Archive for February 2009
Frank asked “Who was worse? Mom or our step-father?”
25. February 2009 by gennyfer.
I was following my husband out of the room after a fun filled family money discussion with Frank. We all live together with 6 children most of them mine. My back was to Frank when he said “Oh, I had a question for you?” Innocently I turned around. “Who was worse? Mom or our step-father?”
My instant response, “You’re such an asshole.” I stood in the doorway looking at him, Forrest had stopped our exodus too and was standing behind me. “What kind of obnoxious question is that?” Really it’s like one of those Zobmondo questions where you have to chose between two equally noxious things. I hate that game.
“Seriously, which one do you think was worse?”
I hate to answer this question. Don’t think it hasn’t occurred to me before. I tend to fall back to over-analyzing things when I’m in a tough spot emotionally. “Well, mom was mentally ill and I guess you have to let some things go. There are some things she probably couldn’t be considered responsible for. But R. was a child molester, there is no excuse for fucking little girls. Accept doesn’t it kind of follow that someone who would even do that must have some kind of mental illness too?”
My husband interrupted… “You aren’t seriously trying to stand there and make an argument that it was somehow OK because he was mentally ill?”
“No,” I said, “Of course not. I don’t mean that. I’m just trying to figure out a way to explain it to you. After I told her, I was in 7th grade when I told her he molested me.” I looked at my husband. “You know, I only ever told her because I wanted to protect Mary. I figured it I told her Mary wouldn’t have to go spend weekends with him anymore and I could be sure she was safe.”
Frank cut in here, “You know statistically that doesn’t happen as much, the biological dad doesn’t go after his own kid.”
“Of course I know that, now, I didn’t back then. She didn’t know. Shit. No one knew that. No one knew much about the subject then. Anyway, I told her, just to protect Mary, and you know how badly that went.”
“Yeah” said Frank, “That was fucked up. You’ll have to write that one up for the website.”
“So telling her was a big Fail. She blamed me and Mary kept having her weekend visits . Sometimes mom would even have me ‘entertain’ him when she couldn’t be back with Mary on time when he came to pick her up.”
“What!” said my husband, “Entertain him? What the fuck?”
“Well, yeah, I know I’ve told you this one before but you always block it out. Cause it sucks pretty bad. But she’d know she was going to be late so she would tell me I had to make coffee for him and keep him company until she got there.” I moved in to the room Frank was in.
“I was terrified. I didn’t want to be breathing on the same planet with him let alone be all alone in a room, an empty house with him. So it went like this, I was alone in the kitchen with him, making coffee. He was across the room sitting at the table.” I moved to the desk in my brother’s living room and gestured to where Frank sat. “So I was here at the stove and he was about there where Frank is. I was making coffee. I was scared, really freaked out but knew I’d be in trouble if I was rude. So I was making coffee, like a good girl.”
“But I wanted to be as far away from him as I could get while still obeying mom and I really didn’t want my back to him. So I did this”. I turned my back to my brothers desk and leaned back. “That was what I was doing when mom walked in. She did her long chat with him and then he took Mary away for the weekend. When they were gone mom railed at me, screaming about what a slut I was, for leaning back on the stove like that, deliberately showing off my body.”
I walked back to the center to of the room. “So yeah, yes! I think she was worse than him. Fuck you for asking.”
My husband decided we should decamp and head back to our side of the house as he was “Going to be sick now.”
I said to Frank, “See! Now you made me make him sick. See you tomorrow. Dork.”
[Frank and I have communicated in this way for a long time. It’s such a harsh topic it is hard for me to convey in words that I wasn’t actually angry at him during this exchange, the name calling is just a reflection on our warped sense of humor. Without each other we would not have survived the childhood we got stuck with and I wouldn’t go back and change any of it if it meant not having him as a brother.]
The Parasite Princess
24. February 2009 by CarolesJournals.
Condition 2 weeks - strep throat pneumonia - grief based -
anger based - remorse
love ? myself
Why do you put a question mark there? Every time there is a question.
