Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chapter 8

There is a time in the early morning, right before dawn that I still get a bit spooked to this day about my past.  It happens more often than I would like. It rushes at me. 
Too quiet. Too many memories.
You know that time of day when it's near silent and the entire world seems to still be sleeping. The sun isn't up yet but you know that the day will begin with you or without you.  
That time of day. 
It is a haunting time of day for me and sometimes I have to run find a loved one to hug or be sure not to be alone. Something about that time of day connects me to the little girl I used to be.
 Memories of childhood demons that still seem to drift back into my consciousness and it takes me back to that time and place. That time when it all seemed so dark. Dark, but never, not once did I feel hopeless.
I think that is what Bob and Barbara tried to beat out of me. 
My hopefulness. 
They couldn't. Hard as they tried.
I always knew somewhere deep inside me that there was hope.
Soon, I was going to need it. Lot's of it.

Winter time.
Cold weather and dark dreary heavy days.
They weigh on me now as they did back then.

Things in our house began to take a twisted, really ugly turn around this time. 
You see, I am about to become a teenager. 

Girls at school all taking about their periods, tampons.
I was completely clueless. A young girl needs to be of a certain weight to begin that process. I probably didn't weigh 70 pounds.
I was so behind all of my friends emotionally and maturity-wise. 
Being denied food takes it's toll. My clothes hung on me and I caught every sickness that was out there. Mumps, measles, chicken pox, colds, flu.
Somewhere I got a nasty virus on my lip and missed over 3 weeks of school. My lips were green and orange/brown with pus and seeping blisters. Caked and bloody lower lip that would not heal.  
Open sores that seeped pus. Green.
Weeping and putrid.
Could it be from eating unclean food, mice feces or vomit?
See a doctor?  I don't recall seeing a doctor since we left the orphanage.
Teachers and friends were beginning to notice. 
Why are you so thin? Why do you look so lank, pale and pathetic? 
My eyes sunken in from malnutrition and lack of sleep. My tiny boney back beginning to hunch over from lack of proper nutrition.
I had learned that you can drink syrup from the bottle and no one notices the amount if you take it in small amounts at a time. 
Mrs. Butterworth syrup in the dark brown bottle was hard for Barbara to monitor any missing amount. I took a pickle from a pickle jar once and was beaten so bad I could barely walk. Barbara counted pickles?
Of course she did. Keep us weak and hungry. Ugly and useless. 
 I missed more and more days of precious school. 
 I ate baby aspirin to alleviate the hunger pangs. Two olives at a time not missed but take 4 or more and it was a certain beating. 
Flour was never missed so mix it with water and it was a meal for the day. Raw and pasty but it kept the constant hunger away for a day...

 My nights were filled with nightmares and terror. So tense I would wake up from sleepwalking or even worse, a dream so horrific, I thought I was in hell.
Even in sleep I was on edge. Afraid.
Questions I was too afraid to answer. Too young to know the right answer may be an end to my own nightmares and those of my sister's too.
Questions but no clear answers.
Why all the bruises and scars? Why aren't you showering after gym class? Why don't your ever brush your teeth?

WHY didn't I open my mouth?

I can't really give you an answer  except as with most victims of domestic violence, we learn early  not to "talk" about it.  
You learn to live your life tense. Never relax. The next slap or punch or fist or pinch or burn. 

Tension. It drives you. Your focus is to get thru each day with the least amount of pain possible. Tipping that scale could, and most likely would, cause more pain. 
To yourself or to someone I loved more than myself, my sister. 
You learn quickly that one small word or glance or a silent plea for help could cause more pain and the results were always the same. 
Pain for you or pain for who you love.
Besides, who would believe us over them?
Some disheveled waif of a kid that probably smelled bad and had disgusting hygiene? Clearly no one.

Bob's mother Maggie would come out to the farm and ask me why I was so bruised and bloody? What do you do to yourself? 
I would mutter something, unable to tell her that her son was a monster.... 
Her daughter in law equally as evil.
I wanted to tell her. I wanted to cry and beg and plead with her to get us OUT of here! 
She was a kind woman.
She knew. She just chose to do nothing.

Barbara tells my sister and I that Child Welfare is coming out to do a Home Study and will want to talk to us.
"If you open your mouth and say one word about Bob or I, we will make sure you go back to Cary Home. Back to the orphanage."

Really? Wow, I would love that! 
My heart was singing!  My face must have looked like she was about to give me the greatest gift.
She made going back to the orphanage seem like a punishment. It would be like opening the gates to Heaven if only they would send us back there!

"Don't think for a second they will put you back there, you idiot. You would go to JAIL! 
I will tell them you STEAL food. 
You're a thief! 
You're so stupid and ugly, who is ever going to believe YOU? 
I hate you. They will hate you more. You are worthless and ugly. You are nothing!
You will go to jail and they will take our kids, my babies, to Cary Home and it will be all YOUR fault," Barbara sneered at us as she pinched the soft flesh of my upper arm, kicking my sister as she passed out of the room. 

Jail? Oh horrors. Not jail. Anywhere but jail! And those little innocent babies of theirs to an orphanage? No!

How stupid were we to believe her lies. 

Barbara made us dress for the visit carefully. Long sleeves. Long pants to hide bruises and scars.  Our hair plastered with Dippity Do, clean and combed. Finally given a toothbrush to clean our teeth. Our faces scrubbed clean. Did we almost look normal?
The case worker arrived and now the memory seems a blur. I was probably so focused on not slipping up and fear of jail that I blanked most of the visit out. I do remember her asking us if Barbara and Bob were "good" to us. 
Barbara sitting there with her face set in a pasted on smile looking so "motherly," so angelic. Her eyes darting from me to the Welfare worker.  She knew Norma would never have the nerve to talk but I might.

