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Step Nine, Making Amends

"Family drama of disrespect and lies that leads to homelessness"

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Step Nine, Making Amends

When I was young, I did realize what was going on with my "Mother". Now I know she never really loved my brother and me.

First of all, I confess that I was a difficult child. But my brother was perfect. No, that's not just everybody else's opinion of him, it's mine too. I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), only recently diagnosed, and he doesn't. He was calm and listens to instruction and I had my own opinions about anything and everything, and that would usually clash with almost everyone else. But I could see things that others would ignore, and be able to put them together to figure things out. I have, in the past, had to tell my brother what he missed in movies and TV shows that, to me, stood out like a neon sign. Subtle phrases and innuendos meant to mean something else entirely. So he may disagree with me about my opinion of our mother and step-father and what you will read in this article.

Please listen to my story and see if you do.

The first memory I have of my mother, my brother and I were sitting at the kitchen table of our small N. Ft. Lauderdale apartment, frozen in fear. Our mother was beating grandma. Grandma was at the foot of the refrigerator with her hand grasping the refrigerator handle to keep from collapsing completely to the floor and mom was beating her with a closed fist and screaming at her that she was drunk. Being less than 5, I don’t remember everything she screamed, but I do remember mom screaming about grandma being drunk. She kept hitting her with a closed fist. It is said a mother should be an example. Man I wish I could.

My mother would disappear and get so drunk she wouldn't even call her kids. It was so commonplace that once, she was gone for three days and we didn’t think anything was wrong. That's right. She packed a bag and left her 8 and 11 year old children and we weren’t scared that something might have happened to her. She didn't call her mother and say "I'll be gone for three days and the kids will be home alone. Could you check up on them?" She didn't call her brother and ask if he would call and see how the kids were doing and make sure they have something to eat. When she did return and we complained to her, she turned the complaint around, telling us she couldn’t believe we couldn’t take care of ourselves. Honestly, did she think two young kids would eat their vegetables if there isn’t someone there telling them to do so? No, we went to the convenience store and spent all our allowance on candy. Not once did we wonder if she was coming back. Not once did we think to call grandma or Uncle Gene, terrified that she might have been killed or would never be home again. Her being gone was just too common.

Looking back, when I did say something about it, I should have told a teacher about it and not just grandma. James, you may think grandma didn't care about you because she took me in and not you. She couldn't care for us both and taking me in was the only thing she could do for the both of us. She believed you could take care of yourself, even though you were just a kid, but you didn't need to be caring for me also.

Once, I was outside and two people in a station wagon came up to me and asked me for directions. I gave them directions and then they said they had toys in the back seat and would I like to get in and play. I came running into the house and told my mother that someone just tried to kidnap me. She told me to stop making things up. I told her I wasn’t making it up and begged her to call the police. She flatly refused.

Just because I didn’t go with them doesn’t mean these people gave up trying to grab a kid. Just who did these people kidnap? She always said I had a wild imagination. But a child having an imagination is no reason to ignore a serious situation.

Our mother loves to look at, and joke about, a photo of her at a party. She’s in a red sleeveless dress and she has a blank expression on her face and a drink in her hand. She thinks it’s funny. When I look at that photo, I see an emotionless statue, too drunk to even smile for the camera. (The photographer must have also been drunk. The photo is at an angle and part of her head is cut off. That must have been one wild party.)

She would drag me to parties too. (When I was old enough mind you. Like 16.) I’d find a chair somewhere and park myself in it, bored half out of my mind. I didn’t know anyone there. “My Mother” confessed to me, when I was 30 or so, that she didn’t know anyone either. Yeah, that’s right, party girl. That’s all she was. Or maybe I should say party favor. It seems that all anyone throwing a party needed to do is make sure they had plenty of alcohol and invite her. That would almost guaranty one of their friends would get laid. I guess she needed me to drive the car home.

She loved to joke about driving drunk too. Saying that her car’s tires would hop up on the median or the sidewalk and she would drive along with the car at an angle. Then, when she went through an intersection, they would plop back down to the road, and hop up again when it got to the other side. She would joke, about being that drunk. Like it was a badge of honor. I would wonder if she hit and killed anyone, or anything.

She even jokes about getting a cop, who had pulled her over, to drive her home late one night. Grandma answered the door and the cop says to to grandma that her daughter is going through some rough times and needs some help to get through it. Seems “mom” had lied to the cop. She fake cried and told the cop she had just broken up with her boyfriend. Her sob story went on and on. Grandma, although confused, just said ok and closed the door. She asked my mother about it, “my mother” told her to forget about it. Yeah, she has a great sense of humor.

