I wrote this to heal. To make sense of my life. Not only the past but also the present. Because how I choose to feel about each and every moment will undoubtedly determine my future.
For too many years, I carried resentment. And although I felt envious of others’ success, I was fearful, hesitant, and reluctant to stand out from the crowd.
Similarly, I held on to secrets that, as a child, I promised not to tell. These secrets protected despicable people: two Elders of the Mormon priesthood, David Wise and another whose name I won’t use out of respect for his family, and believe it or not, my mother, “Rosemarie.” (I use her middle name here and changed other family names to protect their privacy.)
Now, this is not just another tale of survival but also a story of triumph. It’s about reclaiming potential. Rest assured, I am not looking for sympathy. I certainly don’t need it. I live a wholesome life with a loving family and a handful of treasured friends. Some of the details set out here are ugly. But if telling my story helps one other person, I believe that sharing it would indeed be a worthy cause regardless of what others might think of me.
I was Rosemarie’s child.
Honesty v Loyalty
By the time I was 25 years old, my impoverished life was a mess, living in bedsits, shared houses and even lodging with strangers. I couldn’t settle down and often sabotaged my professional and personal relationships. Making any headway was challenging at best. Something was wrong. I knew it.
In search of direction, I experimented with astrology, divining with tarot cards and reciting philosophical quotes. I loved writing music and working with musicians. And even though I knew that my singing voice was appalling, I sang the lead vocal in a Bristol-based funk band in England. We called the band ‘Chillo’ and scrabbled for work on the circuit. I lived a nonsensical lifestyle.
I staggered through life between honesty and loyalty, both making and losing acquaintances. I ratted out male friends’ indiscretions and cheated on nearly all of my girlfriends. The fact is, nobody could trust me either to lie for them or tell the truth.
Fortunately, in England, the National Health Service provided six free, one-hour sessions of Cognitive Analytic Therapy (CAT) which initiated my psychological recovery. The talented young therapist may have forgotten our discussions nearly three decades ago. Still, the heart she poured into each of our chats continues to gather momentum. So thank you, dear lady, wherever you are. Your work still pays dividends today.
I grew up in a world of deceit. My understanding of our family’s constitution differed from everyone else’s. I treated my siblings as brothers and sisters and never gave our relationships a second thought. The truth was, however, that some of us had different fathers. Rosemarie and some of the other kids knew but kept it a secret from me. Rosemarie never told my father. So, without knowing the truth, my Dad shouldered the burden of responsibility for Rosemarie’s infidelity throughout the rest of their marriage. Even today, he still speaks of my siblings as if they were his offspring. Telling him the truth as I did about Rosemarie didn’t change his mind at all.
Out of six kids born to Rosemarie, the first was stillborn with only half of its head. Then there was Alan, then me just one year later, born as the second eldest. Next were my sisters Ellen and Melissa, who arrived two years apart to the day. Finally, and just another year later, blue-baby Barry appeared. Even at nearly six years old, I sensed an air of surprise.
Financially dependent on a sailor’s wage, Rosemarie had a lot to hide from my Dad who served in the Royal Navy and spent many months away at sea. So, as a child I assumed my father’s moral responsibility to keep the family together.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t lie, not without blushing. I opted to tell the truth always, regardless of who was exposed by it. Rosemarie hated my secret-spilling mouth. Perhaps, she hated me, period. It certainly seemed that way. Maybe that’s why she formed her ‘clique secret’ out of fear that I would tell my Dad.
Adults Beware! Children Remember Things You Don’t.
When my father came home on leave, Rosemarie often picked a fight. Everyone blamed him for the brawl that ensued and Rosemarie relished the attention that bruises and nosebleeds attracted. Later in my life, I experienced her madness first hand. Her provocative nature would test the grace of a saint. She acted as if possessed by a demon, coming at me fists and feet. Nothing would calm her, but I’ll get to that episode later.
One night, in the mid-nineteen sixties, the police came to arrest my father. The commotion woke all of us up. Frightened, I began to cry. I noticed my grandmother, Nan, in the background. She was visibly concerned as she strained to look through the group of strangers gathered in our tiny bedroom. Nan was always a stabilizing presence.
Cops were polite back in those days. “Come on, sir. Let’s be having you,” they said, their hand cupped under Dad’s elbow. Just before the cops took him away, Dad came over and crouched by my bed. “I could cry about it too, son,” he said.
