First of all, I am not a mental health professional or expert!  This is just my personal experience.

   My psychiatrist and I literally Googled EMDR Therapist in my area to find someone for me to see.  She didn’t know anyone, and at the time she only had a handful of patients that had ever gone to EMDR therapy, and they weren’t close enough to where I lived.  I was at the “I’ll try anything” stage of bipolar depression at the time.  The therapists popped up on the screen and my doctor looked at all of their backgrounds, education, and credentials.  We settled on one and I made an appointment for the next week.

   The basics:  My EMDR therapist charged $60 per hour.  My insurance did not cover it, so I paid check or cash each session when we were done.  Every session lasted an hour, except one went over and lasted two hours because she didn’t have another appointment booked after me.  When each session was over, we would schedule another one two weeks out.  I probably worked with her for four or five sessions.

Important note:  Schedule your session to be the last thing you do that day.  If possible, don’t try to go back to work, or go grocery shopping, or anything.  You will be exhausted.  Mentally you are completely and emotionally drained.  I would go home after each session and lay down and take a long nap.  EMDR is hard.   Know that it sucks and you’re going to cry while you’re there, and you will have to think about the worst things that have ever happened to you.  But when you are done with it, you will be free.

   I’m going to try to condense this so it’s not five pages long, but hopefully you can still understand the process and know what to expect.

   My therapist’s name was Virginia.  She was polite and soft-spoken, and she had typical therapist’s office.  She asked me to sit down and tell her what was going on.  It was awkward trying to sum up everything that had been going on for years, but I did the best I could.  She asked a few questions, and then she asked me what was the biggest problem.  She asked if I would like to work on that today and I said yes.  If I had said no, I’d rather work on some other thing, I think that would’ve been fine too.  Let’s say I had five traumatic events that I had problems dealing with.  It was my choice of where to begin or what we would work on during a session.

   She explained what the process was and how it worked.  Basically, EMDR takes the traumatic memory from the part of the brain that FEELS, and moves it to the part of the brain that thinks about the event “in the narrative.”  It’s kind of like being able to see and remember what happened from a distance in your mind, without the emotions of reliving it as if it is happening at that moment in the present.  That is what PTSD feels like.  You aren’t just remembering the trauma…you are reliving it, experiencing the feeling of it.  After EMDR, you can still remember it, talk about it, and even feel sadness.  You’re not emotionless.  But you don’t go into that panic, fear, flashbacks, or any of the horrible emotions of post-traumatic stress.  The way it works is the patient focuses on something slowly moving repeatedly left to right.  This process, along with the therapist’s guided talking and focused questions, is how the trauma shifts from the FEELING part of the brain over to the NARRATIVE part.  Virginia said the memory is “stuck”, meaning, it stayed in the FEELING part of the brain.  We are simply helping it move.

   I’m going to illustrate how we worked on one memory that I had been dealing with for over twenty years.  This was the first of many, I just want you to get an idea.  Virginia handed me two little round discs that were attached to cords.  Like earbuds.  She had a little remote attached to the end of the cord.  She put a disc in each hand and told me to hold it between my thumb and index finger.  They were vibrating lightly, one vibrated then the other.  I sat back and got comfortable.  She turned the discs off for a moment and she asked me to think of a calm, happy place that makes me feel at peace when I think of it.  I said a lake house.  That’s what she wanted me to think about if I got too upset, or uncomfortable, or wanted to stop.  Then I closed my eyes and thought about that place for a while.

   She asked me to talk about the incident.  I took a deep breath and began, “Someone knocked on my door.  I opened it and it was my cousin Donnie and our preacher Gary.  I was smiling and saying Hi!  My grandmother was staying with my brother and I because our parents were on a weekend motorcycle trip with their motorcycle club.  My grandmother came and stood next to me as I asked them what was going on?  They just stood there and looked at us and didn’t speak.  Their faces were weird, and they weren’t smiling.  I asked again what was going on, and then asked if something was wrong.  Donnie started to speak, he stuttered out ‘your parents.  It’s your parents.  There’s been an accident.’  I asked him, ‘Are they okay?’  He said nothing.  I asked him again, but louder.  He just shook his head and looked away.  Then I screamed hysterically, ‘Are they okay?’  Donnie said no.  They were gone.  I kind of remember my grandmother to my left sinking to the ground, and Donnie and Gary rushing towards her.  My next memory is screaming.  I screamed and ran.  I ran down our stairs leading to the back door on the bottom floor.  I was screaming and running through the back yard and down our huge hill, and up another hill to the road behind our house.  I was still screaming as I ran two blocks through backyards and driveways until I got to my boyfriend’s house.  I have no memory of anything after that.”

   It was so hard to get the words out, but I finally did.  I cried the whole time.   It was time for the back and forth part of the session.   I’ll go ahead and tell you that I decided I didn’t like the vibrating discs.  I found them to be distracting and I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying.  “No problem”, she said.  So instead of the discs, she scooted her chair up in front of me.  Her knees were probably a foot and a half, maybe two feet away from my knees.  Close, but not too close where I felt uncomfortable.    Then, Virginia holds one of her index fingers up about a foot away from my face.  She tells me to watch her finger as it goes left then right, left then right, like a clock pendulum.  I watch her finger and tried to concentrate, but it was kind of hard.  My mind was all over the place.

   She began to speak in a slow, hypnotic voice, “That was such an awful thing to go through.  You and your brother were so young.  Donnie and Gary shouldn’t have stood there in your doorway not answering your questions, making you ask again and again.”  She went on a few minutes like that, just kind of going over what I said and reaffirming how horrible it was.  It was strange, I admit.  I kept my eyes on her finger the whole time she spoke.  When she was through talking, she lowered her finger.  She asked me “What do you feel”?  I didn’t even have to think.  It was a feeling I knew well, and it hurt.  “Grief!”  I was crying hard.  She then asked me where I felt it in my body.  Did I feel it in my stomach, or my chest?  My throat?  I thought a second, and I definitely felt it in my chest.  It burned like fire.  “Okay”, she said.  “Watch my finger again.”

   Virginia softly spoke her steady back and forth.  She talked about the pain in my chest, how I ran all the way to my boyfriend’s house.  She repeated that I shouldn’t have had to experience that pain, you weren’t supposed to lose your parents.  I stared at her finger again until she was done.  She asked me again how I felt.  I still felt grief and pain, and I cried.  But, then she asked me if the feeling in my chest had moved?  Huh?  Did it move?  I had to think and really pay attention to my body.  To my astonishment, it had moved!  It was a tiny bit lower, I thought.

