Mate and I were at the registers at the bookstore tonight. This in itself was unremarkable, considering that both of us are obsessed with bookstores and that our combined obsessions require our presence at some bookstore or other at least once a week-- even on vacations. I am not on vacation. I just haven't worked in over four years due to the car accident I'd had while on a lunch break at Running Sores, my last odious human servitude employer.
I walked past her backside. She was at the register closest to the exit. I sighed inwardly. I had no desire to say hello to this particular witch daughter of Abraham, chronically unhappy woman boss of the bosses. Her smoldering coal-colored eyes were concentrated on the associate as she was handed her own purchase in a crisp green package with gold words on it. I noted her hair, still the color of the darkest charcoal but now with a sprinkling of a gray storm sky. She held herself the same way as I remembered-- stiffly. Her torso gave way to her chunky rear end a bit too soon as her spine suddenly ran out of space. A certain indentation at the boundary of back and posterior was missing. She didn't see me or was doing an excellent job of pretending not to see me. I found that I did not want her to recognize me. A rash of swear words sprang to my throat. I held them back with the gravest of difficulty.
Mate was dawdling. I swept past both mate and my former adversary and sprang out the door to freedom. I continued my deliberate breakaway to the dark burgundy mundaneness of mate's car. As we drove away, I saw her getting into her own fiery steel machine. I did not deign to offer another glance. After all, two can play that game of non-recognition. Strangers. We were strangers after all and perhaps always had been.
The memories came crashing back. Boss of the Airhead boss, chronically unhappy woman with short practical fingernails that belied her poisoned fangs and a way of being. It was she, witch daughter of Abraham who didn't give two shits when my grandmother lay dieing in the sterile hospital room but who expected me to sympathize with her on the loss of a fat spoiled pet dog with which I had no natural or unnatural bond. It was she who had insisted on those dreaded Monday morning meetings weekly. Under the guise of concern about my performance as the house manager of a residence with three permanent staff out of a slotted twelve and thirty six on-calls filling out the difference, she harangued me over things like someone being two hours late on a Saturday. That particular on-call knew she was supposed to be there at six. That particular on-call sauntered in at eight, claiming that was when I had told her to be there. Obviously, I was the one who had to held accountable. There was no question about that. The on-call woman could not lie, would not lie. It was I who was responsible for all of it. Never mind that in spite of the chaos of scheduling staff, my people got to go out into the community and got to go on vacations.
I had just come from the hospital that morning. I was at the hospital every morning, every evening after work and sometimes dropped in at night. I had to make the end-of-life decisions for my beloved grandmother that my aunt turned out to be incapable of. I fought with the doctor who wanted to give her a C-T scan for cancer of the lung-- what treatment did he reasonable expect to be able to offer a ninety two year old woman even if it came back positive? I fought with a cousin who thought that a shot of B-12 would fix her right as rain. I fought with the nurses about the necessity of the morphine pump and the futility of a feeding tube.
My grandmother was screaming through the morphine that particular Monday morning about not wanting to live anymore with such physical pain. I informed the boss of the boss that I didn't give a shit about the on-call woman being two hours late on a Saturday under my current circumstances. I walked out. Back at the house, she called me on the phone and sent me home for a week with pay. I didn't want to not work that week. She said it was her last inch of compassion and me going home would eliminate the necessity of her gossiping about me. "I don't care if you talk about me," I told her bluntly after having screamed at her on the wireless phone in the parking lot of the residence about the fact that I didn't fucking care about staff being late on a Saturday with my gram in the hospital and all of that. "You do anyways," I said. "So what?" She was angry. I was angrier. My day staffer-- one of three permanent staff-- hid in the medication room, saying nothing much at all to me as I hurled the phone back onto its stupid black receiver and left.
Returning to work the following week, my gram died on that Wednesday before Memorial Day weekend. I left work, curtly informing the Airhead boss over the phone of the one hole in the schedule that Saturday and would she please take care of it. She didn't. The following Tuesday, the boss of the Airhead boss, chronically unhappy bitch harangued me about that hole in the schedule. "I told the Airhead about it before I left. I had to leave. My grandmother had just died." The chronically unhappy bitch witch daughter of Abraham raised her eyes slightly at the Airhead boss. True to form, the Airhead boss did not admit her own lack of responsibility that day. No surprises there.