I never forgot that moment…when my father became my dad.
Nan baked cheese scones every weekend. The fluffy white biscuits had a crispy brown top and were laced with coarse-grated strands of rich cheddar. On Sunday she cooked braised beef in gravy with salty potatoes and overcooked boiled green cabbage.
On Saturday mornings, I went to her house and practiced my skills on the piano. I played as loud and hard as I could. Bohemian Rhapsody rang out through the open windows all along Benbow Street. Music became an escape for me. When I grew up, I spent thirty years creating some music of my own.
As a result of my choice of career, I traveled a lot during my thirties, back and forth from the U.S.A. Still, I visited Nan as often as I could. I missed her more than anyone. Few people called on her, not even the other grandchildren. I felt she had been neglected. I cut down her overgrown lawn several times.
Sadly, diabetes, other medical issues and the side effects from prescription drugs hampered Nan’s mobility. Regardless, whenever I visited, she insisted that I take her to the park for a stroll. Even in her eighties, she was an exceptionally determined woman.
Surviving World War II as a casualty nurse, Nan became the foundation, the core, the epicenter of our growing family. She was the queen of everyone’s heart. Ludicrously though, as she lay dying in a hospital bed after falling down in her kitchen, Rosemarie, Ellen, and Melissa got together and ransacked Nan’s house then distributed all of her valuables.
All I have left of Nan’s memory is a letter she wrote in 1998, only months before she died. In it she described her wariness of Rosemarie’s scrounging, blackmail and intimidation, warning me about Rosemarie’s temper. At that time, nan’s letter confirmed what I had already suspected. Now, divorced and alone since all of her children had left her, Rosemarie had turned her wicked attention toward Nan.
Brothers and Sisters
When we were kids, Rosemarie referred to us as “you five.” We were the cause of her unhappiness. She teased us with suicide, a deadly ultimatum. “I’m going to put my bloody head in the oven,” she said.
As we grew older, repetition lessened her threat’s credibility. “Well, go on then. Do it,” said one of us, courageously. “The oven’s electric,” another pointed out.
She promised to send us to boarding school, “I’ll put you five in a home,” she said often.
Ironically, my half-sister Melissa, did just that with her daughter several years later. She sent her little girl to a boarding school.
One year, while Dad was patrolling the Suez Canal and I was about nine or ten, two Mormon missionaries came to our door. They visited several times a month. It seemed like a weird intrusion, especially since Dad wasn’t there. Not long afterward, Rosemarie committed us all to joining the church.
The Mormon’s baptized us, forgave all our sins and we became “morally clean.” Coffee, tea, nicotine, and sex were guilt-heavy paths to damnation. All of us knelt on the floor as we prayed. We worshipped the prophet every Sunday at church and joined in the youth activities. For Rosemarie, however, the weekly sacrament, a nibble of bread and a capful of water, was all important to her because it guaranteed her forgiveness. So, from that moment on, things just got worse for my so-called brothers and sisters and me.
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, all the church members were considered our brothers and sisters which created a personal dilemma. At home, my siblings and I often played “Doctors and Nurses.” We crawled under our beds and displayed each other’s private parts to each other. So now, with so many new brothers and sisters at church, I wondered what games they liked to play. Well, it didn’t take too long to find out. I soon formed the opinion that the Mormon weekly sacrament was like a get-out-of-jail card for perverts!
My father’s absence while serving our country left his children vulnerable. So, what began as a ride to-and-from church became regular trips to the countryside. Brother David Wise fell over backward helping poor Rosemarie cope.
Everyone called David “Dubsie.” I never understood why. More than six feet tall and shabbily dressed, he often masturbated in public. He made an odd squeaking noise with the inside of his cheek as he tossed himself off in the church kitchen and foyer where everyone else could see. Insanely, nobody did anything about it except avoid him or jokingly imitate his behavior.
Nevertheless, Rosemarie encouraged the oversized misfit to take her kids out on day trips. When Dubsie picked us up in his 3-wheeler van, Rosemarie had time to herself. He took us to the woods, the china-clay pits and sometimes out on the moors. The places were always remote and deserted. Anything could have happened to us.
