Monday, August 8, 2011
Why is childhood so important? Many will say just let it go, don't go back! I really didn't think there was a need to. While many may not think the lives of five children that lived many years ago is so important. Why write a story that psychologist and psychiatrist believed was made up, who would believe it? Why write about it in the first place? I thought the best thing was the old adage" let sleeping dogs lie." But here is why it is so important when you are a child, those early years lay the foundation to who you are as an adult. It doesn't mean that it rules your life, but truthfully when you need to turn to something you have what you have been given in the tool chest of survival.
It would seem that this is not a story of secrets,for as many people who deny that children could have lived through such a life, it was well documented. Why didn't the community help? Where was the extended family? There are pages upon pages documented. The police had been summoned to our home more often than not. I hated the sounds of the sirens and the craziness that was called childhood. How far back does the mind drift. Articles in the newspaper documented many of the stories. Upon my fathers death, the articles surfaced and the story goes on. So it is not some big secret, the newspaper people were aware, the radio people were aware, the police were called in so many times surely they knew children lived there. What was it written off as ? attempted suicide, assault, domestic abuse, mental health. I am not sure what outsiders saw when looking in. It was that we didn't have the usual signs of child abuse. We were educated, dressed clean, the house was scrubbed. Yet other people knew school teachers knew, school psychologist knew. One even reached out to help the youngest sister, but golly gee they needed the signature of the abusers to give a child help. Now that makes little sense, you ask approval to help a child who is not flourishing in a abusive home.
Why do children protect their abuser? One is they are taught well to hide the truth. But this wasn't the case most of the truth was documented in the media. On the other hand " silence is golden" and fear strikes a dagger that pierces the heart and soul. The best way to end up beaten and bruised was to speak about it.
I could only go back as far as the years I was placed here on earth, so I turned to my eldest sister to fill in some of the early years. She had extraordinary responsibilities placed on her. She filled the position of cook and mom , big sister. There is a strange connection because though we all lived it, we didn't speak about it even among ourselves. What was there to say? We all saw, experienced and felt it. As children we escaped the best way we could by pretending that we came from a semi normal family.
I looked back at the houses we lived in and I couldn't get past the doors to the homes. Virgin way has now been replaced by a new highway and all I can really remember is the yard. It was fenced in and Morning Glories grew along the fence. It was here where things escalated, my father lost his job, the house was taken for back taxes and until all was said and done, we would have little food, no gas or electricity and everything we had would be left behind.
I was honestly to young to remember the first time my mother attempted suicide. I am not even sure it was the first time, it was the most memorable occasion as it did hit the nightly news and the papers. Life was spiraling quickly out of control My father refused to return to work as he said he couldn't deal with the embarrassment of his wife jumping off the 16 th street bridge. But did it ever occurr to him what his own children were going through at school. They had to face the name calling and the awful way children can be to one another. I think that is why Lex became the fighter. Little in stature, she threw a mean punch. She fought to protect any dignity as she protected us anyway she could. Her Childhood was being stripped from her, more so then the rest of us, as she was the oldest. Domestic and child abuse is unlike any other situation in that it is repeated so often that it becomes ingrained within, like a blue print to your soul. There wasn't a day that we didn't look into our mothers eyes to see what we were in for that day. I have lost track of how many times she attempted to murder my father. She shot at him, she stabbed in with a butcher knife in the back and again in the stomach, she went after him with a hatchet, she broke his head open with I am not sure with what. Fear it was our first platform in which to launch into life. Had she succeeded in killing him or herself, the story would have been over before it had a chance to start. But it wasn't over, it happened over and over again from childhood on. The more aggressive my mother was with my father the more aggressive he was with the children.
