MY STEPMOTHER... THE GREATEST PUPPETEER OF THEM ALL...
BY GLORIA FAYE BROWN BATES/ aka GRANNY GEE
Happy faces, voices... I could hear everyone sharing their day while sitting at the dining table. I had finished eating before everyone and asked to be excused. I smiled as I left the table so, no one would wonder if 'Gloria Faye' was alright.
I was fourteen years old, I had just come to live with my father, his wife, and two half-sisters who were thirteen, and twelve years old. I loved them instantly, they were my 'family'..... I remembered them from living with them when I was younger... when my stepmother beat me in the back when my half-sister and I were washing dishes, giggling, playing.
I learned as time went by... I was the one who got the blame for my half-sisters... they would make things look like it was my fault so, as not to suffer the wrath of my stepmother, father.
I was always in trouble... and I was the quietest, nicest person. No matter what I did... I would hear 'Gloria Faye, I'm going to have to tell your daddy'. I didn't do anything and when 'I found out that I had'.... my stomach would get butterflies in it, I'd be scared. My daddy's eyes could look through one with such anger... if looks could kill... he 'killed me' alot of times. I loved him, but... either he didn't choose to see it, or he hated me. My stepmother kept him thinking the worst of me.
I would make good grades in school, come home in the evenings and do what was expected of me... then, I'd get out of everyone's way ... I would go to the bedroom (it was huge) where each of us had beds. I didn't want to be in trouble, I wanted everyone to love me.
I would take my school books, sit on the bed to study, hoping no one would get mad at me. Every evening I would sit like that ... my stomach always so nervous. I didn't want anyone to speak sharply to me, it hurt my heart. I tried to not be noticed.
During that time.... I almost quit eating... remember my story about going to live with my mother who was so tiny, beautiful? I had no idea I could even put on her clothes... when I learned that I could... my whole world changed again... I saw 'me'...
I was beautiful, too! And.... little! I also, learned that I could wear earrings! My stepmother told me I could never wear earrings because I had 'huge' ear lobes......... can you imagine how happy I was to discover.... my ear lobes were just right... there wasn't anything 'huge' about them! She had told me that my two half-sisters' ear lobes were perfect.
I would do everything I could to make all the difference while living there... none of it mattered. When I was supposed to do something... I did it right, and I did a good job. I was still unwanted by my stepmother, and two half-sisters, my father.
There was always a wall... and when sometimes us three sisters would break through that wall and really begin communicating... trusting, liking each other... the next thing I would see would be their eyes staring at me, no smiles anymore. My stepmother was responsible.
Each time we'd become friends... that would happen. I would see those cold stares that seemed to accuse me of doing something wrong. What did I do wrong, I wondered that many times while living there. Those stares hurt me to my very soul... my daddy looked at me like that.
The only person smiling at me all the time was ... my stepmother. Maybe because she 'was in control'... she was behind the scenes manipulating all to her liking. She smiled because.... 'maybe' no one was the wiser.
Unknowingly, she did that at the end of her life, when I was going through a life-threatening illness... non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She would call Skip and keep up on my progress, she would tell him to not 'let Grandmother Brown know, she would worry too much'. She said 'she'd tell her in a way so, she wouldn't be upset'...........
Skip, not knowing her at all, listened to her. She was letting my Grandmother Lola think I was dying. I was close to death but, she didn't bother to tell her how I began to get better.
It forever changed alot of things, promises to me, my son, my grandchildren... and how I felt about my Grandmother Lola after she died. My step-mother was 'in control and manipulating' again.... she came out the winner.... but, at the end....
She was diagnosed with cancer, and as I got better... her condition worsened... Skip and I had opportunity to go see her... take her out to eat... she couldn't eat anything. She was so thin... she knew she had cancer... she didn't tell me.
I wonder if she thought... she had met up with 'Pay Back'......... She died soon after that. The strange thing about that... it hurt me. No matter she was responsible for so much pain in my heart... I cared. I had loved her ... though she didn't treat me fairly. I wanted her approval, I wanted her love.
My Grandmother Lola died, and I went to her funeral sick, I looked so bad. I'll never forget how my two half-sisters sat back with their families... especially my youngest half-sister and her daughter-in-law who had worked in a strip club.... laughed at me.
