A Trauma reexperienced, in order to remember it *10th in Series


I have realized something that surfaced from very deep inside, it is about fear, and a way I was still carrying it.  This is NOT anything I realized at this time of my story.  But, I want to include it now, because it was a pattern of my life, and deeply ingrained, constantly in the background of all I did.   I only reexperienced it after my first telling of this story, and it was from really unconscious happenings.

I could begin to  see causes of a change in my mother when I was 4, unless she was like this all along, and I only realized it by then. I thought it was a change that happened when my brother’s eye was put out by an older cousin, as they played to put windows into a big cardboard box on the floor in the kitchen. I saw this happen.  My brother had looked in as the boy was cutting the window from the inside of the box. At least that is my mental picture which had never faded. Mother was panic stricken. His eye laid hanging by a bit of tissue, onto his cheek. She was screaming at the older boy, blaming him, and calling for my Dad to come and take them to the hospital. It was in rural NY State, and the nearest hospital was in Albany, with the cars and roads as they existed in the summer of 1929. It was a long drive, more than an hour, I am sure. Many farmers did not have cars then, but my Dad had a model T ford truck.

Mother just gathered my brother up in a blanket, with a wet towel over his face, and my parents took me and the twins in the back of the truck, to the next door neighbor as they left.

My mother also yelled terribly at my grandfather, blaming him for bringing the cousin to visit us, after having been welcoming to him at first. She screamed for him to get the cousin out of there, which he apparently did, but they would have had to walk, about two miles or more to the train. She never wanted to see the boy again, and we never did. It must have been terribly traumatic to the cousin. But, if any later communications or concerns were ever expressed, I knew nothing about it. It hung for me as a horrendous blame that was placed for a terrible accident. I was aware of this at that time.

I was sent from the truck to the neighbor’s farm house, with my Dad carrying the twins, and told to help the neighbor  find our clothes and any blankets we might need, when she would go back to our house to get our things. The twins were babies, probably 8 or 9 months.   Dad must have told them what happened, but I was asked about it repeatedly.  I would say my brother was in shock, he did not cry, or else I only was aware of Mother screaming.

They were gone for several days, and by the time they came home Carlton was with them, and had a black patch and bandage over his eye, and other than that was glad to be home. They did not so much tell me anything, but I heard them tell so many others, that he was saved from death by just a thin membrane at the back of his eye, and had no brain damage. He grew up wearing an artificial eye.  Mother remained terrified the glass eye might break as he was wearing it, and that he would not live through it.   In his later years, he ignored it and the eye lid just stayed shut.

But her behavior from then on was often in a panic attack, and it seemed to me to be verging on this same terrifying action and relating, from then on. Perhaps it was not as bad as I feared, but it was bad. My brother, in particular, scared her terribly, she tried to make sure his eye would be protected, and he was told everything might be dangerous. She screamed at him in a panic mode, very often, but perhaps this was only more in the next few years, and tapered off.  But my pattern and his reactions went on.   In turn, he became a dare devil, and would do outrageous climbing, or whatever, and mother gave me, as the oldest, the job of watching out for him. I tried to do this, and was a tattle tale at times, or I could threaten to tell on him, and get him to stop it.

Yet in hindsight he behaved quite a bit worse than my own sons ever did, and they were adventuresome, but my brother was sure injured a lot more. I felt my kids were more normally adventuresome, and they seemed not to feel I was afraid for them. Yet, I might have been.

But. in an overall way, my brother was accident prone, and so was mother, from then on. Broken bones, scalding, cuts, burns, falls, for the both of them. Add to this, Dad was a farmer who could not butcher and dress out an animal for food, Grandpa had to do it, and as rugged as Dad was, he would faint at the sight of blood. So, it became my job to administer first aid for any of them. I had to tell my Dad when anyone had to be taken to the Dr. right away,——- he would not be looking on.

It is interesting to add, the twins were younger, and did not remember mother as I had.  I may have had a fear, an expectation, but I also tried to protect the younger ones as much as I could.  They felt I was bossy, and Mother paid more attention to me than to them.

But Mother did fall into this panic mode at very inappropriate times, even presuming it would ever be appropriate. It could build up, like a series of small things would seem to pile up for her, and some last straw would trigger a full blowup from her. I had seen it toward strangers, clerks in a store, a gas station attendant, men or women. It was as if she went crazy over little or nothing. She said unforgivable things, and people just got out of her way, out of her sight, and often, never got near her again. In our family, my Dad and my brother got the brunt of it, Grandpa got out of her way, and the twins pretty much did the same. I do think it was an unconscious outburst, and she seemed to get over it as if it had never happened. She would just go on as if she had acted normally, and yet, she had really been totally beyond her own self-control. It was terrible behavior.

Ok, even though I have written about this in more detail, and have seen it better, this was just realized about it. It is the insight.

I had always been watching out for any build up toward a “last straw” triggering that could be close to setting her off. I almost never was the target of this, maybe never.

But it was my self-appointed place in the family to intercede, and stop it from happening. I would get her to go into  another room —other than where we might be driving her up the wall, and I would take her a cup of tea, and sometimes take her meal to her later.

I was extremely aware that our mother dog would go to her, and sit by her feet. Mother would be shaking, literally, and shaking one foot violently or the other foot, when our dog would snuggle up so Mother’s foot was scratching her ear. Mother would not have kicked the dog.

But, my reasons were fear. I had thought of it as a loving response to her, and in a way it was, but my reason was fear. I feared for her, for what she might suddenly say or do, but I felt I was protecting her from us, as I was really trying to protect us from one of her outbursts.

Now a couple of later things about it. For one, before my brother died, he mentioned that when I got married and left home, he took over my job in the family. I did not know what he meant, but he explained that he would get Ma to go rest, and he would take her a cup of tea. I had not quite seen it that way.

The other event was, that after my youngest brother came back from being in the service, he got a job in another state, was living with a woman, and wanted to bring her home to meet the family.

Dad came to see me around 1954 or so.  We had been married for maybe 9 years by then, and told me that Mother had had a fit about it, over the phone, told my brother that he was disowned, and she never wanted to see him again.

Dad said, he wanted me to come home that next Sunday, when, Del would just show up on their doorstep, without the woman he had wanted to bring to meet them, and if I would answer the door, and talk as if nothing had happened, I could get mother to just let go of it, and go on as if nothing had happened. I did, and it worked out perfectly ok, so both Dad and my brother had seen me doing this ‘”defusing” thing for mother, when I really had not realized it myself. No one could have ever talked with her about it.  It was as if there was an unconscious element to it.

That had been the most puzzling thing of all, that mother could seem to suddenly act like a different person, as if she had never had that raging outburst. She could even do this moments later.

I loved my mother desperately, as if I held her life in my hands.  I still held this background pattern then, even if I have told about it at this point in my story.

But next, in my everyday life, without expecting it, I had the next guiding dream.

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