This is my seventh post, for age 7, of the October Memoir and Backstory Challenge hosted by Jane Anne McLachlan. My previous posts: Baby Speed Eater, Two Tales, Curls, Most Magical Christmas, Kindergarten, and Places.
One week after my 7th birthday, I wrote this paper for school.
On the same day, my mother was in the psychiatric unit of Deaconess Hospital writing a letter to me and my brother:
Monday, May 19, 1969
Dear Joy and Dale
I love you so very much.
The treatments and medicines the doctors give me here make me sometimes forget things, but I’ve never forgotten that I have you two beautiful children and that you are very special to Daddy and me.
I don’t know when I can come home but I do know that I’m getting better because the doctor told me I would be transferred to the second floor as soon as there is a room for me. The people on the second floor aren’t as sick as the ones where I am now.
There is a little church right here in the hospital which I was able to attend yesterday.
Isn’t it nice that Grandpa and Grandma Weese could come and help take care of you? I’m so glad they are there, especially since I can’t be.
Take good care of yourselves. Be good for Daddy, Grandma, and Grandpa, and keep on remembering that I love you bunches and bunches.
Among the treatments she received was electroshock therapy although, of course, I didn’t fully understand that for many years later. I did understand that my memory of my childhood was often more accurate than hers.
Those 1960s perfect family photos were sometimes people wearing masks.
My initial draft of this post stopped with this picture, but then I read Nightmares – Year 5 by Susan Hawthorne who is participating in the October Memoir Challenge at her blog Time Floats On. I want to at least make an attempt to address how my mother’s problems and occasional hospitalizations combined with my dad’s emotional distance impacted me. I habitually minimize it, so be patient with me. There are layers of truth, here, some of which I have yet to uncover.
Today, let’s go with this layer of truth. I knew I was loved and that was good. But I had it, in writing, that just because someone loved you didn’t mean they could take care of you. I didn’t fear abandonment. I expected it. At any given moment. My contingency plans had contingency plans. The up side of this coin is self-reliance. The down side is an inability to live in the present and a lack in what turns out to be an important relationship skill: accepting help from others.