blogging · creativity · Family · memoir · poetry · writing

Early (Hidden) Roots

The house is brand new and we move in without our mother, who is in the hospital getting our new baby.  There are three floors of living space, but I am most interested in the room in the basement – the one that no one else knows exists (except my dad, of course, ’cause he built the house.)  You have to go through the rec room, past the door to the bar,  into the laundry room, and then squeeze past the furnace. There’s a long narrow hallway that leads to a secret room behind the bookcase.  The walls here are concrete, but there is a rug on the floor, and some of those fold-up chairs.  There are boxes too, and it smells kind of bad, but the best part is a hole in the wall, just large enough to peek through, and if  I come down here before anyone else, I can spy on them.  Mostly, it’s my oldest sister and her icky boyfriends – boy are there things I could tell Mom and Dad, except I’m not supposed to be here, and if Dad knew, he’d kill me, so I have to keep it quiet.  Why do we need a secret room anyway?

Frosty panes glisten,
while innocence bears witness –
mysteries rampant.

(Lillian at dVerse invites us to delve into the traditional with a halibun examining a room from our early childhood. )

blogging · creativity · Family · poetry · writing

Two-Storied

A two-story, red brick
set on the edge of town
was our castle, tall cedars,
like a moat, separating us
from unwanted onlookers

Strategically placed intercoms
tracked our movements, and
walls that moved revealed
forbidden spaces – passageways
that led to covert rooms

Our King was not benevolent,
and nor was our mother his queen –
for the woman he worshipped,
who held his heart’s throne,
dwelt in the shadows, and reigned.

Elizabeth, she was, regal
and bejeweled, long white gloves
brandishing a silver holder,
red lips blowing rings of seduction,
her presence a disquieting menace

She would not stir from our fortress
and none of us would speak of her
lest our kingdom might crumble
Our castle was two-storied: one
a man’s the other his alter ego.

(Written for Laura’s Manic Mondays 3-way prompt:  castle)

 

abuse · Family · life · poetry · recovery · relationships

Tangled

Father told me I had no problems –
didn’t even know what problems were,
so I tucked away grief, pretended,
mastered the art of suppression –
what did I matter, after all?

Failed to grasp the underlying message –
ignored the extent of his personal pain,
translated indifference into selfish agendas,
set up walls to protect myself, against him,
projecting rejection onto others.

Too late now, I understand, hurt for the
distance created by misunderstandings,
recognize with deep sorrow that our timing
was out of rhythm – society unable to fathom
the secrets that we held – unnecessary burdens

Wonder if I will ever unravel the deceit,
unwrap the loss of self, the shame, recover
a sense of self-worth that allows for acceptance
of problems without self-reproach, or guilt;
will gain the capacity for far-reaching forgiveness.

 

 

abuse · Family · poetry

Koolaid

Yellow was the colour
of their house, green
the lawn upon which
we played – the house
of boys where fun lived.

Ours was two-storey,
red brick with black,
the colour of our air,
privacy fences blocking
outsiders, girls within

Never heard a voice raised
there, was served only milk
and cookies in the kitchen;
could not understand why
Mom said don’t go inside

but they had mini cars, and
trucks with working parts,
better than our dolls, and I
wished I could be a boy –
less complicated it seemed

And I wished my mother
played tennis with the ladies
and watched from the kitchen
as children played baseball
offered Koolaid in the heat.

Had a friend there, a boy
so kind and gentle, taught me
respect, protected from harm,
let me be me – was it love
I felt, at such a tender age?

We moved away, though,
left that sunshine house
behind, lost touch with
friendship, never again
to connect with neighbours

Everyone has something
to hide, Mom said, implying
ours was the better devil,
drank her Koolaid, too old
now to undo childhood’s lies.

(Image: suburbman.tumblr.com)

Family · LGBQT · life · Love · memoir · relationships

A Woman I Never Knew

Much planning involved in duplicity,
when absence of feminine is intent –

no amount of research can release
her, buried in a home within a home.

Empty out existing observations,
imposed interpretations – education

only served to dismay us further –
all erasable.  Forensic investigation

required to grasp the inner workings,
only seasoned visitors have caught

wind of – witnesses (mother/father);
all we children knew was her name;

a moniker that invoked turmoil, yet
she, pregnant with hope, anticipation

would make her presence known –
a grand performance – she did not

belong; we shunned her, doubted
her veracity, convinced her host

was manipulative, depraved – had
no concept of acceptance – chose

separation – s/he pushed me out;
not that I was ever welcomed –

a child of this woman within a man,
whose obsession consumed us,

consumed my innocence, toyed
with my journey to self-discovery,

distorted images of beauty rooted
in the hovering pall of her presence/

absence; tried to escape, seek help,
create a semblance of normalcy, but

am haunted by the woman, whose
destiny, never achieved, now lags

behind me, feeding my frailty; wish
I had found the words, openness,

had dared to know her, to have stood
beside the she Dad was meant to be.

