Several years ago I was accused of writing a letter that was mass-distributed to neighbors in a rural district where my father’s parents live. It was about them being pedophiles. Which is true. But I didn’t write the letter.
I made my escape decades ago. You might think me crazy for the amount of therapy I’ve slogged through as a survivor of incest. It’s a disgusting word and I wish it wasn’t a part of my vocabulary. I’ve learned that the healthiest members of such generational sickness are the ones who seek help. Few do.
Instead it comes out in skewed ways. Most likely the letter was written in retaliation from another family member. They’re seriously enmeshed; the generations live in close proximity and they constantly bicker and war over familial power. I moved away. Twice. The first time they drug me back “home.”
The second time they knew I was dangerous—I wasn’t afraid of them anymore. I spoke out.
It took years to heal, lots of therapy, taking parenting classes, building a nucleus of trust within my own family with a supportive spouse and children who grew up without knowing my messed-up relatives. I grieved. Escape is lonely. The “family” protects the abusers.
Crazy, I know.
So, when Lisa Reiter prompted us with her clever Trekkie memoir about a time that was crazy for her, I couldn’t think of anything else but this stupid letter I didn’t write, and me and my cousin getting blamed for it. I wanted a funny story, a light story, but crazy is heavy word on my shoulders.
The good that came out of the letter incident is that it reunited me with my cousin who shared in childhood horrors. She had been blackmailed into staying silent and it broke my heart when she told me that she had to stay away from me after I got out. You leave and they shut the door on you. You have living family, but they are neither loving nor caring. You have parents that breathe but are dead to you. They protect the lies and do everything to discredit you. They tell everyone that you are the crazy one.
It’s beyond crazy and no wonder few make it out.
The letter was my cousin’s ticket to freedom. Because they thought she conspired with me, they let her go. With her own children, she escaped. Years later, she’s now happily married, ranching in eastern Montana and has support. She’s officially listed as crazy. And that’s the sanest place to be where we come from.
Crazy Cousins by Charli Mills
We’re like orphans, clinging to each other for support. My parents refuse to speak to me after we reunited, and her mother disowned her after the letter accusation. Yet they have no problem chatting with the pedophiles that walked us across brimstone as children.
My cousin and I have no family. Neither one of us will return to crazy-making. Bribes of horses no longer work on me. Blackmail no longer ties her. We have boundaries.
She sat in my kitchen a few months ago with her Montana rancher who believes she’s not crazy. We swapped stories as only cousins can do.
“He used to give me silver dollars afterwards,” I told her.
She nodded, and then a huge grin spread across her face. I got the feeling she was going to one-up me. “He used to give me two-dollar bills.”
We laughed uproariously. We survived. And we share this craziness.