When the Airhead boss ran into me at a gas station several months after the accident, I deliberately turned my back on her and walked away. "Don't turn away from me," she yelled after me. Bloody hell, she had turned her back on me. Which was worse I could not tell. The pretend recognition by the Airhead boss or the cold iciness of the bitch boss of bosses. I've had to decide not to care as I bit back the curses that waited for both of them. It hurt too much-- this loss of my career coupled with the insulting demeanor of the professional helpers over at VESID sucks.
I was not blameless. The two of them-- the witch boss of bosses chronically unhappy woman with her snooty way of being and the Airhead boss who was resentful because I would not go out drinking with her and the rest of her underlings my co-managers of group homes-- knew there was a problem but they were picking on me about the wrong problem. I was burnt out. I needed a change, a different job, a new start. I resisted that knowledge. I took out my hostility at Running Sores with the computer that suddenly appeared in the medication room one day. I spent hours on that computer instead of balancing the residents' money ledger or attending inane meetings at their various day programs. I'd send my day staffer to the meetings instead-- instinctively knowing that she would take over the reins of leadership for that house when I would be gone-- and I would kick back with a diet soda and the computer. The techie who was responsible for the running of the computer network failed to install any safeguards against what staff might do with a house computer. On that computer I learned things that I could not admit to anyone at Running Sores. It was not the staff scheduling that I should have been in trouble for. My real sin was left unnoticed. When pangs of guilt hit me, I would go to the local office supply shop and purchase another ream of printer paper to replace the paper purchased by Running Sores that I was using at a furious rate to print out my latest discoveries.
We had made an unholy triad during the last year of my employ at Running Sores. The witch bitch boss of bosses and the Airhead boss and I could not see eye to eye about much of anything at all. It was madness, this intricate dance of ours. It is madness still that in spite of everything, there are days when I want to go back to working at Running Sores. This madness should not be a surprise. Even the VESID sucks literature on-line admits that those of us with traumatic brain injuries may need a return visit to the last job as a way of excising the demons that insist that what we previously knew could still work, would still work. The nice man who did my neuropsych testing wrote in his report that I may need to be reassigned at Running Sores and that VESID sucks should provide me a job coach. VESID sucks would do no such thing. It was the shrink who saw that I was incapable of returning to the madhouse of Running Sores, even without knowing of the details of my last year there. I am glad that the shrink is familiar with the machinations of traumatic brain injury, that he could see what I could not see and cannot admit to even now.
"Doing more of what doesn't work doesn't work," is what I remind myself of ala Nathaniel Branden on an almost daily basis. I cannot bring myself to be civil to the various bosses of Running Sores on chance meetings at a bookstore or a gas station. I am flunking out of VESID sucks due partly to my own twisted hostile hotheadedness caused by my traumatic brain injury. I remain unemployed and unemployable. As yet I cannot forgive the players at Running Sores for being human. Can I forgive myself?
sapphoq on life
The blond-haired little boy stared back at me from a photo distributed on the w.w.w. [w.w.w. = world wide wasteoftime]. In a parody of democracy in action, Alex Barton was voted out of kindergarten for the remainder of the school day last Wednesday. His crime? Having a neurological condition called Asperger's and some associated behavioral problems. The teacher-- a Wendy Portillo-- cajoled her class into voting. And reportedly had children describe what they didn't like about young Alex. One reported adjective was "disgusting." Two kids voted to keep Alex in the classroom that day. The majority voted that he be excluded. Alex who was just returned to the class from the principal's office for his behavior spent the rest of the school day in the nurse's office. Needless to say, Alex has not been thrilled about his experience.
Although folks on both sides of the issue have resorted to name-calling, what I find even more repugnant are the public comments which support Wendy Portillo in her actions. Her excuse ran something like teaching the children about tallying. I wasn't there but I have an opinion anyways-- bovine fecal matter to that. Was the teacher lying about the whys and wherefores of her ill-advised election activity a la Survivor fashion? Nah, she was just being reckless with the truth.