   We did this exercise four or five times.  Each time the pain moved a little lower in my body, and became less intense.  Something else happened that I didn’t expect…a few times we would stop and talk a minute between the finger waving part.  She would ask me if I remembered anything or felt anything different.  If so, I would tell her.  I had a few memories come to light, or something would occur to me that I never had thought of before.  We would talk about these things, and if she thought it was beneficial or relevant, she would insert them into the things she said while she waved her finger.  For example, it occurred to me how hard it must’ve been for Donnie to come to our house and tell my grandmother, his first cousin that he’d been close to his whole life, that her son and his wife had died.  He was probably scared for one thing, because she was old and her health was not good at all.  I could never see or consider anything like that before.  The plain simple facts as I always knew them was what I told Virginia at the beginning…what they did and said at my front door, and me screaming and running.  I had nightmares, flashbacks, panic attacks, and my only escape was knocking myself out with sleeping pills.

   The goal is for that bad feeling that you have in your body, to move downwards and finally out to where you can’t feel it anymore.  Literally, every time we would stop, the feeling would not only be less intense, but it would have moved lower and lower, until finally, it was gone.  It may take one session, it may take eight.  It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever done.  When I left that day, I thought how stupid it was and I knew it didn’t work.  But the next couple of weeks, I noticed that I could think about that event and not start crying, or hyperventilating.  I could talk about that moment without feeling intense emotional pain.  I frequently had impulses to scream my head off, and I didn’t feel that anymore.  I didn’t have flashbacks.  I still felt a sense of sadness because I missed my mom and dad, and they died a tragic death.  But, it was over twenty years ago.  Suddenly I could think about it like it was twenty years ago, instead of like it happened yesterday.

   After we tackled several things related to the first session, I told Virginia that I was going to take a break from our meetings.  I was tired and I had worked hard!  It’s very difficult reliving the most traumatic and painful events of your entire life.  She agreed and said to give her a call when I was ready to tackle some more issues.  I called her about four months later and we started on the next item on the list.  I can honestly say that EMDR has changed my life for the better.  My chest doesn’t feel like it’s on fire anymore, and I don’t always feel like screaming.
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What to Expect at EMDR

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Corn field in late summer

I pulled out onto the highway and headed east towards town. It was a beautiful fall day, and it felt good to have the windows down as I crept faster, pushing the speed limit just a little. Ahead I noticed several brake lights. It looked like four or five cars were stopped cold, but it was impossible to tell how many there actually were. The road hung a sharp left hook, blocking my view from what was around the corner. I had no choice but to stop behind the last car, and wait for the gentleman in the orange vest to wave us on.

We sat for a while, wondering what could be going on around the curve. My imagination took me down the road to the little country store where the old man lived. There were a couple of houses here and there, but we were out in the country. It was mostly pastures and farmland. It was a gorgeous stretch of highway. Many convertibles and motorcycles came through here on scenic road trips on pretty afternoons like this one.

All of a sudden, a loud roar beckoned the spectators to look up to see a Life Flight helicopter make its’ way downward, then over and behind the trees. Oh no, it must be a wreck! We waited longer until finally the helicopter rose into the sky, then out of sight. The man in orange started to wave his arms, indicating that traffic could slowly makes its’ way down the highway. Everyone’s cars slowly crawled forward, their steering wheels rotating to the left. We all finally made our way around the curve to where all of the activity had been taking place.

At the end of summer, all of the cornfields have been cut, leaving endless parallel rows of calf high, half dead corn stalks. We came to one of these fields on the left side of the road. That was the scene of the accident. There were emergency workers everywhere, and more people in orange vests, and in the middle of the field there was a large mangled ball of red metal. Its’ size was the only indicator that suggested the red mound nestled in the short, brown stalks was a motorcycle. Not far from the ball was a pile of things that were all different colors. I assumed those were from the poor driver. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could survive an accident like that. I followed the other drivers past the scene, and somberly made my way to work.

That evening, as the sun was beginning to sink towards the tree line, I drove west down Highway 7 towards home. As I approached the countryside near this morning’s accident, I felt a knot form in my stomach as I recalled the scene. I wish I knew if the rider survived or not. I stopped at the little country store on my way home to see if anyone had news about him. No one did.

The cornfield was in sight on my right. It looked as if nothing had ever happened. Except, wait! There was a spot of colors in the middle of dusty browns. I drove closer and closer, and to my surprise, it was the pile of the rider’s things just sitting there. It looked like there could be five or six items there! Did it belong to the motorcycle rider? Was he alive? Would he want his stuff back? What if he was dead? Wouldn’t his family want his things? Well, the accident just happened this morning. I’m sure they (whoever “they” are), will be back to collect everything from the scene of the accident.

Every day I drove by that field, and every day I felt sick to my stomach when I saw that pile. On the third day after the accident, it stormed all day. Everything was getting drenched, and all I could think of was his family. I asked everyone I knew what they thought about it. Didn’t they think his family would want that stuff? We all agreed that it was weird that it was all left there. I wondered, what if his wallet is in there? What if his favorite necklace or watch is laying there getting ruined? What if he had pictures, or a favorite jacket? I would want that stuff! Hell, I got that stuff! I guess that’s why this hit home with me, because I remember getting things back from my parents’ motorcycle wreck. It was hard, but I’m so glad we got those items back! I wouldn’t want them to be rotting in some field in the rain! That pile of stuff was killing me.

Yes, I did it. One afternoon on my way home, I pulled over on the side of the road next to that cornfield. My heart was beating so fast. I was choking on sobs. I was scared. What if there was blood? What if I saw something horrible and I would start having flashbacks again? It didn’t matter. I had to get those things and get them back to the family. I could not drive and see them laying there one more time. It just wasn’t right.

I carefully navigated my way around the stiff, dead stalks to the pile. When I got there, I can’t help but notice how neatly everything was folded and stacked. They were clearly clothes, and I leaned down to see what was there. There was a black, leather motorcycle jacket, a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, some underwear, and one tennis shoe. All of the clothes had been expertly cut off of the man. The slices made through the clothing were straight and precise. I didn’t linger. I picked up the clothes, grabbed the shoe and headed back to my car. My whole body was shaking, and tears were clouding my vision. I put the man’s things in the trunk of my car and sat in the driver’s seat. I didn’t exactly know what I was going to do yet…I hadn’t planned it out this far.

I hadn’t been sitting for more than ten seconds when my cell phone rang. It was my brother. Of all the people that I needed to talk to at that moment, it was him. Later, I always felt like it was no accident that he called right then. He gave me his cheerful greeting and then asked to be filled in when he could tell I was upset. It was a weird, long story to fill him in on, how I was sitting next to a cornfield with a dead man’s clothes from a motorcycle wreck in my trunk. He said, “Tracey, listen to me. This is not something that you are responsible for, even though I understand why you’re doing it. I want you to call the sheriff’s department, tell them what’s going on, and ask them what to do with the clothes. Don’t go through his things trying to figure out who he is or anything. The sheriff’s department will probably want you to just drop the stuff off to them. Okay? It’ll be fine. I love you and it’ll be okay. They’ll get the stuff back to his family.”

