Santini Shrugs- My Wound is Paternity

My wound is paternity. Southern author Pat Conroy wrote in Prince of Tides, “My wound is geography.” I disagree. Pat’s life in our low country became a healing irrigation for the legacy left by his sulfur-veined father. I believe, paternity is our mutual wound.

I once shared my life story on a Southern writer’s panel, and a fellow panelist proclaimed, “Whoa, That beats Conroy.” No one will ever beat Conroy. That’s a given. But when I tell you that my Daddy died a woman on the steps where I hoped to kill her, you might have to take a breath. I do. Living with something so true and outside, robs me of clarity, self-definition. I can hardly believe it is my story.

Hating my father was easy. A New York City iron-worker, he was a tall drink of water with a leathered, fists-up attitude and a penchant for killing cats, dogs, and (if rumors hold true) men. Kids ran from him, coworkers fell from bridges he worked on. His size twelve work boot left an indelible mark in my mother’s ribcage. He was that ugly, domestic monster you hear about and pray your daughter does not marry. I came to my father’s home in the arms of a social worker.

To exit the womb on Christmas Eve and fight jaundice without a parent’s love was easy because it transpired before language. In the fleshy dialogue exchanged since I found my biological family, the reality of my given home singes. I spread roots in assigned cement, only to watch it crack under the constant pummeling of my adoptive family. So went adoptions in the 1960s. In the best interest of the child, they sealed me from familiarity and set my feet on fire.

Dad could not love the families he decimated. There were two. Ours and another secret clan, which ran from him changing their names for safety. Dad could not stop his angry tornado from pounding us into a shelter for battered families. His storm formed in the windswept years of his youth, while stealing women’s underwear from a laundry line in College Point. Gender was a given, so German mamas punished with rank sternness, and German papas crushed any hint of girlishness from their sons.

Act like a man, I told my ten-year-old self as I sat in the hall closet, clutching my father’s weapon.  Risking death if discovered, I reminded myself that Dad wouldn’t hesitate. Just kill him, I thought. Faith and femininity ordained my failure that day. I chickened out at the sight of the marble crucifix in the hall. Did Jesus move? Dad’s malevolent masculinity would always win in my teary eternal truth.

The truth, not beholden to scared little girls or damaged women, held its tongue for five decades. Dad died in 2015, on the stoop of the three-bedroom prison I once called home. He wore rouge and the full form of a female. The vile man who spun to toss my baby brother against the dining room wall died a woman.

Hyper-masculine behavior? Madness born of hiding her truth?
A risk too painful to take until it was too late?

My wound is paternity.  Daddy’s was her gender.
My forthcoming memoir explores both.

Blessings for healing of all wounds,
V.L.

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Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

 

 

Waltzing with Ghosts (Forgive My Absence)

There is truth in memory. It is a truth laced with opinion built on years of re-framing life images. As I work on my second book (first memoir) spirits long since transcended, sit beside me urging me to their truth. I dig deeper and deeper to see them as whole human beings, frail, wanting to be loved, unsure, making their way in the best manner they could. mansion-1

Haunted. It is the best word to describe the process of trying to uncover beautiful prose in a past so horrifying that I often think it happened to someone else. The words never seem right. Never large or accurate enough to tell the tale of honing my faith in hell. How does one describe God’s grace? When my finger left the trigger of my father’s rifle, on the day I planned to kill him, I looked up to the marble crucifix. Porcelain Jesus looked back. His suffering was more than mine, and somehow at that moment I knew my tortured family would be okay.

Denial. I have spent more than thirty-years hiding from my truth. I did not know I was running, swiping away what my heart owned. “I survived. I’m strong”, I would tell those who asked about growing up in a constant state of battle. Shhh. Don’t mention your adoption anger. Dysfunction cast in a light of character-building is easier for others to stomach. So, I swallowed the loathing, fear, and vulnerability of abuse in a great big pill called denial, riding the effects until earlier this year. Now, as I experience inevitable withdrawals, I withdraw from you my readers, and friends.

As I write, monsters who choked the justice from my childhood encircle. Scratching at my soul, they fight the exodus that will free me. They crowd my mind, pushing and hollering to be heard on my precious pages.  I dance with and away from the exposure they flaunt.

Winter is coming as I work to complete this book. As frigid nights zap the green from marsh grass to reveal roots and decay, so topple barriers long forged to hide my truth.  If I seem distracted, please forgive me. I am waltzing a glorious, tortuous last dance with powerful apparitions.

Blessings for a peaceful, loving Thanksgiving,

V.L. Brunskill


Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
View the Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

Weep, Write, Repeat- ‘Transgressions in Rouge’

Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Well, as I bleed through the first draft of my next book, Transgressions in Rouge, I am learning the truth of Hemingway’s statement, along with a breathtaking amount of my own truth.

