Listening to Neil Young, Cat Stevens, and Led Zeppelin while I read the words, understanding, and compassion of a child alienated from her parent in Mother Erased: a memoir on this Father’s Day – without either my father or my step-father, and without my children due to their father, her words strike me in both my deepest fears and my greatest hopes. Of course, heavy thoughts of my daughters weigh my heart down.
But I’m also reminded how diligently and covertly my own mother attempted to do this to my father and me. I’ve not had many great gifts in my life other than my children and my dad, but I’m reminded to be grateful that in spite of my childish, innocent, desperate adoration of my mother, her alienation tactics didn’t work. Sure, she succeeded in creating and maintaining a great deal of physical separation between my dad and me while I was growing up. Yes, she succeeded in planting ugly lies and accusations in my head regarding my dad too. But it never went to my heart nor did it ever fully cloud the truth I saw with my own eyes. My dad was my only enduring and reliable source of truth and compassion and joy for me as a child. He didn’t live in a huge, brand new home or have much money like my mother married into after she left him, yet I greatly preferred my dad’s tiny little meager house to the big fancy one I lived in miserably with mother. Money just never mattered much to me. I preferred joy and laughter, safety and understanding; of which there were plenty resonating throughout my dad’s tiny home… and none in mother’s palace.
I have always had the cursed blessing of a great and uncanny depth of intuition. And although at that age, I couldn’t possibly have believed mother would (ever!) lie …yes I’m snickering/scoffing/psh-ing at that ludicrous thought now… I just couldn’t reconcile the off feeling in my gut that something about her words just might not be exactly true. I mean, back then as a child who blindly worships their parent, I was sure she wasn’t lying exactly…but something seemed off, felt dirty, smelled fishy every time she’d tell me heinous things about my dad…
And just five minutes with my dad would shine light and fresh air on that ugliness she regularly planted and spread, until it either didn’t really matter if it was true ( I would love him anyway!) or I maybe convinced myself it was some kind of misunderstanding between mother and daddy.
My sister didn’t fare as well, but then my sister is a replicated minion of mother now, so I’m not sure if that was a success back then or if it grew into it as the years passed. Nor do I really care at this point.
Mother was still trying to plant ugly, nasty ideas in my head when I was 19 and had lived, alone, several years with my dad and her physical power over me had greatly diminished although I still very much wanted her love.
I think of how desperate those continued attempts were. It borders on ridiculous. I was living with my dad for years; she had cruelly abused me my whole life up until the point when she kicked me out to live with my dad, and still she believed her power of persuasive ugly suggestion to me might overcome the truth I lived every day.
In hindsight I realize it’s because she had wanted me to be miserable. She had hoped my dad and I would have constant problems! We had a typical teen girl/ dad relationship. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. This was not the punishment she’d wanted to inflict on me by kicking me out – not happiness???! Not LOVE?!!?? NOT laughter?!?
My dad and I had a couple of conflicts, all of which I would consider very normal for my age at the time and never was my dad unduly cruel or out of line in his parenting tactics. I was punished when I deserved to be, but properly and justly so, not cruelly, excessively, indefinitely punished for any even slight typical childhood infraction.
This drove mother crazy! So, she continued her interference and her little evil plantings and ever-so-subtle persuasive, factless suggestions long after I lived the truth!
These tactics while I was even a young adult worked well though, to alienate me from my step-father. She has full control over him and his knowledge of situations, unlike with my dad and me; she only maintained some intermittent control over what we believed versus what we knew was true.
As much as my 6th sense has been a challenge in my lifetime, this is one instance where I consider it a great blessing. I think of this blogger who finally saw the truth and thankfully, isn’t suffering the worst of the lifelong after effects of parental alienation (like I’m desperately afraid my children might), but I realize my mother’s non-stop efforts to destroy the greatest, truest love I’ve known in my life – that of my incredible dad’s – and I can’t help but feel the hugest sense of relief that I did not miss out on that like she desperately wanted.
I would be truly beyond lost if she’d succeeded and if I’d seen the truth when it was too late and he was already gone.
