Keep On Rollin'

When I was around six or seven, we traveled to Frog Pond Holler in the family's red 1968 Sport Fury. I don't remember the purpose of the trip, whether to visit or to bury someone, but I do remember visiting my great-grandfather in the nursing home over in big city, next to the big, famous mansion which, to a seven year old girl, looked like the kind of place a princess would live happily ever after with her Prince Charming.

I'd never heard my great-grandfather called anything but "Little Daddy," not learning until after he was long gone to the hereafter that his name was actually Charles. One of the few memories I have of visiting The Holler when I was little, other than assorted funerals, was visiting Little Daddy in that nursing home. I remember sitting outside waiting for Ma under a big tree with Aunt Moses and holding my little baby cousin in my lap. There was a big fancy church across the road with a wrought iron fence and a bell that rang on the hour and half hour, the gothic style adding to the fairytale feeling of the area.

After Ma finished dealing with nursing home business, she came down to get me and she took me up to see Little Daddy. He was tiny and frail, just as he'd been at home, but Granny had died the previous year and with his daughter gone and no one left to take care of him, "the home" was the only place left for him to go.

I've always remembered how proud and grown up I felt when Ma let me push his wheelchair down the hall and back. I'd never been that close to a wheelchair before, much less gotten to drive. Our little hallway tour and sitting in a chair, looking out the window of his room at the tree below would be the last memories I'd have of Little Daddy. We returned to The Holler a short time later when he passed away.

Me, Ma and The Amazon moved back to the family home about 17 years ago, parking a trailer in the spot where Nanny and Little Daddy's house once stood. Whenever we'd go to Big City, I'd look for the nursing home where we left him. I'd been all over the neighborhood where the big pretty church still stands, next to the entrance to the princess palace.

Last year, after a string of anxiety attacks, crying fits of rage and just generally losing my shit on so many different levels, I went to the doc, got myself some crazy pills and asked her to recommend a therapist. I had to finally accept that I couldn't fix myself. The sexual abuse at the hands of my father for the first 13 years of my life, the fear, the death of his mother, my beloved Mammaw whom I loved so dearly and facing my abuser for the first time in 20 some odd years... it was all catching up with me.

The doc gave me the name of someone who specialized in childhood sexual abuse who, miraculously, was on our insurance. I carried her number around for two weeks before I got up the nerve to call. I had another anxiety attack while leaving the message on her answering machine. I didn't know how I was going to get through an hour of discussing it all when I couldn't even get through a 90 second phone message without hyperventilating and going off my rocker.

At first, it took a little extra medication, but I did get through it. Eventually, it became easier. The noggin doc went out of her way to put me at ease and before long I was spilling my guts about everything under the sun.

The noggin doc's office was in that part of town, with the big, pretty church. It was in a beautiful, old stucco house that she shared with an architect's office and was connected by a breezeway to an apartment building. Situated at the end of a dead end, I'd probably walked by the office a bunch of times when T.A and I went window shopping at the neighborhood antique shops a few years ago.

I'd been seeing the noggin doc for a couple of months when, pulling up in the parking lot for my appointment one Tuesday afternoon, it finally dawned on me. I asked her, "Do you happen to know if the apartment building next door used to be a nursing home?"

"Yes! It was still a nursing home when I first opened my office here."

The building itself looked much smaller than it did when I was 7. There's still a tree out front, but I'm not sure it's the same one that provided shade on that hot summer day when I sat cradling my tiny cousin, who would grow up to become My Trashy Big Boobed Cousin with the Lazy Eye. I thought it was sort of weird that I'd been trying to find Little Daddy's nursing home all this time and ended up seeing a therapist right there on the same property.

I took it as sort of a sign that I was doing the right thing.

I pulled into the parking lot at the noggin doc's office yesterday afternoon. I thought about how I used to sit in the truck and cry for 10 minutes before the drugs would kick in and I could muster the balls to walk up those steps. Lately the struggle had been for something to talk about. I was getting better.

As I reached for the door, I noticed something different on the porch, next to the gargoyle statues by the entrance to the adjoining offices. It was a wheelchair.

But not just any wheelchair.

It was old, with a high, wicker back. I don't remember what Little Daddy's chair looked like, but it reminded me of him. I told myself I'd have to remember to take a picture of it when I left.

My time with the noggin doc yesterday was much like every other, until it was almost time to go. That's when she gently presented the idea that maybe I didn't need therapy anymore. That I was okay.

I was a little surprised. I've never known anyone who had sought counselling before. I didn't know how long it was supposed to last or just how bat shit crazy I was.

We discussed it. She said some really sweet things to me. I cried a little. When it was all said and done, I told her, "I think I'll be okay."

"You are okay," she corrected.

After hugs and thank yous I hurried out the door, fearing the snot churning ugly girl cry that I felt coming on. I paused for a second when I got outside. The wheelchair was gone.

I got in the truck, popped my REO Speedwagon CD in the stereo and thought for a moment. I'd often wondered over the past year, what had happened to Ma to make her like she is. The noggin doc and I had discussed before how Ma had probably suffered abuse when she was a girl. In a way, I felt like the Universe was showing me I'd come full circle and maybe, just maybe, the cycle of generations of abuse had finally been broken.

And maybe that wheelchair on the porch was Little Daddy's way of letting me know he was watching over me all along.

I promise to return to my regular nonsense with my next post, I hope ya'll aren't too disapointed with the lack of haha today. I wanted to share this milestone with those of you who've been with me since I began, the ones who've stuck by me over the past year and those who have only just discovered Hidden Mahala.

REO Speedwagon serenaded me with my new mantra on the way home:

So if you're tired of the same old story
oh, turn some pages
I will be here when you are ready
to roll with the changes

Keep on rolling, ya'll.