Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Do These Things In Remembrance

A few days ago I was talking to my mother. She brought up a surgery she'd had a long, long time ago for a chronic condition which I shall not name here because it would be "indelicate" and when she mentions this surgery (which was not successful and she suffers mightily from the chronic condition to this day) she always says, "And that's when you were in the hospital and I had to spend all those hours sitting there in a chair beside your bed and it was torture. Do you remember that?"

I do, as a matter of fact, remember that. I almost died so yes, I remember.

And I never know what to say when Mother brings this up. Which she does. Frequently.

"Sorry, Mom. Sorry I was in the hospital because I was maybe dying? Sorry you had to sit by my bed?"

This is a part of our family history. These are the sorts of stories that are told.

They are...painful. Pain...full.

And I was thinking about this. About how I swear to you, I can't remember one time that we were ever together, my mother and me, or my brothers and me, for that matter, when we said, "Oh, do you remember the time we...?" and that the story was one about having fun.
I'm serious.

And when I wrack my brain to try and remember times that might have been fun that we had together as a family, I am stuck.
Every memory I have is tainted with some horrible sorrow.
And I'm not meaning to say, "Oh, poor me." I'm meaning to say, "Wow. That is so weird."

Every memory. Am I revising history?

Okay. Here's a memory I have that was fun:

It was when we were living in Roseland and for some reason, my mother and maybe another younger woman who lived in Roseland and I and some other kids were outside after dark and we were playing in the road. Let me explain- there was only one paved road in Roseland and there was literally no traffic after dark. Every one got home and stayed there. So we were playing in the moonlight and I don't even remember what we were playing but it was silly fun and I remember thinking, literally thinking, this is fun.

My mother was lighthearted that night. And I have no idea why.

But as to bad memories, oh, I have a million.

Fleeing my father, searching for my father with my mother in bars, my father leaving us in the car while he went into a bar. My father being too drunk to drive. My father screaming at my mother, my mother taking my brother and me to a neighbor's house so he could sober up or something. There being nothing in the house to eat but potatoes. You get the drift. I was only about four or five but I remember.

Then after we left my father, arriving in Roseland where my grandparents lived and Mother being so sick she had to go to the hospital leaving my brother and me with my grandparents whom we didn't know. My mother's crippling sadness. Her depressions. The time a child in her class at school (she taught at the local elementary school) got run over by a delivery truck when he ran out for recess. More and more desperate depression. Mother burning her wedding gown in a burn pit. Mother getting married again, then the abuse began, she got pregnant, she lost the baby, the gory details of all of that. I was nine.
The move to Winter Haven, the abuse continued. She got pregnant again. This one stuck but before she want to the hospital, she showed me the new pink sheets she wanted me to put on the bed before she got home...if the baby lived. That's what she told me. I remember standing in the bathroom in front of the closet where she had those new sheets.
If the baby lives.
I was twelve. Barely.
I don't know what the fuck I was supposed to do if the baby died.

The baby lived. That was joyous. That was.
Except the abuse continued. That house was the scariest place in the world.

She got pregnant again. I remember her being so tired. She was forty years old. I remember her lying on the couch, holding her hands as if in prayer, her eyes closed.

I remember my real father, kneeling in prayer beside a bed when I was a tiny thing, praying, pleading with god to take away his thirst for drink. Crying out to god.

I remember praying by my own bed for god to please make my family happy, to make my stepfather quit coming into my room. On TV, Billy Graham had promised that if I got on my knees and prayed, god would answer my prayers.
I remember reading the Bible straight through, forcing myself to read every begat so that maybe god would know I was serious, worthy of having prayers answered, also hoping that maybe the Bible would act as a shield against my stepfather.

Ha. On all counts.

I remember listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones in that same room on my radio. The Beach Boys. The Turtles.
That was the purest happiness I knew.
That music.

Saved my life. Over and over and over again.

Maybe god gave me rock and roll to save my life.

Anyway, I think of all of this. I think of all of the fear and the misery and the way each and every family gathering was somehow tainted/painted with blackness.

I think of how my mother talks about past events and says, "Do you remember?" and oh god, yes. I do.
Sometimes, on the other hand, I have asked her, "Do you remember?" and she has said, "Oh Mary. That never happened."

I had a therapist once, a very, very good one. She asked me why I am so attached to suffering.
I had no answer for her and I have been pondering that ever since.
Where did this need to suffer come from?

