I’ve written a lot about the bad things that have happened in my life. I haven’t told you all everything yet but I thought it might be a good idea to step away from the sad and depressing posts about abuse and heartache and venture into the things that keep me going. Yes, I’ve been through a lot of shit and I have a hard time dealing with my emotions and thoughts because of those things but there are people in my life that have made it possible to see through the clouds of hate, anger, and hurt and feel the sunlight on my face. These are the people that, despite the difficulty they may have dealing with my moods and emotional outbursts, continue to support me and love me. They are all family, by blood or not, and will forever be a part of my life.
Cynthia deserves her privacy and I think writing about every detail of our relationship betrays some of that trust we have built over the years. So, to compromise a little, I will tell you about her without divulging the details that weren’t really relevant to how she and I became close. I was witness to events and have knowledge of things that happened during the time she was married to and after my dad passed but those are her tales to tell.
Dad and Cynthia started dating while I was in the children’s home and I think she had a part in him pulling me out of the home before I the “contract” with them was over. She didn’t have any kids of her own and was divorced. She and Dad had a silly and happy relationship and were always laughing together. Dad had such a contagious laugh and she brought that out in him all the time. When they chose to bring me into their relationship before they even got married, I’m sure it was quite overwhelming. I was 13 years old, coming out of a children’s home with zero freedoms, and already dealing with mental and emotional trauma from Rose and my past.
Going from the children’s home to complete freedom as a normal teen in a normal home is like riding a bicycle to school everyday and then your parents suddenly give you a Ferrari to drive. I was like a horse who had escaped from its pen. I started smoking cigarettes, hanging out with all kinds of trouble at school, running away, and getting bad grades. Cynthia handled all of this really well considering she and I were only 13 years apart in age and I had already told her that I would hit her back if she ever tried to spank or touch me.
At first, she tried things like telling me to smoke a whole pack of cigarettes as punishment for getting caught stealing and smoking her cigarettes from the carton in the fridge. That backfired because I told her no then ran away for a day. I know, that’s a drastic reaction to someone telling me to smoke more cigarettes but I was scared of getting into trouble with my dad and I overreacted. In hindsight, the more rebellious thing to do would have been to smoke them with her and act like nothing bothered me but I was a dumbass. So as a result, she started her campaign of being the sneakiest and most diligent investigator I have ever encountered. I could not get away with shit! It was frustrating, to say the least, and she shared her skills with Dad so he also became a master detective.
When I wasn’t acting out, Cynthia and I got along okay. I couldn’t relate to her views on things though, because I was brought up in the complete opposite type of environment that she had experienced. Her mother and father were still together, she had a happy relationship with her brother, her grandmother and she were very close, and their whole family was financially stable and happy with each other and their lives. She had happy stories to tell of family moments and vacations and was unbelievably close to all of them, including cousins and extended family. On the other side of that coin was me and my fucked up family upbringing and experiences. Cynthia tried to include me in her family as much as she could and her mom and dad were very accepting of Dad and me. I think they loved Dad as much as we did. But, the disconnect was always there for me. I saw them as rich people with privileges in life that I never had.
All of the resistance from me didn’t stop Cynthia from trying to have a relationship with me though. Between grammar corrections all the time which annoyed the shit out of me, getting caught breaking into their room to use the phone or take quarters from their change jug, or sneaking a movie in when they weren’t home while I was grounded, Cynthia would teach me things and help guide me to be a better person. I struggled to accept the better life I had with Dad and Cynthia but she tried anyway. I remember a time when she even went so far as to cover for me when I had done something I should have been in a lot of trouble for and would have gotten my Dad’s wrath for sure.
She and Dad had gone out of town for a day or two and left me home alone, giving me a level of trust they probably didn’t really feel comfortable with but they tested the waters anyway. I was 14, I think, and I had no plans to do anything wrong. We lived in the country, miles from any stores or civilization of any kind except a corner store over a mile away and Crystal Springs, a natural river and springs that all the people from around the area went to during the summer to swim. All of my friends lived miles away and my dad’s business partner and best friend lived a couple of blocks away and would be keeping an eye on the house and me during their time away. Should have been an easy ride for me; watch tv, talk on the phone, and listen to music really loud on the big stereo. Um, no. My stupid ass made plans to meet up with a friend of mine that lived like five miles away, at night, without a way to meet other than walk down the country roads. So her and I made a plan to meet each other halfway and walk the remaining distance to my house together. Once she got to the house after we both had walked in the dark, alone for over two miles each and then together for over two miles, we were at a loss of what to do. Somehow, one of us or both of us decided we should drink some alcohol that Dad and Cynthia kept in the cabinet. There were so many different kinds of liquor that we didn’t know where to start. As an adult, I cringe at the thought of all the different types of mixers and liquor that we combined and don’t know how I wasn’t sick, instantly, but we did. We started taking shots of rum, vodka, triple sec, and Wild Turkey. Gross, right?! I think we may have consumed about five or six shots each and then stopped. I didn’t even get drunk, to be honest. I was disappointed. My friend was buzzed but she was more of a partier and I had not been allowed to do the things she could do like go to parties and hang out with friends outside of the house. Dad was a little strict when it came to me going places. Anyway, after drinking and laughing and having teen girl conversations for a few hours, she had to get back home before her parents knew she had snuck out. It was now early in the morning, before sunlight, and we both made the walk, again, together then alone.
