Falling From The Tree – Part 5

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

The dinner did not disappoint; it was amazing! The smells which filled the room prompted the hubs to say, “OMG, get the blue ribbon ready; she done won the prize!” We enjoyed not only the dinner but the company of each other as we usually would. After twenty-five years together, we had proven what we’d always wanted for one another – sanity, peace, and calm in an otherwise crazy life both of us had endured. Tonight was just once such an example of having achieved some homeostasis. Knowing that I’d fallen from my family tree years ago to find another life that filled me with joy was fantastic. What I had attained was something I thought was so out of my reach. It wasn’t, at least for the moment.

The phone rang as we were just about to sit down for dinner.

“Hello, Aunt Susi. I’m sorry to let you know that my mom has died,” my nephew said calmly. “Her cancer returned and took her from us today.”

I wanted to let the phone drop, but I knew I needed to acknowledge that I understood what he had just said. “I’m so sorry to hear about this. Are you guys okay?” He said yes. I asked if there was anything I could do. He said they’d taken care of all the arrangements and wanted to know if I would attend the funeral. 

“I honestly don’t know. Can I call you later?”

“Absolutely. Whatever you decide. I know you two haven’t spoken in a long time. We wouldn’t be upset if you decided not to attend.”

“Thank you. Again, I’m so sorry. And please let me know if I can help with anything.” We hung up at the same time. I was feeling a bit outside of myself.

I didn’t know that she had had a recurrence with her cancer. This bit of news pulled me into our family drama again. To have her die before I had a chance to make things right somehow screwed me up in more ways than one. Sadly, I wouldn’t ever have the opportunity to resolve our relationship now. JFC, life is always one shit show after another. That is literally all I could think. And it didn’t end there.

~~

Many years into the future…

Looking back, it seems that we always realize that when life changes on a dime, we must respond. Figuring out what mattered most was tantamount. Shortly after my sister’s death, I also found out my husband had cheated on me. This betrayal put us through many tumultuous years. It took me a long time to finally realize he wasn’t my happy ending. Since then, I’ve divorced and found a new life. 

This new chapter includes finding a wonderful friend who understands me and shows me what it means to live an honest, genuinely accepting life. I’ve never felt at ease as I do now. 

Currently, I wonder when the next shoe will drop. Unfortunately, life is predictable like that.

THE END

As promised, I will tell you this is NOT the actually ending to what started off as a true story. It was suggested that I write whatever was voted for as well as what actually happened. I decided to leave it at whatever the readers had rooted for, so game-changing is what I wrote. Eventually, what happens to me in actuality will make the press anyway, so you’ll just have to wait a bit. LOL

Thanks so much for voting! See you next month!

Falling From The Tree – Part 4

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

I inhaled deeply to smell the rich aroma of spices in the air. It made me smile and gave me something to look forward to this evening. It’d been a while since I’d made my favorite crockpot recipe, well, actually my husband’s. He adored anything pasta and mushrooms. Super easy to prepare and guaranteed not to have any leftovers. I could almost taste it already. Soon my husband would be home from work, and we would eat our supper with great enjoyment. Ahhhh.

While sipping my tea, my thoughts once again turned back to my past and the fallout of my upbringing. I wondered why I couldn’t redirect to something different. Maybe I should read a book and relax? So, I did but couldn’t concentrate on the pages. I gave in and resumed letting my mind take me wherever it needed to wander.

I pondered on the direction my life had taken once I’d left my house. It was exhilarating to be independent, but I was going from one dysfunctional situation to another with my first boyfriend. Talk about a co-dependent situation. He was an alcoholic, just like his father, and mine was. I was repeating history. Although the odds were against me to rise above the dysfunction, sanity did prevail. It took five years before I finally ended it to move out on my own. I made some better choices, all the while learning anew and relearning the old.

Shortly after that, I reconnected with my first love, the one who slept with my sister. We eventually married but then separated about a year and a half into the marriage. Getting hitched may not have been the best decision, but I did gain a wonderful son, for whom I will forever be grateful. He is a spot of sunshine for my heart and added so much to my well-being. Parenting is not an easy task or for the faint-hearted, but he helped me understand what it meant to be a loving parent, something my mother never gave me. Although I think I also made mistakes, they were never intentionally inflicted to harm my son.

I’m not ashamed to say moving on to better things involved counseling, quite a bit of it when necessary. I’ve never understood why some people wouldn’t reach out for help when it was required. There is certainly a stigma surrounding mental illness, but it is beyond time to let go of it. People enduring emotional situations or trauma needing healing should be supported, not denigrated. And actually, it should be applauded when people do reach out for help. They are choosing to feel better about themselves, making necessary decisions to move on. Those are worthy efforts, in my opinion.

Since life is always challenging us, even when the world is relatively normal, I’m very thankful to have benefitted from the perspective of someone who was emotionally distant from the situations I had dealt with in my youth. They were able to see things that I otherwise wouldn’t because I was too close to it, nor had I been provided the tools to resolve what I had been ‘gifted’ during childhood.