(Image:  lgbrpcv.org)

Family · memoir · new project · nonfiction · writing

Four Voices

At the age of four, I moved with my family into a new house that my father had built, on the outskirts of town.  The day of our move my mother disappeared, and left to my own devices, I defied my father’s rules about staying out of certain parts of the house and discovered secret places, the beginning of my awareness that all was not as it seemed.  When my mother returned, she was carrying a new baby sister, and all was seemingly well, until one day she too discovered that the walls had secrets.

Four Voices tells the story of growing up in a family where secrets defined us; and examines the relationship between a daddy’s girl and her father, split between two worlds.  All names have been changed for this story.  Part I, starts at the end of seventeen-year-old Betty-Ann’s home life, and can be read here.

I have attempted to write this story for most of my life, however; I was always missing an essential piece – my father’s perspective.  Now, armed with new understanding, I offer you a tale of tragic misunderstanding and hope for healing.

Feedback is deeply appreciated.

 

Family · recovery

For You, Dad

Anti-establishment
and flower power
formed the backdrop of my youth.
Women burning their bras,
Hippies holding sit-ins,
War in Vietnam.

Ideals began to form.

Beatles and Rolling Stones
were household names,
and school children took
the Pepsi vs. Coke challenge.
Twiggy and Mary Quaint
set the fashion stage.

I lived in creative times.

A flower-toting leader,
dating well below his years,
wooed his lovers and his nation
with a French accent,
and called in the army when
the FLQ threatened peace.

Passion awakened in my heart.

Open concept was my classroom,
education free-style.
We had a Wong and a Suzuki,
and watched the Black Panthers
on a sometimes-coloured TV,
and learned that we were WASPs.

I was on the edge of compassion.

Talk shows revealed infidelities,
and debated homosexuality –
criminal or mental instability?
Equal rights meant equal pay
while Country Clubs posted exclusions
and institutes housed the nonconforming.

I started questioning.

Home-made prevailed over store-bought,
and a Valium suppressed mother
kept my father’s castle,
and we went to church on Sundays
and practiced perfect smiles
and learned to pretend.

Enlightenment comes at a price.

Too young to understand the dynamics
of my brooding inner turmoil,
I raged at the discrepancies,
and swung with a fast right,
fighting for a justice
I could not articulate.

I learned to hate.

The consideration my father preached
was a one-way street.
He spewed racism, and sexism, and abuse;
over-worked, over-drank, and
railed against a world
where he could find no acceptance.

I discovered we had secrets.

Teen pregnancy, LSD,
and schizophrenia invaded
our patriarchal fortress,
internal combustion threatened,
yet we held fast to our façade –
happiness and solidarity.

When Dad came out I wasn’t ready.

High school came, along with disco;
Barbie dolls were traded
for platforms and menthols.
While Rocky Horror gained a cult following
my father revealed his own cross-dressing
ambitions and asked us to call him Liz.

I learned to run away.

Halter-tops and tight blue jeans
attracted adverse attention,
the police told me after the rape.
I crawled back home and began to cut
unable to feel through the armour
of numbness I had donned.

There was no way out.

Donahue paraded real life transvestites
before a disbelieving audience,
while psychiatrists spoke of deviant addictions.
Electric shock treatments broke my father,
he begged but I pushed him back in the closet.
We would not speak of it again.

I steeled myself against life.

Landlines, now, are disappearing,
Televisions smarter: Reality the new fiction.
Songza picks my playlists.
Integration and differentiation
are the educational goals I seek
to fulfill in my role as teacher.

Relief followed my father’s death.

LGBQT is on the forefront
workshops teach about sexual orientation
and gender identity,
and I learn that it is hormones –
not addiction – that decide,
and the realization pierces my heart.

There’s been a tragic misunderstanding.

My liberated, forward thinking mind,
strangled by a self-serving heart
slammed the door on possibility
eclipsing the brilliance and creativity
of the soul that was my father.
I never knew his authentic self.

There is no going back.

The river runs within me now,
a deep and endless stream.
The shards of my former reality
too shattered to mend; I stumble
humbled by the inadequacy
of this human existence.

I write for you, now, Dad.