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My aunt called me several months ago, needing my cleaning services. I was booked solid and constantly sick so wasn’t able to accommodate her. She was kind about it and said, “That’s okay, Hon; M said that he’s had some little gal over there helping him, and he could get her to help me some.”

Uncle M had some little gal helping him? I’d been sick for months, but he understood that. He DIDN’T want me over there exposing his weak, tired 82 year old body to all the germs I was packing. But, he’d replaced me?

It stung, but I got over it. It bothered me more that he never answered my calls or called the kids or me. That’s pretty typical for how things have always been with my dad’s family though. It’s partly why I don’t really know them.

However, I was able to reach Uncle M on his 83rd birthday last week. He was sweet and pleasant and seemed thrilled to hear from me.

He was angered that Aunt L said he had someone helping him. He wanted me to come clean as soon as possible. No one has cleaned, he said, since I was there last spring.  I wondered if he was telling me the truth.  Perhaps he did replace me but now felt bad and wanted to give me some work.

We stopped by after church just to visit and, upon arrival, it was evident that no one had cleaned since I was there last spring.  He had not quickly replaced me when I got sick.  He has been patiently waiting for six months for me to regain my health and come back to help him.

He played with the children, acting silly with the little ones, and teasing my young teenager.  It was good to see him.   The children commented later that they love visiting him because he reminds them of Papa.

So, I came back to clean later in the week.  As I scrubbed the back bathroom I could hear voices.  Two men’s voices.  Immediately I recognized the one as being my other uncle, the oldest of my dad’s brothers.  He has always spoken with a voice that my gay cousin would have described as a “flamer.”  He spoke like that even back before homosexuals were out in the open.  His voice is easy to recognize.

He’s the uncle who refused to speak to me at my dad’s memorial.  When I tried to politely give him a copy of my dad’s memorial CD, he refused to take it from me.  He, of course, sided with my brother and accepted his lies as truth.  Naturally, because they are just alike.  He’s stolen our inheritances as far back as it goes.  He did the same thing to my aunts when my grandma died.  My brother probably learned many of his tactics from watching this particular uncle.

I heard him ask Uncle M whose car that was in the drive, and Uncle M simply said, “It’s L’s.”

“Who’s that?”

“Ya know, E’s daughter.”

“Why, I’ve never met her!  I’d like to meet her!”

He watched me grow up.  We shared every miserable holiday until I was 15.  The last time I saw my grandpa was at Uncle R’s house.  We went up to see his rock imported from Italy for his stupid wall size fireplace in his new house.  He purposefully and cruelly looked at me with hate a year and a half ago when we buried my dad.  But, now he’d like to “meet” me.

I cringed.  I knew he was up to something.

And, here he came.  Ear to ear smile.  Trying to pour on the Southern charm, but he reached to shake my hand.  I did an eye roll inside my mind.  A real Southern gentleman knows that a man doesn’t put his hand toward a lady unless and until she extends hers.

“Hello!  I’m your uncle R, your dad’s brother.  Why, we’ve never met.  You’re tall!  They must just be ashamed uh cha.  They must just not be very proud of ya.  But, it is a pleasure to meet you.  You favor E in the face.  You have some of his look.”

I smiled graciously, with better manners than he, and replied, “Yes, they must just try to hide me away.  And, yes, the older I get the more I look like him unfortunately.”  I gave a small chuckle and shook his hand with the same hand I’d been using to scrub urine off of two toilets.  That was the real reason I chuckled.

He feigned not knowing me only so he could put me down.  What an old ass.  He is just like his mother.  Cruel to the core.

My dad’s family never accepted me, even as a small child.  My grandma had certain grandchildren she nearly idolized and certain grandchildren she absolutely hated, and that determination seemed to be randomly made at birth.  And, no one went against the matriarch.  The hated ones were shunned by all.  The adored ones were held up as pillars of pride, no matter what they did.

Ironically, I was rear ended three days before I cleaned for my uncle.  I hit my big nose on the steering wheel, slammed my right hand into the dash, and sustained a whiplash injury to my neck.

