Pretty Little Girl

A day in the life….

Devastating Personal Loss

Two days ago, I saw a news story in Pensacola on WEAR that made my heart drop. “Human remains found behind house on Coker Lane”.  I only know one person that lives there; what are the odds?  I had reason to believe her family had been evicted. I believed that factor was an up-ending event that had made her hard to get in touch with. It turns out I was wrong.

Her family now is communicating on Facebook that she disappeared in March. My last conversation with her was in mid-February. She had “abandoned” her kids. Now that may have been because it is her body behind her house. Her husband and her had problems. She was a super strong willed woman who was very unique. Her daughter identified her clothes and cell phone found with the remains.

Foul play is suspected and I have to say is virtually absolute. She was a partner in helping to gain information about the corruption in Pensacola. Her family had been harmed by it and she had seen differing aspects of it through friends and family. She had provided key information that I never seemed to use as of yet. She had become a close friend whom I confided in and an entertaining character to know.

Stephanie Loewen Todd, you will be missed. I wish I knew something to do for your family now or that there had been something I could have done for you to prevent this.12239978_433815850151234_3556018374582338225_n

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Trauma in the Making: Part 2

After being traumatized by watching a mere TV show, I finally saw my grandmother in the bigger picture. She was a broken woman with a strong will but a fractured spirit. Was it a wonder that she was an alcoholic? Hurt people hurt people. That statement from freshmen psychology is the moral of the story.

This TV show enlightened me. In the early 1960’s, my grandmother was transitioning in life. She was an aging woman with now grown children. How could that be? She was so young in her heart. It was an inconceivable thought. She was no longer young woman. This compounded by the corpse in her belly. A reminder of her last chance to be young was, in fact, turned to a calcified cadaver that was no longer a child but a curse.

In this emotional turmoil of coming to terms with how her life was not what it had been. Seemingly overnight, the young hell-raiser was now a middle aged woman, who wore her age honestly. She must have felt the beginning of the end with her body acting as a casket for last opportunity to be a mother–her last chance to re-do the role of mother. With all this going on, a younger man started coming around to drink with her. He was familiar. His family and hers had intertwined with this man’s brother being the father of her only grandchild. She was too young to be a grandma but she was and there was no way around it. Her youth like her baby was gone, but this younger man, Ernest, was about 8 years younger than her. He was a prankster.  A fool and a drunk to be sure. That was what fueled his character, the alcohol. Ernest had a hard time making a living but as Jo’s taste in men went, he was a step up. He didn’t hurt her. He was younger which in a way made her feel younger–more desirable. So they married.

Jo was restarting her life with her son helping her by sending money to her while he was in Vietnam. She was supposed to save it for him but she needed the money to be comfortable. That was a fight for a later date. She and Ernest lived pretty well for a while in that honeymoon phase. Then it happened. She went to the doctor for the first time in years. She had cervical cancer. They discovered the baby still in her womb. Doctors suggested aggressive treatment of the cancer which meant chemo therapy and radiation. The baby wasn’t causing any immediate problems so that was to be addressed at a later date. It was the cancer that needed to be treated–and fast.  Also being concerned, the doctors removed over 100 small moles on her back, fearing they might be cancerous. Thankfully they were not.

Since Ernest did not work much, Grandma worked through her chemo therapy. She lost her hair and donned a wig. This had been a sensitive issue. She’d had dark auburn hair her whole life…now she had nothing but this damn wig. She simply couldn’t catch a break…..then her world turned on a dime. The little she held dear to her was now being used as a weapon against her. …to be continued.

 

Trauma in the Making: Part 1

My grandmother was a paradoxical woman. She had a fire but by the time I saw it was but an ember.  You could see the smoldering in her eyes. She quenched it with drinking, every day. Relying purely on stories, I have been able to see some of the fullness of her life and the demolition that came to bring the need to self-medicate, daily.

Josephine Ruth Leonard was born in 1918 in Talledega, Alabama. She was one of 5 daughters and 3 sons of Pa and Ma Leonard. She was the black sheep, the hellion. She broke away from her family but her emotional fragility always brought her into the care of her sisters or brothers.

I spoke to her younger sister just days before she passed. She described my grandmother as being so kind and frail but not physically frail, but emotionally. This is an opposing image to the one given by my grandfather, Curt’s family. She was a floozy. She drank, danced—a walking temptation surely sent by the devil to lead the meek to the self-destruction.

