PART ONE – My Life Before Eli
I want to believe that I was once an angel too—a gift my mother had held in her strong arms. I looked down on my own arms. They were normal; the usual two long, pale stretches of muscles and bones God had blessed me with. But in these arms, I held my angels also, and for that I sent Him my gratitude.
But before I met any of my beautiful angels, when I was the one flying, hovering on earth all innocent and full of hopes and dreams like an angel, I became aware that there were bad things in the world. In fifth grade a tumor was found under my left nipple. The good thing was that it was benign. My wings were clipped a few inches, but with a great zest for life, I still fluttered around. In eighth grade, another tumor that turned out to be nothing to worry about was found in my upper left arm. Though it was removed, the incident broke my wings this time. I became more aware of life, seeing it unfold before my young eyes.
I had become accustomed to drives to hospitals, to visits to doctors, and to them saying that everything was going to be all right. In the end, though, good news wasn’t always to be had. And cancer, no matter how much I battled against it, would come and go in my life to torment me about how beautiful life could be.
Little girls have the wings of angels, and so do little boys. But as they grow, challenges are hurled at them like a shuttlecock in a game of badminton. Like the sport, if they are faced against veteran players, the shuttlecock shooting toward them rapidly, more often than not, the feathered, conical birdie will land on the wooden badminton court.
My mother, Ethel, perhaps underwent a lot of stress and pressures too when I was growing up because instead of remembering her affection toward me, all that flashed in my memory were the strong, unyielding hands that dragged me by my hair across our house. During those times, I would scream, curse, and beg her to release me. But when her hands loosened on my hair, her feet would find their way to my stomach. More often than not, they would land at my head too, and I would howl in agony. How could a mother act with such hatred toward her daughter?
I really have no idea why she was never affectionate toward me or any of my siblings. I suppose she may have grown up without hugs or family affection herself and never learned loving warmth; as a child, I would try to pull in my siblings next to me in photos.
When I see families who truly love and care for each other, it is a most beautiful thing. I had that with my father but sadly not with my mother or siblings. Most all my siblings were estranged from her. On Matt’s side, though, I do have some of his siblings who consider me their sister, and I feel the same way. To have a man who truly loves you is most precious. I am thankful that Matt is in my life. I am thankful to have had my boys on earth for the time the Lord let me have them. I am thankful Matt’s sister, Jolana, has shown me what being sisters really mean. I am just thankful.
Peas have vitamin C, E, and zinc content. Because of that, I can say that they were indeed nutritious; but when peas were being served to me most of the time and she force fed them to me to the point of throwing up; I knew what she was doing was not a manifestation of her love.
At school, when I was beyond her peripheral vision, Mother would tell my teachers and friends to make sure that I ate the lunch she packed me because the food she forced me to eat at the school lunches, such as cooked spinach, cheese, foods that made me very sick to my stomach, and caused me to throw up. I had to stay in the lunchroom for hours. I would sit alone in the lunchroom, feeling horrible and bad about myself. Was I being a disobedient child?
At such an early age, I missed classes because of the horrid reason that I had to consume food that my mother dictated I have. When finally I finished my lunch—either by downing the food or by dumping the remainder of my meal in the trash bins—I would stand up, clean up the table I used, and alternately walk and run back to my classroom. It was a long journey because lunches were in the old junior high basement in Golden, Colorado, where I went to school, and a good two blocks separate it from the grade school building.
In high school, I would invite some of my friends over to my house, and they would stare at me and my mother with horrified expressions as soon as Mother began to be shrouded with her usual coat of hostility toward me. Sometimes it was just a wrong word I said or a smile that she believed was not right to be worn at a particular moment, and she would without hesitation grab me by my hair and start dragging me in the house, unmindful that my friends were gathered around watching us.
When tears would start to roll down my face, my friends would stand one by one as though they knew the tears were the cue for them to leave. They did leave me. I watched sadly as their backs turned on me and prayed that the following day in school I would receive comfort from them. And always, my friends’ eyes would acknowledge me with understanding, and they would talk to me as though they had not experienced Mother’s tumultuous outbreak. They knew the incident was not something I wanted to discuss. The friendly smiles on their faces and the gentle pats of their comforting hands were all I needed.
My mother scared our neighbors as well. On many occasions, they heard her wrath, usually toward my stepfather, Paul, or me. I never understood why we were the chosen ones for her wrath during my teenage years. Later in life, after most of my siblings were estranged from her, she chose to pick on my mentally ill younger sister, Ella. Even on the phone in another state, I could hear her in the background, mentally and emotionally abusing Ella. I saw her more than once drag Ella around by the hair, and I never was able to rescue Ella. My little sister ended up with my mother’s wrath until my mother died. Even on the phone, in a different state, hearing my mother yell and scream and abuse my sister, it brought back all that she had done to me in years past, and the fact that even in her early eighties she remained very abusive. That was why I kept a protection from abuse court order on her, so she could not contact me, e-mail me, write me letters, or go through Ella to get to me.
As I grew more mature, I became stronger and more open-minded and there were even moments when I felt like I could handle any challenge that might come my way. And maybe in a way, I did. After the devastation that came with each blow, I stood up more limber and supple, ready to bend and play along the hurdles of life.