A Healing Experience

My recent post called Family dealing with my mother and my grandmother started me thinking about my father again.  I’ve talked about the psychological abuse by my father as well as his physical abuse of my mother.  If it weren’t for his insanity and abuse then I wouldn’t have been in my grandparents home where I was sexually abused almost daily for nearly 7 years.  If he hadn’t threatened my mother with kidnapping me then I would have been allowed to make friends and leave the yard, thereby building my self-confidence and perhaps giving me the courage to tell as well as limiting opportunities for abuse.

About two years ago I began feeling depression creep up on me again.  Something was eating at me, but I didn’t know what.  After several weeks of fighting the depression, it came to me in a dream.  I dreamed of my father.  It was another week before I began to figure out what I needed to do.  I needed to forgive him for everything he put me through in my childhood.  I needed to forgive myself for hating him for so many years.  I had to ease the conflict inside of me.

Once I made my mind up, I couldn’t wait.  I called my mother to find out where he lived.  I found myself at the door of his apartment, starting at 6 dead bolt locks on his door.  Did I mention that he’s a paranoid schitzophrenic?  I knocked for several minutes before he answered.  He looked genuinely thrilled to see me.  I didn’t know how long that was going to last because my forgiveness came with me detailing all of the wrongs I felt he handed out to me (at least some of them).

We sat at his small table, in a barely furnished apartment.  There was so much clutter and junk around though, that you didn’t really notice the lack of furniture.  I looked him straight in the eye and said “I forgive you for all of the things you did to me when I was a kid, and I forgive myself for hating you for it.”  I felt a weight lift from me that I didn’t even realize was there.  I’ve heard people say that, but I never understood just how real and physical it can be to unburden yourself.

He, of course, denied everything.  He said I was brainwashed and that he never did anything wrong.  But that was okay.  I expected that and it didn’t matter.  I know what he did and I know why I felt the way I did.  This was for me, not for him.  And I told him so.  He said he was glad I felt better, even though I was wrong.  I just smiled through my tears.

After I left I considered trying to rekindle a relationship with him.  But, I’ve never been stupid and forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting.  I’m not a big one for repeating past mistakes if I can help it.  So I just let it go.  As it turned out, within 6 months he and his girlfriend perpetuated the drugging and rape of my mother.  I suppose it’s true that a leopard doesn’t change his spots.

The forgiveness I granted on that day still holds.  It was mostly forgiveness of myself for hating him so desperately that I wished he would just die on more than one occasion.  At this point I would like to see him punished for what he did to my mother, but that is out of my control.  It is her decision to have him in her life, even on the fringes.  I can’t force her to make healthy and safe choices, and I’m not going to try.

But since that day, I have at least one scar that doesn’t burn anymore.  And with that small measure of healing, I feel hopeful that somewhere in my future there is more to found.

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The Last Straw

I’m going to gloss over other things with my father right now, and there has been a lot, and just skip to the last day we were with him because it’s one of my most powerful memories of abuse.  Do you have memories that play like movies in your head?  Do you have memories so powerful that you remember the thoughts you were thinking at the time?  Memories that you smell everything the way it was, see the sweat soaked shirt on the body standing in front of you?  But at the same time you remember all of that you can’t remember if it was summer or winter, if it was raining or sunny, or even if you were breathless by the time you reached safety?  That’s what this is like.  I can remember the smallest details of the altercation down to the sweat soaking through my father’s black muscle shirt, but I can’t remember if there was snow on the ground when we ran from the house.

For the longest time I had blocked this memory.  I was violent and angry toward my mother, even to the point where I became her abuser.  I, of course, didn’t know that I was doing these things at the time, but I can look back now and see how my behavior was patterned after my father.  I thank God every day that this memory came back to me and I have been able to control the outbursts.  I could not live with myself if I behaved this way toward my children, but at the time I was a child and didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing.

So let us paint a picture.  Front door.  To the left of the door a short hallway that leads to the basement steps beside which is the steps to upstairs.  Straight ahead is the kitchen.  To the right is a doorway leading into the “dinning room”, although it was more of a general workout room at the time.  From the dinning room and the kitchen both are doors leading to the living room.  I was in a chair that had its back to the wall of the dinning room with the television in the corner across the room to my right.  Thundercats was on television.  My mother was lying on the sofa against the wall of the kitchen below a pass through window between the two rooms.  I was seven years old.