They would run outside to smoke cigarettes, come back in with 'that stare' ... and burst out laughing at me. They seemed to be sharing a big joke... I was it. I have never forgotten that.
I wonder how they each are doing now? They laughed at me because I looked so bad... I was fighting a battle for my life... it didn't matter to them. I just sat there smiling at them kindly... I wondered 'why' they did that. Did they think they were so much better than I ... they were healthy, I had come close to dying?
Did they laugh at my face, it was red, flushed from taking the medicines I took to kill cancer cells? Did they laugh at the weight I'd gain from being on predisone? Did they laugh because for once... I looked so weak? It was really very funny to them... enough for them to look at me and ...laugh with such merriment in their eyes.... at our Grandmother Lola's funeral.
I remember asking my aunt, my daddy's only living sister... if she minded me riding with them. I wasn't feeling well at all. I felt embarassment because of how I appeared to everyone ....to be made a joke of... my heart hurt. I rode with her family to the cemetery... I don't think she wanted me to ride with them. She was 'too upper crust' to have someone who looked as pitiful as I did... to be with them. I felt very, very little.
There was a time they'd all been proud of me being with them... when I was dressed well, feeling on top of the world, not sick. People DO treat you differently when they know you are very sick... it's not nice.
They remembered last seeing me as a strong, attractive, well-dressed young woman.... not in the pitiful shape I was in. I was already self-conscious.
I understood though.... people who live in a 'beautiful' world ...hate to see ugliness come around... no matter that it's from an illness they didn't choose. No one had compassion for me on my daddy's side of the family.
It didn't matter about illness... here I was, 'looking like that'. I had the nerve.... only it wasn't nerve, it was because I loved my Grandmother Lola. She'd always been good to me.
I had driven for over an hour on the interstate in my condition to come to my Grandmother Lola's funeral. I regretted going alone... Skip was out of town. I came home broken-hearted and not as well as I was when I attended the funeral.
I learned then, of something that shocked me to my core.... my stepmother had caused to happen with making my Grandmother Lola think I was dying. My Grandmother Lola had taken life insurance out when I was a baby... all through the years she and my Aunt Patsy, my daddy's youngest sister, would tell me that 'one day I would have alot of money from that policy.... my Aunt Patsy told me she would make sure of it'.
My Aunt Patsy died, unknowingly to me, when I was also, fighting for my life. I never knew for many, many months... no one thought to tell me. I loved her with my heart... she was my protector as a young girl. She was the one I loved more than I can say.
Not only my insurance policy, but, Tommy's insurance policy, and Taban and McKenzie's insurance policy... all had been cashed in by Grandmother Lola to give away. This happened when I was 'dying'.... this happened when my stepmother said 'not to tell Grandmother Lola about Gloria Faye's condition'........
My Grandmother was almost 100 years old when that happened. She was still a beautiful woman at her age.... Skip and I went to see her often.... I was better and I wanted to see her. Just months after we began visiting her.... she died. She saw that I was living and seemed strong. She was glad to see me.
We would sit and talk on those visits... on one of the visits while I sat beside her... she turned around to look me in my face and said 'Gloria Faye, I've made a bad mistake'. She had tears in her eyes, she turned her head to look out in the yard. She began telling me things about my cousin becoming a drug addict, how her son made her so afraid. She kept talking.... about alot of things....
That day I had no idea what she meant, after her death ...her face came into my mind, I heard her voice saying again 'Gloria Faye, I've made a bad mistake'... I could see the tears in her eyes. I 'knew then'... that my stepmother had done what she set out to do.... she became a winner... she had manipulated all in her favor... again. So, did others......
A huge amount of money went to different people, toward a house... when it had been meant for me, my son, granddaughter, and later, grandson. She'd asked me through time as she added the policies ... for each of their social security numbers.
She had my social security number at birth, as my son, and each grandchild was born... she would call me to get their social security numbers for a new policy.
One day, Taban and McKenzie can know their great-great grandmother loved them and meant for them to each have money from her insurance policies... but, there was someone 'watching, manipulating, kept her finger on the pulse' the whole time.... to change everything.
