Raised By Wolves
Part Three: Across the Great Divide
The Countdown Begins...
October 2, 1991
The century mark: One hundred days until surgery and counting....
October 7, 1991
Ninety-four days until surgery and counting.... Today we received the affidavit in the mail that our lawyer prepared that will allow me to have surgery without the need for divorce. The one-page document simply states that Mary is aware of the nature and implications of the surgery and has no objections. Before she signed, she asked me only one question: "Are you sure?" I reaffirmed that I was sure of this as I have ever been of anything. During her lunch break, Mary and I went down to the local Notary. where she signed the paper in his presence and had it duly notarized.
So, the final legal obstacle to surgery has been overcome.
October 11, 1991
Ninety days until surgery and counting....
Last Wednesday, we had to attend a meeting regarding Mindi that was called by the guidance counselor. Mindi is a bright girl, so when she finishes her work early, she strikes up conversations with the other kids to keep from getting bored. Unfortunately, her teacher found this disrupting and confronted her about it several times. Eventually, Mindi felt put upon, and (being bright) used my upcoming SRS as an excuse.
Next thing we knew the principal had called a special meeting for us to attend. The principal was there, the teacher, the guidance counselor, a special education representative and the district psychologist. This had always been our greatest fear: that somebody would get a bee up their bonnet and we might end up losing custody of our daughter.
They were all very cordial, but very stern. They asked questions of each of us and of Mindi. They talked amongst themselves. Finally, they admitted that they couldn't find any indication of any problem (with the implied threat that if they had, they would have taken some sort of action.) However, they told us that with a situation like this there MUST be some psychological damage going on. "But", we protested, "there are no problems that any of us can see..." "Yes", they said, "but there must be some that we can't see - that Mindi won't talk about to you. Therefore, we want her to see the psychologist for counseling and the two of you as well."
At this point, the teacher who had started this whole proceeding to begin with recanted, declaring that if she had met Mary and me first (you see, she hadn't even met us when she called the meeting) she would never have brought the issue forward. However, the group decided that since she had brought it forward, and now that they were all assembled, they must act to protect Mindi's interests and so we "should" attend the counseling sessions (or they would take their aforementioned "implied" action!)
So I told them, "You're saying that you want to take this wonderful girl who is my 'little sunshine' who doesn't have any problems or symptoms that any of us can see and start digging around in her mind because there must be something there? In your zeal to protect her, you're going to screw her up!" I told them that she was a sharp kid and that she would see the intent behind their questions and play their game, giving them the answers they are looking for.
However, we agreed to meet the psychologist (who was present at the meeting) at a future date to be determined in order to avoid them taking further action.
This evening was Keith's back to school night. One of his classes is woodshop. I had gone to that school myself, and had taken woodshop when it was a boys only elective. Nowadays, of course, its co-ed. But still, it was a bit strange to sit in that room with all the other parents, realizing I was the only woman there with memories of having taken that class.
Another stop was at the boy's locker room. Somehow, it seemed a lot different than I remember it. In fact, I don't really remember much about it at all, which is not surprising, because what I do remember are mostly the emotions I felt, which were those of being uncomfortable, feeling out of place, different and inadequate.
October 12, 1991
All the pieces of myself have been reassembled in the original place they never were.
October 13, 1991
Eighty-eight days and counting....
October 17, 1991
I brought Mindi to work today because it was a "teacher training day" at school. I had looked forward to this for a couple of weeks, since I knew it was coming up. I planned on introducing my daughter to the other employees, having lunch with her, showing her what I did there - in short, having a special time just sharing the day together.
However, no sooner had I arrived at work, but I began to get negative vibrations from Chris (my writing partner and VP of the company) that he was not pleased she was there. Oh, there was nothing overt: Chris was his usual pleasant self, but there was something.
So, I set up Mindi in the conference room with a video tape of her favorite movies, and she only came out twice all morning to tell me something. Now, normally, I go to lunch most days with Chris. So, around noon I asked him if that would be the plan, hoping that he would join Mindi and myself for some friendly time together. Not only did he decline because of backlogged business duties, but he said that it would probably be best if I took the rest of the day off.
