Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I have SHOES Older Than YOU!

Sun and Sand.
Tropical breezes and hope in the air.
Life is changing. There are days I don't want it to change and others I crave the changes.
Since my husband passed away, I feel like I am 16 years old released into the wild streets with no direction.
I warned close family and friends that I WILL make mistakes. Not to watch me too closely and please, most of all, not to judge.

I was driving down the road on a sunny Florida day and this odd feeling rushed toward me and hit me up side my head like a MAC truck. 

What was it?
It felt oddly great.
It then occurred to me that this odd feeling was "happy"
Just a flash in a nano-second but there it was!
I felt it so few times after my husbands diagnosis.
Thought that word was erased from my vocabulary for eternity after his death but it's not. Happiness is still there. It's how you allow it to come visit you.  I want it to come live with me. It's a much better houseguest than sad and pathetic.

I feel those feeling rush up to greet my face more and more as days slip by. I like it. I'm not going to push it away! 
Come back Ms. Happy, You're always welcome here.

It truly must be beginning to show on me as well as in me.

I was asked out  3 times this week!

I was in the grocery store. (The grocery stores down here are much prettier happier places than in Indiana)

An attractive gentleman in Dr. scrubs came up next to me as I stood pondering to my self what the difference was between a Burrito Kit and a Taco Kit  in the salsa aisle. 
He said, "If you don't feel like cooking it, there is a fun Mexican restaurant down the street if you'd like to go. We can leave our carts here and escape to Mexico for an hour or perhaps you prefer the real thing?"
Are you talking to me? 
I just avoided his eyes and mumbled some dumb thing. Muttering as I pushed my cart away scrambling to move away, hoping I wouldn't blurt out some idiotic sentence to embarrass myself.
On to frozen foods....
As I reached in to grab a bag of frozen peas, 
Same Dr. Same blue eyes asked if I was following him. 
Was he flirting with me?


Me? Me, I asked? Surely not.
I am dead inside. I have no more to give or get.
Or do I?
It's far too soon and I will investigate this phenomena further but now is not the time.

The 2nd time I was a bit more prepared but just as shocked. 
To date again?
Go over all of life's history with a stranger? What's your sign? What do you do? Favorite movies? Ugh
All of that malarkey. Sounds exhausting.

The 3rd time I had to laugh to my self for hours after. He was 25 years old, cute as a button but as I told him.... 

I have SHOES older than he is!

My husband would hate all of this. He insured I would never have to depend on a man to care for me.  

My place is by his side for all eternity. I can and will grasp for that elusive happy where and when I can get it but for now not in the form of a "Date"
Maybe Later. 
I'm still finding myself.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"No Cry" Days

The old saying is that a widow should not buy anything or sell anything for a year after her husbands death. No major decisions to made within that 365 day exile. 
So... I tried that for 3 months. It blows!
What? Sit and look at walls? Wear black for months and go to the cemetery? Not smile or chat or laugh?
I did all that too.
It's exhausting and it does nothing more than cement into your skull that your man is gone. It is all a constant reminder of sadness. Don't get me wrong. I am sad. I cry on people.
Oh Lord do I cry on poor unsuspecting people!

I went to see my dentist. I had neglected most everything about myself so it was time. My dentist is also a friend. He entered the exam room with my x-rays in hand, said hello, touched my arm and in 1.3 seconds, I was blubbering all over his scrub-shirt. Not just the pretty tears that fall from your eyes like in movies but the full-on sobbing UGLY cry. 
(I may have to switch dentists now I am so embarrassed)
Same with my Priest. My postman. My Veterinarian.  The cashier at the grocery...
The list goes on, I am sorry to say.
Hey.. I think I we get a pass when we lose a loved one. 
So, back to better news...
I decided to break all of the rules of being a widow.
I always claimed to be a "rule-breaker" so why stop now?
I'm done caring if people in my community judge me for crying too much. 
I hear them whispering... 
"Oh look, she cries too much. Her black dress is so big on her. She looks awful. Her eyes are red.
She's lost weight. She's aged 10 years."

Oh, Bite Me!

If people have so much to say about YOUR life... That says very little about their own, right?

Words to live by.
I haven't got all the answers on how to act or what to do. I never have! We just do what we can. Life is short. I plan on living each and every day in honor of my husband but to the fullest.
I ran away from home!
It's so liberating. I am going back in a week.
Don't want to but have to...
Some of Henry's old football players from the Denver Broncos and basketball buddies from Purdue are honoring him with a benefit memorial. All proceeds will go to the Purdue Athletic Department in his name. It will be a sad and emotional day but I have my Big Girl Panties all picked out and laid out for that day. 
I can DO this and I will. 
Oh and I bought a new car. My dream car. 
I thought it would make me happy. Things don't make you happy. People do. 
I have amazing people in my life.
I am so blessed.
More later.
I Love You.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Is it Ever Okay to Lie?

Every morning, no matter how ill or how much pain, Henry would get up and go to the office. It was his focus. Good for him to keep his mind off what was going on inside his wracked body. Neither of us knew.
He had refused to go to a doctor for a scope or scan or test. He had had it and I don't blame him. Surgery to deform him with no guarantee? No thanks. Maybe buy him 3 more months but no tongue, no voice, no face?
Our friends would ask me daily "How is he? What's going on? Is he ok? Is the cancer gone?"
My classic answer.... "I don't know. I am his nurse and the internet is our doctor."

