Many people who know me do not know that I have/had a sister that passed away when she was 5...I was 4...this is a picture of us with my mother (headless...sorry Mom). It was taken in a place that we spent an awful lot of time in her short 5 years of life...a hospital. Loma Linda Medical Center in California actually because my sister had brain cancer....and at that time, 1972, they didnt have the technology available that they do now that would have enabled them (possibly) to just go in there and take it out....and allow me grow up with my sister in my life.
I cant remember how many times I have just sat and thought about her...wondering how life might have been different for us if she had lived past childhood...her death by itself was devasting...but the ramifications of her death could possibly be what lead to my (and siblings) childhood full of abuse and pain.
You see, my father(I call my step father father simply because he is the only father I have ever known) spent a year following her death in prison for her murder. My mother accused him of murdering her cancer ridden 5 year old daughter while lying in a hospital bed in a coma and he was sent away for that...but he didnt stay gone...and the rest, as they say, is history. Picture this...
My mother fled from my "real" father after I was born. Merely a baby and with 3 other toddlers in tow she decided facing a life full of unknowns with 4 kids and no means of supporting them was a hell of a lot better than staying with an alcoholic who couldnt be bothered to remember he had children, a family (to this day Im sure my "real" father doesnt actually know my name as he frequently gets it wrong on the odd occasion I speak to him). She packed our things and got behind the wheel of a car she didnt have a license to drive...a manual at that (something she had never driven...think about that for a minute...exactly)...and set out for a future unknown. Little did she know that she had just jumped from the pan into the fire as far as men are concerned.
Shes always been rather scant with details about what happened between leaving my alcoholic father and setting herself up in a livable situation with 4 young kids and no diploma etc. Ive always assumed she may have been forced to do some things she wasnt proud or happy about, who knows, but I understand and so I dont push for answers. We all deserve to keep our secrets if we choose to.
She picks up the story at a time when she was working in a bar and making good tips and having a life she was looking for (of sorts)....independence and money...no man to depend on that constantly let you down. Unfortunately, fate, as they say, had other plans for this young naive woman that was only looking for a better life for her children and herself...trying to outrun the mistakes she had already made in her life and determined not to repeat them...but sometimes you just cant outrun destiny. One night, while working in the bar, in walked a 6' 4" handsome man who scanned the room and only stopped when his dark eyes landed on her. Did I mention my mother was a stunner when young (still is but its harder to convince her now that youth has fled)...she was and has always been a beautiful woman. I might mention that my "real" father was a very handsome man as well. Kind of makes me wonder why I turned out looking as I do (another story perhaps...and there is one). Anyhow, I digress...
He looked at my mother for a full minute...she was captured by his gaze...felt herself go all warm and felt extremely devoured by his intense stare. She tells us that she almost believed everyone in the room simply ceased to exist and her and this man were the only two left. He walked straight to her and introduced himself....and thus began a life spanning nearly 20 years of abuse and terror.
In the beginning his constant need to know every detail about where she was and what she was doing etc made her feel cherished and protected. She believed that he only wanted to take care of her and that his concern for her every movement was merely his way of showing it. A far cry from her exhusband that never even asked her how she was that day. She fell for it, hook line and sinker, but by the time she realized his concern was really a need to control her...well...by that time it was far too late. The first time she suggested to him that maybe they needed to take some time apart to see where they stood...she spent the night at her friends house nursing a black eye and busted lip...her frightened children getting their first taste of physical violence....it would be an oft repeated scene that weaved through the tapestry of our lives.
Because abused women feel they have no voice, no say in their lives (been there done that) she married this man simply because he gave her no choice to refuse him. She felt powerless to stop the wheels set in motion that had brought him to her. She might as well have had prison bars surrounding her she felt so trapped, caged. She might well have been the unhappiest bride on her wedding day that ever existed...who knows.
When my sister first started showing signs of illness my mother suspected that it was something worse then just a common childhood ailment. She took her directly to a well known doctor and her worst fears were realized...her daughter...her baby...had cancer. It seems cruel of God to inflict such pain on the lives of little children and my mother was angry in ways Ive only come to understand myself this past few years. The next few years would be spent in and out of the hospital as my sister went through various rounds of illness and treatment.
Let me digress just a moment here and explain the sort of relationship I had with my sister then. We were barely a year apart in age and couldnt have looked more different if we tried (just look at the picture up there). She looked much like my mother...dark skinned with brown eyes and hair. I had snow white skin with blazing red hair and sparkling blue eyes (I might add Im the only one of my siblings that has this particular genetic make up...the rest are all brown skinned etc...must be that Native American in my grandmothers family). We were inseperable...every picture that my mother has of us together we are either holding hands or have our arms around each other. Many of them are taken in the hospital...my sister with her head in bandages and me next to her...wanting my head bandaged as well cause Nay had hers done. (my sisters name was Dawn Renee...I called her Nay...and my gmail account uses her name) It was very rare indeed for my mother to be with her in the hospital without me there as well.
My sister spent much of her life in the hospital as I said...but there were times when she was well enough to come home. The last time she came home she seemed to be doing better than my mother remembers for some time. The events that occurred that night, the last night my sister lived among us, are engraven in my mothers mind...but she finds it hard to talk about still. Oh she will tell us about it, give us the details etc...but she gets a far away look in her eye...leaves us all together sometimes...rushing back to a life when her daughter was still a warm living being in her arms...so that we have to call out to her... drag her back to the present...to life without Nay. She tells us that Nay was doing well...had spent the evening playing with me...enjoying being home for a change. The atmosphere was rather partyish...Nay wasnt home often these days.
At some point my father came home...he wasnt expecting Nay to be home apparently...thinking she was in the hospital for good this time (but she had taken a turn for the better...surprising the doctors all around)...but my mother always brought her home whenever she was capable of making the trip.
I might point out here that my father...being the abusive tyrant that he was felt no sympathy for the pain and suffering this little 5 year old was going through. He quite often told my mother that she must have done something in her life to bring on this illness to her daughter...Gods punishment and all. He routinely referred to my sister as a mongoloid (when young I never knew what a mongoloid was but thought it was something to do with her illness...I discovered the truth of it the night she died)...as if she were some misshappen oddity destined for a pathetic pitiful existence. I realize years later that my father had no depths of cruelty he wouldnt sink to if he could heap such recriminations on the head of a mother that was losing her child...blaming her for her childs illness..and labeling her beautiful innocent baby with such a horrific title. We like to pretend human beings are better than animals...but its been proved to me at least twice in my life...that...no...we are not. (at least some of us are not)
So after my father came home and seen Nay there he argued with my mother...asked her why she had brought her "mongoloid" home again when she should be in the hospital. My mother told him that Nay was doing better...surprising the doctors even....so maybe things were looking up and they should think positive about this new turn of events. He stalked down the hallway...and about 10 minutes later Nay came back down the hallway acting strange...its hard for my mother to describe my sister at that point...she sort of blanks out that night...only remembering images and moments. She remembers Nay collapsing at her feet...she remembers calling the ambulance...she remembers calling her sister to come take the rest of us...she remembers trying to hold my sister all the way to the hospital even though the paramedics were trying to give her aid. She doesnt remember my father being there at any point.
Later that night when my sister was laying in her hospital bed...hooked up to machines and deep in the black world of coma...my father entered the hospital...my mother seen him go in Nays room without bothering to even let my mother know he was there. (she had gone down the hall to call and check on us). She noticed him come out of the room a few moments later and leave...still without seeking her out first. She remembers feeling intense anxiety about him coming and going in such a sneaky manner...like a thief.
Moments later all the machines in my sisters room started going off...my sister was dying.
*to be continued