Telling the Truth..

This is a story I wrote for a workshop a few years ago.  It’s a memory that makes me smile, for many reasons.  I raised my children and will still say to the grandchildren, “If you tell the truth, the punishment will be less than if I catch you lying.”  Sometimes it works, sometimes I still get a lie…with a smile…  My parents got it right many times…

I walked into the house, and Mom said, “Are you up to something?”

I looked at her as innocence brushed over my face; “What do you mean?”

“Charlene called me today and said that Brian had taken some paint out of the store and when she confronted him, he wouldn’t say anything. She thinks you’re going to paint on the water tower, “Is that true?”

My mind moved quickly; do I lie; do I tell the truth; how much trouble will I be in? “Yes,” I said defiantly.

“Dad is down summer fallowing on the Blatherwick quarter; you need to go talk to him.”

“Oh my God,” I thought.

“Ok,” and I turned out walked out through the garage, where my yellow Volvo was parked outside. My car, my freedom, was going to take me to talk to Dad, who would imprison me. It was a hot and dusty drive down the gravel road, the three miles south, where Dad was going around in circles, on his big tractor, tilling the earth, with nothing much to think about.. yet.

I turned left off of the road and onto the approach, driving across the freshly tilled field to a place where I could intercept Dad. He saw me and all of my dust coming towards him; stopped the tractor, came down the ladder and stood waiting for me, with his hands on his hips and an expectant look on his face.

“Hi Dad!” I said, with all of the “I just drove down here to say hi friendliness I could muster.”

“What’s up?” he said.

“Umm, Mom just thought I should come down and talk to you about something.”

He waited…

“ Well, four of us decided to go up and paint the water tower tonight and Mom found out, and thought I should come and tell you.”

Painting the year of your high school graduation was a time-honored tradition in my home town. It had been done for years and Marci, Colin, Brian and I had decided it would be us this year.

 I waited; he was thinking and you didn’t want to interrupt him on the wrong side of his thinking. He was going back and forth in his head about what he was going to say, weighing all the possibilities, and how we all would react to his decision. You didn’t want to stop him at the end of the “maybe I should ground her for the rest of the summer” pause in his thoughts (I had learned that one from experience). I was hoping for the “hey, I was a kid once too” place in his thinking.

Finally he said to me, “If I say no, you’re probably just going to do it another night?”

“Yea, probably,” I said honestly.

We were raised to tell the truth. Mom and Dad always told me, if I told the truth the punishment would be less than if I were caught in a lie. It wasn’t the first time, or the last, that I was counting on that being their truth.

He shook his head and thought again, for a while.   “What if we do this; you call me before you go up, and you call me when you come down, so I know you’re safe.” “Can you do that?”

“Yep.” “Thanks Dad.”

“Just be careful up there.”

“We will.”

I picked up Marci and we drove to meet the boys. All of us had last names that ended in H, so we thought it was a great idea for the four of us to take this project upon ourselves. We hadn’t asked anyone else’s opinion on that, but it was going to be our night. We were well prepared. We had silver paint to repaint a huge portion of the water tower to make sure the black H and the 77 would be easily read from the ground below.

I recounted my “visit” with Dad to the rest of them, as we drove up to the water tower. (I had already called the folks from Colin’s house.) The water tower was a typical small town water tower; sitting on four long legs, it was painted silver. There was a cage on the bottom of the ladder, with a lock and chain on it. The boys scouted the tower out ahead of time and had brought along the proper tools to “disengage” the chain from the cage and ladder.

Fortified with a couple of beers to steel our nerves, we one by one, propping, pushing, and pulling, climbed up the ladder to reach the top. There was a small widow’s walk and railing around the perimeter of the storage tank that held the water. We started off by tackling the silver paint first. We deftly covered up the 76 from the year before, about the time we noticed a lot of traffic showing up and driving by. The silver swath widened to cover an area as high up as we could reach and wide enough to give us room for the real artistic work.