I blame myself often for this now – the innocence, the stupidity, the childish faith and trust in the goodness of people and the inherent honesty and depth of love for a parent’s child to supercede and rise far beyond any evil personal agenda. I blame myself, but my experience is the exact reason why, short of murder or molestation, I’d have never ever, EVER have kept my daughter’s father from the beautiful gift of a relationship with his daughters. Mine with my father is what sustained me. Except for their own protection or safety, nothing that man or my mother could have done to me would have made me hurt and punish my children by poisoning that possibility of love from family for them in their lives.
My children’s alienation with the combined efforts of their father and my mother, has been remarkably, wildly successful and thorough. I don’t believe my children will come to the truth ever. I hope I am wrong about that, but the alienation has been so successful that at this point, knowing the truth of what’s been done to (and taken from) them, might destroy them as much or more than the lies they choose to believe. It’s a great catch-22 within itself… a web of tightly woven lies surrounding them that might choke them should they ever attempt to wiggle free.
So I’ve great fear my children may not be as fortunate to not suffer the long term effects of alienation, but I still have great hope that their first 13 and 15 years of living with a mother who encouraged and assisted them to have all the love in the world that was theirs, might some day still be deeply embedded in their souls and at the least, maybe help keep them from being the worst of the parental alienation statistics.
Once she wrote
flowers dangling from her pen
words dripping onto the pages
flowing from a place inside
that hid itself away
like a little girl punished in the corner
not allowed to dance or play
doing twirls in her mind
playing with friends
being loved in big warm imaginary families
inside two covers on pages that came to life
inside her mind
Writing was her interpretative dance
oozing all the hidden emotion,
dancing playfully…or lovingly…or angrily…
Now, the words spit – projectile vomit
in between heaves and gasps
8 hands choking
Choking on the very words
which beg for oxygen
thoughts dying to dance in the sunlight
choked back inside into oblivion
4 hands squeezing her heart
scrambling the flowers
4 hands ripping off the petals
The days when it hits me fresh, as though I’ve been sleeping and just woke up to discover he is gone.
And gone forever.
I wonder at times if I’m crazy. How can it possibly, still – after five long years – still knock me to my knees when I realize for the gazillionth time, it’s forever. Gone forever.
He’s not golfing. He’s not at work. He’s not on vacation or visiting friends out of state. He won’t be home in an hour, later tonight, in a week or 100 years.
He won’t be blowing my phone up later. he won’t be taking me to lunch tomorrow.
He. Is. Gone. Forever.
Just like my daughters, except my daughters live…live to be gone from me.
I didn’t just learn this and I’m not stupid. He wasn’t my husband or my child or a dear childhood friend. He was my father. People lose parents! For God’s sake, that’s just a normal part of life. How can it still sting and ache and tear to suddenly think, oh my God, he is really never, ever coming back…? How? What the hell is wrong with me? How in the fuck does it still seem so, so so very impossible? That, it can’t fucking possibly be forever?
I’m not in absolute denial. My mind does know and understands. I imagine on some deeply subconscious level, I’m constantly telling myself that, as for all my life, he’ll be home any minute now. He will walk through that door, smelling of fresh air and golf greens, grinning that beaming whole-face smile, and tell me how his golf game was.
Any minute now, right? Because only so many unacceptable things can happen to one person, right??
Any god damned minute now…
Darlene (mother) made his funeral a big fucking joke! I can’t let myself be angry. Senseless to burn with fury over that now, just like it’s senseless to rant and rave about what my “family” did to me during and since. Wasted energy to wish so hard that I’d been less in a dazed state of shock and been more aware of what they were all doing.
My dad was fucking dead for Christ’s sake! DEAD!!!!
