How it was… or was it?

A blog-friend posted yesterday about her childhood. She’s in therapy and is opening up about her life more than the regular day-to-day happenings. I found her writing inspired me to think about my childhood again. I always thought we had a fairly normal family, growing up. But don’t kids think this? As I got older I realized things weren’t perfect, in fact far from it. My dad was a career military officer and we moved quite a bit. I was the youngest and only girl, and none of us were born in the same city. After I was born we still moved 5 times until Dad’s retirement; he then went on to a second career which thankfully did not involve us moving again.

My dad was a typical military guy. He was quite stoic and rarely showed emotion. He and my oldest brother did not get along at all, and he was emotionally and physically abusive to him. I was 10 years younger than my oldest brother and I still remember it. My dad also liked to drink. Every day. He was what they now call a functional alcoholic. I doubt his employer or colleagues knew. He and my mom were rarely openly affectionate and when he tried to hug or kiss her, I recall her usually rebuffing him because she hated how he smelled from the alcohol. They slept in separate rooms by the time I was in college.

I don’t recall my dad actually playing with me as a child often. Once or twice that I recall, but it must have been more, right? He was a great provider and very proud of his family and home. He loved working doing odd jobs around the house and yard. The only time I saw my dad cry was when my grandfather (his father-in-law) passed away. He adored my mom’s parents, maybe because he had a horribly dysfunctional childhood. I know in his way he did love us; he told me a few times – and also he mellowed a great deal when he was elderly. He loved spending time with all of us and his granddaughters. I guess I’m rationalizing trying to figure out writing how it really was for me as a little girl!

I was born with amblyopia. That is crossed eyes – and I had 3 surgeries by the time I was a toddler, to correct it. One became a lazy eye, and my eyes, while almost perfect, still had the appearance of not being quite right. This bothered me a great deal growing up and I had a terrible self-image. I was very shy and didn’t make friends easily. My favorite activities were staying inside and reading, or playing with my dolls. Between this and all the moving, I probably should have had some counseling; but back then this was considered a sign of weakness, especially by my father.

I remember when we moved from Virginia the summer after 2nd grade, I was so sad because I was best friends with the little girl next door. When we got to California we lived in an apartment for two years and again, I made friends with someone (she is still my dearest friend) and had to leave her behind when we moved 15 miles away and would no longer be going to the same school. Looking back now, I realize that for a somewhat “sensitive” child who already had been through some major life issues, these seemingly minor things were actually major emotional upheavals. Though I had some friends after that, I was never close in the way that best friends are or should be, and ended up dropping them or making excuses to not hang out. I was never socially active at school (I regret this now) and never joined clubs or groups.

In high school I did not date or attend any dances or the big proms. No one asked me, either. I was an excellent student and consistently on the Honor Roll. But why didn’t my parents, or at least my mother, see that something wasn’t quite right? One incident during this time stands out. I asked my parents if we could host a foreign exchange student for a year. In doing so, I would have gone the following year to stay with a host family somewhere exciting. At first they agreed. We had the in-home interview and were approved. Then my mom came and told me we just couldn’t do it. She said there was no way with my dad’s drinking, that it would be a good thing to have someone else in the house. I was stunned. And mad. And probably in some small way, I never forgave them for that.

Even after university when I got my first real job, I continued to live at home with my parents and didn’t even have a desire to move out, or go out dating. Looking back, I’m amazed I met my husband and we married. I was very immature and inexperienced – almost scared of getting out in the real world and living! Even though my best friend and I had traveled all throughout Europe, and I had a very demanding job, emotionally something in me was missing.

I will continue these thoughts more at a later date. Wishing everyone a warm and wonderful Christmas!

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