I danced around to the song by Mariah Carey, “Dream lover” and pictured a gorgeous blond guy with blue eyes taking me away from all of this. We said goodbye to our friends, packed up everything and moved to a nice little three bedroom trailer in Washington State.
(To be continued, please bookmark this page because in the future I will add more chapters. If you would like to be notified by email when I update this blog drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can add you to the list.)