“No one would ever do anything if they knew what they were in for”~Amarante Cordova, the oldest man in Milagro/ THE MILAGRO BEANFIED WAR
*This is my story…I only write when I have a feeling to, never because I think I should. It’s calming for me and though I write for myself, maybe some of what I write may be helpful for someone else…..maybe this is a story of survival. Last night, reading about some upcoming events that we on this Earth seem destined to live through, this seems so insignificant but I’ll go ahead with it…..who knows where things may lead.
There’s a strong wind blowing as I’m writing this morning, so different from the Summer winds, it’s a Fall wind..the beginning of the change of the seasons… and I remember being 7 years old…
THE EARLY YEARS/THE FALL
“As many people who are destined to go very deep, he experienced a not very pleasant childhood and early life..”
~Eckhart Tolle on Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We’re put here on Earth to learn our own lessons. No one can tell you what your lessons are; it is part of your personal journey to discover them. On these journeys we may be given a lot, or just a little bit, of the things we must grapple with, but never more than we can handle.”
I remember being 7 years old…. and being taken to the shoe store to buy new saddle shoes.I went to a girls school then and we wore uniforms—green pinafores, white ruffled blouses and brown and white saddle shoes…
The smell of new saddle shoes..the Fall
And it was the fall for me in the other sense of the word because I was suddenly yanked from the beautiful little village of Hinsdale, Ilinois, a commuter village for Chicago.. where I lived close to my grandparents, where some of the streets were still brick and there were big trees and four seasons which my family loved to celebrate: Colored leaves, pumpkins and the smell of marigolds in the Fall, Snowsuits, skating and sledding.. in the Winter,
Lilacs, apple blossoms and cool Spring days, and playing in my grandpa’s garden..
and the Magic….
of Lake Michigan in the Summer
And then came the blazing heat of late summer in Dallas, Texas. It was August 1954 and I remember sitting next to a tree in the dried brown grass and wondering how people were able to breathe in that heat. I had arrived in Hell.
My dad LOVED to play golf and he had taken a job with an investment firm in Dallas–he would be able to play golf year round but I don’t think he had taken into account the rest of the family-me, my younger brother and my mother but especially my mother–she had had not wanted to go. Years later I remembered a time maybe a year before we moved. I was probably 6, my brother was 3 and my parents were pulling us on our sled in the snow-they were talking about the move and I could feel my mother’s overwhelming depression….and fear.
My mother was already sick when we moved; she had some sort of terminal cancer which had not been diagnosed. She had not wanted to leave her parents
……and the home where she had grown up
but she felt obligated to be supportive of my dad and his new job.
“Many cancers can be linked to an emotional trauma one to two years before the onset of the cancer” ~Dr Keth Nemec
My grandfather, in an effort to bring my mother back to health, took her and her sister on a cruise aboard the Queen Elizabeth and so we moved that August of 1954. ..without her. In September I started 2nd grade at The Hockaday School.
I was shy to begin with and then with all the emotional drama swirling about, I was terrified. I remember trying to carry my lunch tray from the cafeteria to the 2nd grade room, shaking so badly, so afraid I would drop it. When we played bingo, I was afraid I might win which would mean having to go up to the front of the room. So I didn’t put the little tabs on the card and I never won. I often threw up on the bus going to school and a few months before my mother died, I threw up in chapel. I was in the middle of a row and too shy to ask to get out so I threw up on my hymnal, on the song we were supposed to be singing. It was I Would Be True on page 177 and after that, there were always little flecks of dried orange juice on that page:
I WOULD BE TRUE
My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer when she came back from her European trip though the truth was kept from her and from my brother and me. She was told she had a blood disease which could be treated successfully. I remember riding in the backseat of the car as my dad drove her back from the doctor..there was complete silence and a feeling of fear. That feeling of fear and dread is often still with me today. and writing this, I realize that the feeling originated there and at that time.
After my mother’s cancer diagnosis, my dad hired a series of caregivers for my brother and I and my mother went back to Chicago to be in the hospital.