Transgressions is based on the story of my life as an adoptee and abuse survivor. It is also the story of my adoptive father, who lived an angry lie during the first 60+ years of his life.  It was a lie so deeply buried (and secret) that it ate away his humanity, and ability to be a decent father or human being. My father was a transgender woman. hemingway

As I research the male-to-female transition process,  I discover more of my adoptive father’s psyche than I ever understood while he was alive. He died in February. Some of you will recall the Eulogy that I penned for him that month. I wrote it in a whirlwind of pain.

My father’s only friend (who had her daughter call me about Jo’s death) made me out to be an evil person, a sorry daughter who abandoned the righteous woman she’d befriended. During that phone call, I whimpered out my story to the stranger on the phone. I explained that my family was the victim of Jo’s hard handed actions. I told her about the brutal attacks, wondering out loud if they  might have been born of Jo’s desperate cover-up of her true self. Jo was angry at us, herself, the world and resolved her frustration with both fists raised.

Writing a novel that is based on my life is like pulling my lower lip over my head, and hanging a bowling bowl from the end.

It sucks, and then again, it doesn’t.

For along with the writing down of scenes so dramatic they adapt seamlessly to fiction,

  • Dad drowning neighbor’s cats in the backyard.
  • Dad kicking Mom until she had internal bleeding.
  • Dad brushing my seven-year-old brother’s teeth until blood poured from his gums

…there is relief and a deeper understanding of the insanity that was my childhood. When I look at the events as a writer, the motives of everyone involved become clearer. The strong do not loom half as large as they appeared when I was a child living each crisis.

There is power and perspective in bleeding on paper.

Write, weep, repeat.

Blessings that you find your demons and the power to slay them,

V.L. Brunskill
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Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page- http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com- amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

 

Amazon Author Page- Almost as Exciting as a Polar Bear

World stop spinning, my Amazon author page is live! Every writer who has ever penned a novel must get a secret tingle when their sales shingle is slung up on Amazon.com.  While Amazon has had a few pricing wars with publishing houses, it (along with Barnes & Noble) remain the hub of online book sales.  (Yes, dear readers. I prefer independent book stores.)

More than 36 months have passed since I started writing my debut novel Waving Backwards, and its ‘at-last’ appearance on Amazon.com has me reflecting on my first taste of literary notoriety.

I took to writing in elementary school. I started with a journal, which I addressed to a secret confidant named Lovey. I shared with Lovey my pop-star crushes, and secret wishes. Unlike my friends, a fair amount of my childhood journal was about heaven, hell, and dreams of finding my biological family. The writing was heartfelt and heavy.

However, my first notoriety as a writer was light and lovely. In a suburban New York classroom, I watched as my 4th grade teacher tacked up a poster that would launch me into the dangerous world of elementary school gossip. The shiny poster showed a fierce looking polar bear perched on a glacial plain. All eyes stared when the teacher announced, “Girls and boys, we are having a poetry contest.”

Youthful chatter and enthusiasm bubbled. I was the rhyming queen, and sure that I would win the poster, and colored pencil set. All  I had to do was write a poem about the subject. Easy, peasy! This is what I turned in the following day-

Did you ever see a polar bear,
so big, white and furry?
I’d sure hate to be in one’s way,
when it’s in a hurry.

Not exactly Shakespeare, but it did the trick. In front of the entire class, I was presented with a first place certificate and badge. The teacher had me read my poem (my first public reading). It was a dazzling moment, until…Tommy told a lie.

To my utter disbelief, Tommy Sciarello (name changed to protect the not-so-innocent) raised his hand and said, “Miss Anderson, I read that poem in a magazine.” Glaring he continued, “She copied it.”

In shock, I defended myself. “I did not.” I started to cry. Miss Anderson pried the certificate from my hand saying, ‘Well Tommy, plagiarism is a serious accusation. I will look into it. Please be seated, Vicki-lynn.”

Sideward stares and whispers plagued me for the rest of the day. Lunch was hell. Noone wanted to sit with ‘the cheater’. I went home and cried to my mother. She consoled me, telling me that the teacher had called, and was assured that I had not stolen the poem.

The next day, Miss Anderson reinstated my prize, certificate and badge. She also  posted my name on the bulletin board with a gold emblem that said ‘winner’. She admonished Tommy, and explained to the class the meaning of plagiarism and why it should be taken seriously. I beamed for a week, and waved a colored pencil at Tommy every time I passed his desk.

While my Amazon.com author page is thrilling, the lessons learned from my first (somewhat public) writing accomplishment will always hold a special place in my heart.

Blessings that boys with crushes never try to crush you,

V.L.
Twitter- @RockMemoir
Facebook- www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
My novel Waving Backwardshttp://www.syppublishing.com/waving-backwards/