One night, when my brother and I were still young, our mother woke us up, and said we were going for a ride. We all got in the car and started driving around. She just kept driving and driving all over town. I truly thought we were having a good time. We were going down Federal Highway at a high rate of speed. (Speed limit was 40 and I think we were going closer to or over 70.) I was in the back seat leaning over the front seats to look out the windshield, just laughing and laughing. Then I turned to my brother. He was stark white with terror.

I stopped laughing.

How the hell did we survive that night? As I look back on it, I think she was trying to kill herself with her kids in the car. Who does that to their kids? If you want to kill yourself, don’t take your kids with you.

My brother and I put up with it all for years and years. We did whatever we could to help her. I thought it was just the alcohol that made her act like an a** and not respect anyone.

Maybe the only way to get respect from someone like her is to be like the only people she ever did respect. Her friends. They, like her, were always drunk. One of her friends was so drunk that one night she fell off a bar stool. (Yeah, that’s a funny story too. It has something to do with hairspray.)

Then one morning when I was visiting her, on the other side of the state, her boss called. He said she was sick and needed someone to drive her home. She had gone to work that morning drunk.

She entered Alcoholic Anonymous. I was so happy. I thought, finally, she would start acting like a human being. In Alcoholics Anonymous, you are supposed to take a good long look at your life and admit to yourself your faults. You’re also supposed to make amends with your friends and family, I emphasize, “your friends and your family”, for all you did to hurt them.

You see, when you were drunk, you don’t remember what you did or said. Or you think everyone was having as much fun as you were. You don’t realize; people around you aren’t laughing with you. They're laughing at you.

So you go through a twelve steps program to regain yourself. I was waiting for step number nine. Making amends. The apology. It never came.

My opinion, she only entered AA to save her job. There must be a new program out there. One made just so people can keep their jobs. One that doesn’t require anyone to apologize to their “family” for the hurt they caused or the lies they told, just their friends and co-workers. Maybe it’s because an alcoholic doesn’t need their family’s help to keep their job.

Even now, after going through Alcoholics Anonymous, she still shows no love for us, remorse for how she treated us or simple respect.

Or, maybe it’s because my brother and I weren’t, and have never been, family to her. She didn’t want us, she neglected us and d*** near killed us. Why should she respect us?

And I can truly say that my step-father isn’t any better in the showing just a little respect department.

Just a few years ago, his mother, Katherine, passed away. He obtained several items from her estate that he considers precious. Little figurines, pictures, wall plaques and furniture. Items that elicited memories, but have little real value if sold.

I know what it feels like to have these little mementos. 20+ years ago, my grandmother and my uncle both passed away within the same year. I inherited very little, since they didn’t have much, but everything I did get meant the world to me.

My uncle was a designer with a Christmas decoration company here in town. He always had the most beautiful Christmas tree and decorations in his home. The ornaments and lights were to die for. There were these bulb covers made of glass. Some were frosted but most were clear. Unlike the bulb covers you find today, these were large and looked like ornaments themselves. They don’t make them anymore. At least, I haven’t found any. I even went to the store my uncle had worked for. I marveled at the simple elegance of his designs. I loved sitting in his living room and staring at the tree for hours.

His home had some value less, but simply stunning, items. Like his music box. It was small, just a couple is inches tall and maybe 4 inches from end to end in an oval. Black and gold tone, and heavy for its size. That’s because of the music works. It had red velvet liner and just enough room to hold a couple of rings, but for its size, the song it played was a full 20 second form start to finish. I remember playing hooky with my grandmother, going over to Uncle Gene’s house and spending hours winding and listening to the delicate tune.

Uncle Gene had a lovely black vase. My memories of it are both happy and terrifying. Happy because of the arraignment he displayed in it. Terrified because one of those arraignment was of dried Maiden Grass Flowers. Don’t get me wrong, it was an absolutely stunning arraignment, but when I was 4, I was playing by myself in the front room of his apartment, with a lighter.

The Maiden Grass Flowers caught on fire. I tried to wake my sleeping grandmother, but it was no use. I called for Uncle Gene and by the time he finally woke, the drapes and part of the couch was on fire. He was able to put out the flames out without calling the fire department. He had painted his walls an olive green color to cover up what happened. I doubt he got his security deposit back.

My grandmother, like me, had several mementos. Only little things that her children had given her. Several little display plates, solid plastic items my mother had brought back with her from her trip to Washington DC and New York City. She had gone on the trip with the bachelor she won in an auction. Some local TV news anchor. These “Things” were special to me because they were special to my grandmother.

