Hello there!
Written by
Rebecca Newman
October 2011
Written by
Rebecca Newman
October 2011


Hi, Ladies! I feel rather intimidated about sending this out there among such seasoned writers as yourselves ... I always knew I had to write my story someday, but apparently I don't have much time left here and all I can think about is getting this out there. I have so much to tell that no one else on earth can for me, and this is all I can think about.


I am 26 and have just moved back in with my family in South Georgia, Montezuma, to be exact - I hate it down here. I grew up all over Georgia but my parents moved down here when I was in college. I always swore I would never move back home after college, and yet here I am.


I was diagnosed two years ago with Huntington's disease, a neurodegenerative genetic disorder. My father died from Huntington's, and my older brother and younger sister have both tested positive. Melody, the sister, is still presymptomatic, thank God, and is still living a normal life as a massage therapist in Atlanta.


My neurologist told me last summer that I shouldn't be driving anymore in my stage of Huntington's. I was also having problems at both the jobs I was working, having major memory problems. Anyway, my apartment lease was up last July and I didn't know what else to do but move back home. How do you live on your own without being able to drive? I had to break up with my long-distance boyfriend of 14 months, because how do you do long-distance without being able to drive? I didn't want him to have to do all the work.


I still hate Montezuma as much as ever, but I know I would feel so horribly guilty if I were not here right now. My poor saint of a mother is going through her second horrible divorce after finding out that my stepfather had a sexual relationship with Melody, his other stepdaughter. And he has been with my mother since Melody was one, after my crazy, physical abusive father left my mom with three tiny children and nothing else. We adored our stepfather and wished he was truly our father. I remember wishing Daddy would not care about me quite so much so that I could take my stepfather's last name!


The year I was fourteen everything changed. My stepfather went off the deep end of Christianity - we had been attending a conservative little independent Baptist church in Atlanta for the last few years, and that church, he decided, was too liberal. He decided we needed to be out of debt and that also he should not be working his nice government job, so he sold the house and quit his job and moved us down to Columbus to live with his parents. It was supposed to be temporary, but it turned into six years, with only one brief six-month stint in Kentucky, where my stepfather had purchased 20 acres. He was determined to live off the land, without electricity, and he bought an army tent at an auction and set it up and said we would live in it until our house was built. Of course, since he didn't have a job, who knows how long that might have taken...


Then my parents decided the Lord had moved them to go back to Columbus. My stepgrandfather was a stroke patient and his wife was having a hard time taking care of him without her son. So we lived in that tiny shoebox of a house until I was 20! Thinking back over that time now, I can't even believe it happened. I shared a little bedroom with my two sisters, and the four youngest shared a room with my parents (!), which was also the family room where we kept the piano. We were homeschoolers of the most steriotypical kind, granola-eating, wheat-grinding, denim jumper-wearing homeschoolers. We were so uneducated socially as we weren't even allowed to do the homeschooling co-op thing. And of course, there was no money for anything. Melody and I, as females, were particularly vulnerable to wicked influences and so were not allowed to work outside the home - we did a cake business that we both hated. College was frowned upon, even for the boys.


The strange thing was, because this way of life was so ingrained within us, we really didn't see the, oh, so many problems there. We kids genuinely thought our father was a genuinely godly man. He can be so charming and manipulative, a real sociopath. If anything didn't add up, if we could never measure up to our parents' expectations, it was certainly due to faults of our own. I really thought that my unquenchable desire to go to college was a weakness of mine, a wordly desire. I had always loved school and was good at it, but by the time I was 16 I guess I had already learned all things scholastic I would need to be a good wife and mother. I desperately wanted to take geometry and a foreign language, but Mama had never liked geometry nor used it in everyday life and didn't see the point. I checked our math books and those teach-yourself-Spanish books from the library. Someone once told me that Mama had obviously done a good job of homeschooling us eight kids because I got accepted into good colleges and was offered plenty of scholarships, and I remember thinking a bit resentfully that I did this in SPITE of my mother, I got a 29 on my ACT in SPITE of my lack of education.


When I was 20, we moved out at long last from my grandparents' house, but the only reason it happened was because fate forced my stepfather to. My younger brother Josiah, who was seven at the time, was diagnosed with aplastic anemia - something akin to leukemia - and had to undergo a bone marrow transplant. He was going to have to spend a couple of months in the hospital, at Emory in Atlanta, and we were going to have to spend the next year living no more than 20 minutes from the hospital for the next year for his treatments. So we were forced to rent a tiny house of our own there in Atlanta and my stepfather applied for jobs in wastewater again. He told us that he was resigned to the fact that he would have to work in The System so that his boys would be free to be their own masters.


It was right after we moved up to Atlanta, right after Josiah finally left the hospital and our brother Sammy was his  marrow donor, that my mother walked in on her husband and daughter, and the world as we knew it would never be the same. Mama said she wasn't divorcing him because of the younger kids - my youngest sister was about two  - but she found out last summer that, while he had been assuring her that he wanted things to work out for the kids' sakes, he had been stalking Melody, showing up at night at her place in Atlanta, two hours away from where he was now living and working in Montezuma. Even when she kept telling him to leave her alone, he kept texting and calling her.


So Mama is finally divorcing him, the bastard. But it has now been over a year, and it just keeps getting uglier. The five younger kids sadly are actually his children, and he is trying to get custody of them, and apparently he has a chance. I have grown to hate small town politics! He says that his having sex with his stepdaughter is my mother's fault because she didn't satisfy him back when they lived in his mother's house, when she shared a room with four kids, and that of course he naturally turned to the arms of his beautiful stepdaughter. And he has so manipulated his children that they totally believe him, refer to him as a great Christian guy who made a mistake once a long time ago for which he is remarkably sorry for. The fact that he thinks he deserves custody even of his seven-year-old daughter shows just how sick and messed up he is.


So I have to write all this before my mind goes. It's a matter of even justice to me! If it never gets published it's fine, I just need to get it done. I have been keeping a journal since I was 13 and have always been decent at writing - I was an English minor in college and did stuff for the school newspaper and all that. I have been told I was a good writer as long as I can remember. But I can tell that might writing abilities have deteriorated already from this damned disease I have. Also, I am at a loss as to how to unite my memories into a book. I have already so many details and stories but to tie them together with a theme - it's so difficult! I would love suggestions and advice - please!




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  • Veronica Young

    Hey Rebecca! WOW! Now I don't feel so bad at the airing of my dirty laundry in my memoir.  This seems like it's carthasis for you.  I would love to see some dialogue here and also a showing more of what's at stake for your mom, dad, sister, brother...so if you were to put yourself in their shoes and show why they act they way they do, did the things that they did would help me see them more dimensionally.