Open your mouth. Scream and tell her.
Tell Her!
 Ask the Social Worker if we can talk alone. 
Do it! 
Barbara's threatening face loomed across the room.  Open my mouth and HOPE for rescue or suffer Barbara's evil wrath if the Case Worker does nothing?  Could any word I mutter impact her enough to do something?

The opportunity slipped away.
 I never saw another case worker arrive to interview us. 
Mission accomplished for them. Now that they passed that test with flying colors, Barbara and Bob had a free pass.

The Case Worker did have a message for us:

 Our mom wanted to see us!

 Bob and Barbara would handle that issue in their own special way later...

As I said before.... 
Things began to get ugly and twisted.......

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chapter 7

It was a bright hot summer day.
I'll never forget it.
Bob had gotten a long boat oar from somewhere. He just came home with it and since most of Indiana is land-locked he had no where to play with his new toy. 
What to do?
No water. No fun.
Since when would that stop him?
He could create his own fun.

He sets up a chair in the front lawn of the old farm house we lived in. 
We lived in one of his parent's homes,  an old farmhouse, way out in the country. No near neighbors. Very few cars passing on the dusty gravel road.
The chair is in the middle of the front yard.
He calls my sister and I out to the yard. Of course we obey. He is sitting there in the middle of the yard in a chair with a boat oar slicing through the air. Whoosh.

What evil will this day bring?
My sister and I look at each other with fear.

Bob tells us to circle the chair he sits in. He sits in his chair like an over sized Budda, sweating in the hot sunshine. 
The birds are singing.
The sun is shining.

Norma goes first. As she passes, he whacks her on the butt. The smack echoes as the flat paddle of the oar hits it's mark. 
Whoosh. Smack.
My turn.
Whoosh. Smack.
It hurts!
Your butt stings and it's even worse when he misses his mark and the hard wood of the oar hits the back of your legs and it cracks against the bare delicate skin of the back of your upper thigh.
Whoosh. Smack.


Whoosh. Smack.
Around and around the chair. Each taking a turn.
This goes on and on. Surely he will tire soon. 
Around and around the chair. 

Whoosh. Smack.
My turn.
The wind has kicked up. 

My turn.
Bob raises his arms up over his head and around in an arc and swings. 

The paddle has a 6 foot handle. Not much control in the wind.
As he lifts his arms to swing the oar, the wind catches it just wrong, lifts it up and 
It hits her in the back of the head!
I will never forget the sound of that crack as wood meets skull. She stands upright and sways for a split second then falls to the ground in a heap.

I run to her. "Norma! Norma, wake up!" 

She is out cold. Is she DEAD????

The look on Bob's face shows his fear. Not fear for Norma but fear for himself. He must know the authorities will have questions.
"Make her wake up!" he screams at me.

"Norma! Please wake up. Please! Wake up!"
She is breathing but there is a bloody gash on the middle of the back of her head.  Her hair matted with blood. So much blood.
Still out cold. It takes her what seems like hours but she comes to. Groggy. Pale.

We didn't know it at the time, but now, because of this and the boat oar, my sister is as deaf as a rock.
My sister is two years older than me but within the next two years, she has failed two grades and we are in the same class in school.
No one cared enough to take her to a doctor. The nerves were damaged and her hearing is gone.

I'd like to tell Bob where he can stick his fcking boat oar.....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chapter 6


I think these two people must have lain awake in bed at night to dream up new ways to humiliate my sister and I.

5th Grade.

Lunch time.
I open my lunch bag so ready for a bite of food. Hunger was a way of life for me. Always hungry. Always worried when the next meal would be. 

Back to my lunch in it's brown paper bag. The top folded over so carefully. 
All my friends seated at the same long table, eating the food from the school cafeteria. It always smelled so good. Like it was cooked with love for children. Sloppy Joe's on the menu today. The wonderful sweet smell permeating the cafeteria.
The lunchroom is full as usual at noon. Children chattering and laughing. All of my friends eating, joking and talking about the new boy in our class that is so cute. 
"Lana, have you seen him? He's dreamy."
Nodding "yes" and laughing
I pull my sandwich out of the bag and unwrap the wax paper it's packaged in and hurriedly take a huge bite. Going to school works up an appetite. 

In seconds, I am choking and running to the Girl's Room coughing but trying to hide it. 

Face red. Embarrassed. Sick.
I slam open the stall door. Gagging and spitting. Using my hands to scrape it off my tongue.... Anything to get the vile bite of food out of my mouth.....
The sandwich was coated on both sides with red HOT Tabasco Sauce and mouse droppings. I could feel them in my mouth. 
Tiny crunchy bits of black.
Hot and disgusting.

Did anyone see?
What would all the other kids say if they knew I just ate a mouthful of mouse poop coated in hot sauce between two slices of bread?
I scrub my mouth over and over, splash water in my face to hide the tears that have streaked my face.
No lunch again today. 

What will tomorrow be?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chapter 5

The days seemed so dark for the next upcoming years. I wish I could forget as much as I remember. Writing this has been somewhat therapeutic but mostly painful. I write until I have to stop from the tears or the memories hurt like a physical pain. Most times I write a chapter in 10 minutes and cry for 20. 

