Thursday, August 13, 2009

Let the Games Begin

My sister and I occupied the biggest bedroom next to our grandmother’s master bedroom. The guest bedroom next to ours was half the size but still overlooked the backyard where my grandmother grew her tomatoes, string beans, mint leaves and other vegetation. For a Brooklyn garden, it was pretty impressive. My grandmother was no doubt blessed with a green thumb. Anyway, when Eileen moved in, she approached my sister (age 10).

"The bedroom next to your room is nice. Would you like to move in there?"

My sister quickly answered, "No."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"That bedroom is too big for you especially since Nicole moved out. What are you going to do with all that space?!"

"I don't want to leave this room." My sister said sternly.

After school the next day, my sister came home to find all of her belongings moved to the guest room. It could only hold bunk beds. When I came home a couple days later, my sister blamed me for the reason why we got pushed to the smaller room. It was okay because I already blamed myself which was fast becoming a habit of mine. My absence although it was only for a few days caused us to lose the big room. I was still very grateful we had a place to rest our heads; even if it was a piece of foam instead of real mattresses.

Eileen offered my sister and I a listening ear. She came like an angel wanting to make ‘peace’. She seemed to be there for us in the beginning. When I didn’t want to see a child psychologist at the courts anymore because the atmosphere was so cold, she worked it out so we could each see our own individual psychologists in a warmer environment. She took my sister and I clothes shopping now and then, stressing that we are young ladies now and we needed to look the part. She made us think that she was doing this out of her own pocket but as I found out later, she would take the receipts to my grandmother demanding the money back and then some. My grandmother would give her the money from our mutual funds. My Aunt actually had free reign to our accounts. Steadily my grandmother would give Aunt Eileen more and more allowances and control of my siblings and I.

When mail would come for me, I would find that it was more difficult than usual to open because the glue was especially sticky. My sister revealed to me that aunt Eileen would boil a pot of water, not for tea but to strategically place my letter over the steam to loosen the glue, read my mail and re-glue it before I came home. I don't know how many letters must have been delivered to me but never reached me because aunt Eileen had first dibs. What was her intention? I didn't know at the time. Then my failing college grades would be mailed to the house and before I knew them, my grandmother would yell at me, calling me a failure as soon as I walked through the door.

"Of course I was failing my grades after my first year in college. I couldn't CONCENTRATE!" And after begging for money from my own funds over and over again and being turned down by my grandmother and aunt, I couldn't buy books. I had to resort to asking classmates to borrow their books for a few minutes to make copies to study for the next class.

I found out that when I hit age 19, my grandmother and aunt were no longer receiving Social Security checks for me anymore so basically, I was no longer welcomed. My sister would later see the same dynamic when she was on her way to becoming 19.

They would harass her, gossipping about her to other relatives and "friends" of the family. One evening when our grandmother was out of town on vacation, our step grandfather locked my sister out of the house and despite her franticly knocking the door and ringing the bell, he refused to get out of his bed to open the door. So my sister, bold and determined as ever, called the police for help. They tried ringing the doorbell too but to no avail. At the first attempt to kick the door down, the step grandfather appeared as if by a miracle. He received a warning from the cops. Of course he then proceeded to contact our grandmother. She then contacted all relatives and my sister was blamed for embarassing visit from the authorities.

At 18, Natasha was told to leave. I guess they saw the need to give it a head start with her since she was more of a fighter than I was. My fiery, determined sister refused, informing them that she would move on her own accord when she was good and ready. They kept trying to throw her out and she kept her stance. Aunt Eileen went as far as to sit my sister's boyfriend down while he waited for her to get ready for their date and tell him how mentally sick she was and he would do well to drop her as a girlfriend before she hurts him. Natasha's boyfriend relayed this sorry attempt by aunt Eileen to break them up.

My sister eventually moved out when she felt fit to move at age 21. My grandmother was not as hard on my little brother as my sister and I so he was allowed to stay when he too turned 19. I am sure the fact that Aunt Eileen moved out by that time had something to do with hit.

Anyway, my aunt did lots of things to drive me out of the house. On top of all the other insults, my grandmother started calling me a thief and a liar. I couldn't believe this. It came from left field and it was so not me. I wondered why she added these new names to her bag of tricks. Then one day, my grandmother, "aka" the first world wide web blurted out, "You think I don't know that you go inside of my file cabinet in my bedroom, taking my money?! Stay out of my bedroom!"

So she thought I was stealing money out of her bedroom. No wonder my step grand father would follow me when I went upstairs and periodicaly peer into my bedroom when I was upstairs alone. I even tried to put a lock on my bedroom door and my grandmother yelled at me. "This is my house, not yours! When you get your own house, you can put locks on your door!" Of course aunt Eileene had a lock on her door but I guess that was for me. At this point, my grandmother even locked her door down with three locks everytime she went downstairs.

It turns out that peaceful aunty Eileene was the one breaking into my grandmother's file cabinet, taking money and her personal info such as her social security number. She slyly told my grandmother that she witnessed me breaking into the cabinet and of course she believed her. My grandmother trusted Eileene so much that she allowed her to file taxes and claim my siblings and I as her dependents so she could collect the money. (She continued to file for us even as adults until the IRS caught up to her) What my grandmother didn't know until very recently was that for years, good auntie Eileen used her info to open up credit cards in her name which she shot up to the point of no return.

Well I eventually moved out of the house officially when I was 19 to my aunts delight. She was victorious - one down, two more to go. I really wanted to stay with my siblings but I couldn't take the harassment anymore. My intention was to continue with school, work hard to finish, go out and make money so I could support myself and my brother and sister.

When I would return home to steadily pick up my belongings, I noticed my little sister becoming more and more hostile towards me. I chalked it up as puberty. She would talk back to me and just seemed angry at me all the time. She even started to belittle me with her sharp tongue. I didn't understand until speaking to my sister recently. After I moved out, my grandmother and aunt Eileene would constantly tell her that I didn't love her or our brother. They made her believe that I left because I wanted to get away from them. How horrible. These kids lost both their parents in one night less than three years prior and here they were making them believe that the only person that they looked upon as a mother did not love them. My cousins would also chime in convincing my sister that I hated her. I wondered why everytime I came over to the house to take them to the museum or movies my grandmother would tell me to ask my aunt for permission. When I would suck it up and ask her, I would always get, No. You're not responsible enough. I kept on going to my grandmother's house and I kept on getting shot down until I eventually gave up. My siblings never knew that I would come over to take them out. This is another fact that only came to life very recently as we had a heart to heart to heart. Communication is very important.

Aunt Eileene did some really despicable things to us. Too many to number but what she did next really hurt me for years to come and to this day, I still can't hold back the tears when I think about it.

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