I waited after the “Darlene show” of a funeral to have a few last minutes alone with him. I wanted a last few minutes alone my DAD, my best friend, my only parent, my only cheerleader, my only compassionate, helpful encouraging soul. Waiting til the people had cleared out, I went to him – peaceful in his casket – looking so much like him, yet somehow not at all like my dad…
I touched his face. I kissed his cool, firm, rubbery-like embalmed cheek. I placed my hand gently on top of his and remembered only a few weeks ago we’d sat in his car and I’d touched that same warm, loving, age-spotted right hand as it rested on his gear shift and said, Daddy, your hands look so dry! They need lotion. And I silently wished I hadn’t taken the trial sized lotion out of my handbag the week earlier. Looking at them, so old and so dry – almost (dare I say?) frail like?
NO. They could not be frail! Not my dad’s hands. Not my superhero. Not the only person in the world who really did only hurt me when he wanted to help or better guide me. Not this strong, can-do anything, never stopping, ceaselessly giving and doing man with the invisible superhero cape I’d always pictured on him as a child. NOT. FRAIL! Not he! Not those hands! Nuh uh!
I just wanted to put lotion on his hands for him, this amazing man who’d done more for my life, my spirit, my kids, and my heart than anyone one human being deserves… God, how I wanted to put lotion on those hands that day! I have a thing about hands… How had I not noticed before today that his hands had somehow become dry, older, so different from MY dad’s hands? HOW HAD I NOT SEEN THIS BEFORE TODAY?
…and WHY HAD I TAKEN MY LOTION OUT OF MY PURSE? WHY??
…so I wanted those last precious moments with him after the people cleared out of the funeral room. After all, it had been just he and I for most of the past 20 years. Seemed fitting the last final moments with him should be shared quietly between he and I, alone… on our own, like Darlene had expressly seen to it both our lives were?
I touched that hand again, thinking of that conversation and REALLY wishing more than ever I’d had that damned lotion in my bag that day so that the last time we had together I’d done something special and thoughtful just for him – just because I loved and cherished and appreciated him.
I put my head on his chest and I let the tears come out. Not shrieking and wailing tears for show like Darlene had done in the middle of the funeral, just quiet tears. I held in the sobs and shrieks I actually felt welling inside me. I lay my head there, imagining the countless times I’d put my head there all my life. My safe haven – right there. My comfort when I was scared. The place my tears often fell as a child and adult alike.
Within moments, my egg donor, Darlene, comes back in to, of course, pull me away. GOD FUCKING KNOWS SHE HAD TO INTERRUPT EVEN THIS LAST FUCKING MOMENT ALONE WITH MY DAD.
I should have told her to fuck off. I should have said, This is my last time with my dad, could you please just step away? COULD I JUST HAVE THIS? JUST THIS???!?
Get your fake fucking hand off my shoulder and shut your filling-my-kids-heads-with- ridiculous-bullshit-while-we’re-grieving-our-loss filthy, evil, lying mouth! No, I will NOT do as you tell me today… NOT TODAY!
Being the dutiful child she trained me to be(and swears to the world I wasn’t), of course I did not. I just did what she told me.
…And let her interrupt and steal EVEN THAT.
I can’t be angry. Anger wastes my spirit and there’s just not much left of that to throw away on narcissistic vile evil pigs like she.
Anger would be so wasteful. My dad never wasted time angry.
And I am my father’s daughter.
I found the perfect song for my children. I always said this to them when they were little. I stopped saying it because it just seemed to sound stupid as they got older….
As though I’d have forever to show them this was true. As though anything I could ever do or have done would have been enough for them anyway….
seems so ridiculous now, really.
I loved them so much I’d have died for them…
And it just wasn’t enough.
And, I guarantee their dad wouldn’t have, but he’s the hero and I’m the dispensable, worthless one. I guess loving someone so much you put their life and happiness over you own just makes you not lovable at all. Selfishness is in style, not love.
I’ve so much more to say…. but I just can’t.
She opened the blinds to let the sunshine in the way her father had every day all his years.
She can’t feel sunshine anymore but somehow it’s important to open them because he never failed to.
She limped to her car. Not entirely sure which part of the limp was paralysis versus the recently acquired broken bones.
One socked gimp-like broken foot and a sandal on the other. She’d given up trying to be beautiful a long time ago.
It’s the second time in her memory in which she’s been grateful for the ability to walk again. This time, far less dramatic than the first, but the depth of gratitude is strikingly similar.
