SEPTEMBER 17, 1969: “Phoenix Rising” …

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{Artwork by The Phoenix Collaborative}

I was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and from the outside looking in our family was picture perfect. My sister and I were raised by parents who chose not to divorce despite the odds stacked against them and the years of turmoil and dysfunction that besmudged our family tree. My mother bore the brunt of childrearing, which as it turns out was for the best. In being honest, and for that reason alone, there are so many wonderful memories I have as a child. She did the best she could to make a safe environment for us. She suffered, struggled and sacrificed in every physical and psychological regard for the sake of everyone under our roof, most especially my father, and certainly for me and my sister.

My mother was there for everything she could manage to be present for considering that she worked so hard at a career she’d built over many years with Texas Instruments and Raytheon and through that career she made sure my sister and I had all of the things we would need to get out there and survive, not the least of which was college educations that she paid for on her own. She took each of her roles as wife, mother, daughter and daughter-in-law as dutifully and faithfully as she possibly could under any and all possible circumstances. At one point in our life my father’s mother had even come to live with us after my Grandpa passed away and thereto mom took the brunt of her overall care and well-being, which I have to tell you is something I still do not understand to this day because my grandmother was a mostly cruel and selfish human being who cared nothing for my mother whatsoever and made no bones about it, yet happily and selfishly enjoyed the many comforts and caterings to her every whim that my mother alone provided her alongside everything else she had on her already full plate at any given time without any regard or consideration for her overall care and well-being. What Ida wanted, Ida got, no matter the cost to my mother, and this was how it was.

My mother didn’t exactly have a fairytale childhood much less was there an appearance of anything “picture perfect and charmed”. Born the second oldest of eight children, she’d been raising kids since she was old enough to change a diaper by the time she’d met my father. Her family demographic was probably near poverty level and I know for a fact that she never owned a store bought dress or new pair of shoes until after she married my father. Her Catholic faith was very strong though, and at one point she’d even considered becoming a nun. Life took her down a different path however where she would stumble upon the man and his family that would test her faith forever.

He was the youngest of four boys, born eleven years after the last. With a headstrong iron will, despite the psychological abuse he suffered at his mother’s hands, he managed to create a life filled with the most beautiful things for us out of literally nothing at all. Over the years, many have come to know him as a Midas Touch, as everything he’s ever set out to do he has succeeded at beyond measure. His father, Ernie, was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever known. He was loving and kind, caring and thoughtful, and all about his family. The man was a saint by even the harshest standards, and I’d be hard pressed to find any shortcomings in his integrity or character. Put it this way … In the 18 years I had him, I never once heard him raise his voice, or saw him raise his fist, and never once heard him say anything unkind about another person. Which is not to say that he never ever said them, it’s just that if he did, he never let the younger, more impressionable of us that were lucky enough to be in his presence actually hear them.

To this day I smile when I remember the “worst word” I ever heard him say: “Garl darnit!” This was my Grandpa’s version of profanity and it took a fair amount of anger or frustration to get him there. My Grandpa was the polar opposite of any man I’d ever known until the day I met my late husband, Zachariah, but I’ll get to that much later. Sufficed to say, my beautiful Grandpa was then and still remains one of the brightest stars that has led my pathway from the sky. The legacy he left behind was one of true love and kindness and the memories he left are completely unsoiled in my heart and soul. Of course he was but a mortal man and with that it is certain that just like all of us he’d had his moments, grievances, “grudges” and maybe even “yelling, screaming and profanity”, but as any truly good man and father should of he was wise enough to shield the younger eyes that were watching and ears that were listening from anything less than “kind”. Little did I know that without even knowing it he’d set a standard by which to judge any other human man against so deep inside my psyche that after his passing it took me YEARS to finally understand it and YEARS to finally find that man!

Ida, my father’s mother, as we later found out, hid a dark childhood secret of her own and thus led a miserable existence. Even from the grave she managed to pit her sons one against the other throughout the entirety of their lives by constantly manipulating them with her contingent based system of affection and reward. If she didn’t get what she wanted, when she wanted, HOW she wanted it, the final outcome to her children was always:

I’ll fix you … I wash my hands of you … You’re nothing to me … I’m done with you … YOU ARE NO LONGER A PART OF MY LIFE!

Although my grandparents were not overtly wealthy, my Grandpa was a hard worker and they never wanted for anything. This suited my grandmother exceedingly well in her incessantworks and deeds based” human judgment and value system. Unfortunately, thatwhat have you done for me lately” mindset funneled it’s way through to our own family home and ultimately almost cost me my sanity and life. Again, I’ll get into that later. But in my lifetime, up to and including my very darkest of hours, I too have fallen prey to that familial gift that never stopped giving and has all but blackened and asphyxiated our family tree. Dozens of times since as old as I can remember I’ve heard the very words that my father and his brothers grew up hearing from their mother’s mouth: 

I’ll fix you … I wash my hands of you … You’re nothing to me … I’m done with you … YOU ARE NO LONGER A PART OF MY LIFE!

It wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s that I began to recognize that my “picture perfect” childhood was nothing but a farce, and now I’m going to speak my truths, no matter the cost, because at this point I have NOTHING left to lose but the lovely Venom suit that’s been wrapped around my body from the moment I drew my first breath. Welcome to the pages of my life …

PAGES

What happens to a man when he spills his heart on a page and he watches words flow away then his feelings lie on the page alone there waiting for someone who cares to read them, to open their eyes to see them, to see if they can make his thoughts their own, to find out that maybe your life’s not perfect? Maybe it’s not worth what he gives away? You can see that this broken soul is bleeding. So you can see your feelings inside yourself and wander through my heart. Letting you see through me now only iyuconsumes me – Forget your pain, watch me fall apart. What happens to a soul when it’s trapped inside his emotions and all of these words he’s spoken, they bind him to the life he’s left behind, and every new step he takes he knows that he might not make it to all of these dreams that he has yet to find? {3 Doors Down}