Growing Up Dysfunctional Part 1

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The thing about me growing up dysfunctional is that I didn’t know it was warped. I was happy to throw away grandma’s vodka bottles that she hid between her mattress and her box spring. She paid me $20 every Saturday to dust & vacuum the living room, clean the bathroom, mop the kitchen floor, and throw away vodka bottles.  I was even happier when Uncle Ed (still living with grandma) paid me an additional $20 to clean his room in the basement. Clean everything, but don’t touch that stuff that looks like dried parsley, ok? Ok.  $40 bucks a week for a young kid in the early 80’s was a lot of money!

In fifth grade–so I was what? 10?  During the 1982-1983 school year I broke my collarbone. I’ve always laughed about it but now I’m not so sure it’s funny.

Our city had 4 elementary schools and once a year, we’d all participate in the North American Games, fun races and such…healthy competition between schools. We were practicing my event, a relay race. I was to run across the gym to my team member, pass the baton. That person would run back to the other side of the gym, pass the baton to another person who would then run the baton to me, and so on.  I was running with my baton as fast as I could.  And I blacked out.  Classmates tell me that instead of passing the baton, I hunched myshoulders like a football player and ran my dominant arm’s shoulder into the concrete wall at full speed.

I don’t remember the impact.

I remember being on the floor of the gym, looking out the windows that were just inches above the concrete wall. I used my dominant hand to lift myself up and felt horrible pain and started crying.

Here’s a photo of where this happened.  The concrete wall goes up just a bit, the risers are coving the wall. Then windows almost up to the ceiling.

Why would I black out while running?

Why would I throw myself at a wall, almost through a window?

Also during that same year, I remember an assignment we had:  to write a dictionary on a subject of our choice.  I picked “Car Parts” and laid on the living room floor asking my dad things like, “What is an alternator and what does it do?”

I hated girly things. I hated dresses. I wanted short hair and I wanted to play with the boys and I wanted to BE a boy.

My teacher told me I should be writing about subjects little girls are interested in. I told her I wasn’t interested in the things other girls were interested in.

I was also the best speller in my fifth grade class. I could spell Mrs. Kaczmarek and rendezvous without having studied and I was the only one that got them right. I got good grades, straight A’s. I was in the Gifted and Talented program. I wanted to be a truck driver.

My teacher was right. I was different, to say the least.

But was I different because I was different? Or were things happening to me me that made me rebel?  What would the “experts” say now?

I only remember what my great-grandfather did to me (sexually) and I won’t go into that kind of detail here.  But I don’t know when it started or when it ended.  I only remember a few situations. I know I spent a good deal of time with him. I remember his house had 2 floors and the upstairs was like an apartment, but it wasn’t. It had everything, a kitchen, living room complete with davenports covered in plastic, bedrooms, a bathroom. But my great-grandpa lived in the basement, which also had a kitchen, living room and basement.  He made me rye toast when I stayed the night with him.  He lived in Hebron.  Then he moved in with his daughter (my grandma) and he lived across the alley from us. He drank more vodka than grandma. She stole his vodka and replaced it with water. He knew because he kept the gallon of vodka in the freezer and vodka doesn’t freeze, but water does. He came to my mom concerned with grandma’s drinking. All the while, I was throwing away her booze bottles and he was sexually violating me.

And I didn’t have a clue any of it was wrong.

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(football photo credit)

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