And finally I do realize. It was all I knew. It was all I saw.

Mothers suffer, fathers suffer, children suffer.

Life is suffering. Suffering is The Way.

And yet, I know it's not. I believe powerfully that as a species, we are no more meant to spend our lives suffering than the birds are. Or the magnolia trees.
Yes, suffering happens. Horrible things happen.
But why suffer if they are not?

Why do I continue to stew in a bath of suffering when there is no need? When I have everything that a human being can ask for?

Listen- I do know that suffering as a child gave me the ability to recognize suffering in others. To be quiet and listen to stories of suffering. To not be shocked.
Too much.
There are people who have suffered far worse than I did but that's neither here nor there and I refuse to believe that there is a scale of it, suffering, and that we should be able to pull ourselves out and be happy people if our suffering was only a seven on a scale of 0ne-to-ten.
Or something like that.

Plus, some of us are born with an innate sadness, I do believe. That's just the way of it. Depression runs in families.

And this is what I am thinking today, even as my roses bloom, even as there is plenty to eat in my refrigerator, even as I have those grandsons, even as I have this life.

"Do you remember, Mary?" my mother asks. "Do you remember my suffering?"

Oh yes, Mother. I remember.
The problem is, I can't remember anything else.

Sometimes. Sometimes I can't remember any...thing...else.


  1. I do the same Mary. Suffer and be sad is a way of life for me. This is a beautiful post because you have told it like it is/was. My entire family, both sides, were the same. Who know where it originally comes from but we certainly do pass it on. I should say "I" pass it on because it looks like you are doing a great job of NOT passing it on. That takes a very strong and yes, healthy woman.

  2. Oh Ms. Moon. I am so sorry that your childhood was filled with fear and sickness of the adults around you. It's hard not to go back there in our minds when we are tired or down. I am really sorry you had to endure that. It's good to air it out here. I'm thinking loving thoughts towards you and admiration that you've made the childhoods of your kids and grandkids different. That does take powerful awareness and strength. Joanne

  3. I totally understand this post. I had nothing but negativity and suffering in my life till I met Harvey. He gave me joy and safety. I still have some of the joy, but none of the safety, that coming home to a smile without feeling you had to earn it. How his parents gave this to him, and mine didn't to me--and how he gave it to me so we could give it to our kids--are the great mysteries. Even with the perfect husband, the great kids, I still feel the weight of my childhood and early adulthood like a diver's belt. I don't want to get back in the rut of rue, and every day I can feel the psychic weight piling on, even though the physical weight is staying off.

  4. Oh honey. Those sad things in childhood, they're like strings that get plucked and the sound waves just keep coming. My brain does this to me too, I don't know why, and I'd change it if I could.

    But my mom, she does something similar, wanting to talk about how sad and depressed she was when we were young, as if we didn't know, as if it didn't color or stain our entire family, and bleed into now. I can get angry thinking about the sad all that sad caused, and I'd love to get brainwashed and let it go, I really would.

    I think you're right though, you have such compassion and insight because you know, and you also know as bad as it was, it could have been worse.

    Music saved my messed up ass too.

    Hugs, have a nice day today.

  5. I just love you so much, and I'm sorry if that's presumptuous or creepy to be sharing in a blog comment, especially since I have never so much as shaken your hand! But still. Love is what I feel. You are a winged warrior.
    Have you ever heard of the YA author Ruth White? I met her when I worked for the library. She writes YA novels based on her life in the West Virginia Coal Camps in the fifties...about her abusive father and her vacant, faraway mother. She took her pain and turned it into art and that's exactly what you've done here. You'd like her books, I think.

    Another note: did you know that scientists in Europe are researching/making a pill to erase memory? Just like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I don't know. On one hand I think it would be good, like if the little girl in the Massoud Hossaini photograph could have some of those pills it might do her a world of good. But if no one had any suffering, would we have all this beautiful art and music and good causes that we do? We need art. We need that.

    Again, love you.

  6. I sure do love you. I really do.

    I have the innate sadness as well, as you know. It is so interesting to me how different each human being is wired to either have this suffering gene or not. You and I just do. It's so very hard to have been handed it.

  7. It's a good thing you've made so many new happy stories, with piles and piles of youngins and grandyoungins to help tell them.

  8. Oh, the weight of it. :(


  9. You did that so beautifully. You told the truth. It must have been very hard for you this morning to go to that place and open the door and I imagine that you cried as you told it. It deserves tears.

