Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Sister Act - Part 2

This is a hard story for me to write. I can't articulate why, but it is. It just brings up a lot of my worst issues I guess. So I just ask you to be patient with me as I tell it and to be forgiving in your opinions of me when you read it. There's a lot of crap that I have to work through. I may have grown up to be a responsible, fairly normal, healthily functioning member of society, but really I did not come through my childhood unscathed. I am aware of my faults though, and I always try my best to work on them.

So I gave Chastity my number and she called.

I imagined Chastity as a scrubbed clean, virginal, innocent girl. I knew she'd be horribly sheltered, to the point of not being allowed to dance or listen to music that wasn't religious. She had to wear long dresses and from what I'd heard, she even went to a famous Fundamentalist college for a semester. When she called me, I tried to be respectful of her background. I spoke carefully and didn't cuss or act ingracious. In fact, I told her how very sorry I was about her mother. I tried to drum up a good memory of her mother. I didn't have any, so I talked about a moment that wasn't as bad as some of the others. I complimented Louise - a woman I despised. I did this out of kindness for a young girl (she was 21 or 22 I think maybe) who had lost her mother.

"I'm so sorry you had to lose your mother so young," I said.

Chastity laughed.

Wait, huh? She laughed?? Yes.

"I'm not," Chastity said coldly.

"Whuhhh?" I said.

"I'm glad my mother died and so is Charity. She took forever. We thought she'd die months ago and she just kept hanging on and on and on and on. We actually had to leave the house. Hospice said she'd die if no one was there. Thankfully it worked."

"You mean so she wouldn't have to suffer anymore?"

"No," Chastity said, "So WE wouldn't have to suffer anymore."

Huh? No. She. Did. Not. Just. Say. That.

I was stunned into silence.

"Well," I finally mustered, "Taking care of someone that ill can be really exhausting and sometimes it's a relief when they go and it's ok to feel that way. It's part of the grieving process."

"I don't think you're getting it. How long did you live with my mother?"

"2 years."

"Ok. WE had to live with her for over twenty."

Wow. Ok.

Chastity explained to me that before Louise's diagnosis, that she had been thrown out of the house and went to live with friends in the city. When her mother was in hospice, she returned to take care of her youngest brother and sister who were about 10 and 13. She wasn't there for her mother. She was there because she worried about her littlest siblings. Charity had also moved out on her own and the oldest brother Peter still lived at home. It sounds like Peter might have Aspergers. He was 18 at the time, but severely nerdy, with bad social anxiety. He was obsessed with Disney movies and scripture and wanted to be an engineer and a missionary. He didn't like other people and was not really emotionally or intellectually available to really be much help in taking care of a chaotic household. Chastity explained that she and Charity, who did not get along, rejected their upbringing, but the three youngest siblings were totally brainwashed.

"I'm not a bullshitter," Chastity said, "But my sister Charity is. She's manipulative and she's an ass kisser to all the church people and to Mom and Dad, so they think she's Miss Innocent. I don't play that game. I'm honest about who I am and what I believe and I think their church is a cult. I have so much to tell you."

She sighed.

Not what I expected to hear. In a good way. Kind of.

We talked a lot, having several hour long conversations, in which she detailed what her life had been like and it hadn't been pleasant. She confirmed many things that everyone in the family had suspected.

Louise and my father abused all of their children.

I thought it was me. I thought it was because I wasn't good enough, because I was spoiled and lacked talents. I thought with their own kids, everything was going to be so perfect. But it hadn't been me and it wasn't my five half siblings either. It had been Louise and my father all along. His name is Ronald by the way. We'll call him that from now on, because this man is no father of mine. These people were sick, control freaks.

Louise had a lot of dirty secrets. For one, she was literally dirty. She kept her home filthy. Miss Perfect homemaker was a slob and a hoarder, and part of the reason they were so isolated is so that Louise could hide her secret problem. My grandmother, who had been to their house briefly a couple times, had mentioned this, so I know Chastity was not lying. I also remember Louise being a pig from when I lived with her, but over the years the junk had accumulated.

Louise was lazy and Ronald was whipped. He submitted to all of her crazy ideas. She was the boss in that house. Louise had another problem wherein she'd always get crazy, radical ideas about the life she wanted to live. She wanted to live on $40.00 a week for groceries. Then she wanted them to go raw vegan. She became fanatical about La Leche and wanted to be a breast feeding activist. Then she became obsessed with some kind of homeschooling group and some way of teaching little children languages and musical instruments. She seemed to always take everything to the highest extreme. Fringe groups appealed to her. Of course, nothing appealed to her like her church, which validated all of her zealotry, extremism, paranoia about mainstream anything, and her bigotry. It told her that isolating her children was good. Beating her children and disowning her relatives was desirable. She was a good woman. Except for the church, Louise had very little follow-through. She would become quickly obsessed with new ideas, but couldn't see them through and the ones she did see to completion were deeply unhealthy. All of her children her malnourished.

