On learning that her new great-grandchild was a girl, Lilith leaned into my face and in a hoarse whisper said, “They used to sacrifice girl babies.”

That may have been the kinder thing. I think, than being your girl baby.

Folie à deux

Shared psychotic disorder, also known as folie à deux (“the folly of two”)

When you are taking care of a crazy person, it is hard not to feel that the crazy person is really you.

And at times, I’ve probably become the crazy person because it is truly maddening to attempt reason or logic with someone who speaks in a circular fashion and responds to mundane conversation with the sudden pronouncement, “My kidneys don’t work.”

As a girl I prayed nightly that I would die before my mother.  I loved her so desperately I couldn’t imagine life without her.

Now, 60 years later, I pray that she doesn’t suck the life out of me before she dies.

I have come to realize that Lilith is a psychic vampire, commonly known as someone with narcissistic personality disorder.  Which means she has a much inflated self image and a total lack of empathy.

Reading about it for the first time I felt sick to my stomach.  There, in an essay on the Mayo Clinic website was a description of my life.  How had I missed all the signs?? Especially since I had written about her so many times …
My Mother Was a Beauty Queen ♣ Born To Win ♣ A Madness Shared By Two ♣ The Summer of My Last Innocence ♣  Up in the Country ♣ UITC 3

Ironically, the wicked stepmother in Cinderella was originally her wicked mother, but Disney or someone decided that was too harsh.

cinderalla's wicked step motherLilith is the person who consistently makes everything about her. The most mundane, unimportant, or the life threatening … can always be skewed to be about her.  And her drive to have it be about her is so intense that it demands control of her children, to the extent that she can and will warp any situation to redirect the attention to herself.

Initially girl children are her target as they can’t be real people. They exist to be mirrors of her, or shadows of her, but a truly narcissistic woman can’t bear other females so they vacillate between attempted domination of their daughters, and banishment of them if the controls happen to not work.

Off and on in my life I lived with my Grandmother, was left in the care of various aunts and uncles for long periods of time, and when she got wind of summer camp, I was packed off every summer for weeks and weeks.

I would like to get past it

The worst of it is, I would like to get past it.  Have it disappear.  But her very real need for care at this point keeps me in close proximity and still vulnerable to her machinations.

Chinese Finger TrapAnd, as has been the case most of my life, like a Chinese Finger Trap, the more I struggle to extricate myself, the harder she tries to regain control.  I feel just like I did at 15: Suffocated and desperate to get as far away from her as I can.

Even when she isn’t around, the more I try to protect myself, the old stuff bubbles to the surface. I remember things long forgotten that screamed CRAZINESS then and scream it still.

  • When I was pregnant with my daughter my mother wrote and told me she had dreamed about OUR baby.  How she took care of it — she was so excited because she breastfed it. OUR baby.
  • When that same child was three or four and we fought over the junk food she insisted on feeding my child when I wasn’t around, her final words were “You think she’ll love me more than you.”  (When I laughed at her and said that had never crossed my mind she was furious for weeks.)
  • On safety pins: “Oh these will never work. You have to take them back … You need to learn to buy quality.” Of course you do, because buying good safety pins is a much better idea than buying clothes that actually fit.

My brothers were mostly unaware until they took wives and then the trouble trebled as there were three women in Lilith’s orbit to be wary of and two of them had, after all, diverted her sons’ love away from her.  For more than 20 years she predicted they would divorce (her sons would never put up with what those women were doing to her, which was nothing, but who is counting?)

Or worse, they’re surely sleeping with other women – how else could they stay with their wives?

Knowing my brothers as I do, I’d manage to get into a fight every time she brought up the daughters-in-law because my brothers love their wives. They aren’t and have never contemplated divorce and I’d bet my life they’ve never cheated.

SDr Evil and Mini Mehe doesn’t want anyone to disagree with her, especially non-person me, so she’d switch back to bullying me for my lack of sympathy to her plight with the in laws.