    Somehow you have become the voice of so many others suffering, mine included and I wish it wasn't so. But you are also the voice of what it's like when we can overcome that stuff for a bit too.

    You are so beautiful, scars and all, how I love you, Mary.

  10. Just de-lurking to add my love to the chorus.

    Love and hugs and kisses to you, and your grandsons, and your husband, and the baby chicks, and everything wonderful in your life.

  11. You truly are an inspiration.I sometimes have to check that the words you have written were not written by me. You speak for many of us and certainly for me and my suffering and I understand every word that you say as it resonates so much with my own life. I had a similar childhood that taunts me to this day and I had the rock and roll in the bedroom to the very same bands that you did. I am the person you e mailed in the UK. Thank you and love.

  12. Your sadness, sorrow of loss of an innocent childhood, hurts. I read your words and I am at a loss to how it must have been for you. I ache at knowing what you must have suffered and there is nothing I can do to change any of it.

    My hope is that your writing about it, bit by bit, will somehow ease it to a different place in the memory place of your heart and head. Maybe letting it out heals in some way.

    You are a strong woman Mary Moon...I just feel that about you. Life is not fair and I often have questioned God as to why if he is there, would he let such horrible things happen most of all to children but to all people as well. No one should give me the line "it was God's will..God's way..." that angers me. It gives me no peace.

    I'm sending you a hug Mary....

  13. Rubye Jack- Believe me. I have passed on far more than I would have wished.

    Joanne- See above. I have tried but I know I have royally failed at times.

    Pamela- My husband, like your Harvey, was raised by loving parents. It helps so much to have a loving husband who is not always dwelling in sorrow. I feel, though, that I drag him down too often. This makes me even more sorrowful. This hurts my soul.

    Mel- Thank GOD for the music, Saint John, Saint George, Saint Paul, Saint Ringo, Saint Mick, Saint many saints. Joni and Janis. Yes. Them too.
    My mother refuses to admit she was depressed. It's so odd. I'll say, "Do you remember when you wouldn't come out of your room?" and she'll say, "No."
    I suppose it seems like a weakness, depression, that she never can admit to having.

    Chrissy- You can say you love me. There is probably something in my writing that you do love and I am glad for that always.
    I have never heard of Ruth White. I will check her out.
    I have heard of this pill. I don't know what I think about it. Would it really change anything? Would it? I am more interested, I think, in trying mushrooms again. There is good research there, too.

    SJ- One of the gifts I would definitely try to keep away from my children, my grandchildren. Oh, for them to have Mr. Moon's outlook on life! Lord. But we cannot choose, can we?

    Magnum- And you better believe I am very, very grateful for every one of those happy stories. I take NOTE!

    Jo- It is a bad heaviness. It is tiring beyond belief.

    liv- The miracle is that we DO, sometimes joyfully escape. I live for those times. I do.
    Thank you for reminding me.

    Ellen- Thank you for de-lurking. You have no idea how grateful I am for that and for all of the things you mentioned which are so good in my life.

    Anonymous- Hello and isn't it amazing how meaningful the music was to so many of us, so far flung from each other, and yet there it was for all of us- turn on the radio. There it was.

    Ellen- For me, the question of god has passed. If there is one, it is not a god who has his eye upon the sparrow. That's what I think. Writing does help. It helps to put down the truth and look at it and think, "Ah well. There. That's why." And then go on. There IS a reason. There ARE reasons. Now. Feel it. Go on.
    I doubt we shall ever make it so that no child suffers. Life just does not allow for such. But perhaps we shall learn to do better healing. I hope for that for everyone.

  14. There is a song that goes something like "God gave rock and roll to you..." So maybe he/it did... who knows?

    I'm also remembering a Soprano's episode where Tony is in his shrink's office and she asked if he had any memories that were happy ones regarding is family/childhood. He recounts a time when his dad fell down the stairs and they all laughed, even his mother. (Which was rare) The shrink just sort of stared at him slack jawed and blinked as he cackled in recall....

    I think I get what you mean. I feel similarly about my childhood but for different reasons, different kinds of suffering. It is what we are used to and there is some kind of black comfort in what we know. Feeling like we will not be lulled into a false sense of safety and security and always be ready for when that shoe drops. Sigh.

    Those can't be erased, but you sure are making some spectacular new memories and are very very aware of your blessings now and you appreciate them and I think that is sometimes the best we can do.

