Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Funeral of a "Hell Raiser"

As I mentioned before, my older sis was a hell raiser intent on leaving nothing standing once she had "left the building"...smoking embers and shocked faces were all that could be seen after a visit from her.

She said what she wanted to say, to anyone, including our Mother...and didnt care what happened after that. What strings she cut...what hearts she broke mattered not at all.

Throughout my entire life I knew Tammy as a consummate liar. I guess she would be considered a pathological liar considering that is someone who has an overwhelming urge to lie...even when there is no need too. We generally lie to either not hurt someones feelings or to cover up some wrong that we did...she lied "just because"...without cause without reason. I have forgotten how many times I stood there while she told a story of some event in our lives...most often an event that happened to ME...and she would not only make herself the "hero, victim, victor" whatever...she would exaggerate until the story was unrecognizable. She did that since we were very young. You could never trust what came out of her mouth...all that you could trust was that it was probably not the truth.

That was something that held true for ALL of her life...at least the part of her life I was a part of.

She made it a habit of acquiring things that were not necessarily hers...but in which the real owner should have taken better care of if he/she didnt want to lose that item...obviously they didnt deserve it since they left said item where it was easily obtained by an innocent passerby...whatever. She bragged about stealing from stores etc...quite often while she was in the store. Loudly proclaiming about the time she took such and such right under their noses...and they were all so stupid they didnt even know. Nobody ever challenged her about these loud rants...Im not sure why. Maybe they figured she was a drunk red neck and best to ignore her....if only.

While I worked at Kmart for a spell I happened to know that her and her little gang of pot heads made it a habit to steal from Kmart whenever they could...I asked her please to not at least do it while I was at work...putting me and my job at risk. She never listened of course and I was eventually forced to leave that job...circumstances of which would make another post by itself. (will think about that)

Her house was constantly over run with pot smoking, beer drinking, half naked women or lecherous men who eyed her little girls more than once. Her daughters claimed numerous times that this or that man touched them or opened the bathroom door while they were in there etc...but she never believed them...or called them sluts out to "take her man". Eventually the older one left...never to return. She lived in the same town up until her mother died...married even...but never spoke to her again. The younger daughter and littlest son was still there at the time of her death. Her older boy was long gone by that time...suffering his own mental problems brought about from his crazy abused childhood.

Her house was a cave of darkness in which Harley Davidson was the decor of choice. No matter how bright the day was outside her house was kept in perpetual twilight. Always requiring lights to be on if you wanted to see what you were doing. Her bedroom itself was a shrine to all things HD and black with bits of red were the only colors allowed. Even her clothes were basic black (HD logos everywhere), any color was rarely ever to be seen .

The reason I repeated all of this is to remind you of what I knew of MY sister....the one I grew up with...the one I despaired of...the one that pushed me away...only to draw me back when and if she needed me. The one that alienated everyone and everything around her...including her own children. The one that only seemed to hate, scream, and lie her way through life.
So my Mother rushes to Wyoming to attend her funeral with my little sis. She arrives the day of and has to hunt for the new address as my sis had moved several times around town through the years. Imagine Moms surprise to pull up into a driveway of a brand new double wide trailer. My sis had only ever lived in dumps for most of her adult life.

When they knocked on the door and it was answered by a young teenager that they instantly recognized but of who nearly broke my Mothers heart all over again for it was my youngest niece...my sis's youngest daughter...who looked exactly like my sister did at her age. My Mom hadnt seen her since she was a little girl. My niece did not seem happy to see her Grandmother all though in the past she had been a favorite to spend the night with her.

Everyone entered the house and my Mother looked around wondering if she was actually in the right house. This house was bright and breezy. Pretty decor and flowers etc were in abundance. It was pristine in appearance and not a single Harley Davidson icon could be seen anywhere...not even the color black.

Mother asked permission to look around and the new husband (of whom she had heard of but never met) showed her the house. On the walls were pics of all of us...my sis had never kept pics on her walls ever except of her kids when they were born. Mom was especially surprised to see a pic of me considering I had been "disowned" several years previously. A walk down the hall and the kids rooms had nice bedroom sets and toys...something unheard of in their younger days. Mostly castoffs and broken things were all they had to play with as my sis couldnt be bothered to buy them things...they usually ended up with things that came by way of stealing.

At the back of the house was Tammy's room. Here it was still pure Tammy. Windows were black as usual...heavily curtained and enforcing the cave like feel of the place. The walls and every surface had some sort of HD item as well as pot symbols and skulls etc. The rest of the house was a study in opposites...but here in her room the old Tammy shone through.

My Mother and younger sis just kept staring at each other with similar thoughts running through their heads...what the heck was going on?

