Through the eyes of the little girl that was me, I didn’t understand my place. Two grandmothers, one generation apart, and a little girl living together just did not compute once I began school and saw that other parents were not old.

That’s when I began to tentatively ask questions. I was rewarded with a wall of silence. A stoic but deeply angry silence. A thin-lipped and jaw jutting silence that only confused me further.

Why was I there? Where did I come from?

Even worse, as my great-grandmother kept telling me, she could die. Probably would die before I was an adult And then where would I be?

And so I came home from school each day with dread weighing me down like rocks in my pocket. What if she died while I was gone?

I come back to this again and again in my writing. Perhaps you grow tired of it. But it is a pivotal part of how I became who I am. It is how I am shaped and thus how you see me.

It shows how dread can spread like a disease and discolor the world you live in until it is robbed of color and animation.

To this day I don’t like to walk into a church and have rarely done so. The strange goings-on and raw emotions were quite frightening to me all those years ago. It seemed people lost complete control of themselves.

I just wanted to leave and never go back. I wasn’t comfortable in groups and people invading my space made me anxious.

The yelling and clutching of the breast and the minister loudly expounding on sin, the cacophony that ensued, made my heart pound. The sounds seemed to pummel at the walls, as though desperately trying to get out.

And we’d leave and I’d suck in the air outside like the inside had been so stifling I could barely breathe.

Fear and dread were like tiny ants crawling up my legs. Who was I and why was I here? Why did no one want to talk about where I came from?

Was I a bad child and the answers were too atrocious to leave their lips and float out, like a balloon someone has lost hold of and can’t possibly retrieve?

Who were the shadowy ghosts of the parents I knew must be out there somewhere? Did they hate me so much that they were able to leave me in such a cavalier fashion?

What was wrong with me? I knew that I was different from other children. I didn’t understand the components of play. I could not laugh freely on the playground.

And so books became my solace. They took me to faraway places. I could read about someone else and my own questions drifted away for a time.

And so I come back to this topic again and again because it still troubles me. It keeps me awake some nights as I puzzle out the possible intentions of people who were supposed to take care of me. And for whatever shadowy incomprehensible reason, chose not to.

I could not comprehend how someone could just have a baby and keep it for a short time and then leave it. Did that mean I was unlovable?

The animal who doesn’t know its place in the pack sometimes becomes a lone wolf. In literature, lone wolves are often aloof and emotionally unable or unwilling to directly interact with others.

A stereotypical lone wolf will often be dark or serious in personality.

They are the ones that wait until dark and then walk up to windows and cup their hands against the light inside so that they can watch. So they can understand what it looks like to be part of a pack.


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21 Comments

  1. People that leave their children are often very selfish. How they can do it, I don’t know.
    You were probably adorable and sweet and didn’t deserve such a confusing life.
    I love that you are making your life your own…cozy, colorful , full of cute fur babies…
    You are doing great!

  2. Things that happen to you as a child that scar you for life. Are you ever free of these things. As much as you want to push them down they still from time to time rear their ugly head.
    As sad as this post is to me, you sure do express yourself very well Brenda.

  3. I started to comment yesterday but didn’t really have time. I re-read this post today and got some new thoughts about it. First off, as others have said, I’m so sorry you had these experiences but I am appreciative when you choose to write about them. I hope the writing helps you. It does help me, because whenever you write of your childhood I think of things my parents told me about their childhoods, and about the lives of their parents as well. These two generations ahead of me had experiences similar to what you describe, in terms of abandonment, neglect, secrecy, and other ways of not communicating and expressing love. There was poverty, physical violence and alcoholism in these previous generations. My parents provided my siblings and me with a much safer and comfortable home materially than they had growing up, but, emotionally, our childhoods were messed up because my parents seemed to resent that we got a better childhood than they did! They said things to shame us and make us feel guilty for getting things that they never had. We ended up feeling confused, resentful and insecure, and we all ended up in first marriages/relationships with partners who were shaming and belittling like our parents were. We’ve all moved on to partners who have more respect for us, which is a blessing. I don’t think my parents ever went to therapy, because they didn’t consider themselves to have any problems. But, I have gone to therapy several times to deal with different issues that all seem rooted in my childhood experiences. I do get help by reading your posts, Brenda, and comments from others who’ve had similar experiences.