The internet is a handy tool for quick solutions to simple problems but try diving into it deeply for REAL answers to real health issues. You can be lost in all of it and come away more confused than ever.
Nothing I could say or do would change his mind to see a medical professional. I ranted, raged, pleaded, begged, bargained.
So on we went. Marching forward thru each day. Trudging along. Blissfully ignorant.

I have decided I am over all of the gloom and sadness and putting it out there. That is not who Henry was nor am I. He loved my blogs but I think even he would say to stop being so sad. One thing my husband was... He was FUN and funny. Four days before he died he said something so freaking funny it had me bent over laughing and crying.
God I miss him so.
But... This one thing keeps me awake for hours in the dark of night. It haunts me.
Actually, grieving these days is not at all about me, it's about what Henry went thru at the end. That is what sends me to bed for days to cry and cry. I can't get past what he went thru. The pain, the chemo, the radiation, the feeding tubes and not eating a BITE of food for over a year... Barely able to sip a drop of water. The swelling, the pain... ALL of it.
Those are the things I hurt about. Not about ME but about HIM.

His left arm swelled up to five times the size it normally was. Both legs swelled so huge that I would describe his feet as giant hams stuck to the ends of his legs with little toes stuck on.
Still he refused medical treatment. He wanted this done HIS way.
Everywhere in the house that he went there was this sticky stuff on the floor. Did one of the kids spill Kool-Aid? I would mop and scrub but at the end of the day it was sticky again. I found out later that it was protein leaking from his pores as he walked, he was so swollen. It had no where else to go so it seeped from him as he took each step.

Still he went to work.

I knew things were changing. He seemed to be dizzy and disoriented at times. I worried about him driving the 1.2 miles from our home to the office. I would walk with him to the car in my pajamas and coffee in hand, as the car would reach the end of the drive, I would follow it down the street. "Please God let him get there safely."
I would whisper silently as the car turned the corner out of sight.

About a week later, he came home and each day, each hour and each minute, things grew progressively worse.

He didn't go back to work. I knew things were bad. Henry not going to the office? It was really bad but he never complained or said a word about how he was feeling.
Each hour he was worse by now...

He asked me for paper and pen. He wanted to write. I gave him a stark white pad of paper and a pen with the company logo on it. He was adamant about writing something... What?
"I need to write this but write how do I write it?" he said.
"I'm not sure, write what you know." I told him, totally confused by what he wanted to say.
He began to write....
He wrote the date, his name and my name and wrote that I was amazing.
Oh God, I can't stop crying about this.
"Why am I amazing, darling? What do you mean "amazing?" I asked when I read what he had written.
He looked up at me and with that sweet smile of his, he told me he would save that and tell me someday and then I would know.

His next question...."Am I dying?"

No, no,no, no.

My heart fell clear to the floor and stopped.
Why did he ask me that?

" Why? Why do you ask me that?"

In the quietest voice I had ever heard, he said.."Because I feel like I'm dying."

Oh God! No.

At that exact moment, I think I knew. Tell him yes? Lie?

"Of course you're not dying, silly. You're going to be fine. Everything is fine." I lied.

Was I lying to him and to myself? Should I have told him yes? Should I have lied?
The answer to this question haunts me. Wakes me up at 2:00 a.m. every morning and sticks in head all thru the day. Should I have told him????
If/when my time comes, someone had better damn well be telling me about it!
I want to know.
To this day, I don't know if my lie was the right thing to do or not.
In my defense... I didn't know. Only God did.
Two days later he was gone. I had called the priest that married us to come to our home to give him his "Last Rites"
As the priest blessed him and prayed over him, I crawled into the bed. I held him in my arms. He took three last breaths and gently died in my arms. My heart died that day too.
Will the tears ever stop? I doubt it.

I can't wait to see my husband again. I need to tell him so much.
I want to tell him how proud I was to be his wife. How happy he made me. How very much I love him. I want to tell him that I am sorry I lied to the most important question he has ever asked of me.
And... I want to ask him about that one question he said he'd tell me about later....
Why did you write that I am so amazing?
I look forward to that day.

PS. To the miserable person that wrote the cowardly letter...
I know who you are.
I want to Thank You.
You see, your intention was to hurt but I have had all the hurt I can. Your words didn't hurt me. In fact they helped me and for that I thank you.
You lit a fire under me.
No more sitting looking at the walls. I am going back to work. I am going back to blogging and making videos soon. I learned one very valuable lesson in losing my darling husband and that is this:
Life is VERY short. Enjoy it.
And that is exactly what I intend to do.
Your cruel words mailed to me were intended to crush me. You can not. I am strong.
After all.... My husband thinks I am amazing!

I love you all. Thank you for being here. You, all of you, truly are amazing.

Monday, September 3, 2012

One Last Kiss

The day of the funeral...

To feel so numb but to have so much to do is such a contradiction in terms. All I want to do is go to bed and stay there with the blankets pulled over my head.
Let someone else do this. I can't.

Phone calls from people, food and flowers arriving at the door. God, I hate the smell of roses now. So cloyingly sweet. The smell seems to penetrate the house but mostly my brain.