Basically I am cut off from my feelings. love is unknown to me.
at the core. So now I go back to Mom. over the years I have examined my
relationship with her and at times have felt forgiveness. but Now that I am
in this condition I am wondering about how isolated she was - unable to love.
almost like a parasite with my Dad as the host - My sister was the prize
I was forlorn, neglected, unwanted. an embarrassment - no good -
Non Compos Mentis -
I guessed at what I was supposed to be and somehow went on no feelings -
no attachments. numb. I had animals at the farm and briefly one small dog.
Skipping ahead - I am going with this parasite idea - I needed definition -
a host a cause I wanted to get away from my family my role my non-existance
I met F. - who was very much like my father
Was I my mother the parasite princess?
I feel violated by my poor choices - why F., why R., why my poor choice in teachers?
And what about R.R.?
Gennyfer here: F. refers to Franks & my father R. refers to Mary’s father. No idea who R. R. was.
Ace the Babysitter
24. February 2009 by Frank.
Really, it was the seventies. But how many people can remember a babysitter named Ace? Sure, when you are five, it sounds really cool. Ace was way cool. He was tall, had long hair, and even wore a black leather jacket. I imagine he later got a motorcycle and joined a biker gang. I remember Ace smoked Lucky Strikes, which I thought were neat because of the red target logo. At the time I never wondered where babysitters such as Ace came from. They just magically appeared when my mom and evil stepfather wanted to go out without the kids. Since this was before cable television, sitters like Ace actually played with us and were very entertaining. I had a deep and passionate love of army men of any kind at that time, and Ace would occasionally show up with one of those cheap plastic bags of army men. I was in heaven. Ace told me that his brother was a backup guitarist for the Jackson Five, and even at five I thought that was pretty sweet. I don’t know why Ace felt the need to lie to a five year old to impress him. Especially with something as remote to me as a famous music group. But that’s what he told me, and I believed him. Perhaps that is why my mother chose him, for his proclivity for making up fantastic stories. Or maybe his brother really was a session artist with the Jackson Five. That was the thing with my childhood. One just never really knew what to believe.
At the time of your life when all adults, or even older juveniles, look like towering giants to a little kid, Ace was certainly adult enough for me, but he was probably only sixteen or seventeen. I imagine he met my mom from coming to one of her many stellar parties that began every Friday night and regularly spilled over into Sunday morning. Or, as we did not attend church on a regular basis, i.e. never, she could have met up with him at the guru gatherings she regularly attended. Who knows? I wonder if my mom paid Ace in cash, or Lucky Strikes, or pot. The world will never know. I will say that, other than the babysitter we had much later who liked to play the pull his pants down and touch his willy game, my mom regularly chose cool babysitters for us.
Ace had a lot of girlfriends at the time. How could he not? He was always bringing someone different with him to watch us. Of course, the young ladies adored me. More cool points for Ace! So what is the point of this story, you ask? Where is the crazymom? Sounds pretty good so far. Ace was cool as shit to a five year old, and I had a blast every time he showed up. Until my mother ruined it all. Yes, she even managed to fuck up Ace the babysitter. What was the use in giving her children something to enjoy in life if she couldn’t wrench it away? I have had the carpet pulled out from underneath me so many times, I am surprised I can stand up straight.
Here it is. Picture this one. I am five years old. Ace is over watching my sister and me. We had dinner early, and Ace was sitting at my evil step fathers desk talking on the phone. I was sitting on a stool next to him, listening to the rap master at work! I was never one to have my hands idle. They say that idle hands are the devil’s playground! I started to fidget with the phone cord, twisting it up, wrapping it around my index finger, weaving through all my fingers, etc. This was back in the day, when our phone number had letters in it, and all phones looked the same. Big, black boxes with the dialing wheel, and a long, straight, black hard rubber cord that disappeared off into the floorboards somewhere. Fidgety five year old me decides after playing with the cord for a while to get a little more experimental. For some reason I decided it would be a good idea to take a closer look inside the phone cord and see just how this magic talking box really worked. I picked up a pair of scissors from the desk, you know the big metal ones with the black painted handles? I started to try and peel back the outer layer of plastic to see what was inside the cord. I actually got some of the outer cover peeled away pretty well before disaster struck.