I had my heart set on being there with Mindi, and it was all snuffed out, just like that. It struck me like a brick. Not only were all my plans dashed, but it seemed like a personal affront to my integrity at having brought her there in the first place. I'm sure he was being nice and practical, as men are, but for heaven's sake, he didn't show any sensitivity at all.
I took Mindi and went home. But first, we stopped at the mall and did some shopping together. We picked out a few things, had lunch together there and went home.
I couldn't stop thinking about being sent home. It really disturbed me, no, it HURT me deeply and I didn't know why. Then, it occurred to me that I had allowed myself to feel protected by Chris. I had assumed he would look out for what would shield me from hurt, and instead he had done something to hurt me. I'm sure it was quite unintentional, but I still felt like I had been betrayed.
You know, there's no word in the male language for "to feel protected". You can BE protected, you can PROTECT someone, but there is no single word meaning "to feel protected". That's because it is a feeling women have and men don't consider. So, there was no way he could intuitively understand the harm he had done me.
Still, that did not alleviate the pain. I began to cry because his protection had been withdrawn. At that moment, I wanted nothing more than to have my phantom husband put his arms around me and tell me everything was all right, and that he would always be there for me. I really needed someone I could believe in to protect me from the big, bad world out there.
I got over the tears, and Keith came home. I had brought home an extra cookie from the mall that I was going to have, but I gave it to him. To him, I know it was just a cookie, but to me, it was a symbol of my love for him. It was something I really wanted for myself to feel better, which made the act of giving it, the symbol of my love. I began to think that maybe that is the strength of being a woman: to be able to illustrate the love she has. That kind of devotion is something men need to be able to count on, so they can take care of battling back the world for us.
I thought to myself, "Okay, Keith, you're out there, struggling to make it in school, to choose a future, to make something of yourself. Here's a little something to show someone cares." I did this because I remembered a time when I was still living with my parents and we only had a couple of dollars left to our name. I was working the night shift and every evening, my mother would make a lunch for me to take. One night I opened the bag to find several slices of deli roast beef wrapped up in foil. She had spent our last money as a family to buy me a treat, without saying anything about it. She left a little note in the bag saying she had just wanted to do something special for me.
Every time I think about that, I cry. That she would take the last that she had and spend it on me. Now that my mother is gone, I think about my aunt who is in a rest home with Alzheimer's. She doesn't remember any of us. She doesn't even remember who she is or how to eat. So we've left her there without visitors for months. Finally, we visited her several weeks ago. She was like a baby: she reached for our touch, she held our hands, she smiled when we spoke kindly to her. And even though the mind is no longer present, the emotions are just as strong as ever, and we leave her there.
My grandfather was like that. My grandmother was like that. My mother took care of them at home, alone in this island of misery with no one to console her.
With all of these feelings inside me, I decided to sit down at the computer and write a letter to my post-op friend, Lauren. Our feelings are so close and about the same things. And I sat down, and the words just came forth: the culmination of all I have felt: the most concise and beautiful and glowing terms - everything I had within me. It came together all at once. Straight from the heart. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever written. Each new word I put on paper, each phrase, pulled me ahead as if it had a life of its own.
At the high point, when I could see then ending of all this, the completion that summed up all that was me, Mary called on the phone, interrupted the connection to the computer line, and all the data was lost.
I got really upset. And the kids had been very happy. I had given Keith the cookie and spent the day with Mindi. While Keith spoke on the phone to Mary, I began swearing in the other room. I know she could hear me. I'm sure it spoiled the rest of her afternoon and that she is having a rotten time right now. Keith went into his room, dejected. I kept yelling every time he made the slightest noise, as I struggled at the computer to recreate those beautiful words. He tried so hard to move quietly, but I jumped on every sound he made and told him to get the hell away from me. And Mindi came to me with joy over some little thing she had seen on the television. I ripped her up emotionally because of the way I felt.
And so, in the face of my growing understanding that the best thing a woman can do is give love, I've given hate. I've given misery to those around me. And this was not for something they had done, but just because of something that happened when they were around: about the worst reason a woman can have for being upset with someone else.