And then there is the set of china grandma and I picked out together. We had heard that a hotel was going out of business and went to see if there was anything we could buy at a great price. Of everything there, we just fell in love with this pattern. And on $16.00, it was a steal.

I keep these items for several years in the house I lived in in Plantation, Florida. (Granted, the deed was in my mother’s name and only her name. Technically she owned it. But she hadn’t lived there in more than 10 years.) Until my mother and stepfather decided they need money. I was kicked out of my home and shoved into an apartment building they owned as there building manager. All the time they promised that I would never have to pay rent and I would have my home back soon. As long as they provided me with a safe and healthy place to live, that’s all they were required to do. I had agreed to that. No rent and I get my house back soon.

They were getting plenty from my house every month. Mother said she considered the money they were getting from the house in Plantation was mine. All $975.00 a month. For 15 years. And then my step-father asked me to pay rent too.

They sold the house for $78,000.00 just a few years ago. In an area getting $120,000.00 for the same 2 bedroom 1 bath and acre of land. Less than 2 blocks form a large park. Walking distance from a drug store, strip malls, convenience stores and restaurants and close to a major highway.

But I had to keep my mouth shut. I couldn’t complain. I had a strong feeling that any complaint and they would renege on they promise to buy me a house to replace the one they sold. All the while, they were to provide me with a safe and healthy place to stay.

My step-father had put some of my mementos in storage and some in the apartment buildings’ attic and workshop/maintenance/store room. All this time they would buy their house in North Fort Myers, one in Tennessee, an RV and two boats. Went on vacation every year to places like Las Vegas and Dollywood. All with to money they got from my house.

Then, my step-father moved some of my possessions into a storage place. When he could not pay the storage fees, he said to me “There just things, junk really. There not worth anything. It should be thrown out.”

My uncles Christmas ornaments and decorations. “Junk. It should be thrown out.”

My uncles black vase. “Junk. It should be thrown out.”

The music box. “Junk. It should be thrown out.”

My grandmothers’ items. “Junk. It should be thrown out.”

My set of china. “Junk. It should be thrown out.”

His mothers’ items and mementos were precious and need to be protected. Anything belonging to anyone else in the world, JUNK.

But I can’t complain. No. Any complaint, and they would renege. So I bit my tongue. And waited.

Now they were telling me as soon as the apartment building sells, they would buy me a house. Then they started telling me they wanted to buy me a duplex. I didn’t want a duplex. But I can’t complain. I could almost feel they tension. They were waiting, no wanting me to complain.

Years went by and they finally sold the building. No house, no duplex, just the explanation that they would be able to buy me the duplex in three years and I would move in with them until then. Over 150 miles away.

The second day after I moved into their home, a friend of theirs called. He was coming over for some reason. My mother and step-father told me to go into my room and shut the door. I was not to make any sound. I was getting the feeling they really didn’t want me there. I keep putting my clothes away as quietly as possible. At one point I sat down on my bed looking into the dresser mirror. A little voice in my head was telling me “soon they’re going to put a pad lock on your door. ‘Not allowed out unless invited.’”

And the house was truly unhealthy. I have to explain something. I have asthma. Every time I have an attack, I loss lung function, that does not grow back. My lungs are just going to get worse. Shortly after I moved in, I started having trouble breathing. My mother smokes in the house. She even complained one day about my wheezing. My chest was getting tighter and tighter day by day.

Finally, after living there for three weeks, and having 2 asthma attacks, I politely asked her to please smoke on the patio. She said “if I had a problem with me smoking, you could go outside while I smoke.” I told her that would not get rid of the smoke in the house and would not stop me from having asthma attacks. But it was no use. Essentially, I was not permitted to breathe.

I still had some of my possessions in the apartment building. That weekend we were going over to get them. I went on the bus on Thursday to continue packing. They knew that I was returning to the apartment building to continue packing. They were to pick me, and the rest of my possessions, up and bring me back. I waited all weekend. They never showed. When I went back to their house, they had changed the locks. When I did get to speak with them, I told my step-father5 that they still owed me a house. He asked me to show him where I had that in writing. F***ing liars.

One complaint. Just one in 15 years. I wanted to breathe. That was the great sin. The get out of their promise free card. They did not give me my house, even though that’s what they live in, and kicked me out of, was one. One they could have given to me. Bought with the money they got from my house.

I tried to talk with them. I invited them to dinner. They refused. Nowhere to live. No job. No money to sue them with. No money to pay any rent or medical bills. All because I wanted to breathe clean air. Was that so wrong?

The worst part of all this, they think I owe them an apology.

Please tell me your opinion of this entire situation. I want to know.

Written by cpr4jr
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