I am an unbeliever in gods. This has been the case since they gave me lithium in the early 1990s for bipolar disorder. And yet . . there are things
I am an unbeliever in gods. This has been the case since they gave me lithium in the early 1990s for bipolar disorder. And yet . . there are things that have happened that I simply cannot explain.
One was my notebook. From an early age I kept a notebook. It had drawings and cartoons and scripts and stage management comments for plays. There was also a journal. And all the poetry I had written. This was my life. I kept it with me all the time. I wrote in it all the time.
In the early 1970s we went down to a friend’s new home down south of Canton. We spent a few days there. It was lovely. I liked the family. We had a lovely time.
As we were driving home, I realized I had forgotten my notebook on top of the tv. I told mom and she pulled into a gas station to call them and tell them to put it aside. The woman answered in hysterics. She said the house was on fire and she had to leave she would call back later.
I was very upset. They had a lovely home and I hated the thought it would burn down and all their stuff with it. So I prayed. I told God if he would just take my notebook and leave their house I would be very happy. I prayed most of the way home. I cried almost the whole way home, so worried about them.
When we got home, the woman called. The firemen had just left. The only thing that burned was the television and some sort of book they didn’t recognize that was on top of it. My notebook. My life. All my poetry and cartoons and everything up to age 14. All gone. But their house suffered minor smoke damage. My mom didn’t even mention that the book was probably mine. And I was fine with that.
Was it an answer to my prayer? At the time I believed it was. In all likelihood it was just a coincidence. I’ve told myself that for years. But some part of me believes that something . . . magical . . happened. I don’t know what. Any suggestions?
Sorry I haven’t posted much. Training for the new job keeps me pretty busy. But today I want to talk about my grandfather. John Dormish, born 1906 in Barberton, OH. His parents were Slovene immigrants who had gotten here not much before that. Of the real history of his life I know nothing. My mother spun this tale of him being left in charge of his sibs at 12 when his father committed suicide and I believed that . . until I saw a picture of John Sr with grandpa and Aunt Mamie and Mamie is at least 11 so great grandpa lived longer than grandpa being 12.
As I have been doing work for my new job, I have found out that my great grandmother was the first Slovene property owner in Barberton, OH. And a woman! So I can’t imagine they would just leave the children to fend for themselves when great grandpa committed suicide, because that is a fact. They suspected it was because he had cancer. Great grandma had run away from him . . she told my mother who told me that he was abusive and stuck her with pins to make her move when they had sex. (I was about 8 when Mom told me that . . as I said, she was psycho) But she and great grandfather had three kids. Of them I only knew my grandfather and Aunt Mamie.
I have often credited him with my being anything approaching sane. My mother, as you learn as you get to know me, was a psycho. But we can talk about that later. My grandfather, on the other hand, was a very calm, centered person . . . admired and respected by not only his church, where he has a memorial plate for all his contributions, but by the Slovene community as well. I, of course, mostly only knew him as the very nice old man who taught me to garden.
There’s this very very old memory of him . . I’m hiding in the forsythia bush. And he is walking around the yard, calling me. “Gwenny,” he says, “where is my Gwenny?” He is looking up at the sky and I am giggling furiously. I could not have been more than 3 or 4. This went of FOREVER . . or probably actually five minutes. Finally he found me. I was deliriously happy.
Conversely, one of my saddest memories of him is after I had hit my stepfather. He had come into the dining room where I was doing homework. He told me to come with him, he was running to the store. Which meant he was going to take me someplace and rape me again. I knew that mom had filed for divorce. I did not want him to ever touch me again. So I said I was busy. He grabbed me to slap me. I punched him in the stomach, he had a bad ulcer and I knew it, and shouted that he was a bastard and he was never to fucking touch me again. And I ran. To the only place I knew was safe, my grandfather. I didn’t tell him what happened but mom called and told him.