Jo, as she was known, was a woman first and a mother second. After her much older husband died suddenly, she spun into a era of insensibility. As a woman who needed to be taken care of, she was not adept to nurturing but being nurtured. She found this in a slew of men who came and went. While, her children fended for themselves, she continued on her search for someone to take care of her. Drinking, fighting, instability. This was her life. Rejection, subjection, and dejection were the pillars of her existence.

One of her “husbands”, was an Native American (Indian)  named Short. He was hateful, according to my mother. He was “damn mean”, evil to the core. Jo got pregnant by this man. She was several months along. One night he beat her so severely that he killed the child in her womb. Being so fragile, she was so sullen. This baby was dead but still there. She could not afford to go to a doctor. There was always a hope that the baby might still be alive even though the it ceased to move or grow. Jo wanted that baby, but she knew that would not happen.

She worked as a waitress at is the equivalence of “Waffle House” today. She worked with one other person on the night shift. She made friends with many people who were patrons of the restaurant. Policeman particularly would sit and talk for hours at night waiting on calls to go take care of the menial crime of the time on the Southside of Birmingham. Jo was always the one who could permeate the souls of people she encounter. Men wanted to take care of her but her fire pushed them away. However, in purely platonic relationships, the policeman thought of her as a sister they must protect. So when Short beat her and killed her baby, the policemen were enraged. This was in the 195o’s Birmingham, Alabama. As my mother would say, “There was only one thing worse than a nigger and that was an Indian”. They couldn’t be trusted.

The policemen took Short out of the small, dilapidated apartment where he squatted, while sending my grandmother to work. Everyone saw the policemen take Short. They headed out to the country and killed him. As the story goes. He never returned.

The most disturbing part of this story is the fact, at 70+, after varying cancer treatments, the remains of the baby was still entombed in my grandmother’s womb. This all resurfaced after I watched an episode of “Law & Order-Criminal Intent”. The title is “In the Dark” from 2004.  The character had dementia and inspired the murders over a baby that was never born. She said she didn’t want people to know she was “a coffin”. Wow! The very thought of the emotional and psychological effects of that statement explains so much.

The remainder of the story is to come………

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Disentangled

beautiful-cool-cry-drawn-girl-Favim.com-265050It is my firmest conviction that feelings left to fester inside will devour the soul. In that spirit, I suppose it is time for disentanglement. Pulling the string, to free the burden tightly woven within, is the best and the worst feeling. However, it is the price for peace of mind. So here goes….

Solemn aloneness is the biggest fear  I have ever had. It visited me as a child of a mad drunk woman. It spent years festering after my father died. It makes guest appearances here and there. Each time the sting seems more harsh than the last time, but really it might just be my skin is so thin that I perceive the pain more intensely. I don’t know.

The old adage about only being able to depend on yourself. Tis true. God will make sure this lesson is learned. If it isn’t done with ease, it will be done harshly. In a word, if I don’t walk away from people, he will facilitate them walking away from me. This is hard to swallow as the co-dependent, needy person that I am. This is my cross to bear.

This past week or so, an old bandage has been partially stripped. Throughout my life there have been but a few that I have absconded my ego for to allow them to see the fullness of my susceptibility to sins and ills that is uncloaked and defined in full. Two outside my husband.

One of them was someone that I grew up with. Jenn has always been my soul sister. She and I knew each other from about the age of 14-15. Misfits that connected in a convergence of time. I did not see the depth of the friendship or ever understand that her significance would be so broad in my life. Stupid kids. In a world where nothing seems solid, we trampled through the shit oblivious to all the madness that was always around us. Blissfully unaware. 2 pieces of a puzzle is the only way I ever think of us

.  cry-girl-hurt-miss-Favim.com-522124Life and pettiness drove a wedge between us that seemed unsurmountable. Then years down the line I would contact her out a longing for that symbiotic relationship that had merely been paused for a moment. Over the years, I began to realize that I am the only one with this perception of “us”. I’m not sure what Jenn’s view of “us” was but in the last few years I have reached out to an emptiness. A depreciated version of the old friendship was a shadow of a deep love. But was it ever that sisterly love that I had believed it was? Had I put more on this relationship than was ever real?

So last week, after seeing her name in “people you may know” on Facebook. Many emails and extensions of the olive branch had been unanswered. I took a deep breath. I sent the friend request, wondering how needy I must appear. I messaged her and told her it was up to her or God. She accepted the request but no extension of anything else. Am I over- stepping? I have always been the one who sought her. Was I that pathetic that I always had to find her? She never needed to find me.

This is every failed relationship I ever had. My brother, my cousins. It is me who is entangled in them. Never them entangled in me.

So wait for her, is what I will do…..