I could hear the door opening. Here comes some of that normalcy I attained. And I smile a little to myself. Here’s to getting stronger and, hopefully, saner.

TO BE CONTINUED ON FRIDAY…

Dear Readers, everything in this story up until this point has been based on my real history, and one of the ending choices is actually how it all turns out. But if you don’t pick it, it’ll have to be an ending from my imagination. 🙂 Here are your choices:

Game-changing
Happy
Sad

I look forward to writing how the story will end! Here’s hoping you enjoy it!
And yes, I will let you know if it’s the real ending or fiction.🙂

Falling From The Tree – Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

I continued the dinner preparation, letting my thoughts of the past go by the wayside until I’d put all the ingredients in the crockpot. Sitting down shortly after that, they resumed.

The tragedy of growing up in a dysfunctional household is that the vulnerable and innocent ones must eventually deal with their past and unburden themselves of learned behaviors. Usually, it takes years of trying and failing to overcome them, dealing with false starts, and making pitiful attempts at healthy relationships. It isn’t always pretty. This legacy has played out repeatedly not only in my personal life, but I’ve been a witness to it with those enduring a similar upbringing. So much hurt, so much pain to get past. One can consider themselves lucky to survive it and create a somewhat sane life after dealing with it. I was fortunate in that I had the strength to deal with issues head-on.

I always wondered how my life would have turned out had I been nurtured and cared for when I was a child. What would it have felt like feeling loved growing up? I would imagine I’d made much better choices in men and probably would have attracted less damaged people. Having mature, healthy relationships requires knowing how to behave in them. It seems to me, having had more stability and genuine care, those connections would be with people who weren’t dealing with emotional scarring or baggage. At the very least, not quite as much as coming from a dysfunctional household. They would have been safe havens, not the merry-go-round of perpetuating my past. So happy to be past most of that.

The death of my mom in 2012, and my dad’s death in 2014, really set me free to be fully in charge of my destiny. Of course, it always was, but the trials of life endured in the beginning put roadblocks up along the way for far too many years. I’d successfully untethered myself from my mom and our dysfunction, or so I thought, back in 2002, and my journey had become a bit easier from that point on. It still amazed me, though, how residual angst still cropped up occasionally. Life is nothing if not always needing to address problems, I guess.

When my dad died, my sister and I were at once free to be the top of the hierarchy and then immediately became estranged. I guess for her, it was time to be honest with herself – there was no love lost between us, nor did she ever really care. Maybe it was just too much effort now to continue to pretend we were family? She let me go, and honestly, I was okay with that. I deserved acceptance and respect, not just be at her beck and call when it was convenient to her and her needs. It was a one-sided relationship, and it was over for me as well. Blood or not, if you can’t thoroughly enjoy and love the people you are connected to, why are you even with them? The same goes for actually wanting to have children. My parents never had any business creating children together. Neither was capable of providing that bare minimum standard a child deserves – love and acceptance.

2014, and other events between my mother and father’s death, solidified my resolve to be happier and healthier, more than ever before.

TO BE CONTINUED ON THURSDAY…

Falling From The Tree – Part 2

Part 1

But that’s all we had. We arrived at our adulthood but didn’t know how to function as women who cared for one another. Sadly, I think it was mostly because our mother pitted us against each other any chance she could. I call them cruel mental exercises she liked to practice on us. It helped my sister, and I engage in war with each other. We had counseling in our early 20s, and I think it helped to some extent, but it wasn’t long-lasting. One positive, we got off the drugs we were both partaking of, but we still didn’t have a relationship where we trusted each other. She and I weren’t each other’s go-to person. Nor did we ever become that.

Sadly, we didn’t have much of a genuine relationship during our 20s either. Thanks, Mom. When she needed me, my sister made me feel a part of the family, but otherwise, no, she was not someone who would confide in me, or vice-versa would I share things with her needing resolution. She just wasn’t someone I would entrust with my deepest feelings. That was our norm. Our relationship was superficial, at best.

So that’s how we moved forward. We continued to do what was best for us as individuals but never quite figured out how to make our relationship whole, making our connection meaningful. I’m not saying that it was all her fault, but I can honestly say I never felt she was working towards that end. I made my internal peace with her after my father’s death in 2014, but I don’t think she has with me. But I wouldn’t really know since she hasn’t spoken to me since then.

My father, an irresponsible and emotionally distant alcoholic, wasn’t much of a better role model than our mother. Nor was he hardly ever in our presence during our formative years. It’s not like any real bonding took place with him over the years. Because how could it when you are dealing with someone who was never really invested in you nor wanted to get to know you? I always wondered, was that the case or was it just hard for him to connect? It’s seriously a mystery how my sister and I ever matured at all with my mother and father as our parents. But we did.

I can honestly say my best friend made the most positive impact on my life when I got to know her in the 7th grade. She was my best friend but also, such a mentor to me. And it wasn’t until much later that I realized how impactful she was during those early years. How wonderful is 20/20 hindsight? Of course, I say that sarcastically because it certainly would have been nice to know how influential the lessons were as they occurred. But they didn’t, and I guess that’s okay now; we ended up all right from what I can gather. At least, I think so.