Ace was rapping away and must not have noticed what was going one. He sure took notice when his phone conversation ended abruptly. He looked down at me in surprise. I was pretty upset myself, as I certainly hadn’t intended the results of my excavation. I had somehow managed to snip the cord in half. Whoopsie. I have to say in the continuing legend of Ace that he was super cool about it. Kind of like, “Hey, no problem, little man. Lets see if I can fix this.” No big deal to Ace. His girlfriend could wait. Ace spent at least fifteen or twenty minutes trying to splice the phone wires back together, but despite his most valiant and heroic efforts, it did not work. All this time, my subconscious fear was growing. Ace might have been one cool cookie, and was certainly understanding of a little five year old boy who was just trying to explore his environment, but I don’t think he had any idea of what was coming. He thought my mom was super cool. The party mistress. The go to guru lady. Grace under pressure. He didn’t have any idea who he was really dealing with.
So, where was I? Ah, yes. The paralyzing fear that was gripping me as the moment approached of my mother’s return. The fear of the unknown. Well, partially unknown. I imagine the feeling is more like someone in a torture chamber, hearing his tormentor coming down the hallway, terrified as to what it will be this time. The knees? The teeth? An eye? One never knows until they get there.
Poor Ace. My mom finally came home, and I am sure Ace didn’t think it was a very big deal to tell her that the phone cord was cut. I have done plenty of babysitting in my day, and kids do stupid shit sometimes. It happens. Oh well. It was, indeed, a big deal. My mother was probably drunk and high that night when she got home. I know that now. But five year old me didn’t really understand those things. Upon hearing about my transgression, she flew into a rage. She started yelling and screaming at me, towering over me, face red, hands flailing, all her pent up rage and anger and frustrations spewing out right on top of little me. If steam could come out of people’s ears someone would have had to call the fire department from all the smoke. I was frightened. I was terrified. I had no where else to go. No where to run to. This was my mother. She was all I had. My protector. My sole care giver. She screamed. She yelled. She went ballistic. She held absolutely nothing back. Over a fucking phone cord.
Then she threatened to call the police. As soon as the phone was working, she was going to call the cops and have me arrested. Now to most of you reading this, that sounds laughable. Ridiculous. But to a five year old kid who has been taught from an early age to fear the cops, it was even more scary to me than her rage and anger. My parents were druggies. They taught us to fear police because of what they were doing. I was sure that the cops were going to come and haul me away. What I should have thought was, how bad could that be? How could what the cops would do to me be any worse than her?
She scared the living shit out of me that night. It was like she cut some vital part of me out. I am not sure I even remember just what it was or what it was supposed to do. I just know it’s gone. Like the tip of a cut of finger that you feel from time to time. And Ace? Standing there stunned while the drunken monster raged, feeding on the terror and helplessness of her little five year old boy. Yeah, we never saw him again. Go figure. I will wrap this up here, but, true story, while writing this, I remembered another babysitter story that was, for me, even worse than this one. Rock on!
Time to Change
22. February 2009 by Frank.
Time to Change
I am filled with demons
they are here
They grow because of my fear.
When I am afraid I freeze
and don’t move.
This allows the demons to groove
on my weakness and shitty mood.
I see they are constantly fed
by my indecision, my dread.
