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John’s parents, Jack and Michelle, February 28, 1987. Now you see why my son is so damn handsome.

From the time I was a small child to the present day I have been afraid of my mother. This is a ridiculous thing for a woman my age to say but, unfortunately it is true. My mom seems to have the power to make my life miserable even from a distance. She is the one person in my life I do not have the ability to stand my ground with. She can be very cold when angered and speaks with ice in her voice and cutting remarks. To this day, when I hear someone stomping, even if it is not in anger, I become very anxious. If I feel someone is ignoring me, I end up having flashbacks. Although I have come a long way in my healing, these are issues I still need to work on.

By the time I reached my late teens I was craving independence with a passion. I desperately wanted to move out of my parents’ house and live my life as I wished and try to discover who I truly am. My father sensed that I was tired of being told what to do, when to do it, who I was, what I thought, what I felt, etc. He once said to me that no matter how old I am or where I am there will always be someone to answer to. In recent years I have found that although in a sense this may true to some, it is not entirely true, although I now understand why my father felt this way.

When I was nineteen I got a job as a receptionist in an accounting firm in downtown Cleveland. I became good friends with the other receptionist and we eventually decided to go on a Carnival Cruise. I was not sure how my mom would feel about this but since the cruise left port on my 21st birthday, she legally could not stop me. I used every ounce of willpower I had to save up for the cruise and gave myself one of the best birthday presents I have ever received.

My friend and I went on this cruise with a couple of her friends and we had the time of our lives. For me, it was my first taste of independence. It was the first time in my life I had been without someone from the older generation of my family for an extended period of time. I enjoyed making my own decisions, thinking for myself and not feeling guilty if I had too good of a time.

Upon returning home I was immediately thrown back into the over protection and control. I had to return to be treating as a child. This is something that never sat well with me but after my taste of freedom it was even more unbearable. I then began to think about getting my own place.

My mom had a habit of calling me at work to yell at me for something that I did that she did not like. When I say yell, I mean to the point that the entire office could hear her through my phone. This was always very embarrassing but about a year after I returned from my cruise (I was working for a real estate appraiser by this time), a woman in my office said to me “you need to get out of that house NOW” after I hung up the phone with my mom. Since we were taught that the older people are always correct and that leaving or not agreeing with your parents would be seen by others as you being a bad person, I was shocked to hear this woman give me this advice. She was approximately the same age as my mother. A coworker who was about my age began to help me find an affordable apartment. He was a real estate appraiser so information was easily accessible to him.

We found a cute apartment on the second floor of a century home in a Cleveland neighborhood nicknamed “Little Italy”. I adored the place but was terrified of breaking the news to my parents, more so my mom. In my mom’s family it was inappropriate for a woman to leave her parent’s home until she was legally married. My mother also took moving out as a personal insult, no matter what age I was.

When I told my parents I was moving it did not go over well. My mom accused me of wanting to move out for the sole purpose of being able to starve myself. This of course was the last thing on my list of reasons to move out. Eventually my mom got over it and my family helped me paint my apartment.

My mom did still, however, try to prevent the apron strings from breaking. My parents lived in a far eastern suburb of Cleveland so it took approximately 25 minutes to drive from my place to theirs. I began to enjoy my freedom and partied quite frequently. There was a night when I stayed out all night. For you young people, this before cell phones. My mom, who rarely called her children because children should call their mothers and not vice versa, decided to call that night. It is my mom’s habit that if you do not pick up the phone she will repeatedly call. She finally decided to send my father to my place in the wee hours of the morning only for him to find that I was not there. Again, my mother was irate and did her best to punish me even though I was an adult and living on my own. After yelling at me and slamming down the phone she ignored me for a few weeks as she had done since I was a small child. The few weeks past and she then became upset because I had not called her. Answering machines were a new phenomena back then and my mom had yet to figure out how to use them properly. One day when I returned home I saw the light on my answering machine blinking. When I listened to the message there was nothing but dead air. A few days later I discovered that my mother was extremely angry that I had not returned her call. I put two and two together and figured out that the dead air message was from my mom. When I tried to explain this, she naturally did not believe me.

Contrary to my nature, I began to see two different guys at the same time. I think being so sequestered all my life made me want to sow my wild oats. I began to start hanging out with the guy who lived across the street. He was younger than I was and he was very wild. He loved to party all the time and keep late nights.

Shortly after I met the guy who lived down the street from me. He had a beautiful St. Bernard named Goliath and we met while we were both walking our dogs. His dog was quite a contrast to my little collie mix named Bubbles.

The guy down the street was named Jack. On that day that we met, we never could imagine the horrendous heartache the two of us would endure together 27 years later. This is John’s father.

Jack became jealous of the guy across the street and began spending much time with me. He is quite a unique character which could be due to the fact that his father committed suicide when Jack was 12 years old. I cannot be entirely sure about this however.

A few months later we decided to get married. In order to save money for my wedding dress, I moved back into my parents’ house. At the age of 22 I was back to rules and curfews until my wedding day. This was a concept that Jack could not understand and I really cannot blame him for that.

We married on February 28, 1987. I became pregnant with John a month later. The truth was that I wanted to be a mother more than anything. In my family you do not have a baby without being married. Being an unwed mother is a worse crime than murder in my family. When Jack proposed my self-esteem was so low that I thought no one else would ever want to marry me. I accepted his proposal even though I knew we were not right for each other.

Our marriage did not last long and we parted ways when John was only three months old. It was then that my life went back to rules and curfew because the fact that I was a mother myself now was of no importance. I moved back into my parents’ home in the hopes of saving money to get a place for Johnny and me.