He made a lot of sense. I called the sheriff’s department and sure enough, they said I could drop it off at their office. I turned my car around to head back towards town. Predictably, I am getting so upset, that I can hardly control myself. I’m sobbing, I’m shaking, and I didn’t want to go into the sheriff’s office like that. They’d think I was a nutjob!

I had an idea. I pulled into my in-laws’ driveway and am so relieved to see my father-in-law outside. I got out of my car and ran over to him, blubbered out what has happened, what needs to happen, and that I just don’t think I can do it! He didn’t hesitate. He followed me over to my car, and he lifted out the clothes and the shoe. Then he found a big, plastic bag and put everything in there. The clothes were still a little wet from the storm a couple of days ago. He told me he’d go right away, and I tearfully thanked him. I watched him leave and then went inside their little country house, and made my way to one of the spare bedrooms. I laid down and cried like it was my daddy’s bike out there. Then I fell asleep.

A deep voice woke me up. I had no idea how long I had been sleeping. I was in a daze. My father-in-law was back, so I hopped off the bed and ran out to see if he found out anything. I hoped so much that the rider was alive! I knew it was a long shot, but you never know!

The big smile on his face told me what I was dying to know. He said, yes, the man was alive and he was in stable condition at Vanderbilt hospital! I didn’t recognize the man’s name, but my father-in-law said that the people at the sheriff’s department were grateful, and that they would definitely get the motorcyclist’s things to his family.

I was so happy! I have no idea how that man survived that crash, but I’m so glad he did! I somehow felt connected to this mystery person, and it mattered to me that he was going to make it. Those clothes and things might not have any meaning to him or his family, and my efforts may have been in vain. That’s okay with me. I just wanted them to be able to have the choice. Keep them, throw them away…whatever you want to do. But they don’t belong in the middle of a dead cornfield on the side of the highway. Maybe it was just me being selfish. It was hard for me to see those clothes from a motorcycle wreck every single day. It was too familiar and painful. I wouldn’t want my family member’s stuff laying there. Would you if it was one of your family members?

A Neat Stack

Sushi.  That’s what we were picking up from my Aunt’s house.  Missy and I were driving over an hour to pick up my aunt’s Japanese Chin dog, Sushi.  Patricia said she didn’t have time for the dog, and it was so cute and good and she hated to neglect such a sweetie.  She told me he was pedigreed with papers and she paid $1200 for him.  I happily agreed to take him.  From the pictures, he was a cute little guy.

Missy only met my aunt one other time, so I was excited for her to get to spend the evening with her.  She was one of my oldest friends, so I was happy that they could really get to know each other.  Patricia was a hoot, and if you couldn’t have a good time with her, something was wrong with you, not her!

Aunt Pat was what I usually called her, and she was my deceased father’s sister.  She was five years older than he was, and was definitely the black sheep of the family.  Despite that, she launched a new company all by herself, and was very successful.  The house we were going to, was her new home out in the country, just outside of Nashville.  It was gorgeous inside and out.  We spent that evening out on her back patio that overlooked a beautiful koi pond. The pond was expertly landscaped with stones and plants, it had a waterfall, and at night, strategically placed lights gave it an intoxicating glow.

We met Sushi, and he was a cutie.  He was black and white, like an Oreo cookie.  He wagged his tail and said hello, then he was off to his little bed in the corner.  It didn’t take us but a few minutes to make it out to the patio.  We all smoked, we all drank, and we all liked to talk.  That’s what we did, for hours!  It was fun and I was tickled that Missy liked Patricia.  I knew she would.

Missy and I had been friends for so long, she knew almost everything about me.  She heard all of my family drama stories over the years, so she knew what the deal was with everyone.  Including Patricia.  But of course, when Aunt Pat talked and told stories, she pretended she had never heard them before.  After a couple of hours had gone by, it was obvious to me that Patricia had crossed over to “officially drunk.”  Besides the tell-tale slurring, she started talking about her father, my grandfather.  He was emotionally and physically abusive to her throughout her whole life.  To that day, he refused to acknowledge any of her accomplishments, he would only point out her shortcomings and bad decisions.  Which, granted, she had made some mistakes.  Boy, he would not let her forget them.  One of the biggest ones was that she had been married nine times in her 65 years.  Left home at 18 to marry the first one.  She was not good with men, obviously.  Each of her three sons had a different father.  She was abused by a couple of them, abandoned by a few, and it just didn’t work out with a few.  By this time, she hadn’t been married for a while, which she had decided was best.  I agreed with her!

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Drinks with the girls

 

Her dad did not agree with most anything she ever did, and he made no secret about it.  He would not tell her that he loved her, even when she would look him right in the face and ask him, “Do you love me?”  He would just look at her stone-faced, and not say a word.  She acted like it didn’t bother her, but as soon as she had a buzz going, that façade quickly melted away.  This 65 year-old woman with three sons, two grandchildren, a beautiful home, and a million dollar company, would start to cry and ask why didn’t her father love her?  It was so sad and it broke my heart.  It wasn’t my first night of drinks with her, so I wasn’t surprised she brought it up.

My dad, on the other hand, could do no wrong.  It was awkward as a young child, because even then I knew that my brother and I were being treated better than Patricia’s boys.  My grandparents always wanted to have separate Christmas’s so they could give us more presents than when we all got together with them.  They were much more involved with my father and his life than Patricia and hers’.  To her credit, I never saw her act out or be ugly to my dad, our mom, or us kids.  Even though she had to have known.  Even I knew when I was five.

****

After we talked about what an asshole my grandfather was for a while, she indicated that she wanted to tell me something.  I was confused by what she was saying, because she would say she wanted to tell me something, and then she would say that she wasn’t going to, and to just forget it.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Missy and I were laughing, Patricia was obviously just about as drunk as Cootie Brown.

Then, “All right, fuck it.  I’m just going to tell ya.  Bill’s been married before.”  Then she sat back in her chair and sighed, like she had been holding that in for decades.  She had been.

I just looked at her.  I was dumbfounded, frozen.  What did she say?  Bill, my father had been married before our mother?  That couldn’t be true!  They got married as soon as my mother graduated college.  He had just graduated from college too.  I never heard about any other marriages!  I wasn’t mad or anything, I was just surprised!

“Tracey, Grandmom and Pop made us swear not to tell you kids.  I’ve wanted to tell you this for over twenty years!  I mean, what’s the big fucking deal?  So, Bill’s been married before?  Who gives a shit?”

“No, I understand!  I’m not mad, I just have to wrap my head around it.  Let it sink in for a minute.  I just never, never expected you to say that!”  I tried to be nonchalant.”  I have to go to the bathroom, I’ll be right back.”