Later that day when attending the funeral my Mother was prepared to see the usual gathering of pot heads and thieves giving their final farewells to a "gang member"....so imagine her surprise when people she didnt recognize stood up and talked about a woman who was "honest and giving"....who "told the truth no matter what"...who would "do anything for anyone"....and who "made their lives so much better for having known her".

My Mother and sis were left with their mouths literally hanging open...who the HELL was this person everyone was talking about? No way could this be the same Tammy we all "knew and loved"....something had to be wrong cause this wasnt making any sense.

After the funeral Mom had a chance to speak with some of these strangers and they all had similar stories to tell...my sis had helped them either emotionally (listening and advising on problems), financially (loaning money then not accepting it back) and just being a friend.

You would have thought this would have made my Mom happy to know that Tammy had apparently made peace with herself after all these years and finally learned to reach out to people...but in fact my Mother was furious. She was so incredibly angry she felt absolutely horrified to be at my sisters funeral with such bitterness and anger in her heart...but really...WHO WAS THIS PERSON THEY WERE ADMIRING AND CRYING OVER?!!!

My Mom felt cheated...she felt humiliated...she felt as if my sister had pulled one last "fast one" on all of us...and especially her. My sister obviously had changed in some ways...how or why we will never know....but no matter how much she had changed...she still couldnt reach out to her own Mother to try and bridge the gap that had been built. My Mother was left with the memory of a rebellious child that could never be hugged...shown care for...or even loved...without it being thrown back in our faces.

Who was this lady everyone knew and loved...and missed...who had touched them in some way...a positive way....but of whom we knew nothing about...had never got to know...and now never would?

To this day my Mother talks about that funeral and all the stories people were telling about my sister...stories that would have been impossible to believe if she hadnt heard them with her own ears...but one thing held true....everyone there considered us...her family....as her enemies. She never spoke of us...except to bad talk us or accuse us of cheating her in some way.

I will never understand my sister...the person she was, the one we knew...or the one she became that everyone else knew but not us.

I miss her either way....


Chiara said...

Well, except with her "family of origin" Tammy seems to have really reformed and redeemed herself. It is very interesting that she literally put her HD life in one room as people are often advised to psychologicallly lock away some aspect of their lives in a room in their minds.

I understand your mother's rage--it must have felt like the ultimate betrayal not to be allowed into the good times, but it seems Tammy need a steady group to rebel against in order to keep herself together, and maybe that was your mother's ultimate maternal gift.

Anonymous said...

Hey Red,

Very interesting. We have one like that in our family. I think Chira's insights were on target. Some people seem to need the anger, thrive on the anger as a kind of fuel.

It's painful to love someone that selfish, vindictive and hate filled and I guess the only comfort, if it is a comfort, is that they probably do see the world through very distorted lenses, often coming to believe their own lies, in fact needing them in order to justify, energize and glorify themselves.

Or maybe some people are just born mean, selfish, shits and we shouldn't waste too much of our precious time or energy trying to figure them out or forgive them.
Shoot me. Fat Too

Ana said...

I love the person that Tammy became and everyone else knew but you(until after her death).

Tammy's apparent change was beautiful and you got a chance to experience it through others. That was a wonderful thing to have happened.

I enjoyed reading all about you, Tammy, and your family.

With your gift for writing and moving people, you should consider writing a book. I know it would be an excellent read. Please let me know if you do so. I'll be one of the first to read it.

janice said...

How sad, especially for your Mom. It, more than likely, felt like being at a strangers wake.

So very sad....

Umm Omar said...

I was saddened to hear about your mom's reaction. I don't blame her for feeling the way she did. I can imagine it was terribly painful for her to feel like she-her own mother-never got a chance to get to know this Tammy. Maybe one day it will be your mom's sole source of comfort-knowing that your sister was piecing her life together and surely finding some contentment in helping others.

Mr. Condescending said...

that is REALLY sad and emotional. I don't have any siblings so I can't exactly relate but I can see how it would seriously affect someone.

coolred38 said...

Chiara...funny you should mention the room analogy...when I met my bestfriend who happens to be a social worker etc (she was also instrumental in discovering what the ex was up to in a roundabout fashion)one of the first "diagnosis" she gave me was that I was extremely good at locking things behind doors that I didnt wish to acknowledge or discuss. It would seem I have acquired many many doors throughout my life in which I choose not to open...at least not now. hmmm? Runs in the family in more ways then one...sigh.

Fat Too...I agree...I think she needed us...the villian family...to convince herself and others that she was the way she was because of us...therefore had an easy excuse. I suppose I can say the same thing eh? And I agree...some people are just born that way...father comes to mind.

Ana...thank you...just wondering...are you a publisher or something...lol. Just kidding. Thanks for the kind words.

Janice...she describes it just like that.

