And Santa Isn’t Real Either?

Every problem can be fixed with a kiss-and-make-up attitude. That and a willingness to explore bondage.

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.

"Our Father who art in Heaven, could you come down here and tuck me in? And bring a pony and a real live angel with you, too? Amen."

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.

There we are. What was my mom thinking? Dressing me in polka-dots? Could I look any chunkier and circus-worthy? Little Lisa looks like a disinterested cherub and Skinny Tina is a ballerina in elegant stripes. And you wonder why I have Middle Child Syndrome...

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.

Warning for Future "America's Got Talent" Contestants: Don't pick Goodness as your talent. The judges will get bored fast unless you up the ante to perfection, which only exists because of PhotoShop.

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.

Oh my goodness. Whatever shall I do now? My world as I know it has changed, and yet I must stay strong and good and true blue. I can do it. I must. Just tell me I don't have a run in my stockings. That would be too much for me to bear.

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.  

Yeah, that news broke about the same time. At least I still had the Tooth Fairy. What? Oh no.

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?

~ by Lorna's Voice on September 16, 2011.

31 Responses to “And Santa Isn’t Real Either?”

  1. Hey, thanks T! I’ve connected with the most wonderful cadre of people on this blog. We’re nothing is we’re not an honest bunch, eh? Our voices ring true and we touch each other in the most surprising and intimate ways. I love that. I really do.

  2. I directed every bit of anger at my father. Every bit. I became one of those moody teens that felt justified in her angst–the WORST! But I never acted out. I directed my anger inward, because I had to sustain the Good Girl persona for my mom. Getting the picture?

  3. That is such a hard call for a parent to make–something I never understood until I became a parent myself. Hindsight and age gives me the luxury of a wisdom I didn’t have back then. If only…

    Thanks so much for stopping in, reading and taking the time to comment. I really hope to see you again!

  4. Thanks for your sensitive and supportive comments, Al. I’ve written versions of this story before and have long reconciled my feelings about my father’s suicide. No it was something else that was creating way too much drama in my life–or should I say, I was letting something else create way too much drama. Thankfully the storm has passed.

  5. Oh, Diana, your words mean so much to me. While I feel healed from all of these events, I feel in my heart that sharing these stories in an honest, non-victim voice could help others navigate their own challenges. But I struggled mightlily with most of these issues until fairly recently. It was only two uears ago that I shifted from mourning the day of my father’s death to celbrating his birthday… Amazing.

    Thanks for hanging in there with me, Diana!

  6. I understand completely, my friend. Looking forward to more of your reflections and comments…

  7. Yes, there are lots of stories to tell that are embedded in my life story. Thanks for your sensitive comment, Tots.

  8. Izzy, you’re too funny! I think my hair was pulled tightly in a pony-tail so all you can see in bangs. We didn’t get pixie cuts until later. But I agree, I have every right to have a full-blown case of Middle Child Syndrome! 😉

  9. Glad to have you as a blogging friend, too! Neither of my sisters have a problem with alcohol. My older one drinks socially and modestly and my younger one doesn’t touch the stuff (probably fearing the genetic connection).

    Everyone dies in their own way–some slowly, some in a firestorm. Some take a lot of people down with them, some don’t. Life is an interesting journey–one sure worth writing about…;)

  10. A well written snapshot of a real life. This last weekend, at my daughter’s wedding, I heard second-hand about what really happened to my mother. It was not a rejection of the kidney transplant as I had always thought, but a malpractice by the doctor. She bled to death internally because the doctor reversed the blood vessels to the kidney. My Dad got $60,000 in a settlement for the wrongful death. Doesn’t seem like much for losing a spouse of over 30 years. Anyway, didn’t mean to go off on a tangent, just another example of parents not telling the truth.

  11. You’ve made my day! If my life story (and the way I tell it) can touch other people’s lives in a positive way, then all the crap I went through is worth it! 🙂

  12. That’s the beauty of hindsight and aging. I’ve been able to take a lot of things (mostly myself) less seriously as I’ve gone through life. I’ve tried the “Drama Queen” thing, and it’s no fun for anyone!

    Thanks for your supportive comments. 🙂

  13. Your honesty is amazing. So sorry about, well, everything. You have a gift for telling sadness without becoming maudlin, a rare quality.

  14. I so admire your ability to look inside yourself and write about it. And to write about your life in a way that is interesting to others. I feel as if I’m reading your autobiography (and that’s my favorite genre). We have a fair amount of things in common, at least in common from your posts. Thus I relate.
    Luv ya Lorna — keep writing!

  15. I was saddened at this post and mesmerized at the same time. I’m sorry to hear about your Dad. I grew up in those times, too, and remember that the grownups didn’t tell the kids much. Family protocol was so much stricter back then. I was the oldest kid and pretty invisible to my Mom as my sister was her prized possession. While my Mom didn’t die until she was 52, she “checked out” long before that. She was a chronic alcoholic with everything that implies. She got really bad by the time I was 12 and my sister was 8 and life really sucked after that…..until I went in the Air Force at 18 at least. I had to get out of there. She abused alcohol and over the counter meds so severely, it eventually killed her. They say children of alcoholics are prone to drinking addiction, but that’s not the case with me and my sister. However, we both have addictions of one sort or the other.
    I didn’t mean to go on and on. This post really touched me and I can’t shut up when that happens. So glad to have you as a blog friend!