My memory of sitting there in the kitchen, my back to the windows, picking at the soup Grandpa had made is one of my strongest memories. He is talking . . about how I’m always such a good girl, how could I have said those things. Won’t I tell him what is the matter. And I’m trying to . . .trying to push past the shame. And I know if I tell him, he might go over and kill the man. And I don’t want that. So I sit, playing with my soup and sobbing quietly.
He taught me so much about gardening. He had a pretty big garden from which came green beans and tomatoes and lettuce. There was a whole fence row of blackberries. An apple tree. And he had the most wonderful roses.
He died when I was 16. Cancer. Like my mom. I sometimes wonder if I will ever get it, but I sort of doubt it. At least one sibling has already had it and they are all younger than me. Mom had it several times . . but she was a smoker most of her life so I guess that contributed. So it’s kind of unlikely that this late it will manifest. I’ve always been kind of weird and avoided as many chemicals as I can and not eaten a lot of the really poisonous stuff they call food these days. So . . we’ll see.
In the days before he died, they fixed up the enclosed back porch on his house so he wouldn’t have to go upstairs to bed. I think I only got to see him once. There’s still this numbness, even 40 years later. I couldn’t believe he was gone. I remember being in the funeral car . . my sisters are laughing and playing and my aunt is staring at them unapproving and I can’t even cry. The only solid, safe thing in my Universe is gone.
I am sitting here crying. How can I miss him this much after so long? He was my everything. I mean, after my second child was stillborn, I was watching an episode of M*A*S*H where the main character is dead and doesn’t know it. He keeps trying to talk to everyone and no one replies. Finally, I think it was Klinger, is delirious and sees him and somehow explains that he is dead. He goes to the edge of camp and there’s a whole trail of dead spirits . . going somewhere. He joins it. And I started to sob. Who would help my baby? Who would make sure she got to heaven? And I had a . . vision I guess . .my grandfather stood there before me and reached out and took the baby from me. And turned and walked away. And I felt at peace for the first time since Jessie had died.
Many years ago I wrote a poem for him. It is the only one. Which is weird as I wrote so many for other folks. It was actually published!
To A Gardener
red and yellow,
that funny color
you always said was
tea roses, climbing roses,
and me . . .
we grew in your garden.
As you fed them,
a little lime,
a little compost,
You fed me,
a little love,
a little wisdom.
Have I grown,
to be as beautiful
as your roses?
Okay, that’s it for today. I need to go have a good cry. I love you, Grandpa. I always will.
I recently got a job! YAY Well, sort of . . .it is work from home tech support and I will be paid $9/hour for part time. Since about June of last year I have been getting Unemployment Insurance from the State of California, which has been it’s own nightmare. It was only about six weeks ago that I was finally able to get online with them instead of waiting for snail mail forms that always got here after the return date on them. YAY
So last year, when it looked like I would never even get that, I applied for food stamps. And it has been it’s own nightmare. Lost forms and other crap all the time. I just never get their forms. I call in and it takes forever to get through. Been on hold for about half an hour this time. And it is the first of the month, so a lot of folks are calling. But I would be happy to exchange email. I actually sent a message to an old email I had, but I am pretty sure the turnover is pretty high there and don’t hold much hope of it even being read.
They cut us back a lot a couple months ago. My daughter was unable to get to her meeting as my car had been totaled and I had not way to get her there. My son is local, sort of, but he has a family and a job and volunteers a lot. Jenni had done all her volunteer work and scanned it and sent it to her worker, who replied by email that it would be okay to mail it. But they sanctioned her. She attended the required classes and her worker claims to have put in the paperwork, but here we are two months later and the changes have been reflected in our benefits.
Now, it wouldn’t be a REAL issue if I were still going to receive UI. But I won’t be starting next week, when I start my new job. And that means I will likely not make enough to pay my bills and rent. Which is a bridge I guess I’ll cross when I get to it. The first month is only minimum wage but it’s 40 hours a week so it will be a bit extra. After that I got to 20ish hours at $9. /sigh My last job was $16/hr . . which didn’t put me much better off in California but my son, who had a similar paying job, helped. Here, my daughter has not been able to find a job and so it’s just me . . .
