One year when I was married to my first husband, his mother (and I think this is how the story goes) got a picture of me as a child from my mother and had it and a picture of her son as a child blown up, framed them and gave them to us for Christmas. That was the picture of me. A cowgirl cradling her new baby doll and for the life of me, I can't remember that doll although it would appear that even at such a tender age I knew exactly how to hold a baby safely and close.
I think the hat was red.
Anyway, Hank has those two pictures and he fixed some scratches in the one of me and printed out a copy for me for my gift. The picture of his father is pretty awesome too. He was probably about nine or so, all decked out in nice clothes and hugging a microphone on a stage like he was born an Elvis.
And here I am, still holding babies and there's my ex, still singing and playing music onstage.
Guess there's no fighting fate is there?
Oh my god. Wait. I DO remember that doll. She was a bride doll- a very, very popular toy for little girls in the late fifties, early sixties, when it was a well-known fact that every female's dream from birth was to grow up and become a bride. Obviously. It's all coming back to me. She wasn't a baby doll at all. And I know I wanted a bride doll with all of my heart and soul and that was my Christmas present. I am certain that I also recall my mother sewing her other outfits.
I have no idea what happened to that doll. I think I got it the Christmas that my mother had to flee our home in Chattanooga in the dead of night on one of the last days of December because my father had gotten a gun and his drinking had accelerated to the point where she feared for our lives. That doll may have been left behind with all of the other Christmas presents. She did go back to my father a few months later but he'd destroyed the house in a drunken fit, slashing furniture and god knows what else. I don't remember a lot of it. I was five.
But that picture- that's proof that my mother was trying to make things as normal and good for me and my brother as was possible under such horrible circumstances.
The news I just got last night of my stepfather's death has stirred a lot up in me. As I wrote a friend this morning, it's as if it has ripped some of the scab/scar from the wound. I look at that picture and I could cry for that little girl whose life was about to be so torn up, cry for her brother, her mother too. And not just for all of the immediate trauma but for the years following. The resettling in a tiny village in Florida, my mother finding work as a school teacher (for which she was not at all well-suited), her continuing her education during the summers, meeting a man who looked completely perfect on paper, falling in love with him, marrying him and then...well, that's when the real tragedies began, in a way.
I feel itchy and weird and completely unsettled today. It's gray and cold and Mr. Moon is already on the road to Georgia to hunt, leaving me here in what should be perfect peace and yet my soul is far from peaceful. I looked up the online obituary for my stepfather (I hate even typing that word- "stepfather") and it was brief and not one person left a comment on the guest book. Not one. Only one of his sons, my half-brothers, was listed as a survivor. My other half-brother, the one I spoke to yesterday, has long-since actually legally changed his last name- one of the ways in which he has tried to break free from the connection with his father. I think he was brave to do so and I'm proud of him for doing it but I know that nothing can ever take away what happened to him as a child any more than the death of the perpetrator of evil can remove it. Not from him, not from my other brothers, not from me.
And the evil couldn't be taken away from my mother either, even though she was long divorced from the man. A few days before her death last January when she was doing that horrible sundowning thing she proclaimed that she wished she'd never met that man. She thought about that, what she'd just said, for a few seconds and then she said, "Well, if I hadn't, I would never have had Chuck and Russell."
A few more seconds passed and then she said, "That would have been alright."
She was out of her mind but in insanity, just as in wine, there is often truth.
This is the thing that has me squirming like a maggoty hunk of rotting meat (sorry but that's how I feel at this moment)- his death has nothing to do with making me feel safer or better or more whole. The damage was done. It cannot ever be undone. Even after years of therapy and what amounts to most of a lifetime of so much goodness and love and just a damn incredible life, I know that at best there are parts of me which are far less than adequately stitched together and most of the time I feel as if it could all come undone completely. Most definitely right now.
Well. I won't fall apart. I never have and I won't now. I will do laundry, I will sweep, I will make the bed, I might go to the store. I will carry on. This is just another step in the process of my life and I am not the first person to go through it nor will I be the last.
I am almost tempted to try and get my hands on some psilocybin mushrooms and take them. Some studies are showing that low doses of psilocybin can be used quite successfully in the treatment of both depression and PTSD. I know that when I was in my late teens we "discovered" psilocybin mushrooms (they grew everywhere there were cows in Florida) and I did quite a few of them and I honestly and truly believe that whatever sanity I had in those days may have been aided by my ingestion of that drug. I never did do them recreationally, but always knew that in some way, there was a spiritual component involved and that I should treat the taking of them with respect.
But I am so much older now and somehow, it would take so much more courage.
I know I could get some. Probably within the hour if I really was serious. I know people...
But. But. But.
Probably better to clean the toilets, right?
I don't know. I'm feeling pulled in a million directions. And quite frankly, I do not feel in the least cheerful that Charles Stum is dead. That fact is almost of complete unimportance to me. The fact that he lived and that his life intersected mine is the crucial one. I do not celebrate his death. I mourn his life.
All right. I need to stop talking about it for this moment. I almost feel as if I am tripping now but not in a good way.
Here's what it looks like here today.
Sort of sums it all up in some bizarre, almost psychedelic way.
I'll check back later, y'all. Meanwhile, I'll continue to cowgirl up, cupcake, and hold my babies close.
But man, it's been a strange fucking year.