Rabbit Jumps Rope

I am just getting to know my brother’s daughter, Heather, and this entry is for her. Sadly enough my family of origin’s inherent and ongoing craziness has kept me as far away from  all of them as I can get.  Yes, I love them and I visit them, but I measure the time spent carefully, gauging my ability to avoid a complete meltdown by timing my escapes right. Hed is estranged from her dad, my brother, so we didn’t have a chance to connect until this past year, after she was a wonderful grown up woman.  

Me with Rabbit and my brother with Teddy. I still have Rabbit, you didn't think I got that name from nowhere did you?

A little background: I didn’t know until I was over eighteen and away from my family that some people have peaceful lives. My parents lived at a high decibel level that was  a blend of anger, drama and frustration. When I was a kid there was also a lot of love and laughter thrown into the outrageous mix, but as they have aged the fun has leached out of their lives leaving behind a bleak desert made up mostly of complaints and failure.   

My brother is just 18 months younger than I am. He was a geeky kid who had two eye surgeries before he was six. He was cross-eyed and saw double. He wore thick glasses and somehow flunked first grade. I mean really, how do you flunk first grade? He has a September birthday and nowadays he would have just started a year later, but in his mind he is still scarred with that flunking grade.

To make the situation even better (sarcasm intended), we were uprooted from our cozy California childhoods and hauled off to Germany. We adjusted, we made friends, we loved it—all but the army brats we were stuck in the army school with, it was like being sent to hell every single day.  That experience shaped my character and made me the fearless woman I am today in a way. Back then I had at least two fights daily with other kids for the entire first year we were there. One was my fight and the other was my brother’s fight, I had to take care of both of us and keep us safe in that horrible school full of horrible ignorant military brats. My mother got to where she didn’t bat an eyelash when I walked in with bloody scrapes and black eyes. She would just ask if I won and nod her head, she got it and she didn’t make a big deal out it.

My brother in front our house, Number 3 Prieger Promenade.

She loathed the military families in general and a few in particular. We were air force brats and we were a better caliber of brat in her mind. We lived “on the economy”, translation: as far away from the base as possible. We spoke German,

My mom and our maid Ooshie, Ursula turned out to be an East German plant. That's another story entirely...shortly after this photo mom yanked that doorhandle off going down a narrow German street.

we dressed in German clothes and we were the only Americans dressed for the climate in the winter.  I was always snug in my long woolly stockings and reindeer hide boots. In the attic I still have my brother’s lederhosen and our wooden clogs. We assimilated, and even with crazy parents we were happy.

 Our friends were German,  we lived in a German house on a German street and we shopped at German stores. I remember being sent to the bakery on chilly autumn evenings with 50 pfennigs to get bread, hot crunchy bread.  There

dinner at the Faust Haus, that's my dad on the end and my little brothere grinning in the middle

was always just a little left over to get some penny candy but that didn’t stop us from eating the ends off the bread, they were irresistible and worth the spanking.  

Our family traveled across Europe in black and yellow 1957 Dodge station wagon that would barely fit down some of the streets.  

the infamous black and yellow station wagon in the background at our campground on the Neckar River

We camped weekends in Heidelberg with our friends, swam in the Neckar River and played all over the castle and in the old streets. The adults, German and English, played bridge and drank Steinhager and laughed a lot. It was wonderful part of my childhood and I remember all of it.

It broke my heart to come home again. I loved Europe and to some extent it is still the home of my heart.  My brother and I never quite fit in again. We spoke two languages; we had been to the great museums and seen and done amazing things. We were alien beings in our own country. We spent that first year home in Colorado with my mom forcing my dad to retire and return to California.  He caved in and did what she wanted as usual, and we came home to a small farm town where we really did not fit in, ever. Perris, California. 

My brother and I were miserable in a whole new way. He was now a double geek, high culture and thick glasses. He never had a chance. My mom slid into angry craziness probably fueled by frustration with my dad. She always wanted a race horse but she married a cart horse and that’s all he ever has been or will be. The best cart horse in the world, but it was never enough for her aspirations.

Lost boy, my brother somewhere in Germany, in better days

During those years the spankings became beatings accompanied by verbal abuse that broke my brother and put some serious cracks in me.  My dad was a shadow on the moon, my mother was always between us and I never had a chance to know him until it was almost too late. I was the lucky one. I escaped the craziness. My trajectory was up and out from the day I got out of high school.  Yes, I have lived my own form of craziness but it’s always been fueled by joy and hope and possibility.  

My brother never got away. My mother bound him to her with guilt and money. My grandmother treasured him and my dad and spent every penny she had on the two of them to spite my hated mother. They had to borrow money to bury her when she died because she had given it all to “her boys”.  My parents bought my brother a car, paid the insurance, bought him everything he ever wanted and extracted a high price in guilt and pain and anger.