TO BE CONTINUED ON WEDNESDAY…

Falling From The Tree – Part 1

A random thought flitted across my brain. And I wondered why it would come up after all these years, especially while I’m cooking dinner—no rhyme or reason for it even to surface. My sister and I were teenagers then, and I’m an old woman now. Random and bizarre. Brains are so peculiar.

As I was peeling potatoes, I recalled my sister had slept with my boyfriend—such a juvenile move on her part, I thought. Just because we had broken up didn’t give her license to bed him. But what should I have expected from her when she didn’t have the most couth in the world. Plus, she hated me so much when we were younger; I guess this was like a feather in her cap to get back at me. Paybacks for when I punched her or any number of things I had done to her previously?

Having moved on years ago, it made no sense this part of my past surfaced. It’s not like I even have any allegiance to the boy/man anymore. That relationship eventually reconciled, and we even got married and had a child too. But I don’t have any residual thoughts or feelings, good or bad about it now at this stage in my life. Another husband and another child later, I’m so over my first baby-daddy.

But then I consider how my sister and I grew up; I shouldn’t be surprised at all she did what she did. It’s not like we had any good role models. She wasn’t the only immature one in that family. I did a whole lot of crazy things myself. Certainly wasn’t proud of it, upon reflection, but could definitely understand us becoming dysfunctional human beings after the background we both endured.

My mom, the narcissistic, mentally challenged, and often hysterical woman, didn’t offer us much hope of getting a proper upbringing. Sure, we had food in our bellies, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads. We weren’t growing up in the Ritz, money was tight at times, but we weren’t desperately poor either. What was lacking was sanity. It could become chaotic at any given moment. And you never fully knew where you stood in your relationship with her. Tip-toeing and caution were traits I learned early on. It always felt like my mom did her best to fill our lives with dysfunction, head games, and uncertainty. It was disgraceful if you were a witness to it. Why would a mother, of all people, behave in these ways? All her antics managed to produce was so much vying for her unstable attention so you wouldn’t be her target. That was it. Add to that the continual negativity and criticism, it took its toll on our psyches. After all these years, I still ask myself why my sister and I didn’t band together to become allies rather than become the enemies we are now, and not speaking with one another for quite some time. Emotional abuse and manipulation certainly took its toll on us. I guess I shouldn’t wonder and realize it makes perfect sense of why we don’t have a relationship today. Having a mature connection was impossible to nurture in the environment that we got exposed to and survived. Quite sad, but like I mentioned, we survived.

TO BE CONTINUED ON TUESDAY…

Suzanne Lea

Leaving 

She kissed the lip of every teacup
in the cupboard,
tasting each daybreak
born on mismatched posies.
Touched every spoon
with damp fingertips,
leaving only the impression of loss.
Whispered into the pockets of overcoats,
a story about cold days
and castoffs.
Asked the spider
behind the bathroom door
to remember to pay the paperboy.
Finally, she touched the corner
of the tattered Afghan throw.
The one with the intricate pattern of squares
holding everything together.
Then she gently pulled a single thread
and began the process
of unraveling every stitch

14

He is dead now. In a small beige room, I realize my hands are empty. A stranger in a navy blue suit is talking about Jesus. I do not remember where I left my cup of coffee but I am told that Jesus is nearby. The man in the suit suggests we pray for comfort. Asking Jesus for comfort feels like asking my abuser to hug me after he has punched me in the gut. I cannot find my coffee cup but I wish I could. An empty cup would be so much easier to hold than the weight of this.

Learning to Write

I am learning to write all the words I have carried around inside me. This requires a gentler touch than I am used to. Noisy is easy, writing is harder. Each time I intend to write, produce a snapshot of a thing that isn’t me, every landscape becomes a self-portrait. Without me, I can not anchor my words to a story. My writing is still in its infancy. A larvae of the animal it will become. Until it has grown to its full potential, I offer each word as a gift, a prayer, an invitation and I leave myself, willingly, caught up in the meaty tissue at the center of every story.

The Happy Hour Wolf

Leaning in heavily
ham-fisting his highball like a vice
he drops his wilted butt on the floor between us.
Smoke oozing from between his pointy teeth
he licks his juicy bourbon mustache
and smiles hungrily.
“How about a bite to eat?” he whispers into his highball 
and immediately, 
I am sure he means me.

That Kind of Girl

I wish I was the kind of girl who’d taken a left instead of a right and ended up in a different town. Perhaps if I was another kind of girl, I’d meet you in a bar and I’d tell you that I thought you were pretty, even though I meant you were handsome. I might let you buy me a drink. I might kiss you in the bathroom, pressed against the stall. If I was that girl, I’d write my name in sharpie on your hand, only this time, you’d call.

~~~

Suzanne Lea is a southern writer with a fondness for dark chocolate and swear words. She has been published in numerous online journals and magazines, as well as the print anthology, Crooked Letter i: Coming out in the South

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