The rest of the time Cynthia and Dad were gone, I was pretty good. I didn’t leave the house again and I didn’t drink any more alcohol. However, I made one critical mistake. Can you guess what it was? That’s right…I didn’t cover my tracks. Adults who have bottles of liquor in the cabinet tend to know how much they have and notice when several shots are missing from several bottles. Instead of telling my dad and getting me into a shit ton of trouble, Cynthia handled it by doing something I never expected.
I was sitting in my room, listening to music, just like a normal teen girl does, writing notes or drawing my name on a piece of paper with the last name of the boy I had a crush on, or whatever I was doing at the time. The door opens and there is Cynthia standing there with two full bottles of liquor in her hands. The “oh shit!’ on my face was probably hilarious to see from her perspective. I was busted. I knew it. Instead of demanding to know about the missing alcohol, Cynthia asked, “wanna get drunk?”. Um, excuse me? Hell yes! I, of course, was nervous but accepted the offer. Dad was out of town so it was just Cynthia and me. She asked me which one I wanted to drink between the rum and Wild Turkey and I chose the rum. She mixed me a rum and coke on ice and then made herself and drink. We started drinking together and talking a little. I was still guarded about things I said or did in front of her because I had a lot of secrets back then. I wasn’t a hoodlum that snuck out of the house (except that one time when they weren’t home), I didn’t skip school or classes, I didn’t do drugs, and I didn’t even smoke anymore. I mostly got into trouble because of not doing chores or failing a class. At school, I wasn’t liked by a lot of people and only had one or two close friends. I was awkward and shy around boys but when I had a boyfriend I was overly clingy. I was still a virgin but I didn’t want to be. I had a very active sex drive and curiosity thanks to my early exposure to it so I thought that’s what boys wanted from me. I believe I was actually intimidating to some boys because I was pushy and suspicious about everything. So, my secrets weren’t life altering but they were mine and I guarded them closely. Conversations or feelings I had about with and about people, doing things I hadn’t been caught for yet, or some other minor offense that a teenager would keep secret were all locked away in a vault of the highest security.
Anyway, back to the booze. Cynthia and I continued to drink together and then I realized I was definitely not sober anymore. We had been sitting at the table listening to music when I stood up to go pee. That first trip to the bathroom when you ‘break the seal’. I hit my feet and the buzz hit me hard. I stumbled to the bathroom and I know Cynthia knew I didn’t have much further to go until I was full-blown shitfaced. I came back and we continued to drink, me with my rum and coke and her with her Wild Turkey and whatever. So, the night progresses and as I get more and more buzzed, my mouth becomes looser and looser. I start talking about things that I would not have ever spilled the beans about any other time. This is my truth serum, alcohol. Would be to this day if I still drank.
I eventually succumbed to the nausea that comes with drinking too much. I started throwing up in the kitchen sink, spontaneously, and it couldn’t be stopped. Thankfully we had a garbage disposal or that would have been nasty as hell to clean up! Cynthia is there, holding my hair back, while I spew out secrets and my last meal into the sink. Afterward, she got me into the bathtub with hot water to help relax me and calm me down. I started talking about things that made me cry. I don’t remember what I was telling her but I remember being very upset. She continued to soothe and comfort me while helping me get the vomit cleaned off and get me dressed for bed. She got me clothed and escorted me to her bed with a trash can to vomit in if the need came again. She cleaned up the kitchen and alcohol and then came to bed. The next day I woke up with a splitting headache and a hangover from hell. Cynthia excused me from school that day and kept me home to recover. She offered a back massage, some Tylenol, and rest. We bonded that night and the next day. She didn’t hold my secrets against me. She didn’t use them to manipulate me or tell my dad about them. She didn’t tell Dad about me stealing their liquor, I don’t think, and I never got into trouble for it. Hindsight, the drinking was the equivalent to smoking a whole pack of cigarettes. I learned quickly that I didn’t like drinking, at least for a while.
