Let’s Play “Pretend.” We’ll Figure Out What To Do With The Bodies Later.

Lorna has questions that only the adults in her life who’ve kept secrets from her can answer. Will she ever know “the truth?”

After I got over my little-girl dream of becoming a nurse to “help people” (having realized I was scared to death of needles and old people’s toe nails), I wanted desperately to be an actress. I loved the idea of adopting dramatic femme fatale personas and acting out death scenes that would leave my audience openly weeping–even the women. “Love Story” was my inspiration. I was Ali McGraw in that death-bed scene…

"Oliver...Love means...oh, I'm slipping away from you...never having to say...oh, I see a bright light...you're sorry. Don't be sorry I'm dying, Oliver. You'll get many more movie roles and find love again with one of Charlies Angels. Oh, speaking of angels...I see a beautiful angel. It's time, Oliver. Goodbye..."

Acting ability was something I probably inherited along with migraines from my mom’s side and alcoholism from my daddy’s side; it seemed burned into my genes. The adults in my family could keep secrets that even “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” would’ve been ineffective. Well, both of my grandmothers would’ve held out, at least.

You think you're going to trick us into spilling the beans, eh? Well, Mr. Fancy Pants Investigator, just have a little of our homemade elderberry brandy and see how far you get with us.

Over many years, I learned important “Intel” to help me understand my family, which I thought was a normal as they come. We weren’t. Or, even worse–maybe we were.

Secret 1: Grandpa was an alcoholic. I thought he was just a dentist and important man in his community. A lot of people did.

Secret 2: Daddy was abused physically and emotionally by Grandpa. For reasons unknown, he was the whipping-post for his father’s drunken rage. Daddy was labeled the “Black Sheep” of the family and often considered more of a chore-hand than one of the nine children in his family. He had a twin sister. She got birthday parties, complete with her name on the cake and presents for her, but Daddy was cakeless and presentless. That’s just one example.

Secret 3: When one child is abused in a family, everyone is traumatized. I never realized that until I finally opened up to one of my uncles about my anger about that whole family letting my daddy suffer (a few years ago). “Why didn’t anyone help him?” I asked. He responded, his head hung low with remorse, “We were afraid. We didn’t know if one of us would be next.”

Secret 4: Grandma, his mother, was probably abused and raped. Why else would she have nine children with this mean dentist-drunk? She spent most of her time praying and getting a serious dowager’s hump.

Secret 5: Mom was relieved that Daddy was dead. She didn’t have to worry about where he was and what he was doing. He was unpredictable. I have 4 memories of my Daddy. Three are “good” and one is awful. He is holding me and yelling at Mom. She’s crying and yelling back–perfect trailer-trash scenario because we lived in a trailer. He plops me down hard on top of a washing machine, growls something about killing something, walks out and slams the door so hard that glass shatters. To this day, I freeze when I’m around an angry person.

Secret 6: Daddy had a another family in a town 50 miles from where we lived. I have a half-sister that I ignore, contrary to what TV dramas have you believe about joyful family reunions between illegitimate siblings.

Secret 7: “Respectable” people don’t “do” suicide. They don’t speak of it, commit it, or support the family members left to pick up the pieces. At family gatherings, I always felt like a stranger–I wasn’t connected to anyone there because no one even spoke his name. They made him vanish so effectively that, for a while, I thought “normal” families didn’t have fathers.

As I reflect on my maniacal need to please others at the expense of myself, my conflict-aversion, my boy-craziness, and the alcoholism that began from the combination of the three–a bulb burns brighter on illuminating the trajectory of my life story. I was a lost, scared soul, looking for someone to define me. Once someone gave me a role to play, I had the intelligence to play it to the hilt–sometimes because of, and sometimes in spite, of alcohol.

Uh huh. Okay. Anything you want, Sir. Oopsie! Am I smiling too much? I'm a little tipsy, but don't let that worry your handsome head. Just tell me what to do and I'll do it. Anything. I mean it, Poopsie, oops, Sir. Anything...

Adept Actress Lorna needed a director. I constantly searched for the perfect director, figuring he could make me shine.

Secret 8: I didn’t need anyone to “make me” shine. I was just afraid to step away from the camera lens and be my own director.

Some would say the brightness of this photo of me comes from not being preserved properly. I prefer to believe that it's my natural star-shiny-self overwhelming the camera.

Stay tuned to learn how, through more twists and turns, Lorna learns to become her own director.

~ by Lorna's Voice on September 17, 2011.

25 Responses to “Let’s Play “Pretend.” We’ll Figure Out What To Do With The Bodies Later.”

  1. […] buy food for the family.” When he was “down,” he was dangerous. I already wrote of my memories of him: a few good memories and one really bad […]

  2. Thanks so much for validating what I’m doing and why. As always, your perspective and your comments mean so much to me.