I can't remember inside the houses we lived. I don't know why. Even when I close my eyes I can only get as far as the doors. We were moving every year a new house. I can't see beyond the doors, can't see the walls or the rooms. It is as if I can't open the doors to the houses. Like I cut those years out of my memories. It was almost as if this was the norm and we learned how to survive each day. I am not sure the physical wounds are serious as the emotional wounds. Barriers and walls were being built, ones that would limit and control our destiny. Though my sister would tell the stories of theft for food, going hungry and sewing clothes out of rags. Those responsibilities did not fall on me. I think it is rather odd that we learn to balance both the insanity in which we lived with our need to fit into the real world. As I try to understand the position of each sibling, I find myself drifting back to my own view of this hell that had been built here on earth. I try desperately to remember what went on in those houses, but it is as if those ten years of my life had been cut from my memory. Everything that is that behind those doors. There are situations as a young person I do remember, but they all seem to occur in the streets or in the school, where we found our greatest escape. I was seven years old and I walked half way home from school with another classmate. She was always so nice and obviously smart. She asked me one day, " why do you shake so bad? " I shrugged my shoulders, as I really didn't know why I shook so badly. Bad enough that it was drawn to the attention of my teachers. I do remember being sent to the principals office, it was a woman, older a little on the heavy side. She turned to the woman at the desk get her parents on the phone. We had no telephone and so she pinned a note to my dress. I remember the dress it was a cotton with a pattern of squares in colors of dark purple, gold and with a white peter pan collar. My shoes were always the same, black and white oxfords. I can remember details of what I had on that day and I can remember walking home , but I can't for the life of me see open the doors and see inside the house. I wanted to fill in the void, the missing parts of my life and to this day I cannot. It is almost as if my life began at ten years of age. Not be cause life was better at that point, maybe it was that I learned to live in the dysfunction or that it was the first time I was in a house for more than one year. I keep going over and over the places in my mind and I find it disturbing that all I can see existed how side of the houses where we lived. I can see the river, I spent allot of time down there. Playing outside, going to the park, school, church, I can remember everything to a point. It was always cold and I remember throwing the blanket over my head, listening to screaming and crying and the destruction. I don't see it but I can hear it. I am afraid to move and even more afraid to look. I think it is a frightening time, my brother is gone he joined the military and my older sisters ran away. It only leaves me and my baby sister. I sit here and as I type the words I literally try to open the doors with my mind. To enter a place where I have not been for ever fifty years. I felt I needed to do this as my life now parallels with the past. In order to understand where I am now, I must remember where I have been. My eldest sister said that I was magnificent at blocking out what was going on around me. Did I block it out or did I see and hear more than any child should? Lex tells her version of being so bruised that in the summer she had to wear heavy winter tights so that when she put on her blue gym suit no one would see the bruising. Lex being the oldest knows more about me than anyone . She said I was very sickly as a baby and that she was so afraid I was going to die. I had most childhood diseases, whooping cough, chicken pox and measles well before I was a year old. My father who was the disciplinarian as well as the caretaker was also the abuser. I think that sends mixed signals. The man who cares for you, feeds you is the same one who strikes fear. Lex said that father walked the floors all night with me, because I could not breathe nor stop from choking. She said he was sure I would die. How does one hurt the person or people they deem to love? I am confused by this. As I think back to as far as I can remember, I knew that it wasn't right. I think I learned to day dream early in life, it was away of escaping. You can go anywhere your mind will let you. With my eyes closed, I went to the birds and the flowers and the trees, that is where I was free from fear. There was nothing that could be found to hurt you there. nothing. I don't know who I am or why I am here. I do know that I love the sound of the train humming. I wish it could last forever, because the noise brings silence to the fighting, the breaking of glass and to the pain.
Lex is not here to care for me, she is not here to take me away. I am sent to live with my aunt. I don't know how long I am there. I remember that she had a nice bed, clean and pretty with big fluffy pillows. I know not to touch anything to look but not touch. This is a lonely time for me , my family is not around me, my baby sister is not here. I feel lost, empty and frightened in another way, not for my life. I feel like I will never see them again. I know it is winter close to the holiday, but I don't think there was a Santa Claus or a Christmas tree.
I feel agitated, why am I here and why do people now want to know about an abusive family? I believe I can't change the present until I accept the past. I thought to myself how can this make me stronger? What good can come from this. I want and don't to unlock the doors of the past, for they are walls of blood. I am troubled as the woman who I call mother, was and is capable of murder. I was reading the newspaper at an insane person who opened fire and killed innocent people, what makes her different. She destroyed so many lives and she refuses to take responsibility. She must know how she altered lives. I don't feel so forgiving, I know she was ill but I still cannot find total forgiveness. This was our destiny and she rerouted the path in which we traveled. She lined it with fear and I have learned fear so very well. I want to love her and I hate her. In church we are taught to forgive but I am afraid forgiveness will take down the shield and reveal the vulnerability and she will take advantage of that.