Crooked Signs and Mixed Signals

“Don’t tell your father about this,” my mother admonished me.  I was seven, and the ‘this’ she spoke of was the fact that she’d “borrowed” a huge roll of bills from my maternal grandfather (her own father), which she would then use to pay off her credit card debt (debt my father most likely didn’t know about)

“If you tell ANYONE about this,” my mother said, “you’ll only get it worse.”  I was about eight, I think, and the ‘this’ she was referring to was the fact that she’d beaten me about the back and buttocks with an electrical cord.

“Your grandmother has cancer,” my mother whispered, pulling me aside at the bank of all places, “and everybody knows but her.  She’s dying, but I don’t want you to tell her.”  I was eight that time, and my mother instructed me to keep the secret of my grandmother’s impending death not just from my grandmother herself, but from my two younger sisters as well.

“I don’t want my father to see this,” my mother said frantically, “we have to hide it, we have to keep him distracted so he doesn’t notice.”  I was a teenager, my grandmother long dead.  The ‘this’ my mother was so goddamn frantic about was the fact thta she’d driven her car through the garage door, and we were without a garage door.  She was a grown woman with children of her own WHO DID NOT WANT HER FATHER TO KNOW SHE DROVE THROUGH THE GARAGE DOOR, so my father, my sisters, and I had to run outside with garbage bags and duct tape and tape the garbage bags up to look like we still had a garage door, or to look enough like the garage door was still there to fool my elderly, half blind grandfather.

“Don’t you lie to me,” my mother screamed, “you’re drunk as a fucking skunk.”  I was sixteen that time, and no, it wasn’t the first time I’d been drunk, it was only the first time she caught me.  “Honesty is the most important thing in this house,” she continued.  Since when, I wondered, but didn’t say it.  I took the beating I had coming for being drunk and for lying.

“You think you’re so smart,” my mother ranted, “you thought you could change the D you got in math to a B and I’d never find out.”  I was sixteen, and math was not my forte.  “Tell me who taught you to lie and sneak and connive like this?”  I didn’t answer, because I knew she wouldn’t LIKE the answer, and she proceeded to slap the shit out of me.

“I found your MasterCard bill,” my mother said in an accusatory tone when I was 23, a LEGAL FUCKING ADULT with a job, money of my own, and was paying my own goddamn bills, “you have some nerve spending so much money on clothes.  I didn’t say anything, I didn’t think I HAD TO SAY ANYTHING, it was my money.  “Who told you you could spend money like this?”

Well, Mommy Dearest, at the ripe old age of 38, I canf inally admit that it’s YOU who taught me to lie, you who taught me to spend money on selfish things.  Did you think I wasn’t watching and listening all those years ago?  Well, you thought wrong…the concept of ‘do as I say, not as I do’ is a farce and a failure, OK.  You’re a liar, a sneak, a conniver, and you raised one too, so, deal with it.

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