A friend of mine that I had met at the Radiation clinic... (That seems like it was a 100 years ago)
Her husband had died of the same horrible cancer my husband had, told me that she had put her dog up in the bed with her husband to let him know that he was gone.
Ewwww, so morbid!
After my husband had gone, I did just that.
Both dogs were thrilled to be up on the bed I had denied them access to these last weeks. The little Chihuahua, much older and wiser, sniffed him all over. Looked up at me with such sadness in her soft brown eyes then laid her little apple head on his arm with a small sigh. She bared her teeth at anyone that tried to move her from his side.
Izzy, usually so rambunctious and out of control, sniffed his face once, jumped off the bed like she had been shot from a cannon and hid under the bed in the next room.
They both knew.
I'm glad now I did this. They are both grieving but seem to know why their beloved master is not here. He's not coming home....

Shower, makeup, hair. Like an auto-mon get ready for this day.
Meet the rest of the family, cousins, relatives, life-long friends at the funeral home.
Pall Bearers
Saying good-bye. More tears. More sorrow. More prayers. More sadness.
One last goodbye. More tears fall onto his face. "My Darling, please know that I will always love you. Forever. Unending."

I see the six best friends of my husband, the pall bearers, bring the casket and loads of flowers out to the waiting hearse. Such a sunny pretty day but a black hole in all of our hearts. I feel as if my knees will buckle and I will become one with the parking lot.
I am just led around like a four year old. Totally clueless. I have never done this before.
Not this.

Our limo follows the long black hearse. Others follows us. A long steady stream of cars
winding thru the streets to the church Henry and I attended every Sunday that we could while we were home and together. I see people and recognize their faces but my heart can't acknowledge their presence or why they are there to tell this wonderful man good-bye.
So many people crying.
So much sadness.

People speak at the podium and the priest says the Mass. My husband is lying there beside me in a white draped coffin with a cross of gold embroidered on the delicate cloth.
The priest begins The Lord's Prayer.

Every Sunday, all of our married life and before, as "The Lord's Prayer" was being said, we would recite those familiar words, my husband would reach out and grab my hand as we spoke the words....Hands locked in a grasp, all of the week's issues and problems would seem to melt away....

Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be Done

No one to hold my hand now as that beautiful prayer was said, I reached out and laid my hand on the coffin. Never to hold his hand again, sobbing, as the prayer and the people prayed.
I could hear people crying behind me. He was so loved.

Back to the limo again.
Winding thru the streets. We don't go straight to the cemetery. Police escorts leading us past his business. All of his workers out lining the street in a silent salute and good-bye to this amazing man. Gone too Soon. Too Young... Too Good.
Following the hearse to the cemetery. A tent has been set up with chairs under the old oak trees in the spot we had chosen over a year before.
The sun dapples through the trees and glistens on the mirror covered casket. His name and birthdate and the date he left us engraved so beautifully on the top of the glass.
The priest ends the prayers and before they lower my beautiful husband into the ground, I bend to kiss the top. I leave an eternal lipstick print on the glass as I tell him one last good-bye...

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

How To Be a Widow II

Time passes and memories of the last painful days ebb just the tiniest bit each day but the hurt is still simmering there, right beneath the surface.

You wake up each day and the sun still shines. Days pass and you even laugh. I still have feelings of guilt for being here and alive and Henry is not.
Had it only been me to go and not him. Visiting his grave each day, I want to open it up and crawl inside.
I have begun going to grief counseling and that helps. To be in a group of others...mothers, fathers, husbands, wives. All of them love and lost and it hurts. They say that "Time heals all wounds" but there is one addendum to that old adage and that is that time may heal but a scab forms and the slightest thing such as a song or smell or memory opens it up and the heart bleeds. Again.

I am strong.
I can do this.

Each day I get up. I apply lipstick and put one foot forward and life continues.
Henry would want me to be happy. He loved reading my blog and my watching my videos. The best thing about my husband was that he listened to me. I mean really LISTENED to me. Whether it was about lipstick or kids or the dogs. No subject matter was too small or too slight.
He listened to me. And isn't that what a "best friend" does?
Simply put, we had a marriage that many dream of. My best advice for success in any relationship is so easy and simple.

Be KIND to each other.

That's it.
Be kind.

Kindness is as easy as it is implied.
We all argue or feel our side or point of view is the correct one.
Would you rather always be RIGHT or always be HAPPY?
I choose being happy. Being right all the time is too much work.
I'm no one's doormat but I also don't feel the need to push my opinions, thoughts or ideas down anyone's throat.

I want so bad to go back and watch the videos that my husband was in but that day will be a long way off. We had so much fun making them. We had so much fun EVERY day!
Henry told me how proud of me he was daily. He told others I was "The Love of his Life."
I received sympathy cards from so many friends that wanted to share that Henry would always say that. *sigh*
Being the Love of His Life.
What a GIFT!
Those words help ease the pain. Just a tad.

The day of the showing was exhausting but with the love and support of my family and friends, we all got thru it. Ten hours of people and stories and so much love for my husband. It's funny to feel so close to so many strangers, acquaintances, and those you love all wrapped up into one day. I have found that when people tell me they knew my husband, I feel an instant bond. You knew him? Oh, please tell me more! Just talking about him keeps him alive in my heart and probably theirs as well.

The day of the funeral was to be grueling. To send a loved one off into eternity forever?
How does one do that?

I sat down each day and wrote down everything. Writing is therapy for myself and many others. Henry loved my writing. He made me promise to continue, hoping it would not only help me but others going thru an ordeal like this or something similar. If it helps one wife or sister, parent, brother or child that has lost a love, then all the better.

I love you all so much. Your kindness does indeed honor Henry and my gratefulness to you is more than I can put into words. We were both so blessed.

