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I am weary, dragging through this week. I haven’t felt this emotionally drained in a very long time. Even when I sleep, my dreams are obscenely vivid and stressful. Argh.

It started this past weekend. We went to my grandparents, my mother’s family. And instead of saying “We’re fine, everything’s fine” in our best, bright, chirpy voices, Jennifer, Susanna & I told the truth. We told my Mama’s family about the buyout contract. We told them that after this semester, Bobby and I are going to be responsible for Susanna financially… and in every other way. Susanna revealed that she was completely out of money for things like toothpaste & food.

There were tears, gallons of tears. This situation is yet another ripple (it feels more like a large, crashing wave) of Mama’s death. If Mama were here, Daddy wouldn’t write us off. Sue would still be happily at Clemson, scheduled to graduate in just a couple of months. If Mama were here, everything would be different. My grandmother packed a suitcase full of food and sent it home with Sue, and my grandfather tucked money into her hand. I hate feeling like a charity case, but I can’t deny the almost overwhelming feeling of relief that washed over me when the telling was complete, and I realized that Mama’s family cared. Like, they really, REALLY care what happens to us. For the first time, I realized that to them, we’re not just Denise’s spoiled girls from down South… we are their family and they love us. It was/is incredibly comforting to feel that we have an ally.

Then Monday night, Jennifer and I met with a group of people from TheChurch, and once again, that 55-gallon bucket of worms was opened (click here for first bucket-opening). I had stopped thinking about it for a while — Miscarriage #3 provided a pretty effective distraction — but it’s like a burr that hasn’t been removed. I can ignore it determinedly, but it’s still there, festering. I’m trying to figure out how to “resolve” my childhood anger & bitterness with TheChurch. Do I just put a lid on it and let it go, vowing to do better with my own children? Or do I continue meeting with my former Church-mates and keep stirring the pot? Or — and this notion occurred to me after the Monday night meeting — do I try to “normalize” our current relationship? Instead of just meeting TheChurch kids every few months for an emotionally exhausting purge session, why not invite them to dinner? Maybe we could actually be friends in real life, instead of merely fellow survivors. It’s an intriguing idea, one that I never in a million years thought would be appealing to me (or them). But it is.

On the way home Monday night, at nearly midnight, Jennifer and I rode in silence, on the verge of tired tears. It’s draining, this dredging up of the past. And Jennifer’s 28th birthday was looming on Tuesday… the dread of the birthdays is yet another ripple from Mama’s death. Our family used to make a ridiculously huge deal out of birthdays. Mama said that our birthdays were the ONE day of the year that belonged completely to us, and encouraged us to behave accordingly. I remember laughing about how the rest of us got a day, but Jennifer’s birthday somehow always lasted a full week. Now, birthdays are a particularly painful day, something to get through as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, I made Mama’s lasagna recipe from scratch, and everyone came over for a birthday dinner. It was nice. No one cried. Bobby was even cordial to Daddy, which was kind of a big deal, considering that he detests him mightily. There was definitely tension, but no acknowledgment of the furor right beneath the surface… after all, it WAS Jennifer’s birthday.

This coming Sunday, Bobby & I are heading to Charleston to spend the night & meet with College of Charleston’s financial aid office first thing Monday morning. The priority deadline for the FAFSA is Monday (yeah, nothing like waiting to the last possible second), and at the suggestion of Cath (THANK YOU, btw!), we’re trying to use the buyout contract as proof of Sue’s eligibility for special circumstances. Basically, our father is a freakin’ psycho, can we please file the FAFSA without him? Pretty please? I’ve even thought of trying to prove that we were raised in a cult as evidence of an abusive childhood, but I’m not sure how to go about that…. Surely, surely the nice people at CofC will see the sheer desperation in our eyes. Surely.

I’m sure I’ll feel better soon. I’m just a bit overwhelmed at the moment.