At one time I had what was probably the largest personal collection of self help literature on the planet. I spent years in therapy because not only could I not get along with my mother, I also couldn’t get along with any of my husbands and I was scared to death that I was screwing up my kids.

Now my self help library overflows with texts on the narcissistic mother … Imagine my surprise to learn it isn’t that she doesn’t like me – what I have felt for my entire life – She doesn’t even think of me as a person.  

In her mind I’m her Mini Me.

A Madness Shared by Two

Folie à deux

The doctor has given Lilith so much medication for her headache she’s almost comatose. He prescribes Valium for anxiety and when I try to dissuade him he assures me she is just overly anxious.

“Happens all the time in geriatrics. We can’t explain it.”

She is in the beginning stages of a stroke and he’s missed it. It will manifest strongly in the next few days.

He sends her home in an ambulance as I can’t manage her alone when she is this heavily drugged.  The ambulance driver rouses her putting her in bed and she wants to talk.  It is well past midnight and I’m exhausted, but I drag a chair into her room and sit by her bed while she drifts in and out of sleep.  She says her head still hurts even after all the drugs and I wonder again at her diagnosis.

She brings up old wounds, my wounding of her, never the other way around, and I try to soothe her, but I realize I’m noncommittal when she talks about my treatment of her.  She speaks of letters I wrote her that described my hurt and asked her to stop.  She said she didn’t like her parents very much but she never sent them ‘hate mail’. I laugh to myself and think, maybe you should have.

I don’t have regrets about the way I defended myself from her, only regrets that sometimes I didn’t fight hard enough.  I realize I have no absolution for her and I feel that is her goal tonight.

As she quiets and, I hope, sleeps, I try to offer her light and healing – a mental/emotional prayer for her relief. I don’t like her, I’ll admit, but she has suffered for months and I’d like for it to stop. 

In the past I’ve tried looking at auras and in low light I’ve been successful if I ‘let’ it happen. I’m curious if her aura will reflect her illness in colors. I relax the focus of my eyes and let them drift over her form. As my focus fades I’m aware of hundreds of things crawling over her.  I look at the bed covers that do not touch her and they are still. But beneath the covers, the length of her body is covered with crawling, writhing things.

I flash back to an image of a dead rat I came upon suddenly. I’d been mesmerized by the movements caused by the maggots that had taken it over from the inside. Horrified, I concentrate on her face.

This is where I’ve had the most success with full auras.  An aura isn’t a haze around one’s edges, but a field that envelopes the entire body so that if you view it, it can be seen from the front or rear, or side. The aura of someone in deep meditation is a glory to behold, rich and full of color, it can hide one’s face so that all the observer sees is the beauty of the colors, no features at all.

Looking at my mother’s face, I’m not surprised the colors are grey and black, lusterless colors. She has been very ill. Vibrancy would be shocking unless she had the soul of a saint and I imagine that might still shine. Her face, which seems to break thru the aura every now and then, is monstrous.  It stretches and contorts into something so hideous I find it hard to describe.

Her body still appears to be crawling with something equally horrible and I watch only a few moments until I just can’t anymore.

If I’m hallucinating – placing my impression of her on her visage – I’m seeing something that I’ve hidden even from myself.

Months later I’m still unsettled by that night.  


1940 – 1945

“Women’s work, you say?”

Throwing his head back to laugh once more. “I will not bother you and your woman’s work. I, Tomas,” he said, thumping his chest for emphasis, ‘have no interest in your work. But I will accompany you while you go about it.”

Éléonore looked up from the iron sastra pot she was stirring over the fire. Tomas of the Gitanos may be beginning a serious courtship, she thought to herself smiling. And a good thing he was. Éléonore was nearing 17, two years past the age that most gypsy girls marry. Headstrong and independent, she was the apple of her father’s eye. She had successfully thwarted the advances of other gypsy boys with tears and pleas that her father not turn her over to them. She pleaded with him for days to refuse the sizeable payment offered by the father of young Pulika, a member of her own Manush tribe.