Be kind. Be kind to those you love and even to those you don't.

More later....

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How to be a Widow


Who would ever want to purposely write about this crap?
Certainly not me.
I am no expert.
I know how to be a wife.
I know how to be a mom.
I know how to be a woman.
I know how to be a friend.
I know how to be a CASA
I know how to be a Flight Attendant.

I am clueless how to be a widow.

When Henry was first diagnosed, I searched the internet like a freak looking for miracles. Plenty of stories of men with this horrible disease but never an ending. Never a wonderful outcome. Henry's cancer was a rare one. I just wanted an ending. Anything that would be good.
Posts were out there written by wives or loved ones going thru this same thing but the postings would just suddenly stop....


My heart somehow seemed to guess the outcome but my brain refused to accept defeat.

The day after Henry died, a friend of the family stopped by with trays and platters of food. Friends had all pitched in to provide food for the people that would be stopping by.

Thick slices of slow cooked tenderloin. Thin slices of fresh salmon with lemon and capers.
Desserts. Meat and cold cut trays. Buns, breads
Fruits, vegetable trays, cheeses, crackers and endless lists of food to feed the masses of people that were to stop by in the days to come.

While everyone else feasted on these foods,
my friend discreetly pulled me aside and gave me some advice.....

"Lana, people are going to be watching you. Judging you. No matter what you say or do, it will be scrutinized and picked apart. What you wear and how your makeup looks each day for the next who knows how long will all be judged. Not because of any other reason than that you are now a widow and people will talk. Be careful."

Holy Crap!
That all sounded horrific.

It also sounded sadly true.

Other friends offered advice of their own. These are actual texts from friends offering their best advice. I think I used each one. Those days were all a giant blur.

Wear low heeled shoes. Don't eat a heavy meal before the showing.
Don't eat fiber or you will have to use the bathroom too often. Don't drink water or you will be running to pee every 5 minutes. Bring mints. Chew gum. Bring lipstick.
Sit whenever possible.
Ask how did you know my husband to people you do not recognize.
Hug those you love. Shake the hands of those who you don't know. Excuse yourself and go to the ladies room any time you need to. Bring Wet-Wipes for your hands. Keep your chin up. Wear waterproof mascara. (L'Oreal Voluminous is amazing! I cried the equivalent of a river but my mascara stood up)

The day of the showing came. I had two black dresses I thought would be appropriate. One a Michael Kors for the showing and the other Alice & Olivia with long black gloves for the burial and funeral mass.
No low cut cleavage showing. No mini lengths. Nothing tight or too sexy. Nothing revealing. No flashy jewelry. No heavy cakey makeup.
I wore my hair straight and not too fancy. Just subtle and sad.
That was me.
Subtle and sad.

I arrived at the funeral parlor with it's old elaborate furnishings, velvet walls and spindely chairs 3 hours before the doors would open. I asked the funeral director to please lock the doors until the family was ready to receive. Ugh. Receive?
My son and daughter-in-law on each side of me, bracing me up. Giving me strength to see him again for the long day and evening to come.
I slowly approached the coffin where my husband was lying in state.
I couldn't wait to see him. He died on a Thursday and it was now Tuesday. I hadn't seen his face since he had died. I made the funeral home wait five hours to take his body from my house.
I didn't want to ever let him go....

I missed him so much. I was excited but scared shitless too.
One on each arm I was shaking. It seemed like a mile to walk the few steps to see him.

He seemed so at peace and looked so handsome. I had brought his wedding ring. His hands had become so swollen those last weeks that he had to remove it. I found it in his bureau in an envelope with the date he had removed it along with these words..... 5/27/2012 "From My Girl. * * * * * "
Those numbers. Those words.
Those words had reduced me to tears and sent me straight to bed for an entire day.
I slipped the ring back where I had placed it so many years ago at our wedding. It looked so right on his finger again. A band of gold with 5 diamonds.

Each diamond a word.
* * * * *
I Love You Very Much.
I* Love* You * Very *Much*
We signed every note we ever left each other with 5 dots.
* * * * *
I Love You Very Much

I bent to kiss his face and whisper how much I love him.
My tears fell like tiny drops of dew onto his face.
Dried up tears.
So many.
I knew he would carry them to eternity and it gave me some dreary kind of comfort. A part of me would forever be with him and since my heart was already there, it seemed right.

I was asked where I wanted to stand.
Near my husband so I could look at his beautiful face and gather strength to get thru this
The family was in place. The doors unlocked.
The people came in droves.
So many people.
So many beautiful stories of the kindness and good deeds or humorous things my husband did to touch so many lives. Each one a treasure. I keep them all in my heart and remember them even now.
The hardest ones to bear were from the young men that worked for him. Some were still working there but many had grown and gone on to bigger and better jobs. Each one came to me with tears and a hug to tell me what my husband did to change their lives for the better. Or a funny story to tell.
To see these grown men crying and missing him so much was very heart-warming yet difficult at the same time.
Hour upon hour the people came.
I knew my husband was wonderful but had no idea so many others did as well.
For nine straight hours they came and line went on and on....

My family and dear friends didn't leave me alone. I finally caught on.
I asked, "Are you all afraid I am a danger to myself or others. Is that why you stay?"
No, they replied, we are just concerned for you to be alone.