We were starting into the black paint, when there were a couple of honks, and hollers from the cars below. The class of 76 hadn’t left for college yet and apparently felt we were usurping their class.

“Fuck them.” One of said and all of us felt.

Word was apparently passing quickly, we hurriedly painted on the 77 and then the H appeared a foot or so away. We looked at it, felt a lot of pride that we were pulling this off, and brazenly decided to paint on our first initials, so a L, M, C, or B appeared in each corner of the H. We stood there and it was decided we needed to celebrate before we went down.

We sat on the walk, our butts on the grate, and our feet swinging in the air. A joint was passed around and we shared a couple of quick beers all the time teasing each other about who had spilled the beans to the others driving around below us, who’s idea was it for me to wear a white sweatshirt, and how cool were we to have pulled this off.

We quickly descended the ladder, jumped in the car and planned what we were going to do next.

“Colin,” I said. “We need to run back to your house quick; I have a call to make.”

“Dad, we are done.”

 

Peace…. 🙂

Don’t trust anyone, not even your Papa..

Trust; the way a child feels about their parent, a dog feels about its owner, a child towards a grandparent, a spouse to spouse….. how do we define it or explain how we lose it?

I don’t know what was wrong with me, when I was a kid.  I loved to jump… I was like a  little Mexican Jumping Bean…  My Dad tells the story of standing in front of the barn working on something; I had climbed to the top of the old two story barn; was only about five, and said, “Daddy should I jump?”  He said, “I don’t care.”, never in a million years thinking I would.  He said he saw a shadow come over his shoulder, and he looked and I had landed in the hay pile next to him.  I jumped off of everything…one afternoon I was practicing my jumping bean routine and Dad had tired of it.  He came upstairs, in our old farm house and said, “I’m going to break you of your jumping.”  He proceeded to have me jump off of everything: beds, dressers, chairs, and finally the banister of the stairs.  He caught me every time, until the bannister.  I jumped and he stepped back.  When I landed on the floor, I asked him why he hadn’t caught me.  He said, “Don’t trust anyone, not even your Papa.”  He told me later that his father had said the same thing to him, at some point in his life.  I understood little of trust at that age, and only thought about it retrospectively later.  How sad it is not to be able to trust.

I don’t jump anymore: I’m afraid of heights and would probably break an ankle, or a hip. 🙂  I’m not very good at trusting either.  Do you trust?  Who would you let catch you if you jumped.  I have seen the trust fall demonstrated at conferences.  You fall back into a colleagues arms…. scary!

I do still try…trusting with bits at a time…my husband, our children, (I trust most dogs!) working on it!  Working on trust leads to disappointment sometimes.  My oldest son told me that I always expect people to do the right thing and that’s why I’m disappointed.  I do expect people to do the right thing and I’m tough; I can stand a little disappointment as long as there’s the chance…  Trust!

Peace……

PTSD: Please Don’t Call Me Honey

There have been traumatic events over the course of our history.  The PTSD that Veterans experience has started to come to the forefront of our awareness.  My son has a friend, who experienced such severe PTSD, that we worried for his safety.  We all know that the suicide rate is high for Veterans with PTSD.  What is it specifically and why am I writing about it?

PTSD.va.gov defines the symptoms as:

PTSD symptoms usually start soon after the traumatic event, but they may not appear until months or years later. They also may come and go over many years. If the symptoms last longer than four weeks, cause you great distress, or interfere with your work or home life, you might have PTSD.
There are four types of symptoms of PTSD (en Español), but they may not be exactly the same for everyone. Each person experiences symptoms in their own way.
Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms). You may have bad memories or nightmares. You even may feel like you’re going through the event again. This is called a flashback.
Avoiding situations that remind you of the event. You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event.
Having more negative beliefs and feelings. The way you think about yourself and others may change because of the trauma. You may feel guilt or shame. Or, you may not be interested in activities you used to enjoy. You may feel that the world is dangerous and you can’t trust anyone. You might be numb, or find it hard to feel happy.
Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal). You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. Or, you may have trouble concentrating or sleeping. You might suddenly get angry or irritable, startle easily, or act in unhealthy ways (like smoking, using drugs and alcohol, or driving recklessly.