UmmOmar...Im not sure if my Mom will ever find peace with it...of all her children Tammy was the one that kept her awake at night and had her looking in the mailbox hoping against hope for some kind of communication...it never came...not even at the end when surely my sis knew she was dying...that is the hardest thing for her to understand...even at deaths door sis couldnt reach out.

Mr Condi...thanks.

Chiara said...

Coolred--the mental closed rooms and locked doors can serve a healthy purpose for survival, and then of course a therapist makes you open them up, clean them out, chuck the rubbish, rearrange the furniture and close but not relock the door--hmmm I feel an academic publication coming on! LOL :D

Social workers make the best friends! LOL :) It sounds like your was both a good friend and a good social worker/detective! :)

coolred38 said...

Chiara...she is the bestest best friend I ever could hope for.

Anonymous said...

Hey Red,

No I wouldn't say that of you. I think you tend to bend over backward to keep the love alive, but sure yeah, all of us with the anger in us have to vent sometimes. Fat Too

Suroor said...

This made me so sad. I can see why you love your sister.

Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

Wow.That would be your most powerful piece to-date, Red. I wonder what turned her around? This man, perhaps? I don't know that there's anything that would comfort your mother, but I wonder if she was just too ashamed to go back to her loved-ones? Pathological liars tends to self-hate in a big way. They puff themselves up, talk others down, but they really can't stand themselves.

Yasemin said...

Everyone deals with abuse differently and it seems like her way was to lie, be hateful, and push away the people she associated with her upbringing.

She probably believed her own lies, and she needed them just to hold on in this life. I think that they were absolutely an important coping mechanism, that she would have died without. And being hateful and estranged from everyone was much easier than being disappointed by them.

You were an innocent bystander in all of this sweetie. I really think she did love you, but that upbringing was so terrifying that she ran from it, while you chose to stare it in the face.

It is clear that mental illness was part of her story. Perhaps she was with these new people because they became a family for her, one that wouldn't judge, one she could start over with. It must have been so empowering.

I feel for you and your mom so much. I'm just glad that you are able to know that at the end of her life, she was finding her footing.

coolred38 said...

Fat Too...I guess it just depends on what method we use for venting...sigh.

Suroor...everyone always asks me why I still loved her after all that grief...Im like...she's my sister...is there a choice? I dont understand people that throw family away...especially over things that obviously cant be helped.

Abu Dhabi...I agree for the most part...I think the person she hated most of all was herself. Not sure how much of a roll her husband played in her change. I never met him and he hasnt kept in touch with Mom.

Lisa...thanks for the words. I hope she was finding her place in the world...believe me...Im still looking so I know it isnt easy.

Susanne said...

Aw, this was really touching. What I found odd is that everyone considered her family as your sister's enemies YET your sister had pictures of you all on her walls. I don't think I could put pics of my enemies on my living room walls.

Maybe she could never find it in her heart to reach out to her family because you all knew so much of her past and she remembered all the pain and hurt she'd caused and she didn't want to reopen those wounds. Sadly, she may not have realized your mom wanted to hear from her and that your mom was ready to offer forgiveness and a relationship.

Maybe she was trying to get her life in order, to prove to herself that she had changed and just never was able to reconcile with those she hurt the most.

I often try to figure out things. I wish for answers. I am so sorry she left you all this way.

Very nice post. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

That was me,Lat! Forgot to mention it! :D

Anonymous said...

A blood bond like that of a sister cannot be chucked away that easily.
I'm glad that she turned out to be someone who people liked and admire.Maybe just maybe she tried to contact your mom but she somehow couldn't? She decided to leave things the way they are because she couldn't forgive herself for who she had been before?
Looks like I need to take serious lessons from Chiara! :D

Rasputin said...

The stories of your sister are indeed gut-wrenching. Relationships are so complex , we give so much, we expect, we feel disappointed. I can understand your mother's, sister and your own frustrations at not being reached out to by her to partake of the 'change' that she had undergone for the better.
Its cathartic to talk about it

coolred38 said...

Susanne..the pics on the walls is something that still confuses my mom. She didnt even know my sis had kept any of us...as she had thrown lots away over the years...and why tell people we all suck...but then have our pics out there...didnt make sense along with the rest.

Lat...I hope she had changed as its very hard to live with such anger all the time...believe me I know...Im living with it now.

Rasputin...it is indeed cathartic...thanks for stopping by.

Chiara said...

Coolred--excellent choice of name to help keep a lid on all that anger--RagingRed would be scary LOL :)

Lat--LOL ;) :)

Chiara said...

My theory about the pics on the wall--a sense of connectedness to you all, and on her terms, no messy real personalities or lives to deal with.

MaryAnn said...

You have a way of writing,MashaAllah. This made me very sad and made me do a lot of thinking.

coolred38 said...

Chiara...thats what I was thinking too.