During the trips, we cheered at the bumps as we flew over bridges and squashed each other up against the side of the van when Dubsie made risky sharp turns. Once we arrived at the destination, Dubsie turned off the engine. The silence revealed my dependence on Dubsie but without feeling vulnerable. I trusted there was more fun to come.
Dubsie played a game he called “whacks.” The prizes, such as shooting an air gun, one pellet, two pellets, or three, and so on related to levels of pain intensity and varying states of nudity. We lay across his lap as he beat our bottoms and wanked himself off to orgasm. It stank. He stank. His fucking car stank, that three-wheeled Reliant Robin van.
I left the Mormon religion around 1977. I later found out that the Elders at the church appointed Dubsie as the Children’s Sunday School leader. The idea shocked me to hell. Shortly after, however, while out in the street fixing his new Ford Transit van one day, a drunk driver plowed into the car behind Dubsie’s. Subsequently, it lurched forward and crushed the pervert to death. I wondered if that was just a coincidence or divine intervention at its best. I guess that it was what it was.
My older brother, Alan and I regularly cycled around our neighborhood in our early teens, pretending we drove a double-decker bus. Lamp posts became bus stops for imaginary passengers. We made the most of a dockland neighborhood dotted with World War II bombsites and lickety-split government housing.
A handful of kids often played soccer on the weekends in the school playing field across the street without the faculty’s permission. Sometimes, the soccer ball flew over the fence and landed in Rosemarie’s front garden. On one such occasion, the boys came to ask for their ball back. Rosemarie refused, citing their illegal use of the playing field. It made them angry. So one day, while we were out riding, the boys took revenge on us. They pulled us off our bikes, pinned us both down and each of them in turn punched our faces.
Admittedly, having five hungry kids complicated Rosemarie’s life. She had very little income and carefully rationed our food. We ate cornflakes for breakfast, school dinners for lunch, and mixed fruit jam sandwiches for tea. If we ran out of jam, Rosemarie mixed up an Oxo beef stock cube with a tub of Blue Band margarine then spread it thinly across a slice of Mother’s Pride bread. To her credit, we seldom went without something to eat.
Occasionally, Rosemarie looked after other people’s kids. I apologized to them for the clutter in the house and the treatment Rosemarie meted out. Punishments included facing the wall for hours at a time, a wooden spoon across the back of the hand, a lit match or a hot steam iron held close to your face and random spontaneous starvation. “You can go to bed with no tea,” she said. But the scariest threat was her evil witch’s face behind the sharp point of a carving knife. She wanted to cut off my fingers.
It appeared that Rosemarie enjoyed humiliating others. Although I experienced her mouth-taping punishment, the memory of Stuart’s suffering hurts more because Rosemarie encouraged my complicity. Stuart, the quiet, well-behaved, six-year-old neighbor from number eight Atherton Place had large ringlet curls in is hair. Looking back as a parent, he was such a cute kid. Rosemarie must have been out of her mind, torturing him like she did.
One time, Stuart had a terrible cold and apparently severe congestion. He wouldn’t or couldn’t eat Rosemarie’s food. Her “Kid’s Casserole” recipe, a concoction of finely cubed Spam baked with processed peas in a can of chicken soup, looked just like puke on a plate. Regardless, she tied Stuart up and taped his mouth shut until he agreed to eat it.
The little guy cried his eyes out. Although I was just a few years older, I joined in the teasing and laughing at Stuart as green mucus bubbled in and out of his nostrils. I don’t know how he could breathe. His innocent eyes told me that he was petrified. I still feel emotional today. Without question, Rosemarie was evil, and that day so was I. Whatever became of Stuart I really don’t know. Although, I think his family moved to Australia.
Back in the seventies, Rosemarie took in lodgers. She toyed with running a bed and breakfast establishment. Although most B&B guests are legitimate, in our case the lodgers were nothing but social deviants.
For example, Rob the DJ stayed for a while, along with his disco lights and turntable. (Top Floor, second window from the left) He raped my sister Ellen when she was just thirteen years old.
I don’t know if Ellen ever sought professional help as a child-rape victim, or took any legal action. But I do know that regardless of Rob the DJ’s heinous crime, Rosemarie kept taking in lodgers.
