And Santa Isn’t Real Either?
We’re traveling back in time to when Lorna was a little girl. What’s behind her compelling need to please others?
Daddy died when I was four. I call him “Daddy” because that’s who he was when I knew him. He left behind 3 little girls: Lisa (who had just turned two), me, and Tina (who had just turned six and was sick with some kind of intestinal trouble). Mom became the head of the household and made an executive decision not to tell us anything about his death except he was in Heaven. When I prayed, I figured I was talking to him.
Mom had her hands full raising us girls on her own. Tina was a special child, and not just because she was the first-born. She almost died and that’s a hard act to follow. She was almost dying for five years, so she was kind of hard to miss. I, being reliably healthy, was easy to overlook. After she got her intestinal operation and recovered, her talent was not dying. She got her very own black and white TV set because she wasn’t dead. I wasn’t dead, but I didn’t get my own TV.
Lisa was special because she was the youngest, the baby. Her talent was artistic and emerged before she was out of diapers. Dogs she drew looked like dogs, not blobs. Her artistic genius was excessively encouraged. She also had illness on her side. Lucky Lisa had chronic bronchitis. Her fevers and window-rattling coughs kept her in neck-and-neck competition with Tina’s life-threatening disease. Mom was so busy fretting over “Sick” and “Sicker,” I could’ve joined the circus and not be noticed until my first postcard from The Road arrived.
I had to figure out my own talent so I would feel special. My little-girl heart sensed that Mom needed a child she didn’t have to worry about, so I decided to be her Good Girl–obedient, smart, funny, and never, ever a trouble-maker. Luckily I had the personality to pull it off. I became the family peace-maker. When my sisters were healthy and feeling feisty, they fought like Archie Bunker and Meathead. I stayed out of the firing line and was Mom’s objective reporter. That made me real popular with my sisters. I felt badly when they got punished, so I would cry for them, which only ticked everyone off. Empathy was woefully underappreciated in my family. My talent for being good backfired.
As time went on, details of Daddy’s death eked out. He died in an accident. Did he trip? He died in an automobile accident. Was anyone else hurt? Something didn’t feel right about the story.
Around the time I was ten, I got the full story: Daddy killed himself–shot himself in the head with a rifle. He was found in his pick-up truck on a road between somewhere and nowhere on March 18, 1962. He’d been drinking.
This news was a game-changer for me. The Daddy-Floating-With-the-Angels who I loved (the rare times I thought about him) became the Daddy-Who-Abandoned-His Family. I hated him every day, but tried not to show it. Mom still needed me to be her dependably trouble-free child.
Then there was the fact that Mom, who insisted on honesty from me, wasn’t honest about a pretty important detail in our family history. I understood her reasons–suicide isn’t as painless as the theme song from M*A*S*H suggests, but I learned that
lying withholding the truth to protect those you love was apparently okay. That’s what adults must do sometimes.
But I needed the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
What does the truth reveal that can help us understand Adult Lorna’s choices?