Holy shit, our dad was married before and everyone’s been keeping it a secret from us!  Why would they do that?  I don’t give a damn if he was married before!  Hell, I’ve been divorced!  Their son, my brother has been divorced!  Half the people I know have been!  I remember grabbing each side of the sink, and looking at myself in the mirror.  I felt like I was in a dream.  Secrets?  Why the secrets?  That’s what I don’t get!

While I’m in the bathroom, Missy has been out on the patio with Patricia the whole time.  She told me later that Patricia was torn all to pieces.  She’d go back and forth from “I shouldn’t have ever told her.  Oh my God.  I messed up so bad!” to “Well, hell!  It’s her right to know!  They’re not little kids anymore!  My God!”  then back to “Lord, they’re never going to speak to me again.  Daddy made me swear I wouldn’t tell those kids about their dad.”

I’m back on the deck, having fully refreshed my beverage, and Patricia filled me in.  She said that right out of high school, he married some girl from his school named Linda.  It was no big deal, they were only married a couple of months.  But, at mom and dad’s funeral, Linda showed up to pay her respects.  Grandmom and Pop threw a fit and made her leave!  They wouldn’t let her sign the register, and they wouldn’t let her come anywhere near my brother and I.  They also tore up any pictures of Linda or of the two of them together, so we would never find them.

“What’s the big deal?” I asked.  “What do we care if he was divorced before he married mom?  We don’t care!  The only thing that bothers me is the great lengths everyone went to keep it a secret!  Good Lord!”

“I don’t know, Tracey.  I’m telling you, they are crazy.  I mean, I’ve been married several times, and they don’t mind telling everyone in middle Tennessee about that!  But I reckon, cause it’s Bill, they didn’t want to risk putting a blemish on his reputation.  Honey, I’m sure that your mom and dad were planning on telling you, they just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  If they had known that they were going to be gone…”

I stopped her there, and got up and gave her a hug.  She had black mascara running all down her face from crying.  It was obvious this was a huge burden for her.  She told me then to tell Grandmom and Pop that I knew and that she was the one who told me.  She said, “I don’t give a shit anymore.  They don’t love me no matter what I do, so what the hell?” then she chuckled.

On the way home Missy and I could hardly take a breath, we were talking so fast about what Patricia told us.  Sushi the dog was wandering around the back seat of my car, then he’d hop up on the console, then down to the floorboard where Missy’s feet were.  We were coming up with different scenarios that would explain why my grandparents did what they did.  We knew they were from a different generation, but to go to such lengths to cover up a three-month marriage didn’t make any sense!

We finally pulled into Missy’s driveway so I could drop her off.  We were both exhausted!  As Missy is reaching around to grab her purse, her cigarettes, and stuff, she noticed there were M&M’s in the floor.  I had one of those big bags of regular M&M’s that we snacked on during the trip to Patricia’s.  I turned the interior light on, and to our horror, we discovered that Sushi had eaten all of the M&M’s!  That was a lot of chocolate!  We both thought the same thing, “Won’t chocolate kill dogs?”  Oh Lord, I’ve killed Patricia’s $1200 dog.  She’ll be devastated!   Turns out, chocolate was no match for Sushi.  She was just fine!  Patricia lied about Sushi, though.  He wasn’t housebroken, good, or sweet.  She just didn’t want him anymore!  Dammit!  I really shouldn’t have been too surprised…I loved her, but I knew my aunt could be a real heifer when she wanted to!

I Just Wanted a Dog

A man with a white hat was standing in the crowd, holding a sign with our last name written on it. My husband and I walked over to him and we all gave introductions. He said he was Winston, and he would be driving us to our rental house. He led us to a van, helped us get our luggage in, and politely opened the door for me. After he was seated and buckled up, we were off. We were in Eluethera, a small island in the Bahamas. It was our second trip to the island, because we had fallen in love with it two years prior.

This time our rental house was close to the little village of Gregory Town, on the northern end of the island. Last time we were more centrally located in Governor’s Harbor. Winston talked a lot on our van ride to the house. Right away, he explained that Phillip was our caretaker for the house. He said that usually Phillip would have picked us up, but unfortunately, his sister passed away, and he was at the funeral. We were saddened by this news, but Winston assured us that Phillip would take care of us on the island while we were here. When we arrived to the house, Winston showed us where everything was and then gave us our keys and left. Phillip’s business card with phone number was on the table.

We were finally at our destination! We were exhausted from traveling, but excited to finally be on our vacation at long last. Obviously, the first thing we did was attempt to christen the couch in the living room. More accurately, the futon. My husband was planning on having sex at least twice a day, every day, and he wasn’t wasting any time!

After only a few minutes into vacation sex, someone started knocking on our door! Our house was practically in the middle of nowhere, there was only one house anywhere close to us. I ran into the bathroom and closed the door most of the way, open enough so that I could hear. I couldn’t hear anything however, but the man that was knocking was a masseuse looking for the client that hired him. What!? Ugh, wrong house, dude. Ok, that was weird, but he was gone.

We stripped down to our birthday suits and were determined to capture the mood again. We made sure all of the many windows’ curtains were closed before we proceeded. The futon was right next to the door, and it was sitting under three windows. Hell, there were windows all the way around…it was the beach! Five minutes later, someone was pounding on the door again!

I grabbed a throw blanket that was laying there and wrapped it around me, and ran to the bathroom again. My husband quickly yanked his shorts up before he opens the door a second time. Well, it’s Phillip! He wanted to introduce himself and tell us if there was anything we needed to give him a call. Now he had to go to his sister’s funeral.

That was nice of him to do. But, to say that the mood was over is putting it mildly. No way, no sir, let’s try again later when we’re pretty sure no one will come knocking on our door. We decided we’d unpack and get settled in before we ventured out.

We rented a car from the same guy who rented us the house, so a little later after we’d rested, we decided to drive around and see exactly where we were. Eluethera is a poor little island, and Gregory Town is one of the poorest. The little roads in the villages run this way and that way. There are run down houses that have barely withstood hurricanes, but lack of funds prevented their total resurrection. There were chickens and cats running around everywhere. Two years, and nothing had changed in Gregory Town as far as we could tell.

We topped a hill and when we headed downward, there were people standing around everywhere. We slowed to a crawl so as not to hit anyone, and we noticed that there were people filing out of a church building on the left side of the road. Everyone had on their best Sunday clothes, and we figured it out, “It’s Phillip’s sisters funeral!” Oh, man, that’s unexpected. We drive around on the skinny little road, trying to be respectful of the funeral goers. There were people in little groups and clusters all over the place, talking and visiting. Little girls with bows in their hair twirled around in their pretty dresses. Boys chased each other across the patches of grass that grew here and there.

