Remember that love is left

4 It’s Gina’s birthday! She’s 27 years old today.

Gina was my second baby and she was about as easy as it gets. I had another textbook pregnancy with her and she arrived two days before her official due date. Thanks to assiduous oiling and massage, there was no episiotomy and not even any tearing. She was born at around 10 am and we were both home by dinner time.

When it comes to producing babies, it really doesn’t get any easier than that.

Gina was a darling, amazingly cute little kid. She was very different from her little sister, in that she took everything extremely seriously. She had to kind of grow into her sense of humor. I never had any problem with that because I, evil person that I am, had enough of a sense of humor for both of us. I spent a lot of time laughing at Gina when she was little. She didn’t know it, of course; I’m evil but I’m not cruel.

Gina helped me come up with some of my gems of parenting. That’s because for a while she was just like Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables. Right around the time she turned two and a half, she started talking and she didn’t stop until she was about five.

“Gina,” I said to her in desperation one sunny morning in early spring, “why don’t you go to the window and watch the leaves grow?”

She did, too. Then she came back to tell me about all those leaves she could see growing.

I don’t generally like to gush about my kids but Gina really was the dream child. She wasn’t particularly saintly or anything like that. But she seemed to instinctively understand basic household economics: you do this for me and I’ll do that for you. If you follow the rules, you can get to do pretty much anything you want – if you follow the rules.

You have to sweep the dining room floor before you’re allowed to go outside and ride your bike. David would take all day. Eight-year-old Gina would roll out of bed, she’d have that floor swept about 15 minutes later, and she’d be outside for the rest of the day.

You want to go out with your friends? That’s fine but I need to know where you are in case I need you for anything. The gang decides to go somewhere else to hang out? Fine. Call me. I’m not going to tell you that you can go to Tiesha’s house but you can’t go to Tasha’s house. I just need to know where you are.

She totally got that, so that she had a rather astounding amount of freedom growing up. This isn’t rocket science. We were able to trust her and she had the brains not to abuse that trust. That’s all.

Of course, it didn’t stay that easy for Gina.

She started leaving home at a relatively early age, wanting to go out on the summer family picnic holidays. It took a while for us to stop taking that personally. Gina was simply the kind of kid who would always push against the sides of the playpen. And that set of stuff was relatively painless compared with what came next.

You know, I wanted so badly to protect my babies but I never could. I couldn’t protect her from the emotionally abusive “friends” who convinced my beautiful girl that she was skinny and ugly and unlovable.

I couldn’t protect her from her abusive, sick fuck of a father, either.

Gina really adored her daddy, which is why she was particularly devastated when he betrayed her – twice. I don’t even have the time or space to talk about all of what that did to her. Pain. Fear. Mistrust. Shame. Self-doubt. Self-hatred.

You should know by now
You’re free from how it used to be
You’ve got the power to whatever you desire
You’re gonna bet to win
You’re a survivor

And then there was that guy she almost married, the one she followed down to Mexico. He was abusive, too. There was a lot that went on with him that I still don’t know except in the haziest way because she was too ashamed to admit to me that he did those things to her and she was poised to let him keep on doing those things to her. I’ll just say that I’m really glad I was in a position to be able get her out of there when she came to her senses.

One day, Gina will trust me enough to understand that she can tell me when she’s in trouble and I won’t judge.

Stand your ground
You made it this far, baby,
Don’t let it go
Stand your ground
This is the moment for you to know
I’ll be there …

In the end, she made the right choice and, as usual, my faith in her was justified. She had to come home for a little while but, as usual, she pushed the sides of the playpen flat and made her escape. While she was with me, I was able to introduce her to a set of ideas that set her feet on the road to healing and, also as usual, she is willing to sweep the floor if that will set her free.

Gina is out in Arizona with her sister now and they are helping each other to heal. She is also rebuilding her life after it was destroyed by the kind of havoc that only an alcoholic can bring into it. It’s frustrating for her and I can sympathize but, considering what she saved herself from just over a year ago, I think she’s doing pretty well.

It would have been so easy for her to wind up as just another statistic, but she didn’t. She summoned the strength to turn her eyes inward and I know how tremendously difficult that can be. I know how difficult it was because I watched her do it. Just between you and me, I don’t have the words to express how incredibly proud of her I am.

Happy birthday, Gina!