After several caregivers who didn’t work out–one I remember wore a stiff, white nurse’s uniform to tale care of my brother and me..my dad hired Mrs Wright. We called her Wrighty and I can see her now..short and chubby with prematurely gray hair, she was full of goodwill and kindness. Taking care of children who had lost a parent was her mission..She came to live with us about 2 years before my mother died and she stayed til my dad remarried about 2 years after.
My brother Flip and I only visited our mother once when she was in the hospital. I remember that we had to stand outside the door of her room-she had some sort of bandage on her chest which she tried to cover up and she did not want us to come in. I think now that she knew almost from the beginning that she was dying and would not be part of our lives but because she could not talk with anyone about it, she began to distance herself from us…instinctively she began letting go..
The other part of that hospital visit that is still and will always be embedded in my memory, was going to the lab where experiments were being performed on animals. One of my mother’s doctors was a family friend and he had been told that I loved animals so he thought I would enjoy seeing the lab. For an already traumatized 8 year old child, it was horrifying and I remember like it was yesterday, looking in and seeing a monkey that was cut in half and looked like roast beef. To this day, it’s very difficult for me to go in or even near a hospital and I never eat roast beef.
My mother died when I was 9 and in 4th grade. My dad was with her when she died in the hospital, in Chicago and he flew back to Dallas early the next morning. He woke me up to tell me and I remember that I couldn’t think of anything to say. I had never been able to relate to my mother though it took me years to admit this. I thought she was cold, righteous, spoiled and very judgemental but what I said was “She was so good” knowing that it was not my truth. I only wanted to comfort my dad.
We left the next day for her funeral which was held in her hometown of Hinsdale, Illinois. My brother and I were thought to be too young to go so we stayed at our grandparents house and were given new toys to distract us.
The way her death was handled: that she was never told the truth about her diagnosis, that we were not allowed to go to her funeral had a lasting, traumatic effect on both my brother and I. Just 7 years later, at another Chicago hospital, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross would begin her pioneering work with terminally ill patients, ‘bringing death out of the closet’ and from that time on, patients and their families would be told the truth about a terminal diagnosis and young children would no longer be left out.
After the funeral, when we returned to Dallas, a kind of darkness descended. I didn’t miss my mother but it was January, cold and dark and I felt so isolated. There were no school counselors then so I had no one to talk too and my dad was dealing with so much. I believe that he and my mom were soul mates. He missed her terribly and he had a new job and no idea how to raise 2 little kids.
But with Wrighty, we entered into a time where there was not complete happiness but there was a respite from the trauma..
After my mother’s death, my dad had gotten me a pony I named Smokey and Wrighty faithfully sat in the car while I rode every day after school. I was a tomboy then, getting my hair cut at the barber shop, taking care of my pony. Isolated in may ways, I lived in a sort of emotional vacuum where there was a kind of peace..
In the summers we -my brother and I, along with our cousins from Chicago- went to be with our grandparents in Michigan. When I was a new baby they had bought a cottage on Lake Michigan…. and I lived there every summer til I was 16 when my grandmother sold the cottage. I never cried so hard before or since that day, the day the cottage was sold…. It had been my lifeline. It’s impossible for me to express in words what those summers meant to me…sadness overwhelms me but I go back often in my dreams….
After my mother’s death I expected life to continue on in this way: Wrighty would stay with us forever and in the summers I would live with my grandparents and cousins in the cottage on the lake. And so I was oblivious to the fact that my dad was starting to date- he had met my future stepmother and he brought her over to meet us. I did not like her but I had no idea she was about to become a part of my life. Another huge life change was coming…and it was almost more than I could bear.
One afternoon when I was 11, my dad came up to my room. He sat down on my bed and said “How would like to go to a wedding?” “Whose?” I asked innocently. “Mine” my dad answered.”What will happen to Wrighty ?” I asked. “She’ll have to find another job/” said my dad.
So they got married and my brother and I were given 2 weeks [while my dad and stepmother were on their honeymoon] to start calling our stepmother ‘Mom’ ….which was confusing…. because that’s what we had called our own mother
My stepmother had 2 teenage boys-Billy and Lewis and it was decided that they would call my dad Phil. Her daughter Betty was my brother’s age and she called my dad Dad. Every morning before we left for school, we were served breakfast by the maids and then we were instructed to kiss my stepmother when we got up from the table.