She could never have asked someone to pick this up at the store for her; that seemed inherently wrong.
It’s sunny today as she drives to the little local store. She takes a moment to be grateful to have a car. She can’t feel the sun, but she’s grateful it’s out today.
In the store, she knows right where to go as she’s cased out this necessary item which is last on her list.
She offers an empty gestured smile and waits for the older lady standing where she needs to go to finish. Not wanting to appear impatient or rude, she pretends to browse the aspirins and cold medicines as she waits.
She calculates on her phone the math required , double checks, and takes a moment to be grateful there is plenty in stock and enough remaining on the shelf left for any who may need it.
She’s never been comfortable taking the last of anything.
She limps to the register, stopping briefly to look at new chap sticks she’s not seen before. Her lip balm addiction is severe. She ponders, then decides she has plenty of lip balm already.
She passes the wine selection and wonders if she deserves wine. Hmmm…
No, she does not.
Wine belongs to lively people, hopeful hearts, gatherings of friends, and good mothers. She doesn’t fit it any of those categories now.
She doesn’t even try to fit in them anymore.
Once home, with all the curtains opened as they should be, she gathers the ingredients and puts them all stacked neatly on the mantle.
It’s now the only thing neat and orderly in her house so she takes care and pride in their orderly presentation.
She doesn’t know when. Maybe Mother’s Day would be appropriate as the thought of yet another of those passing by fills her last teeny tiny empty crevices with dread.
She feels there’s something profound to be said but she no longer has access to profundity. She has become a “see spot run” version of her former mind; a flat, used up crayon of her former creativity. The edges aren’t sharp enough to comprehend corners and intricacies and staying inside the lines is impossible.
I’d have gladly died for you. And when I say “gladly”, I mean happily, joyfully, with zero doubts or concerns. Had I only known you’d not only not need me, but you’d even not want me so much so that you’d erase and delete me.
I suppose I was blind to even that possibility in my fervent commitment to show a child the love and compassion I did not know; in my desperation to believe giving you these things made me worthwhile and meant my life would be meaningful after all. I thought you’d need a momma’ s love like I had needed.
Perhaps I was too desperate for those things to see that I had nothing you needed or wanted and that I never would have them either… that nothing I ever did, said, or had to give you would be anything you ever might want.
Most of my life I desperately wished I’d never been born, but the minute I looked into your face I believed you were the reason I was born and why I’d been forced to live through so much torment and abuse. If I had to go through those hell fires all over again just so you could exist exactly as you are, I would and I wouldn’t have complained once had I known that I had go through that to get to you.
In all those early years of strife and abuse getting to you, what if I’d known you’d hate me anyway? What if I’d know you’d despise me for being the “disgusting” unbearable product of it all?
What if I’d known I’d go through all of that to get to you just to be criticized, persecuted, hung out to dry, attacked and demeaned for every single scar I bear from my very journey to get to you? And later, to survive with you?
What if I’d known that you’d someday rip my heart out and do/be/say the things to me that I already believed about myself up to and until you were born ? Had I known for every battle I fought for you, for every belly laugh we shared, for every tender moment of feeling my soul bonded directly and unbreakably to another and feeling the joy of watching my heart beat outside my chest… what if I’d known you’d take a giant eraser and erase every single happiness I fought to have with you? That you’d obliterate in openly expressed disgust the only thing I felt I ever did well or worthwhile? That you’d take a magnifying glass to my every scar and wound and lift them up in disgust to show the whole world everything I’d always hated and felt ashamed for about being me?
That you’d shamelessly persecute me in public for having a weak bladder? That you’d scream at me because I engaged in normal, adult, sexual activities in the privacy of my own bedroom late at night while you slept? Well after I’d fed, read to, and tucked you safely in your own bed?
That if you ever told me you hurt, that I’d immediately do anything in my power to stop your hurt? And that you’d just say that wasn’t my doing nor was it even close to good enough for you?