Yes, I know how difficult it can be to maintain reasonable discipline and order in any rowdy bunch of human beings. Been there, done that. Yes I am intimately acquainted with the cluster of symptoms which comprise Asperger's. Of course I know how aggravating it is to herd cats.
I also know the frustration of living with atypical neurology.
I do not belong to the Autism Squeaks camp. [Autism Speaks but not for me, a curebie organization of unhappy parents]. I don't understand why forcing eye contact is such a big deal to neurotypicals, don't wish to blend in, will not give up my passions, and certainly will continue to celebrate diversity. I hate all clothing that is not cotton. I detest polyester and nylon in particular. I don't use makeup or wear high heels. I used to stare at the dust specks illuminated by the sunlight pouring through a window. I was clumsy rather than graceful and the last to be picked for any gym class team. I have been accused of staring too long, daydreaming, having obsessions with the things that are of intense interest to me, being intense or too intense or thinking too much about weird things or the wrong things, eating food in a specific order rather than varying what is on the fork from bite to bite, eating the same thing for breakfast daily, not making small talk, not caring about small talk or the lives of celebrities, being a geek or a space cadet or pedantic, not fitting in. And worse, daring to be content with my own company and my own internal focus and my own way of being.
No Child Left Behind. One Child Voted Out.
radical sapphoq says: A huge phooey to Wendy Portillo. As an adult and as a teacher, I cannot believe that she didn't have other options for dealing with a misbehaving five year old.
While I support reasonable discipline and consequences for one's actions, I abhor what happened to Alex Barton. I sincerely hope that he will find a new classroom where he is valued for who he is, a teacher who knows about the issues that people on the broad autistic spectrum face and who has a better arsenal of tools for keeping order in a classroom.
Bev over at Autism Square 8 has an excellent list of who to write to should anyone feel so inclined:
Educate yourselves if you wish to. Here is a partial incomplete list which includes two news articles from the same newspaper in Florida and some other bloggers who are blogging about this crapola:
excellent thoughts about this whole mess
the politics of exclusion
an interview with Alex Barton and his mother
two Palm Beach Post articles-- links working as of 5/28/08
Her voice is papery thin, frailer than I remember, like her bones where shining out of her blanched skin last time I seen her. The message is the same. You have reached this number. Talk to the machine. Because you sure as hell aren't going to talk to me. You are my first-born. I despise the man who contributed the other x chromosome. You are grown. I cannot scream at you or beat you into submission. My legacy remains, tainting you forever. For that I thank all of the demons in hell and a few of the angels in heaven.
I manage to choke out a proper greeting. Say something inane. Here is my phone number. You can call me. I am grown. You are still my mother even though I have rejected your legacy and moved beyond it. I love you. Maybe I will come see you sometime. It's been awhile. Happy Mother's Day. I hang up. Mother's Day is a day of mourning. For what could have been.
She wanted. She always wanted. She wanted my love, demanded it, could not recognize it. I was a terrified child. I could not name the terror to my own self. I told anyone who would listen for a minute that my mother drank too much. No one listened. And she drank on and on. The scotch. After marrying again, the wine. The pretensions. She wanted to be Italian. She really tried. The only spices she knew were salt, oregano, parsley, and sometimes a bit of basil from the garden. She doled them out sparingly. She said pepper was made from little grounded up rocks. We didn't have a pepper shaker. Bacon had to be burned to a crisp in order to be rendered edible. I was a child. I did not always remember everything I had to get at the store. By sixth grade I was doing the laundry at the laundromat and all of the supermarket shopping. I learned to ask the produce man or a lady customer who looked nice to pick out the ripe tomatoes for me, to tell me which of the bunches of bananas I should bring home. I was a child. I didn't know how to do many of the things that were required of me.
