Not As I Do

This is a Mother’s Day post, but not in the sense that you may think. The last 17 years, our relationship has been complicated to put it simply. There were many lessons that she tried to teach me as I was growing, but in true child form, I opted to make mistakes versus listening and obeying the warnings she tried so desperately to penetrate into my adolescent psyche.

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I hated everything when I was a teenager.

She became a mother at a very young age. They were married soon after conception and my father, owning the responsibility of his new small family, joined the military. Then I came along. I have written about what I remember (or don’t) of my father in those  early years of life, but the constant was my mother. She was always there.  She raised us with very little help from anyone else, as we constantly moved from one place to another and away from family most of the time.

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My dad was stationed in Korea for a year and Mom was left to raise three kids alone.

I really wish I had appreciated her more then. I wish I had followed some of her instructions. I wish I had even liked her more. No doubt that I love her. She is my mother. But with my stubbornness and her life long search to find herself, we were never friends.

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In the fourth grade (I know this is a trivial time in one’s life that should not hold much weight into adulthood), I started to suck at school. I discovered at an early age that I was really smart. I also discovered that I learned so fast, I could pretty much wing-it most of the time. So I stopped doing homework. To this day I will go out of my way to avoid bringing work of any fashion home with me. This habit also was the driving force that convinced me it was time to leave the military. All this to say, my teachers informed my parents, who were unsuspecting that anything was wrong.

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But we managed a little fun in the midst of frustration.

In 1995, my mother wrote me a letter. It has remained preserved in a clear pencil pocket all these years. I took it with me after I went to juvy (another story for another time), was court ordered to live with my aunt, through college, to war and back twice, owning two houses, having two children of my own. This 3/4 piece of paper in my mother’s handwriting has remained with me.

dfg

The coffee stain at the bottom happened today. This is the first time I have taken it out of that pencil pouch. Dammit.

Dear Dacia,

You are a very intelligent young lady. Your father and I are very proud of you and your accomplishments. We only ask that you try a little harder at keeping your mind on your studies while at school. You only get to go through school one time, please make the best of it. Life is too short as it is. Loosen up, enjoy yourself but remember without knowledge and education, we are poor people. And I don’t mean just the lack of money. I mean, in the lack of mind and knowledge. Try to view school as a play. You have the lead. Your even allowed to make up things as you go along. But you have to learn your lines. Spelling, Math, Reading, Social Studies, etc. You know what I mean. You know you can do better. I’ve seen you do better.

I love you,

Mom

When I became a teenager, my mother and I started down the same path. I can recall a day sitting in the passenger seat of the family car and mom driving. She asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told her that I just wanted to party. All the time. At 15, I decided that I disagreed with 98% of what the world viewed as the responsibilities of being an adult. She tried to explain these concepts of paying bills and taxes, needing to get a job and what it truly took to support myself and be successful.

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I cannot imagine the desperation of my mother, to see me headed down a road that would lead me to just barely scraping by. I am truly amazed that at 32, I do not have an 18 year old child of my own.

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Recently, I had a chance to spend sometime with my mother. More time than I have spent with her since the day she drove me to the police station and handed me over.

It suddenly occurred to me that we both walked down a path together. And as I left her that day many years ago, I was able to jump back on the right track and make something of myself. She stayed. She made a series of choices that led her to a place that me and my siblings felt needed some intervention.

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As I picked her up and drove her to my home, I could not help but feel like the tables had turned. If I had not finally accepted the advice my mother had tried so hard to give me, I would still be in that passenger seat refusing to accept responsibility or acknowledge consequences of my life choices.

There is so much I want for my mother, but really, I just want a mother. I did not grow up how she expected, but I found my round about way to a successful life. I was not around for us to build that relationship that other daughters have with their mother. My kids might not get to visit Meemaw at the same house she had lived in for decades, like I got to growing up. But that’s alright.

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On Mother’s Day, I always struggle to find a good card at the store. Vague ones that simply say “I love you, Mom.” and don’t talk about “You were always there for me. You’re my best friend. I couldnt have done it without you.” I wish I could say those things, but for whatever reason, my fault, hers, or simply victims of circumstance, we don’t have a relationship like most women.