Her father drove a hard bargain for the horses he traded and agreeing to give up his only daughter to another man wouldn’t have come easy to him if she’d told him she was ready to wed. Begging to stay with him and her mother a while longer, waiting for the right boy, she’d made him feel as if it were wrong to even consider letting her go to Pulika and his family.

The disgrace to a boy and his family of a formal proposal being rejected had also helped her stay single, Bargaining for a Gypsy marriage was a ritual not to be taken lightly by prospective fathers-in-law. Tentative offers were made through a go-between before a boy’s father ever approached a girl’s family in person. If the first conversations with them were not well taken, negotiations were generally dropped as they had been by Pulka’s father, rather than dealing with the public slap in the face of a refusal from Éléonore and her father.

The boro-rye, leader of the Manush, and the senior judge of the kris (the governing board of the tribe) was, as a matter of circumstance, also the father of unruly Éléonore. He, Éléonore knew, had married her mother for their love of one another, and because of that she held on to the belief that she would marry the boy of her choice, and when that happened it would be the result of love, not bargaining power.

Tomas held out his had to her, “Come,” he said, “Lets be about this herb-gathering now, before the boro-rye is at you for his supper.”

Éléonore stood, unaided, to look Tomas full in the face. “You may come with me if you like,” she said, the look in her eyes be lying the nonchalance of her tone. “But I’m off for the dandelion roots for my father’s coffee, not my herbs. The boro-rye as you call him, is even more passionate about his coffee than his evening meal.”

She walked ahead of him in the soft sunlight, going toward the clearing where she had harvested dandelions for the year’s coffee every spring for five years. Tomas watched as she passed, appraising her again as he had many times in his mind during the past year. He’d first seen her at the festival of Camargue last spring and was so taken with her then that he set upon his father to begin negotiating for their marriage at once.

Having heard rumors of her strong-mindedness, and not one to be pushed into an embarrassment by the whim of a young man, his father had declined and looked to purchase a girl with promise of being a more docile and dutiful daughter-in-law.

The year of travelling through southeastern Europe had only served to confirm young Tomas’ desire to marry Éléonore. As he drove his family’s wagon or walked those miles of the last 12 months, his thoughts returned to her more and more often. Like all Gypsy boys, he longed for the status of the title Rom that only marriage would bring him. Even if he were 50, he would never become a man in the eyes of his tribe until he took a wife. And, as his feelings for Éléonore grew, he knew he would give even that up were he not to marry her.

She’d grown taller since he’d committed her to his memory and her body was fuller, as if it was coming fully into womanhood. She took long, even steps that set her tattered skirt swaying rhythmically, delighted to have her bare feet out of her winter’s boots and back on the warm, damp earth. Her hair, braided in one long thick swatch that hung to her waist, caught the sun and seemed to reflect every color of the rainbow. Her arms were supple and well-muscled and swung when she walked so that he was reminded of the grace of a cat.

He caught up with her easily, brushing her arm with his as he did, and enjoyed the quick rush of pleasure. They walked without speaking until they came to the clearing that held the flowers. Éléonore knelt and began digging the roots that had just bloomed, pleased for this duty to her family. She had learned everything her mother had to offer about the gathering and curing of herbs and knew not only where they grew along the many miles the Gypsy wagons traveled, but how to use them to prepare food and cure ailments.

Tomas dropped to his haunches under a tall tree at the edge of the clearing and glanced upward to note the leaves just beginning to peek out at the sun. He savored the smell of the earth greening in April and like Éléonore, enjoyed the feel of the soil under his feet. Leaning back against the tree, he stretched out his long legs and watched the girl gently pulling the flowers from the ground.

