Mar. 11, 2019

IT TOOK A LIFETIME BUT, I NO-LONGER FEAR THE DARK.

From childhood, fear was my captor. I was afraid of the dark and afraid of my mother. As I grew older, that fear manifested itself into panic attacks, claustrophobia, and illness. Although I was highly allergic to aspirin, my mother forced it down me, claiming it cured everything. Aspirin made my body swell with hives, including my face, hands, and feet. I looked grotesque, almost monster-like and, as the swelling grew worse I panicked, begging my mother to take me to the Doctor. She always told me to shut up.

From childhood I endured earaches, skin allergies, headaches, and stomach viruses. My constant state of nervousness--coupled with ongoing fear--most likely intensified many of my health issues.

At least once every winter, my earaches were so bad the doctor had to lance both ears. On one occasion, my mother waited too long to get me to the doctor’s office and my right eardrum burst.

Starting with my teen years, I suffered painful menstrual cramps and, during my senior year in high school, my cramps were joined by migraine headaches. Regardless of my symptoms or illnesses, my mother refused to let me stay home from school.

Instead of being sympathetic, she ridiculed me, “Oh, is Lady Astor not feeling well?!?!? Too bad! If you think you’re going to play sick while I work my country ass off all day, you’re crazy. Get up and go to school; learn something!”

 I remember the time I woke up with a severe stomach virus accompanied by vomiting/ diarrhea. I was violently sick..so sick I could barely stand yet my mother forced me to go to school. Knowing I was too ill to attend class, I went directly to the nurse’s station to lie down. The nurse, a kind and sympathetic woman, let me stretch out on her cot while she took my temperature. She called my mother to verify I was too sick to be at school, emphasizing “Sally should be home in bed.”

My mother drove to school but refused to come inside and sign me out. Instead, she stayed in the car, fuming. Oh, how I dreaded getting in the car that day, knowing I would have to listen to her threats. The car door had barely closed when-- her back teeth clenched-- my mother released her anger: “You’re so proud of yourself, making people think you’re sick just so they’ll baby you. Well, you’re not going to lounge around and play sick at my house, sister. I intend to put your skinny ass to work!”

Like a prison guard, my mother kept an evil-eye on me. Sick or otherwise, I wasn’t allowed to sleep late, even on weekends. My mother would say “you can’t have fun on Friday night and expect to sleep late the next day, not in my house!" She would come in my room before 7 a.m. and start her domineering “count-down”.

Most Saturdays I was expected to iron. She usually had my “assignments” waiting for me—dampened pillowcases, sheets, dish towels, even my brother’s boxer shorts.

She viewed me as her property and on more than one occasion, bragged to others how she “owned me.” Only when “the coast was clear” and I was safely alone, did I dare put my thoughts on paper then hide my notes in an old zipper notebook.

Recently, looking through storage boxes, I found my old notebook. As I examined page after page of long-ago notes and personal comments, one very-telling sentence I'd written caught my attention: “I fear my mother so much, I am afraid to hate her.”