Every so often, I was allowed to visit Wrighty who had taken another job, caring for a baby whose mother had died. These visits however, were being curtailed because it was felt that they were preventing me from becoming closer to my stepmother. Eventually I decided not to go anymore. It was too painful..better not to go at all…I was learning how to cut myself off from pain and I never saw Wrighty again.
My beloved pony, Smokey… was another casualty during this time–my stepmother got rid of him when I was at camp. He had been my best friend through the lonely times. I never asked what happened to him… I just pushed away the sadness. There was nothing else I could do.
Those years are kind of a blur probably because I don’t want to remember them. My stepmother immediately set out to change me from a little heathen into the kind of girl she wanted me to become. She took me to the beauty parlor to get a perm, bought me the clothes she wanted me to wear and threw away the clothes I had that she didn’t approve of. Sometimes at dinner-we had formal dinners every night served by the maids, she told me how ugly I was. ..as a teenager, my skin was very oily and broken out.
She was disappointed that I wasn’t popular at school and one afternoon, she came to my room to give me some advice. She told me that she had noticed I wasn’t popular and she thought it would help if I made an effort to copy the personalities of some of the popular girls.
Though my dad and stepmother were married for 45 years, the hope for the marriage fell apart almost immediately [it was bound to] and sometimes at night I heard my stepmother yelling angrily at my dad that he still loved Ruth. He did and he was making comparisons:
My mother had a masters degree in Latin from Wellesley College. She taught piano and tutored high school kids in Math… …..and she had political ambitions.
My stepmother on the other hand, came from a wealthy Dallas family, had never worked and was mainly interested in going shopping, playing bridge and going to parties. She liked to drink vodka martinis while my mother never drank at all.
We moved from Dallas to Houston and I remember waiting every day outside our house for my dad to come home from work. I was so miserable and I wanted to talk to him but everyday he put me off. “Tomorrow we will talk. I promise.” he would say but tomorrow never came. My stepmother had started drinking a lot–double vodka martinis at our neighbors who were her close friends. She was very disappointed in my dad and the amount of money he was making. Her father had been a very successful rancher…
“The RO Ranch was named for its owner……an Englishman called Alfred Rowe. Alfred Rowe died in the Titanic disaster and in 1917 William J. Lewis, a former top hand for the RO, arranged to purchase this acreage and the cattle from the Rowes for $595,113.26. At the height of his prosperity, William Lewis had built up an empire consisting of 140,000 acres of land with over 10,000 head of high grade Hereford cattle…”
My stepmother was making comparisons and years later she would often say ” Your daddy was a good man but he was no businessman.”
Meanwhile my brother Flip was beginning to react to all the loss and trauma… He was running away and often the police would call when they found him.
A child psychiatrist advised my dad that Flip needed counseling, needed help badly but instead my dad sent him to military school in Florida “where they make boys into men.” And that was the beginning of the end.
*It may seem as if there was nothing good or positive that happened during these times that I have written about and that my stepmother was an ogre. There were some good things..some from time and in the last years of her life, I came to really love and care for my stepmother. We would never really understand each other but I was able to see that she was only raising us or trying to, in the way that she had been raised. It was all she knew. CP
*If you have found this blog helpful in some way, please make a contribution. This blog is my particular way of contributing: by hopefully passing on the wisdom of the many teachers I spent time with and learned from: Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, addictions counselor, John Bradshaw, near death survivor Dannion Brinkley and Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene as well as many hospice patients and Elders that were part of my life.
A few years ago I experienced a huge betrayal which changed my work and my life. I learned that ‘your best friend can be your worst enemy’ and I lost a lot: my job, my salary and I could no longer do the work I had planned to do. Looking for a way to continue, I started this blog. Part of my story is here and this is also where you can make a contribution https://www.gofundme.com/poohsrainbow
As we are all in some way connected in this life, I sincerely thank you for your help.
Cindy Pickard email@example.com
PART 2: ‘FLIP’ TO BE CONTINUED IN MY NEXT POST….