I still got into trouble for other things after that day and still got grounded or given long lists of chores to do as punishment. Cynthia and I still had our ups and downs and I still pulled the typical teenager shit that teenagers pull. Sometimes, Cynthia would be so clever, so she thought, that I would actually be accused of doing things I didn’t do. This happened one day when, after about two weeks of hibernating in my room after school and all day on weekends, losing 20 lbs., I was woken up early in the morning to my dad standing over me telling me to go pee in a cup. I did and then went back to bed. After school, Cynthia picked me up and brought me to my dad’s office. Dad was the big guy at work, an owner-partner, and had drug screening guy test my urine from that morning. Apparently, I came up positive for cocaine!!! I spent hours in that office with Dad and Cynthia drilling me and questioning me about my supposed drug use. I denied it vehemently and would not budge. I had never done cocaine, ever, in my life. I explained to them why I had been hiding out in my room and why I had lost so much weight. I was always in trouble and had reached my breaking point. It was easier to just not leave my room for any reason, including food, than to risk doing something else to get yelled at or grounded for so I chose to hibernate. I didn’t ask for lunch money for school and didn’t speak to Dad and Cynthia at all or very little during that two-week period so, of course, from their perspective, I was obviously on drugs.
Finally, after getting nowhere with each other, I demanded that Dad do the test again. At first, he didn’t want to but after calling in his drug test guy, they determined that it could be possible that there was a false positive. From the conversation, Dad admitted that he had not stored the urine properly, after getting the sample from me, and it had been hours between me peeing in the cup and the test being performed. Yes!!! I am vindicated! I peed in the little cup again and got the negative result that I knew I should have had. After four hours of interrogation, neither of them apologized to me for accusing me of doing drugs. Nobody admitted that they had screwed up. It was just over and we went home. I was pissed and it is probably one of the events that led to me running away and then moving to live with Rick in Orlando. Another mistake on the list for me.
When I moved to Orlando, Cynthia is the only one who came to visit me. When I got married to David and my dad disowned me for it, Cynthia would still check on me. When my dad died, Cynthia is the one to call me and tell me, not my dad’s brother or anyone else. After dad passed and all the years after, Cynthia is the one who kept in contact with me, even when I was being a douche or always complaining about my life or asking for help. When I left David and was living on my own and screwing up my life, royally, Cynthia was the one who bailed me out by paying off every bill I had at the time and getting me caught up to be successful. When I joined the military and was away from my kids for months without being able to see them, Cynthia is the one who visited them, spoiled them, sent me pictures of them, and made sure they were doing okay with their dad.
There was a time when Cynthia and I didn’t talk. We had a falling out that didn’t have anything to do with disliking each other but was influenced by my dad’s family and Cynthia’s need to be free from the toxicity that came with being in contact with all of us. They had gotten into my head and had me questioning Cynthia’s actions and intentions during the weeks and months before and after Dad’s death. These hateful and hurtful people put the blame for his suicide on Cynthia’s shoulders. I can’t imagine losing your husband and the love of your life to suicide and his family blaming you for it and accusing you of being a gold digger. How hurtful can you be to make one person responsible for the emotions and actions of a mentally ill person who committed suicide? Signs or not, if someone wants to and decides to end their own life, nothing anyone can say or do will stop it.
Anyway, years later, we started talking again and are still in contact with each other to this day. My youngest daughter has become extremely close with Cynthia and has visited her, in another state, for a summer vacation and then again as an adult. My daughter considers Cynthia to be more of a grandmother than she does her own blood relative, my mom. Cynthia has shown more love and dedication to my family than she was ever required to or expected to do. By rights, her contact with us could have ended, without question, the day Dad died. She has no blood connection to us or the rest of the family and they’ve treated her like shit. However, when you talk to her about my brothers, my dad’s sons, she still misses them and wishes they would speak to her. In spite of all the hate and mistreatment she has endured from my uncle, grandmother, Rose, my brothers, and my dad’s business partner, Cynthia has remained positive and has made peace with it all. She is who I seek out when I need calm and considerate advice.
Cynthia isn’t perfect and I know that she still has her own problems but her grace in the face of adversity is what makes her so special. She is spiritual and in-tune with her emotions but not in a religious way. She loves the earth, nature, and respects her body and mind by not polluting them. She is the epitome of a hippie, in my eyes, but isn’t a tambourine toting hippie. She’s a positive, calm, nature-loving, healing yourself through meditation and natural herbs and supplements, encourage others to be healthy and to connect with their spiritual side, and always understanding and supportive kind of hippie. She is almost 60 years old and looks younger than me, in my opinion. She has dreams and plans for her future and has created a beautiful life for herself. I’m glad that I and my family are part of it. Even my redneck husband likes her. That’s saying something.
Thanks for being you, Cynthia. You’ll always be a mom to me.