Sunday, August 31, 2003
The Shelley Interview
(Not one of your run-of-the-mill fluff pieces!)
Hello Liz, you're quiz #2.Weehoo! A completely non-school related thing to do/procrastinate with!
Here are your questions. Let me know when your answers are online at your site, and I'll link to you.
Weehoo—or, erps!! I wasn’t thinking about that secondhand-fame factor. Now I better have something up here worth looking at.
1) I am so sorry about the losses you suffered this summer. How are you?
How was your trip? And are your half sisters okay?
Now that is a gigantic, hujambous, multifaceted comment/question. It may have to be answered in stages. Or perhaps just chronologically.
My original plan for summer 2003:
1. Complete schoolwork, gather data for thesis, write up stuff for mentor’s research, go to sister’s wedding, and pack for long-awaited Europe trip.
2. Run off to Europe for July, secure in the knowledge that I have finished everything possible and need not worry about catching up with a bunch of stuff when I get back, so I can just enjoy this trip we’ve been planning for 4 years.
3. Traipse across “the Continent” with a Eurailpass, staying with friends, or else in hostels when absolutely necessary, buying food from local stores and generally spending practically no money at all, other than that saved up for tickets. This will be a restful and pleasant experience.
4. Return home. Spend August at leisure, catching up on things such as writing, painting, and music, since I have had no noticeable break since this program began two years ago. Maybe fit in a few data analyses, develop some plans for running group therapy, etc.
5. Begin fall classes with a clean slate, refreshed and ready to go!
The actuality of summer 2003:
This is all so convoluted, it’s difficult to tease it apart into its components. I would start at the beginning, but that’s at least 35 years ago, as I understand it. There are so many different beginnings to recent events in my life, and they all start at different places and in different decades. So I will start right smack in the middle, and let the ends fall where they may.
I brought a brand-new blank book with me to Europe, thinking that I would feel inspired to write down things I thought of about my mom and brother, as well as every minute detail of whatever we were doing in Europe. So that I would remember everything forever. I am obsessed with not forgetting things, and retrieving as much lost information as possible: pictures, writings, family stories, whatever. I attribute this to having no particular hometown, or home I grew up in, having moved pretty much every year since I was born. (Even now, having lived in this apartment for just two years, I feel like I have put down roots here, and I’m sad about the idea that I probably have only two more years left in it.) I have lost so many important things in my life, that now I feel I have to make sure that anything I care about or want will not be irretrievably lost.
Well, the summer started off okay, with me feeling enthusiastic about school finally, and I got to go to my sister Martha’s wedding and even see my mom for the first time in 8 years.
Turns out she had finally begun to accept the things I had told her about my stepdad oh-so-many years ago, and it also turned out (of course) that he had been doing many of the same things—but getting worse as the years went by—to her and to his own kids. She was referring to him as “the Orc,” and wouldn’t sit at the same table with him at the reception.
I had a lot of conflicting feelings about having a renewed relationship with her (mainly all those times she blamed “the Devil” or my general “evilness” for my “not getting along with” her husband, instead of the abuse.) It really sucks to have no mom, especially when it’s her choice. So I was still going back and forth between feeling all the hurt that I’d put behind me for so many years, and on the other hand excitedly imagining her decorating my (potential) wedding cake and delivering my (potential) children. A couple of days after my sister’s wedding, my mom secretly went to a lawyer with the (borrowed) down payment to start divorce proceedings.
The very next day, she let my 16-year-old brother drive the car as they ran errands in town, and he turned left into the path of a semi going full speed on the highway.
When I heard Martha’s message on my voicemail telling me that Mom and Wolfie were dead, I had a brief, shiningly surreal moment of feeling that I could just forget about it, push the knowledge away, and go right back to my work. I waited for a feeling other than paralysis to beset me. Big shards of strange reality crashed down on me in bizarrely slow motion for the rest of the day, as my current life crumbled and fell away. I tried to tie up as many loose ends as I could, not knowing what would happen or what I would do—I mean, not even for the subsequent hour. The worst thing was hearing my little sister (on her honeymoon, of all the terrible things) sobbing incoherently as she tried to speak. My overwhelming feeling (besides the usual disbelief) was a strange, frustrated yearning, just like when you’ve been running for a train and you arrive at the platform and it’s already moving away: you can reach out and touch it as it passes, but you can’t stop it—it’s that same feeling, but on an unbelievably huge scale. I had seen them only days before! Stop! Turn it back: I can fix it, change it, something, they’re still so close, we could still catch them if only they’d stop for a minute!
But they don’t stop.
At first, I bitterly resented every day that passed, because it was one day further from the time when they had been alive. How could I allow “Why, just this week, she kissed me and told me she loved me!” to become “It was x number of years ago that my mother and brother were killed in a car accident” ?