My father storms into the house, grabs a chair from the kitchen and before anyone realizes what’s happening smashes it against the wall above my mother’s head.  I remember seeing a chair leg hit my mother in the face as it fell.  I’m not sure what he did with the pieces of chair still in his hands.  He punched and kicked at my mother while she lay there cowering, protecting her head with her arms.  I must have made a noise because my mother yelled for me to go to my room.  My father turned his head and raged that I was to sit there and see what happens to prostitutes.  As he spun back around to my mother I went inside my own head.  I could hear my thoughts as though someone were speaking to me.  I thought, remember I was seven, that I should get up and kick him in the butt.  Instead I stood and screamed at the top of my lungs.  His entire body swung around to me.  He looked like an enraged bull.  His nostrils were flaring, his face was red, his chest heaving.  My mother jumped up at his distraction and grabbed her purse.  He spun from me to wrestle her purse from her.  Then he yelled at us to get out.  That Jesus wouldn’t let him destroy his home over two whores like us.  My mother grabbed me by the arm and we ran.  One block, turn right, two blocks up a hill and we were at my grandmother’s.  I turned to my mother and told her that I didn’t care what she did, I was never going back there.  That was the last time we lived with my father.

God was definitely with us that day.  So many things could have happened differently.  He could have killed one or both of us.  This was far from the first time he hit my mother, although it was the first time he’d ever done so in front of me.  I believe God gave my mother a message through me that if we go back, we are not getting out again.  I was seven, the courage to stand up and try to defend my mother against this huge man…well, I can only imagine it was a divine gift.  That courage, that fighting spirit is still with me.

My father used to try to tell me that I didn’t remember that and it was a story “brainwashed” into me by my mother and grandmother in order to turn me against him.  It is beyond me why they even let him near me again.  But then again, at the time it was beyond me why my mother kept going back to him all those times before this day.  But this last day awoke a strength in me that most people never find.  And in the ensuing years, that strength is probably all the kept me sane and whole even though I didn’t know it at the time.

Unfortunately, I went from one hell to another.  But that is for another post.  Let it suffice to say that I found out exactly why my mother kept going back to the man who was capable of killing her as he was capable of taking his next breath.

My Father

My father never touched me sexually, in fact, he didn’t even hit me.  That was reserved for my mother, at least while I was small.  By the time I would have been in his crosshairs, we were gone for good.  He did plenty of other things to damage my fragile mind though.  The hell of it is, I think most of the things he did were an effort to be a good dad.  He just had a twisted way about it.

I can recall an incident, I was probably five or six but I could have been older, when he told me that if I ever wanted to see what a naked man looked like I should just ask him and he would show me.  I don’t know what led up to the incident, maybe I was curious and peeking into the bathroom or maybe it was just another one of his random moments of craziness.  This may not have affected me at all if it weren’t for my later sexual abuse by my grandfather.  It’s just something that always stuck in my mind and made me very uncomfortable.

As an adult with children, I can almost understand this incident.  We don’t parade around naked in front of our children, but if one walks in the room when I’m dressing I don’t rush to cover up and hide.  I spent so many years being ashamed of my body and thinking nudity was a sin that I refuse to hide anymore.  I don’t want my kids to grow up ashamed of their bodies: modest yes, ashamed no.  I would never offer to show my children my naked body, but if they walk in on me in the shower, well whatever.  I think that is the difference between a normal, forgettable childhood incident and one that creates a new scar.

Another time, I was somewhere between eleven and thirteen, my father was walking me home.  I was spending time with him at his mother’s on the weekends because to visit with me he had to be supervised.  During this walk, which shouldn’t have taken place, he decided to tell me all about my period.  Any fool could have seen I was uncomfortable with this, but he just kept talking.  Then he proceeded to tell me that I should never get pregnant just to trap a boy.  I hadn’t even had a real kiss yet, at least not one that counted.  Again, I guess he was trying to be a good dad or something, but the scars he left on me with that one conversation still burn.  I have a mother, I have a grandmother, I have aunts, I have cousins, and if all else failed I had the school nurse.  It was inappropriate at best, abuse at worst.

During another one of these “supervised” visits he decided to challenge me to hit him, to literally slap his face.  He was so sure he could block anything I threw at him.  I did not want to do it, but he goaded me and I was a child.  So, I slapped him.  His face turned beat red and he said he wasn’t ready and made me do it again.  After I hit him the second time he stalked away, I think to keep from pounding on me.  This was the catalyst that made me tell my mother that I didn’t want to “visit” him anymore and she couldn’t make me.

I was afraid of my father when I was a child.  I can remember hearing my mother and grandmother talk about him.  They always tried to keep it from me, but you know what they said about little pitchers.  He used to threaten to kidnap me and as a result I was trapped until I was almost 16.  I couldn’t go to the mall with the few friends I had.  One time I snuck out to an amusement park with two girlfriends and when I got back home at nine that night (I figured might as well give them something to really punish me for as I was getting it anyway) I was in serious trouble.  I had a three page list of chores for the next day and I grounded from even my gram’s for a long time.  All because of him.  I had nightmares when I was little that he climbed up to my bedroom window, cut the screen, and took me.  I would wake up screaming and finally refused to sleep anywhere near a window.

