Thursday, February 21, 2008

Autobiography

It was a cold and drery day when mom's water broke. The Missouri landscape was teaming with potential beauty and wonder, but Old Man Winter held it captive in his death chains of cold grayness. Dad wasn't home. He had escaped this desolate land for the much milder duck hunting climate of Arkansas. Mom had no way of reaching him, so she enlisted the help of my oldest brother to get her to the nearest hospital, 30 miles away. After many long agonizing hours of labor, I was born with a stainless steel spoon in my mouth. The steel tasted bitter at first, but being the youngest of 10 children, I quickly learned that it would do me no good to complain. My sibling informed me that I was the "Lucky one". They entertained me with stories of carving their own wooden spoons, so I should be happy for my prefabricated steel one.

My dad was 52 and my mother was 40 when I was born, so I was tagged with the title of the change of life baby. I had a relativly happy childhood. We were not rich, but we never went without. We always had a garden with fresh vegetables, and my dad and brother were avid hunters and fishermen, therefore, we always had a freezer full of fresh game and fish.
I remember learning life lessons in the form of stories told by my father. He always had interesting tale about fighting in WWII and flying small commutter planes with his old Navy buddy. He also told stories about living through the depression and about traveling as a hobo with his brother Frank. The only bad memory as a small child occured when I was 10. One of my brothers was killed in a car accident that year. He was only 23.



I moved out of my parents house 3 months after I turned 18 and 3 months before graduating high school. My parents had bought a house in a different state, and I didn't want to go with them. They were willing to wait the three months for me to finish high school, but I didn't want them to. They had already devoted so much of their lives to their children. So, I skipped school one day and rented myself an apartment, turned on utilities and the following weekend I was on my own. But not for long.
Shortly after moving out, one of my sisters came nocking on my door. She needed a place to live, so I let her and her son move in. We lived together for awhile and then, my youngest brother asked to move in, so we let him join us too. Soon, my two bedroom apartment became very cramped. Not long after my brother moved in, my sister decided to move back to Michigan with her boyfriend, so this just left my brother and me.
But my sisters departure was actually the beginning of one of the darkest times of my life. It should have been a wonderful time. I was young, smart, funny, and a hard worker. I held down two jobs to pay my way through college, and times were hard. I remember weeks where I only had 7 cents left in my checking account after paying all of my bills, and I wasn't sure how I would buy groceries. But, thanks to my friends, I always seemed to have enough to eat.
But the trouble was with my brother. He became heavily addicted to drugs. He stopped paying for his half of the rent, and wouldn't pay anything on the utilities. He even did the unthinkable and began to steel from me, even when I barely had enough to get by as it was. I put up with him for several months because he was my brother and he had nowhere else to go. He had lost his job, his house, his truck, his wife, and his son. But it was all his fault. I began to feel rather desparate when he started to get violent with me. There were several times when he would come home after a drug beng and tried to use me for a recreational punching bag. I was a strong woman, and always managed to put up a pretty good fight, but I still ended up hurt in more ways than one. He was in so much trouble with the law, and one fateful day they came looking for him. He wasn't there. He has been gone for the past three day. I assume he was hiding out, but I don't know where. They left me a card and asked me to give them a call if he showed back up. Later that night, he appeared. The look in his eyes were very wild. I don't know what he was on, but I knew that he was extremely dangerous. He instantly began to push me around hitting me as often as he could and grabbing me by my hair when I tried to run away from him. Constantly demanding to know what I had told them. I still don't know how I got away from him, but I managed to run into the kitchen. He threw a glass piggy bank at my head and it shattered on the cabinets behind me spraying my face with shards of glass and coins. Then he started to run at me. I was afraid that he was going to body slam me into the cabinets. If this would have happened, he could have broken my back and paralyzed me for life, or worse. To my luck, there was a cast iron skillet sitting on top of the stove. I grabbed it and swung. It connected with the side of his head and I knocked him out. In a panick, I dragged his body out of the apartment and into the parking lot. Then I went back inside and called the police. They picked him up and took him to jail, and that horrible chapter in my life ended.

Then the best chapters of my life began.
I graduated in 1995 with my associates degree in Medical Technology and started dating my husband. We married in 1996 and had 5 wonderful child free years together to get to know one another and solidify our relationship. In 2000 I went back to college to finish my Bachelors degree and in 2001 we had our boys. In 2002 I graduated again.