Funerals in general are strange. Death seriously messes with your sense of reality. More so than drugs, because it doesn’t go away after 24 hours. You wake up, and it’s still happening. And the death of a parent is one of life’s biggest emotional changes. But this particular funeral—knowing I would see the man who used to beat the crap out of me, and knock my mom down on the floor, kneel on her chest, and punch her in the face until it was bloody; someone who used to daily scream at her that she was ugly and stupid and fat and old and horrible—this funeral was just awful. The one good thing was, since my mom was dead, there was no one (important) to try to make me smooth things over with him any more. In effect, she was no longer protecting him, so the gloves could finally come off. Oh yeah. I did finally get to tell him off on the phone, for the first time in my life, which was probably a big shock for him.
So, yeah, watching him sobbing theatrically and telling each mourner in line for hours (it was a loooong line) “She was a good wife—oh, she was the best!” over and over and over again, made me just about puke. But seeing my surviving brother, who is now 18 and whom I haven’t seen since he was a child, weeping alone on a couch, broke my heart. And seeing my three little sisters sitting red-eyed and solemn in the folding chairs in their new little dresses (bought for them, as always, by someone other than their father, of course,) was the saddest thing I have ever seen.
It was really hard having to leave town, knowing the man they would be staying with. And of course, they just have to live way out in the country, so no one can see what he does. Their local social services contacted me, and I told them what I knew, but it’s been so long since I lived there, that they couldn’t really do anything—until he does something else to the girls that can be verified somehow, which is in itself a great thought. Basically, it rests on the girls themselves, which is far too much of a burden for children.
With all that hanging over my head, three weeks later I packed my bags, and went on the trip to Europe. Needless to say, I couldn’t exactly muster the excitement I’d had previously, but I was damned if I was going to stay home from this trip I’d been planning for 18 years, and furthermore had spent boatloads of money on all those non-refundable tickets, anyway. When I was a teenager and we had lived in Europe, my mom had loved it and had always wanted to go back, so I felt like I was kind of doing it in her stead.
The trip was nothing like I’d imagined it would be. Well, some parts were: pretty much everything was extraordinarily beautiful. But it was definitely the furthest thing possible from relaxing. And also the furthest thing possible from cheap! However, the sheer busy-ness of the trip distracted me from being overtly sad a lot of the time, while allowing me a big break from the intense mental labor of school. And I took 720 (seven hundred and twenty!) photos. It has taken me nearly a month to rename them all from things like “DSC 01321” to things that make sense, like “0702_London3.” I want to write a real travelogue about the trip, illustrated with the photos, naturally. (If you want to look at the photos by themselves, with no commentary, click here.*) I have a feeling that it may take another 21 days just to write about the 21 days we were there, so I’m not going to put the details in this entry. The journal I brought with me? There was never any time to write! Maybe on the trains, you would think, but being on a train meant valuable sleeping time. So I have a few full-length entries, then a couple one-paragraph entries, and then it’s all one-liners like “July 17: Venice, gondola, restaurant.” (That date is probably wrong, so don’t memorize it.)
Since I got back, I’ve been trying to get back into my previous enthusiasm for school. Or at least get some basic things done. It’s been pretty hard. I don’t feel like I’m horribly sad—except sometimes when something reminds me of my mom—I just feel like my entire life has been knocked out from under me. I just can’t seem to get into the role of student/therapist/researcher right now—it still seems almost irrelevant. I have been concentrating on getting back to taking care of myself, eating healthy foods and exercising, even when nothing seems to mean anything. And slowly some things have begun to mean something again.
I continue to feel driven by my newly intense, simmering fury towards my mom’s should-have-been-ex-husband—who, by-the-by, has already been looking for a “new” wife online (It says, “Widowed: still looking for the right one” —what, still looking?! After TWO MONTHS? Boy, he shore works slow, don’t he?) It tells something about him that he didn’t even consider that a person (ahem) might think to look him up and discover the crap he wrote to lure some other unsuspecting woman into his creepy lair of religious/military weirdness and violence. It makes me ponder closely the legal limits of Internet deception… and it makes me think that women who look for dates online are really taking their lives into their hands.
The important thing, however, is to keep in touch with the kids, because they won’t be under 18 forever (including the one who is, in fact, now 18.) I know how hard it was to have no one who believed me, or would help me, or knew what was going on.
I have dreams where my mom is getting her stuff ready to go away, and she is leaving her responsibilities to me.
2) Describe your happiest day. (It can be a memory or invented.)
Well, I’m torn between several memories, of such disparate kinds of things!
The first kind of thing is family reunions. Now, you might see it on Jenny Jones, but until you meet a relative that you didn’t know or thought you would never see as an adult, there is no way to describe that feeling. When I was about 25, I met my full sister Lisa, who was given up for adoption as an infant. That day was just unbelievable. I thought she would be a stranger, but she was so obviously my sister that I felt I had always known her, even though I hadn’t even known of her existence until I was 22.
Then, about a year ago, I discovered that my half-sister, Martha, had been looking for me since she grew old enough. (Not surprisingly, no one had told her that she could have just asked our grandma or other relatives.) Martha was born when I was 13, and I took care of her a lot. I felt like she was my little baby. It was terrible to leave home at 18—without her—so it was really wonderful to find that she had been able to ignore all the warnings about how “evil” I am, and look for me anyway. (And by the way, I really don’t think of my siblings as “half”—they seem whole enough to me!)