It seemed as if every part of nature smiled on Tomas and his choice of a wife that day. A gentle breeze brushed his face and hair and the sun shone proudly in a cloudless sky.

Omens of such magnitude were not lost on the two of them. Though they were both silent, their minds ere spinning, and in much the same direction. They were happy to be together, unspeaking, readying themselves for the time when they would talk and cement their intentions of beginning a lifetime together. They each rightly presumed the interest of the other, even as they seemed unmindful of it.

Tomas watched Éléonore through half-closed eyes, as she bent to her task closely inspecting the small yellow flowers and taking only those that were just opening, leaving the larger older blooms.

Later after she’d washed them in the brook and spread them in the sun to dry, she would have ample time to talk to Tomas. She’d made enough discreet inquiries among the Gitanos’ women to know that Tomas would make a good husband to her, as much because of the women’s compliments as their chagrin that he’d not yet taken a wife from their tribe.

1940 – 1945 May28


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Up in the Country

I was raised in a small town in the South.

“I was born in the Blue Ridge mountains, at the foot of the Appalachia Trail.”

I grew up in the Sixties, with my mother, step-father and two younger brothers. My mother had “Help” when I was growing up, not live-in help, but help a few days a week who cleaned the bathrooms and mopped floors and ironed.

Juanita, Marie, Jessee.

They were soft, sweet-smelling Black women and they made my house smell fresh and clean. They made me feel like a person instead of a ghost in my mother’s house.

This is our story. All the way back to Appalachia, up in the country.


Her parents were as mismatched as ever a couple was. He was a cocky kid from Copperhill, child of abusive parents and a broken home in the 40’s. She from a union still together in name: her father an alcoholic womanizer and her mother afraid of everything, her husband and 7 children included.

He, Carl, at 17, had pronounced to his friends that he was marrying the prettiest girl in Blue Ridge.

Dan, not a close friend, but someone to drink with, and brag to, responded with a snort. “You don’t even know the prettiest girl in Blue Ridge.”

“Yes, by damn, I do.  Marilyn Hunt.”

“Not even close, you dumbass. The prettiest girls in Blue Ridge are the Mashburn girls. Four of em,”

“Yeah? Who’s the prettiest of the four?”

“That’d be Miss Amurica. “

“Thought you said they was Mashburns?”

“They are, you dumb redneck, we call her that cos she’s a beauty queen.  One a these days she’ll be in the Miss America contest. And she’ll win it too.”

“Which’n is that? The one you call Miss Amurica?”

“That’d be Rubee. She’s the third one.”

“Rubee? Then that’s who I’m marryin’.”

“You ain’t even met her. You just heard about her. How you aim to marry her, Carl?


Up in the Country Dec09


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You Can Be Hurt by Love or Healed by the Same

Timing is Everything

I’m a big one to put my life to music in my mind as if my memories are on the big screen; there is always a soundtrack … the one I arrange.

Today my soundtrack is Garrett Hedlund from the movie Country Strong.  He sings a couple of things I really like, but my favorite, hands down, is Timing is Everything.

left-quoteWhen the stars line up, and you catch a break, people think you’re lucky, but you know its grace †

The last verse,

left-quoteCause you can be hurt by love, or healed by the same. Timing is everything

makes me think about this soul revival thing I have going on in my life.

I’ll admit, I entertained this new relationship because I was encouraged by that remembered wild-heart 15 year-old frisson  that overcame me in the beginning.

But over the last few weeks I’ve developed a warmer, richer, perhaps deeper relationship than a 15 year-old could manage; and while I’ll admit the 16 year-old boy that caught my eye and my heart 45 years ago is still warming my heart … I’ve come to be enamored of the man he has become.

I don’t know a lot of 15 year-olds who have a good concept of adulthood, or an idea of who or what they will be when they reach it.  My recollection of being that age is that I was interested in right now, and gave no thought to tomorrow.

(That’s probably pretty obvious.)


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