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Yes we are hoola-hooping in a bar…

I love my mother so deeply. I would tear down a mountain for her. And heaven help anyone that disrespects her or hurts her in anyway. That said, I cannot force her to make choices that would help her fit into this idea of “Mom” that I knew before. If she is happy, healthy, and taken care of I cannot ask much more than that.

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I needed my mama to help me. My PPD had gotten so bad. This visit really was a huge turning point in my own recovery. I still need my mama.

Even though her time with me was under stressful circumstances and her departure was quite abrupt, I did learn one thing. I need my mother. No matter who she was before or who she is now. I just needed her because I know she’d love me even if I wasn’t successful. Even if I was still in that passenger seat. Even if she had an 18 year old grandchild. She will always love me in the ways she can.

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So, happy Mother’s Day, Woman. I love you.

Six Facts Sunday- Domestic Violence-Please Share!! It could save a life.

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Today’s facts are not happy ones, but they are true to far more women than should be. Domestic violence is “violent or aggressive behavior within the home, typically involving abuse of a spouse  or partner” is the google definition. For some reason, this very clear explanation comes with some grey areas that I want cleared up.

  1. NO ONE deserves to be hit, manipulated or forced to remain in a situation that is unhealthy. If you would not want your daughter in the situation, you need to get help.
  2. These are some signs that someone is being abused.
    1. they are afraid of their partner or are anxious to please them
    2. stops seeing friends and family or cuts phone conversations short
    3. their partner often critizes them in front of others
    4. they are forced by their partner to do sexual things
    5. their partner controls the money in the relationship
    6. they might mention their partners temper, jealousy or possessiveness
    7. they become depressed, lose their confidence are very withdraw or anxious
    8. they have physical injuries with unlikely explanations
    9. if they leave for any amount of time for any reason, the partner constantly calls, harasses, or follows them
  3. What can I do as a friend? BE SUPPORTIVE. Judgement and criticism will discourage a person from opening up and being honest. Understand that it may seem like a private matter, but your support can make a difference. To suspect and do nothing fosters far worse consequences.
    1. Listen to what they have to say
    2. Believe what they tell you
    3. Take the abuse seriously
    4. Help them recognize the abuse
    5. Let them know how incredibly brave they are. They need confidence in themselves, now more than ever. THE ABUSE IS NOT HER FAULT!
    6. Help them protect themselves
    7. Discuss what they can do and offer practical assistance
    8. Respect their right to make decisions
    9. Maintain regular contact with them
  4. They might stay for a number of reasons. Mostly they love the person they are with. They might be afraid of what would happen to them if they leave. They are scared of getting into legal trouble. They might stay because they have all the same mutual friends and they feel there is no safe place for them to go. Understand there is nothing wrong with her and it is not her fault if she has not left. It is possible that she has been manipulated to think that she could not make it without her partner they are stupid and worthless to everyone because of past decisions she has made. These are lies.
  5. What can they do? For anonymous confidential help 24/7 anyone can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 as soon as they can. They can just ask for advice and will not be forced into anything. They can request information as well. They can also call 911 anytime they feel in danger, even if the abuse happened the day before.
  6. People die from domestic violence. This horrifying fact has wrecked my world. I wish I had known the signs and knew she was reaching to me for help before the worst occurred. I will not stand by and let it happen again to someone I love. So if you are reading this and I have described your current relationship even just a little, PLEASE reach out to me or anyone else, call the number above, please get help. You deserve to be happy and feel safe and loved.

Poet and Didn’t Know-et.

Aside from class assignments, I cannot currently write poetry. But there was a time when I could. When my adolescent and young adult demons where well fed and I struggled to find myself. This past weekend, my husband and I went through our basement and years of boxes we have packed around our adult lives from houses, cities, states, and failed relationships. I stumbled upon letters from my father (another post for another time), letters from my husband when we were deployed to two different countries, and old poems I had written many lifetimes ago that I would like to share.

I am not sure who this poem is about, but goodness I was in a horrible place.