I know I was and am not the only abused person in the world. 
I wish I could say that I was. 
Sadly, it is rampant. People like my husband can't comprehend it. He came from the most "Leave It To Beaver" family out there. His mom was always home to greet him after school. Had cookies baked,  dinner ready, clothes laid out for the next day. Both parents there for every school event etc.
Abuse? Child abuse?  He had never even heard of it before me.
If you suspect someone, know someone or you yourself are being abused, don't be afraid. You are not alone. People do care. Take Action!

If you are afraid your internet and/or 

computer usage might be monitored, 

please use a safer computer, and/or call 

the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 


I remember school was my lifeline.
I loved school. I was good at it. It was safe. No one hit you. No one sabotaged your food. No one there set out to humiliate you.

I think food was my main focus after leaving the orphanage. That and survival.
Barbara loved to either starve my sister and I or gorge us with food until we puked. Depended on her mood. Depended on the madness of her day.

We left the city and moved into one of Bob's parents' farm houses. They owned so much of the town we lived in. House after house on street after street. Also, two farm houses deep into the country. A long gravel road with very little traffic. The closest neighbor was a mile away. No one to hear. No one to see or  no one to report anything.

I would lie in bed of that two story house and dream of food. A piece of bread or a drink of milk. 
3 days with nothing to eat. The lock on the door wouldn't budge. A tin can of water by the door.
Which was worse? No food or too much food?

Barbara would heave her oversized body up the stairs and see me lying quiet, pretending sleep. Trying so hard to be so still. Willing my heart not to beat. My breath to stop. My eyes not to move at all behind my closed eyelids....

If she thinks I am asleep maybe she will go away! Barbara trekking all the way up the stairs could only mean one thing.....
I could feel her presence peering over me....

She would grab me up by my hair. Pulling and twisting.  Kicking and screaming in my face accuse me of stealing food from her!  
I probably didn't weigh 50 pounds. 
Her weight and breath all over me, she would drag me to the top of the stair case. It seemed like an eternity before we would reach the bottom.  Yanking and pulling my hair. Punching me as hard as she could in my face, my arms when chunks of my hair would come out in her hands. Kicking my skinny legs. Slamming me into the walls of the narrow stair way.  Each painful step of the way. Down each step.

"You stole my food!" she would scream.
Stole her food? I was locked away upstairs! 
Suddenly, hunger wasn't my focus. Now it was how to get beyond her latest tirade of the day.
"You just wait! You are really going to get it when I tell what you did." 
Think I would quake in fear of her? No. 
Fear came when Bob would get home and she knew it.  Real fear.
She was vile but Bob was 10 times worse in his rage.
"You dare to steal from me? You are garbage! I will teach you a lesson. You want my food. I will give you food, you miserable little bitch!"
With this she would slam me into the kitchen chair. Tie me to it with a cord around my waist. My hands free.
 While emptying out the refrigerator of a weeks worth of leftovers, she would slam bowl after bowl of ice cold potatoes, congealed green beans floating in hardened bacon grease, corn swimming in butter hard on the top like ice on a lake in winter. Stiff macaroni and cheese, old tough pieces of meat. Cold.  Anything edible, she flung it to the table. 
"You have 20 minutes to eat every bite or else," she would scream  into my face as she puffed on her cigarette clenched between her tiny brown teeth. 
"Or else" meant she would put the butt of her lit cigarette out on my arm or my stomach or my upper thigh. 
I chose to eat. 
Stuffing my face with an eye on the clock. Watching the seconds tick by.... 
At first the food was easy to eat. 
I was so hungry. 
Shoving it into my mouth. Barely chewing. Swallowing.
10 minutes in and I fought the urge to puke. 
"Eat it!"
"You had better eat every damn bite" she growled as she puffed away.  Her fat red face alight with happiness or was it madness at seeing me struggle to keep the food, her food down?
 The bright red stub of her cigarette would glow brightly next to me. Threatening me. I had felt the pain of it before. Many times.
The sizzle as it would burn flesh. The smell and pain. The scars. To this day you will never see me wear short sleeves from the scars. Daily reminders.

Fighting the urge to vomit and fearing the pain of the red hot cigarette....
Se would grab a handful of potatoes and shove them in my face.
"EAT IT!!!!!"
Eat it all!
Fear of the burns and the feeling of cold potatoes suffocating me up my nose and down my throat. With little warning,  I'd vomit all over the table. Into the bowls of food. Dripping down the table. Partially digested food and bile in puddles on the table and in the bowls. Mocking me. I knew what was coming. 

"Now you've done it! Now you will eat all of that too. You have one hour. You dare to vomit on MY table? You Eat It! All of it. 
Puke and all.
One Hour!"
The ashes dangling and about to drop as she grinds the glowing cigarette butt into my upper arm. I scream in pain. Burnt flesh. 
Black and ugly. 
Thankfully, she happily stomps off to watch her soaps for the next 2 hours....

The smell of it. I can still smell it. I can still taste it. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Chapter 4

Days flew by.
As I said before, I loved it at the orphanage. Does that seem odd?
It was clean and we were fed. We were together. 
All three of us. 
We had chores to do. Dusting. I love to dust. 
We made the wood of the walls and rails of the wooden bannisters glow. We were given nickels, dimes and quarters each week according to our age. The older you were, the more money you got.
We each had a ratty old sock that our money was dropped into and then tied at the top. We each had a small cupboard we kept our small belongings in. Our name taped to the outside door.
 It seemed like eternity but once the toe of that sock got heavy with coins, we were all allowed to walk to the Five and Dime store to buy candy or a small toy. It was a wonderful highlight and it was fun. Simple but fun.
Our Mom came to see us a few times and try as hard as I may, I remember very little of her visits.