What if I’d known you’d grow to be the very entity of the two people who nearly destroyed me before you were even born? That abuse I took at their cruel hands for as long as I could survive it, until I knew I couldn’t withstand any more and still survive? Only to have you continue the very same soul sucking, heart wrenching, life choking, humiliating, and demeaning tactics I barely survived from them, but fought to survive just to show you the love and security I never knew?
Only to have you finish me off… with them guiding your hands, your body, your mind, and even rearranging your memories like a puppet I gave birth to merely to finish their original task?
Had I known these would be your distorted and erased experiences of me as a mother, I’d have killed myself the day I brought Savannah home from hospital. I’d happily have brought you and your sister to your life and existence and then handed over mine.
And all that struggle just to take my former abusers ammunition to destroy me away and hand it straight over to you. To destroy me once and for all with the same cruelty.
And I wish I had done just that. I could have saved myself years of suffering and worry and constant nitpicking myself over how to be a good momma… I could have saved myself from pushing relentlessly to rehabilitate my body in order to have a job that barely covered our bills.
But most of all it seems I’d have given you sooner what you wanted and needed the most from me… a truly erased, totally silent, and invisible momma.
This is a confession.
An apology, 1 year, 8 months, and 25 days too late.
634 days that scream It’s never too late is a truly stupid phrase.
Yes, sometimes it is indeed too late. And now is one of those times.
Dear Kelly Jo,
You left this as your last address, although you had moved from my daddy’s house 3 years ago. You received a registered mail notice today. As soon as I saw your name on the tiny little peach rectangle, I felt guilty because I still owe you money from 3 years ago. I went to your Facebook to message you that I could finally pay you back! Your Facebook was gone.
I texted you, then googled you… And found out today that I’m too late. You’re gone. Neither of us knew when we met that “too late” is my life motto. You couldn’t have possibly known. I, on the other hand, should have understood that by the time our paths crossed. I’m sorry I couldn’t see it then.
I’m listening to the words of your soul in your music as I write this to you. I feel I owe you that. Your Youtube playlist consists of only 6 songs and that brevity speaks volumes to me of your lack of fussiness. Unlike me, you didn’t spend hours adding songs to playlists in desperation to define, express, and convey the screams of your soul to the world, begging to matter or pleading to be heard.
Your playlist, Kelly’s playlist, had no followers until today, but I follow you now.
- 1. ♫My head’s under water
But I’m breathing fine
You’re crazy and I’m out of my mind♫
~All of Me by John Legend
I’m listening now, Kelly. Right now.
Today is too late. I’m too late, but I’m following you now. I’m listening.
2. ♫Staring at the bottom of your glass
Hoping one day you’ll make a dream last
But dreams come slow and they go so fast♫
~I Let Her Go by Passenger
I make no excuses. We both have travelled a hard road and that’s no excuse. Timing is such a perfect imperfection. When I came back from Atlanta, we spoke so many times on the phone about you being a tenant in my daddy’s house while I was away. You were suffering. You were struggling. You needed me. I needed you. We should have developed a deeper and more active friendship. So much of our lives were paralleled and we understood each other’s pain from so many miles away talking and texting on the phone – you, struggling here in my dad’s house – me, lost in Atlanta out on the break patio at my work.
3. ♫I feel the love and I feel it burn
Down this river, every turn
Hope is our four-letter word
Make that money, watch it burn
Old, but I’m not that old
Young, but I’m not that bold
And I don’t think the world is sold
On just doing what we’re told
I feel something so wrong
Doing the right thing
I could lie, could lie, could lie
Everything that drowns me makes me wanna fly♫ ♫Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars♫
~Counting Stars by One Republic
When you were in crisis and turned to me, right before I was returned to my dad’s house, I was so happy to be able to be there for you, even just on the phone. I was so happy I could listen, albeit helplessly. I heard your pain, I felt your suffering, I understood your struggle. I didn’t share much of my own journey or struggle because I felt you needed someone more to listen and be there rather than talk, but I was happy the timing was that I’d be returning and I could be your friend, real and up close, rather than a voice or texts typed over the phone.