“Showcase”

I hate the way you love me

The way you feed on my misery

Thirsting for my tears and sweat that fall to the ground, watering the garden of your ego

I am your accessory

I smile for your convenience

Standing on a pedestal you placed me on to drink freely on the attention from other men.

I cannot leave you.

You have taken all from me.

I cannot breathe without you.

Yet when you sleep, I am alone again.

You hurt me when you tore down my walls

I cry when you touch me.

I kept you at arms length, but you still broke through.

It’s not okay. I’m not okay.

What you have taken from me, I can never give again.

But still you ask for more… more…

I only have but one soul.

Now I am a ghost who sleeps in your bed

A memory of who I used to be and who you tell people I am.

I Lost My Best Friend (Christmas 2010)

10301125_10152397267360932_2355302407718459426_nChristmas in Iraq happens about 18 hours before it does back home. Being in a third world country was difficult but I had to try extra hard on holidays to keep it together. In the spirit of Christmas I volunteered for midnight guard duty to allow my soldiers time to contact family. As I prepared for work I opened my lifeline to home; my laptop. My best friend was online and told me about her festivities the next morning. Sam told me that she and Tim were getting a long pretty well while wrapping presents. She also said she was thinking of leaving him. I encouraged her to throw his things on the lawn immediately, but she wanted to wait until after Christmas; for the kids.

Supporting Sam’s relationship with Tim was hard. I knew that she would do what she wanted and that she just needed someone in her corner. I was always there because she was for me. I needed her as much as she needed me. So I bowed down to her decision and said that the 26th is a great day as any. We sent our love across the ocean through the internet. She got back to her wrapping, and I geared up for patrol.

It was only a four hour shift, however my company was not my favorite. A female superior who really had it out for me most of the time. I was lucky that night, though. Perhaps the Christmas spirit reached her, too. We talked about her grown kids and what they were doing for the holidays. I told her about my fiancé and me getting married in less than a month when I would fly home. We were eloping and only my best friend was going to be in attendance to witness. My fiancé and Sam were my circle. The two constants in my life. I needed them both equally. While I was in Iraq, my fiancé was in Afghanistan. Our commands agreed to let us take vacation at the same time. The plan was to fly home together, get married with Sami there, and fly back to finish out our tours overseas in different areas of combat.

The four hour shift came and went with nothing to report. We gave a briefing to the oncoming patrol and we made our way back to the living area. I checked my lifeline and saw that there were quite a few messages on my social media. All very urgent to call so and so. There is an emergency and Sam had told them to call me first.

I had the very worst thoughts in my head to prepare myself for what was probably something overly dramatized. I put my gear back on and walked to my office. I used a calling card to call a mutual friend of mine and Sam.

“Tim shot and killed Sam, Dacia. Sami is dead.” Her voice broke. I collapsed to the floor sick and weak. My body could not hold the grief. I must have screamed something terrible because night shift workers came running to me. I am sure they asked me, but all I could feel was sick. And then denial. I had to call my friend back; I must have hung up on her. I needed to correct her and tell her there was a mistake. I had just talked to Sam. Someone had given her wrong information. There was no way in the world Sam was gone. She could not be gone.

“No. NO.” I pleaded with her. She was fine. Everything was fine. She was not gone. My friend insisted that she was there when they took Sam off life support.

“Dacia, honey. There was nothing they could have done. He shot her point blank in the temple. I am so sorry, Honey. I am so sorry.” We cried silently for a long time. Occasionally I could mutter the word “no”.

“I have to go now.” I told her. I felt so empty. All the sands of the desert resided in my gut. I did not want to talk. I did not want even breath. I did not want to be alone and I did not want to sleep. I was terrified that her ghost would confront me for not knowing the danger she was in. It was paralyzing. I did not work for three days. I did not eat for longer. I was lost.

Sam left behind six children. They were all in the house when it happened. The oldest heard her mother and Tim arguing. She walked in on them. Tim had Sami by the hair and a gun in his hand. Sam told her daughter to get the baby and take the kids in the basement.