It passes.
We grow up just a bit each day.
By now it is 1963 and I am in 3rd grade.
I remember the day we were sent home from school. President Kennedy had been shot. I didn't understand it then but I know it was life changing.
Our lives were about to change as well.

The "powers that be" at the orphanage made some ultimate decision that we had a father out there and set out to find him and that they did.
They told this man, "You have three kids here. You either start paying child support or you take them!" Child support for three kids?
That's an expensive undertaking.  Much less expensive to take us, right?

I didn't know this man as a father. I only knew his name.
Bob had been married to my Mother. Before I was born they divorced.
Bob had married Barb.
Barb had just given birth to a daughter.
We went to live there.  Bob was far from poor. I wasn't scared.  
I loved the baby.  I missed my friends at the orphanage but a new baby to love and care for. Much better than a doll!
Besides, all three of us together and in a real home. 

I'm not exactly sure how and when it began but begin it did...

My big brother's birthday is in June. On that day in June on the calendar someone had circled it in red and had written the word "speshial."
We were each taken into a room separately and asked to spell the word "special."
I had no idea why but wrote it out s-p-e-s-h-e-a-l.
Then my sister.
Then my brother.
We each took a turn spelling the word.
They found the culprit. My brother. Barbara egged it on. 
"Who does this bastard kid think he is? Special my ass!"
It pissed Bob off and pissed him off royally.  He took off his belt and spanked all three of us. Hard. As he took turns on my sister and I, 
I could see my big brother steaming as he watched the belt lashing out at our bare bottoms. 
Barb watching with a smirk of sheer glee as we were hit over and over.
We had never been abused or hit in any way before now. As always, he was there to protect us.
His small but mighty boyish body put every thing he had as he rushed forward to get this brute of a man off my sister and I.
He had no hope to win. He was beaten and beaten 10 times harder than he ever should have been. Bloody and bruised, he lay in a pile on the floor.  Bob kicked him in his tiny ribs and as he walked away said, "You are not my son. You are a piece of shit and I will take great pleasure in kicking your ass. Daily."  
Every day he beat him. If he didn't beat him he would do something equally as cruel to hurt him. Hurting us was one way. Another was to kill an animal or pet and make my brother watch.
We had a small pet possum that my brother had saved for. The possum slept in a coffee can next to my brother's bed.  One morning, we woke up to my sister's father, Bob boiling water on the stove in the coffee can with the possum in it! 
I don't think any beating could have hurt as bad as knowing that our pet possum was dead and died in such a cruel way.
This went on for months and my brother tried so hard to protect us and paid a horrible price for it. He was beaten and treated like less than any human being should ever be treated much less a little boy.
We knew Bob wasn't his father.  He wasn't mine either. He let us know it every minute of every waking day.
We were children. Property. Bob and Barb owned us now. 
We all had Bob's last name. He had given my brother his last name at birth and I was born with his last name as well. Back then, there were no paternity tests. The courts saw his last name as ours so we were his.

I think Bob and Barb knew my brother would fight them to protect us girls and he would only grow bigger and stronger and his protection of us grow fiercer.  
He had to go.

There were some people they knew and we were going to visit them. We were told to get in the car and we drove the 150 miles to their house not knowing what was coming. Not knowing why or who we were visiting.
When we arrived, these two very cruel looking strangers came out to the car. My brother was pushed out the door onto their front yard as we drove away.  He was left in the dust on the gravel driveway in a heap like trash.
I will never forget pounding on the back window begging them to let me go with him.  Let me out of this car!

I didn't see my brother again until I was an adult. Just writing this makes me sob. My brother is my life. Who were those people? 

We no longer had our big brother to protect us.... 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Residents of Hell

Well, I needed to take a break from the pages in my book for several reasons. 
Number one being that I have received so many questions lately inquiring about my husband's health and how he is doing.
First, I want to thank you all for the lovely compassionate notes and kind words. We both feel your loving arms around us and it gives us hope and most of all strength!
He is doing.... ok. 
As I type this he is napping. Again. He seems to fall asleep at odd times of the day and that worries me.
Still not a sip of water or a bite of food has passed his lips in almost 6 months. I am still mystified by that fact. It doesn't compute in my silly head. No food? No wonderful taste of sweet or salty? No delicious taste of one of life's pleasures? Food.
Food is my friend. I have jokingly said that stupid little sentence for years but it IS! 
I ENJOY food. 
Food and meals are more than just taking in nutrition. We would do most of our socializing with friends and family over meals in restaurants, power lunches, banquets. Parties with fun finger foods and Champagne.
Not any more.
I refuse to eat a bite in front of him nor allow others to do so!
Call me weird but it would be like everyone sipping on refreshing Mojito's on a hot summer day in front of a man that can't enjoy one. Not fair!
So... This Thanksgiving, I am staying home with my man and anyone that wants to come by for a hello can do so but no food or cocktails allowed.
Christmas will be a HUGE challenge but I am holding firm on this one. It would break my heart to enjoy a Holiday Feast  while he has to open up his feeding tube and have his smelly-ass baby formula poured in by syringe into the hole in his stomach. Ugh. 
Not going to happen.
Now, he says it's fine and he doesn't mind but I certainly do!