I forgive her. I loved her .....though she hated me with her sweet smiles, sweet honey voice... because I was my daddy's first child... she was jealous of my mother. My daddy would come to see her when I was little, 'when he'd come to see me'.
I would see them kissing, my daddy would tell me then... 'I'll always love your mother, Faye'. Strange though..... I never recall him saying 'I love you, too'. He only told me once in my life that I remember that he loved me... he was drinking beer, then....
The strange thing as a child, those people made me think only my mother's family was 'bad'..... it took all 47 years for me to 'see'...... that my daddy's family did the same things! I can't tell you how shocked I was to learn this.... they weren't perfect. I had grown up with the impression they were.... they were so much better. This was quite another shock I suffered... I can't even describe it.
You wouldn't believe... how when my eyes opened... at how imperfect they were, too! I remember looking at Skip and saying ....'I can't believe how I grew up thinking they were so perfect'. They made me feel so inferior, my mother's family so 'low'. I smile now at how they all 'fooled me'. I was so... naive, dumb.
The things my Grandmother Lola told me... I could see some of them once she 'opened my eyes'. I learned of alcoholics, and drug abusers were also, in my daddy's family. Amazing.. unbelieveable... I thought they were perfect all those years. I say this without any sarcasm... I honestly thought that.
There were pregnancies before marriage.... I couldn't believe it when 'such a thing happened'. When we were very young, my youngest half-sister told me she was pregnant and worried about telling our daddy, and my stepmother.
'I was the one' that was told to 'never be a whore'.... and I'd be like my mother and probably get pregnant without being married. I was married when I had my child, I wasn't pregnant when I married.
Can you imagine the shock of learning such things about a family I thought was perfect? I would even wonder somehow since it 'was one of them'.... was it somehow right since 'it was they' who had done this... done that?
My stepmother has been on my mind this morning.... though I've forgiven her once I had connected the dots through time.... she's dead.... I still think about how 'slick', how 'smart' of her .... I think she was one of the greatest puppeteers ever... she knew how to 'work those strings'. She did it all with a smile, a sweet honey voice.... I can 'see' the twinkle in her eyes now. 'Now'... I know 'why' the twinkle. She was laughing all the way to the ...... bank?
I know someone else in my family got a house from our insurance money... I hope they always enjoy living in it. Strange... I don't feel anger toward her... I don't feel anything.
There were four insurance policies.... mine, Tommy's, McKenzie's, and Taban's..........
My Grandmother Lola had seven granddaughters/grandchildren. From the time we were very little 'knew' her wishes, what she had for each of us. At the time when I learned, there were only six granddaughters... I was the oldest, and the first grandchild she had.
One person watched all through the years... one person who all through the years always said .... 'don't you dare tell Grandmother Brown'! It used to make me afraid when I was living with her... her threat worked so well... that I never told my Aunt Patsy or Grandmother Lola when she mistreated me... not even once. I was so afraid of her finding out.
This morning when I was deciding what to write... this is what I've written. I guess 'it was time' to write about it... this is what my story turned out to be... I didn't know that it would. It's like when I do artwork.... 'I think I know' what I'm going to do... but, seldom does it turn out like 'I think'.... it's better.
My hat's off to you, Great Master Puppeteer........ I don't hate you, I always loved you. If I felt I didn't like you... when you smiled at me, I liked you again. You were a part of my life, too.
You, my stepmother... the greatest master puppeteer of them all. I know there are others.... too. Their manipulation was more 'silent' than yours. Yours was good... you played on my love for you, my Grandmother Lola.
The greatest master puppeteer of all... my stepmother. She did it all with the sweetest honey voice, her brown eyes so full of concern... 'that twinkle' always bothered me, though. 'Now'... I know 'why'........
Colors As I Go
grief (32) only child (4) Scary (2) Boiled eggs (1) Distrust (1) Don't call me Faye (1) Dying (1) I hate to be called Faye (1) I'm afraid of the dark (1) Middle age woman (1) Pain that reaches the soul.. can't be seen (1) Running (1) Where did my youth go? (1) dying in a beautiful way (1) life is fragile (1) light on my path (1) my son (1)