I am going to get crap for this one. I am prepared. Just spare me though because you are seriously wasting your time.

Louise breastfed her children until they were five. Sometimes she breastfed two at once. I know people say that this cuts cancer risk, but I've often wondered if this had anything to do with her cancer. I don't believe that Louise breastfed her children until they were five because she sincerely felt it was good for them. I think it gave her a sick thrill and that a lot of the sick thrill she got was from shocking people. She just dared someone to say something to her about it and when they did, she'd launch into her whole speech about third world countries and blah blah blah smug. Louise was superior to people who didn't or couldn't breastfeed or to those who chose to do it for a normal amount of time. Breastfeeding your kids that long is nuts and I don't care what anyone says. Breastfeeding is one of the best and healthiest things you can do for a child and for yourself. Mothers should at least try it and you know what, if it doesn't work out, so what. Plenty of children have grown up fine without it and plenty of kids who were breastfed (and at length) have grown up to be nutcases as you are about to see. Here is my argument to the Louises out there: Have you ever had a pet that had babies? Like a cat or a dog? They nurse their young until they get their baby teeth and then they wean them. These are animals acting on instinct. They are doing what's natural. Once the babies have enough teeth to eat food, they should transition into doing so. Human babies get teeth at different rates and ages. When a child has enough teeth to eat a full meal, that's a good clue that maybe it doesn't need the breast anymore. Isn't THAT what nature intended? If not, why would babies grow teeth so early? Wouldn't they be getting teeth at five? No. That's when a lot of kids start losing the baby teeth and getting adult teeth. So there Louise. I wish I could have told you that when you were alive. And you know what else? Any child would be healthier raised on formula and not beaten, than a child nursed five years and whipped with a belt.

OK, now that that's off my chest...

Chastity had a lot to tell me. I had no idea how horrible her life had been. I had wondered over the years. I thought of those siblings often. I wobbled between thinking they had the perfect life and everything was great to what I really knew - that they were abused and miserable. It kills me.

Chastity explained that she and Ronald were not speaking. He had disowned her and if this story is true, this is horrible.

She told me that Ronald told her that when he got the life insurance check from Louise's death that he would give her $20,000 of it as a reward for her sacrifice. For over a year she took care of her siblings and mother and cooked and cleaned the house, getting rid of a lot of the clutter her mother hoarded. According to Chastity, after Louise died, he went back on his word and told her he didn't want to give her the money.

"I was going to use it to get my own apartment and to get a car so that I could get my life in order," she said.

She currently lived in an apartment with several other people.

"I made some cash from selling Mom's morphine and oxys," she said, "But Charity stole most of it."


"You sold your mom's cancer drugs?"

"After she was dead."


"Hey," she said, "What's the craziest thing you've ever done."

Umm. Give you my phone number apparently.

I told her I hated to disappoint but I wasn't very wild and then she told me how she needed to get some more things off her chest.

"I should have told you sooner, but I have sex with men for money."

"You're a hooker??"

"Not on the street corner, on the Internet. It's totally different. But that's why I was having problems with Mom and Dad back when Mom first got diagnosed."

"You told them you were a hook-, um, escort or whatever?"

"Yes. I told you, I'm honest. And I'm experimenting with life."

Chastity had a weird candor about her and an unusual self awareness that I didn't expect.

"I was sheltered so much that I exploded. I am learning everything now. They never taught me boundaries as a child, so I'm pushing them now to find out."

"Maybe that's not the best idea."

"I want to do everything. I dance. I've had sex with women. I've had sex with two men at once. I drink. I do drugs. I want to do it all."

And she said it with such conviction and awareness, like she believed it, like she thought all of this was a grand adventure with no real, adult consequences. I didn't hear that. All I heard through her bravado, was a broken, lost child whose parents had destroyed her. My heart just deflated.

I could love her, I thought. I could show her what love and kindness and acceptance were. I could be the role model she needed to guide her through this mess she had lived and I could show her that a healthy, happy life was possible in spite of it. I wanted more than anything in the world to be Chastity's big sister and she seemed to need me.

And you haven't heard the half of it....


Handy Man, Crafty Woman said...

oh my! I gotta hear more about this story.

