“Hickeyyyyyy,” we all chimed as the photographer clicked her camera.
My brother, in his early twenties at the time, showed up to our family photo shoot with a hickey from hell. With five sisters around, we didn’t let his love mark go easily dismissed. We didn’t get to see our only brother often, as he was in and out of jail or falling of the face of the Earth for months at a time.
This moment, was the last time I can recall all six of us being in the same room together. We had secretly taken the photo as a Mother’s Day gift over fourteen years ago. You would think Mom would have it displayed on a wall somewhere or in her wallet to show off to her friends. Doing so, would be a daily reminder of the extent of our family dysfunction
Every family is fucked up and we all come from a long line of crazies. If one follows the Bible, then you would believe we are all a product of incest. I was destined to be nuts, having mental health problems from both sides. As long as I acknowledge my nuttiness, I feel like maybe I’m not so nutty.
We resided at a dead end street in a two bedroom apartment shared by seven people. My two younger sisters and I, my “whole” ones, shared one bedroom, while my older, half-sisters shared the other. My parents resorted to sleeping in the front room on a pull out couch. My half-brother, lived in the apartment below with his father.
My mother is the constant and the men in her life, are the variables. My older sisters come from a different father, but call my brother’s father, “Dad”. I myself, consider him a father figure as the two men co-parented all of us. Dad would take us on nature adventures and help us with homework while Carter would spoil us with treats and amusement parks.
Looking back, I now realize how abnormal this was. It gets a bit deeper with my grandmother living just a block away with an almost identical scenario and children who were less than five years older than me. But you know what, it worked as we grew up being loved by many.
The only one who I question showing their love, was my own mother. I recall one time her banging my o sister’s head against the wall and making her stay home from school so the teachers wouldn’t see the marks. She would drag us across the floor by our hair or arms, her nails sinking in to our skin causing blood to draw. I’ll never get the image of her yelling at us so hard she was foaming at the mouth like a rabid animal. One time after punishing me for god knows what, I back handed her as hard as I could. She looked at me in shock and I’m sure I was mirroring her reaction. She simply walked out of the room and that door in hell was forever closed.
When I was ten, we moved out of our tiny flat, into a three bedroom house in a better school district. My oldest sister had upped and left as soon as she turned seventeen. She promised to come back for us and save us from our mother. She never did, I don’t blame her. My brother stayed behind with his father as my dad and he never got along very well. It was just us four girls, although my other older sister was away at college most of the time. So in the end, it was my younger sisters, Mom, and Dad.
As you get older, you begin to shed light on events in your childhood and look at them in a completely different way. More often, suppressed memories unravel and the life you thought you knew, was simply conjured up to protect your fragile, little brain from the reality.
I was thirteen when I was first admitted into the second floor of the psychiatric unit of Palos Community Hospital. A devious plan my older sister hatched, luring me to hang out with her with a pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream, with the intent of dragging me up to that hell hole. During a visit from my parents, they dropped a bomb: they were separating. They never fought nor argued so this was a complete shock to me. Mom and Dad just simply quit talking.
I was sent to see a therapist and put on antidepressants. I lied to her and pretended to swallow those nasty pills. She even brought my family in, an attempt to glue back together our once “perfect” life. It had been months since all of us had been in the same room together and was extremely awkward and embarrassing.
One day I came home and my mother was gone. There was no goodbye, no new address, nor a note. Having been pregnant at sixteen, married by seventeen, and after popping out six children like potatoes in a thirteen year span, I guess she had just about had it.
Later down the road, when my youngest sister and I went to go live with Mom, she filed for child support. My father, obviously pissed, questioned his paternity to the three of us. So….which one was it? No, couldn’t be me, I’m the spitting image of Dad. The youngest? No, she has those Vaci fingers and olive skin. The middle one? Now that was a possibility. She didn’t resemble us and we have completely different personalities. In the end, my father never pursued the questionable paternity, yet we all still have an ongoing (semi-sarcastic joke) if she, my middle sister, was fathered by someone else.
My youngest sister and I were like Thelma and Louise. We have been arrested together, did cocaine in our bedrooms while Mom was in living room watching TV, threw massive house parties, and always stuck together. She was my best friend, my confidant, and my other half. I dragged her up a hill once after a highly intoxicated man attempted to run us over in his SUV. As we sat in the car waiting to leave the party, he came barreling down the road straight for us. I pushed her out of the front seat, but I was thrown out of the car and somehow under it. She dragged me out and we ran up a hill together with the headlights following us. He was just a few feet away from killing us, when I spotted a tree and grabbed her, throwing both of us behind it. We screamed just as the car wrapped itself around the tree.
Up until recently, I thought my baby sister and I would grow old and die together, laughing how we cheated life so many times. Up until recently, I forgave my mother for being physically and mentally , giving us her body dysmorphia, and abandonment. Up until recently, I lied to my grandmother by telling her I had no way to make it home for the holidays.
The past is a funny thing as it will come and bite you in the ass when you least expect it. In two years, I made peace with all the people in my life who made it hell. I forgave those who should not have ever been forgiven. Yet, my beloved younger sister has betrayed me in such a way, without any sign of remorse, I can never forgive her for. A girl who once was only a phone call away for a good laugh and someone to bitch to about Mom.
As for my mother, I just can’t handle having her in my life for one more day. Her recent behavior has sent me over the ledge of my sanity for the last time. Maybe I was wrong for forgiving her without never receiving a sorry and condoning her performance as a mother. Maybe the best thing to do is just to let go.
This past week has put me back in the dark place in my mind I once thought was forever no more. The hurt and the pain I once felt, has washed over me in one massive wave. As I begin a new life here in Colorado, I have to remember the one I left behind and let the past be the past. I have the world in front of me and a great man by my side. I won’t let this be tarnished by the choices and voices of others. I’ve put in too much time into my spirit to let it be broken all over again.
On Sunday, I will depart on a once in a lifetime opportunity to join my father as he kayaks down the Mississippi River. I have been counting down the days where I will be able to eat canned octopus and enjoy a crackling fire as I freeze my ass off. If there is anything I have learned from the road, it is those breathtaking moments which happen that make you regain your faith in humanity.
So here’s to the past, you can kiss my ass.