Wednesday (with some Thursday edits):
My plan with these “journal entries” was two-fold:
— keep with the Free Write element, making the train of thought a bit more personal, as in some other wonderful blogs that I will no doubt share (I’m waiting for permission on an especially good one and still hoping to ask a writer at The Write Practice a few questions)
— get rid of the numerous drafts that are taking up room by incorporating them into the journal posts.
Then my cat, Nikita, got sick. As I wrote in one draft,
Look, I can take care of an 11 year old kid, I can take care of myself, I can take care of three cats, I can take care of males who are men in age but act like boys… Add a sick cat and things go to hell.
And then a (hopefully well-meaning) family member (who somehow is not aware of a lot about me and my life and anxiety) sent a few emails that basically rendered me, when I wasn’t in the presence of my kid, catatonic.
I managed to write one or two short responses to him, mostly asking for more time so my response wouldn’t be a jumble of randomly emotional comments (like this post), but certain things hit hard. For example, his comment that I was “manipulating the system” and my grandmother for money and he wondered what else I was doing in this “vein” (I, of course, imagined a real vein).
How to respond? I told my son that when he was able to express his feelings using his words, that was when he could start cursing in front of me. But here I was, wanting to say, no, scream, “you don’t know a fucking thing about me! Who the fuck are you to judge? You, who was allowed to follow your dreams?”, etc, etc.
Use my words.
I’ve never been comfortable accepting help. Advice, yes. Help, especially financial? Nope. Maybe it’s hardwired; maybe it was seeing the happiness in my biological mom’s eyes when she got “her” check from my dad each month (it said, “child support”, and I was the only child, but there was no question that it was “her” check. According to her.)
When I was a teen into my 20’s, my dad had a string of girlfriends who were so similar that I wound up giving them nicknames. They’d show up, 6 weeks later there’d be a huge rock on their finger, and they’d disappear. The was Dumb California Blond, who was actually very nice but so lacking in intellect that I would get a headache talking to her*; Married Blonde; Drunken Slut (also a blonde but given that nickname by a friend after watching her dirty dance with male coworkers at a party my dad gave for her). It was Drunken Slut who got it into my dad’s head that I was obsessed with Wills, specifically his.
In Reality, I find the subject of Wills to be tacky and morbid. (And I wanted to be a mortician for a while.) I would rather have my grandfather healthy and still alive. My grandmother, who is my lifelong best friend, healthy and alive. Etc. It got to the point where I finally said to my dad that the only thing I wanted when he died was a branze paperweight in the shape of a cat. My dad is highly allergic to cats, so I’ve never understood why he has it.
Anyway, when I was pregnant with my son, I faced my greatest fear and became homeless. As a child getting beaten daily, locked in closets, etc, I would tell myself, “At least I’ll never be homeless.” But to get away from my son’s abusive dad, I slept on trains, begged for money for food (cried at the humiliation I felt). I did spend one night a week in the hospital, and there were short stints in shelters for pregnant women. But I was basically homeless.
And my grandparents, when they found out, took me aside separately and told me not to “do that again”. They said they had worked hard their whole lives so that their two sons and one grandchild would never be homeless.
The problem is, in NYC, if you go to a homeless shelter, you have to go on Welfare. It’s how the shelter gets paid. I found this humiliating, and didn’t tell people for a long time. Just like I didn’t share that the first shelter my son and I were in was a Domestic Violence shelter.
After my son’s dad snapped my spine, Welfare put me on Disability. I said I wanted to work; they said nobody would hire me. Unfortunately, they were right. I pictured myself, working at home, writing and editing manuscripts. Still picturing it…
The second reason the reference to money bothered me is that, growing up, I would ask my dad why this relative didn’t seem to want to get close to me. My dad said that, originally, his parents Wills had given 50% to each son. Once my dad had me, that changed. This relative — who is very successful in his field just as his wife is successful in hers — didn’t like me because he (and his wife) felt that it should’ve stayed 50/50 and when my dad died, what was left would trickle down to me.
These relatives tried unsuccessfully to have a child of their own. My dad told me that they only wanted a child to get more money from my grandparents.
Again with the Wills and the money. And here he is bringing up things that aren’t even true: I do not accept money for train fare for visits to my grandmother. But I do eat the food she provides, so I guess I am accepting something.
And now here is that relative saying that I’m “manipulating” people into giving me money. Then why haven’t I sued my son’s dad for child support? Why haven’t I sued him for snapping my spine, crippling me for life? (I’d link to “This Is What It’s Like”, but I hate the ending) I’ve been told that if I sue my son’s dad for crippling me, I’d get the money from the state and he’d owe the state. If I’m so into money and manipulating people, why don’t I do that? Why don’t I take money for transportation when I visit my grandmother? After all, she always offers.
Because that is not who I am. I cannot use people. I’m not comfortable manipulating anyone or anything.
Another email implied that I didn’t take good care of my cats.
Everyone who knows me knows I love cats, especially mine. When my son grows up, I plan to have a foster home for cats over three years old. I’ve got a list of local vets who will give me steep discounts for bringing in multiple animals. I will have volunteers to do the litter and bring the cats to and from the vets since I will be in a wheelchair by then.
I’m an ovo-lacto vegetarian and have been since 23 August 1989. I would never harm a living creature, not even a human, and humans rate very low on my list…
Then there was an accusation of making my grandmother “fearful”.