It was a strange experience.  It was similar to myofascial release.  The street lights immediately shone brighter, like brilliant stars, against the profound blackness of the evening sky.  The yellow of the paramedics uniforms was fluorescent and lovely.  And, I could discern every sound simultaneously.  It was one of those curious moments of heightened awareness.

Past and present.

My only thought as they loaded me into the ambulance was that I needed to let my Bible study friends know I wasn’t coming and I needed to tell my kids where I was going instead.

Once that was taken care of, I listened and thought at the same time.  And, I became obsessed with my thoughts and my heightened awareness.

My blood pressure was 170/110.  My memories stop at 4 and don’t resume until 6.  Until tonight.  The long board was broken, so it was duct taped to my head.  My grandpa bought my mom a $2000 stove in 1970.  The paramedic sitting at my side was new and unsure of himself.  My grandpa didn’t stay with us much after that, and he had nothing to do with me from that point on.  I remember feeling special around him.  My mom dressed me up and did my hair and then told me to sit very still for the pictures and “look pretty for Grandpa.”  I walked in and caught my mom doing dishes, staring straight forward, while my dad harshly told her to “watch Sissy close around Daddy!”

About the same time Grandpa bought Mom the stove, the same visit, I crawled up on his lap.  He shoved me away.  I innocently asked if I was still his girlfriend, and he growled, “I’ve got lots of girlfriends!”  I took my little brother out to Grandpa’s camper, and he yelled at us, “You goddamn kids get out of here!”  I didn’t understand his sudden rejection.  I remember feeling shame.  That’s when I started hiding under my dad’s chair and pulling my hair out.  That’s when my mom started telling me I was crazy, and she was going to have me locked up.  We stopped for the railroad tracks, and I’m pretty sure the ambulance had no shocks or struts.

My hair was being pulled out as the paramedic removed the duct tape.  The O2 monitor wasn’t working.  Two years later my mom began her crusade to teach me to perform sex acts, condemning me because “no man will ever want you for anything other than sex.”  When I was eleven my grandmother, who had by then remarried, yelled at my step-cousin and me to cover ourselves up.  She did not want us wearing swim suits to play in the creek because we “might bring temptation upon” my step-grandpa.

Where the hell are they taking me?  This ride is lasting forever.  We must be on the scenic route to the hospital.

The next year, when I was twelve, my mother remarried a deeply kind and compassionate man who treated me well.  She accused me of having sex with him because there could be no other reason for him to be so nice to me.  The long board was pushing on my right ribs and my right low back.  It was more painful than anything from the wreck.

My mother’s reaction to me was more painful than my grandpa’s rejection.

The insurance company is fighting even opening a claim.

I’ve fought for years, trying to deny my memories.

My agent screwed up, and I’ve threatened to call the state insurance investigator and an attorney.  In the end, I’ll probably end up with a little compensation for my pain and suffering, the trouble this has caused me, and to keep me from calling the investigator or the attorney.

My mother got a fancy stove as compensation for my pain and suffering and to keep her from telling my dad.

I pleaded with the insurance handler from Salem, “This wasn’t my fault.  I did everything I was supposed to.  I always pay my insurance.  I called my agent Sunday night and left a message.  I called him Monday morning to be certain they’d received my message.  I was driving carefully and being mindful of the traffic ahead of me.  That man hit me from behind, and my agent didn’t do what he was supposed to do.  I did what I was supposed to and, now, all I want is to go to my chiropractor.”

From somewhere inside my bright, colorful, loud thoughts a little four year old girl with gold colored curls and green eyes whispered, “This wasn’t my fault.  I did everything I was supposed to.  I listened to Mommy.  I did what I was told.  I obeyed.  Grandpa was mean and a pervert, and Mommy didn’t do what she was supposed to do.  I did what I was supposed to and, now, all I want is to be validated and remembered.”

I don’t think the paramedics heard me tell her, “Honey, I remember!  It wasn’t your fault.  And, they had no right to be ashamed uh cha for what they did to you.  Come out.  I won’t hide you away anymore.”