Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Solitary Confinement

    My mother's plan worked.  The Army called my father onto the carpet and he came back to her. Everything had a price and that wonderful, carefree Summer's bill had come due, My father imposed new rules. I was to stay in my room. My brother would bring me my meals, I could only leave to use the bathroom across the hall and to go to school. And more importantly, most cruelly, no one was to speak to me, for three months. So it was. I stayed alone, heartbroken and more buried in myself than ever. My mother in her own way of helping me deal with things, knocked on my door and handed me a pile of paperbacks. A stack of used "bodice rippers. Not the reading material for most eleven year olds, I am sure. I stuck them in the back of my closet and spent my time drawing and praying to a God my parent's didn't believe in. It to help me. We lived in an apartment on the forth floor. I remember standing at my window looking down at the cement trying to screw up my courage enough to jump. There was a small grate on the window, but I could easily get over that. Somehow, I couldn't do it. Whether it was out of fear or hope I cannot say.

   I don't know if you believe in God, but I do. I always did. I don't know where I first heard of him, but I did.  I remember someone coming to our door, I must have been five or six, wanting to talk about God, and to see if we were saved. My Father was short and to the point "Go the fuck away, we aren't interested."  I was interested. I felt that they were part of a club that I wasn't good enough for.  I don't know why I thought that. I mean I was five, so my views on religion were pretty loose. But I wanted to be in that club. They seemed so good and clean and happy. I wanted what they had. And that goal gave me hope.

   Time passed, years and things got more complicated. Junior High lead to High School and a whole new world. My father got stationed in Texas and retired there. He got a job as a police officer in a small town, and then another. He couldn't seem to stay in any department very long. But he always found a smaller town in need of his services. He became angrier and meaner than ever. He was rougher with me, where before he had been coaxing, now he was aggressive and violent. I threw myself into school and I was good at it. I made friends and took extra classes. Anything to keep out of my Parent's home. I could see the time getting closer. I had been counting for a long time.  I wanted my own life and I knew I was going to have it. I became moody, and for the first time, mouthy. I dared my parents to hit me. I was openly defiant and it was thrilling. I reveled in it. And neither of them knew what to do with me. My mother tried to be friends, to talk it all out. I wouldn't let her in. My father, tried arguing and yelling. He rarely hit us anymore. My brother and I had both been treated for concussions by then time and I think that scared him.

   My freedom came early and it was SO simple. My mother was in the hospital having had back surgery. My father came after me as he always did. But something in me had changed. Maybe it was being fifteen, or having friends. I don't know really. I stood my ground, looked him in the eye and told him if he touched me again, I would call the cops. And everything changed,  I was free. He turned away from me, grabbed his keys and was gone. The next day while we were at school he moved his things out for good. Why hadn't I known tho,se words before? They were magical and I was safe.

  My mother was crushed and angry and she blamed me. She was vicious and mean spirited and none of it touched me. I stayed out with my friends, joined drill team and did all those things teenagers do. I felt normal. I fit in and I was not going to let her take that away from me. She found where his new girlfriend lived and went into her same diatribe about his violence and constant job changes and of course her ace in the hole, me. It did no good and she got madder. She called his job and then showed up there. No one listened. No one believed her. She was powerless to do anything to bring him back and she couldn't corral me either. And so, I felt, she having no further use for my brother and I, she left.
 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Call in the Military

  So, my mother's dream marriage was not all she had hoped, but she hung in there. And she utilized her own unique skills to hold her ground. I had no understanding of her words. She poured a small glass of white wine watered down for me. "To calm me down." And she attempted to explain the way of things now. I could not understand her. How could I, a slightly buzzed ten year old make sense of anything in my parent's world?  It seemed they were always imparted adult things on us which we could could not decipher the meaning of. This little snippet is indicative of discussions with my mother.  She had no boundaries. She would say the most bizarre, inappropriate things to justify her position, to exact her will. I think she believed what she said; every crazy word of it. This was the life we lived, my father visiting my room. My mother taking my brother and leaving me alone with him. It was a grueling existence, and then it got worse. I had never seen my parents argue, never a hint of a problem. My father's word was law, his whims, our reality. He a military man. A soldier. He ran a tight ship with a hard handed command.  We were in Germany, living on base, when something between my parents finally fractured. Our father moved out. Unlike that first abandonment years before,  this time it was wonderful. My brother and I had the best Summer of our young lives. We laughed and played. We were kids without fear. I slept through the night. We felt....FREE. Unfortunately, my mother wasn't having such a good time. She seemed to be livid.