When she was angry, her voice took on a vibrancy that is gone now. She screamed. She yelled. She threw a bottle of tonic water at me once in high school. She threw me down some stairs once, after dragging me on my stockinged knees across the carpet. She was the queen of humiliation. She pretended to call my nursery school teacher and screamed into the phone the horrible thing I had become. Years later, I realized that the nursery school teacher had to be dead. She called me a frig. Frig was her favorite word, a baptized substitution for the word fuck. You are a frig. Frig frig frig. Hit her Tony. I always thought of him as a jellyfish, yielding to all of her orders. He was. I was too. Not to be, well perhaps I would not have survived my childhood and adolescence.
She baked cookies. Sugar cookies from a recipe torn out of a magazine. They were good. She made drop cookies and cookies with melted chocolate pieces too. Mainly though, it was the sugar cookies. With lots of butter in them. She made a Polish rum cake once. She dumped an entire bottle of rum over it after it came out of the oven. The cake was so thick with rum that pressing the fork tines against it would yield a flood. In my blackened innocence, I thought an alcoholic drank wine at home. So as soon as I could, I drank beer out. I had forgotten about the beatings, the vindictiveness, how she made my poodle disappear one Sunday when I was visiting my dad. I'd forgotten how at restaurants she would delicately eat the seafood or spaghetti and delicately lift the elegant shining stemmed glass to her painted lips, pretending all was right with the world and that she had two shining daughters from the same father and those two daughters loved her more than life itself.
Every year for two weeks we went down the shore. There would be a house near the ocean, or once a cramped motel room which I hated for the lack of privacy. There were other kids there, down the shore on vacation with their parents. I learned to walk barefoot on the hot tarry street, how to smoke a cherry cigar once, how to dig under the overturned lifeguard boat at night and have a child's seance. J.F.K. if you are here, give us a sign. And the candle would blow out and we would dig back out of there with a quickness. We went to Bingo as a family, to the beach as a family, to a restaurant, to the boardwalk. My little half-sister and I rode the rides, were treated to custards, walked and walked and walked holding hands in front of the two parents who were busy weaving a public fantasy. I learned how to panhandle on that same boardwalk with a younger summer child vacationing down the shore. Mister, I need a dime to call my parents to come pick us up. And so we would collect enough money for a five dollar bag of weed. Then we would walk the three miles back to our beach along the shoreline, avoiding the gate where we were supposed to pay. The beach where we stayed lacked the rides or the matrons of the gates demanding payment. The cars at our beach had parking stickers instead. And there were gazebos instead of rides. And the overturned boats.
I swam out once, way beyond where I was supposed to be. The lifeguards sent a boat out after me. I was fine though, a strong swimmer in my element. The saltiness and the fresh air and the sun invigorated me. By time the boat got to me, I had already turned around and was halfway back. They did not insist that I get in the boat. They didn't yell at me for doing such a stupid thing when I'd arrived back on the sand. My mother hadn't noticed, or pretended not to. A small crowd had gathered to watch the aborted rescue. My mother continued sunning herself, reading a paperback all relaxed as if nothing potentially dangerous was happening. She didn't say a word to me when I got back and flopped on the beach towel. The music pouring from the tinny transistor radio didn't miss a beat. And I learned that silence can be as fracturing as a beating.
If I had to choose one word to describe my mother it would be vindictive. My mother is still vindictive, even in her senior years. The thing inside her that made her give away or abandon my dog and call me a frig and be late for the wedding pictures still exists. I do not pretend to know how it got there. That doesn't matter now. The knowledge of her vindictiveness does not comfort me. Yet it is better to know an unpleasant-- even cruel-- truth than to ignore it and pretend. I do not pretend that everything that is wrong with me or toxic about me is purely the result of her essence. I will not pretend that there weren't good times. It's just that the good times always ran into the bad times, that there was never any escape. After my physical escape, there were years of learning how to escape mentally.
When my mother dies, I will mourn. I will mourn for what could have been and not for the woman she was. I will grieve for a long time and I will carry on. Life is like that. Happy Mother's Day.
spike q./sapphoq remembers
It was cold outside, but not that cold. Still, the ice hadn't fully melted and pissed-off-woman wasn't real good at maintaining an upright position on the slick stuff, even with the fancy smancy