A Letter to my Son

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Hey Son. I need to talk to you about something. And before you start, I am a writer. I write. This is my way of expression so hear me out. Now I want to tell you a story. I know you don’t want me to but I am anyway.

The story is of a woman who has no commitments. She lost her husband. She has family but it’s emotionally removed. They do not get together or say “I love you”. They are there for one another in times when they are needed but they do not have the day to day closeness of “family”. This woman meets a man who is loving, kind, funny and most of all, sincere. He loves with his whole heart, which is more than most people ever do in a lifetime. They make a happy life together. Both feeling a happiness that neither has felt just being in a healthy, loving relationship where people could walk away, but they don’t.

This man has children by another marriage. Neither of them are his biologically but he has chosen to take all the responsibility for these children, UNCONDITIONALLY, for their entire lives. Again, he could walk away, but he doesn’t because he is too good a man to do so. One of the children is grown and has chosen to drift away from the man because he could no longer give to him like he did as a child. This man expected his child to be the person he raised, but hoped he had learned to be kind and in respect for all that had been done for him to be there for the man as a child should. This never really happened. Once the child found there was not anything to take but love from this man, he walked away.

The other child of this man’s was younger and didn’t understand all the things going on in the divorce of the parents, but saw the happiness in the father’s eyes in the new place he had made a home with this woman. A peacefulness that he had never known. This woman took in the man that she loved and his child into her home. They made a family. Subsequently had grand children together, all with the knowledge that no one was chained to each other and all could have walked away in rough times but chose to endure out of love.

The first of this couple’s grandchildren came at a bad time; unforeseen and undoubtedly unpredicted. The man’s child was too young to have children and doctors said it was impossible but yet here this child sat pregnant and married but too young to understand what either meant. After the birth of the first grandchild, the woman and the man doted on the child as neither had ever expected to be grandparents, but both felt blessed to have this miracle baby. So much so in fact that they did everything to be there for this grandchild and the child. They filled in as babysitters and were for the most part complete caretakers of the grandchild that the child and new spouse didn’t know how to take care of.

The woman and man bonded to the child as if it were their own. Being both mother and father to this little baby who was not expected but was loved more than life itself. They spoiled the child rotten and they watched the child grow into a little boy. Until one day the man died, the woman’s world fell apart. She depended on this man. They were soulmates. They were the most in love that they ever believed they could be. Seeing her sisters marriages being routine, average, loveless, but her life was rich in a fulfillment that was more like a movie than real life and now that bright light was gone.

She wondered if the man’s youngest child would still be a part of her life even though she now had the grandchildren and moved away. She wondered if that grandchild that she took care of for the first 2 years of its life as more of a mother than a grandmother would ever know how special it was in her life with the only attachment, the man who died, gone.

To her surprise, the child still needed a mother who wanted to be a mother. Therefore, the grandchildren still needed a grandmother. In times of despair, the woman did all that she could for this child and grandchildren ​as any mother would do and in fact, more than the child’s mother ever did. She gloried in being a grandmother and mother.

The child and the mother eventually had a rough patch​, a time of hurt that was that of the creation of the child. A great deal of hurt to go around but it was only temporary. The feelings of the grandmother to the grandchildren didn’t change and a love was always there even if there were hurt feelings.  The grandchildren had been taken in throughout this relationship. This woman having no connection to this child or her children took care of them in times that were trying. She loved unconditionally, even though there was hurt feelings, love still remained.  This woman gave her heart, home and self to this child and grandchildren. She still had a special place for the first grandchild because that child had been more like her child than grandchild. That was not to slight the other grandchildren. She simply didn’t have the connection of the day after day​ of the​ first 2 years. Those children never depended on her the way this first grandchild had.

Now the woman sits on the edge of the end of her life. She beams from the pride of having the only grandchildren she ever knew and was never supposed to have. A gift given because she fell in love with the love of her life. September 11th was the old woman’s birthday. She sat by the phone, hoping for the reminder of the love of her family that no longer are seen day in and day out.  They have no real obligation to her because she is not biologically tethered to ​them​ but as the man had expected of his first child, but never got, she expected the return of the love she selflessly gave to these children.

Trauma in the Making: The Conclusion

Jo’s youth, child , hair, health and sexiness were gone. The only thing she had left was Ernest and her grandson, John.  He was growing up so fast but Ernest adored him and sometimes she would imagine that he was their child on nights he would spend the night. Although, it was an illusion, one that was beyond holding for too long.

The cancer had been taking its toll and by God, she had to work. Ernest couldn’t make enough with the occasional job cleaning gutters. He drank more than he could make in a day. She had to work, even her son’s money was not enough to pay for the medicines, food, beer, rent & utilities.

