Saturday, March 29, 2008

Families Don't Tell

You know, the strange thing about growing up in middle America in the 70s (or any decade, I imagine) is that families kept up this "air" about them.

Do you hear what they say on the rare occasion they catch a serial killer - like Jeffrey Dahmer for example - the neighbors. What do these serial killers neighbors say (almost always) about the accused?

"He was so quiet. Nobody had any problems with him... he seemed a little odd, but he kept to himself."

This is what it was like growing up with my family. My mom stayed at home with us kids.. who were "so well behaved" (yeah, we were in fear for our very existence, but hey.. that's alright) and we kept our house nice. While our family certainly wasn't anything like serial killers, we were like the good neighbors that never bothered anyone. Everyone around us thought my dad was a hard working family man. And he was... except for one small thing.

Don't tell.

He thought violence was the way to 'solve' things. Again, I don't think my dad is a 'bad' person... after all, he is my dad and I do love him. I know to some people that may sound weird, especially after you read some of my other experiences later on... but how can a child NOT love their parents? They are a part of you, whether you want them to be or not.

Don't tell.

Now, there was a time I would actually fantasize about 'getting revenge' for all the times he humiliated me, beat me and made me feel like I was worth about as much as a freshly stepped into pile of dog shit. In fact, as I was entering my teen years and the beatings got worse.. my brother and sister were pre-teen and we'd all gather in my room with a tape recorder and pretend to have a newscast.

Don't tell.

We'd talk about my dad and his latest rampage in the __________ household and how three children overtook him and had their day. Sad? Yeah.. it was. I'm almost ashamed we'd talk about it. Sitting around my room while he was driving and talk about how when he gets old and unable to walk, how we'd push him down the stairs in his wheelchair. My face is bright red now... talking about it. Even mentioning it has me shaking and it's hard to type. I believe I was 14, my brother was 11 and my sister was around 8 1/2. We were kids and yet we were 'planning' our fathers demise.

Don't tell - please don't tell.. you'll only make it worse!

I think all of us just wanted the senseless crap to end. We all agreed (as adults) that there were times we were on the receiving end of spankings and there were times we agreed - We deserved them! I mean, we were kids and we got into stuff we shouldn't have.. we lied about it.. and we were just generally non-compliant at times and so yes, there were times we believed we deserved what we got.

But not welts... not cuts.... not black eyes, bruises, joints that hurt so badly we couldn't literally sit for days...

I was tired of being told, "I wish you'd never been born!" and the many, many other derogatory things he used to say. I was tired of my mom... just standing there... pretending it'd all go away. She hardly ever said anything.

Don't tell.

My sister and I joked a few years ago about how when we'd see dad coming at us, we'd know to make our bodies go limp. That was so he didn't break anything. How weird now to think, that her and I laughed about something so traumatizing. And it was... this wasn't just a whipping gone bad.. this was a way of life. Until we all moved out - we thought that was how things were supposed to be.

How messed up is that?

Friday, March 28, 2008

I love them now - Ham and beans

While I'm not one to say that one thing is more horrible than another, I know that all experiences when lumped together, make a big picture. If that doesn't make sense, I apologize now for it's early and I'm trying to squeeze out a post before kids are up, before work and most importantly... before coffee. This could prove to be, less than enlightening.

Do you remember something your mom (or dad) fixed for dinner when you were a kid that you hated? I know I do, but on one occassion, that one thing turned into a week long ordeal.

I want to say that this to me, is one of those parental faux pas. Meaning, I really believe this is something that any parent could do in "punishment" or to prove a point... but perhaps NOT to this extreme. I myself, was blessed with a picky eater and while I may save something for another try for another meal... well... let's just say I wouldn't go this far.

Again, I was around 6 years of age and my mother had fixed ham and beans AND cornbread for dinner. I wasn't what I would have called a picky eater, for when you got really picky, you'd run into unwanted attention, so I tried to mind my p's and q's and just choke down whatever was presented because I didn't want the attention. I was perfectly happy to fade into nothingness.

Now, I had never had ham and beans before this. They smelled awful. I do remember that much. My mother placed a steaming bowl full of them in front of me at the table, alongside sat a wedge of cornbread with butter on it.

I kind of turned my nose up at it, just because of the smell. I twirled it around with my spoon and my father sat to my right and gave me the look of, "You had better eat that, or there will be hell to pay..." so I took a couple of spoonfuls and started eating.