Henry had become so much of my life in the last year since his diagnosis that my life was his. I gave up being a CASA, working, YouTube, blogging, shopping, lunches with girlfriends, friends etc. that now that he was gone, I was at a complete loss. No more feeding thru that damn feeding tube every 2 hours. No more helping him shower, no more bandages. No more being caretaker. I would have done it all again for a thousand years if he could have just stayed....

The funeral and burial was to be tomorrow. More of the same.
Sadness and tears.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

He Was All I Have

Hello to all of you that have sent all of the amazing notes and to the ones that left me a Tweet or note here  every day, I owe you big-time.
You have no idea how these notes got me thru these last months. I got where I actually looked forward to them. They were a tiny bright spot in an otherwise very dark time.
A thin thread to a different place.

When I was approached to write a book during my husbands treatments, I told the publisher that I wouldn't write about his passing but instead go back. All the way back to my life as a child. 
It was a compromise. 
I totally dropped the ball on my writings the last 4 - 5 months. My hands were full with caring for the love of my life. Who can write when their heart is being crushed. I stopped everything and devoted every second to my husband.
He is gone.
I cry just thinking of him. 
I miss him so much it hurts like a physical pain. 
I seem to hang at the cemetery.
I rake and clean and preen and decorate his gravesite. 
Somehow it gives me comfort. I had to stop telling family and friends that I go there 3 times a day. Now they look at me funny as if I am loco.
Maybe I am.
It's like going to his place. It's all I have.
Someday soon I will write about it all. The 
last months, the beautiful love we had, and his passing.
Right now, I am so raw inside it would come out as rambling jibberish.
Writing clears my thoughts.  It's all I have.
Henry died the way he lived... His way.
If someone can die beautifully, he did.
I held him in my arms. He was all I have...

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Chapter 18

Alone With Bob

A change in geography doesn't change Bob or Barbara in the least. It is warmer here and much prettier than the farm fields of Indiana but not much else has changed in our secret home.

Barbara has simply learned new techniques on how to punch and hurt and avoid bruises and scars showing up on young pale skin.
She has learned to put an orange in a sock and swing.
It hurts!
Over and over her new pal, her "sock puppet" swings whenever she feels the urge to inflict pain because her life is so intolerable or her sick mind so insane.

We are now living in a trailer in an over-grown mobile home park on the edge of town. Not a great place but Heaven to me.

We left Indiana in the early Spring of my Freshman year of high school.
I loved school. It was my escape. My only connection to normal.
I was good at school. I made good grades.
I was popular despite my tattered torn appearance.

Bob and Barb for whatever reason decides to NOT enroll me in school for this last fraction of a semester.
My heart is so heavy for that. Begging and pleading to go to school will do nothing more than lead me down a Primrose path to NEVER get enrolled back in school. I knew if I even mentioned wanting to go to school it would be denied to me no matter what the truancy laws were in the state of Florida.
What kid wants to go to school?

Sure, I was rotten at Algebra but excelled in English, Biology, Literature etc.
I needed school.
I needed the escape and knew that education would and could set me free.
No one can EVER take or beat your education out of you. It feeds your mind.
I hungered for it. School.
An education could help me escape this nightmare.
Oh, how I wanted to be enrolled in school!

Somehow, in my very young mind I was constantly looking for an escape.
Not going to try to run into a field of corn this time but I was always working something in my mind to run.
Run where?
This state was so foreign to me. I didn't know where the county courthouse was, Welfare Department or any law enforcement agency.
I instinctively knew I would need to keep my eyes and ears wide open for that glimmer of an opportunity.
I dreamed of it.
Tasted it.

My fear and loathing of Bob was like a physical ache. Trying to avoid a huge man in a small trailer was practically impossible.
His sweaty grunting over-sized tattooed body was always near.
He would open the shower stall while I was showering.
He would sneak by my dirty blanket which was my bed on the floor of the trailer. Lean down and try to touch me without waking me or the household.
One of us would win this war. I prayed every night it was me.
My window of hope was quickly closing....

I was home all day remember? No school.
Barbara and my sister both found work at a nursing home. Their kids enrolled in an elementary school.

Alone with Bob....
To this day, That thought can still make me shudder in complete and absolute fear....

Chapter 17

We arrive in the state of Florida late at night. One week later. Hour after hour on the road in a cramped crowded camper and Bob. My avoidance of him number one on my agenda every day and every hour.

I can smell the sweet smells of this foreign state even though it's dark and the middle of  the night.
We are all exhausted. 
Our new home is in Plant City, Florida.

I didn't know it at the time but the realtor had sent Bob a key to our new place. He bought it sight unseen.
 We arrive and all huddle around the front door. Exhausted, dark and very late.
All of us wait in anticipation as Bob slides the key into the lock of the front door. All I want to do is find a place to lay down and sleep. 
The camper, three kids,  hunger and fear of Bob have all taken it's toll. 

Open the door and let's go inside and sleep in the new house. Fear of Bob and his sexual advances far more abhorrent than Barbara's face-marring punches,  pinches, kicks and hair-pulling.

The key finally slides into place and we gather to see our new home.

I am so happy. 

A new start.
A new life.
I enter last and everyone else has frozen as if touched by some mythological being.  I push my way into the doorway unafraid.

Why is everyone so  shocked?

I nudge my way forward....
I see hear it before I see it....

The clicking waving sounds invade my ears. 
Musty and dank. Unused and stale.
My eyes see it but I still don't understand.
The walls of the front room of the house seem to be shimmering and waving. 
Swaying. Slithering. Clicking.
Blue gray in the beam of the flashlight, shimmering and dark. Menacing yet hypnotizing.