    I love you Mary.

  15. Wow. Your ability to tell the truth never ceases to amaze me. The truth of what some adults can do to children never ceases to horrify me.

    I love what Chrissy said, "You are a winged warrior."

    I often feel guilty to be one of the lucky ones to have had a "happy childhood" with loving parents. I also had plenty of typical teenage angst and the music saved in me what needed to be saved, as well. Most especially the Beatles!

    I do so love you, Mary, as scores of others do. And I don't believe you bring Glen down. I have seen his eyes shining when he looks at you. You bring untold joy to your family, blogger family, and friends.

  16. This is an astonishing piece of writing, piercing and true. i relate to it so deeply, and yet i did not have an unhappy childhood, though there were times when i was unhappy, years when i was lonely and odd and outside of things, not because anyone said it was so, but because i felt it to be so, I FELT WRONG, and perhaps some of us come into the world that way, a trick of wiring, and we feel fraudulent somehow, because we can't point to reasons, at least not external ones, not big enough ones to justify the sadness. i was cared for, i was. we had our alcoholics. we had our pervs too. i watched them out the corner of my eye, ready to fight, for myself, for any of my little cousins. one of them i hated. one of them i loved even tho i knew he wasnt right. i waited for my parents to see what i saw of them, but they never seemed to see it, to know that these two were just not right with us kids, and so we were on our own, but we looked out for each other, we even laughed about it, but still, sometimes i was sad with the things we never named. and i dont know why i am writing about this here except you touched some place in me that usually lies behind a closed door and you, dear ms moon, let the sunlight into the dusty corners and look, there are no ghosts there anymore, poof. one is a frail old man now. the other dead. that frail old man, i never let him be around my children. i am always in the room, my eyes trained, if he is there. God, Ms. Moon I didn't know i was going to go to this place and i have a mind to delete all this. but i wont. maybe i will come back later and delete it but for now i am going to press publish and see how that feels. i love you.

  17. So much sorrow. Until mom got clean and quit hitting us, many of my memories are like that, too, tinged with that undercurrent.

  18. Angella, you are a beautiful person...just through and through.

  19. Ms. Fleur- I love you too. Thank-you.

    lulumarie- Even the sweetest water will eventually wear away the rock. This is what I worry about. But you- you are so precious. Thank you.

    Angella- It is amazing to me how deeply and thoroughly the child molester (and molestation takes many forms) can sever a child's complete happiness and can change a child forever. I am sorry that you experienced whatever it was you experienced but please- do not discount that as something which formed a sadness in you. And it is not yours. (I am speaking for myself here, too.) There are so many layers to that onion. The most important may be that no, the parents do not notice and even if they feel that something may not be right, they so often ignore. Even the best parents. Even the best.
    I love you for being brave and talking about this today. I love you for so many reasons. This is one more.

    messymimi- The damage that people do to their kids. It is horrible. I'm sorry.

    Chrissy- Isn't she?

  20. Dear Ms. Moon,
    I have many alcohol-related memories of my father. They out-weigh all the rest. And strange how it never occurred to me he WAS and alcoholic until a family member told me when I was 15. I must have known, just never gave it words or labels. I must have known smelling red wine at a young age and immediately being reminded of him. He'd always use coffee mugs - they were always stained.
    I sometimes wonder if I was born sad or absorbed it. A little of both, I think. Whatever it is, I know I was born with thin skin - more prone to holes - but we are damn fine quilters, too.
    Rachel VB

  21. I'm so sorry that you have endured so much sadness. I had some of the sadness...the drunk father, who despite it, kept a good job and a decent enough front on display. Some abuse at the hands of another family member. I rebelled in my teenage years quite a bit and then lost my mother when I was 26 and just getting around to being a grown up. It weighs so heavy sometimes. And while I don't put a degree on suffering either... what screws you up screws you up, and what can you do after you're screwed up? I do realize that I had it mostly ok and there are childhoods like yours where daily life was nightmarish. It's awful and I'm just so sorry for it all and the only thing that you can do is live well, like you do. You are such a lovely, lovely woman, really. I know that the suffering is playing its' part and maybe a big part of why you have grown to be so gripping in your writing, so fierce in your love and so appreciative of things that so many people take for granted. It's not a fair trade, certainly. But since it is what it is, you do get to be this person who really is so amazing. I hope you get around to feeling better soon.

