Relative Secrets

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Here's the email I sent. We'll see how it goes.

I'm sorry to hear that you are ill. I knew that I'd eventually hear
this kind of news, and, frankly, I tried not to think about how I'd
react when I did. Kellye and I have been emailing about this back and
forth, which has been good for us, because we're both more mature, and
can talk about this in a more logical way than we could've in the
not-too-distant past.

I have a lot of things to say. First, I am embarrassed about how I've
handled some of our issues in the past. My last letter to you was the
most scathing and mean thing I've ever written, and I wish I'd handled
it differently. I meant every word of it, but that does not excuse
the way I expressed it. It was immature and knee-jerk. At this point
in my life, I'm learning to deal with issues that upset me in a more
mature manner, and I hope I can do that now.

I have a lot of anger about our relationship. I have a tremendous
amount of pain. That anger and pain has really been an obstacle for
me in a lot of areas of my life, and I'm ready to get rid of it, once
and for all. Some of the things I'm going to say will hurt both of
us, but I'm not saying them for that purpose. I am interested in
cleansing, getting past issues, and forgiving.

I'm not sure if you understand what an impact you've had on my life.
For a long time, most everything I did, I did to impress you and make
you proud of me. That's what daddy's girls do, you know? And that's
what I've always been: a daddy's girl. I know this is sad to hear,
and I want you to know that I am not saying any of this to cause you
any guilt or pain. I just want to say all the things I could never
say to you, good and bad, right now.

Kellye's told me that you don't want to discuss Sandy, but we really
have to, if we're going to somehow find peace between us before you
go. I will eventually forgive both of you, with or without your help,
but I'd rather do it with your help. This is going to require you to
not to be defensive about her, protective of her, etc. It's going to
require that you actually believe what I say is true about her, which
is something I've never felt you've been able to do, for whatever
reasons. I know that the dogma for 30 years has been that we've lied
and said hurtful things because of our mother. That has never been
the case. Mom despises Sandy, that's true, but her hatred comes from
having seen her daughters demolished by Sandy over and over. But
everything we've said is true, and I even have proof of some of it.
I'm just going to list a few things here, and what I want you to do is
just open your mind and just "listen."

She beat us. Severely. She made us keep it a secret from you. And
we did, for a while, until we tried to tell you that time, sitting in
your car in front of my school in Flora. And, just as much abuse is
handled in this country, we were not believed, by the time it was
over. I remember you telling me about you going home and the fight
you had, but I think that, eventually, she convinced you, somehow,
that it wasn't true, that we were exaggerating or something, It
became a non-issue..

She made us terrified of our own mother. I told the judge that I
wanted to live with you because I was more afraid of my mother than I
was of Sandy, which is about as twisted as it gets. I know that you
heard some of it, because she told us that mom was a monster pretty
constantly the whole time we lived with y'all. I'm now a stepmother.
I can not STAND these childrens' mother, but I would never say
anything bad about her in front of them. I can't imagine where that
comes from.

She humiliated us, publically and privately, and exposed us to ideas
and evils we weren't old enough to comprehend. You know, she let us
watch Sybil, which had the scene about the buttonhook, and it wasn't
long after/before that, that we were on the kitchen table, legs
spread, having some kind of stuff poured into our private parts,
listening to her talk about what all could have happened that we ended
up with a yeast infection.

She made me wear RIDICULOUS clothing to school, and it wasn't a matter
of "this is all we can afford," because it was not. A pair of cheap
jeans at the thrift shop would not have cost more than the wedge
heels, stockings and very short skirts that I was made to wear. The
clothes my teacher took me outside the class to talk to me about.

She did not feed us enough food. You were only there at dinner. This
is the thing I have proof of. Stef and Kellye went from two slim,
happy girls, to two fat, insecure, unhappy girls in a very short
period of time. I watched this with my own eyes and there are
pictures of this. We fought over food when we got back to mom's,
Daddy. She couldn't keep enough food in the house to feed us. We ate
everything in sight. Kellye and Stef could not ever get the feeling
of being full in their bellies. That trigger had gone away. This
still affects all three of us. We all have eating disorder, where
before the time in Pascagoula, we had healthy appetites and no food

We did not get enough sleep, many times. She'd wake us up and make us
re-do chores we hadn't done just right, in the middle of the night.
If we started to cry, she threatened us with severe punishment if we
woke you up. She threatened us with severe punishment for telling you
ANY of this.