Every day in my countdown, there are a couple of moments when I think about what happened in my life that I could have prevented and what didn't happen that might have been. And then I think about my family and Mary's devotion to me - much more than my devotion to her. She's stayed faithfully by my side through all of this, even when I had relationships with others. And even now, I don't wear my wedding ring any longer, just so I will get hit on by the guys. I chide myself raw for not having the strength of soul to "bear what cross I have been handed", as my step-father put it, to accept a miserable situation and stay with it to the end.
I solve my own inequities by spreading them amongst those around me. This is a very bad thing I do. I look to others for the strength I need to carry on. And people call me "centered"! I look to Chris for stability of situation, I look to Mary for stability of condition, I look to my children for devotion and love, I look outside the family for physical intimacy, and I sit selfishly in the center, allowing others to bear my burden, providing emotionally for me.
October 18, 1991
Last night, I was still in tears and I went to bed feeling very, very sad. I felt guilty for all I had not done for other people; I felt guilty for what I was doing TO other people: helping myself at their expense. I lay in bed, trying so hard not to cry with Mary there next to me. I screwed up my eyes and pulled my lips tight in an attempt to hold it all in without sound so she wouldn't be aware, hoping all the time she would be.
Finally, she realized what I was doing and asked me why I was crying. I pulled myself together and told her that I had always lived in a fantasy world. Now I am faced with reality. I'm faced with changing something that is immutable. Once I chipped a tooth as a small child, and even at that age I conscious came to the conclusion that I was then imperfect for the rest of my life. Something had happened that could not be fixed. When I had my tonsils out, I felt like even more potential for "purity" had been lost. After a car accident that I was nearly killed in, the relatively minor scars on my fingers still made me feel like I had lost something that could never be recovered.
For me, perfection has always been important. Nothing is worthwhile unless it is complete. I've learned that I can only create that perfection in my fantasy world, where I can fashion anything I want. This was a place I could retreat to get that flawless moment. My mother used to tell me that your memories could never be taken away from you. Now I understand that she looked at things the same way I do. The reason she tried so hard in life was to create as many real perfect moments as she could to add to the collection in her memory.
I imagine that is how many women mess up their lives. When they find they cannot manipulate their environment enough to create positive moments of perfection they discover it is much easier to create perfect negative one. Even in their misery they end up with pearls to hold onto.
Women hold within themselves the nightmare and the dream.
October 21, 1991
Eighty days and counting.
October 26, 1991 1:23 AM
Day seventy-five and counting. Tonight was Chris' Halloween party, and it was incredible. I came dressed as a sexy witch, all in red. I wore a red teddy, braless, with fishnet stockings, red heels and a pointy hat. At one point I sat down next to the programmer who is working on the story software we are developing. He turned to me and said in a very serious voice, "You know, its really scary...." I said, "What's scary?" "Your costume," he replied. I knew my costume was interesting, but I hadn't thought of it as particularly frightening, so I asked him, "What's scary about it?" "It looks good, " he said, "and THAT'S scary!"
October 28, 1991
Seventy-three days and counting. Chris related something to me today that he had heard at the Halloween party. Chris' brother, Richard, was at the party along with one of his friends. Richard's friend had heard about my transition, and at one point Richard asked him if he had seen me yet. His friend replied that he had not. Richard pointed me out and said, "That's Melanie in the red outfit." His friend's jaw dropped and he said, "No way!!" When Richard assured him it was me, his friend said, "That can't be Melanie! I happened to catch her eye a few minutes ago and her eyes said 'woman'." I thought that was kinda neat.
Also today, I called Doctor Biber's office, just to make sure everything was in order. They re-assured me that things were all set. The only remaining item they needed was my psych evaluation which I am getting from Dr. Jayne this Friday. So, all I need now is the money.
I find myself thinking, "Wow, they let people like ME do this? This is so simple! Full-time? I do that every day! Hormone therapy? No big deal, I've been doing that for over two years now. Life has really changed here....
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