The crazy art of stalking

My mother and my father never married. Never were engaged even. In fact, my mother was never proposed to by any man and never married. Her "relationships" were odd at best, and really, if I'm honest with myself about it...little more than stalking.

I remember one Sunday afternoon when I was about seven or eight being rounded into the little white station wagon. This would have been while all the windows were still in tact yet the car was always infamously packed. Mom announced that we were going for a drive. I'm sure we stopped somewhere for soda and snacks, although that part remains hazy although I remember my mother gloriously chugging from a 2-liter of soda while driving. Yes, I said 2-liter.

Then we headed south about an hour and fifteen minutes to the rural area of Bryantown. You see, my mother was smitten with a co-worker named Ron. I don't believe at this point they had had a "date" (I'm not sure they ever had what I consider a date...), but somehow my mother had gleaned enough information from him to know that he lived "near Bryantown".

Bryantown is relatively rural for the DC metro area, and is mostly farms, upper end homes set off from the road, and back then, single-wide trailers scattered here and there with broken down cars for lawn ornaments. Although the size of Bryantown wasn't very large, my mother was looking for a needle in a haystack. She didn't know exactly where Ron lived, just that it was near Bryantown--he had a PO box there.

As a child I never questioned how she got that information. I don't generally have conversations with my co-workers about my address unless there I'm inviting someone over...and then, I wouldn't tell them, "Oh, I have a PO box in XYZ-ville." I would tell someone I wanted to see my actual address so that they could find me easily. My mother did not have that kind of information, so I don't know if she had glanced at his paycheck once or twice as they were being handed out, or what, but clearly Ron was NOT expecting us.

Honestly, that day, we never did definitively find Ron's house. We drove up and down state highways--two-lane roads twisting between farmland and rural homes--looking for an address sign or mailbox that listed his last name. (In hindsight, looking for a mailbox with his last name is kind of ironic given that she knew he had a PO box...but that was the irrational and illogical thought process my mother was prone to.)

But more than these details of driving the backroads in Bryantown that day (or the next Sunday, or Monday night late...or any other random time when my mother felt she must "check in" without his knowledge), what I remember was the fear...the anxiety...the panic that we would be discovered and that Ron would be angry with my mother (and thus me).

My fear was not unfounded. One of my earliest memories of my father was a similar surprise visit(attack) to see my paternal grandparents and father when I was about three or four. I never did see my grandparents, and I only saw my father through the frosty glass on the Datsun. I remember arriving in town and hitting the Post Office because although my mother had a child with him, she did not know my father's physical address--just a PO box number.

(Even as I'm writing this, I'm shocked to notice for the first time this parallel in the two events. Although while searching for Ron that Sunday, the Post Office was closed and my mother could not waltz in and ask for further directions. *chills* Revelations like these hit all the time.)

The people at the post office directed us, and we drove over to my grandparents' home; my father lived with them. I remember my mother getting out of our little green and orange mismatched Datsun as she told me to stay still and quiet until she called for me. It was a very cold morning and I was huddled under a bunch of crocheted and knitted blankets in the front seat with my "child harness" on.

My mother knocked. No answer. Again she knocked...several times, but never an answer...or at least none that I could hear from my safety inside the car. From my frosty post, I don't recall if there were other vehicles parked at the house. I remember my father's old pickup truck--an old, late 70s Ford F150--but its presence is lacking from this memory.

Finally, my mother turned around to head back to the car and to me.

Before she got to the car, the front door opened and my father came out, closing the door behind him. He wore no jacket or coat, but one of the flannel buttoned-up shirts that became synonymous in my mind with him. He was clearly cold. But what I remember the clearest was his comment to my mother:

"Take that child home."

That comment has stayed with me for over thirty years. That child. Even now, the pain of that statement overwhelms me to a point where I can't even put words down on paper to express how I feel--and that's big for me, the girl who could write freely from pain from such a young age. I cannot put those feelings into words. And maybe that's a good thing. Perhaps it's a blessing that such deep, dark, ravenous words do not exist to embrace that pain.

This surprise ambush created for me the fear of dropping in on anyone. Sadly, it was far from the last time my mother would drag me somewhere to "drop in" on some poor unassuming person--whether it be her object of stalking, or a distant relative that we "happened to be in the neighborhood" of. In fact, at one point, my mother convinced me in middle school to let her drive to the home of a boy I liked.

I remember feeling dirty doing this. I was afraid of discovery. I was ashamed of doing it. Although at the time I had never heard of stalking, that was what my mother often did. And she had attempted to sell me on this behavior.

This is where it gets tough. I want to tell you that the fear, anxiety, shame, and guilt that I felt from these visits meant that I never did the same thing on my own. But I have promised the truth, and the truth shall set you free; it just isn't so. If I could realistically count out how many times I acted out of that same paranoia--well, I can't count that. I even remember begging her to drive me to the beach (almost three hours away) one Friday night because my fiance and his friend went there and I was struggling with his trip. We didn't have an address. We went again, armed with a vagueness "near Happy Beach" in a trailer.

Even after leaving home, and after my divorce, I did this same thing just once. Let me be clear about one thing though: I had been dating the guy and was in a relationship with him; I'd been invited to his house many times and knew exactly where he lived. But on that evening, he'd expressed deep sorrow and depression and refused to talk to me or anyone else. I was both angry and concerned for him. So at 1am, I drove to his house. I never went in. I never told him. And I've NEVER done it again.

I hate that my mother modeled such crazy abnormal behavior for me and labeled it as NORMAL, ACCEPTABLE, HEALTHY. I hate even more that at times, I reverted to that behavior myself although I had cursed how going with her to stalk people made me feel.

But I love that I have found the freedom to admit these things openly. I love that I know that there was no other path for me but to trace her steps because they were all I knew--until I sought hope and healing. And I love that I am not that person, and never really was. I love that I have gone from the crazy, anxiety, guilt and shame of stalking my mother's "boyfriends" to being a healthier, more nurturing and very open to admit I mess up mother to my children, and loving wife to my husband.

______
I had never realized until recently that this kind of behavior is fairly normal in the homes of hoarders. Many other adult children of hoarders talk about going on rides to visit unsuspecting relatives and acquiantances. The sharing of their experiences allowed me to really deal with this issue in my mind and heart and to admit how weird it was, and how I don't have to become like that. Identity through shared experiences is such a huge part of support and healing!

(Names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Comments

Brenda said…
Well you can "stop by here" anytime, I love you. I am so proud of this journey you are taking and of our fearlessness in revealing it, because indeed the truth shall set you free and to whom the Son of man has set free, is FREE INDEED.
cynjay said…
Ceci - you left a comment on my blog post today. If you're comfortable, please send me your addy to cynjaynes@comcast.net. You don't even have to enter the contest. I'll send you a signed copy ASAP.
Cynthia J. Omololu

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