Secret Husbands, Lost Jobs and Dead Alter Egos

2021-08-15 / In categories Posts


Secret Husbands, Lost Jobs and Dead Alter Egos

Dear Stumpers:

Today’s Advisory: This post is rated H for heavy; contains themes of real death, real loss, real life and real consequences.

My beloved grandmother had a secret first husband. While she was in the blossom of her youth, (some-time between 1939 and 1942), she ran away from her home in Oregon eloped and moved to Chicago. He abused her, she called home for help, and her brothers went out the midwest to retrieve her. She lived at home with her parents, babysat and rosie’d, her way through the war and into the 1950’s unti, at the perilously mature age of 29, she met and married another sort of scoundrel, my grandfather.

The first husband - the abuse - the forced haul home, all of this crucial biographical detail was successfully concealed from four successive generations for more than sixty years. The secret was held via some sort of family pact, one that I can only assume was held securely through the bonds of shame. Shame held this secret right up to the day before her death. After speaking her last words and going into the long chain-stoking coma-state that characterizes a heart failure death, her oldest brother Harry shared this deepest darkest secret with my Mother, Sisters and I as we held vigil at her bedside.

My uncle was a thoughtful and emotive man. Deaf and mute since a childhood bout of meningitis, he communicated with our extended family through pen and paper notes, broad expressive gestures, hugs and almost constant kisses on the head. We hadn’t learned to sign. If you pressed Harry, asked the wrong question it was easy for him to clam up and ignore you.

Why at that moment in the apex of our distress and grief, did he choose to share her secret? I wish I had asked him then, or in the months following. He’s gone now, along with anyone else who would be able to tell me any more. I think he wanted us to learn something, not just about her but about ourselves. It’s been 13 years since she died and this little incidental family history detail has been sitting in my brain as an unanchored bit of family trivia.

I was a grandma’s girl, it was no secret at all that she showed a strong preference for me, over my two sisters and cousins, and even her own daughters. She was my primary caregiver during my preschool years and lived with me for most of my formative years. She was a major influence on me. This woman who raised me, kept one of the greatest dramas and lessons of her life a secret. Why didn’t she share with me what it was like leaving her family to try something new and have it all crash down? Why didn’t she see that she could be proud of it because she survived it? I can only assume because she considered it a mortifying failure.

I have my own secret and I have done a really poor job of keeping and managing it.

I like to write confessional satirical essays and I enjoy sharing them with people.

I find doing this work on an open forum empowering and healing. Confessional essay blogs are an artform that excels in supply but lags in demand. When I started this blog anonymously, three years ago, I gradually built up a small following of people. People who found something in my little thoughts and quips. It was nothing big but I was proud of it because I didn’t expect anyone to read me.

I lost track of my responsibilities and commitments to my family, and my employer. I broke the rules and I got fired for tweets that I wrote at work to promote my blog persona. It bears little mention that my insensitive tweet was aimed at highlighting the hypocritical enforcement of a misogynistic gendered dress code. My tweets specifically targeted my workplace and some of my co-workers. My greatest shame is over what harm I may have caused them. I was fired because of it, well I assume that’s why I was fired. I was dismissed from my employer of 13 years with nothing but a letter accusing me of harassment and electronic communications policy violations, without explanation, investigation or hearing. I was denied unemployment. I’m pretty sure my old boss got me black balled in the Industry that I dedicated 13 years of my life to.

The day that it happened. I pulled the plug on my blog and my twitter persona Stumped Mom was dead. I told no-one but my family and closest friends what had happened and then in only the vaguest of detail.

Since then I have bounced around from under paying job to job, a nervous wreck at work, terrified of my secret coming out. Every day I have worn the fear of failure like a suit of wet clothes.Dragging and chaffing my way through my days, desperate to re-establish myself, all teh while leaving a messy trail. My voice was smothered by guilt and shame every task and every email was laden with guilt.

I lost another job yesterday, two actually, when I think about it. I could list out a bunch of reasons and circumstances that point away from myself, but I think the real issue has been me and who I am. I haven’t fired because I’m a weirdo, dweeb bitch who says too much and lacks the discipline to properly proof-read and sensor herself. It’s because I am all those things and I have been trying to hide it.

I’m done hiding. It’s time for me to find my way in the world as my complete self. I have no idea what the consequences will be. Maybe I’ll never work in administration again but maybe that will be good for me. Maybe I’ll make my dreams come true and become a professional humor essayist, comedy writer, pod-caster-bad-bitch. Perhaps I’ll find another hum drum job and be able to plug along without anyone noticing my quiet little blog and what it reveals about my sordid history. Or I’ll start a daycare out of my home or be a dog trainer or grocery store cashier. Whatever happens I’m doing it honestly and openly.

If you’re reading me now and you’ve read me before, hi I’m Robin. If you’ve known me before and you’re just now reading me, hi this is stumped-mom.

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