In 2005 the bad luck cloud found it's way to my door once again. My sister, who had been fighting breast cancer since 99 was told that the cancer had spread to her bone. She underwent radiation therapy and became extremely ill. At the same time, my mother broke her knee and had to have knee replacement surgery and both my dad and father-in-law were admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. So 4 members of my family were hospitalized all in the same week. Later that year, we got custody of my husband's troubled 16 year old neice. This little demon child caused us a ton of greif. Shortly after gaining custody of her, my father-in-law became extremely ill again, and this time, he did not return home from the hospital. His death did not come easily, and I am still haunted today by this experience. But something good did come from it. It strengthened the bond between my husband and I. Two months after the death, the neice ran away from home and we ended up placing her at the Arkansas Sherrif's Youth ranch. This lifted a heavy burden from us and things slowly began to get back to normal. 006 came and my mother in-law suffered a stroke. Luckily, she was still able to live by herself, but she relied on us greatly for assistance, which we gladly gave. We grew very close, and eventually, she began to come and stay for days at a time with us. Last year, she had another stroke while driving home from our house and wrecked her truck. She suffered severe head trauma and an intracranial bleed. They did emergency surgery to stop the bleed, but she never came out of her coma. We waited for two months for some sign or miracle, but none never came. Eventually, my husband and I had to make the hardest decision of our lives and had her feeding tube taken out. The Dr's and nurses all told us that it was the most humane thing to do, but this didn't make things any easier. It took her 12 agnoizing days to die. Last summers experience left me extremely bitter, sad, angry, but most of all, it left me completely faithless. I have always struggled with religion, and the concept of God and Jesus, and this completely desolated any glimmer of faith I had.

So, my life has shaped who I am today.
I know that we all go through good times and dark times, but we must pick up and move on.


So now that you have endured this tortur to the end, I have a favor to ask. I would like for each of you to explain briefly how you are able to maintain your faith, what your faith is, or why you lack faith.

PS. I did not spell check this or proof read it because my kids are fighting and I need to go and split them up. So just endure the errors, because that's what makes me human.
Have a great weekend,
Cecile

18 comments:

bindhiya said...

Dear Cecile,
Am wordless...I don't know what to say..you went through so much in life...
about faith "at times I don't have any faith...but still i believe everything happens for a reason..as a Hindu.
Life is full of up and downs..
Here is a ((big hug)) dear.

bindi

Suzanne said...

Hi Honey, it's Aunt Suzie!

I haven't read your post, but will be back later to do so. I just saw your comment on my blog and had a good laugh. It's funny, every time I talk to her I feel like she's one of my nieces, so I just said the hell with it, I'm Aunt Suzie! I haven't been back, is she going to call me Aunt Suzie?! Hope so. If not, you can! LOVE YOU TOO!!! Moi XO

Cecile said...

I"m not exactly sure about this post, I may have to delete it, so everyone read fast while I sleep on it. I'll make my decision tomorrow.

BBC said...

Well, the post is so long that I don't have time to read it so I'll try to look at it again in the morning.

But will say that my childhood was a mixed bag. Lived some of it with a wonderful grandmother and some of it with shit parents.

BBC said...

Don't delete it, never delete a post. These posts may be important in the future. Okay?

Suzanne said...

Please don't ever erase this. It's a good place to come back to for a reality check. I like it here. I like your honesty, your guts. I don't want you to change it, so please don't. I'm asking with all my heart.

I love you, you know. When Robyn gets here she'll tell you the same thing. And if Brian was still around, he's tell you the same. Kylie, Bindi, Mark, Peter, everyone would honey. You're brave and we love you. Please don't erase. Thank you most of all for feeling safe enough with all of us to share your thoughts. God I love you and I'm so happy you're safe. I'm sorry about your brother, your mom, your dad, sister. With all my heart, I'm sorry. Life is hard. So few navigate it brilliantly. We all stuggle in our own way. I know you know that.

I'm going to try to answer your question. You know I'm not religious, but spiritual. I grew up with a Catholic father, a Methodist mother and a Catholic Grandmother who became a Jehovah's Witness. Complicated. If that wasn't enough, I studied architecture and art history and saw the one thread running through the centuries causing havoc and pain: religion. I was a constant challenge for my grandmother as you might imagine. I never stopped asking questions and she was so kind and gentle she always tried to have an answer until one day she said "Honey, sometimes you just have to have faith." Of course my response was "Why?" (that poor woman!). She couldn't win. I was relentless! I'm not religious because it involves so much hypocrasy and I don't feel comfortable with that. I'm also not religious because I've always trusted my own judgement and have never felt as if I need God to help with the choices I've made. If I do things right I take credit, if I do things wrong, I take credit. I don't blame anything on anyone else for a single thing.

