Most of you know by now that I am struggling back from a very serious relapse. Ironically, it was starting this blog that brought on that relapse. But that’s ok. I need to face these truths that I have buried for so long.
I want to tell you a story about my mother, my sister and myself, but first I have to let you in on my most recent “truth”. A few days ago I was finally able to see a psychiatrist following my recent encounter with suicidal tendencies. It would seem that in addition to severe depression I also suffer from PTSD. This isn’t the first time I have been told this, but it IS the first time a decisive diagnosis has been made. As much as I dislike being labelled as a victim of PTSD I have to admit I wasn’t really surprised. During my visit with him, the doctor asked me about flashbacks and terror or fear. A memory immediately came to mind along with a confession from my sister, Vicky, to me, several decades after the event. It went something like this …
“I told Mom a long time ago that she had lost the right to call herself my mother but that I would consider allowing her to be my friend” Vicky said to me. She was visiting for the evening and we were alone in the hot tub, talking about the many dysfunctional events of our childhood. I sat spellbound as she related one of her more terrifying memories. “It was the day after a party Georgie and I had” she continued. “Dad was at work and Georgie had gone out with her boyfriend. Mom was still trying to convince herself that the butt in the ashtray she saw was a joint. It wasn’t. It was a cigar. Shows how clueless she was. Typical …”. She let out a heavy sigh. “Mom was always looking for trouble, even when there wasn’t any. She was such a jealous woman. She hated that Dad had four daughters that drew his attention away from her. She took that anger out on us every chance she could.”
Vicky drew quiet for a while. With a little prompting she continued. “She was ranting like a madman. She found a pair of her sewing shears and grabbed a fistful of my hair and simply cut if off! She managed to do this twice more while the shock and horror of what she was doing froze me to the spot”.
I saw a glazed look wash over her face. I also felt something happening to me. A faint memory, nagging at the back of my consciousness. We sat for a few minutes, two pairs of sad eyes turned toward the stars in the night sky, not really seeing them. I could hear yelling. I could hear thumps against the wall separating me from my parents’ bedroom. I could hear furniture scrapping across the floor. Something smashed. I realized I was recalling the same memory Vicky was sharing. I was recalling it for the first time since that terrible afternoon, recalling it the way my ten year old eyes and ears had recorded it.
“I remember poking my head out into the hallway” I told Vicky. “I can still remember all the screaming and shouting. I remember ducking back into my room as she pushed you past my doorway. I remember she pulled the door shut and shouted at me not to come out again until she told me I could” I said slowly. ” I remember hearing a high pitched screech and then another scream and the sound of something falling down the stairs. I remember thinking that Mummy had thrown a chair down the stairs and that it must be broken. But most of all I remember that screech. I knew it was her and I remember wondering if she had magically turned into some kind of animal.” I fell silent after that.
Vicky was lost in thought for a few moments. She looked back at me and replied “It wasn’t magic. She didn’t turn into an animal that day. She has always been a monster. It wasn’t a chair that went down those stairs, it was me”.
I stared at her. I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say. Finally Vicky broke the silence that had fallen between us. Her voice soft, trembling a little she continued, “She pushed me. Backwards. Down the stairs. I broke my arm”. Suddenly I remembered Vicky at the cottage, a cast on her left arm, telling everyone she had fractured it falling out of a tree. I thought to myself “Of course she didn’t fall out of a tree! She never even learned to climb a tree!!” Vicky was never particularly athletically inclined, to say the least, but looking back I could see how that would have been an acceptable reason for her having broken her arm. A plausible explanation that would allow my mother, and by extension my father, ever devoted to his wife, to keep an ugly secret. Oh the tangled webs we weave!
That was shortly before Vicky’s death. A few short weeks later she would succumb to the cancer that silently riddled her organs. Before she died she told me something else that was to change my relationship with my mother forever …