Saturday, March 19, 2011

Life Stories and Other Works of Fiction

I don't remember the first time I fell down. I'm sure I was like most babies and fell down a lot when I was learning how to walk. I do remember learning about falling down. I learned that you should not cause others to fall down, even if you are only two.

My mema was my father's mother and she never liked me. I know what you are saying, that I imagined it. That she really did like me and you are sure she loved me. Grandmothers always love their grandchildren. Well, I know for a fact that she didn't like me. It all started when I was two. I don't remember being two but I've heard the story more than once.

Mema was coming up the back steps when I pushed the screen door open. She fell down and broke her crown. Oh wait, wrong story. But she did break her hip. And it was my fault. Even at two I should know not to open the door when someone is coming up the steps. Mema told me over and over again how I broke her hip. My mother told me how mema blamed me. I spent the rest of my childhood being the best child I could so that my family would love me. Even though my mother loves me dearly and I always knew she loved me, I lived in fear that if I caused her or anyone else in my family harm, that love would disappear.

Goody two shoes, that's what they called me. I was the one who cleaned my room without being asked. I was the one who didn't speak until spoken to. I was the one who made all A's. But I couldn't be perfect. As much as I tried, it didn't work. I was the one who wet my pants. I wet my pants at the most inopportune times. At the store, in the car, at school. I tried so hard but I just could not hold my water. The doctor said I didn't empty my bladder all the way. So he emptied it for me.

Interestingly enough, my mother said I was the easiest to potty train. She dressed me in ruffly pants (I was the first girl) and told me not to wet them so I didn't. Things started well but somewhere I went awry. Somewhere I began to "not empty my bladder" so that then I'd have to go an inappropriate times. Not being able to hold my water, I wet my pants. One solution was to make me sit on the toilet. Not sure how that was supposed to work since I sat with the lid down and my clothes on.

Then I was diagnosed with bladder infections. Chronic bladder infections. Solution, tetracycline. The antibiotic of choice during the late sixties and the reason many of the later baby boomers have yellow teeth and fingernails. A small price to pay. The reason I was having all of these bladder infections must be because I didn't empty it completely. What other reason would there be for a child under the age of 9 to have a bladder infection? Must be some fault of the child's.

Did I mention that mema was my father's mother? Yes, my father was a part of my life. Too much a part of my life. He was of the generation that thought children should be seen and not heard but that didn't stop him from making himself heard, very loudly. I lived in fear of my father. Oh, at school I bragged about my father saying he could beat up all the other dads. Like children do. But at home, I tried to stay as far from him as possible. We all did. My father was not someone who's love I tried to win. Mostly, I tried to not make my father angry because it didn't take much to make him angry.

However, my father always thought of me as his little girl. A daddy's girl. But unlike most little girls, that gave me the creeps. Anytime my father touched me, I cringed. And I'm not talking about inappropriate touching, I don't have any memories of him touching me inappropriately. There was the time when I was 13 that he made me touch him inappropriately but that's a different story. This story is before that. This story is before my memories.

My memories start when I was eleven. I have scattered memories before that but they are just that, scattered. One of my first memories is teaching my oldest brother (B1) how to have sex. I'm not sure how old I was but I hadn't started grammar school yet. My brother was in kindergarten. The next memory I have is when I was in kindergarten and I learned my ABC's before my other brother (B2) who is a year older. He was the "bad" one because he didn't like his food to touch and he would eat right out of the refrigerator. Plus he was sick the whole first year of his life.

My mema liked B2 the best. She told him that and she told him that my mother didn't love him. If my mother loved him, she wouldn't have let him get scaled by hot water when he was a baby. Another early memory is when we visited mema and she gave him a dime for the store but not the rest of us. She said it was because he was special. He's a homeless, crack addict now but that's a different story. He is special as we all are and I miss him terribly.

So, at two, I learned a very important life lesson. Do not push people down the stairs if you want them to love you. I think this is good advice if you add two words--"on purpose." Do not push people down the stairs on purpose if you want them to love you.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fall Down, Get Up

There is a saying, "Fall down seven times, get up eight." I think I've fallen down a hundred times and gotten up ninety-nine. Can one really fall down only seven times and get up eight times? How can you get up if you don't fall? Kind of like saying I dropped seven matches but I picked up eight. The math just doesn't add up for me.

So, for me, I can't count how many times I fallen (for real, with the scars to prove it!) or metaphorically but I know I usually bounce back. Can I say that I have bounced back completely every time? No. Hence, the ninety-nine. I'm think I'm fairly whole these days but can one ever be one hundred percent?

But I think that most people do survive, move on, do the necessary. We have to because there is no other choice. And life is all about choice. One can choose to stay down or one can choose to get up. Regardless of why we get up, we do. We get up because our parents say get up. We get up for the children. We get up because it is the right thing to do.

I think about the women (and some men too) in ages past that went away to "sanitoriums". Life was too much for them. I don't long for those days because of the status women had as the "weaker sex" but I do think it would be nice sometimes to be able to go away to some place like that because life is too much. Meals provided on schedule, housework done, nothing to do but rest and read a book. Write in a journal.

When is the last time we heard of someone going away to a place like that? And, no, I'm not talking about the celebrities going to rehab. Your average every day working (at home or away) woman with children. First, do we even have any "sanitoriums" left and secondly, who'd take care of the children? Maybe there weren't really that many women who went to sanitoriums. Maybe it was just in the movies.

Maybe we've always just done what needed to be done. I know I have. I wonder how people are able to not do what needs to be done. Like working. I've never considered not working, not getting up in the morning and doing what needs to be done. I got up and cared for my children, I got up and went to work, I got up and cleaned the house. To me, the thought of not doing these things is frightening.

So here I am getting up again. Did I fall? Not necessarily. Maybe that's the point. You don't have to fall in order to get up. You get up regardless. So maybe I have fallen one hundred times and gotten up one hundred and fifty. Now make that one hundred and fifty-one as I get up and get to work doing the things that are necessary because that is what one does.