Anyone who knows me knows that, after my son, my grandmother is the most important person in the universe to me. I wanted to say, “Et tu, Brutus?” Since he had sent a couple of horrible emails, straight up, flat out, insulting my grandmother to the point that she was in tears. More than once. Had he stabbed her in the back or heart with a real knife, the pain could not have been worse. But she’d confided that to me and I couldn’t flat out say that. (Although I think I alluded to it.)
Point being, as I lay, curled in a ball, wishing I had a sibling or cousin or a bigger family, I realized a few things:
1. I love my grandmother more than anything or anyone. Except for my son.
2. I know I treat all of my animals well. He says I sent a picture but, even if I did abuse my cats, why would I send evidence of that?
3. I know I don’t “manipulate” anyone or anything.
4. Money and Wills and obsessing over them… That’s not me. Never has been, never will be. When my grandfather died and I was asked what I wanted, told I could have anything, I asked for his medical bag (he was a paediatrician). That’s it. I suppose I could’ve taken more and sold it, but I just wanted my grandpa back and I couldn’t have that. No amount of money would change that.
5. Unfortunately, this family member is one half of the couple who offered to help with Nikita’s care. It was humiliating enough asking. Being accused of “manipulating” for money means that I cannot accept their money. Then again, if Nikita starts to be in pain, I might ask. But considering what I went through mentally to ask in the first place… I’ll probably just put it on my credit card & hope my kid doesn’t need summer or winter clothes. (Other than the coat I already know I have to buy him next winter. And boots. Damn.)
6. The comment about how he and his wife were successful at my age reminded me that I the Family Fuck Up and that we’ve lived very different lives. I always wanted to be a mom. Bad taste in boys and cervical cancer ended that. But growing up I’d wanted to be a writer and an actor — neither were “acceptable”. I was told Law School. But that’s another story…
There’s also the fact that, until I had my son (going against my family, doing something I wanted), I never had much desire to live. I didn’t want to die, but living, well, took effort. And as I tried to do what would make The Family, especially my father, love me, I became more and more depressed. I look back and realize that I should’ve faced my fears and said, screw y’all, I’m not going to Law School, I’m going to be a mom / writer / actor. But I didn’t. And I wasted most of my life trying to be something I’m not to get love from someone who is incapable of giving it.
So, to this family member: I was not cut out for this world. I don’t understand humans: the way they lie; use people; etc.
I’ll get around to writing back. And reading your apology.
But for now, I have to be a mom. And I have to take care of myself.
I would love to be closer to you; I would love for my dad to be wrong about you not liking me because you feel I’m taking money from you. I will say now: anything left to me by my grandmother is yours, except for money for my son. Because I can’t sue his dad; that’s just not me. Especially since the state shouldn’t have to pay for his screw ups — they pay enough thru Disability. (Even tho it doesn’t even cover my base rent.)
* My father, for all of his faults, is not only a genius but graduated Yale, 2nd in his class, in 3 years with a double major. I once asked him, during a conversation about marrying Dumb Blonde and moving across the country, “Doesn’t it bother you that she’s not that bright? When you two are elderly, sitting on the porch in rockers, won’t talking about makeup and fashion drive you nuts?” And he said that he liked her lack of intellect because he didn’t have to always be “on”. (Not to imply fashion and makeup don’t require intelligence, but her knowledge only extended as far as the most recent Cosmo.)
And that’s my life up til now.
With the exception of a few things I’ve been thinking about.
The building I live in a a sort of H. Or maybe a capital I. With some odd angles. The elevators are in the middle and there are definite differences between both sides. For example, my side gets so much heat in the winter we have to open windows. Or we did up until this year. Now I guess they want us to experience the lack of heat that the other side has gone without.
My side gets flies in the summer. I thought it was just us, our apartment, but no. The exterminator and the super claim it has to do with us getting more heat in the winter. Except the heaters aren’t on in the summer and I don’t see what one has to do with the price of cheese in China. (That’s a lysdexic, er, dyslexic mix of “price of tea in China” and, well, you get it.
The other side has had bedbugs for years. I thought I saw one about a month ago and told my grandmother. She told my recently emailing family member. We flipped mattresses, swept, vacuumed. I even took my son to his Dr to see if he had bug bites (early acne. Oops.). Nothing.
Said family member said he didn’t think I knew what they looked like; I agreed. So when a non-english speaking neighbour showed me these, asking if they were bedbugs, I was prepared:
I was prepared: yes, yes they are. Now get away from me, please.
Anyone can google about them, but one thing kept jumping out at me: my family member had said we had to keep out place “spanking clean” (I doubt this is a veiled reference to my former occupation as a Professional Dominatrix); yet every article emphasised that you can get them in the cleanest of places.
Here are two links:
One last note: I would love to have a “spanking clean” apartment. I asked for help for years, wound up losing my kid due to a vindictive bitch, got back a kid with PTSD/depression/anxiety, and became even more crippled due to visiting my son so far from home (again, the work of the vindictive bitch; more on this topic soon)– despite my DR’s warning that making the trip would make things worse. So I would love things to be neat and clean. But I’ve learned my lesson about asking for help. And I went from two herniated, one bulging disc to three herniated, two bulging discs. Mix in fibromyalgia, slow thyroid, arthritis, anxiety… Yeah, I don’t need someone judging me. I am an excellent mother according to anyone who has seen me with my kid but, most importantly, my kid thinks I’m an excellent mom. I may not always be happy that I’m going to spend my life without a partner, but, again, that’s for another post.
For now I’m off to visit my therapist. I need it.
D. K. Stevens