I'll tell you a funny story. My neighbor, Veronica is Catholic. Very Catholic! She's the one who introduced me to the kitties at the park and then abandoned them (I thought that was horrible for such a religious person). She also introduced me to the patron saint of animals, St. Francis. She said I didn't have to be Catholic to embrace him. She said I reminded her so much of him she knew we should meet. She was right. I fell in love with him. He was me. And our journey began. He helped me many days at the park when I was feeling low or frustrated. I would talk to him as if he was standing beside me. I felt him. I really did. The day I took Ireland I had trouble initially. Ireland was cold and wet and as I lifted him into the carrier he refused. I asked St. Francis to please help me. I lifted him again and he went right into the carrier. We walked back to the car and by the time I reached it I had tears in my eyes because I was so grateful. I unlocked the door, put Ireland in the back seat and I looked to the sky and said out loud to St. Francis "Thank you." You know the rest of the story. Losing Ireland broke my heart. I haven't talked to St. Francis since. I relied on him rather than on myself and I made a terrible mistake in judgement. I know who I am and I know what to do and I made a horrible mistake putting my trust in someone else. Ireland is gone because of that. I don't blame St. Francis, I blame me for not trusting my own instinct.

I don't know the answer honey, I just know my answer. I can't rely on someone I don't know or have no idea even exists to make choices for me. I have to trust me and I like the choices I make on my own better than not. I've tried desperately to figure out the lesson I was supposed to learn with Ireland. I've realized life is hard and often excruciating painful, but it is for a reason. You learn to be better, to do things better and differently, to be smarter, to trust your instinct, to have faith...in you. I like that. I don't appreciate people who give themselves over to God and expect the answers and accept what ever comes their way. That doesn't make sense to me. It's seems lazy. How would you just give your power away when the answer is always in your own heart if you just make the effort to look. But that's just me. You asked and now you have to come to your own conclusions. And you will. We each travel a unique path, our own.

Do I believe in "something else?" Of course. I just don't know what it is. Perhaps I never will.

I love you sweetie. Honestly, I do. You'll be okay. You're a smart woman and you'll find the answer. We're never going to leave you because we love you so. Thank you again for trusting us to help heal your soul.

The biggest hug and kiss,
Aunt Suzie!

Cecile said...

I need to add that even though I am struggling with the faith part of life, I am happy in life right now. Gosh, I take a look around at the rest of the world, and I think to myself. I'm the luckiest woman alive. I have a sexy, wonderful, loving husband, Two beautiful, innocent, honory, and amazing boys, my sweet loyal Javie Dog (God I love that dog), and more friends that I can count. Oh and as an added bonus, I have a roof over my head, a car (with a half a tank of gas) to drive, and food in my stomach (although it was a black forrest cupcake with pink and red icing that a co-worker made for my boys and me.) But I am happy. But I still want to know everyone's views on faith.

INNER VOICES said...

believe in your self... no need to put faith into something that might not be there for you. if you must have hope in the religious direction, believe in angels... good and bad, those are the ones who watch out for us! great post!!! read it twice already...

Leah said...

I loved this post. Hard-core and brave to write it down, and I definitely think you shouldn't erase it! I have to say, it must have been difficult but cathartic to sit down and write your life that way. What a wonderful exercise.

I'm Jewish, and believe in God, but my faith is bolstered by the rituals of my religion more than anything else--like lighting candles on Friday night. These rituals have become little places of peace in my life, and connect me to my family, my own past, and even reach back to my ancestors...and I might add, people can find rituals to anchor them outside of organized religion. Just in the everyday, traditions and rituals that center you and make you feel connected. I bet you have things like that that give faith, and maybe most of you do if you think about it. I wonder--and I'd be interested to know.

BBC said...

Hey, as a microbiologist do you train those little critters to do tricks? Like to jump through little rings of fire and things like that: :-)

BBC said...

I would like for each of you to explain briefly how you are able to maintain your faith, what your faith is, or why you lack faith.

Um, I'm God, but not that bogyman in the sky one. And I don't think I can perform miracles like many think he can.

Not even when I get to dying, I'm just going to get to dying and blogging about it if I can.

I think it will be the last, and maybe the most interesting thing I experience and blog about.

Well, why shouldn't death be interesting? Can't get out of it so make it interesting.

kylie said...

hi cecile,
what a life!
i'll have to think about what i want to say to you but please dont delete.
you're with friends and we will only respect you for telling your story
love
k

Suzanne said...