Bob's flashlight shines a light on the sight and that sound... I still can not make it out.
What is that sound?
What is the clicking waving movement?

Barbara runs off into the night screaming. I am happy. Whatever has made her flee can not be all bad, right? Her running away makes me giggle inside.  Her shrieks of fear fading as she distances herself from us and this house.

I peer into the darkened front room.
I am not afraid.

I don't get it... yet.
I am from Indiana. Nothing like this has ever been seen by my eyes but I learn later is normal to Florida.
The walls seem to be alive and moving.
The walls are alive!

The movement, clicking and shimmery waves are from COCKROACHES!!! 
The house is alive with them.
Crawling and slithering up and down the walls, the ceiling, the floor! Beautiful waves and walls of roaches.
Marching angry cockroaches. Rolling walls of Cockroaches!
Clicking and disturbed by the light and the sound of humans. 
They move constantly as if in protest. Up and down the walls. Across the floor. Marching like Army ants.  Clicking as they marched.
Silvery waves of giant bugs. Ugly bugs.
The walls not visible thru the hundreds of roaches moving up and down. Scurrying but not really afraid.

Bob bought a house sight unseen and it is infested with millions and millions of giant cockroaches!

He slams the door shut in fear and frustration. Slides the lock securely as if to lock them inside. 
We all pile back in to the crammed camper to sleep. The house forgotten.
The next day we all emerge from the cramped camper and move into a trailer park. We are now field workers.
Strawberries and Oranges.
Plant City, Florida
I feel like we are in a foreign country.
I feel that life is about to change....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chapter 16

My sister has turned 16. 
She has failed 2 grades in school and is in the same class as me. No one so far has detected or cared that she is losing her hearing by the day. She didn't fail due to stupidity but failed because she couldn't hear in class.
Think Barbara or Bob,  her own father cared? No.
They had a way to use that fault to their own advantage.

Barb and Bob took her aside and explained to her as only they could....

"You're dumb. Stupid.
You have been failed twice. Your younger sister is moving ahead of you in school and you are failing. 
Quit school and get a job and you can save face. You don't need school. You can pay your way around here and give us your checks."

So, at 16 years old and with only a 9th grade education, my sister quit school and got a job as a Nurse's Aid in a nursing home. She was told to give her pay checks to Bob and Barb for rent.
How to keep her from telling her new employers of her abuse?
Barbara got a job there as well to keep a close eye on her. My sister was always the quiet, shy one and would never speak out anyway.
Besides, her abuse has all but stopped. 
She was now a cash cow for them.

My beatings carried on and got more brutal and intense. One particular one seemed to make life turn a corner. Bob was getting more and more excited by them and I could tell. Wiggle and squirm as I did, I could feel his arousal in inflicting pain. 
I was not his daughter and we both knew it. Rape or sexual abuse from him could be excusable in his twisted mind. 
It wouldn't be incest. 

This session ended badly.
Bob had turned the belt buckle around and was now using the buckle to inflict the most damage. Each blow broke the skin wide open.
 I was bloody and bruised. My face, chest, back and legs resembled raw ground beef. My buttocks were bleeding and raw. Barbara took great pleasure in seeing these bloody reminders of my pain and ran to get salt to rub into them. The pain was so intense. The burning and bruises lasted  over 3 weeks and I missed more school. I could barley walk.
School was my sanctuary. My safe haven. I was missing from school more and more.

When I did return to school, someone noticed my bruises.  How I looked. How I walked. 

I was called into the school nurse's office.
She asked me questions that I wanted so bad to answer. I wanted to open my mouth and never shut up! 
Of course, I lied. Who would believe me?
No one. 
Barbara could manipulate anyone.  
She could tell them anything and they would most likely believer her.

Besides, If I told the truth and no one believed me, school, the one thing, the one place I loved would be taken from me. 
I lived for school. School needed to be protected in my life more than my beatings needed to be exposed. 
At least my young mind saw it that way. 
So, I lied.
I know that they knew I was lying.

There was something in the works. 
Most normal families tell their kids what the plans are in the household.
Not Bob. Not Barbara.

I had no idea why, but we were going to auction every weekend. 
Selling pieces of furniture, clothes, dishes, my beloved books in the attic. Auctioning  off everything. All of their belongings. Only the necessities remained.
To this day I don't know the impetus for the move but that's what was happening.
We were moving!

No idea. No one cared about me enough to tell me.

In the dark of an early spring evening, we packed up what was left of our lives into a beaten up old camper and left like thieves in the night.

I was thrilled!

Where were we going?
Anywhere was going to be better than here, right?

Bob and Barbara in the cab of the pick-up truck. Their three kids, my sister and I all cramped into the over-stuffed camper in the back with all of the belongings that we hadn't sold packed in.

It was like parole to me.
Out of the tiny window of the camper I watched the landscape go by.

Palm Trees!
I could smell the sweet smells of orange blossoms and see the deep green of the grass as we headed further south. This was all new to me. 
An adventure!

Barbara came to the tiny door of the camper and pulled me out by my hair and told me to go upfront and keep Bob awake. 
She needed a nap, she told me as she shoved me forward on the side of the road. Traffic whizzing by on the busy interstate.
I climb into the cab and to sit next to Bob as he takes the loaded down truck out of Park and we are back on the road.
"King of the Road" was playing on the truck radio.

