In my family, I was the ‘sick’ one. Spent a lot of time in bed. At almost 91, I’m still trying to overcome the fear and loneliness of being different.
It doesn’t help that from the moment of my birth I was a disappointment to my parents. I was the first grandchild and everyone wanted a boy. My brother, who arrived eleven months later, got all the attention and admiration from our extended family. I took it for granted I was definitely inferior and didn’t deserve more than what I got.
It also didn’t help that my mother was only seventeen when I was born. She quit school and went to work after her father and brother died of pneumonia. She, her mother and her sister had to live with relatives. She married my dad when she was sixteen and became pregnant shortly afterward. She missed a great deal of her childhood. Except for my brother, Buddy, Mother never liked children. Nor animals.
It didn’t help either that I was never hugged, kissed nor told that I was pretty or good. Neither Mother nor Dad were demonstrative. They didn’t play with us or read to us. Mother was busy having babies and doing housework and Dad was engaged with starting a new construction company with his dad. Mother noticed me only to punish or criticize. Dad didn’t seem to notice I was even there But my parents took good care of us physically and they were not abusive. Mother attended all the school performances. She took good care of me when I was sick. I just accepted that she loved me.
But I didn’t feel completely safe. I seemed to realize there were areas of my life where my mother couldn’t, or wouldn’t, save me.
This feeling may be explained by something that happened a few short months after my birth. Mother sent me out of state to live with my maternal grandmother until after the birth of my brother. Then shortly after his birth, I was sent to live with an aunt while she had major surgery and recovered. I don’t remember those times, of course, but the experience of being tossed from one stranger (to me) to another, must have done nothing to make me feel secure. Then when I was settled permanently at home, Mother was busy with my baby brother.
My saving grace was that my maternal grandmother, Bertie May Smith, and Mother’s sister (my aunt), Ching, genuinely cared about me and made me feel special when I was with them.