As to how he is... He has dug in his heels and refuses to get scoped or scanned, poked or prodded until after the New Year.
It's not MY decision, it's his. I respect that.
No matter what the outcome, he can't have radiation again.  It would melt his spinal cord.
He refuses the complete disfiguring surgery. Again...
 HIS decision, not mine. 
So, there it is. We are still blissfully ignorant and I like it that way.
We go to the oncologist tomorrow for blood work and a consult. Nothing new.

Now to my book.

Chapter 4 is coming soon. 
It rolls around in my head like the past and to put it down into words frightens me. 
Seriously scares me.

A year ago, I was at Lowe's Hardware Store picking out some grout for a project and saw an "aunt" from my past.
She was always good to me when I was a kid and I know she had to have some inkling what was going on in that house behind those closed doors.
Her name is Shirley.
A plus sized woman with a kind heart and a warm smile. Every ounce of Shirley was love. Her heart was so clean and pure. As a kid I always felt this pull towards Shirley. 
You know how at times you see someone from your past and your heart sinks and you look for that escape to avoid a conversation? That dread? That never happens when I see Shirley.
I see her around town on occasion and even now,  we always end up with a hug and a chat.  Her wide open arms always ready to give comfort to those she comes in contact with.
The day I ran into her, she told me something of my past I didn't know.

We were standing in the middle of that cavern of a store in the paint and paint supplies section. Our shopping carts pulled to the side, we smiled and talked and the sun was shining. Two women talking.
Out of the blue she looked at me with big wide eyes about to brim over with unshed tears and told me,
"Lana, there's something I have wanted to tell you for a long time. 
I asked many times if I could take you to live with me."
"Really? I didn't know that!" I exclaimed.

 "Yes, I always asked if I could take you. I begged them to let you come live with me. You were always so skinny and unloved. I wanted to take you home and feed you and dress you and love you."

I stood there in shock.
"You did?"
Why didn't I go with you then?" I asked with my heart feeling something akin to elation. 
I was loved as a kid? Someone loved me and truly WANTED me? 

"Shirley?" I asked quietly wondering what she could possibly say to make her cry all these years later. 

I asked again gently because now the tears were freely running down her soft cheeks.
"Why didn't I come to live with you then? Why didn't they let me?
They didn't want me. That much was obvious."

My heart was pounding as I waited for the answer.
I would have cut off my arm to go live there. With her. Shirley was warm and sweet and soft and "motherly."
I felt my heart hit the concrete floor as she answered my question.
The realization of her words were about to slam me back to being there with the pain and torture and abusive hell....

"Lana, They were looking for someone to SELL you to."
We were standing in the middle of a crowded hardware store. 
My hands gripping the shopping cart so tight I could feel my nails cut into my flesh of my hands. The cart was all that kept me from spinning away.

Sell me?
They wanted to SELL ME?
My head reeling, my hands holding on to that shopping cart like a life raft on wheels. I felt as if the concrete floor was rushing up to slam into my face. Her words. Her words took me back to that time and place. At 55 years old to still be so affected by them and their hatred....
Imagine if there was internet back then? Who could they have given me to for a quick sale of cash? What kind of people buy a child? What in God's name would someone DO to a little girl they would pay money to own?
Further... What kind of evil would SELL a child?

You are about to meet them.....

They reside in Hell. I'm certain of it....

Friday, November 11, 2011


I somehow feel I will get in trouble for the next upcoming chapters.
Punished. Revisiting that time takes me back there. It is a place I visit rarely.
Dark scary days. Hopeless days. They are all gone now and can no longer hurt me but remembering sometimes is like reliving it.
My heart beats quicker and I hold my breath just typing in the safety of my home.

So, instead today, I will remember the good days at the orphanage. Bright sunny fun, kid kind of days.
I have forgotten many of the kids that lived there with us but a few I could never forget.
The little girl in the bed next to mine for example. 
Brenda was .... How do I describe Brenda. She may have been a bit neurotic at 6 or 7 years old. Is that even possible? Some horror must have happened to her in her young life. I would love to know the back stories for some of those kids but then again, perhaps not.

Brenda's bed was right next to mine in that huge dormitory style room with all the iron beds so close together.  Crammed so close you could touch the next bed by just stretching your arm out.
Every morning Brenda would wake up in bright red pools of blood soaked sheets. Brenda would pick and claw and tear at the skin on her arms and legs and chest and even her face. She walked around in a bloody scab. Big dark red globs of pain.  At night, she would pick her scabs and the process would start all over. I used to fear Brenda and her war-torn body and her blood!
Ragged, torn, uneven dark and bloody scabs on the floor and in her bed. Dried blood and pus. 
 Keep those things on your own side... I don't want to sleep with pus and dried blood. 
Poor Brenda. 
When I think of her now, I wonder what traumatic thing had happened in her young life to cause such behavior or was it as simple as self loathing that she wanted to pick herself apart and end up a bloody scab that never healed?
I will never know.
Then there was Starr. Starr was so misunderstood. She would sit for hours in her favorite rocker. Never ever touch her rocking chair or YOU would become the next victim of her ruthless assault.
How would tiny little Starr assault you?
Her song.
Her endless inane absurd song. Rocking and swaying back and forth.
Back and forth.
Sucking her thumb in between words.
"I knoooowww who I hate. Her naaaaa-aame is Laaaa-nnnnna.
I knoooooowwwwwww who I hate. Her naaaa-me is (insert any name that annoyed or aggravated Starr for the day or the minute)
On and on for hours. 
Days. Endlessly hate on anyone who dared to affront her. That sing-song voice. 
Endlessly. I can still hear it.
"I knoooo-oooow who I hateeeeeee"

We had been there probably 3 months and were called to the head masters office. We were all 3 going someplace. Do they ever tell children what the plan is? No.
Had I known the destination, I would have passed.
We were packed into the car of our Case Worker and taken out. A day pass.
3 little kids in the back seat of her car totally clueless where we were going. 