    I’ve also sought comfort and answers by going to church, and I’ve gone to a number of different church denominations, starting back when I was a little child and was taken to services at a rustic country church not quite as fire and brimstone as your experience, Brenda, but still one that caused me to have some fearful moments. I did mistakenly attend a church service much like you described — didn’t know it was that kind of church service — and I got out of there as fast as I could. If someone chooses to worship that way, that is their business, but, if it isn’t really your choice, then that’s a different story. It is fascinating to me that your grandmothers, who were so stoic at home, chose to attend church services where there was so much noise and emotion. There probably is a psychological explanation for their behavior — the church provided an emotional outlet or something. I do commend you for trying to ask questions about yourself when you were a child. You did try. But you got shut out and so you just were left to wonder. One good thing about becoming an adult is, we can choose to create our own environment where we can seek answers from different sources, and don’t have to depend on authority figures for all of our answers, as we did as children.

    I do have one thing I’m puzzled over after this post — it is a bit surprising to me that someone in your town, some busybody librarian or teacher or neighbor — didn’t tell you something about your parents. Was there ever anyone like that who told you something, along the lines of, It’s too bad your parents had this problem or that, and left town? Maybe it is better if no one ever said anything, because you still wouldn’t have known if it was true or not. Thank you for sharing what you know.

    1. No, no one told me a thing. Maybe they didn’t know. Once one of my great-grandmother’s daughter in laws tried to tell me something about my dad, but was shushed quickly when she was walked in on.

  4. You have my sympathy and my understanding. Even though I grew up with my parents I also was affected by the dread of my grandparents, all four of them, dying. There was always sickness and drama. Some children might not overthink what’s about to come but sensitive children make it part of the fabric of their lives. Living in fear and expectation takes all joy out of life and overshadows the ability to embrace the happy parts of it.Looking back I now know I was a depressed little girl and even with my self awareness and some therapy I still live with it and the dread of what’s to come. Everyday we must dig deep to keep joy in the forefront, as you do with your pets and plants and I with my decorating and gardening. These things are life sustaining and keep us balanced. It’s also wonderful to be able to share with friends,so thanks for being mine.

  5. Such a deep post…full of insight. I think the reason people don’t parent, is because for one reason or another they are just incapable. The most wrong part of the situation, however, was keeping your truth from you. I hope you felt love from your grandmothers…growing up without love, would surely make you need to find your own pack.

  6. You’ve definitely gone through some trauma with your childhood. I’m glad you can write about it, but have you ever received therapy for it? Not judging, just curious.

    I just read your previous post about Ivy and her cat tower. I wouldn’t worry about her knocking it over. We have a tall cat tower and it’s just the cheap wood. Monkey, who is 15 lbs, jumps to the very top and that’s where he sleeps. And he’s never knocked even this cheap thing over. They have a very stable base.

    1. I’ve had lots of therapy. But unfortunately that led to something that ended up being even worse. It was where I met my last husband, the psychiatrist. Now I have very confusing emotions about therapy. The thought of therapy now makes me feel like I am filled with broken glass.

  7. Very insightful, almost haunting, share – on more than one level ((BRENDA)) On my Facebook wall today I shared a devotional (from Blessed Is She) that speaks to what you’re writing about (in a non-emotional ‘church’ sort of way).

  8. I feel so badly that any child would have to have these feelings. I am pleased that life now in your snuggley little apartment is peaceful. I am sorry that these feelings haunt you. You are a great writer of your thoughts. Kuddos that you have overcome so many obstacles. I wish I could hug you as a mommy. I check your blog daily and enjoy your decorating and gardening so, so much. I don’t think I have ever commented but I really felt compelled to today.

  9. Through therapy I have learned to place responsibility on the abusers and those who leave important questions unanswered that would relieve the anxieties if their children. Reading your essay and the comments is a comfort. Those whose childhood emotional life was one if various kinds of “limbo” are especially not understood by those who did not experience that emptiness. Now I tend to be confrontational, never wanting to keep things hidden – allowing no elephants in the room; pulling up the carpets those close to me like to sweep under. This has me estranged from my mother but I think it is important to refuse to accept abuse and that is what withholding truly is. As adults, we can choose healthier paths but the pain always lingers.

  10. Pastors who rail only about sin are misguided. The overlying message of Christianity is the everlasting love of Our Lord for all of his creatures. You do not need to enter a church to have a close relationship with God. Talk to him at home. Listen. He will answer and reassure you that despite family members who disappointed you, your true family is with Him…God your father, Jesus your brother, and Mary your heavenly mother. You were made in His image and you deserve His love.