Later, a twenty-seven-year-old Mormon Elder had recently returned from serving a mission, spreading the gospel of Christ. He came to lodge with us and Rosemarie billeted the man to my bedroom. (Top floor, first window on the left.) At first, the Elder was friendly. We’d go out for rides in his car. I looked up to the man because in my eyes, he personified Mormon values. His father was not only my father’s best friend but also the Mormon Stake Patriarch, empowered with the gift of administering a blessing: a ritual where God speaks to you through the power of the Melchizedeck Priesthood.
After a while, the lodging Elder began moving his bed closer to mine. I often woke up in the middle of the night because he played with my dick as I slept. Despite my objections it happened repeatedly even though I kicked him as hard as I could. I knew that it hurt him because one time he cried like a baby. I felt really bad for hurting him. Nevertheless, the molesting continued because I felt embarrassed to tell. Shame kept me silent. My silence emboldened the Elder. So much so that Rosemarie thought he was an angel, and couldn’t do any wrong.
One evening, when I was sixteen years old, I walked into the kitchen, a dark basement scullery with a red brick ceramic tiled floor. Suddenly, Rosemarie lunged toward me. “What do you call this?” she yelled forcing a Polaroid photograph into my face.
The Selfie depicted a hoodless erection complete with a testicle sac. The colorful image horrified me. I had never seen a dick from that angle before except the odd sketch on the school toilet wall. At sixteen years old, graffiti was funny. The Polaroid photograph was not.
With a hate-filled expression, Rosemarie growled, “You’re bloody gay, aren’t you Martin?”
I tried to say no, but nothing came out. I didn’t even know what gay was. She slammed her right hand against the side of my face. I didn’t know what I had done wrong. Even now, more than forty years later, my left ear still rings, and I remain partially deaf. After an extensive hearing analysis, an audiologist said, “I can’t see anything wrong with it.”
Hands in my Pants
Eventually, somewhere around 1980, Dad and Rosemarie divorced. My older brother Alan got married at least twice, followed by Ellen and Melissa. I was also married for a short period of time. Naturally, that didn’t work out well either. Barry lodged with Rosemarie for several years after, and each time I visited the couple, I sensed an odd dynamic. My enthusiasm for being in their company again mismatched their disinterest in me.
Even today, the scenario isn’t very clear. But I can say this. Rosemarie continually reminded me how much I was like my father. “The trouble with you is…” and so on. She also pointed out that Barry was just like his father, citing his peaked black hair line.
Once she became a divorcee, Rosemarie’s inappropriate behavior got worse. She flirted with my male friends when we visited her. If I brought a girlfriend over to meet her, which was rare, she spent the time belittling, and making disparaging remarks about me. But the worst thing of all to deal with was that whenever I greeted Rosemarie with a hug, instead of a loving mother-child embrace, she unfastened my trouser belt and tried putting her hands down my pants. She groaned as she did it and rolled her eyes, clamping her gummy jaws together. Her chin almost touched her nose. I grabbed her wrist and pushed her away. Then she cackled like a witch as if it was all a joke. I felt really awkward about asking her what the hell she thought she was doing. I never discussed it with anyone.
On one occasion, Rosemarie picked me up from the bus station. I travelled a lot and hoped that my absence and inaccessibility would have loosened Rosemarie’s grip on my life. Perhaps now she would get the message. Not the case. We went to the pub for a drink. She didn’t drink because it was “against church standards.” Nevertheless, we sat at the bar, I ordered a pint and soon after she placed her hand on my thigh, rubbing it softly with her fingers. Even then at thirty-five years old, I didn’t know what to do. It seemed like her hand stayed there forever until I dropped my foot off the stool. More than twenty years later, I still felt Rosemarie’s hand on my leg whenever my wife tried to touch me.
At some point, perhaps because she was so lonely, Rosemarie married a man named Peter whose voice sounded eerily like my grandfather’s. I felt uneasy around him so my visits became less frequent. Several months later, Rosemarie told me that Peter’s two daughters had wrongly accused him of molesting them when they were small. Eventually, Peter’s victims brought him to justice. The judge put the sod in prison. Regardless, while Rosemarie’s new husband was locked up in jail, she defended him for as long as I can remember.
As I mentioned, my life wasn’t going well for me in the late eighties. I hated my sales job and my manager was a bigot. He travelled from London to visit me in Bristol where I enjoyed living in Totterdown, an ethnically blended neighborhood.
“How come you’re living with all of these jungle bunnies?” he said.
