I was 10 the first time I ran away from home. I was full of distress. I wasn't thinking at all. I didn't take any clothes, any money, and I didn't have a plan. I just walked, and walked till I got to the next town. It wasn't far, really, just over the dividing line between my town and the next. When it started to get dark, I had calmed down enough to realize that I couldn't go anywhere. I turned around and went 'home.'
When I got home...my dad was so angry...he literally bounced me off the walls of my room. I didn't know a body could bounce off walls.
What happened? Can I blame society? I don't know. Mother was going through women trouble and needed a hysterectomy. She was in pain, frightened, and most of all having, what I realized years later, an identity crisis. Womanhood was defined by your body. Not by your brains. Not by your talents. Your body. And mother's body was about to be violated.
After the operation, mother went to a rehabilitation facility called Kate Macy Ladd. She stayed there a while. I took over the dinner preparations. Simple stuff, like opening a can of vegetables, boiling potatoes, and grilling meat. Nothing complicated. Mrs. Shuster, a kindly elderly woman, would look in on me and my younger sister. She was soft. Physically soft. She taught me how to darn socks.
My father's second wife had breast cancer. When I visited her in hospital, her behavior towards me stung as much as my mother's had all those years ago. Sheila had once been the beauty queen of her town. Still...that attachment of our identity to the body. Still the same response. And she was educated, too, a Radcliff girl I think.
Looking back on this, it still baffles me. I've survived cancer, too. All my female innards are gone. All I felt and feel is deep gratitude. Towards the co-workers who helped me find a clinic. To the doctor and nurses who got me to the oncologist. To the oncologist. I get up in my apartment everyday and breath deeply, taking in the air, listening to the birds, saying hello to my cats and the neighborhood cats, looking at the sky, walking around the apartment with such happiness at how it is my home and how much I enjoy being in it. I truly can't imagine how mother or my step-mother felt. When I look in the mirror, I smile.