Things did not go well at my parents’ house. My mom wanted to have control on how I raised my son and my social life. My mothering ability was constantly criticized and any man, no matter how nice, my mother did not approve of. She even went so far as to tell me my aunt did not like one particular man, who was very good guy. When I questioned my aunt about the incident years later my aunt told me that she liked the man very much and had never said that she did not. This was a constant theme in my relationship with my mom.

My mother would go through times that no matter what her four children did it was wrong. She would imagine that we said and did things that never happened. She would stomp around the house in anger and ignore us. If one was being ignored by her the entire household had to ignore that person or incur her wrath. She was very upset with all four of us for quite awhile and decided to sit us down and tell her about her childhood where she, her siblings and my grandmother were abused excessively by my grandfather. This information she gave is the truth but the fact we were hearing this for the first time as a punishment was not the ideal situation. My mom was always telling us that we did not know how good we have it and reminded us constantly about how spoiled we are. She told us of her childhood to drive these points home and gain sympathy for herself. The fact that we learned at an extremely young age to be very carefully of what we said, if we said anything at all, and the manner in which the information was delivered to us, caused all four of us to sit there and say absolutely nothing. We were afraid to react because reacting wrongly was never a good thing. It turned out that not reacting to this was wrong and well into middle age my mother would bring the incident up to me. We then began to be very very good at pretending we were angry with our grandfather. I had to really put on an act because my grandfather and I were very close until he crossed over when I was ten years old. This disclosure did explain many things I did not understand as a child. I had always sensed that my mother resented my relationship with my grandfather. She would often say “you think he is so great” with much anger and no explanation and my little girl mind was left in constant confusion.

It got to the point that things were so bad that Johnny and I needed to leave immediately. Money was tight but fortunately my brother had also had enough and we pitched in to get an apartment together. We lived together for a few years and living with my brother was one of the best experiences of my life.

My brother eventually moved out and got his own place. I was sad he was moving but happy for him that he would have his first place of his own. For many years it was John and I together.

In my family, if you do not have a husband, you do not have a family of your own even if you have children. It was my desire that John and I had traditions of our own. I remember one Christmas my mother was insisting that Johnny and I sleep over her house on Christmas Eve. I insisted that we slept at our own house because I had decorated and was placing Johnny’s presents under my own tree. I wanted him to be able to receive a visit from Santa in his own home. My mom was not happy with this but finally gave in provided we came over in the morning after opening presents.

Johnny and I had a lovely Christmas morning in our own home opening his presents. We then got dressed and went to my parents’ house. We arrived at 11:00 am but apparently this was not what my mother had in mind. She was furious and spent the entire Christmas Day ignoring me and stomping around the house. The holidays have always been a very stressful and unpleasant time for me. I dreaded them every year. This is merely one example of why.

My relationship with my father is a bit difficult to explain. I remember as a small child being afraid of him because he seemed to have a bad temper. I remember him yelling quite a bit and sometimes throwing things while my mother sat quietly. Up until about the age of six I did not understand what was going on and it appeared that my father was entirely the bad guy in our family.

I remember one night while in bed listening to my parents argue. They began to talk about divorcing. I remember my father saying that if that happened there would be no money and he would not be around. To my toddler ears I thought my father was threatening to leave and abandon us forever. I immediately jumped out of bed and ran into the kitchen screaming “no, no”. Now I realize that he was telling my mother that this was how things happened in divorces back in those days. This was the late 1960’s. Back then when there was a divorce the father was pretty much booted out of the family and the mother automatically received custody of the children. I believe child support was not strictly enforced back then either. My dad knew that my mother would be so bitter after a divorce she would never let him see us or have anything to do with him at all. He would have been out of our lives forever.

My mom eventually insisted my father receive counseling, which was something her pride would never permit her to do. She often bragged about not receiving counseling for the emotional wounds from her abusive childhood. But to make her happy, my father went for counseling. My dad seemed to immediately go from being scary and bad tempered to the opposite extreme of docile and submissive. Whatever my mother wanted he did and he always sided with her even when she was obviously wrong.

I spent many years being angry with my father’s therapist. I could not understand the extreme change in my dad. I felt that he did not protect his children from the emotional and mental abuse we received from our mother. I have since learned that my dad made this change because if he did not my mom would divorce him. If that had happened he would not be there at all. He felt that being there with us and being able to do little was better than not being there at all and having absolutely no control over what happened to us.

My dad once told me that he felt closest to me because I am the one who is most like him. He also told me that he loves me and no matter what I did he always would, even if I got pregnant outside of marriage. I had a difficulty believing him at the time. I think it may have been his way of telling me he understood and that although it appeared he was backing up my mother, that was not really the truth. My dad did his best to keep the peace in our house.

I always wanted to have a normal father/daughter relationship with my dad but my mom seemed to be against this. Any conversation or interaction I had with my dad, my mother would insist never took place. If I repeated something my dad said to me, my mother would say he did not say that, he would never say that, she knows him better than anyone. What my mom never realized was that on the extremely rare occasions that my dad and I had time alone, he was a different person than when she was around.

We were led to believe that my mother was sickly and frail and that we had to do our best to not upset her. This caused me to believe that my mom would cross over before my dad. As horrible as this sounds, I looked forward to this so that I could have my dad to myself and have a real father/daughter relationship. Unfortunately, this was one time that my intuition failed me. My father crossed over at the young age of 58 when I was 33. Thankfully, on the other hand, due to my abilities my dad and I can now talk and have private conversations without concern. I would prefer his physical presence but this is certainly better than nothing.

I have also cut ties with my mom and have not seen her in two years. I now have a sense of freedom I have never had before. I am discovering my true essence and living it freely. – Michelle

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