During the holidays, a few people asked me about my family. They say I rarely talk about them and wondered how many siblings I actually have. Where do they live? When was the last time we spoke? Well, if you are looking for a heart warming tale of a family who are so close they can finish each other’s thoughts, stop reading now. If you choose to continue to read, let’s just say, I warned you.
I am the last of 5 children. I was born in 1964. I have two older brothers and two older sisters. They were born in 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955. All within 42 months. All a year apart in school. Fast forward to September 1964 when I was born. Not planned, I was a surprise and according to my parents, a product of a rather raucous New Year’s Eve party. Needless to say, my entry into the world was not particularly a welcome one. I have few memories of my siblings from my childhood. Obviously they were 9, 10, 11 and 12 when I was born. So by the time I began grade school, they, one-by-one, began to enter college. And by the time I was 9, I was an only child. My parents were exhausted and had already raised 4 children. My siblings proximity in age kept my parents busy and burdened financially. And once they were all in college, my parents seemed to run out of steam. They had nothing left for me. So as I watched all my friends and their families behave as, well as families do, I longed for anything that might possibly resemble that for myself.
While not completely out of view just yet, my hope for a “normal” family life disappeared when I realized that my mother, a removed and cold woman, was an alcoholic. I knew my mom was different from other moms, but I never could quite figure out why she was always out late, couldn’t drive me and my friends to activities, why she would make arrangements for me to stay over at a friends house on the weekends or why she would drop me off at various fast food restaurants with enough money for dinner, and leave me there for hours (she was drinking at a bar nearby). As I grew older began to realize what was happening. Although I knew little of alcoholism, I knew that the 7-Up bottle was filled with Vodka, that she hid bottles all over the house, I knew who her drinking friends were and I knew when I saw her car parked at her favorite tavern that it was best to avoid any sort of confrontation with her that night.
This is also when I realized that my father had thrown in the towel when it came to helping my mother. While they stayed married until shortly before her death in 1991, their marriage was over and I lived with two strangers who could barely stand the sight of one another. And there I was. Growing up alone. My brothers and sisters had the good fortune of being born first and they were off living their lives. They were getting married and having children. Buying homes and starting careers. They were moving to various parts of the United States and rarely coming home anymore.
My sad little life continued like this until one day when I was 16. I don’t recall the circumstances surrounding this particular day. I don’t recall what it was that made me decide I was going to stand up to my mother. I have no idea where the courage came from. But sitting at the breakfast table, in what used to be my oldest brother’s chair, I told her everything. I told her how much I loved her, how much I needed her, how much her drinking hurt me, how much I wanted to be a family and how much I hoped she felt the same way too. There. I had said it. My words hung in the air like balloons while I waited for her to throw her arms around me and tell me that she felt the same. That she loved me. And while my existence was not a planned one, it was a happy one. So I waited. A deep breath filled her and then she spoke. But her words were nothing like I imagined. There were no smiles, no hugs, no tears of joy. What she was saying was a blur. Drinking was her only happiness. She was tired. She was unhappy. And then those words…”I wish you had never been born.”
No one should have to endure the gut wrenching pain of a parent saying those words to them. And until recently, I did not know how deeply those words impacted me. And if it weren’t enough that she said those words that day, she continued to say them many times over in the coming years. It seemed to become therapeutic for her. I believe she somehow felt better when she said those words to me. It validated her need to drink and the unhappiness that filled her life. She finally had someone to blame for everything that had gone wrong in her life and marriage.
I spent 30 years with those words resonating through my mind. It penetrated my every thought. I ruined relationships, friendships and family ties because of those seven words. No one was ever able to get close to me. I constantly changed myself for my friends, my boyfriends, my spouses. I was always who they needed me to be. I loved everything they loved. Their music, movies, clothing, values, religion. All because of those seven words. I could never muster the courage to be myself. The authentic me. All because I believed if my mother never loved or wanted me, then no one else could.
The depression that those seven words created was and still is, at times, crippling. It left me weak and tired. But today I am better. I am a little stronger. There are a throng of people that make me strong. Though they may not understand what it is that I feel, they have held me up and carried me when I could not carry myself. They breathe life into me when I can not breathe for myself. And they remind me every day that they love ME.
I am a person worthy of love. Those are my new Seven Words.