The City Dump.
The house we lived in when our mom left us was condemned. Torn down. All the contents disposed of.
All of our toys and clothes and our lives were there in the dump. The wind blowing, dark and menacing. Fluttering pieces of paper and garbage whirling around our ankles as we sifted. We were told to find what was ours and dig thru the trash to pick what we wanted. Items that belonged to us.
I found my favorite toy. It was a tin pie.  It had a crank and played the tune to "Sing a Song of Sixpence." Tiny black birds would pop out of holes in the tin pie as you slowly turned the crank. 
Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
Oh wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in his counting house counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose!

I loved that pie and the song. I loved the blackbirds. I remember being so happy to find it and scraping off the sludge of the dump and feeling like I had found buried treasure. My sister found her favorite doll. It was like Christmas Day at the dump.
I wonder what ever happened to my pie?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Chapter 3

Chapter three will be boring. I will tell you that up front.

Why will it be boring?
Because it is "normal".
Living and growing up in a happy loving home?
But living and loving and being a child -that kind of boring. Being fed and clothed and having a warm safe place to lay your head at night kind of boring.
The orphanage was a good place. Nothing like the Miss Hannigan scenes in the movie Annie. I loved it there.
No abuse or mean evil events.
That would come soon enough. It would come.
Dark, black and about to burst open like an over-ripe piece of fruit clinging to a vine.  It would happen.
Raw. Bleak. Exposed.
Three innocent kids just about to fall to the ground into a foul decaying heap, it would happen.
Why tell all of this now? 
It's MY story. I own it. I lived it.
It has been a part of me for 50 years. It's not who I am.
It's not who my brother and sister are. We all survived.  Sometimes I wondered how?
Some may shape their lives after their troubles as a child. 
I refuse to do that. I want to rise above it. Change it. Make sure the pattern stopped with me and with us and with "them." Not because of "them" but in spite of "them"

I will never forget it but it will not cling to me. It will not ruin me.
It will not soak into my soul and become me.

Again, Chapter 3 will be plain and boring and healthy. Three kids among many that had no parents in a time in this country when it happened way too often.
Children were thought of as property back in the late 1950's and 60's. You did as you were told. No sassing. No back-talk. No options.
You were spanked and disciplined and accepted, even respected your elders no matter what. 
You told no one your troubles. Who would care?
Who would listen?
No one interfered. We were children. 
Chapter 3. Boring.
Chapter 4.... Perhaps Not So Much....

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chapter 2

I remember some but not all of those early days.
When you're 4 and 5 years old, life is more about fun and playing. Skipping and dancing and friends. Not time and space, dates and order of sequence.

It's warm outside and these neighbor kids are so much smarter and always want to play games that confuse me. We were in trouble for saying the word "butt."  Our mom considered it a bad word but these kids said way worse words ~
Did way worse things than saying the word "butt."

I instead go inside to find my mom.  My big brother is there too.
My mom has dressed and says she's going out for cigarettes but tells us she will be back soon.

I don't want to make this about my mom.
She did the best she could.  Three kids, a limited grasp of the English language and a job as a hair stylist with zero help or support from anyone...
It was a recipe for a disaster from the start, I suppose.

The day she left was much like any other.
She left and we waited. 
We waited by that door like 3 tiny baby birds waiting for their mom to return to the nest.
Days went by.

We lived in the upstairs apartment of a tattered and worn old house. 
We didn't know anyone except the wild neighbor kids. 
There were downstairs neighbors but we never saw them. We knew they were there. We could hear them and smell the smells of food cooking below us.
Weeks went by. 

My big brother did all that he could to care for us. 
I remember one day he sat my sister and I down and told us that we were out of food. We were crying.  Sobbing.
He said, "I have to do something wrong. 
If not, we will have to eat grease. That's all we have left."
I remembered my eyes wide and crying, telling my brother "But I don't want to eat grease!"
There was a local A&P grocery store 3 blocks away.  He would shove a choice cut of meat wrapped in white paper down the front of his 8 year old pants and run like the wind. 
Toilet paper.
Whatever he could run with.

There were days he would fly thru the front door, throwing closed the locks.
Out of breath like the devil himself was on his heels... chasing him but we were fed. 
We never had to eat grease.
He made us brush our teeth and go to bed at a certain time. 
He got my sister and himself up and ready for school each day. 
We ate a lot of rice. I mean a LOT of rice but we still waited by that door.
It never happened.
She never returned.

I have no concept of how long we were there alone but I think it was about 2 months. Someone turned us in to the Welfare Department. Probably the downstairs neighbors or the owner of that A&P with all of that missing food.

I will never forget that day as long as I live.
I had on these faded torn pink one-piece pajama's.
I was going to stay at a girl from the neighborhood's house for the night but something scared me. 
I felt real fear. My gut was telling me to go home and some higher power was screaming in my ear to GO HOME!
Go Home Now!
I was spooked me so badly that I walked back home in the dark in my pajamas to the safety of my big brother and sister.