And that's just the time we lived with y'all in Pascagoula. That
doesn't count when I was living with y'all in D'I. I don't know if I
told you this, but she did lock Xi in the closet. Xi remembers that
to this day.

Like I said, I want to do this without angry words, and without blame.
I just want you to believe me, and ackowlege what happened. There's
nothing any of us can do to change what happened. It happened. Most
of my anger at you comes from a place of not being able to tell you
these things without fear that you wouldn't believe me and/or just
blow it off and excuse it by talking about how hard it is to deal with
Shannon, and how awfully Sandy was treated by Butch, or whatever other
excuse y'all had for her behavior..

Another part of my anger comes from the fact that it was allowed to go
on until very recently. I'm alcoholic, just like you are, so I really
get the whole denial thing. I also get the thing about not quite
paying the right kind of attention about what's going on. That's what
lost me Xi for that time, me not paying the right kind of attention to
what was going on.

I know I've not been the best daughter, not for you, or for Mama. If
circumstances were different, however, I could've shone. I think all
three of us could've. I think that all of us will find that hard to
not think about off and on for the rest of our lives. That's hard.

I've been writing about this pretty consistently since '02, and I want
to share a couple of things with you, especially a few things I wrote
the past two days. Please remember that these things were written in
my private journal, and, as such, are sometimes peppered with angry
words. But I think it may offer some insight to my perspective:

"I want to do this gracefully. I want to do it as the 41 year old, and
not as the still hurt and angry child, full of blame."

"I'm not going to keep this secret anymore with him. I'm not going to
pretend it didn't happen for his own sanity. This is one way that he
can BE a daddy for me: to believe the secrets that I've tried to tell

"but here's the thing: I feel really stupid sitting here, at age 41
thinking that all I ever wanted from him was for him to be my daddy.
But that's the very basic bottom line. I do really believe that he
loved us, and that's what's fucked up about it. If he didn't, I'd have
different issues, I'm sure, but I think it'd be less hard. The fact
that he loved us and still allowed all that to happen and stayed in
denial about it for so long and so intensely gives me the WTFs."

"He's one of the best storytellers I've ever known, and he loves to
talk about when we were little girls and he was with us, and the
things we did and how he felt, and I love to sit with him and bask in
that, but another part of me is screaming, "What about the REST of my
life?" He left when I was six and my sisters were two and three. The
stories end there, as far as his turn is concerned, and ours start,
filled with secrets, pain, abuse and emotional neglect. And from that
point on, there is a cliff of differences in our points of view."

"He completely missed the million times I tried to catch his eye to
somehow signal to him that things were not okay and that we needed his
help. He also missed all the times, after we were finally home with
our mother again, that we tried to contact him just to say hello,
because the stepmother was always wondering aloud, "What do they want?
What do they want?" and it was somehow translated into "Y'all never
call unless you want something," which, yes, we did. We wanted our
daddy to be our daddy."

"I'm trying to figure out how that got skewed in such a way that I
ended up feeling guilty for calling him at all. As if I had a hidden
agenda. I guess I did have a secret motive. Why was it so impossible
for me to simply ask him to spend time with me without her being
around? Why could I never tell him that I simply enjoyed his company
and his stories. His laughter, and the way it always felt like we
never skipped a beat, even when we hadn't seen each other in a few
years? How could she have sabotauged us so completely, emotionally,
with guilt about things we shouldn't have felt guilty about? How could
he let her do it? How could he not have seen it happening? Why
couldn't I see all of this until right now, at this moment?"

"I guess a lot of this is about secrets we keep from ourselves, more
than secrets we've kept from each other. Those are much more powerful
and do the most damage."

"I'm sad I'm going to lose him, but it's not like I'm losing him,
since we haven't been in contact. I guess I'm losing a chance to spend
more time with him in the future, which may've been possible, since
she's not around anymore."