Trailers for sale or rent
Rooms to let...fifty cents.
No phone, no pool, no pets
I ain't got no cigarettes
Ah, but..two hours of pushin' broom
Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room
I'm a man of means by no means
King of the road.

I loved looking out the window and seeing the new sights, lights and even the passing cars had a fascination for me. 
Everyone going somewhere. Everyone with lives. Doing things. Going places.
The sights hypnotize me and I fall asleep with my head pressed against the glass of the passenger window.

I awake with a start. Bob has his hand on my leg. I felt his fingers digging into the flesh of my upper thigh. Rough and searching.
His glasses reflecting the lights of oncoming traffic. I slink as far against the door as I can go. I wanted to melt into the glass of the window and disappear. 
Alone with Bob...

"I understand you're a woman now. You started your period, " He says. 
His voice sounding so unctuous.
I sense real fear here alone with this man.
His thick fingers are trying to massage my leg as he keeps glancing at me.  One hand on the steering wheel, the other trying to grope higher up my leg.
He has been getting bolder in his moves as the days have passed. My stomach lurches at his touch.
I open my mouth to protest, to scream but instead vomit gushes all over the inside of the truck cab.
Big chunks of bread and cheese that I had eaten just  hours before in the safety of the back of the camper come spewing out of my mouth.  Vile and smelling rotten. 
Just like this monster's touch.
Puke and soured milk smells invade the cab but I don't care. Splatters of vomit dripping off the dash of the cab and pool onto the floor.

His hand is no longer on me. I want to open the truck door and escape.
Bob punches me in side of my head as he slows the truck down and pulls to the side of the interstate.
"Clean this mess up and get the hell out of here, you piece of shit! God, you make me sick."
I scamper as fast as I can and climb into the back of the truck camper panting and desperate. I curl myself up in a fetal position and just want to disappear forever.


The rest of the trip, anytime I would have to come within close proximity to Bob, I would clutch at my stomach and pretend to be close to hurling. I would roll my eyes and act like a crazed and injured animal.  
It worked for a while. He looked at me with sheer disgust. My troubles ahead of me were not going to be beatings. I had something far more dangerous to avoid...

It took us a week but we arrived.

We had moved to Florida!

If you or someone you know or suspect is being abused call:
You are not alone. There is always HELP.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chapter 15

All of the time I had lived with Bob and Barb, I had been told my father was Bob's mortal enemy... Marvin Dixon.
Marvin Dixon was an Army buddy of Bob's  when they were stationed in Panama.
They now despised each other.
I was told every time I was beaten.
"You're Marvin's daughter. He is scum. 
You are  scum. I hate you.
I hate him. Now bend over and drop your pants because I'm going to beat you until you will wish you had never born," He would say it again and again and as he would unbuckle his belt his rage would build. 

My new way of getting beatings from Bob was to fight it like an animal. His dentures would be across the room, his glasses broken.
He would be exhausted by the end of it and I would be bloody but triumphant.  Being small and underweight was to my advantage.
I could writhe and wiggle and move and squirm. I could escape any hold this giant of a man had me in just a few deft moves.
I was small but quick. He was big but slow.
His blows would miss the mark more now that I fight back. When they did hit their mark, they were bloody and brutal but I felt I was doing SOMETHING. 
My fight was in me. 
My sister would beg me not to fight him because the blows landed on my face and chest and back of my legs but fighting kept me from crumbling inside.  He was beating my body but not my mind. 
There was a part inside me that I vowed he would never touch.
I fought.  I would not go easy.

One particular day I will never as long as I live forget, Barbara brought me some really cute clothes. She had them laid out on my bed.
A pale blue and cream plaid wool skirt, a white crisp blouse and a  soft baby blue fuzzy cardigan sweater. 
A nice pair of black and white oxford shoes and ruffled white socks.
I was told to scrub my face and put the clothes on and wait in my room upstairs.
I was so excited about the clothes. I loved the softness of the fabrics and the smell of new clothes to this day makes me happy.
I put the clothes on and felt like a Princess. This was how my friends at school dressed everyday!
I felt so mod and even though there was no mirror in the upstairs room, I knew these clothes were perfect!
I sat on my cot and waited.
I didn't mind. I loved feeling so dressed up and pretty.
Barbara comes upstairs and jerks me off the bed by my arm.
"You had better be on your best behavior tonight, do you hear me? Now get your ass downstairs and remember, I am watching you."

She reaches out to pinch my underarm as I pass to go downstairs but I quickly dodge her and move away to scurry down the stairs.  I feel her right behind me. 
I can hear her breathing hard as she tries to keep up and follow me down the steps. It is out of excitement for what's coming next or because she's angry she couldn't inflict her pain?

What is this about?

I go into the living room and there is a man there sitting on the couch across the room from Bob.
Barbara pushes me  forward so I am standing right in front of this stranger.
The man rises as I come closer.

"This is Lana."

He reaches out and takes my hand. I feel a sense of dread at his touch and pull away. 
He scares me. 
He motions me to sit next to him. I sit on the very edge, so careful not to wrinkle my new clothes and my gut telling me something is not right here.
Who is he?
What does he want?
This man gives me the creeps. 
When he looks at me, talks to me, touches me, I cringe inside.

Barbara comes back into the room and announces to the room that it's time to eat.
I am told to sit by this man who I finally figure out is Marvin Dixon!
I don't feel anything. This man is my father?