 Their relationship was and is toxic, like two pit bulls fighting in a bag. They are compelled to bite and tear at each other. Neither has ever figured out how to accept responsibility for their actions, it’s always someone else’s fault.  My little blonde haired blue-eyed gawky brother turned to drugs in his twenties.  He put a successful landscaping business up his nose, destroyed two marriages and lost his children to ex-wives who were fed up. He still talked big and told stupid annoying jokes and slid downhill into petty theft, meth and crack.

My mother is the most profoundly selfish person I have ever known. She is the center of her universe and if she gives you anything there is a high price to pay in both money and expectation.  Mother kept him living in his house that she purchased according to her, in complete denial of what was happening to him.  She took everything he got in return.  I think somewhere along the line he gave up on ever getting out and focused on hating her, stuck in the web and too damaged to get out.

He is back living in her house, in a single room in the garage with his alcoholic girlfriend and their dogs and cats. He stopped doing drugs a few years back, but he couldn’t get a driver’s license or a job. Too many years of unpaid child support and failure have cost him everything.  I choose not to see him or speak to him, too many bad choices lie between us, but I am grateful to have his daughter in my life.

It’s like a do-over  because in Heather I can still see that bright boy, the one who was almost my twin, the funny curious kid I explored the world with.  Hed is an incredibly talented writer who is battling her own set of demons. She suffers from bipolar disorder and every day is a fight for her.  She has a husband in Australia who doesn’t want to live in America. Like me, she has food issues and  I wonder if that’s genetic too? I just love good food and good food loves me. It loves my whole body to the tune of about 80 pounds I need to lose.

So Heather, here’s the thought I had today. Beginnings are like jumping rope, the kind where your friends are holding the rope and turning it. You are standing there counting and deciding where to jump in. It’s always going to be in the middle as long as the rope is turning.  There is no clear beginning when you jump rope or begin a diet or anything new because that rope is always turning and the best you can do is run in and believe you can keep jumping, hell, KNOW you can keep jumping.  You have to have faith in you and the jump rope. Sometimes you’ll step on the rope and it will stop, but you’ll go around, count and jump in again. People who love you are holding the rope and they won’t let go so keep jumping! I love you.

2 thoughts on “Rabbit Jumps Rope

  1. DENISE LATTIRE

    Hi Roxy: I just read your blog about my daughter & your family. What a story! I remember when I was with Wayne & thinking things were quite strange with him & his Mom & Dad but just couldn’t put my finger on it. I finally had to get me & my kids out of there. Too bad that Hed keeps alot of her childhood in her and blames me for leaving her dad, but I think as she gets older she see’s that I had to. And look where he is now,,, so sad… Every since Hed had gotten back from Au. she has been so depressed and hardly gets out of bed, and then only to eat or play on the computer. I can’t get her to go anywhere with me, lunch, shopping, to a movie, or even visiting my Dad, who she says she came back to spend time with before he passes. It’s really getting to the point where I really think one day I will come home and find her dead…. give me a minute….She has been wanting to leave this earth since around 15 years of age, trying to commint suicide at least 4 times. I even had her commited to a Behavioral unit @ LLUMC, which they just kept her doped up then let her go. I am a very sad & lost Mom who just doesn’t know what to do for her anymore. It is just the most awful feeling ever. I know how much she loves Jimmy but I know it is never going to work, neither of them wanting to be in another country. What do I do???? Thanks Roxy for being there for Hed, it really means alot to me. Denise

    Reply
    1. rox Post author

      Denise, I am so sad and worried for Hed myself. I want her to come up and stay with me for at least a week or two. I have a studio with a loft and an office with a bed, plenty of space. I wonder if a change of scenery that’s not major –as in another country, could help shake her up? I have food issues too, and family issues, so we have a lot in common there. I’m like the person her father should have been and I’d love to be able to sit down with her and share my memories of her dad’s life and coping with it. Help her get some perspective maybe and learn to accept what can’t be changed and move forward. I was in the marriage from hell for more than ten years –like being married to my brother I’ll bet–and that gave me a grip on my own life that I’ve never lost. She has cousins up here that are absolutely amazing guys and they have families who would love to meet her. I think sometimes she needs to be able to understand that family is something you carry in your heart, it doesn’t matter where you are located in time and space. The ultimate thing that broke my brother was inability to leave Yucaipa, and I see that in Hed too. I’d like her to taste a bigger world in a safe setting that isn’t that far from home. Do you think we could figure out how to get her up her for a week or two or three? She is really good at web stuff and I can probably put her to work for some pocket money lending me a hand getting my art life in order. I have a friend who has a ton of crap that has to be researched and sold on eBay or Craigs List. We could probably get a rake off there too. I just want to inspire her, challenge her and let that creative girl loose. I wish I was rich, I’d send her a ticket tomorrow but I’m retired by accident, in other words, I lost my job last year through no fault of my own, but I intend to make lemonade with those particular lemons. I can feed her, house her, challenge her and kick her ass if we can get her up here, train might be a good option. thanks so much for writing.

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