Anonymous said...


Calamity Anne said...

The one thing that kept going over and over in my mind...that YOU are the lucky one...you weren't brought up in that madness.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry these people were allowed to do what they did-If there was ever a case for social services intervention, this is it. The nastier, human side of me thinks someone should have taken them both for a long ride in the country.

Shannon Culver said...

As much as I love you and your writing and your crazy family and the stories you tell, I am sincerely unsure I can take the second half of this one. I think this is the first time I haven't been impatient about learning 'the rest of the story'.

staticwarp said...

i know several people like louise. my mom is kind of like that, but not quite as bad. i dont think this story is going to have a happy ending.

Anonymous said...

Your story rings true with my experience having fundamentalist in-laws. I have seen so very many children brought up sheltered that they literally *do* explode, so to speak, once turned loose.

One particular girl stands out. Very tall, very thin, beautiful. Pentecostal. She was exploring a possible career in the fashion industry and big agencies wanted to snap her up. She was scheduled to go to Italy for a shoot. Hold on to your knickers - she found out she had to model PANTS. Oh, just NOW WAY! That's a hell-worthy sin up their with watching TV and murdering people. The church applauded her decision.

Flash forward one year - she is now pierced, tattooed, shagged, bagged and drugged up.

For the record, I completely agree on the breast feeding. I applaud you for saying it. I saw a woman breast feed a four year old and thought I would die of shock. It's just wrong.


Dayna said...

I support your breast feeding theory. I am happy for the mothers who choose to breastfeed, but when they laid that 9 lb. bundle of joy in my arms I absolutely had no desire whatsoever. And neither for the 2nd or the 3rd child, but that's just me.

I believe everything you say about each and everyone of these colorful people who cross your path because seriously you can't make this shit up.

No matter how good or how bad I would want to know everything about my newfound siblings too if I were you. Even if it was just to know.
Can't wait for more.

kerry said...

I can kind of see breast-feeding a kid as long as both parties are ok with it. I can't see doing it for five years, but I guess whatever works.

Sadly, Chastity's experience with being sheltered/freed/doing it all is pretty typical. I can kind of understand, but wow. Poor girl. It's a bad thing to not have boundaries and I hope she finds her limits. In a good way.

Lucky you to have escaped.

Anonymous said...

(just noticed my spelling and grammar mistakes... oooOOOOooo ... and I so hate the misuse of 'their, there, they're')

Sorry, I really do have a edu-ma-cation


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you on the breastfeeding thing. Your stepmother sounds awful and being breastfed until five is absurd, but just FYI:

In my primate lecture I just heard that Chimps breastfeed for three years. Almost all of the primates breastfeed longer and their children are in their care for a lot longer than other animals. The 'higher' up the evolutionary scale you go (ie to humans) the longer primate childhood and maternal care become.


Anonymous said...

Huh. And all this time, I thought the freak magnet was located at your parents' house.

Anonymous said...

Optimal EXCLUSIVE breastfeeding (according to the WHO and a variety of other resources) is about six months (after the first teeth have come in).

Continued breastfeeding after that is suggested by the WHO until age two, after which the benefits continue (but have decreasing impact). For individuals living in places with less-safe water and more disease - the longer the better. Once mine were eating real food at about a year - they no longer nursed anywhere but in bed.

After mine turned about 18 months or so, they were restricted to bedtime and first thing in the morning. I fed two of mine until they naturally weaned (17 months and 21 months). The other one, I cut off just before he turned four (for the last TWO years, it had been twice a day). Why so long? I was nursing his baby brothers full-time, kinda mean to cut him off to give it to the new baby (setting up rivalries?). Also, he (more than the others) got so much comfort from those moments.

But, five years, with no restrictions... what is she? 7-11?

I am so sorry. Different whackos take perfectly normal things and make them just weird.

jmm said...

I think it's weird to breastfeed that long. My sister (who is not weird, she is one of the best people that I know) is still breastfeeding her 4 1/2 year old. We keep telling her to stop!

Grumpy Housewife said...

You're not going to get any crap from me over your problem with Louise breastfeeding her kids until they were five.

That seems to border on an obsessive need to control one's children. Scratch that, it IS an obsessive need to control one's children. But then again, that's where beating them into submission comes from, and "homeschooling" (and I don't mean people who actually teach their children at home, I'm referring to your stepbitch)....an obsessive need to control one's children, and isolate them from anyone who might tell them that what you're doing is unhealthy and WRONG.

She was a bitch.

Dayna said...

Wide Lawns I wish I could register for your classes, but the commute is waaayyy too far.

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