We crept along, and I look up and notice, to our left (which is the side you drive on over there), there was a light-skinned black man with dread locks talking to three white men. He turned his head and casually glanced over at us as we slowly rode by.

“Oh. My. God. That’s Lenny Mother Fucking Kravitz.” I said incredibly.
“Are you sure?” my husband asked.
“Yep. I’m positive.” I said.

He had on pants that were blue, but not blue jeans. They were skinny, so they had that tight fit. He wore ankle boots that were a light leather, almost yellow-ish in color. His dreads were loosely secured in some kind of wrap or band, and he had on sunglasses that struck me as Hollywood style, if that’s a thing. I have no idea what kind of shirt he had on, I didn’t get to look long enough. He was talking to the only three white people in the whole place. They looked like some kind of music people, you know, agents, managers, etc.

We drove on by and decided that turning around and going back so that I could get a picture would be in bad taste, especially since it was a funeral.

“Lenny Mother Fucking Kravitz. I cannot believe we just saw Lenny Mother Fucking Kravitz.” I said an annoying amount of times throughout the day. But I couldn’t! This island was tiny and poor and the last thing you’d expect to see is a celebrity like him!

I did some looking, and apparently Lenny’s mother was from the Bahamas, though it didn’t specifically name Gregory Town where I looked. Also, we found out that there’s a nude beach on the island that you can only get to by boat. Guess what it’s called? Kravitz Beach! No, we didn’t go there! Ew!

When our vacation was over, Winston showed up to take us back to the airport. We chatted on the ride there, and eventually the subject of Phillip came up. We inquired about his well-being, since we hadn’t seen him since he knocked on our door and messed up our…well, you know. Winston said, “Oh, well, he be doing fine, yes. But he at funeral today. His cousin died.” Holy shit! Sister then cousin in the same week! That’s terrible! Maybe we should drive by and pay our respects? My husband narrowed his eyes, looked at me and mouthed, “No.”

IMG_0628

Tourists at a Funeral


Poop_Emoji_7b204f05-eec6-4496-91b1-351acc03d2c7_large   Monday morning as I was driving to work, I began to notice that some of the tell-tale signs of a mood cycle were revealing themselves. I thought about the weekend, and the week before, recounting all my activities and moods. I had a great weekend! I got a lot accomplished around the house, and I felt really good. Not too good, I had thought. I wasn’t racy, or speedy, I did have a lot of plans and thoughts on my mind, but I didn’t stay up until sunrise to work on them. I hoped my good mood was in normal range. But this morning, I felt off. I was in my head all the way to work, analyzing every thought and feeling. I was feeling alarmed because this could be the first indication that the depressive part of a cycle was beginning, and my “good weekend” was hypomania. I began to panic. I wondered how bad was this one going to be? Was it going to be a crippling depression? Would it be relatively mild, where I’m down for about two days, and then I’m on the way back to the land of the living?

My friends and I worked out a signal that if I was having a meltdown, and needed support, I could send it to them and they would know that it was very important and they would reach out to me. I told them how hard it was for me to call and express what was going on, so I didn’t ever call. My friend Missy said I should use the poo emoji. “Just text the poo emoji and we’ll know and we’ll call right away!” Genius! I did feel like shit, so it was extremely appropriate. I sent out the poo message. Within two minutes my phone rang, and I got to talk, vent my fears, cry, and express my anger. The anger that goes, “Why me? Out of all the people I know, I’m the only one that has to deal with this shit! I don’t understand why this is happening to me! It’s bad enough that my parents were taken away from me…but then, evidently the event triggered me to mentally suffer for the rest of my life! I can’t enjoy the good life that I have now!”

She listened and I felt better to get all of that garbage out of my head. I thanked her and hung up and tried to get it together for my first client.
What happened later that afternoon made me realize some things…

My last client of the day left me a message on our voicemail that she needed to cancel. She didn’t leave a reason. Then, a couple of hours later, she called and asked if I had given her appointment away, and if not, could she still come. I hadn’t, so I said of course she could. She was a referral, so I had never met her before. She shows up right on time, and immediately started apologizing for cancelling and then wanting in again. She talked about her day, and that it was so horrible, she didn’t think she could sit through her highlight appointment, but later, decided it might actually make her feel better. I didn’t ask why her day was horrible. I’ve learned that most people will tell you on their own if they want to talk about something, and it’s better not to ask. So, for over an hour, we just chit-chatted and small talked. We talked about where she worked, her husband, where she grew up, and all of the usual stuff. Then she started asking me questions. How many kids did I have? How old were they? What did they like to do? Did they work? Have girlfriends? Pretty common questions that I answer a hundred times a week.

I glanced at her in the mirror and to my surprise, her face was beet red and she was crying! I immediately put my hands around her arms and gave her a sympathetic squeeze. I had no idea what she was crying about until she began her story with, “This is why I had such a bad day and almost didn’t come in!”
Her daughter was in her early thirties and had two babies under three years old, with two different daddies. One daddy gave up a baby and the other dad adopted that baby. Right now, that daddy is in jail for reasons she didn’t go into. She said that this daughter lived with her right now and did not have a job. But, then, she said, that wasn’t the worst thing right now. It was her 34 year-old son. He was addicted to drugs. She didn’t know exactly which ones, but he did have to be hospitalized for an over-dose on bath salts. He lived, but she said he’s not the same person as he was before. She said someone saw him shoot heroin, but only once, so she didn’t know if he was doing heroin. She didn’t know exactly what he was doing. He was wanted for shoplifting in the county north of us, and in our county, he has five DUI charges. That morning, he was to be in court for these charges, and she had signed his $10,000 bond. He did not show up to court, which makes her responsible for paying back the money. She said she knew she shouldn’t have signed that, but it was her son and she didn’t want him going to jail! Over and over she kept saying that she didn’t know where she went wrong as a parent. She said she can’t sleep at night, and she knew he was going to end up dead. The tears flowed, and she told me that no one knows what it’s like to have a child who is addicted to drugs. She said, “I look around at other families, and they seem normal! Their kids work and have families and are just regular people! Why is it that my family is so fucked up? My son will probably die because of drugs, has five DUI’s…who has five DUI’s? He’s already OD’d once. He doesn’t show up for court, leaves me owing $10,000, and he’s also wanted for stealing! And my daughter! She has two kids by two different men, who are both pieces of shit, one of them is even in jail! She’s 31 years old and she has to live with me because she’s so damn broke, she can’t even support herself! I just don’t understand why this is how my life is.”

Wow. I felt so bad for her! I can’t even wrap my head around what that must be like for her as a mother. After she left, I think my black, bitter heart felt a little lighter. I realized that my “cursed” life could be a hell of a lot worse! She even said the same words that I’d said earlier that day, asking “Why is my life not normal like other people’s?”