Barbara puts the food on the table and has fixed my plate already. 
It smells so good. Steak and potatoes!
When she sets the plate in front of me I see that it is a plate of fat and gristle. A pool of grease.

Dinner is over and the adults all go into the living room while I clean up the table, do the dishes. I had just popped a stolen piece of food into my mouth as Barbara sees me.

I hear Bob and the man talking in the next room with raised voices but I don't know what they are saying.
The man leaves. This man.... My father?
The word seems foreign to me. 
I am still confused by this visit and it will all come clear later but for now I am clueless what just happened. What did this mean?
Was that man really my father? I hope not! He had slimy sneaky black eyes and made me very uncomfortable. 

Of course, I was beaten for taking the bite of food. Do I care anymore? No.
I have a beautiful outfit to wear to school tomorrow.  The beatings are the norm. 
New clothes are not.

Barbara comes upstairs and takes my new treasured skirt, sweater, blouse and shoes away. As she gets to the door to go downstairs, she turns and with an evil grin tells me, 
"These are going to the trash to be burned. You are a failure.  You don't deserve them. I'm going to burn them so you will never get to them or wear them. Besides, you don't need a reminder of your precious dad, now do you?" 
She cackles as she locks the door and leaves. I can hear her still laughing as she goes down the staircase.....

Did I really just meet my father?
Why did I not feel happy about it?
Somehow I had imagined the mysterious Marvin Dixon as a hero. A tall man that would rush in and rescue me and take my sister too because his heart was so good and so kind. Marvin Dixon would be so gentle and caring and tell Barbara and Bob how angry he was that they treated my sister and I so poorly.  
Marvin Dixon...
If Marvin Dixon was truly my father, I didn't see it or feel it. Instead, Marvin Dixon made me feel very uncomfortable and sick to my stomach.
If Marvin Dixon was my father, I didn't like him. My gut told me not liking him was probably a good thing.....

Friday, February 3, 2012

Chapter 14

As I write this, I'm so sleepy/tired. 
Tired because as writing this story of Barbara and Bob and their less than human behavior, I don't sleep like I always have. I am one that has never had trouble sleeping as an adult. I can and do sleep like a rock. 
When I was a kid and living there, I had night terrors and would sleep walk and talk.  Interrupted by fear sleep every night.
Wake up screaming.

Night terrors are so debilitating.  For one, the terror stays with you the entire next day, and two, while they are happening, it feels as if you are on the brink of hell and about to die or go completely insane!

These last few weeks, I have been waking up in terror, crying and thinking I need to find something. What?
My husband so gently tries to ask me in my sleep-terror shell of sleep. 
I sit on the edge of the bed and mutter "I can't find it. I have to find it. Where is it?"

"What is it honey? What's wrong? 
What it is that you are seeking? "

I haven't got a clue.  But desperate to find it.
Perhaps my childhood? Love? Freedom?
Once fully awake, I dread going back to the brink of that fear so I sit quiet in the darkness.
Heart pounding. Worried. Tense.

Today, I went with 4 of my nearest and dearest friends on the 45 minute drive from the safety of my loving home to the 
"Old House" of Barbara and Bob.

We laughed and talked and had such fun on the drive there but I swear I was afraid the sun would go behind the clouds and the Earth open up as we pulled into the horseshoe drive- way. 

We all got out of the car. Girl-like giggling gave way to hushed silence as we stare at the worn out looking property.
 Such a pretty sunny day. I am thankful for that.
 Five grown women afraid of ghosts of the past? We form a human chain all holding hands and gaze at the house.

It seemed so small now where as a kid it seemed so large and looming.
It seemed so unthreatening with the kids' toys and tree swing in the yard. Late model cars parked in the driveway.

My friend Gretchen wanted to knock on the door and see the inside rooms. I was willing but no one else would allow it saying we would all probably end up chopped to pieces in a deep-freeze.  Never to be found.
Too many scary movies?

My friends saw the broke-down look of the place. 
I saw the front  yard where Bob swung the oar and caused my sister her hearing.
I saw the roof I used to hang my butt off of to relieve myself.
I saw the haunting window of my old room/prison.
I saw the barren corn fields I tried to make my escape in. My stupidity at stepping out to the road so fresh in my mind. 
One last glimpse of the roof I had jumped off of to escape.  
It doesn't seem so high to me now. I feel I could sail off that roof and fly away today....
We got back in the car and the drive home was so serene and quiet.

Life is like that. You go thru your troubles and it seems like it will consume you. Time goes by and you find you survive it. 
You have a choice.
Let the past and all it's horrors eat you alive or buck up and learn from it. 

People often ask me "How do you stay so positive after all of the horrors of Barbara and Bob?"
I would let them WIN if I allowed them one more second of my life!
Hell no!
They robbed my brother sister and I of far too much to give them one fraction of one thing more.
All of my adult life, I use them.

I use them as a guide.
What would Barb and Bob do?
Then I do the polar opposite.
They have no power anymore. They don't exist on this Earth anymore. They have no space in my heart anymore.
They took my innocence and my childhood but they will never take the joys of life from me.
I love the smell of flowers and the sweet laughter of a child. I love the sunrise and the delicious smells of a chef in the kitchen. I love each day of my life and appreciate those that love ME.
You see, I AM not a whore or a slut or a pig.
I am worth something! 

I like who I am.

The next few chapters will assuredly cause more sleepless nights but then...
Then, I find my way. Find my voice. 
Find Joy. Find Determination!
 Find Love.
                  Find Peace.