  11. Trauma takes many forms. I lived a very different life from yours. For me, the church was a refuge because there were always adults who took an interest in me and were my friend…and of course, kids too…to a degree. I was always different too, however. I think in ways, I was strange to the family I was born into. However, my mom and her parents always loved me as well as distant kin we saw from time to time. But even one unloving, harsh and abusive parent drives a lot of loss into a life. I am in my late 60s and still dealing with issues as to how I feel inside. I came across a site recently for introverts. I like it and have decided one mistake I made was allowing anyone to push me to “become more outgoing” but the thought then was that we needed to be helped to be less shy. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books among others were my solace…and books no doubt saved my sanity with some things I lived through. Still to this day reading is a great comfort. Now, reading from bloggers like you, too, Brenda. I am sorry your life was so hard. Of course, as you know, Hubby and I have derived great help in finding Judaism. A completely different concept of GOD from Christianity. Even though for health reasons we no longer attend anywhere…but there are some great rabbis teaching online too. You might find some to learn from if you looked…and if interested, I would be happy to send links. But I will say, faith does help…but we still need those “with skin on” as well…and some scars I think will remain with us so long as we live. And come back to our thoughts from time to time. Forgetting entirely is not possible until we go senile maybe. And I think as we age, we in our dreams, as much in our waking, try to understand the WHY…I think some we will not have answers for. But we can rejoice that we no longer have to live that life. Even though life since marriage has not been a piece of cake, there was NEVER any desire to return to my home of origin, even though I loved my mom so much. Too much sadness and danger there. Thankfully, nothing in my adult life even begins to compare as to the difficulties, to what was!! I am glad you are such a great gardener because there is solace in having hands in the soil too…and with birds and pets etc.

  12. What is so healing about your post is you can actually write about it and how it made you feel. I think it is inherent that we all feel loved and wanted. It must have been so hard to have that question swirl about you why did someone give birth to me and then not want me. I think that is the most painful thing a child could ever experience. Then on top of that to not have a grandmother that would be honest and answer your questions and ease your anxiety. I am sorry Brenda you had to go through that. I think it is healthy you can share this and connect with others that might have experienced something similar. When you know you are not alone it is less isolating. Big Hugs.

  13. You seem to reflect what Neil Diamond sang in the ’60s. “There’s an emptiness deep inside and I’ve tried but it wont’t let me go…” I began to pray for him when I first heard that song, and have continued to pray for him. There is a God-shaped hole in each of us. The Bible in Luke 17:2 says that “one who offends a little one would be better of with a millstone tied to their neck and be cast into the sea.” I don’t know your situation in your early years, but I do know there were “hellfire and damnation” churches out there. Fortunately I have known a kind and loving Jesus who is nowhere like that. I began to pray for you when I first read your blog and I continue to pray that you will meet that loving Jesus I know. John 3:16 says “God so loved Brenda, that He gave His one and only Son, so if Brenda believes in Him, she will have eternal life.” You have your budda statue, but budda died. Jesus lives and makes intercession _ talks to God – about Brenda accepting Him as her Savior. I will continue to pray for you.

  14. I won’t say much as we have talked about this. It is very sad that you were shown no true affection as a child and were not given any answers. We grew up in a time where things that were considered “adult” or “shameful” weren’t discussed. Those practices scarred many children. xo Laura

  15. I had a friend when I was a kid who lived with her old grandparents. Mother was never talked about, Father was in military, so they said. No pictures of him and my friend never said anything about him except that he was at camp. They gave her very good care and appeared to love her. Grandmother was a good, old fashioned cook and they were from West Virginia. She made a cake with pancakes and filled between pancakes with applesauce. She called it stack cake. When she made the cake she had my friend bring me in for cake and milk. I was into reading Nancy Drew so I made up stories in my mind about what happened to her mother and father; always something nefarious. I sometimes wonder what happened to them. I remember she wasn’t in school with me after grade school.

  16. Reading your post brought up feelings that I had growing up and to some degree, feel today. And I am in my 60s! I remain the lone wolf and avoid churches because I don’t want to hear how I am a sinner. It seems to be the battle cry of most ministers (at least this is and was my experience).
    I was always singled out and abused by parents and my paternal grandmother. I don’t believe we ever get over the anxiety that manifest as a result of abuse.
    Thank you for your authentic voice.

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