Now, Luanna why are you writing about PTSD? Are you a veteran?  No, I’m not, but read through the symptoms.  Do you recognize any of them? in yourself? In a friend?  I worked with “At-risk” students for years.  They became my specialty; I could see the best in them, even the days when it was challenging and even when they could never see it in themselves.  Many of the students displayed the symptoms. While most of us have not fought on foreign lands; many people display PTSD.

My abuser called me honey.  To this day, if a male calls me honey, I cringe inside and feel anxious… all these years later.  I dated someone who would call me honey, and I had to close my eyes, breathe, and say to myself, “This is not that person.”  It almost became a mantra, I used to get through a snuggle, for Pete’s sake….. “This is not that person, this is not that person, this is not that person……………

There have been days, when I feel this butterfly in my chest, one, than more…. I want to drive fast, be reckless… I have..  PTSD can be real.  Identify it and get help for it.

Peace…..

You Would Know Four Things About Mom..

I taught a Freshman Seminar class at a community college a few years back.  One of the ways I had the students introduce themselves, was to tear toilet paper off of a roll, that I passed around the class.  They were to tear off the amount of paper they used, when they went to the bathroom.  They then had to share as many things about themselves, as there were squares of the tissue.  There would be embarrassed laughs and inevitably someone, thinking they were cute would tear off just one, while someone else would tear off 10.  It was a way to break the ice and it worked.  If my mother was in the class, she would have told us four things.

September 10th, 2017 was the third anniversary of Mom’s death.  I always say “my mom”, as if she had only me,  but there were four of us kids.  She had three daughters in a row, while making it perfectly clear, that her goal was a son, as my dad desperately wanted a son to farm with.  We were a conservative farm family, on the brink of poor, raised to love country and the Catholic Church.  Mom wasn’t raised Catholic, but joined when she married Dad.  That is the first thing you should know about her she loved the Catholic Church.

You would think after three years the unexpected jars on my heart would stop.  Days will go by and boom…. some unexpected trigger sends a feeling of loss over me, and I cry.  I cry because I miss what we could have been, friends.  Mom and I shared little until her death, we talked, but nothing from our souls.  We became closest the months before her death because the second thing you should know about her is she was very private.

Mom overcame much in her life by putting things in little compartments, only taking them out when she needed to and could handle them.  Some things never came out, but ate at her anyway.  If Mom ever loved you, she never stopped.  The third thing you should know is she was loyal to everyone she loved, except herself.

Mom’s last days were spent on Hospice.  They gave us books that told us the signs of her impending death and “helpful” hints; darkening of skin, talking to people that weren’t there and that we should make sure and tell her it was ok to go.  All of us did our best, to help her, support her, tell her we loved her, sing to her and recite the rosary.  Even those of us who had abandoned the Catholic Church, or felt like it had abandoned us, could still say the Rosary… She clung on to life, like I can’t imagine.  Everyone had told her it was ok, to go and be with Grandma and Aunty Anne, be she didn’t seem to hear.

I thought about it one night, her last night,  and realized something.  I went in and put my head by hers, told her how much I loved her, and that I would try my best to do what I could, what was expected of me for the family and then I told her, “Mom, you leave when you’re damn good and ready, and not a minute before.  We will be here as long as you need us to be.”    The fourth thing you should know is that Mom was stubborn.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we missed.. She loved me and trusted me, putting her faith in me, when it was her darkest time.  Maybe it doesn’t matter that we weren’t baring our souls, in an earlier time, maybe it just had to be, when she was damn good and ready.  Rest in Peace Mom.

Peace…..

 

If Not Us, If Not You, Then Who?