As an adult, I am no longer afraid of him.  Like most abusers, he’s a coward only preying on the weak and vulnerable.  He’s tried to terrorize me in my adulthood, but I have faced him down and I won.  Right after I moved out of my mom’s house he tried to come through my front door.  He was ranting and raving and basically going crazy.  My beautiful collie/shepherd was right there in front of me ready to rip his head off as I dialed 911.  When the police never showed up, I wrote an editorial for our local newspaper about the incident and he has kept his distance ever since.  He learned I wasn’t going to put up with his bullshit.  He can play crazy all he wants, but I know he’s not as crazy as he’d like everyone to think.

I can remember him beating our dogs with jump ropes and belts.  It didn’t matter what they did, if they pissed him off, they got it.  One time, one of our dogs was sick and had diarrhea all through the downstairs.  That poor dog was beat until he pissed all over himself.  Another time he jumped in between my father and mother while he was beating her.  Beau probably saved her life that night, but he couldn’t walk right for days.  My mother still says she wishes she’d have called the dog law officer and had them taken from him when we ran.  Shortly after we left, he killed one of the dogs.  He said that Travis took a ninja star for him and saved his life.  More likely Travis was going to rip his throat out after being beaten one too many time and he shot him.  He never could break Travis’s spirit.  Beau, on the other hand, was crippled before he died.  He couldn’t move his back legs independently of each other.  We saw him just before he died and he tried to run to the car to see us.  It still makes me sick to think of how he looked.  Broken.  I saw pain in his eyes that I felt all the way to my soul, pain that I shared because when we ran from one hell I entered another.  And I blame my father for that too.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

I can remember my father, who thought he was this great martial arts master, making me kick a tree until my legs were sore and I just wanted to cry.  I could swing nunchucks like a pro as a toddler, even had my own set.  It was red with white stripes.  I remember thinking it looked like candy canes.  I learned how to punch on a heavy bag that was three times my size before I learned how to ride a two-wheeler.  And even as fighting was programmed into me from the time I could walk, the fight response isn’t one that generally took control when I was being abused, except when I was fighting him personally.  I fought against my father with everything inside my young body.  I’m pretty sure that even as I loved him for being my father, I hated him with a passion that would have overwhelmed me had I acknowledged it.

My father had not yet turned physically violent with me at the time we left for good.  He’d tried to spank me once by putting me over his knee.  But I remember the fight or flight instinct taking over and as I couldn’t run, I fought him.  I squirmed and moved and he was unable to hold me still to even swat me one time.  I remember getting the better of him with great relish because I wasn’t afraid as much as I was determined he wasn’t going to do it. 

My intense fear of spiders came from his misguided stupidity in trying to get me over my fear.  It’s one of my first memories.  I was about five years old and anything with more than four legs and two eyes terrified me.  I can remember him telling me that they weren’t going to hurt me and holding my chubby little hand in a death grip while extending my arm.  He then grabbed the daddy-long-legs that was making me scream and put it on my bare arm.  He held me there until it reached my shoulder.  I don’t remember making a sound when he did that.  I was completely petrified, literally.  I could not move, I could not react, I could not fight.  Ever since even the smallest spider has sent me running.  I couldn’t even kill them.  THANKS FOR THE PHOBIA YOU FUCKING MANIAC!  I do want to note that since having children of my own I have battled this fear enough to kill spiders.  The damnable things aren’t getting near my babies.

Everyone Has Scars

I think the most often told lie is that someone had a great childhood.  I’m trying with my kids, but I know at some point (if I haven’t already) I’m going to screw up.  My only hope is that I don’t hurt them in ways that leave scars that fester like mine do.  If people were really honest though, I feel sure most would find that they have been abused emotionally if not physically and sexually.  The hell of it is, a good portion of the time it’s the people who should be taking care of us who are abusing us.

My abuse began as early as the womb, at least from what I’m told.  This wasn’t abuse directly aimed at me, but when someone is forcing pills down the throat of a pregnant fifteen year old girl…well the fetus inside her is not only getting the effects of the pills, but suffering from the emotional roller coaster she’s on as well.  It’s amazing I’m even alive.  My father, and I use the term loosely, was a brutal man who took advantage of and brutally abused a young girl who was an easy target because of sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather and the subsequent emotional abuse at the hands of her mother.  My mother was also given pills at an early age, uppers to help her be able to do housework or whatever, and then downers to make her sleep.  But, this isn’t about my mother, it’s about me.  So let is suffice to say that my mother was a child when she got pregnant with me and the abuse she suffered both before and during her pregnancy was a catalyst to my own abuse.  Her home life made her vulnerable to my father, a man almost five years older who had already been to jail, not to mention an habitual drug user and later discovered to be a paranoid schizophrenic.

My mother moved back home before I was born and was divorced by the time I was two.  That did not stop us from going back and forth between my father’s house and my grandparent’s house until I was seven.  We would live with my father until he beat my mother badly enough that she would run for her life and then when things started grinding on her at my grandparent’s house we would go back and start the cycle over again.  And while I don’t remember seeing or experiencing what she went through until the last day, I know that it effected me. 

 Thus my first scars, formed even before my first breath was drawn, grew as I grew until I feel like they’ve overtaken me.