April 12, 2012
“Now you know why your mother, your grandmother, and I have not exposed you much to our family.” I told this to Alicia. Her Nana Karen, my sister Karen is with us. Karen nods her head in affirmation.
“Exactly.” She says.
Alicia witnessed the craziness at the hospital with me.
“When your Auntie Sherry was younger, I used to sneak her food upstairs to our bedroom.” Karen said as she took a couple Fritos and popped them in her mouth.
The three of us are having lunch in the cafeteria at Tacoma General Hospital.
Alicia looks at me, then at her Nana Karen. “Why?” she asked.
“Because Willa would send her to bed without dinner.”
“Really? But why?” Alicia wants answers. To make sense of the non sense.
“Because she did not fold the clothes fast enough. Or she did not get a dish perfectly clean. Or she left a spot on the floor when she mopped it.”
Alicia ponders this. I see her twelve year old mind trying to put this in the context of her own experiences. Her Nana and I are telling her things she can find no context for.
“For real?” Alicia asks.
“For real.” Nana Karen tells her.
Alicia looks at me.
“For real.” I tell her.
Toxic. My family is toxic.
I need a Haz Mat suit. Googles. Protective Gear.
I have none.
I face it full on, absorb it—medication is not helping.
In the family waiting room I hear my sister Kathy telling another sister we should not talk to dad.
I ask her why that is.
“When my husband had a brain injury the ICU nurses said we shouldn’t talk to him because it would keep his brain from healing.” Kathy’s voice is raising.
“Did Dad’s nurse tell you we could not talk to him?”
Kathy loses it. Becomes unglued. “I’m not taking this from you.” She yells.
“You need to make sure the information you give about dad is accurate and pertains to his situation.” I try to tell her. On the day of Dad’s surgery Kathy called one of the sisters and told her Dad had brain damage based on her observations. You can only imagine the drama this caused.
Other people start to leave the family waiting area because Kathy is so loud and agitated.
Kathy gets up from her chair, gathers her stuff, still yelling at me, stomping off. Family gathers around her to calm her.
I sit alone in my chair wondering what just happened. Trying to be the voice of reason, I have become the problem. The trouble maker.
I keep it to myself how much anxiety I have connected to hospitals. All those days spent sitting beside your bed. Hospital food, critical care units, iv poles, nurses, the white board in every room—Today’s Date Is; Your Nurse Is…
And none of my family there with us. Just you and I.
“No one ever comes to visit me.” You sobbed to me one night.
My anxiety medication is not working. Take two my psychiatrist tells me. Just do not drive.
I concentrate on Alicia. My great niece. A new generation. Breaking plates, making mosaics, her social studies project, watching movies, making jelly bean cupcakes, telling her how awesome she is and how much I love her.
Life needs to get back to normal.
Whatever normal is.
I hope it is not this.
I keep thinking of my Dad. In his hospital bed. Tubes everywhere. The ventilator breathing for him. His meals passing through a tube , the iv bags hanging from poles. The monitors tracing, tracking everything.
The fact I am here, not there.
I can be there if I do not cause trouble.
The condition troubles me. As if I would.
But everything I say and do now feeds into the perception I am trouble.
“Facts” misstated, misconstrued. Only deepens the conflict inside me. In every conflict, does there always have to be a victim, a victor? Three words—“I am sorry.” Would be enough.
I have given my apology for whatever my part in this conflict is. Twice. At least.
It has not been enough.
Others have taken on my role. My participation not wanted. My participation “trouble”.
Without a part in my father’s recovery anymore, I simply wait for word.
And write to you.
I want to help. I tried to help.
Until my help became a threat, unwanted.
You would understand. Like me you bristled at inaccuracies, injustices.
At justifications not based on fact.
The latest being I backed my dad’s wife into a corner—
when I got back you intamitaed me pushing me back into the chair and window you invaded my space
“I am sorry. I am crazy with stress. I did not mean to hurt you.”
This is all the response I wanted. Instead this.
I wrote back.
I felt the same way. That I had really been trying to be a friend to you and that all of a sudden you were hostile with me. Just for the record you were standing in the corner when I came to try to make things right with you. You were clearly upset and I felt hostile towards me. You told me to get back as I was invading your personal space…
Actually she was waving her arms moving toward me to push me back. You are invading my space.
I was trying to make things right. I was trying to let her know I was not trying to take this all personally. She did not want to listen to me. She only wanted to hear what she wanted to hear.
Her anger would not let things be right.
At the end of my message back to her I wrote—
I apologized to you for whatever I might have unwittingly said or done......
I cannot do this anymore. If she has to be right, she can be. If she has to justify her actions to everyone else, I guess I can be the bad guy.
In the meantime, I cannot bring myself to go to the hospital. To subject myself to any more.
I wish I could just let this go.
Alicia and I baked jelly bean cupcakes this morning. We googled recipes on the internet.
As I was getting out the beaters, the muffin tins, a measuring cup, a mixing bowl, Alicia asked me, “Is it true Aunt Sherry you ran away from home.”
I am surprised by the question. How does she know this?
“Yes, Alicia, when I was 16 I ran away from home.”
“Because I needed to stay sane. Because I was tired of being covered with bruises.”
“Bruises? How did you get bruises?”
“I got beat with the belt, I had an iron thrown at me, I had a teakettle full of heating water thrown at me, I was pummeled with fists.”
“Why didn’t you hit back?”
“Because I could not,” I tell her. “I was a child. I had no power.”
“What about your teachers? Didn’t they say something?”
“They should have.” She tells me.
“From the time I was younger than you I dreamed of running away.” I tell Alicia. “I tried to figure out how I could build a tree house in the woods where no one would find me. Where I could be safe.”
“When you ran away, where did you go?”
“I went to Remann Hall.” I am parsing out information a little at a time. This is a lot of information.
“What is Remann Hall.” Alicia asks.
“It was a jail for bad kids. I ran away to jail.”
“And then what?” She asks.
“And then I lived in a Catholic Children’s Home , and later, a foster home.”
Alicia studies me.
What I have told her does not fit into her realm of experience. This is all tell her now.
Which is more than I told you. I was not far enough away from it then.
I feel like this is running away again. Like I am an outsider in my family. Like I do not fit in.
The sun is shining. Cupcakes are baked. Alicia and I need to finish her mosaic. I have a garden that needs clean up, preparation.
I need a place I can breathe in something other than the craziness around me.
Whisper to my dad that I am there with him, just not physically.
Can you do that?
I miss you terribly right now.