One Stone Too Many
My mother told me once that she had been molested too. I was pleading with her to let me go to my friend's house when she went to work. So, I would not have to be alone with my father. She told me I had to ask him. That I needed to get my father's permission to leave, so I could be safe from my Father did not to my mother, seem strange. I tried to point out the unfairness of this, and she snapped. She said that the same thing had happened to her. It had been a friend of her parent's and they had not believed her. I did not know what she wanted me to do with this knowledge. I was already overwhelmed with the secrets I carried. In counseling I learned that some people who are abused have an inability to connect emotionally with others. I don't know if that is what is what broke her or if she was born with something missing. I tend to stay away form the nature, nurture debate as a rule, it hits too close to home for me. I wanted to ask her why if it happened to her, she would let it happen to me. She yelled at me and threw out every mean thing that had ever been done to her. And ended her diatribe by saying life was not fair, to get use to it. This kind of sage wisdom does not take a girl far in the world and I did not bother asking my Father anything, he would turn his attention to me soon enough. I watched everyone who came in contact with my children. No one got a pass in my book. I was protective. My childhood haunted me and I was determined that they never learn my parent's lessons.
After my husband got out of the Navy he had trouble keeping a job. He would start out very humble and a good employee, but depending on the arc of his moods, that would last anywhere from weeks to years and then he would set surly. He was too good for this or that. He was not paid enough. And then, he would just show up home early. Dejected over being laid off or fired again. It was brutal on our small family. There were times when the food bank provided our only meals. I made him go. I refused, not because I was too good for it, but because it would break me. I was not strong enough. I did not trust others to begin with and to ask for anyone's help was beyond me. I was so closed off from myself and I did almost anything to keep it that way. I was afraid of myself. My anger. My resentment. I felt cheated and tricked. I went around and around in my head. Going over it ALL. Spiraling further into despair every day. And then, after two or three or ten days, I would stop. I would find stories sadder than mine. And I would count my blessings. There were so many. My children, my health, I was born in America and not Ethiopia. I would drag them all out, those blessings and marvel at them. And I would put myself back together and move forward. That is how I did it and sometimes, I still do.
By happenstance we found our first real home. We had moved so often. Just like the world I came from, money was always an issue and that meant that three day notices to vacate, became the norm. It was grueling. My Husband never seemed to be bothered by this self made chaos. And I tried to put on a good face for the kids. Writing checks I knew would not clear, for the gas man who came to the door with his clipboard. To the water district and the grocer. It was humiliating. I felt like a liar and a thief and I blamed him. Not because the money he made was not enough, it was, when he worked. it was how he spent it. At first he had handled the bills and it became apparent that he could not do it. Money was a magical, mystical thing that he could not grasp the meaning of. He could not keep track of what he spent or to whom he owed. We were married two years, when I found out about the credit cards. There were fourteen of them. FOURTEEN. They were from Visa and Master Card, Sears and JC Penny's and they were all maxed out. All of them. I asked what had prompted him to apply for so many. He said that he and his friends would sit in the barracks and fill them out and one someone got approved, they would go out on the town, with this free money that had fallen into their laps. I had trouble with this. I could not comprehend the logic of it. And so, I had taken it over. Trying to make dollars out of pennies and coming up short. It made me resentful. That was how he had gotten into multi level marketing. It was a dream. And we needed desperately for it to be true. I had to put him on an allowance and still he found ways. He would get an advance at work for tools and bring me a check that would be half as much as it should be. It was for tools, it was an investment. He needed it. There was always an excuse and it was never enough. And so, more stones were added. To that burden that I carried. And I did not flinch. I was strong, I was tough, I had been through worse than this. It may bow my back, but it would not buckle my knees.
We were always days away from a windfall, he just knew it. He bought scratch tickets and worked the business and sold dreams at a cut rate to people who had less than we did.And I plastered a smile on my face and stood right beside him, passing bad paper and hoping for that miracle. Because if it did not happen, if it did not come...well that, I could just not face. That would be one stone too many.