Friday, May 16, 2008

My sister

My sister thinks I’m kind-hearted like Mother Teresa. The truth is-- her spirit is like a gigantic mirror reflecting her kindness back at herself. She is someone that would give more than the shirt off her back. Indeed, she is offering to donate her eggs to me. I’m not talking chicken eggs, or goose eggs, like the ones in her photo. This is more serious and not something to be taken lightly. This donation process requires that she be poked and prodded in the vagina and uterus with vaginal probes and gadgets on a fairly regular basis. It also requires her to take hormones that can be mood altering and injections that can be quite painful. She will be required to have frequent lab work to assess various conditions of her egg production and life cycle. Her life will be controlled by her menstrual cycle which is controlled by my fertility doctor (who lives roughly 3000 miles away from her). When she is deemed “ripe-for-the-picking” she will leave her loving and supportive family to fly the 3000 miles, from Oregon to Maryland, to be with me. After arriving she will have the ultimate vaginal probing with a long metal device that will pierce her delicate reproductive tissues plucking artificially ripened eggs from her ovaries. At this point she is done. (Except for the recovery process) But not really. If her eggs don’t result in a pregnancy she will have feelings of inadequacy, or worse, failure. If her eggs do result in pregnancy she will feel victorious. But, she will spend the rest of her life watching the development of a child, knowing it is part of her but not for her. It is for me. She is offering all with knowing and with love…to me, her sister.

There’s a song I recall from probably around 20 years ago. Its melody and lyrics have stuck in my head probably because it resonates so clearly with the way I feel about Sissie. It goes something like this…Shining sister, second self, a miracle to recognize. Spirits merging points of view, then peering out with brand new eyes. Here is one who understands, here is one who sees…one who shares the song of life then sings in harmony…

Let me tell you a little bit about this amazing human being…of course she is my sister--I could be a bit biased. Sissie was born into a poor and troubled family. She had a 10 year old sister (me, nonie) and an 11 year old brother (John-boy). I’m sure she was an unplanned pregnancy but I could not have been happier about her coming. For years I had asked my mom to have another baby. She would tell me that it wasn’t that simple. I think she knew there just wasn’t enough money to feed another mouth...I think she knew more than that...

Sissie was conceived in Georgia just prior to the family move to Ohio. This move was necessary as our dad was unable to provide financially for us. He seemed to be spiraling deeper and deeper into depression and mental illness. We moved in with our dads parents. I loved living with our grandparents. Our dad was a nicer person--and this made our mom happier.

Our mom was a battered woman…let me make that “severely” battered woman. She married our dad when she was 18 years old because she thought she was pregnant. It was her first sexual encounter and in those days, “good girls” just didn’t do that “sort of thing” without marriage vows. Additionally, in those days, they didn’t have home pregnancy test...soooo, if you thought you were got married. As it turned out she wasn’t pregnant, but that soon changed. She had my brother when she was 19 years old. Then twenty months later she had me. Strapped with no education and 2 young babies she depended on my dad.

Our dad was a very handsome and intelligent man. Our grandmother told me that his IQ (intelligence quotient) was somewhere between 150 and 160. (The average IQ is somewhere between 85 and 115--if you believe in that sort of thing) That would make him a genius---but that’s about where his smarts ended. Throughout his youth he was a Juvenile delinquent. I think he spent time in Juvenile Hall for letting air out of police tires--amoungst other equally stupid pranks. He served as a United States Marine for three proud (by my standards) months until he got kicked out for punching an officer in the face. I was told that he was evaluated by a psychiatrist who diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. While I don’t know if this is an accurate diagnosis, there was definitely something wrong with him. Somewhere around this time he married our beautiful and talented mother. And, I mean...BEAUTIFUL & TALENTED!