Immediately, I started gagging and choking. I don't know if it was the thought or the smell? I still to this day, don't know what made me gag like that.. but I assure anyone reading this... it wasn't because I was trying to be a smartass. Although my father thought I was.

Apparently, to keep a person from choking on food, the Heimlich used to be performed by whacking someone upside the head. I got this 'treatment' three times. So now not only was I choking but I was crying AND choking and dropping beans from my mouth, one at a time. I remember the thought running through my head, "You'd better stop or he's going to get madder..."

I was right. The more I cried, the harder I got hit. Repeatedly.

Finally, my mother intervened and sent me to my room. I only remember lying down and wishing I could go live somewhere else.

Next thing I remember... I woke up and ran downstairs. I was starving!

What sat at my place at the table?

You guessed it.

Cold ham and beans. This time, with ketchup on it.

My stomach turned and I could feel the hot sting of tears rise up inside of my eyes.. although I was determined not to let one tear drop.

My dad sat there and instructed me to, "Sit your ass down and eat thos G.D. beans! You are NOT getting anything else to eat until those. G.D. beans are gone!"

It took me a week - 6 days - of gagging and choking to eat all those beans... and he was right. I didn't get anything else to eat until I finished them.

It's amazing to me now, that I can eat ham and beans. I will say that I was almost 30 years old before I could even entertain the idea of eating them....

Monday, March 24, 2008

The day I knew that I was different

It was a summer day. The only way I remember this, is because I was wearing a romper. It was my favorite.. red and white checks with little lady bugs on a big pocket across the front.

I am the eldest of three children. My brother, three years younger than me and my sister, three years younger than him. My sister was born in 1974 and was just a baby when this took place.

My mother never worked outside the home except on the rare occasion that she felt the need to have some pocket money or needed a break from us kids. I don't know if there were other reasons or not, I'm only making assumptions.

My parents struggled quite a bit when we were all little.. much as any other family with young children, I suppose. We never went to bed hungry, we were always clothed and we were never without a home. All the material things that a kid could want, we had.

The one thing we didn't have... was peace of mind. Affection either, for that matter.

On this particular summer day, the window AC was running really loudly in the dining room and my mother was frantically digging through the china hutch. It was directly on the other side of the dining room across from the AC unit.

I remember standing there watching her and staring at her long brown wisps of hair that had fallen out of her bun, floating around as if someone with invisible fingers were playing with them.

She slammed the top drawer shut, and then dumped her purse on the dining room table.. cursing. She started crying, flinging papers all over the table top, and some were falling to the floor. At that point, I wandered into the living room to play with this doll I had. It was a pretty cool doll... it stood as tall as me. When I took it's hands into mine and walked backwards, the doll 'walked' with me. I don't think I had named it, but I loved it just the same.

Next thing I know, my father comes in from working outside and I hear mumbled voices at first. Fighting. Soon, he was yelling at her and said something about some doctor bill. From what I could gather, he was very angry because they were looking for some canceled check or receipt or something along those lines.

My brother wandered in from his bedroom and my dad yelled at him to, "Get the hell out of here!" and he came running into me carrying some rubber toy......

Then, it happened.

My father rushed into the living room and asked my brother and I if we had seen a small box that had checks like this (he held up my mom's checkbook). I said no and my brother just shook his head.

Apparently, this isn't what my father wanted to hear. He charged at us, smacked my brother upside the head, knocking him to the floor, and then lifted me up by one arm and whaled into me like there was no tomorrow. There was my brother, laying on the floor, screaming bloody murder, my mother was screaming at my dad to 'leave them alone' and me, dangling by my wrist being hit repeatedly until he finally dropped me to the floor.

He asked again.

"Have you seen or did you take, a small box with checks in it like this!"

I whisper/cried, "No..." Instead of yanking me up this time he grabbed my doll.. the one I loved SO much, and he swung it around and broke it over my back. Broke it so badly, that the torso split in two, the head popped off and one leg went flying.

I felt like that damn doll looked. I often wondered what he'd done if MY head had popped off instead of that dolls head. I was so scared. I remember sobbing so hard that I couldn't breathe. I wanted to run away and I was laying there.. my back, head, legs, wrist and arms.. burning and stinging like mad. I couldn't figure out why he was so angry... and why my mom didn't DO anything.

