Madam Anthrax

Or, Surviving My Childhood With A Deranged Lunatic For A Mother

My sister made a web page about our stepmother. I guess she deserves some comment from me, too.

Much of her crimes against me and my sister are too subtle to express well in this medium. At least the ones that really matter are difficult to put in print. Basically, though, growing up with a mother like ours was like living in a world where your emotions are denigrated as unimportant, and you work as something of a veritable slave to her every whim.

We were free to disagree with her. When we exersized that freedom, we were made to feel either like idiots or like we were wrong to question her.

We were free to talk with her about anything that troubled us. When we exersized that freedom, we would find these things thrown in our face at some time in the future.

We were allowed to express whatever emotions we desired. But if we did, we could be assured that Madam Anthrax would ultimately make fun of them.

And as children, we were easy targets for her emotional manipulations.

This isn't to say she's a completely ugly person. She had her moments when she could be quite charming, a veritable jewel during a party. Occasionally, she loved to have fun, and to create fun things for us to do. This made things even more difficult; one couldn't tell if she genuinely had a fun idea in mind, or if she simply had one of her darker whims.

I have a couple of direct experiences I may write about that can clearly show the depths of evil that this woman has plummetted to in her current life.

When I went off to college, I put into her care a watch made of gold and onyx that had been given to me by my late grandfather. The watch has metal disks with numbers painted on them that display in a window on the face; no arms. It is a keywound watch, made perhaps in the 1800's in Austria. Its worth cannot be determined by a standard sheet; it is an auction piece of incalculable worth. She has yet to return it to me, in spite of my requests. I remember having said to her that I trusted her. I am sometimes amazed at how naive I can be.

I had lent her my camera, a camera I spent $410, and used for about a full year straight in my journalistic assignments. I have a kind of sentimental attachment to the camera, but I lent it to her, that she might get started with a photography business she decided she wanted to get into. The understanding was that she would return the camera when she had her own. She told me I may buy my camera back. She bought a bunch of stuff to augment it, and expects me to buy those things with my own camera, when I never asked her to do such a thing.. and she won't return the camera to me unless I buy the other stuff.

For me, the last straw involved a grave insult she made to me. I showed up to meet with my father, as we were moving in together (for a variety of reasons). She immediately had me moving a bunch of furniture around, even though I was frankly tired from the 2.5 hour drive. While moving the furniture, we uncovered some Japanese prints I had given her years ago.

"Oh, and I can put these over here... unless you intend to take them."

"But, I gave these to you."

"Well, with Van Ripers you can never tell."

Never in my life had I ever done anything to deserve such a statement. And frankly, neither had my father, nor my sister. I grew extremely quiet, chilling the air in the room by a few degrees, and left the room without saying anything. She clearly knew that she had angered me deeply.

A couple of days or so later, she created a fiasco (she loves dramatic gestures, and cannot resist creating a bit of drama here or there), a fiasco involving my sister, her cats and belongings, and having locked the house up so she couldn't get to them. If you want to know the details, you'll have to ask my sister. We eventually managed to get in the house, and we picked up some of the furniture for the house we were moving in (my sister, father, and myself). While moving some of the furniture into position, Madam Anthrax and I found another something that I had given her, and she again said something about me possibly taking off with it.

"I don't do things like that."

"Well, with Van Ripers, I can never tell."

I suppose after having lived over 20 years of her life with us Van Ripers, and having gotten nearly anything and everything she ever asked for, when we finally decide we've had enough abuse, enough of living in a world where her every stupid insipid little whim is law, where the only delight we can bring her is our own pain and suffering by her warped, twisted, fetid little mind, she truly cannot tell.

May she enjoy the bed she has made for herself.

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