Hi Cecile,

It's so nice to see everyone here. It's been an exhausting day (I cleaned my office from top to bottom and rearranged the furniture). I had to close the door and ban the kitties and poor T-Bone because Ohno (of course) went bonkers while playing and knocked the key board, the speakers and two lamps off the desk all with one swipe. Light bulbs shattered into a thousand little pieces and the lamps broke. It was the first time I've ever raised my voice to him. I pointed to the door and yelled "OUT WITH YOU THIS INSTANT!" He ran like his pants were on fire and I slammed the door behind him. I had 4 lamps in the office and of course he had to break one from each pair, so now I have one small lamp and one big lamp on my desk and none on the other side of the room except the light that illuminates a painting. It looks sort of wacky. I like symetry, so the pairing is making my eyes do crazing things.

I've never banned the animals from any project or any room, so it was rather lonely without them "helping" today, but I accomplished a lot. When I opened the door for the big reveal, they all looked shell shocked. They love my office and I don't think they could believe I changed it. T-Bone and Mickey wouldn't even enter at first. You would have enjoyed the reveal because you could have eaten off the floor, walls, basically anything in the room... it was 100% bacteria free! Spiffy.

Well, I stopped by just to say hi and check on you. I was so happy to see all your friends here lending support. I loved what Leah wrote about everyday traditions and rituals. You're absolutely correct Leah. The first thing I do when I wake up is light a candle in memory of all the animals and people I've lost and tell them I love and miss them, out loud. I haven't missed a day in almost 10 years. It's serves multiple purposes: it's a daily reminder, it's comforting and it gives me faith when all my little angels show up in the kitchen every day. Thank you for a really thoughtful and beautiful comment.

And Inner Voices, I agee with your comment as well and really enjoyed it. I don't know why, but I do believe in angels. I'm confident they exist and that they have those pretty wings.

It's wonderful to be here Cecile. I love you and hope you had a beautiful day.

My love to all,
Suzanne (aka A.S.!)

p.s. If you need a good laugh, go to Kylie's blog and read her current post on camel racing. You will die. It's so beautifully written and so funny. Rob and I were in stitches last night. Love you. XO

BBC said...

Oh, if you delete this post I'll hunt you down and kick your ass. But I haven't decided if I'll kick your ass before or after I kick you ass. :-)

I have never deleted a post, they are not about now, they are for the future to read and learn from.

The Queen said...

Dear Cecile,
Faith to me has been the belief that things will get better. It's knowing that the bad cannot last. My faith as a child was roman catholic, a religion for children my cajun dad would say. It had so many rituals with hoopla you know, like incense burning and candles lite in a darken church filled with benevolent statues of people with halos and angelic faces. We would stand up, kneel, cross ourselves, pray prayers in a dead language and get the exact number of prayers to pray to be forgiven when we sinned. So it all was quite comforting until you were old enough to think it through.And that time comes for all of us no matter what our spiritual upbringing is. For myself, I learned from every experience good or bad that something was always gained whether it be knownledge of what not to do or just a confirmation of my good sense. I learned to see everything around me as connected and worthy of life. My brother David came back from Viet Nam to take his own life foolishly rushing across a bayou bridge late one night. None of that sadness made any sense nor meeting our father for the first time at his funeral. On the hope and belief that I was put here for a reason, I moved on to marry (quite unsuccessfully), have children (quite successfully) and stumbled into a career as an art teacher.Maybe my faith is the good in people all around us.
My faith is women like you!
Love and goodness to you always,
Shara

Gig said...

Cecile,
I agree with everyone else, don't delete. Your words are your life, thank you for letting us to become even more a part of your life. My heart aches for the pain and hurt that you have endured. But, as you said you are a strong person and this has made you even stronger. This does not lessen any of the pain that you have experienced. I am thankful that you are strong and that you have your husband and sons.
Faith is a tough one for many people. It is not something we can touch, which can make it hard to believe in.
I was raised Southern Baptist, married my first husband in the Catholic Church. For me, I found more comfort, peace and faith in the traditions and rituals during mass than I ever had. After my divorce, I raised my daughter Catholic even though I could not participate in communion. I finally converted when I married Mr.Big. almomst 19 yrs ago. I will say there have been times when my faith has wavered, but I go light a candle and give thanks for the good things in my life and try to let go of the negative. I am not always sucessful, but I keep trying. I am going to leave you with a poem on Faith that I love.

When you come to the edge
of all the light you know
and are about to step off
into the darkness of the unknown,
Faith is knowing one of two things will happen.
There will be something
solid to stand on
or you will be taught how to Fly.
(Barbara J. Winters)

Love you and keep writing
Debbie

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