Friday, September 14, 2007

My Family, By Request

I got a comment the other day on a blog I wrote way back in January asking me to delve more into my family dysfunction. Well, I don;t know if I can do that, precisely, but here's a brief picture:

My father was a minister (he's been gone now for some years). My mother was an English teacher (Middle school) She's stilll with us and probably will be for a good many years to come. They grew up during the GReat Depression and I think that shaped a lot of their lives. Also, they lived quite some time in the 1950s, that time of Leave it to Beaver families and not being talked about and specifically not mentioning BAD THINGS that might be going on.

They had five children, four girls and one boy. I'm convinced they meant to stop after my brother was born because there are nearly eight years between him and me. I told my mom once that I thought I was a mistake. Her reply was, "You may have been unexpected but that doesn;t mean we love you any less." Hmmm.

My dad was ten years older than my mom. They met during WWII. her father never approved and never let my dad forget it, from what I can gather. Being married just after the war meant that they brought up most of their children during the '50s. Then the 1960s hit and nothing was ever the same again. I think this is onhe of the defining moments of my parents' lives. They just weren't able to make the adjustment from the repression of the '50s to the freedom of the '60s and when their older girls started marching to a different drummer, well...I hope you get the idea because being about 1 at the time I don;t really have many memories of this.

In 1961 of thereabouts, my eldest sister got pregnant. Of course, my parents wanted to hush it up. They made arrangements for her to go away to a home for unwed mothers. My sister, understandably, wanted noting to do with this. She eloped with her boyfriend and because she was underage, got his mother to stand up before the city clerk and say she was my mother so the marriage could come off (My parents had it annulled later). But the worst thing was the pregnancy out of wedlock, as far as my parents were concerned. This was the defining tragedy of my mother's life, and maybe my father's too. It didn't make matters any better when my next eldest sister became a heroin junkie and ran off to california where she had two children out of wedlock to different fathers (I think; they don;t resemble one another in the least).

Now you;d think, by today's standards of understanding, that someone would have got a clue from this that all was not right in the Lampe household. But all my parents could tink was that the girls were intrinsically bad. Which always puzzled me, as the grandchildren from these alliances were always treated quite a bit better than I was. When I had problems, it was seen as another sign of that intrinsic badness. I don't know how many times I was told, "You;re going to grow up to be just like your two older sisters." It didn;t matter what I did. The thing I remember was wanting to perm my hair. This seems innocent enough to me, but somehow to my mother it was a sign that I was going to get pregnant and run away, I guess, because she just threw a fit at me. I permed my hair anyway, and I never DID get pregnant or even have a boyfriend until much, much later.

I always felt shut out of my family. They don't talk. At least, they don;t talk to me. Between my elder siblings there's a bond--they grew up together. But by the time I was old enough to talk to or even have any idea what was going on, they were all gone. And they continue to shut me out to this day. I've tried communicating with them but the best I get is a card on my birthday, if they remember. My two older sisters don;t send me cards at all. It's like I don't exist on some level. I've never understood why this is. To me, it seems to reinforce the idea that I'm somehow the black sheep of the family and that all the troubles are my fault.

A couple of years ago I had a series of miscarriages. I really wanted my family to be there for me at the time and I went out of my way to write to my next oldest sister (the good one). I was really open and told her all my fears and what it had been like growing up. Her response was, "How could you say Daddy didn't love you? He always loved little children." I remember his holding his grandchildren and even me when I was very small. But my main memories of are him telling me how bad I was and how much trouble I was and that I treated my mother like mud all the time. How can you think someone loves you when this is all you hear?

No one was there for me growing up. In juvenile novels there's slways someone: an aunt, a teacher, a librarian who encourages the protagonist to blossom and grow. But there was no one like that in my life. Just me and my thoughts. Is it any wonder I felt I didn't deserve to live?

Of course I know now that there's a real scientific basis for my continuing depression and flights of mania. But at the time it was just, "Stop being bad. Stop being upsetting." My mother accused me once when I was in tears of "Being a good actress." My therapist asked me just the other day why on earth anyone would act like they were in pain like that. But I get so confused sometimes, I don;t know what I'm really feeling or whether I'm just making it up. I don;t know what's real.

I don;t know if this is what that person wanted me to write but that's what has come to me right now and I don;t think I can go on anymore. Not with this, I mean. My life is still in the balance but I thik I'm coming out okay. THis time.

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