Yes, what I’ve been through has been terrible, and having this illness for the rest of my life is a hard thing to accept. But…I wouldn’t trade places with that lady for a billion dollars. So far, both of my kids fall into the normal, average category. I mean, they have their stuff, but I’m not losing sleep for fear of their death. I’m not paying money so that they can get out of jail, or begging them to go to rehab, or praying they survive their overdose. My son’s personality hasn’t gone from normal to brain dead because of bath salts. My God, that poor woman. I cannot even imagine her pain. I told her I’d pray for her that night, and I’ve prayed for her every night since.

Let me assure you, I’m not so naïve as to think that my kids could never follow similar paths as hers. They could, just like anybody else’s kids could. If that does happen, well, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. For now, however, I’m going to try to count the blessings I do have instead of just counting the burdens.

The next couple of days I felt fine. I do think I’m headed slowly into a depressive state, but I’ll deal with what comes. When I’m beating myself up and cursing my luck though, I’m going to try and think of my client and remind myself that it could be so much worse. Additionally, if I really need some support, all I have to do is send out that text of that little picture of poo!

Cancellation

Every morning on my way to work, I stop at the same convenience store to get my drinks and snacks for the day. Four out of five of these days I participate in the dance of the swinging doors as I enter and exit the building. I imagine that all over the country, people hold doors for other people who are coming in or out of a building. But, us southern folks have turned it into a public display of not just manners, but character.
I don’t care how much crap you are holding in your arms, whether or not your feet hurt, or if you have a killer migraine. If you get to the door first, you had better push, or pull, and hold that door open for the person you spotted heading that way. Sometimes a door opener happens to have a lot of items in their hands, but this doesn’t excuse them from their civic and moral obligation to hold the door so that other people can go through the door in front of them. This means that sometimes they have to push and hold the door open with one arm, and they have to balance on one foot, because the exit door opens away from them! Finally, after all the people exit, this selfless individual will still attempt to one-arm hold the door for you. Unfortunately, they are now probably unintentionally blocking the doorway that you are trying to enter! It’s super awkward and everyone shuffles around and chuckles politely and apologizes. But, the most important thing is that they held the door! They are good people!!!
It should go without saying, but unfortunately it needs to be said for some people. If someone holds the door for you, you better say “Thank You” loud enough for them to hear. It is better to also look at them, make eye contact and smile! Nothing pisses me off more than when I stand somewhere holding the door for somebody when it’s 45 degrees outside because I have fucking class, for a person to just breeze right by me and not look at me or utter a word. They are just straight up trash! You want to scream at them, “You’re welcome, bitch!” Always thank the door holder!
The rules are pretty plain until you are in the situation of “Should I hold the door even though they are pretty far away or is it okay to let the door close?” I know we’ve all committed to holding that one door somewhere for someone, only to think a few seconds later, “Damn, I should’ve let the door go…they’re pretty far away and now I feel stupid standing here so long. But I can’t let go now cause then that’d be weird and rude. I’m just going to have to stand here and hold the damn door until they finally get here.” That person better really better say thank you in that circumstance! They usually do!
I think I’ve figured out a way to maneuver through this awkward open-door conundrum. When you reach the door that you are about to open and enter, and you look around and see a person coming who is a questionable distance away for door holding, follow this one simple rule: If you and the person walking towards the door make eye contact, you should hold the door. They’ve seen you. They know you could wait if you wanted to and if you do you are a really good person. However, if you look back and that person is looking down, or doesn’t make eye contact with you, you are free to enter the building and let the door gently close behind you. They were too far away! You are free of any guilt, obligation, and your integrity and good name are still in-tact.
My next post, I plan on discussing some other southern traditions/etiquette. If anyone wants to ask me anything about how we do things around here, I’d love to chat about it! I love how different parts of the country have their own unique and sometimes quirky way of doing things!

Hold that Door!

I Want You When I Want You

How come when friends and people call or ask me to socialize, I isolate myself and make excuses not to go. I want to be by myself. When I need support, I don’t reach out because I feel guilty for pushing them away. I feel as if I don’t really have any friendships anymore, and it’s my own fault. 