Ayn Rand has long been a favorite author of mine.  Today, when I was trying to calm myself enough, to not have every word that I write, be a word of anger.  I need to tell you what I am thinking, calmly and her quote helps me to be successful with that objective.  When I read in the paper, see on the news, the stories of more and more people being charged/convicted of sexual assault, It’s hard not to be frustrated.  Please read what I’m thinking today; it’s so important to someone, maybe even someone you love.

When our sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, sisters and brothers find the courage to come forward, they must be believed.  If they come to you, to me, to their teacher, grandmother, mother, father….they must be believed.  I talked to a friend the other day, who had just found out about someone that was being convicted of a sexual crime.  He said to me, “I just am struggling to believe it.”  We all struggle to believe, that’s how they get away with it.  Children go to adults and confide in them and adults can’t believe..  How do you take what you know and love about anyone and balance it with a deprivation that shakes your soul?  How do you come to terms?  How do you pick sides?  You pick the children…. If not us, not you, then who?

Within the last year, I had someone tell me, that my abuser had told their mother what had happened to me.  This person wondered if it was really that bad…  The thought sickens me that 48 years later, the child in me is still not believed.  I never told anyone, aside from a classmate when I was little,  until I was 18, when I told my children’s father.  I told no one for another 12 years.  I thought about it; I looked around my small world and wondered who I could trust?  Who?  I had people that loved me, but to believe something so bazaar, so unnatural, so sick….  I told no one, not the pastor that I admired, not my mother, not my favorite teacher and not even my grandmother..  I never had the courage to tell, so never had to sit in a courtroom, talk to a judge, or an opposing attorney… I can’t imagine that much courage in a child..  that much courage in the parents of that child.

Abuse of children is not racist, is not sexist, doesn’t adhere to Christian or non-Christian lines.  Abuse of children opens it’s arms wide and accepts anyone and everyone; it is like the anti-Christ of the utopia we would like the world to be.

Believe the children; it’s our job to protect them; if not us, not you, then who?

Peace…

 

The Grandma Who Loved Me, for Me.

There are relationships that left me feeling slighted,  throughout my life, especially relationships with some of the men in my life, but one relationship that I was blessed with, that lifted me, and helped to carry me through early dark days, was the relationship with my Grandma Patten.  She was a strong Baptist woman, who raised her family the best she could, whose oldest granddaughter could be a bit of a wild child, especially according to the standards of grandma’s generation.

Grandma saw the good in me, it never occurred to her to see anything else.  I would ride over to Parshall, ND (about 17 miles away) on my motorcycle to say hello.  She would show me her flowers, feed me some cookies, and visit.

Staying with her was a treat; I would sleep in until the smells from the kitchen would wake me.  Sometimes it was coffee, sometimes it was cinnamon rolls, and often it was whatever she was prepping for dinner, maybe meatballs.  I would wake and have a leisurely breakfast, make my bed, wander around the yard, and it would be time for lunch.  Sometimes we would sew..  Grandma was a fabulous seamstress; I would watch, fascinated, as she marked out the pattern using tracing paper and her tracing wheel, sometimes making adjustments with a piece of chalk.  She, my Baptist grandma, made me my first bikini.  When I was a teenager, who rode a motorcycle, she would help me make halter tops to go with my short, cut off jeans.. very short cut off jeans.  I remember distinctly one afternoon, when we made a white halter top, with white cording for the top and bottom ties, grandma looking through her loot for an applique that would discreetly cover my nipples, to keep them from showing through the top.  She stood there in one of her “daily” dresses, moving the applique this way and that, until it covered what it was supposed to, and then very carefully pinning it in place.  It was an anchor.  She never questioned my morality, never told me I should dress differently, never criticized…she just loved me.

In the afternoons, I was allowed to read, for hours.  When I had finished a book, she would sit me down at the kitchen table and quiz me on the characters, setting and plot, to make sure I wasn’t reading so fast that I missed the important parts.  There was always cookies and a glass of milk on the table.  We had conversation.