The police were there.  Their cars were parked in front and the bright lights were flashing blue and red against the night sky. The dark blue uniforms of the very tall officers did little to comfort me. 
They kept asking us over and over where our mom was.  She had been gone so long now that it seemed like she was never there in the first place. At least to a 4 year old it seemed that way.
One officer picked me up. I'm sure I was dirty. I'm positive I smelled.
Tangled dirty blonde hair and a dirty grimy face. No shoes, just the soft footies built into the PJ's I wore day and night.
It seemed like that night went on forever.
Nothing really mattered. As long as I was with my big brother and sister, we were fine.
We were taken to the Police Station. I hid under the desk of the Police Sargent and refused to come out. No coaxing or food or candy would get me to come out of the safety of that dark cubby-hole.  I remember the smell of the oiled wood and the pattern of the woodgrain. My face pressed into the wood as though it would let me become that desk. I wanted to live there. Under that desk.
It felt safe there. The more they tried, the deeper into the corner I pushed my dirty little self.
I remember hearing my mother's voice off in the outer halls somewhere. Crying. 
I sunk deeper to the back of that desk. It was Quiet. Dark. Safe.

We were taken in the night to an orphanage. 
The building was large, looming red brick. Tall dark windows that seemed to  mock. Halls that echoed and seemed too large. Too large and scary for a small child with no mom. No one to give comfort. No lap to curl into.
It was very much like the movie Annie except there was a girls' side and a boys side. It was huge and it was scary.
My big brother was sent to "The Boy's Side." The boys and girls were never to go to the other side.  I never saw the "Boy's Side."
The Girls' side had one very large room with about 60 beds. 
Thirty on each side. Small iron beds all in a row pushed close together.
We showered and ate with kids that were older. All ages. All races. All orphaned. 
One huge big room where everyone showered at the same time and used green Palmolive soap. The smell of that soap can bring those memories rushing back in a nano-second to me to this day. One over-sized bathroom with shower heads one after another built into the green tiled wall. No doors, no curtains.
I was the only child there that didn't go to school each day so the powers that be made the executive decision to either have me placed up for adoption or go to school at 4 years old. 
Thankfully, I went to school at 4 years old. 
Adoption would have separated me from my big brother and sister and that I would never have wanted to do. (My life would have been 100% better but I didn't know that then.)

It was all about to come crashing down too soon anyway.

Years would pass but evil was waiting.
Evil had a home for us.
Evil was our future....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Flying By the Seat of My Pants

I am writing this since my publisher wants MY story from the beginning.
My beginning didn't begin with YouTube or my husband getting a horrible disease called Cancer.
My story begins some 50 years earlier...
Hang on.
This may be a bumpy ride.

Chapter One

My first recollection as a kid was of being a happy one.
I remember people would always call me "Smiley." I loved everyone.
We were poor but smiles and hugs and laughter were free!
I was four years old.
Life was good. Life was fun. 
We lived near downtown small town Indiana where there were candy stores and pet shops and movie theaters on every corner of cobbled brick streets. We ran these streets and we had fun. 
We were together.
I had my big brother and big sister and my superbly beautiful Mom.
I remember that we moved. 
A lot.
One dark wintery night a very tall man came to our small cramped apartment that we had just moved to months before.
He wanted something. I assume it was rent money.
My beautiful Mom was crying. Three small kids, rent to pay and a limited grasp of the English language. 
He sat in a chair that was way too small for him. He scared me. The radiator hissing scared me but my mom was crying and HE was the reason why.
Why wouldn't he just go away?
Why does this ugly old man make my Mommy cry?
He's sitting here in our dismal living room on a too small chair looking so stern and angry in his ugly dark suit and glasses.
Go away!
I can make him stop looking at my Mom with his eyes so mean. I can!
I will.
I open the closet door and it creaks on it's rusty hinges. His cold eyes slither over to me.
I open the door wider. Staring at him. My eyes locked on his face. Daring him to keep watching. Wider. That's it. Keep your eyes right here, mister. 
I open the door even wider and at the top of my lungs I yell, competing with the screech of the rusty hinges straining to open the heavy door as I pull the knob.
"Stop barking you big watch dogs! There is a man out here that you can bite if you want. Bite him hard! Bite him before he leaves. 
He's leaving SOON!"
My eyes never leave his face. 
He is staring at me. 
My imaginary dogs must be scaring him, my 4 year old mind thinks. Ha!
His head shakes as he keeps his eyeballs on me standing in an empty closet doorway, dirty pajamas, threatening him with big, mean, imaginary dogs.
He stands up.
He looks at me as he tells my Mom... 
"You have 3 days to get the rent money or you are out on the street and your crazy kids too. Oh, and we don't allow "dogs" in here.
Money or Get Out!"
I stick my tongue out at his retreating back as he slams out the apartment door.
Ya! He's gone.
I curl up in my moms lap as she cries.
"You did good, Lana. You scared that man away" she tells me in her heavy accent as she wipes her eyes and a small smile appears on her perfectly red lipsticked mouth.
I thought she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. She was my beautiful mom.
2 Days later we were moving again....
This time we moved to an even older, smaller, rougher house where neighbor kids ran wild and the wind was the only thing that whipped down the dark dirty streets.
We moved into the upstairs of a duplex apartment that was in such a bad state no one else would rent it. 
I would wake up many nights and hear  my Mom crying in the other room to The Platters singing "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" playing on the scratchy record player and it was always a sign my mom would end up all night in tears.  Sobbing. I would get up from the bed I shared with my brother and sister and rubbing my eyes would curl up on her lap in hopes of helping to make the tears stop. What made these words make her cry so much? If the song is so bad, why listen to it, my 4 year old thoughts would say.