I pointed out his racist remark and about two weeks later, he fired me. On top of that, my live-in girlfriend cheated on me by shagging a Spaniard while she was on holiday in Madrid. I had to move out of our house. So, with my sales career over, my confidence wrecked, I signed on the dole and rented a room in a shared house. (I know. It sounds like a country song.)
Shortly after, half-brother Barry bucked up the courage to move out of Rosemarie’s flat. Oddly, he rented the room next to mine. Soon, I hooked him up with a job at the hospital where I managed to get work as a so-called maintenance engineer, a skill I knew nothing about. Still, I could have done that menial job in my sleep. A bloody good job too because some of the nurses kept me up late at night way too often.
Something was wrong with my life. I knew it. So, in search of direction, I had a tarot card reading. Surprisingly, Dubsie came up in the form of a sword-wielding Sagittarian. After a lengthy discussion, my psychic explained that Dubsie had sexually abused me, making a lot of sense. I thought it was strange, being spanked by a wanker but didn’t see it for what it really was: male childhood sexual abuse. That night, I picked up the phone and shared my revelation with Rosemarie who in turn, shared another with me.
“I don’t know how to say this, mum but David Wise sexually abused me,” I said. “I think he did it to Alan as well. And a bunch of other boys at church.”
I expected her sympathy, but Rosemarie said, “Well I’ve got something to tell you, Mart. Barry’s not your brother, and Melissa’s not your sister. Do you remember Harry Fison from when we lived in Atherton Place?”
At first, I didn’t think she heard what I said. Nevertheless, her news shocked my heart. Barry had a different father? Wait a minute! My Dad struggled, providing for a family of five kids when at least two of them were somebody else’s. It knocked me off kilter. It just wasn’t fair in so many twisted ways. I wondered about my brother Alan, the eldest, and who his father might be.
Rosemarie went on, “Harry’s been in touch. He’s coming to see me. He wants to meet Barry and Melissa.”
“Oh cool,” I said, faking it. We talked for a while about nothing else important and then Rosemarie hung up the phone.
The telephone in our shared house was out on the landing just outside all of our bedrooms. When I put down the phone, I assumed that all the residents just heard my conversation. Nevertheless, I knocked on my now half-brother’s door. Momentarily, he sheepishly peered out around it.
“Hey, Barry. What the hell’s going on? Mum just told me about Harry.”
Barry dove back into his room and quickly returned with a photograph of his father. Although much older, I recognized the man from my childhood. On and off, he came to stay for the night when we lived in Atherton Place.
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” I said.
Barry had a signature expression that really looked like he cared even when he couldn’t give a fuck. His head tilted slowly off to one side as he formed a sympathetic frown. “Aw, I thought you knew, Mart,” Barry said. “Mum told us years ago.”
Despite how he appeared, I knew he was patronizing me. Barry didn’t give a bloody shit.
Then, in that moment, years of memories flashed across my mind. I didn’t know what to say to my brother. My heart pounded up the sides of my neck, and I flew back into my room. I kicked all my stuff to pieces.
The Absent Liar
Eventually, Barry and I parted ways. Nevertheless, dysfunctional events continued for years. For instance, one rainy night when I lived alone in a tiny flat on Gloucester Road in Bristol, Melissa’s oddball sister-in-law, Gretchen turned up unexpectedly on my doorstep.
Taller than me with a brash persona, she pushed her spectacles up on her nose. “Have you heard from Barry?” she said. I’m supposed to be moving in with him tonight. I got all my stuff in the car.”
I felt suspicious even curious because Barry’s life and mine were so far apart, separated by time, mistrust and disinterest.
“Why don’t you call him?” I said, offering her my phone.
Gretchen looked frightened, her voice raised up a notch. “Well I did but he won’t answer. I’ve left him loads of messages and everything.”
I invited her in and promised her that even though I hadn’t seen Barry in a while, I’d phone him on her behalf. I wasn’t surprised that Barry didn’t answer and never returned my call.
Gretchen slept on my couch a few nights, and I did what I could to console her. No wonder she was upset. She later revealed that Barry had shagged her and promised a long-term relationship. She believed that they would be living together. She even had job interviews to attend. Still, Barry was nowhere to be found. I quickly formed a new impression of my half-brother but I almost didn’t want to believe it. Barry was a cunt, and that was that! I don’t know what else to say.