The spring of my first year of college; I decided to break off my engagement to my fiancé, about two weeks before the wedding.  It was an outrage; our small community was aghast.  I ran for the protection of my grandma.  I told her what I had done and we talked about love.  I told her that I wasn’t sure I knew what it was supposed to be.  Grandma walked to the bookshelf, opened her Bible and read Corinthians to me.

“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”

In other words, love was my grandma.

Some of my inspiration for my writing comes from grandma; after she died there were so many times I wished I had asked her more questions: why did she marry Grandpa, did she feel like she had made sacrifices, what were her greatest joys and greatest challenges, did she ever have a crush on the milkman? (she would not have answered that one, but it would have been fun to ask her, she would have said, “Luanna!” and given me the look. The same look that she gave me when I asked her, if she was sure there wasn’t some Hidatsa in our family, because we all have the same pot bellies, that Lewis and Clark remarked on, in their journals.  The same look was given to me when I asked her if her favorite author Gladys Taber was gay.  She told me no both times, I’m willing to concede the Hidatsa blood, but am darn sure Gladys was indeed a lesbian.  I have googled it.)  I write, so that hopefully somewhere in my writing, there will be answers for my grandchildren, an interpretation of something I have said that might bring them comfort on a day that’s going bad.   Maybe I can say something that will be their anchor.

Peace….

There were good times too!

When we are counting blessings and/or looking back at our pasts, the good times are so important to remember.  Those times ground us and allow us to smile.  Growing up south of New Town, North Dakota, left me with many good memories.

Four years old, pretending an old gas tank, on five foot legs, was a horse; what could go wrong??  I apparently climbed up, was riding my pretend pony and slipped off onto the scoria rock below.  I have a scar on my forehead that is slowly disappearing; the pucker thinning because of my aging, or the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on face creams.

My  other scar, on my face, was from running from the house, to the grain bins with my eyes closed. ( Why would I do that? To see if I could, and I was taking toilet paper to my sister, who was waiting for me out behind the grain bins. (we were farm girls and sometimes it was just to far to run to the house to poop)).  Boom!  I ran into the disk (used to break up the soil in the fields).  I turned and ran back to the house, blood running down my face, screaming bloody murder, for my Mom…and yes my sister was still waiting for the toilet paper…  🙂  I have a scar under my eye that the face creams haven’t quite done their job on. Not one broken arm or leg because of all those shenanigans.. just my face….being hard headed does come in handy…

Horses were not my friends.  I loved them, but they bucked me off, laid down and rolled when I was riding them, took me under clothes lines….. Thank God the clothes lines were plastic, or my head laying in someone’s yard would have been an unpleasant surprise!  Our Shetland pony ran full bore towards a fence, and as he lowered his head, I rolled off..  Do you understand my relationship with them?  In retrospect I’ve had husbands with similar personalities!  Lol!

These are the good times?  Well, at least when you put them into perspective… 🙂  Life on the farm had many great days; we were allowed to run pretty freely.  The lake was about half of a mile away and biking, walking or riding motorcycle there was always an adventure.

I have two favorite memories of the lake:  My sister and I were at the lake when the water was coming up in the spring.  It must have been a high water year, because the water came up into the grass and the fish were visible in the water.  We decided to walk to a knoll in the water; as I walked the fish were so plentiful, that they bumped into my legs; it was creepy and exciting at the same time. Another time we were down in early spring, as the ice had blown up into mountainous piles on the shore.  We climbed around on them, pretending we were explorers, the ice piles were dirty and slippery.  I really am grateful that none of those adventures ended more seriously.

I had some wonderful friends growing up; we would have our spats, recover and move on.  Friends who would try to protect me from myself, and from others..  Memories are roaring back, as I type this afternoon…  Please sit down and think about the good things that have happened to you; let your memories roar back to you, let them soften the others that you don’t enjoy.

There were good times, and there will be more!!

Peace….