MASSAGE PLEASE

IMG_3070I was having some pretty intense pains in my shoulders one Saturday, so when I got off of work I decided to get a massage. I never get massages, so I don’t have a therapist. I didn’t have many options, and I was desperate, so I went to the little Asian massage parlor in the Kroger shopping center in town. I’d never been to one, but how bad could it be? And I was dying! I was thinking they had one of those chairs in the front that you could see through the glass window, so my plan was to get a chair massage, and they could work on my shoulders.
I enter the shop to find two Asian women standing behind a counter. Indeed, there were two massage chairs right in the front of the shop where you could easily see out into the parking lot. The older woman asked if I wanted massage, and I indicated to her that I wanted a chair massage. She spoke very little English, so we did a lot of nodding and pointing. I straddled the chair as she instructed, and leaned forward, putting my face into the padded hole. It felt good to just sit in that position. I pointed to my shoulders to let her know where the pain was. She nodded several times.
The massage therapist came over to me then with a brown paper towel, like the ones in public bathrooms that come out of the dispenser. She wrapped the paper towel around her hand and proceeded to clumsily rub my shoulders. The paper towel made the massage awkward because she couldn’t get a good grip on my shoulder. It was also making an irritating scratching sound as she attempted to squeeze and rub back and forth. I noticed her making sounds under her breath, like sighs and little grunts, indicating she was struggling and having a hard time. I looked up at her, feeling a little confused because I had no idea why she was using the damn towel in the first place.
Oh! So she could upsell me to a full massage! Very clever, Asian lady! She blew a piece of hair that had fallen into her face and shook her head back and forth, indicating, “This is not very good massage for you.” She asked me in broken English if I’d like a full massage and motioned to the rooms down the hall. I knew what their game was, and yes, I would like a full massage. Thanks!
She led me to the hall and the first room on the left was our destination. There was no door, just a large, red curtain. She led me inside and pointed at me, at a hook on the wall, and then at the massage table, and lastly said, “you can keep panties on.” Then she left. I was standing in the dimly lit room thinking, “Oh my god, oh my god. I can’t believe I’m doing this. This is so weird, there’s only a curtain, holy shit, but it’s kind of funny too, hee hee.” I stripped off all my clothes except my panties, with one eyeball on the curtain the whole time. I hung everything up and scurried into the bed under the sheets, pulling them up to my chin. As I’m lying there, I glance over at where my purse lay on the floor next to the wall, and I imagine a little secret door silently opening up, and a hand reaching out and carefully grabbing my purse, then quickly and quietly closing the door. I then notice that my feet are directly facing the curtain. If someone came in, they would first see the bottoms of my feet. The curtain definitely made me uneasy. Especially since I was the first room right next to the front lobby where customers came in. I had a little talk with myself to quit being a pussy, that I’m sure this is very common and I’m just not used to it. I needed to chill out and enjoy myself.
My massage therapist finally came in and we gestured and one-worded our way to what I wanted her to do. Work on my shoulders and back. Yes. Yes. Just shoulders and back. Thank you. She instructed me to turn over onto my stomach and put my head in the face hole, and she pulled the white sheet down to the bottom of my back. Then she got to work. Wow could that woman rub, knead, dig and squeeze with those strong little hands and short fingers. She even used her elbow to loosen up those muscles. It did hurt, but not so much that I made her stop. I figured it’s what my muscles needed. Not very relaxing, but I wasn’t there to relax. When she finished with my back, she rolled the sheet down further, exposing my panties. With no warning, she took my underwear and yanked it down below my butt cheeks, revealing my entire ass. Then she crawled onto the table, and straddled my body, squatting like a frog. I can’t see what she’s doing, I can only feel and hear. I’m thinking, “Is she on top of me? She’s on the table. Ok. This is ok, I think I’ve seen this on tv.” Her arms reached up and she grabbed my shoulders, then she worked on my back some more. My eyes widened and I stiffened, my only thoughts being the red curtain thinly veiling my nakedness. Then I got tickled, and the thought of me laying there, bare ass was just too funny. I reassured myself that this is how the big city people got massages, this was the real deal. She hopped off the bed and focused on my butt. She rubbed my ass cheeks like she was making biscuits, not missing a single inch of skin.
She stopped after fifteen minutes or so and with wide eyes asked if I would like the bottom half done. “Yes? Yes?” she nodded up and down eagerly. “Only ten more dollar,” she said. Well, hell, I was already practically naked.
Now the leg work. I felt the sheet lightly graze my back as she slid it up towards my neck, revealing my legs and my bottom. I felt a sense of relief as she gently pulled my panties back down over my exposed rear end. All of a sudden, her fingers slid down the sides of my underwear and two fingers expertly yanked the sides up and in, giving me a gigantic wedgie! As an additional treat, she grabbed a leg in each hand, and picked them an inch of the table, and pulled one leg to the right and one to the left. She then laid them back down about two feet apart on the table. To say I was in shock is an understatement! I didn’t know what to do! I was frozen!
I hear a little chime that signaled someone had entered the front door. The younger woman was out front and I could hear her and a gentleman talking. He was asking about a massage. A few seconds later, I could hear the swoosh of the red curtain and the other employee speak to my lady. The view from the doorway was me laying on my stomach, my underwear crammed into the crack of my ass, legs spread apart exposing skin between my legs that only my husband and my gynecologist get to see. Of course, my masseuse stops what she’s doing with me, and goes over to the doorway to speak with the girl, and then leaves the room. Unbelievably, by this point I am over being scared as I have decided to just ride it out. What’s the worst that could happen? I’m in control, the little woman isn’t going to rape me, and if someone sees my wedgie, who cares? My face is in the donut hole at the front end of the table, so it’s an anonymous ass when you think about it. If I feel a finger go where it doesn’t belong, I will shut it all down and put my clothes back on. It’s as if I’m watching a comedy, and I just have to see how it ends!
Little Hands comes back into the room and gets back to work. She starts with my feet and works her way slowly up to my naked butt cheeks. Yep, she rubs the shit out of them. Only this time, she’s getting close to the area between my legs with her hitchhiking fingers. They’d stroke up, and my whole body would stiffen. They’d dive back down, only centimeters away from private property. Each downward motion she took, I would mentally prepare myself to hop up and throw out some kung-fu action in case she crossed the line. It was probably the longest three minutes, or five minutes, or I have no idea how long it actually was, in my life. But, she never touched anything she wasn’t supposed to, and I was not violated that day. Well, not too violated anyway lol.
She finished up and I saw her grab a towel and wipe her face. She was sweating like she had run a marathon. She left me to get dressed and I noticed my purse was still there where I left it. Good thing, cause that’s where my money was so I could pay her. I thought about how sweaty she was, and really, how hard she had worked. I bet she wasn’t five feet tall, and she had the smallest hands and fingers. But if I was blindfolded and didn’t know who my masseuse was, I’d swear it was a big, strong guy. The massage lasted an hour, and she had worked her ass off! If I did it again, I think I would enjoy it more, because I would know what to expect. I think I would tell her to not only leave my underwear on, but to not yank it up my ass crack either. Or maybe, I just wouldn’t wear underwear!

My client just sat in my chair and insinuated that mental illness was the result of man’s sins over time.  We had been discussing her difficult journey and the problems that come along with having an autistic child. The stigma, the hardships he’ll face, etc. She said she wasn’t ready to announce it to the world yet bc people would look at him differently. 

So, I of course shared my secret with her and that I knew what it was like to want to keep your situation private bc I didn’t want people to talk about me or treat me or my family differently. I told her I was working on it and hoped to advocate for it someday. 

Then she says that!!! She tried to backtrack after she said it, but it was too late. My chest feels so tight and I know I shouldn’t feel hurt but I do. I’ve never heard that dumbass theory before. She started talking about the Bible then and I just tuned out the rest. 

So I reckon that my ancestors were a bunch of pieces of shit, therefore, I have been smited with bipolar disorder.   Ok?  She’s an idiot. 

I Can’t Believe She Just Said That To Me

My brother called me one afternoon and said, “You aren’t going to believe this.” I felt a heaviness in my chest, a feeling of dread filled me. “Oh my God, what.” It had to be something bad.

Well, it wasn’t bad at all! Turns out, the state of Ohio had opened its’ sealed adoption files. They’d been sealed forever, keeping my brother and I from finding out who our deceased mother’s biological mom was. Until now! OMG!

The records office in Ohio told him over the phone that we would have to be there in person to receive the documents. Maybe it’s because the adopted person was deceased. I don’t know. But it didn’t take us long to make the decision to hop on the next flight from Nashville to Columbus. My brother’s wife decided to stay behind, which made me secretly and selfishly happy. I felt like this was our journey alone, just like it had been since 1988.

On the plane ride over, we could not stop talking about all of the possibilities that may or may not lay ahead. Our mother had no knowledge whatsoever about her biological family. She told me once that when she would ask questions about it, her adopted mother, Helen, as well as her two aunts, would shame her and harshly discourage her from bringing up the subject. They all died a long time ago. Before Mom died she confided with a little smile that she was thinking about looking for her birth mother. That’s why we had to find her.

