When you're young, you can only hold things in for so long before the pot boils over. And when the pot boiled over in my case, everyone just scratched their heads. Of course, it was much easier to just label me as a "bad kid" at that point, but I wasn't a bad kid! I was never a bad kid. Sure, I always had a bit of a rebel in me, but I wasn't bad. I just always had a mind of my own. Is that a bad thing? I started doing drugs to dull the pain and I kept doing drugs because being comfortably numb worked. Are you acquainted with being comfortably numb? My comfortably numb almost killed me. My comfortably numb almost tore my heart from my body and locked it in a dark dungeon where no one could hurt me. It was a safe place. I felt nothing. No pain! No fear! No hate! No anger! But no joy or pleasure or love either. Emotional bankruptcy is void of everything and anything, but it's a safe place to hide out until either you're forced back into the land of the living or you perish.
My mother wasn't what I would say was a warm, nurturing person, She was an only child and I don't think she was equipped to handle difficult situations like raising four children while dealing with an alcoholic husband. I don't think many people are suitably equipped for that task. I think like most people who fall in love, they go into the relationship with unrealistic expectations. Life is wonderful until reality hits. In my mother's case, I believe when reality hit, it made her angry and bitter. Instead of focusing on what was in front of her, she became encapsulated in a cloud of her own angst. Listening to her talk about life on Walter Street, it was always all about her pain. It was as if my brothers and I didn't exist or our pain was less important than hers. A few times over the years, I'd get frustrated from listening her to her synopsis and I'd remind her as she recounted what we all refer to as "the hornet's nest," that I knew the story too well because I lived it, too. I'd let her rave on about what a son of a bitch my father was and at the end, I'd make her say one nice thing about him.
She didn't hug me much. I guess she didn't hug any of us very much that I remember. She screamed a lot. Just ask anyone in the neighborhood. Anyone not knowing us would have thought we were the children from Hell. She also loved to whack the bejesus out of all of us, but I remember the last time she tried to do that. I was old enough by then to stick up for myself. When she was about to hit me with something, probably a hairbrush, I grabbed her wrist and I told her not to ever hit me again. The look on her face was priceless. A true Kodak moment! I'm sure if I could ask her about it now, she'd claim she doesn't remember it, but I remember it too well. I think it's when Mildred was born. Mildred is pretty fearless and a force to be reckoned with when needed. From that day on, I did things my way. It seemed to amuse her when she'd tell people that I stopped listening to her when I was about 12 years old. Oh yes! Her attempt to control me was a total failure and that beat of a distant drum she claimed I heard was more like a whole symphony. Her need to control things that were out of control continued, but it no longer affected me until much later in life.
I have to admit that it did my heart good to see her life change when she married my step-father. He treated her well and tried to give her everything she wanted. The struggles she had once faced were behind her and she was finally able to bloom. Yes, her dream of becoming a fashion designer was gone, but instead she became an artist. Living life under totally different circumstances seemed to make all the difference in the world. Yes, she still had those "only child" tendencies, but she didn't scream and wasn't angry all the time. It was nice to see her in a different light. When she and my step-father had first gotten to the point of needing someone to live with them, my adult daughter volunteered. About three weeks after she had moved in, I got a phone call at work from my daughter where she announced to me that she now understood why I did drugs when I was younger. To that lightbulb moment of hers, I first laughed and then, I responded by telling her that her grandmother had mellowed out in her old age and that she wasn't the same person now as she was then.