They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
Oh, I of course replied
Something here inside cannot be denied 

They said someday you'll find
All who love are blind
Oh, when your heart's on fire
You must realize
Smoke gets in your eyes

Now laughing friends deride
Tears I can not hide
Oh, so I smile and say
When a lovely flame dies
Smoke gets in your eyes
Smoke gets in your eyes 

It would be before the next move, the next apartment, the next angry landlord's visit that my mom would leave and I'd not see her for years. 
No imaginary dogs could keep her here.
No crazy little girl's desperation moves could stop the train that was about to roll over us all.....

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Take This Cancer and Shove It!

Not much happening here in this 
cancer-rabbit-hole we fell into.
I like it like that.

My husband still can't sip water... Very well anyway.
Food? Forget about it. Can you imagine not eating even ONE bite of food for FOUR whole months? I can't. 
(Food is my Friend)
He says water goes down but he's not sure if it stays there or if it's simply spit. So... I gave him a small amount of orange Gatorade to drink.
It went down and mostly 50% stayed down. Being orange-colored helped to sort out what it was he was spitting out. 
He says he still feels something back there gagging him if/when he does swallow. Hmmm. 
Is it a tumor?
Is it dead cancer?
Is it scar tissue?
Who knows, but he refuses to go see the Ear Nose and Throat doctor and I can see his point... to a point. All of my nudging and nagging get me no where.
(I've even threatened to use the Company Credit Card and go on an extravagant  Shopping Spree again... Still nope.)
He says "Why test what you won't treat."
He just simply does not  LOOK like a man with cancer any longer. 

The dull grey coloring is gone. He has those pretty flushed cheeks and ruddy complexion back that made me fall in love with him.
He is no longer losing weight. I feed him every 3 hours 6 times a day. 6 cans of Isosourse canned liquid a day via his feeding tube.
He no longer coughs up blood.
He no longer has that raspy "hot potato" voice.
He is no longer so fatigued he can't move one step in front of another.
He has even been going to the office 2-3 hours a day.
You tell me.
Does that all sound like a sick and dying man?
No symptoms~~ no cancer, right?
So, we wait. 
The PET Scan is scheduled for the end of November. That will tell the true story.
The truth, The whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
It's still too early to do the PET Scan now as the radiation is still inside his body and he would light up like a nuclear reactor.
So... As I said, we wait.
Waiting has never been my strongpoint but we are learning to cope.
Life goes on and time waits for no man... or woman.

 (Where did I put that Credit Card anyway?)

PS. I noted that Steve Jobs passed away.
RIP Steve Jobs.
He had the same rare Neuroendocrine cancer my husband has.... 
I feel a Scarlett O'Hara moment coming on again......

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today, I Am Scarlett O'Hara Again...

Today is the day.
We have been walking around this house these last few days as nervous as two long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs. 
So scared.
So worried. Praying and asking God and the doctors to give good news.
All of you (my little heartbeats) have been so wonderful and diligent.
So kind and supportive. We are no longer strangers. How can we be?
You were here with us thru this fight. 
Pushing. Reading my words.
I love you.
We both do.

We arrive at the oncologists office 5 minutes ahead of time. As I exit the car and slam the door behind me, I tell my husband...

"When we return to this car, we will be two completely different people. Our lives are about to change directions. Remember that as we climb back in to go to go on our way."
His look says it all. Kind of a "Oh Crap" look.
We enter the building arm in arm much as we did as we walked down the aisle of our cathedral after saying "I Do" at our wedding.

Both of us have been waffling at what the results of the scan will be.
One second... 
It's going to be All Clear.
The very next half second... 
It's going to be devastating news.
We check in and sit in the waiting room. 
Time clicks by. 
My heart beat quickens each time a new patient is called in. We sit and memories of radiation and chemo slip thru my mind. OUT! Those days were so grim and cold. Today is for positive not memories of painful treatments.
We are finally called.
We pass the oncologist in the hall. 
He hugs us both in a warm bear-hug.
Is that a good sign or a bad sign?
We are put into a holding room to wait some more.  We try to analyze everything. 
"Did he hug us because he knows we need to go choose funeral attire or did he hug us because he is about to give us happy news?" My husband asks me.
"Good grief, stop that. He hugged us because he ...."
My mind goes off that cliff.

The door opens and the doctors smiling face enters.
We both move the very edge of our seats.
He begins to ask random, mundane health questions.
"Get to the point. The Bottom line! Enough with the chit chat." I want to get right in his face and yell.
We've been waiting 6 days for this. 
Finally, his words.
I melt.

All looks Clear.
You are in Partial Remission.

Come back in a month for another CT Scan, a Flex Scope, and a PET Scan in 2 months and we will know more. We can then see if it has spread or if it is all dead. Most of the tumors are gone but some are there and I hope inactive."

Enough said! 
We Gone.
In my mind, we are out the door and escaping this place like a 2nd grader when she hears the bell ring for recess. RUN! School's out!
Freedom! Escape.
Back to the safety of our car and away from this place!

Not so fast, lady.
What the heck is "Partial Remission?
Isn't that somewhat like saying you are Kind of Pregnant?
Just like Scarlett O'Hara would do, I pick up my handbag and practically skip out the door.  Fiddle dee dee.
"We'll think about that tomorrow."