I don’t even know I allow
them to grow
As I see this mess I have made
I know that to be afraid
will cause them to keep on
It is time to change
“I am filled with demons, they are here”. What a great place to start. My mom wrote this poem in her sixties, just a few years before she died. It is tough stuff to read, to see how, even at that age, she was still tortured and tormented by her past, unhappy in her present, and yet, still strangely hopeful about the future. This was what I grew up with. It is one thing to read this poem in my thirties and feel sadness and compassion for a woman who is clearly, at best, very troubled, if not truly disturbed. It is another thing entirely to deal with a mother who thinks like this at the age of two, or four, or six. Imagine dealing with this kind of a mentality as a little child. How do you process it? How do you make sense of the world when the woman who is the primary care giver in your life is filled with demons? I never knew as a child that my mother was mentally ill. I thought it must be me. Or my evil step father. Or the government. How do you understand or comprehend at a young age that your mom has an undiagnosed and untreated mental problem. You don’t. You suck it up. You deal. You cry, and you hide, and you try to shield yourself from the worst of it. But you never understand. It is truly and utterly bewildering. And indelibly painful.
My mother beat me with wooden kitchen spoons when I was a very little boy. I don’t remember the shock or the pain of the beatings, just the raw terror of those moments, this mother who I loved so much chasing me around the house, smacking me with those spoons. Like some twisted surreal version of Jack and the Beanstalk come to life. I can’t remember what I did wrong. I only remember the fear it created in me. I have a young son myself now, and I can’t imagine just what he could do to make me beat him with anything. Or how devastated and confused he would be if I did. Would his loving smiles change or disappear all together? Would there always be an edge of fear in his eyes every time he looked at me?
I was six years old when I took all my mother’s wooden cooking spoons and hid them in a tiny crawl space in the back of our kitchen cabinets that only I could ferret my way into. I will never forget the look in her eyes when she asked me about the missing spoons. I could see the regret there, the sadness she suddenly felt after realizing how terrified I must have been to hide those spoons from her. That was the thing with my mom. Sometimes she was all there, and sometimes she was gone. It made things even harder for me as a little kid. You never knew what you were going to get. But at that moment of lucidity, she leaned down to me and hugged me. She promised if I gave her those spoons back she would never hit me with them again. I crawled in and got them out, and she never hit me with the spoons, or anything else, ever again. So you can pull a gun on me, or wave a knife in my face, and I am a cool customer. But threaten me with a wooden spoon? I just might piss my pants. I think I must have inherited a few of those demons myself. Thanks, mom!
21. February 2009 by Mary.
I always knew my mother was different than other moms. It wasn’t just that she was into different things like obscure European philosophies and organic gardening. It was everything. She had her opinion about how the world worked and that was how it was, absolutely, there was no other way it could be. Until she changed her mind and then this new version of “reality” was true. Growing up, I didn’t really know how far down the rabbit hole she had gone. I mean living with a crazy mom is kind of like trying to explain to someone what its like to have dyslexia. I can’t tell you because it always been this way for me. My mom had always been crazy, I just didn’t really know how crazy.
It wasn’t until I moved to CA and had some space from her and started growing up myself that I could understand that she wasn’t right in the head. It is a long hard journey to a place of acceptance for me. That’s part of what this sight is about for me. To let other people know that they are not alone. If you too have a “crazy mom” then you know what its like. It’s different and because she’s your mom you can’t just drop some change in the cup and walk away.
It has only been since her death that I have been able to really heal and truly laugh about how tragically funny it all is. I hope that by sharing my experiences that you too can get a laugh and some hope. That was what I needed after wading through all her things and finding out the rabbit hole was so much deeper then I could have ever imagined. With twists and turns that are so far out there that they are beyond any screen play or book I could ever write. It has helped me put my own life in perspective.
Foundation of Lies
11. February 2009 by gennyfer.
What if everything your parents ever told you was a lie? Or at least so much was not true that nothing could be trusted?
When my mother was dying I stayed in her home with my one year old son.. The progression laid out to us was grim, pain, cancer spreading, it would end in her brain stealing her ability to communicate. There were reams of journals she had kept for fifty years. Alone at night while my son lay sleeping I started to read. My desperation ratcheted up and I careened from one journal to another desperate to find anything that would raise questions I’d want answered, questions only she could answer.