3) If you could choose to be reincarnated as any person, thing or animal,
what would it be and why?
The problem here is, I think this has already happened. And I'm pretty sure I was living some really boring life, and I said, "you know, what the heck, just give me one with everything!" So here I am today, with this life of really extraordinarily great stuff and really awful stuff, often both at the same time. I'm afraid to ask for any particular life now, because I might get it!
...Okay, maybe a squirrel. Keep your albino panthers and flying horses, I'm going to be a damn squirrel. Hmph.
4) What object(s) from your childhood do you wish you still had?
This is kind of pathetic, but I wish I had my original birth certificate—the fant-see one with my little feet-prints and the name of my real birth father—and also all my baby pictures. I haven’t seen them in years. I used to be kind of okay with that, since at least my mom had them and I might be able to get them some day, but now? Now the stepmonster has them (though he probably hasn’t even thought of that,) and I doubt I’ll ever see them again unless he suddenly ups and dies, too. Now the only birth certificate I can get is a nasty boring plain ol’ typed-out one that has his name on it. (Age: 10! Boy, did that cause consternation at the passport office.)
I also wish I still had some of my weird books, like this entire series of kids’ (or I guess it was probably specifically boys’) mysteries, with this detective-boy named Jupiter Jones. Really nerdy smarty-pants kids solving mysteries with science! It even had its own little wooden book rack. And I also miss a 1977 planner featuring unicorn-painting prints by various artists that my favorite teacher gave me in 4th grade. I dragged that thing around until I was probably 27 or so, but then there were a couple times I had to store all my earthly possessions at friends’ houses, and that’s when things always get lost or thrown out or molded on, or maybe even pilfered when the friends have a party. Darn it. A lot of my other childhood books I was able to find again, once they invented the Internet, thank heavens. There is nothing like having something back you haven’t seen for half of your life. I had tears in my eyes when I got that used copy of “The Golden Treasury of Poetry” from an Amazon shop.
I also desperately wish I still had this silly cassette tape that my best friend and I made when we were 10, featuring a spoofy news program (D-O-R-K-Y-N-O-S-Y news), a few silly skits we made up about the three bears and somebody’s wicked mother-in-law or something, and some songs that we liked from the radio. The most lo-fi thing you ever heard. And a fossilized crinoid (sp?) from a walk I took with my aunt when I was about 6. It looked like a one-inch corn-on-the cob, but made out of rock. Oh, and a tiny plastic toy car and and wagon with moving wheels that I got out of a Cracker Jack box, back when they still had actual prizes instead of pieces of colored paper garbage.
Oh yeah, and a couple of things my mom gave me, like a porcelain Madame Alexander doll (even though I’m not a big doll person) and a blue-and-green flowered blouse she made for me that I wore to shreds. And my microscope! Yeah! That was cool. I think somebody at our church got it for me. And I also had this great screwdriver set, which sounds like a strange thing for a kid to like, but it was great. In a little translucent plastic case were several tiny screwdrivers with multicolored handles that looked like Jolly Ranchers (the stepfather immediately broke them, of course. And while I’m wishing, how about that $100 savings bond I won in a reading contest and saved for years, that he immediately took without even telling me, as soon as he married my mom?!)
…My friends from the various places I lived, though of course they’re not actually objects.
The one thing that I maddeningly can’t seem to find even on the Internet? The theme song from that ‘70s detective series, “The Streets of San Francisco.” My mom would always watch that show just as I was going to bed, which of course made me want to stay up and watch it. I haven’t been able to remember how that music goes for about 25 years, and it drives me mad—mad, I tell you!!
[Later: for those who have sent me links of where this can be found, thank you! I did look for it after I put this up and discovered that it has been posted all over the internet since I last looked. Yay!]
5) If you had your own personal theme song, what would it be?
(Well, probably not “The Streets of San Francisco”!)
Can you doubt, with my Wonder Woman outfit, that it would have to be the theme song from the Wonder Woman series?! But kind of in the way of, “if I have this theme song and outfit, then I darn well better be taking care of all this crap I have to do,” so it’s more an encouragement than anything else. Otherwise, I might crouch in my closet all day, muttering “Can’t ever possibly get done all the stuff I have to do! Can’t do it!”
For a (relatively) updated background of why I'm so darn bitter, click here.
*If you click over to the Europe photos, don't be tempted to look at the main page. Or if you do, then don't click on the red button that says "CLICK". Or if you do click on it, then don't be scared when a bunch of crazy crap pops up and looks like a virus. It's not. It's to scare my stalker, who is still checking in at that page, nine months after I took it down completely. Whatta loser. My sister Lisa made the fake-scary page.
I still need three more interviewees so's not to Break This Chain of Love. Ha.
So email me. You must have a website. (Of which I at least marginally approve.)