After we landed, we got in the rental car at the airport in Columbus and headed straight to the adoption records office. We rushed as if someone were chasing us, we had to hurry. Hurry! We had gone so long without knowing, but all of the sudden it felt urgent. We pulled into the parking lot and the sign said to go to the second floor. There it is! First door on the right! We walked up to the little woman sitting behind the long, tall, desk. All the ladies back there looked like bank tellers, each at their assigned spot, with their little name plate neatly displayed on top of the worn wood. My brother went to the first lady and told her we were there to pick up our mother’s adoption papers.

We had to hold the form at the same time, him on one side, me on the other. We had to read it together. Walking down the hall we read, “Mary Ann Dean. Birth mother.” “Faith Mary” was the name filled in where it said “Baby Name.” Faith Mary! Her birth name was Faith Mary! She would’ve loved that.

We sat in the little rental car in the parking lot going over every square inch of that piece of paper. Where it asked for the name of the father, it was blank. We weren’t really surprised at that. It did give Mary Ann’s date of birth, address, and place of employment along with our mom’s birth weight and date of birth. We could see that her mother was 21 years old when she had her, she was a secretary, and she had given birth at St. Mary’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Wait a minute! It said Mary Ann’s address was in Warren, Ohio! Her biological mother lived in Warren? But that’s where mom grew up with her adopted family!

Okay, that’s so weird. We were to stay in Ohio two nights before we would catch our flight back to Nashville, so we decided we’d have to spend the first night in Warren!

The trip took almost three hours. We’d had a long day, so we pulled of the interstate in the middle of nowhere to find a motel. We hadn’t passed an exit in miles, so we crossed our fingers that this exit would have a place to sleep. It did. A Waffle House and a motel. Like peanut butter and jelly. The motel was one of those two story jobs, with the walkway and handrail on the outside of the building, overlooking the parking lot. It looked kind of iffy, but we were tired. We were told our room was on the second floor, so we hauled our bags up the dirty cement stairs and rounded the corner. There was a door with the yellow hazard tape stretched across the doorway in a big X. There was a piece of paper attached to it from the county health department, warning the public not to enter due to contamination. Our room was right next door. Yay!

Needless to say, we didn’t get a lot of sleep. We got back on the road pretty early the next morning. When our stomachs started grumbling around noon, we pulled off and stopped at a little diner to eat breakfast. I was well aware that we were in Ohio, which is a northern, or “yankee” state, to us southerners. My dad used to joke with our mom about her being a yankee, marrying an old southern boy. She easily earned country girl status, though, when she learned how to make fried chicken from our grandmother. I swear, I’d never tell my granny, but that yankee student surpassed the teacher!

We’re looking over the menu when our waitress came over to get our order. I thought it would be a funny private joke between my brother and I if I thickened up my southern accent for the waitress. For reasons I can’t explain, instead, I turned my country accent all the way up to a full-blown Hee-Haw Variety Show. “How much for them flap-jacks ya got thur? They shore do look deelicious!” I thought I was being so funny and that my bro would think it was hilarious, us being country folks up here in yankee territory.

“Are you making fun of my accent?”, the waitress asked me point blank. I looked up at her confused stare. I glanced nervously over at my brother, and I could tell immediately that he wasn’t going to be any help. His amused eyes and smirk said, “You’re on your own, sister.” I looked back up at the waitress and blurted out as fast as I could, “No! No! Actually, I was making fun of our accents! We’re from Tennessee, and people comment on our southern accents all the time, and I was just being stupid! I’m so sorry! I don’t even know what your accent sounds like! No! Not making fun of you!!!”

“Oh ok, well, I’m from Alabama, so people make fun of my accent all the time,” the young waitress said. Oh my god, I could have crawled under that formica table and died. After she walked away, Billy looked at me and was grinning from ear to ear. He chuckled as he said, “You just made the biggest ass out of yourself!” Yes. Yes, I did.

I was looking forward to seeing the town mom grew up in. The adoption papers had her parents’ address on it, so we knew where to look for her old house. Warren was a town that once was. Huge factories lay empty and dark. Old businesses had long since closed, and it just looked hollow and sad. It didn’t take us too long to find mom’s childhood home. We had brought some pictures from home of mom, and luckily there was a couple of her old house. It was neat to compare the two, and not a whole lot had changed in the modest little red brick house. It was in a typical cookie cutter neighborhood, where the streets looked like a dozen tic-tac-toe games, dotted in the corners with red stop signs, in almost perfect symmetry.

Mom rarely talked about her mother, Helen. But I do remember her telling me how strict she was, and that she grew up very lonely. She never did have any brothers and sisters. She recalled that as a child, her mom would let her go down the street to play, only as far as the closest stop sign, no further. I could see now that the closest stop sign was only four houses away. The other children would zig and zag across backyards, over driveways, and fly circles around telephone poles. “Just be home by dinnertime”, their moms would say. I can’t imagine being as confined as Mom was. She must’ve felt like a bird in a cage.

Now that we’d seen mom’s old house, it was time to find this Mary Ann person’s house. We pulled out the ole folded map to help us find our way. We found the street name at the bottom of the map, it told us what letter and what number to look for. We’d find it in the middle of where they crossed. Our index fingers made a line up the page to her street.

We just sat there in silence and disbelief as we stared at the paper map. I looked over at my brother, my face mirroring his expression of, “What the hell”? Mary Ann’s house was only three blocks over from our mother’s. They literally lived in the same neighborhood! We were in shock. No way.

Sure enough, Mary Ann’s house was just a few minutes away. A right turn, a left turn, and we’re there. We sat there and stared at the house, trying to drink it all in. I think we said “Oh my God”, and “I just can’t believe”, and “Do you think that…” a hundred times. How could Mary Ann live so close to her daughter and not know it? Did the adopted parents know that the birth mother was so close and that’s why they wouldn’t let mom go further than the street sign? Did the adopted parents and the birth mother know each other? Surely not! That’s crazy! Right?

Mentally drained, we decided we’d find a place to stay the night. We just needed to regroup. We found a nice hotel that was free from contamination. As soon as we got in the room, we threw our bags down and flopped down on our beds. We went over the whole day, the adoption papers, the two houses, and of course had a good laugh about the diner. It occurred to us that it was possible, not likely, but possible, that this Mary Ann still lived in Warren. What if we got the phone book, and looked up and called anyone that had that last name? Worth a shot, right?

I sat on the bed in the hotel room and found the phone book in the bedside table where it always is. That and the Bible. Billy sat in the chair right next to me and anxiously watched me flip through the thin pages. The small phone book had four people listed with that last name. I picked up the receiver and began dialing. The first person with the last name Dean picked up and said hello. “I’m calling for a Mary Ann Dean,” I said. Wrong number. Second listing was also a wrong number. Third listing was a Bart Deneen. “I’m calling for a Mary Ann Dean,” I said for the third time. A shaky male voice said, “My sister was Mary Ann Dean.”
TO BE CONTINUED…

Birth Mother