Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Keeper of Secrets

  And so, back to her parent's she went. My mother, with us in tow. She must have hated it. We did not stay long. She could not abide her parent's judgements. And of course, my grandmother could not keep from saying how she had been right and my mother never learned or listened. It must have been a bitter pill, to be in your mid forties with nothing to show but failed marriages and unwanted children. But she rallied and found a restaurant to manage in a small town miles from her parent's. So, away we went again. My mother always bragged about how fast she could pack up our lives and be gone. Having a father in the military meant we moved cities, states, countries every three years. My parent's inability to keep their finances in order, meant that we moved houses sometimes every six months. We never had a home. Never got too attached.  It did not matter where we landed, we would not be staying long.

   I kept in touch with my grandfather and visited him often. He let me know that I had a home with him, and that I was always welcome. He taught me the importance of books and art. He encouraged me to find a higher power, he did not care what I believed in, just as long as I had faith that there was some point, a reason for it all. I borrowed great quantities of  books and found a new world. He wanted me to learn about money and to be independent of my mother.  He gave me an allowance every month, more than I needed.  My mother insisted that I open a bank account with her. She said if anything ever happened to me, someone else should have access. I trusted her... I know I should not have, as much as she insisted on proving her betraying nature, I insisted on believing in her being good and trustworthy. It was not long before the checks started to bounce and since the mail went to her P.O. Box, I had no idea. This was before online banking or debit cards. I was oblivious. My grandfather put the money in, my mother took it out. As in days past, my embarrassment came in school. She had written a bad check at a local deli and they posted it right on the wall. After lunch, in economics, I kid you not, a senior that I kind of liked, brought it up in front of the class. I had no idea what he was talking about. I went by the store after school, and there it was. Undeniable proof of her scheming, conniving nature. I was crushed. So to the bank I went, only to be told I was overdrawn unbelievably so. The money had just gone in, how could it be gone? Why? Why, would she do it? Everyday, we lived under the same roof and she was stealing from me. I still could not find my anger, it was so deep, buried for so long, that I began to fear it. I was used to keeping secrets and my emotions where the biggest secret of all.

  The hurt was right there on the surface. At first she denied it; She screamed and cussed and called me ungrateful. My brother and I worked at the restaurant for my mother and she already got most of that, for our share of rent and food. And now this? She would not put it back. She refused. It was not her account and she was not responsible. It was too much money for a girl of seventeen. I babysat to pay it off. After school, after work, anything to take down that check and others, they just kept coming. I closed the account. I went to my grandfather as if the shame were my own. And he put his mind to it and decided a credit card was safer. I would have it and he would pay for it. It was for important things, it was for emergencies and I used it once. My mother, not one to be out done, found a way. It would be years before I knew what she had done. Years of more lies and theft. When my sister got married, she took up a fund and we all gave $50.00 for a big screen TV. She pocketed the money and charged it to my account. She had called and got a duplicate card. She charged clothes and towels and trifling things, and no one knew the better.

  Shortly after moving to our new town, my Mother started an affair with a married man. He was high profile in the area, and it was another embarrassment. I went to school with his Daughter and she hated me for it. She confronted my Mother in the restaurant and that ended that. There were other men in and out and it scared the hell out of me. I kept my door locked and stayed out of the house as much as I could. One day a man came walking in the door like he belonged and announced he had brought the fire wood, but first he needed food. He sat in the living room expectantly, as my Brother and I stared at each other. As always, I made dinner. My Mother showed up later and introduced us to her new man, John. He was younger than her, but didn't look it. It was obvious that something was wrong with him. He didn't have the use of one hand and his leg dragged slightly. He spoke a little slow and seemed...slightly off. I wanted nothing to do with him. He was a starer and it didn't take much to make me uncomfortable.  Within weeks, they were engaged. In months, they were married. She brandished his bank book and bragged at the balance. It was a good sum, not outrageous. John's Mother had run his accounts and given him an allowance and in the twenty years he had been working, he had a tidy sum. My Mother went through it like a wild fire.

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