This is a post that was born out of a conversation on one of my posts recently. It’s talking about the relationships with not just my mother, but my sisters.
An astute commenter asked me a question.
Do you think that some of the drama with your mom and sisters stemmed from competition? I can’t imagine there being three daughters vs. my mom.
Actually, in my family, there were a total of 4 girls, three of whom were conceived with my with biological dad, then one more (and a brother) conceived with my step-dad. I’ve contemplated the family dynamics in our home for many, many years (even without the help of formal therapy or psychology courses or self-help books; some of my education on such matters came from wise friends – some who were wise way beyond their young years).
Yes, a lot of our problems did stem from a lot of competition. The two most competitive children were my oldest sister and my youngest sister. Oldest sister was the prettiest, most popular, in gymnastics and the swim team, and flaky as dandruff, but extremely nasty, mostly to me. She terrorized me any time she could.
I could tell you the story when I was 11 and she was 13 she told me my mom was going to send me to a mental institution, where they would give me 21 shots because I was crazy. I could tell you how many times she told me I was “fat (but looking at my childhood pictures, I was solidly built, but not fat), ugly, stupid, four-eyes, bi-polar, I’ll never be normal or have friends”. Whenever she could, she got a dig in.
She was physically vicious when my mom was working. One time, when I got a 4 x 2 inch second degree burn on my forearm from an iron…she hit me right on the burn and half of it tore off. It hurt like hell. It bled and had then of course, formed a 2 inch square scab that lingered for weeks. Another time, she hit me in the back of the head while I was drinking milk at dinner time because she was mad at me. Another time, she chased me with a big kitchen knife, around the house, out the patio door. I ran to my bedroom window, opened up the screen and climbed in and she followed, knocking over a treasured figurine of mine. I honestly don’t know how it ended. I’m not dead and I have no scars, so somehow she must have given up.
When I was 21, and she was 24, during a physical fight, she pulled my hair. I left the house to get away from her and go for a walk. As I walked and rubbed my hurting scalp, I pulled out clumps of my hair…no wonder why it hurt.
I could never figure out why she never got into trouble with such things. It seemed like my mom never believed me when I told her these things happened. For that matter, I never knew why my sister hated me so much. If I was so inferior to her, why did she have to hurt me? Yes, obviously I was her whipping girl for all her problems.
Youngest sister was the sick one…her drama came from multiple illnesses. She’s been in the ER more times than I can count. She was also very nasty, not just to us, but her friends too, some of which who broke off friendships with her because of how mean she could be. But because of her being in “generation Y” she would use e-mail to spread her malicious venom.
Me and the next oldest sister was the most un-dramatic. She was more “live and let live” though. I was always going in to fight everyone else’s battles because I saw people that were hurting each other. I tried to get everyone to act reasonably and use logic, not irrationality. Most times they turned on me. Eventually (just a few years ago) I stopped trying to save everyone. They have to fight their own battles now.
My mom was…is…Catholic. Well, she is in name only. She would drag us to church for 7:30 mass faithfully every Sunday morning (to get it out of the way), and then sometimes she’d step out of church and we wouldn’t get out of the parking lot before she swore.
Her credo…”do as I say, not as I do”.
But as far as my mom goes…it has a lot to do with money/power/control. She likes it, has some of them, but always wanted more. Any time I was in “trouble” she would tell me she’d tell my grandfather and grandmother, telling me they’d 1) die of a heart attack from the shock of how bad I was or 2) write me out of the family.
She succeeded once in having me almost written off. I have lovely letters written from each of my grandparents castigating me, calling me “an ingrate”, and “incorrigible”, and “a disgrace”.
I asked my husband if she thought my mother was intelligent/shrewd. His almost instant response, “She likes to think she is”.
My step-dad had his issues too. He started a fight with my mom when he was drunk and he got physical with her. I pulled him off of her and he pushed me away, then came to his senses and left. On another occasion, he threatened my mom with a knife. I stepped in between him and my mom and faced him down and said, “go head and cut me, I dare you”. He dropped the knife and left. One time he threw a half open beer can at my mother. I was next to my mother, trying to get her to stop fighting with my step-dad and counseling her out of her anger. The beer can hit me in the side of the head, stunning me. He had the audacity to say, “Oh, I’m sorry, Casey, I didn’t mean to hit you, I meant to hit your mother”.
So…yeah…when it comes time to finding Hallmark Cards for my family…I sit in the store trying to find an adequate expression of my tolerance for them. Sometimes I make my own cards and just forget the sentimental expressions.
So tell me friends…does this family stories count as abuse? Sometimes I think it’s just stuff that happened and it happens a lot in families but it doesn’t make it abuse, and it’s all in the past anyhow. Sometimes I think, “no, this was abuse, physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual”.
What do you think, because I honestly don’t know. How bad does it have to get, how many instances of physical expression does it take to count as “physical abuse”?
I want to believe my family wasn’t that bad, they weren’t evil…but sometimes I wonder.
This family garbage, by the way, should have been left behind when I went to university. Only it hadn’t. I wasn’t allowed to live on campus. The deal was that I had to commute to the elite Snooty U while living at home to deal with the family I had. I saw a horrible vision into my future had I gone that route…with me struggling in my coursework, having to come home to deal with the sociopathic behavior of my dysfunctional family and me giving up at some point and hanging myself like one lost soul did at that university I was going to attend.
I’m not bitter about that, even if I do get melancholy for what could have been. Not one bit. Even when my brother got not only a free ride to elite Snooty U AND got to live on campus IN THE FOOTBALL FRAT HOUSE 10 years after I should have matriculated (yeah…guess who was the golden child…yeah, I get that it was because he was a boy…I’m totally okay with that, honest I am…no penis envy here). I saw turning down the opportunity of a lifetime because I wasn’t a gambling kind of woman. My life and my sanity was at stake and the odds were stacked against me. I knew that then.