Finding Peace — Manuscript Post #19
–Sessions: 2 of 53
Thursday, December 11, 2008 12:00 noon
We started discussing my family history. This included my mother’s suicide attempts. My father left when I was in high school. When he died he didn’t want his children to know. I didn’t even know he had passed. Elsie ask me for details.
I’m fifty years old. I have two sons. My wife and I met at UC Davis. I completed a BS in Electrical Engineering and my wife completed a BS in Genetics. I found work immediately after college, working for Rockwell International building the Space Shuttle Challenger. I moved on to work at Lockheed, Sybase, Sun Microsystems and most recently at Oracle. My first jobs were designing antennas for spacecraft. For the last twenty years I’ve been a Database Administrator and now I support Oracle Fusion Middleware. I’ve never been unemployed a day since my graduation from college. I have always enjoyed Railroads, Model Trains, Stained Glass and more recently Formula 1 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
My parents divorced when I was a senior in high school. They fought often before that. There was a lot of yelling and crying and my mother would occasionally throw something. There wasn’t any domestic violence, by which I mean, no one was hit or beaten. My mother hit me once. I don’t remember why, but I told her to ‘shut up’ and she hit me, hard, across my face with her open hand. I didn’t tell her much after that.
I clearly remember the night my father left. More accurately, I remember when my mother realized he had moved out. She went around the house shrieking and gasping. My older siblings tell me there was a time, when they were very young, that my parents were happy. I never experienced this.
My father was a history professor. I have very few memories of my father talking to me or doing things with me. I’m not saying he never did anything with me, but I can’t remember many. I have been told that my father cheated on my mother at least once before the divorce. After the divorce he remarried. I only met his second wife once. She did not want his children to have any contact with him.
My mother was unhappy almost all the time. She had smoked heavily for many years, although she did quit later in life. She drank a lot. I was never told that she had an alcohol problem, but when she drank, she became ugly. One of the last times she called me she was slobbering, barely able to speak. She had been treated for various mental health issues. She had electroshock treatments. She attempted suicide multiple times and threatened to kill herself often. I remember waking up one night when I was 11 years old because she was screaming that she was going to die. She had been to therapy many times and was on various drugs. Nothing seemed to help.
She was very smart, perhaps too smart for the options available to her in her lifetime. She complained bitterly about her role as mother and homemaker. She worried about things to the point that she could barely function. I wanted her to see our sons, but she told me that they couldn’t be in her home, because they would crawl on the floor, find prescription drugs in the carpet and poison themselves. You think I’m making this up or exaggerating. I’m not. She said that, word for word and she wasn’t drunk at the time.
She was paranoid that the stove wasn’t turned off and we couldn’t leave the house because it would burn down. She would make me check the stove. She would stand over me saying, repeatedly, loudly, ‘are you sure it’s off’? It doesn’t take much of this to make a child lose any confidence they have. To this day, I have trouble knowing if the stove in my house is really off. I question my decisions more than is reasonable. I never asked my children to check the stove.
My mother required that we date everything that came home from the grocery store. Each item had to have a scrap of paper taped to it, with the date we brought it home. She had breakdowns periodically because she perceived something in the fridge was going to kill us. No, the dates taped to everything didn’t help. I heard a lot about botulism at an early age.
I liked model trains and building model buildings. Paints for these projects were so dangerous that if I was allowed to use them at all, I had to wash my hands in cold cream. To this day I have no clue what this was about. I was not allowed to ride a bike because it was too dangerous. We lived in a rented house one year and I found a bike in the basement. I coasted down the block over and over until I learned how to ride. I taught both my sons how to ride a bike. I walked next to them, holding the bike, around Pioneer Elementary school, until they could ride.
I was not allowed to learn how to drive because driving was too dangerous. My wife-to-be taught me to drive while we were at UC Davis.
My mother was financially irresponsible. She had a bankruptcy and died broke and in debt. There was no need for this. She had a small amount of money left to her from my great uncle. It would have been enough if she had been responsible. As I applied to college, my parents refused to fill out their part of the financial aid forms because of their divorce. I wonder how much I would have qualified for. I had done my part, I was valedictorian at my high school.
During my last quarter of college my mother decided to cut me off. You will logically assume that I must have done something terrible to cause this. I didn’t. I think she was upset because I was getting out, out of her control and she wasn’t going to let that happen. My parent’s divorce required that they both contribute to my education. I called my father and he happily told me that if my mother had cut me off, then he didn’t have to pay either. I was stunned. I had a written job offer already. An offer that was contingent on my graduating. I sat in an office in the South Hall on campus. A lawyer from student services explained that while my parent’s divorce agreement legally required them to pay, I had no money to pay a lawyer, so nothing could be done.