So … I have been away from here for quite some time. Many of you have reached out to me during this time and I want you to know how important is to me to know I have your support. A very heart felt thank you to all.
Among a huge number of issues I thought dead and buried but have recently learned not so much, is the fact that I have yet to fully reconcile my relationship with my mother both in life and now more so in her death. Remember these last couple of words … they become important in a later post.
Any relationships with my mother were inevitably of the “love hate” variety. People close to her would try very hard to love her and in return my mother was extremely adept at returning hatred and disdain for one’s efforts. My father for some inexplicable reason remained a loving, loyal and devoted husband to her for 60 years. Each of my three sisters and I worked tirelessly, both physically and emotionally to earn our mother’s love to no avail. No amount of trying to please her, fulfill her expectations of us, care for her needs, was ever enough.
At very young ages we were expected to play her roles of housewife and mother. The twins were 9 years old in 1965. That was the year they began doing the family laundry, packing school lunches, getting me bathed, fed, and to kindergarten class each day, preparing our family meals at dinner time. In turn I inherited the chores of polishing the furniture, cleaning the toilets (I was not quite tall enough yet to do the vanities and sinks) and vacuum the house using the silver metal upright Hoover that she had bought from the Fuller Brush door to door salesman. It was the responsibility of all three of us to “gently” wake her (God help us if we startled her) from her daily afternoon phenobarbital induced “nap”. The empty scotch glass on the side table by the couch would be there waiting for me to take down to the basement bar to refill mixed with just a splash of water. Over a short period of time I learned if I used my finger to stir I would know if I had put in too much or not enough “splash”. I was five years old that year.
Also in September of that year my little sister was born. The oldest twin was relegated to diaper and bath duty while Vicky became singularly responsible for the the duties the twins previously had together been put to task. If the baby cried or the scotch wasn’t promptly replenished or Vicky didn’t get that evening’s dinner started on time there was a very high price to pay. After being yelled at as a threesome, my sisters and I would then be told in a voice so sinister it haunts my memories to this day “wipe. that. look. off. your face. or. I. will. do. it. for. you.”. It is difficult to understand what that means from a 5 year old’s perspective. After all, I wasn’t holding a hand mirror to be able to check to see what she meant. It wouldn’t have mattered any way. The twins and I had learned that our mother always made good on her threats. This was a near daily event in our household.
In addition to her “wipe that look” command would be the even more ominous threat of “wait until your father gets home”. This was not just a line from Leave It To Beaver or The Andy Griffith show. This was a promise we came to deeply fear. This was the time when my mother would reiterate the event and insist on very harsh and cruel punishment be taken out on us by our father.
At this point in the telling I am sure most of you can fill in the details with your own harsh punishments. After all, don’t they all eventually become one big interchangeable painful blur? Any one of us that have suffered the painful physical abuse at the hands of one or both of our parents would be qualified to write this particular paragraph, right?
In addition my mother was fond of using terms to describe each of us that were extremely demeaning, highly insulting, ferociously hurtful and ultimately emotionally damaging. As Vicky once so accurately described her, “she was a master at reigning over her three servants with fear as her ever present crown of right”.
Is it any wonder then that not one nor two or even three, but all FOUR of her daughters left the family home at ages sixteen and seventeen? The older twin chose their 16th birthday to back a large gym bag secretly a few days before and give it to her then boyfriend. He came to pick her up for a date in his candy apple red 1969 Mustang convertible, declining repeated requests from myself and my friends to “just go for a ride around the block, PLEEESE?” He was a pretty cool dude for an old guy (he was 21 at the time) and didn’t usually mind taking these screaming adolescent girls for a short ride, He was kind of like a rock star to us and we his adoring fans. He was so handsome seen through the eyes of a bunch of 12 year old girls. But this time was different. When my sister walked out of the house and got into that car I didn’t know that I would only see her three more times in my life, each of which would be during anxious periods of crisis.
Vicky, the younger twin waited until October 7 of that same year, 1972 to turn her back and walk out of her family life. It was Thanksgiving weekend and she had permission to stay home that weekend while my parents dragged my younger sister and I to one of those tedious family turkey dinners. In my family, coming together at times of celebration are usually viewed as an obligation one must endure rather that an enveloping of extended family brought together to enjoy each other’s company. But I digress. Sorry.
Vicky, by her own accounting several years later, had been waiting and planning. She officially dropped out of school by not returning the previous month. She had found herself a full time retail job in the city with a small apartment nearby. She packed fer few belongings, filling just a single paper grocery bag, and just walked out. We returned home that long weekend to her belongings for the most part untouched, no sign of a note, no word from her, nothing. It would be my grandmother’s funeral that would once again reunite the four sisters, but only very briefly.
As for myself, I did the best I knew how. At home I tried to stay under my mother’s radar as much as possible, That was pretty difficult because now ALL the day to day responsibilities fell to my shoulders. The youngest, the “baby” of the family “was too precious” to submit her to chores. Not my words, my mother’s as told to me by two of my sisters on different occasions and years apart.
I studied hard, graduated at 16 years of age from a five year high school maths and sciences program on the provincial honour roll, and decided to take the drastic step of enlisting with the Canadian Armed Forces immediately afterward. RMC Officer Training Medical Corp was my preferred ticket of choice. However I also became engaged to be married to my boyfriend of a year but had no intentions of marrying for several years. That is to say I didn’t have any intentions. He, on the other hand had different plans.
I received orders to report for basic training in Nova Scotia. At that time I was living in Ontario, roughly 2500 kms away. My boyfriend immediately told me he would not wait for me to return from the Forces and told me that if I washed out I would have to return to my parents’ home. The thought of living there even only a minute longer was unbearable.
The following day my father struck my head and slammed it into a wall, leaving me with serious hearing loss in my right ear. Within minutes I was coat and booted up, walked out the front door into a very heavy snow storm and simply walked away.
And the youngest? Well she managed to get herself into a college dorm in a city three hours away where she was promptly campus raped and beaten.
What happened to all the sisters? Let’s just say that physical, mental and emotional abuse knows no distance, time is irrelevant, indeed it seemed to have an uncanny ability to seek each of us out no matter where we went or what we did to try and thwart it.
But in 1972, 1977 and 1981 we were safe. At least that is what we all thought …