Our dad made his living selling encyclopedias. In those days there was no internet so every family wanted to have a set if they could afford it. He was very disrespectful to people who bought them. He called them “mooches”. I guessed that I was a mooch too, because I loved our set of encyclopedias. My brother and I would pour over them to enjoy receiving information about the world, entire. Anyway, the young married couple moved from Ohio to Georgia to sell encyclopedias. I was born in Georgia and have always been proud to be a “Southern Bell/Georgia Peach” (Spoken with a southern drawel). There is just something so deleicate and refined, and yet intelligent and sophisticated about that phrase.

Somewhere around this time the domestic violence started. I distinctly recall our father hitting our mother. I recall being 3 years old looking up at two adults locked in battle. I remember my mom’s voice speaking my father’s name to try to reason with him. I remember this like it was yesterday. As the years passed…brace yourself for this one…my father took to raping my mother. It is difficult to even say these words, but it was the truth. It’s hard to fathom that anyone would tolerate this kind of treatment but it is not uncommon. 30-65% of all homicides of women are related to Domestic Violence by their male partners. Can you believe this statistic? Roughly 50% of murdered women are murdered by their spouses. This is a staggering figure. Especially when you consider how little government funding is spent to reduce this statistic. Why, you ask? Why do women stay??? I will tell you why. Women stay because they have no better choice. That is the bottom line. Women stay because they are afraid. Sometimes they are dependent. Sometimes it is for the integrity of the family. Sometimes it is for the children. Sometimes they believe the abusers threats of death if they leave. Sometimes abusers threaten the children’s lives, or the pets. But, oftentimes women actually love the abuser. This is where the battered women syndrome begins.

(FACTOID: Domestic violence (also known as domestic abuse or spousal abuse) occurs when a family member, partner or ex-partner attempts to physically or psychologically dominate another. Domestic violence often refers to violence between spouses, or spousal abuse but can also include cohabitants and non-married intimate partners. Domestic violence occurs in all cultures; people of all races, ethnicities, religions, sexes and classes can be perpetrators of domestic violence. Domestic violence is perpetrated by both men and women.

Domestic violence has many forms, including physical violence, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, intimidation, economic deprivation or threats of violence. Violence can be criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence. There are a number of dimensions including mode - physical, psychological, sexual and/or social; frequency - on/off, occasional, chronic; and severity – in terms of both psychological or physical harm and the need for treatment – transitory or permanent injury – mild, moderate, severe up to homicide.

Recent attention to domestic violence began in the women's movement in the 1970s, as concern about wives being beaten by their husbands gained attention. Estimates are that only about a third of cases of domestic violence are actually reported in the United States and the United Kingdom. According to the Centers for Disease Control, domestic violence is a serious, preventable public health problem affecting more than 32 million Americans, or more than 10% of the U.S. population. Domestic violence can take the form of physical violence, including direct physical violence ranging from unwanted physical contact to rape and murder. Indirect physical violence may include destruction of objects, striking or throwing objects near the victim, or harm to pets. In addition to physical violence, spousal abuse often includes mental or emotional abuse, including verbal threats of physical violence to the victim, the self, or others including children, ranging from explicit, detailed and impending to implicit and vague as to both content and time frame, and verbal violence, including threats, insults, put-downs, and attacks. Nonverbal threats may include gestures, facial expressions, and body postures. Psychological abuse may also involve economic and/or social control, such as controlling victim's money and other economic resources, preventing victim from seeing friends and relatives, actively sabotaging victim's social relationships and isolating victim from social contacts. Spiritual abuse is another form of abuse that may occur. Battered Women’s Syndrome is a reference to any person who, because of constant and severe
domestic violence usually involving physical abuse by a partner, becomes depressed and unable to take any independent action that would allow him or her to escape the abuse. The condition explains why abused people often do not seek assistance from others, fight their abuser, or leave the abusive situation. Sufferers have low self-esteem, and often believe that the abuse is their fault. Such persons usually refuse to press criminal charges against their abuser, and refuse all offers of help, often becoming aggressive or abusive to others who attempt to offer assistance. Often sufferers will even seek out their very abuser for comfort shortly after an incident of abuse. WIKIPEDIA)

To Be Continued……….....................................(Part 1 of 4).................................................................................

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