Growing up in a Unique Family

I wracked my brain wondering what I could possibly write about today. Being this is my first blog for the Pagan and the Pen I decided I might share with you some of my family’s history. This history is what led me to not only my interest in psychology and the paranormal but eventually to paganism.

For many years, I never spoke of certain aspects of my childhood simply because of the stigma of two subjects—mental illness and psychic abilities. Some people would say both are one and the same because psychic abilities do not exist. I beg to differ. My father suffered mental illness most of his life and my mother inherited a gift from my grandmother that she considered a curse. As my youngest brother put it when our mother passed into the spiritual realm, ‘Say what you may about them, but the old man and her had something special. They definitely loved each other’. Because they both needed someone who would understand and love them, flaws and all, I believe the God/Goddess drew them together.

Goddess knows, my father was one of the most gentle and shy men I’ve ever met. That was when he was on his meds and they were working. He began having problems when he hit puberty at the age of twelve in 1943. He was in and out of mental hospitals throughout his teen years until he decided to leave home at eighteen. He never spoke much of his family background or his experiences as a young man traveling throughout the United States.

Born in West Virginia during the Great Depression he grew up in a troubled family. Whether that added to his problems, I can’t say. His father died of an accidental gunshot before he was born and his two older sisters insisted until they died their mother had killed him because she wanted to marry her lover. No one though, will ever know the truth being as all parties are now deceased. Having known his mother though until she passed when I was fourteen, I believe she might have done just that. She was a bitter, hateful, woman who took any opportunity to sharpen her claws on my father, my mother (who she despised for reasons unknown by me), or her crippled husband who was confined to a wheelchair.  There was a great deal of anger, physical, and mental abuse dealt out over the years by her.

My mother was ten years my father’s junior. She was born and raised in the same town in the Ozark foothills that my siblings and I were. Small towns can be unforgiving. Her mother gave birth to two children prior to marrying my grandfather. Both were children of rape (the husband of the woman she lived with raped her from the time she was thirteen) who died at the ages of five and six from what might have been influenza. After her marriage to my grandfather, she gave birth to nine more children all at home; her last was still born. With such a large family, there was little to go around and my grandfather spent a year in State prison when he was caught stealing chickens to feed his family. The stigma of both her mother and father’s pasts left my own mother angry and with little self-esteem.

Her father passed from a heart attack when she was ten and her mother suffered a stroke five years later. My mother dropped out of school to take care of her mother and her younger brother. At seventeen, she had an affair with a married man. In this day and age, he would go to prison for statutory rape. Instead, my grandmother threatened to tell his wife about his extracurricular activities. That ended the affair and three years later, she met my father.  They began dating when she was twenty-three and they married two years later.

My parents tried their best with what little they had. In those years, when my brothers and I were younger, my mother tried to hide the fact that she had premonitions. I never understood why adults think they can hide things from kids. Children have eyes and ears. One of my first memories of my mother having a premonition was when I was perhaps five. She woke screaming and sobbing and told my father she’d seen a black wreath in the floor setting in a pool of blood. She then announced that her brother was dead and my father tried to tell her she’d had a nightmare. A few hours later her sister showed up (we didn’t have a phone) and told her that their brother had committed suicide.

That was just one of many incidents. As I grew older, I began to ask questions. My mother sent mixed signals about her gift. I believe it was from years of suffering the slings and arrows of not only a close-minded community but also a family that had no desire for any further stigma. At times, she took it with a grain of salt and at other times would beg God to stop punishing her for some imagined wrong. The older she became the harder it was for her to deal with not only her sensitivity, but also my father’s illness. She avoided any conversation of it as if to deny it would mean it didn’t exist. It bothered me that she felt this way and being a child I was fascinated by what she could see.

My fascination was short-lived though when at fourteen I had my first major experience.

The house we lived in had a resident spirit that everyone knew about in the family. He manifested only as the sound of footsteps that paced back and forth between the kitchen and living room, but that’s a story for another time. There was only once that he appeared and that was to my mother’s sister. Having always heard the footsteps I was used to them and thought nothing of it. Of course, this particular fall afternoon was something entirely different.

I had my favorite chair, a huge high-backed thing that sat in front of the television.  My younger brother loved to sneak up on me when I was reading in this chair and try to scare me. Every time he succeeded in doing so which would lead to a fight. This time though I thought I had him. As I sat in the chair reading, I heard his approaching footsteps that halted behind the chair. I waited for a moment grin firmly in place and then heard my name whispered softly. Leaping up from the chair to confront my brother I was horrified to discover no one standing there. That was probably the fastest I’ve ever run in my life and despite the evidence of my own eyes I refused to believe that it wasn’t my brother. My mother confirmed he’d been with her the entire time though. Let’s just say I refused to stay alone in the house for at least six months.

Over the course of the next year, I had a handful of experiences including a premonition of the night my father on a down spin tried to kill my mother. If it hadn’t been for that premonition I’m not sure I would be setting here typing right now. Suddenly the idea of being psychic wasn’t so fun anymore. I immediately shut myself off and it wasn’t until years later that I realized that closing off was the worst thing I could have done. Not only had I closed myself off from the spiritual world, but from the physical world as well.

After years of struggling, I’m now in a comfort zone. My sensitivity is not as strong as my mother’s was nor is it the same. I feel energies, mainly emotional energy. This ability has served me well in both my public as well as private life. I thank the Goddess everyday that I learned to embrace my gift. I grant you sometimes it has scared the crap out of my friends, but that is their problem.

My best friend of over twenty years (who also happens to be my cousin) and I have a connection that’s been made stronger by my ability to leave the past behind and open up about this. Her mother and mine were sisters, from the same family, although, we were raised thousands of miles apart. Once I opened up, she confessed that she’d experienced things as well. We both scared the crap out of her ex-husband and pissed him off as well when their son began to experience things at the age of four. Rather than shut the little guy down, we encouraged him to talk to us. Now he’s nearly a teenager and he still experiences things on occasion, but has learned not to tell everyone he meets he sees things. Now if only we could convince him to clean his room. *chuckles*

Over the years, I have helped others by accepting this gift and it is a gift. I no longer fear what I can’t explain nor do I fear death. There is no doubt in my mind that we carry on long after our body gives out. I know somewhere out there my mother and father are watching over me and I have no doubt they are proud of the woman I’ve become.

Blessed Be,

Jesse