About Katrina:
"Dad's not in the picture (the one I saw in the paper), but we have
word from distant relatives that they are all okay, but once again, I
feel like it's another slight: he has no idea whether or not any of us
are okay, and has not asked. I really shouldn't worry about it. I
shouldn't expect him to give a shit. I KNOW better. I guess part of
the reason that it bothers me is that I'm seeing the community come
together and check to make sure everyone is okay. Neighbors I never
knew are suddenly intertwined in the effort to survive around here.
Friends on my phone list I haven't talked to in ages are coming by to
check on us, and I'm getting in touch with them to make sure they're

"This is not something I can talk about to anyone else. It's a secret
that I still get hurt by his complete disinterest in us. I have to
pretend that I'm not even thinking about them. To bring up their names
in conversation in this family is considered a weakness, and
stupidity. Because we KNOW better. Or we should."

About the dentist (not Privet):
"After it was over, I could barely walk. I was shaking so hard, and I
could hardly see through the tears that wouldn't stop. When I got to
the waiting room, my stepmother grabbed me by the arm, dragged me out
of there, and yelled at me all the way home for screaming and
embarrassing her like that. And when we got home, I was severely
beaten with a belt, from neck to knees, on my backside. I was told
that I was NEVER to embarrass her like that again. I was also told
that if I told my father what happened, I'd get the same treatment
again. So I didn't tell.

For a week, my jaw throbbed, I had blisters on my tongue, and I could
barely sit down, or lean back, or even sleep very well. But I figured,
at least I got my teeth fixed, and prayed I'd get to go home to mom

What I didn't know was that the dentist was not finished."

"My dad still doesn't know. But if I ever told him? He wouldn't
believe me. And maybe that pisses me off more than anything else."

"Someone mentioned Poptarts earlier, and I started thinking about
something that I've never written about: starvation. When we lived
with our father for a while, when mom was hospitalized, we were mostly
under the "care" of our stepmother. I'm not really sure where she
learned about brain washing, since she really wasn't they type of
woman who read much about anything other than illnesses, or god, but
she somehow knew that, in order to break someone down, you starve
them, give them very little sleep, and work on their self-esteem
almost constantly. We were always hungry. We had three meals a day,
but they were sparse, and even when there were leftovers, we were not
allowed bigger portions, or seconds. I remember throwing leftovers
away, sneaking bites of it when she wasn't looking."

"Anyway, poptarts. When we finally got away from this woman, and back
home, we all had eating problems. Both my sisters gained a lot of
weight, and mom could not keep food in the house. We knew that she'd
let us eat as much as we wanted, but, having been hungry for a solid 6
months, that feeling just wouldn't go away. There was something guilty
about it too. It felt like we were cheating somehow, to get enough to
eat, somehow sinful and not something we'd get by with for long.
Sometimes, the stepmother would give us a poptart for breakfast. We'd
get one, and that'd be it until lunch, at which time we'd get half a
peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I remember how good the poptarts
were. I remember using my fingers to pick up any crumb that dropped
onto the the table. I remember savoring every bite, wishing I could
have more, knowing that I wouldn't, and feeling almost desperate about

"The suffering wasn't an obvious thing. It was deep inside, and ached
like no physical pain ever could. After we were home, I was at the
grocery store one time, and had a little extra money. I bought a box
of poptarts and hid them under the seat of the car. Later, when noone
was around, I went to the car and ate all of them. After I finished
the box, I sat in the car and just wept. It felt like I'd just been in
a fight; my heart was pounding, I was angry, and my stomach was in
knots. I finally leaned out of the car and puked."

What might be the most fucked up thing about me cut-and-pasting these
things to you is that, right this minute, I want you to see that I'm a
very good writer. See? Still Daddy's girl, in some twisted way.

I can't quite wrap my head around the idea of this adopted son. I
know that you have guilt and regret about us, but I wonder why, if you
had a void there, that you could not fill it with us, the daughters
you have history and blood with. I am very glad that you're helping
this young man, but I wonder what kept you from coming to us and
saying something like, "I know we keep bashing our heads into a brick
wall, but can we try again, only this time, without Sandy?"

I want to say it again: I know it is hurting you to read these things,
but that is not my intent. I want you to know why I hurt, and how.
If you can be my Daddy one more time, be my Daddy by believing what I
say and acknowledging my pain. That's the only thing I'm asking from
you, the last thing. Can you do it?

Very Sincerely, and with many regrets,


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