  16. Wow … first let me say , i’m sorry about your Dad. My Mom was mentally ill when I was growing up to the point that my grandmother lived really close to us in order to monitor her. It was a very secretive thing way back then. I did not experience the suicide but it was in our midst everyday. Your Mom did what she needed to do. It was not a secret as much as a protection for all involved. God Bless all who had to endure such pain.

    On a lighter note : what’s with the pic??? ….. hello – I don’t want to seem mean – let me apologize in advance but I’m from Brooklyn and we say what we say – so, really – you look like a boy. Come on …. are you serious???? What’s with the hair so short thing ??? Is it an economy thing on hair-cuts??? Like – I mean – I really feel for you. Like there is no way that is a cool pix. Man- you should be happy you can control your own hair-do now.
    Not for nothing, I am hooting and howling about that pix. LOLOLOL

    Toodles,
    Izzy xoxox

  17. So sorry to hear that about your dad. It must’ve been tough for your mom and protecting her girls from it is understandable. You have so many stories that can be born out of your life. Your grandmother and mom and now, I’m sure your dad had his. You’re a strong and resilient woman. We don’t always think that in the moment but a quick reflection does.

  18. OMG I LOVE your photos. I, too, was the little girl praying… Ahhhh so many things to say… I will be back asap… For now, my friend, thank you for talking and sharing so openly such personal, human matters that lead our minds into zones of introspection and reflection we may never have otherwise discovered without YOU. Amen.

  19. I’m a little slow on occasion, but I just realized that Lorna’s Voice is your place of healing. It allows you to share your life–the good, bad, & ugly–with others in a way that can’t be duplicated in a therapist’s office. You’ve touched our lives, as well. I’m honest to God, getting a little teary eyed over the whole thing. Anyway, thanks for trusting your readers with your story.

  20. Very difficult story to tell. The pain he must have been in to choose to leave three little girls like that behind. So tragic. I now understand your comment on my blog about how hard it must have been to get you to laugh. You must have been writing this at the time.

    Hope this is a catharsis for you. Thanks for sharing.

  21. I wonder if you were ready for that truth at age 10, but then would have been even angrier if you were even older. I can only imagine how hard it was for your mom. Suicide rips apart families, and I’m sure she didn’t want you to hate your daddy. I’ve had to hide some ugly truths from my own children (oldest is 7), and I’m not sure when, if ever, they will be told.

  22. Wow, now that is a powerful twist and wrinkle put on the story. We grew up in the day and age where these things weren’t discussed openly. Only hushed whispers among folks cloaking the truth. Same with terminal illnesses, such as cancer. No one ever discussed these matters in the open. Perhaps that is why everyone was able to bake a perfect Lemon Chiffon cake back in the day, because they really never discussed anything else…

    Lorna, that must have hit you like a ton of bricks. Were you at all angry at your mom for withholding the truth or was that anger directed at your dad for what he did?

  23. losing my father at a very young age, i feel your pain…however…when it comes to lies and why people tell them…i am a man…we have mastered the art and sometimes, we lie to save a person’s feelings or to be honest here, to gain more nefits than we deserve… we are a stingy group of humans…. at least i recognize it and hey, not all boys out there lie… i do… and sometime sI just do it to save a girls feelings….i’m certain it’s not the right road, it’s just the road i chose for that day….

    Loved your heartfelt story though… it’s hard to put any of your posts down…always, always, always entertaining…

    T.

  24. Thanks so much–see what I can do in a morning if I really try?

  25. Thanks. It’s hard to put a light-hearted spin on such a heavy subject. Suicide, I mean, not me in the polka-dot dress! 😉

  26. Yes, at 53, life is looking bright. It took a while, but there’s hope if you hang in there! 😉 You’ll see how I get there as the rest of my life story unfolds. I’m only spending one more post in this earlier time, then it’s back to married life…

  27. Thanks for the advice, Harry. I still have a lot to learn. I’ll go back and fix my former posts…

  28. I’m back, just noticed the post at the bottom.
    The reccomended total for categories and tags is 9 -10 you have 21 the search engines will look at that as spamming and ignore the post.
    Try for 1 or 2 categories and the rest tags. Trying to help 🙂
    Harry

  29. Back when you and I were growing up, it seems that much family shame was kept in secret. What a tragedy for all concerned, especially young children left in the dark. That was a very tough place for you to be in while growing up, Lorna. You have come so far since that childhood that had you working so hard to be good. I hope you are resting easier these days.

  30. Lorna, a lovely story and it must have been hard to write, polka dots i had to smile at that and i think the head stone was great to take a child to 🙂

  31. Wow, beautifully written. This must have been hard for you to put into words. I liked the picture.

Silence can be just what the doctor ordered. You know I'm a doctor, right?

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