This is probably a bit incoherent. I have Food Stamps on my cellphone on speaker and the music is headache inducing. So it’s more difficult than usual to construct complete sentences. And OMG the person I emailed is no longer my worker but she asked for my case number and she will check on it. So, I guess enough ranting for the moment. I’ll just hang on hold and see what happens.
Which reminds me of a poem I wrote in the 1980s when I worked for a company that verified insurance coverage on leased cars. A lot of time to think when you are waiting for someone to pick up.
On hold I'm on hold again Somewhere a light flashes with remorseless regularity . . . strobing spiritual paralysis I wait hoping someone answers Answers? Are there answers to multitudinous questions clogging intellectual gears? I wait Should I hang up? Entropy increases till even reaching out requires impossible effort. On hold I wait
Today someone posted something on G+ that reminded me of something that used to happen to me, in my younger days. It started when I was in my middle teens. I would be distressed about something . . and I mean, distressed. Usually during a major depressive episode. I would be listening to something like John Denver or Peter Paul and Mary and suddenly . . .I would blank out. I have no idea how much time passed while this was happening . . it seemed like forever and no time at all. And when I came to myself, I would be very sure that it was okay. I would know that I was on track, no matter how bad things seemed. It would be like I had seen my life as a string of beads and I was just where I was supposed to be. And it would be all right. And I was very very sure that someone loved me a lot.
Now, this seldom solved whatever was bothering me. But one thing I have learned is that most everything is more about how you view than what is actually is. So I would feel better. If I had been contemplating another attempt at suicide, I would stop. If I was planning something extreme that would not have been a good idea, I stopped. And I would get on with my life. Eventually, this attitude migrated to my regular thought processes and I have learned to face an uncertain and often tragic life with a lot of equanimity. I don’t get upset or lose my temper or anything when bad stuff happens. Cuz bad stuff happens and it’s best just to ride it out and wait for the good stuff.
When this first started to happen, I thought maybe it was God. Now, God had a terrible track record for me. I was a horribly abused child and I prayed to him all the time to help me. I built a “church” for him in the corner of the yard, made from tree branches and bittersweet and I had an altar made of a big piece of concrete I had dragged back when they redid the sidewalk. I was Catholic, so I collected all the statues of Mary and Jesus I could find. I would sit in there and pray. And nothing got better. I was still beaten so badly that they kept me out of school sometimes. .even in the 1960s when a few bruises were okay. I was still raped regularly. My mother was still a psychotic woman who emotionally beat me up, leaving me feeling worthless and useless. I even tried going to church and praying every morning before school. It didn’t help.
I came to believe, as a child, that the nuns were right. That as an illegitimate child, I had no soul and God did not care. So when this started, I thought maybe somehow I had attained my goal of showing God I was good and needed his help. I would believe that until . . the end.
In the middle 1990s I was out for a drive with the husband of the time in Garden of the Gods. We had John Denver on the radio . . I love John Denver, one of my kids is named after a song he wrote. And suddenly I was . . . back in that state. I had not had an experience in the better part of a decade at that time. But this time, it was different. Instead of blanking out, I remembered. I saw my life as a string of beads behind me. And I knew I was the one who has been comforting myself. I felt myself touching the beads, telling them I loved them. Telling them they were okay, that it was okay, that everything would be okay. Comforting them . . .reassuring them . . .helping them.
And when I came “back to myself” I realized that it had been me all along. I had no idea how it worked. I don’t know if anyone else has ever experienced it. But it happened. I have never had an episode like that in the fifteen years or so since. I doubt I will ever understand it. But I know now that I helped myself through all those dark times. No god. Just me. Loving myself.
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