I started to piece together a portrait of a very lonely person. First. It seemed she had written versions of the same journal over and over. As if every decade she revisited the same spiritual crises without realizing she was repeating herself. Then I began to talk to my family about what I read, questioning what was going on with her.
I heard the story of my mother having polio at the age of three so many times I can add so many details. I guess these details would even make it easy for it to become my story but I understand it is not. That is the difference between the way my mother’s mind was and mine is.
She had polio and was paralyzed for a year before she recovered. During this time her sister would steal her bottles and when she recovered she had rickets and malnutrition. Or alternately her parents wanted her to die because she was inconvenient and were starving her.
None of this was true.
I presented the idea to my aunt that perhaps the polio virus had caused the mental instability, perhaps there was some connection between it and schizophrenia or whatever she had (she was never diagnosed so all this is parlor diagnosis). My aunt said “Gennyfer, she was never paralyzed. She had such a mild case of polio we thought it was the flu. We didn’t even know it was polio until she was recovered.” Imagine your mother telling you he same story about her childhood over and over until you could tell it word for word yourself. Imagine that this story became somehow archetypal, part of the structure of who you are and how the world works. And then suddenly it is not true.
But it wasn’t just this story. It was every story. Slowly I became more investigative than curious. I read to find the patterns in her stories. I wanted to understand some truth about my childhood to have some bedrock under me again. This is what I figured.
Someone would come in to her life. Some were impressive some mundane, I could not figure out why she chose the people she did to steal their particular stories. She met my godfather. He walked with a limp because of polio he had as a child. Suddenly, her brush with polio morphed in to a much bigger more interesting story. I wonder how long she told the story before she got enough practice to sound so sure and believable. Honestly, I don’t know what was wrong with her but I believe she didn’t realize the extent of her own lies. There were so many incidents that I began to piece together a time line in my head. The notes on a student who had been locked in a closet and traumatized by her parents were written around the same time she was “able to retrieve a repressed memory” about when her sister starved her and locked her in a closet.
There were these co-opted tale lies I’ve touched on, but we also uncovered so many other lies. The time from when she told me she was dying until a week after her death was short really. It didn’t seem that way at the time. I guess it was seventeen days. From that time two years ago the prevailing question that entered my life is this… “Who am I if everything I grew up knowing was a lie?”
Crazymom.com is born
11. February 2009 by gennyfer.
Our mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in September of 2006. Ten days later she passed away. During much of that short period of time I stayed at her house alone with my almost one year old son. In the evenings, I sorted through her papers and journals. At first, I read these things, while she was still alive, in a frantic desperation, a fear that I would find something I needed an answer to and only she would know the answer. I did reach that point eventually and it was too late. It may have been too late all my life. My mother had been very mentally ill. My siblings and I had figured that some form of mental illness was plaguing her, but the extent, the depths, to which her disconnect from reality reached was staggering for us all.
In the week following her death, before her memorial service, in a stress filled fatigued processing of the initial shock of grief and the vertigo of learning so much of everything we had believed about our mother, ourselves, and the way the world worked was in some way fictional and wrong, we conceived of this sight. What, we asked ourselves, would we do with a lifetimes worth of journals? Would others appreciate or benefit from the insight we gathered during this bizarre time?
As a unit and individually, my siblings and I have survived a bewildering, painful, and abusive childhood. I suspect what carried us through, the branch over the quicksand, was and is our sense of humor. We had need of a place to explore what it means to grow up as a child with mentally ill parenting. With a great deal of compassion for others facing these same issues , with a better understanding of why it was hard to find our own places in the world, and with our indelible, irreverent sense of humor, Crazymom.com was born.
We intend this site to become a place where people can explore their own childhood experiences of parenting, comparing reality vs. crazy. Please check back soon for more features of the site. If you would like to receive an email to let you know about updates or if you have any suggestions for our site please let us know.