  22. Ms Moon, this is an amazing sad beautiful and moving post.
    You are all these things.

  23. I know that if I let myself go back to recount the bad times, there will be many. And those times shaped me to be serious and responsible and also so empathetic. I realize that I can't change what happened back then. Each of us is burdened by something and that baggage is carried for a long time. I take those glimpses into the past, but I don't choose to try to dwell there much. The bad memories and the good ones now are what have shaped me to be who I am.
    Rest easy, Mary, because not a one of us is without the sad times.

  24. I'm just catching up.

    I'm sure that some people are prone to depression - they used to say people had one of four humours and melancholy was one of them. Some people seem to react to bad times or suffering with a fighting stance. Some are determined just to make things better. And some of us get stuck.

    My mother actually apologized for not treating me as well as the others. As much as she seems to have no clue and views her parenting as having been full of love and affection, having her admit that I wasn't just imagining that I was her least favourite was healing. Your mother was obviously so wrapped up in her own suffering that she thought your suffering was more hers somehow. My mother has never considered that I ever suffered - it was nothing compared to hers.

  25. I am late to read this post and comment. I will say that you are the Bodhisattva and feel all the world's sorrow including your own, the sad-eyed lady of the lowlands, this post., these words., your Arabian drum.

    I love you, too.

  26. According to Patricia Bauer, a professor of psychology at Emory who studies early memory, the general consensus was that a 3-year-old child’s memory was a jumble of disorganized information, like your email inbox without any sorting function: “You can’t sort them by name, you can’t sort them by date, it’s just all your email messages.”

    Coffee Table of your Mind.

  27. Liv said "Somehow you have become the voice of so many others suffering, mine included and I wish it wasn't so. But you are also the voice of what it's like when we can overcome that stuff for a bit too."

    I don't comment much. Mostly when I'm on my knees because the crushing weight of my own reality is killing me and your writing hits me like a lightning bolt. I commented when I was struggling with the death of a 7 year relationship and I commented when I went to Iraq as a civilian to help get our folks home and you wrote about how YOU cared about what was going on in the world.

    But today - I'm commenting just to simply say thank you for being a voice. For making me feel that it's okay to have all those leftover feelings. And when I see you and the life you've built it's hope personified for those of us who need it the very most.

    You are stunning, Ms. Moon. :)

  28. I am without words.

    I have typed and deleted and typed and deleted.

    I am just on the other side of being stuck for a bit.
    And yesterday I talked to yet another gorgeous strong woman who is a kindred soul and I'm going to send her this.

    love to you.

  29. Rachel VB- Funny that- that you didn't realize or put into words your father's disease. It was just...part of him.
    Yes, we are thin-skinned but we are strong-boned. That's what I think.

    Dayna- We all have our own stories to tell, don't we? Or not tell, as we choose. They make us who we are and that is good and that is bad and it's neither. Just what it is.

    Yo- I wish I could comment on YOUR blog. I can't get wordpress to allow me that option. I sort of hate them at the moment.

    Syd- I don't think I choose to dwell in the sad memories. Sometimes they just overcome me. Capture me. And then they let me go and I can remember the good memories of the family I have now.
    I am so grateful for that, for them.

    Jeannie- Some women, I think, are not suited to being mothers. They may do the best they can but still, it would probably have been for the best had they not ever been in that position to begin with. And yes, I realize that if my mother had never been a mother, I would not be here but so what? I wouldn't know. There would be no "me." And I think the world would have gone on just fine.
    Silly, moot points.
    At least your mother did apologize for something. At least there is that.

    Elizabeth- Oh no! I am no Bodhisattva! I eat and drink way too much to be one of those! I love you, my friend. You are a joy in my day.

    Omgrrrl- I think Patricia was wrong. Just sayin'...

    Jackson- Wow. I don't even know what to say. But here we all are, knowing what's in each others' hearts and that's really something, isn't it? I think so. I do.

    Deb- Good. Send it on. Maybe sharing helps. I don't know. I surely hope so.

  30. Honey, I call it my 'original sadness'. And I'm the survivor in my family. I got out, I got away, I built my life from some deep place...and I found midwifery which literally birthed me into a kind of healing. And yet the sadness is my constant shadow and my friend. It IS the way to a compassionate heart.

    Like yours. Dear sweet Mary. So much love flowing your way from your adoring fans.

    XXXX Beth


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