I am sorry I wasn’t more, though. Sometimes when you called, I couldn’t understand you very well because your words were slurred and occasionally hysterical… So, I didn’t answer the phone the times when my patience was being tried and stretched in my own life. I never wanted to speak to you from my frustrations. I sensed you’d been treated as small and burdensome in your past fighting through your pain and suffering and I never wanted you to hear my patience being stretched trying to understand your slurred and mixed up words over a cell phone. I never ever wanted you to feel you were a burden or trouble to me, so when my patience was too thin (from my own struggles), I didn’t answer your calls, but never was it because I felt impatient, judgmental, or burdened by you reaching out to me. Not even once.
4. ♫And I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all♫
~Say Something by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
I was excited that when you told me you were arrested in August of 2014 and really needed a friend the most, that I would be soon back here and sharing a home with you, where I could physically hold your hand and slurred, jumbled words and simplified texts would not interfere in my understanding.
5. ♫Curtain’s call
Is the last of all
When the lights fade out
All the sinners crawlSo they dug your grave
And the masquerade
Will come calling out
At the mess you’ve made♫~Demons by Imagine Dragons
You moved the week before I returned though because you didn’t want to “screw me over not able to pay rent if you went to jail”. So we never shared the same house.
But I still owed you money! You were entitled to get your deposit back. You never screwed me over like so many have with renting my dad’s house from miles away since he passed.
We still could have been friends. You only moved a few miles away. Due to the chaotic circumstances of tenants I’ve experienced, I didn’t have your deposit to refund you then, though. And I felt like a piece of shit because you’d been so careful not to screw me over and I knew you were struggling financially every bit as much as I was. You not only needed that deposit back, you deserved to have it back. I owed you that. I distanced myself only because I was ashamed and guilty that I owed you money and I didn’t want to face that until I could pay you what I owed you…
I always intended to pay you back, though. I thought of it every time I paid my bills…crossing my fingers that there’d be enough left over this month to call you, check on you, offer my friendship, and pay you what I owed you, what you were more than entitled to for being an honest, compassionate, considerate person.
6. ♫These labels that they give you
just ’cause they don’t understand
If you look past this moment
You’ll see you’ve got a friend
Waving a flag for who you are
And all you’re gonna do
Yeah, so here’s to you
And here’s to anyone who’s ever felt invisible
Yeah, and you’re not invisible
Hear me out,
There’s so much more to life than what you’re feeling now
And someday you’ll look back on all these days
And all this pain is gonna be invisible
It’ll be invisible♫
~Invisible by Hunter Hayes
Kelly, I’m sorry if you felt invisible. I feel invisible and forgotten too and it’s the worst pain of all.
Being forgotten (or invisible) is worse than death.
I did not forget you though. You were not invisible to me. I’m too late to tell you that in person. You’re gone now – at the young and unfair age of only 43. And I’m too late.
I’ll be forever too late to tell you now – or to pay you what I owed you; that ridiculous tiny senseless thing which kept me too ashamed to maintain active friendship with you when you needed me…and I needed you, too.
I don’t know where we go after we die. I don’t know where you are, but I hope with everything inside me that you can hear me now, that you feel no pain and know that you’re not now and never were invisible.
I envy you. I’m so ready and eager to join you. Now…now that it’s too late to call or text or pay you back. I hope wherever you are now that I’ll join you soon and some how pay you back then. You deserve that. I never forgot. I promise you, I never forgot.
Kelly Jo, I am sorry. I love your heart.
And thank you for saying you loved mine too.
Sip from the pain in my eyes
simultaneously sweet and hopeless
savor your creation
the bountiful blend of infinite misery
sip the dark, cluttered flavors
beg its nuance
dance blithely on your tongue…
my heartache tastes of your untethered joy
my agony, your treasured dreams
my torment, your freedom
my desolation, your playground
frolic, delight, laugh, play,
live all the life they ripped from my labored breath
swirl my endless grief in your perfect rosebud mouth
swallow the efforts of my dreams
relish the zest of salty satisfaction
my pain your remedy
my unwanted battle
my death your life