Eventually, Gretchen went home. Then, a few months later, I heard that she had told everybody else in our totally broken family that I tried to bang her as well. “No fucking way,” I adamantly proclaimed. “I couldn’t afford to get that drunk!”
Truth: The Key to Freedom
The last time I saw Rosemarie, was when she flew here to the United States. She wanted to meet my new girlfriend. As the two of them hugged for the very first time, Rosemarie buried Rhonda’s face in her breasts. That’s how she greeted my then future wife.
During the visit, Rosemarie realized my partner’s immunity to her antics. So after my girlfriend left for work that morning, Rosemarie threw a tantrum. It was then that I realized what my father had dealt with some thirty odd years before.
She ran around my apartment, smashing it up, and kicked the trashcan across the kitchen. She snatched my portfolio and called my peers, yelling down the phone as if she was the victim of a blood-curdling slaughter. I didn’t know what to do.
When Rhonda returned, Rosemarie acted subdued. She spoke in a child-like manner and donned her invalid’s wrist support with her walking stick by her side. I telephoned Alan back in England who bought a flight that would transport Rosemarie home. We drove her to a Nashville hotel near the airport and left her there alone as she so adamantly requested.
Several months later, I wrote her a letter, asking her for an explanation. “Why do you keep putting your hand down my trousers?” I never heard another word from her. Nor did I see her again.
You know, the burden of shame for another’s evil actions weighs heavily on a person’s life. Self-imposed guilt halves potential and inhibits one’s personal growth. It perforates confidence, stifles enthusiasm, and diminishes self-esteem. Everything Rosemarie taught me as a child informed how I lived my life. As an adult, I am sure that I pissed off many good people. I take full responsibility for that and pray often for their forgiveness.
To my siblings who chose to disassociate themselves from me, who dismiss these words as a lie, I say this. I totally understand. Though I miss you all as my brothers and sisters, I understand and respect your decision. I want you to know its okay.
When I found out about Harry, it shattered my world but in essence, the lights came back on in my life. Our earlier lives together were unnecessarily complicated by a mother who had been repeatedly abandoned, along with a hypocritical and racist religion. Still, to dispel any notion that I’m making this up, please cast your mind back and listen. Remember Rosemarie’s song.
Walking down to Uncle Jim. (Female version- Auntie Min)”
Come on, guys! Who or what do you think Uncle Jim was? It wasn’t a bottle of bourbon! Look, the past is as ugly as hell on steroids, and, dear brothers and sisters of mine, I’m not asking you to revisit it. I just want you to know that I forgive you all for keeping Rosemarie’s secrets.
I forgave Rosemarie too. She was my mother. In public, she doted but privately, she violated the sacred trust between a mother and child. Unraveling the past took years of study and determination. It would have been impossible without the unconditional love of my new family, one rooted in honesty, trust and mutual respect. Their encouragement pervades every line of this text. They knew that denial wasn’t an option for me.
Confronting Rosemarie as I did in my letter shut her down completely. The truth was out. It set me free, and left her all alone. Then, after becoming terminally ill with the complications of obesity and mesothelioma, she died in 2014. My sense of relief was surprising. I didn’t feel sad about it. I only felt sorrow for her. During her life, she had a God-given gift of mothering five healthy children. That privilege came with great responsibility not the right to abuse. And as for her inappropriate sexual behavior, well, maybe that wasn’t all her fault.
During my research I came across an article about a little known-to-me condition known as “Jocasta Complex.” Skipping the finer details since I am not a psychologist, but the probable causes, symptoms and likely effects on a victim of Jocasta Complex sit well with Rosemarie’s life. While a post-humous diagnosis is impossible, and certainly none of my business, the possibility lends itself to a private dilemma for Rosemarie. One that she may not have been aware of let alone be capable of recognizing that she needed professional help.
The gross value of Rosemarie’s estate did not exceed £325,000 and the net, not £117,000. She dished out the remains of her scatter-brained life to all of her loyal children: Alan, Ellen, Melissa, and Barry. Of course, I didn’t make it on the list but then, neither did the other men who abandoned her. Seeing the names of my brothers and sisters on her last will without mine, for a while, punished my self-reliance, and in my view, rewarded their misplaced loyalty.