Time went by and things are a bit fuzzy for me memory wise, but next thing I knew, my mom walks in and says she found it. My dad proceeds to bend down and give my brother a hug and tell him that he was sorry.


I sat there staring at him. Why was he sorry for hitting my brother, but he wasn't sorry for beating the shit out of me? Do you know what I was told by my mother later when I asked her, "Why did dad say sorry to **** and didn't say sorry to me?"

"You're the oldest. You have to be the example for your brother and sister."

That's the day I realized looking back, that at that moment, I knew I was different than my siblings.. and things for me while living under their roof, would never be peaceful for me.

The year was 1975 and I was six years old.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Precusor to my future posts

This blog was made with the intention of revealing some things about myself, that not many people know. It's not something I go around on every street corner and shout out loud. It is at times, shameful. I don't believe I feel that way because I somehow think some of these things were my fault - after all, I was just a child - but because to tell people family secrets is a huge no-no.

Like many, my childhood wasn't all peaches and cream. The stories that I will tell you however, I have told to a couple of important people in my life and they looked at me with bewilderment. I honestly thought some of the things myself and my siblings went through as kids... other people did too. To me, it was all 'normal' and the way it was supposed to be.

I just want to say that I'm not recording my thoughts and memories about my childhood because I think my parents are horrible people. They are not. Do I think they made mistakes in our upbringing - especially my father? Yes, I do. I know deep down that they did what they thought was right AND that that was the way they thought it was supposed to be.

That last part is important - the way they thought it was *supposed* to be.

I know several people have heard about 'breaking the cycle' and 'breaking the circle of violence'. This is *key*! If people don't recognize that there is an ongoing circle of violence, they will continue to perpetuate that same violence and generation after generation will think this is a normal way of living.

I love my parents. They had provided for myself and my siblings... but I do wish that when I confronted my mom years ago (going on probably 20 years ago now) about some of the things that had happened she would have just said something like, "I know.. and I'm really sorry. We were only doing what we thought was best." or even something like, "Yes... but we were young and had no patience..." Something other than the sarcastic 'answer' I was given.

It was denial and anger. Again. She didn't deny the couple of instances that I brought up, but she denied that any abuse ever occured. This was like a hard, stinging slap to the face. All I wanted... all I needed, was a, "I'm so sorry..." and I didn't even want/need an explanation!

Regardless, I am the person I am today because of the things in my life that have shaped me. In some ways, I'm a stronger person for what I've been through. In yet others, I'm insecure about almost everything I do.

Laying blame doesn't do any good... and that's not what I'm here for. I am trying to make sense of it all. I'm trying to heal myself on some level. A level of forgiveness. With a milestone quickly approaching, I feel the need to forgive (really forgive) is a must.....

Friday, March 21, 2008

How It All Began

My mother and my father were high school sweethearts and fell in love.

My fathers family was a well-to-do family and had a family 'name' that was recognizable upon uttering. My mother's family on the other hand, was a simple family and had roots in farming and country life.

When my father was just 19 years old, he proposed to my mother and asked her parents for her hand in marriage. My grandparents liked him from the beginning and gave their blessing readily.

His parents however, were against the idea. I actually didn't know all of this particular information until just about ten years ago, when my Aunt (my father's sister) let me know. Up until then... it had been one of those dirty family secrets.

My mother apparently, wasn't good enough for their son. Oh no. They needed someone more cultured, more wealthy, less likely to speak her mind.

So.. my parents being the strong willed people they are, decided that the only way they'd get everyone's blessing was if my mother wound up pregnant. My father was in the Marine Corps and this was during the Vietnam War- he, a high school graduate of 1966 and my mother, an up and coming graduate of 1968. Social upheaval ruled the day and they did what they felt was the right thing to do for the time.

In April of 1968, they were married and two months after that, my mother graduated high school. My mother was 3 months pregnant with yours truly. I was born in October that same year.

Enter the life of me. The child that was wanted...

...but not really.

Secrets Revealed

No matter how much people may deny it, they have secrets.

Nobody can dig into your mind, unless you allow them in. I am willing to put some of my deepest buried secrets here for all to see.

This is an experiment to see how much of myself I'll be willing to reveal. I have secrets of my own some are good, some bad, ugly and some.... just plain unmentionable.

Until now.

Perhaps you'll feel compelled to share some of your secrets with me and purge yourself of some of the things that are weighing you down emotionally.