|Chapter 1: The Demon Lady
My family immigrated from Ireland to rural Mississippi in the early 1950s. We were promised by local relatives that we would be able to live quite a comfortable lifestyle. As opposed to the struggling we were doing at home, it was the obvious option. Of course, at that time, my father’s idea of a comfortable lifestyle was never having to run out of whiskey. The move changed my father though. He converted from one soul crushing addiction to another. Catholicism.
My mother never disputed my father on anything, she would have followed him into oblivion. She was a very weak minded individual, and had periods of intense mania. Later on, I would discover she had the symptoms of Schizophrenia. She would talk to herself often, and there were times when she would look at my sister Lydia and I as if she had no idea who we were.
My father was convinced she was being tortured by demons left behind from their sinful past as alcoholics. Our Priest, Father Reilly, came to our home often to perform exorcism. My mother always seemed to feel better after his visits, but, of course, it was never long before she started acting strangely again.
By the time my sister and I were in our pre-teens, our parents were full blown religious fanatics. We attended a very strict Catholic school, and we were never allowed to read books other than school materials and the Bible. Television and radio were completely out of the question. We were never allowed to go out with friends, not that we had any. The other children thought our family was strange, and they all called our mother a freak, or “The Demon Lady”. My sister and I became very close during that time in our lives. We felt like two lost lambs in a world of wolves.
When we reached adolescence, my father was terrified of his daughters becoming women. He made it his life’s goal to force us into becoming nuns. We were not allowed to date, and we were made to spend all of our free time either studying the Bible or in Church. My sister was far more rebellious than myself and often went on dates behind our father’s back. I remember the horrible night when my father discovered what she had been doing.
She was supposed to be staying after school to tutor students in a younger grade, but she ended up taking a ride with a boy named Paul who had just started attending school with us. He was charming and handsome, and hadn’t yet heard about our crazy family from the other students. My father pulled up to a gas station to fuel up, and unfortunately, my sister’s new beau had decided to pull up to that same gas station. My father saw her, and before she knew what was happening, my father came running at her with his leather belt and started whipping her furiously right there in public.
Paul threw himself at my father in her defense, and a vicious fight ensued. Both of them ended up with numerous minor injuries. The police department arrived shortly, and questioned everyone. This included Paul, who my sister described as being extremely eloquent. Witnesses described what they had seen, shedding a favorable light on the charismatic boy. My father was thrown in jail for thirty days.
My mother blamed my sister for the whole incident and made her life a living hell for the entire month. She was responsible for all the housework and preparing all the meals (which was normally my job, considering my mother was too unwell to do any of those things herself). I often had to step in to defend my sister when my mother’s verbal assault would get out of hand.
My mother was not as quick tempered with me and was more willing to listen to my requests, but I assume that was because I was the one who fed her and bathed her during her worst episodes. I was convinced that either my sister or my mother would end up dead by the end of that month, but somehow we all survived.
When my father got released from jail, he claimed that he had talked to God while he was incarcerated and God had told him to forgive my sister for her sins and that both of his daughters were destined to do great things. He was extremely pleasant and kind to us after his stay in jail, but he made it known to my sister that if she were ever to date again that God would find a way to punish her and if it was not through my father, then it would surely be through a source that was much worse. My sister continued to date Paul until he died in a horrific automobile accident.
After graduation, my father got his wish and my sister and I both became nuns. I became a residential nun and nurse at St. Christopher’s Home for the Mentally and Emotionally Disturbed. It came as a shock to me that my sister also became a nun, especially since she despised the lifestyle our parents imposed upon us much more than I did. She holed herself up in a convent and I didn’t see or hear from her for years. I assume my parents didn’t either, but they never mentioned her in their letters to me.
The letters were the only communication I had with my parents until I received news that they had both died when our home had caught fire and burned to the ground. I decided not to attend their funerals.
*** Go on to Chapter 2