Anyway, let’s forget about the small amount of money she left in her will. Rosemarie’s true legacy lives on through her adult children, their kids, grandkids and far beyond: broken families, kids who have fathers but don’t know the love of a fully engaged dad, some kids without any direction in life. Rosemarie’s money, my siblings money, or even the lack when it all runs out, none of it will fix the dysfunctional world that Rosemarie left behind: a turbulent and interminable wake.
As a victim of male, childhood sexual abuse, I spent most of my adult life reeling from it. Telling my story, uncovering and rediscovering the truth paved the way for my forgiveness. I feel lighter, more focused, my enthusiasm for life reignited. So now I have closure, I’ll honor this moment by carving an epitaph for my late mother Rosemarie upon an imaginary gravestone:
“Here lies my birth mother Rosemarie: Forgiven, but never Forgotten!”
Thank you for reading my story. I wrote this conclusion for you, the reader, as something to take away. Despite all that happened I genuinely believe that life is a bed of roses, even with its thorns. At the risk of piercing our delicate skin, we carefully navigate the rose’s stem to trim and arrange their bloom. Then, placed on the sill of an open window, their scent fills the room as it mingles with birdsong on the cool spring Tennessee air.
At sixty years old, I know very well how easy it is to look back on one’s life with regret. After all, I spent half of it on an emotional auto-pilot, living a reactionary life based on how I perceived my surroundings. I was the Martin others wanted to see. It was neither my fault nor theirs.
Of course, I wish I had done some things differently: worked harder, studied harder, been a little more chaste, and if only I had loads of money. I spent a long time in that self-pitying space, a state of learned helplessness. But after the timely psychotherapeutic intervention, I began to unravel Rosemarie’s web of manipulative lies and break free.
Gradually, I managed to flesh out my life with a library of books and a few extraordinary friends. I chose to forgive, myself and others, and set down that big sack of shit. I say it like that because that’s all it is and we don’t need to carry it around. It stinks and everybody else can smell it.
“It’s too late for me,” I hear people say. “I’m too old to change I am.” Another one told me, “But I’m not strong like you are Martin.” Self-pity has many disguises. When I talk about staying healthy and fit, “I wish I had time to exercise,” or “if only I knew how to cook healthy food. Then I wouldn’t eat out so much.”
I’ve heard it a lot. I recognize it too because I was an expert in the field of self-pity. After all, I learned from the best. Remember the wrist splint and walking stick that Rosemarie brought on her visit? Her child-like voice was a classic! Look, everyone feels sorry for the poor injured puppy. It garners a lot of attention.
Even without regret, in my opinion, there are few good reasons to look back on one’s life. One reason perhaps, is to remember with fondness a lost loved one because you miss their presence today. Another would be, and my only one, is to see how far I have come. I celebrate the progress I’ve made in my life, a far cry from where it began as Rosemarie’s child on the beautiful island of Malta way back in 1960. To illustrate this, I’ll leave you with this very short story.
Back in the mid-’90s my ex-girlfriend put me on a bus to Heathrow airport. Bound for Nashville Tennessee, I sizzled with excitement. Even more so though, just a couple of years later, when I stared in disbelief at the 2″ reel of magnetic recording tape lying on the passenger seat of my hire car. I topped the hill on Demonbreun Street in awe of the skyscraping landscape before me. Euphoria filled my heart, almost lifting me out of my seat as I drove to the studio to record my first country music album.
Fast forward to this moment, twenty years on, a moment filled with the joy of a family and a beautiful home we adore. When I boarded that bus back in Bristol, England, I took a giant leap of faith. While I felt the excitement of traveling abroad, I couldn’t possibly have imagined the outcome. And herein lies my message.
First, getting the appropriate professional guidance helped me understand my world. Speaking my truth to someone I trusted dramatically changed my life. My courage restored, I got on the bus, and took that leap of faith. I was so excited about what I believed the future would hold for me.
In reality, though, my incredible journey surpassed the most optimistic of my expectations, reaching far beyond my imagination. So, take a piece of my heart, dear reader. If my story speaks to yours, know this. You are not too old to speak your truth. Not for as long as you live. You are worthy of love, compassion, kindness, and making the best of your wonderful self in each and every God-given moment.
“The truth is like a winding stream flowing to the sea. No bend or curve, no broad meander shall keep it from its destiny.” -One Sumner Tale- Martin J. Laight ©2020