  3. Once I found a way to laugh at myself and my situation, I found a way to heal both. Thanks. I love your writing, too!

  4. Thanks, Al. Yes, all of my suspense is just about the twists and turns in the journey. But the fact that I’m writing this with a sprinkle of humor is proof that I came out alive and kicking. Well, at least so far…;)

  5. You are the quintessential survivor, but not by accident. After a lot of years of “hiding” you have worked hard at it as this blog demonstrates almost daily. I, for one, marvel at your strong character and ability to verbalize, in narrative, these painful events. The best part is, I already know there is going to be a happy ending.

  6. Lorna thus is powerfully emotional and yet you made it funny as well I love your writing.

  7. Great account of your early memorys of your dad. I think the thought process of normancy as a young child is our way of coping with the situations. Those early childhood memories last a life time and are sometimes the basis of our currently personality. Good job. This account bring memories of my childhood.

  8. Izzy, you’re too kind. I’m speechless, and I’m not kidding!

    I respect your comments more than you know.



  9. BRAVO … this is by far the most emotionally, explosive freeing story I have read so far. It is outstanding. You have descirbed a myriad of tales and feelings from so many people who were a part of your life. I am in awe of the way you were able to condense so much in so few words. You are a master of the ability to express a great amounts of pain and struggle in very few words.
    I could go on but the atory speaks for itself. Beautifully done …
    Isadora xoxoxo

  10. These have been stories aching to be told. I’m just so grateful that they can be shared in such an environment of support and understanding. Thank you so much for your kind and commpassionate comments.

  11. Like you, I’ve spent years reflecting on my family dynamics and trying to put the secrets into perspective. It’s been an ongoing process.

    To talk openly about things that used to be so taboo–takes a lot of courage but bringing them out into the open releases a lot of their power. I commend you for this, Lorna, and wish for you peace and ease.

    I love the glowing aura around that darling childhood photo of yours. Your star-shiny self is finally showing.

  12. Given that I’m nearly 54 and these “secrets” were revealed “many moons ago,” I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and gentle down to putting them into perspective. Thanks for your supportive and encouraging comments about my writing. You’re just fueling my fire to keep me going!

  13. Do you have any idea how many Buddhist books I read and mediation retreats I had to attend to get to those observations? 😉 Self reflection is one of the most difficult but rewarding things a person can do. But it changes you–and at least I found that people around you don’t always like it when you change.

    Thanks for that very sensitive comment, Phil. I’m not sure why, but I feel very comfortable laying bare my whole self in this forum and format. It just feels like the right time and place. People like you make it comfortable and safe.

  14. Well, I sure found that out the hard way! But I guess that’s the only way, right? 😉

  15. Would you believe that, until I started writing this blog in June, I had a major case of writer’s block? Now the stuff just pours out! Thanks for the compliments–maybe it’s the instant feedback that keeps me going…whatever it is, I’m going to get this whole story out thanks to supportive readers like you! 🙂

  16. Thanks, Terri. I’m hoping it’s “book material”–at least it seems to be great blog material! Stay tuned I’m returning to life as a married woman and there are lots of interesting things that are yet to happen…;)

  17. You speatheth the Truth, Ballernia Sister! 😉

  18. Glad you dropped in and liked what you read. Hope to see you again!

  19. From secret 7: “I was a lost, scared soul, looking for someone to define me. Once someone gave me a role to play, I had the intelligence to play it to the hilt–sometimes because of, and sometimes in spite, of alcohol”

    To secret 8: “I didn’t need anyone to “make me” shine. I was just afraid to step away from the camera lens and be my own director”

    That is a powerful and empowering transformation, moving your definition of success based on external forces to one that radiates from within. Most people never learn that in their lifetimes, and spend an eternity in misery, depending on others to validate their sense of self-worth; from a dependent state of being to an independent state.

    Thank you for sharing an insightful, if somewhat painful look at the forces that shaped your persona in early life.

  20. i enjoyed reading the darkness.

  21. Great Job! I love the way you listed all of our secrets. Isn’t it amazing we turned out so great! What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. We are the 4 musketeers. Love ya.

  22. I think you have one helluva story to tell, maam! Your life is ‘book material’, but I’m sure you’ve already figured that out. Very compelling. I just keep having to return. Thanks for sharing. I’m looking forward to the next post already.

  23. Excellent writing, Lorna. I can’t imagine the strength (courage too) it must have taken to write it. For me, again your balance is perfect. I want to give that cute little girl a big hug and I can’t wait to hear what the grownup Lorna does next. I’m rootin’ for ya!

  24. You’re not short of courage, Lorna – cheers molly

  25. I am very touched by this “episode”. Secrets are usually more painful, once uncovered, than the truth. How your father must have suffered…

    I am amazed at your ability to look at (and into) your life and write about it so poetically.

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

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