Just after Christmas, 1973, Jo’s cancer appeared to be in remission but even with the treatments being finished, her hair had yet to return nor had her energy.  Her daughter Liz had called her this one evening, crying. She was leaving him–Jim, her husband. She was done. Ernest drove out to Cahaba Heights to get her. John was to come with them but for the sake of the peace, Ernest and Liz left him with Jim. Jo walked home the following morning after working all night. Ernest must have been asleep; he didn’t come and get her.  Mad as a wet hen, she arrived home, half expecting Liz to be waiting on the stoop.  She wasn’t there.  Oh well, she is probably was asleep too. When she opened the door, dying for the beer in the refrigerator and wanting to soak her feet, she saw it.

Oh my God, she thought. There was Ernest and Liz having sex in her bed. She screamed and threw the shoes at them–the same shoes she had carried for 15 blocks.  Liz jumped out of bed and grabbed her clothes.  Ernest said wryly, “Hey, Baby, whatchou doing home?”

She couldn’t believe it. Had they been screwing for all this time? Every time she turned her back were they laughing at how stupid she was. Why would Liz do this? Why would Ernest? Liz did it out of spite she reasoned. She was trying to take her husband–that little whore!

Liz came out of the bathroom with shame on her face but also contempt. She cussed at Jo and left.  Jo didn’t know where she went and damn if she cared. Ernest was young and vital why wouldn’t Liz want him. So he was a drunk? Most men were.

After a few weeks, Jo and Ernest returned to normal. She’d not heard from Liz and didn’t care if she would. She did get an occasional call from Jim who didn’t believe she didn’t know where she was, but that wasn’t her problem. Ray, Ernest’s younger brother had inquired if his twin, Joe had been around. It seems he wasn’t to be found. He walked off and left 3 kids and a wife. For all, Jo knew they were together. After all, Joe was John’s biological father back in the day. Liz had a weakness for him and his bad boy imagine. He was a damn psychopath though and almost biblically, Ray, Joe’s twin was mild tempered but men like him usually were–homosexuals that is.

In June, 1974, Jim called Jo to tell her to get to the hospital fast. Liz was there and she may not make it. When  Jo and Ernest got to the hospital, they met Jim in the waiting room. Joe had beaten Liz–nearly to death and Jim had brought her to the hospital. Oh and one more thing, she was pregnant—very pregnant. Doctors were not sure she would make it or the baby. The first thing Jo could think was, “my God, Ernest’s baby” but she couldn’t think like that…not now.

Over the days to come, Jim had agreed to take Liz back. All he ever wanted was a family and being sterile, that was the one thing that eluded his 48 years. The baby seemed to be ok, but doctors were sure that the baby was brain damaged. After an amniocentesis, Down’s syndrome was concluded and low amniotic fluid which was most definitely a bad sign. The baby needed to be aborted, the doctors said. Jim and Liz had decided against it. In the beating, her bladder, gall bladder and spleen had been dislodged. Joe was attempting to abort the baby himself–God knows why, but the baby was holding the organs in place. There was a chance that the pregnancy may allow for muscles that had been torn to heal, but the baby was defective. Jim didn’t care. He wanted the baby desperately but to Liz’s detriment, it seemed to Jo. She wanted the baby gone too, just in case. But that didn’t matter, Jim and Liz didn’t care, they had this fool idea that they’d live happy ever after.

Liz made a deal to let Jim be the legal baby daddy and no one ever mentioned the night that precipitated all this. Jo was just happy that Liz was alive. Assuming the baby would be a mongoloid, she knew no one would want the child after birth.  There was no reason to think the baby would matter to Ernest even if he was the father. He wouldn’t want a broken baby. It was all safe.

October 2, 1974, Jim called Jo at work. He said she needed to be at the hospital in 20 minutes; Liz was having the baby. Jim and John went bowling while Liz had the baby, natural childbirth, which wasn’t the plan. I was born at 10:09 pm. Daddy named me Jimmie Lee.

The secret was kept but Ernest connected the dates. He made everyone uncomfortable by caring me a round saying that I was “his baby”. He spoiled me rotten. My mother didn’t seem to mind.  Ernest drank himself to death when I was 3 years old. Jim could not stand him. Maybe he knew something they didn’t know. Or maybe it was just a feeling. Whatever it was, hatred might be the best way to characterize it.

How many times Jo look at me and wonder whose child I was? How many times did it break her heart to think of how my life started? Did she ever resent me or Mother? Ernest was gone. He’d forever be the blameless one in death. But is that fair?

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