I was passing through a department store the other day and saw a display of frames. One of them reminded me of a special frame my daughter had given me as a Russian Christmas gift many years ago. It was a silver frame inscribed with certain words that my older brother used to call me when I was a baby. She had told me when she saw it in the store, she quickly bought it, knowing it was the perfect gift for me. Of course, she put a picture of my deceased brother and I in the frame.
As I saw frames similar to it in the store, that vision came racing back to me. Time stopped right then as I was walking. I heard nothing around me. I didn’t see any people. My eyes didn’t see the frames any longer either. Suddenly, I was thinking back to the last time I had seen that frame, with the picture of my brother in it. I was trying to remember what picture she had put in it. I couldn’t remember.
I quickly removed myself from that aisle, and from that department. I felt so displaced at that moment. My head was spinning. This was ridiculous. No, this wasn’t ridiculous. All over a frame? Why should I get so upset? This gift was from maybe 14 years ago.
I remember when she gave it to me I started crying. She looked at me in horror. “No, you’re supposed to be happy…” she said. “I am”, I replied to her. “These are happy tears, wherever did you find something like this?” She should have known better than to give her sentimental mother such a gift. I cry when Lassie lifts her paw. (Although we all know Lassie is a boy….)
The frame…the frame. So my mind is spinning and I kept thinking about the frame. Because…because…because the frame is gone. I had blocked the thought from my mind. Just another piece of black-heartedness of Daniel and his mother and what they have done to me. Something else they have taken from my life. Something they have stolen from my memory. Except this time, they stole from my heart, and I can never replace it.
You might wonder why I am fixating on one picture in a silver frame with some simple words inscribed on it. When I was born, my brother called me a nickname consisting of four words. They were rather silly for a four-and-a-half-year-old boy to create for his new baby sister, but he did. Eventually those four words shortened to one. And that one name is what my entire family called me for my entire life. To find that phrase inscribed on a frame was almost impossible. But my daughter did. When she put my deceased brothers picture inside the frame it became an heirloom.
The day she handed it to me and I opened up the wrapped gift, I cried. Horrified,with huge round eyes, she cried, “”No,no.”, she was saying, “You’re not supposed to cry”, she was distraught, not understanding why I seemed so upset. “It’s ok, the tears are tears of happiness.” I was trying to tell her. How impossible to find such a gift, such a gift of meaning.
When I purchased the Chelsea home,I moved all that I owned into the old house. I happily decorated it with many of my cherished memories. This house was perfect. Built in 1846, still having so many of the original parts, its former owner keeping it lovingly restored, the house seemed to want a family that wanted to display loving items, family items.
Many pictures of my family were hung up. Pictures of my father from the 1920’s. Old wedding pictures of my family with women in beautiful flowing wedding gowns people don’t wear today. Pictures of my children when they were younger, doing silly things, as kids do. Daniel put pictures up of his Grandfather Shook, a man he said he revered. A man he said was good to him. Sandra kept giving him portraits of herself to display in the home, too. Behind her back, he would destroy them violently. Sometimes burning them, spitting on them, ripping them to shreds.
He could stand a picture of his father, Lester, on the walls. Yet when he would ask Sandra for one, she would hem and haw about it, saying she would have to find one. It took her weeks and weeks to try to come up with one for him. Finally, he just took one off of the wall of her home. She wouldn’t argue with him about it. She just let him take it. She knew she had played a game. She knew that if he didn’t have a picture of her on the walls of his house, she wouldn’t want a picture of her dead husband on the same walls. She couldn’t understand why he might want a picture of his father.
The fact that the men in his family might have meant something to him mattered nothing to her. After all, this woman is histrionic and narcissistic. For her, the world is her showplace. To her, her picture was the main picture you should see when you walk into the home her son lives in. The fact that he refused to display one was a topic she would not discuss.
Daniel had his issues with his father. Lester was always trying to make his son do better and strive for better goals. He saw how his wife, the mother of his son, treated Daniel. It sickened him. He didn’t want Daniel to stay in the gutters. He didn’t want Daniel to stay rock bottom where he had hit so many times. He saw that’s where Sandra was keeping him, only to rescue him, and throw him back again. Lester saw what was going on in his household, but was helpless in how to change the dynamics.
Along with all these family pictures of mine, my old family treasures that graced the walls, was the gift of my brother’s picture. Only I couldn’t put it on the wall or on a table. Seeing it hurt too much. My brother was my Protector. He had been my Protector for me when I was a child, and as I grew up, he was always there for me. We stayed very close, through our marriages, brother and sister sharing our thoughts and our memories to the end.
His picture stayed in an old antique buffet in my dining room. When the house had been condemned, when Daniel and his mother Sandra had destroyed the house to unlivable human standards, and I, forced to sell the property for the land, left. I didn’t receive a dime for the sale. The sale, done secretly by the city, Daniel and his best friend Michael who was the neighbor that purchased the house on Chelsea Avenue. Daniel received the money. Bills were to be paid off. I didn’t receive a settlement sheet. Everything that I owned in that house had been bagged up, put in a truck and hauled off to an unknown destination. They told me all was put in a landfill. I lost everything. Everything.
Let me repeat that to make myself absolutely clear. Before the settlement occurred, these people, Daniel,Michael,Sandra and their helpers cleaned out my home. They took everything inside of it that belonged to me and made sure I would never see it again. It was as if the house had burned down and everything in it was gone. That one picture in that frame I have described was gone. That silly little frame that started this story is gone. Along with an accumulation of 50 some years of my life. Gone forever. Never seen again.
Yes, I am a Survivor. But it hurts like hell. It hurts worse than hell. I walked away with the clothes on my back and my vehicle. I cry more often than not. I hurt more than I ever thought possible. I don’t think I will ever get over this tragedy. The City Police Department would not help me. Their pockets were always lined. There was nothing I could do but walk away. But it still wasn’t the end.
There was so much more between and to become. A never-ending battle. In the meantime, I won’t find myself walking through those department store aisles for awhile again. It’s those triggers. You never know then they’ll come back to haunt you.
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