I am dying. I look at my underpants to see a deep brown stain. It is not the bright red mark for which I have been waiting for the past three years so it only remotely occurs to me that this is evidence of my long-awaited period. I am dying. I have to tell someone that I am dying. It takes me a day or two to tell Cissy that I won’t be around much longer and she can be happy at last to have me gone. I am crying when I finally tell Cissy that I am dying.
“Why?” she asks me. “How?”
“My underwear are brown,” I wail.
Cissy looks at my underwear stain and tells me that I just got my period. She tells my mom and then I hear her say, “And you need to tell her to start shaving her legs and underarms now too.”
My mother had not told my older sister to do these things and Dicky MacKirdie and Stephan Schnell tease Cissy when we were swimming in the MacKirdie pool a few summers before. Cissy was doing the front crawl and her armpits were furry. I felt terribly hurt and embarrassed for Cissy that day, but I didn’t know why she had hair under her arms or on her legs then. I was angry with her that she had hair there to be teased.
Perhaps my mother enjoys seeing her children humiliated. She certainly seems to enjoy seeing me in pain. She likes it when my dad and I have a falling out. She enjoys it when he stops talking to me. She seems threatened by my father’s love for me. He, likewise, is jealous of any closeness I have with my mother. They compete for my affection and yet they are both cruel to me in their own way. My mother makes fun of me in very hurtful ways and then claims to just be teasing me. My father punishes me with his scalding silence. Yet each time he calls me to him, his masculine, Scots accent stroking the letters of my name, he draws me back to him like the tide that cannot resist the shore. I always forgive him.
I feel rejected in my family. I never seem to be accepted for who I am. The hatred Cissy holds for me is rooted in ugly female jealousy and sibling rivalry she refuses to outgrow. In every family picture I am standing alone and Cissy stands or sits with Lil. I am simply left out. Even the family dogs reject me. Sensing I am the lowest dog in that Griffin pack, the two dogs we own as a family seek to dominate me. Peanuts, our second family pooch, pees on my pillow when I am out at night. When I am in high school I come home from a weekend party, usually drunk, and crash onto my bed only to have my head land in a urine soaked pillow. That is the dog’s way of dominating me.
It is Cissy’s rejection that leads me to learn to beg for love and acceptance. Her rejection of me and the way she calls me “dummy”, “stupid”, “bitch” and other such names, teaches me to crawl for love and to seek acceptance from those who reject me. This carries forward into other relationships for many years until I learn to look to God for love and approval. Before I find my place with God, I beg to be loved as I seek a home with strangers because my own family do not want me.