“Call 911.” Sam knew. She knew he was going to kill her. When the children were in the basement, locked in the bathroom, her daughter called 911. Then they heard it. All six of them. They lost their mother forever.

In the days following, those children were everyone’s focus. I poured out everything I could for them, being so far away. My friend assisted in keeping them all together, as they had different fathers. Then suddenly it was understood that I knew everything about the physical abuse leading up to Sam’s murder, and that I did nothing to stop it. The truth is Sam hid it from me. I try to think back over conversations thinking maybe she had hinted. What if she really did tell me and I did not hear her. I was excommunicated from her family. I did not fight it. It was not about me. The focus had to be on those children. Whoever they had to blame for closure, it did not matter. But I never got closure.

My wedding day came and went and before I knew it I was back in that third world country surrounded by dirt and death. The days would drag on and I fell deeper and deeper into depression. I lost more weight than I should have and eventually started passing out. After the third incident I was sent home to be medically tested for a more serious condition. I was ready to go. My soul was tired. I could not handle many more weeks in that depression.

It took me a long time to be able to do anything once I was home. I could not go to certain places or drive down particular roads. I was scared I would bump into someone and they would ask me how I was doing; or accuse me of knowing.

“You might as well have pulled the trigger yourself.” Was sent to me in an email. I would reflect on everything she ever said to me; all the songs she would sing at karaoke should have given it away.

“I was so young, you should have known better than to lean on me…” We would duet this song. That was my part. It was always my part. It will always be my part. To this day, I have never reached out to her family for closure.

Even after the short years it has been, I have come to the conclusion that I lack the emotional capacity to truly hate. I had no energy left to wish any evils on Tim for taking my friend. His sentencing finally came and with much disappointment of mutual friends, he only received a fifteen year term in prison. That very moment I realized that if it were five years or fifty, it would not fill the gaping hole in my heart. I will not draft letters to him about my pain. I will not check on his parole status. I will not look him up when he is out of prison to make him answer for what he did.

I take abuse of all kinds very seriously, now. I listen when people mention their spouses or significant others; maybe I would check the hints Sam tried to give me. I think that she has visited me on occasion but not frequently. This past holiday, at 11:30pm on Christmas Eve my living room television came on by itself, volume turned up, on a channel with static. I knew it was her, but it spooked my husband so bad he could not sleep. I have gradually healed from this great loss, but I have a scar on my heart that is named after her. She will always be there.

 

 

 

Reflection (Required for my assignment. I left it attached this time because I really think it gives insight to the writing.)

I have never taken the time to get this out of my body and onto paper. I have told the story a few times but never so permanently as writing. The story itself seems so cliché of domestic violence, but there was a sense of necessity to tell the story because it truly belonged to me; it was not just something you read in the news that happened to someone else.

I used Kick-Start number eight for this writing. I knew by just remembering where I was, what I was doing, and how I felt at the time that the words would flow onto the screen. The most liberating part was including the physical feelings I had when I found out. I never told anyone the real reason I stopped sleeping and why I did not want to be alone. I never told anyone about feeling of collapsing onto the floor. I really hung up on my friend after she told me. I guess I panicked. I never told anyone how utterly desperate I was for her to be wrong, and how I tried to convince her from Iraq that she did not see what she saw and it was someone else.

This course has taught me quite a bit about my own writing style. It has brought out some strength and exposed some weaknesses that are now hard to ignore. All of the lessons have really boiled down to this one essay. I knew I had to write it one day, I am just thankful that I had the tools to do so. Creative nonfiction has really opened my eyes to a more colorful way of expressing myself daily. Poetry has helped me pull some of the emotion that I normally lack in writing and add depth and better description to my pieces. Playwriting helped me become immersed in dialogue; something else I try to avoid in writing. The short story is where I thrive, have the most fun, and my default genre of writing when I have the choice. Creative writing was the only reason I started going back to school.

I think a memoir holds a special place in literature. I know there are so many stories in my life worth telling. I believe this genre really allows anyone to tell their side of the story, include their heart and soul, and really help people understand what they truly went through. A lot of history can be told through personal experiences.

Below is a link from the local news.

http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/tag/samantha-marie-miller/