  Her husband had a girlfriend. While she would put up with his dalliances at home, in choosing another woman, he had gone too far. There was talk of divorce. We were to be sent back to the states. I was filled with joy. For the first time I saw my way out. But of course, we had all under estimated my mother. She had a plan. First, she called the woman in question. A family friend with young daughters of her own. Who had come to holiday dinners my mother had labored over. My mother threw everything at her. His violence, his temper and of course his fondness for young girls.  If she was going to go down, it was going to be fighting. She put me on the phone and screamed "TELL HER! TELL HER WHAT YOUR FATHER DOES!" I don't remember what I said, I just remember that the woman hung up the phone. This was the beginning of the war of wills between my parents. We never saw him or talked to him during that time. He wasn't missed. My brother and I talked endlessly of going back home, of seeing our siblings, of visiting our grandparents, going back to a school we both loved. We were living in our own halcyon days. Carefree and light but oh, so fragile.

  Of course, my mother wasn't done, not by a long shot. She took us to dinner one night and then sent my brother to the neighbor's. Out came the wine "to calm me" she said as she poured. And then she laid out her plans. She explained we had to help my father, we were a family. She spent what seems like...hours, coaching me on what I was to say....she had made arrangements. The next day I was to go to the doctors. I was to talk to them; to tell them things she told me. Just the way she told me to. Not the truth...a watered down version of being fondled, only once or twice...nothing too serious.... Over and over she made me practice. Quizzed me and praised me for getting it right. This was honestly the most attention my mother had given me in my life and I wanted to get it right. And, I was scared OUT OF MY MIND. I didn't want to talk to strangers. I didn't want to say what happened.  I didn't want to have to try to remember lies. I can still, now relive so much of that appointment, the lady who checked me in asked if my tummy was okay. That was the rouse to get me past the front desk. I wanted to tell her my stomach didn't hurt. I wanted to go home, but instead I followed another woman into an exam room. She gave me a gown, a cloth one. Not those blue paper ones that they use now. I was cold and I didn't want to take off my under ware. My mother said I had to. Then the doctor came in. He had dark hair and eyes. He was very matter of fact, distant. He said we were going to do an exam and then we would talk. The same nurse who gave me the gown helped me up on the table, she put my feet in the stirrups, and told me to scoot down while she held my hand. I closed my eyes. I remember hoping for death.  After he was done he told me to put my clothes back on and he would talk to me. He stood on the other side of the curtain while I did as I was told. He said I was lucky. That I was still a virgin. That the "activity", that is what he called it "activity", was annal. I didn't know what a virgin was or what annal meant. But I knew I didn't feel lucky. The questions seemed to go on forever. The same ones over and over. I knew I was being tested. That I had to get it right. I was good at remembering things, learning to do as I was told. I told myself silently that I could do it, and I did. I got it all right. "No, my father did not hit me." "No he never threatened me." "Yes, it was only once or twice." "It happened when he was worried about being promoted." I had it by rote. In the end the doctor sat me down across from him with our knees almost touching and told me it was going to be alright. He said I was safe. That it was never going to happen again and then he put his hand on my knee. I didn't move. I stayed still. I wanted him not to touch me, but I wanted to believe him more. And that was when I tripped up. Where I got it wrong....I believed him. I really, really believed him.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mommy's little helper

  Please be aware this blog may contain triggers

 My mother didn't have an easy beginning. Her parents came out of the Depression and it never left them. She was the oldest of six children. Born to a woman who didn't seem to put much stock in  children and was a stern disciplinarian. She was often left to care for her siblings, which, as a result. When my mother was too young she became pregnant with my oldest sister.  This was in another time. Where her growing form was seen as an embarrassment. Not only to her parents, but to her sisters and brothers as well. I think it was her bid to escape...to be free of a harsh household that was suffocating to a budding teenager trying to find herself. I think she just wanted to breathe. It was a feeble attempt and an utter failure. She had three children by the time she was twenty. Her first marriage was short lived and she soon enough was right back to her parent's. No more free then when she left, but surely more broken.

  How she met my father, I don't know, but meet they did and soon they were a couple. Her dreams were answered. Here was a man who loved HER, who didn't mind that she had three children, in a time when such things were considered a stigma. Surely, this was the answer to her prayers. And I think, for a while it was. I don't know when she found out. I have no idea when her carefully constructed fantasy came crashing down. But I do know what she choose to do with the little shards that were left. She did nothing. She stood in the middle of the devastation of her children and closed her eyes.  I know other family members told her, at least two,  and still my mother stood her ground. Surrounded in rubble, she did not blink.

   I was born in the summer, two years after my parents were married. I have no early memories of my mother.  My sisters raised me and my younger brother, who came a year after me. My mother, like her mother before her, wasn't overly found of children. No matter what she has done and more likely not done, in this she has remained constant. It seemed to me as if her children represent the shackles she was burdened by and she resented us. My father was a sometime playmate. He would tickle me and tease, but you had to be careful. you never knew what his mood would bring. His violence was a mainstay in our home. They both had tempers, he would hit, she would yell and sometimes throw things in our general direction. I was often perplexed and constantly on guard. I learned to read, write and count by the time I was four. My father had a very special method and while I can't see any preschool adopting it. It worked wonders. He'd stand me in front of him and go through my numbers and letters and every time I got it right, he would move to the next one; very time I got one wrong, I would get hit. It was simple, just don't get it wrong. Children are eager learners and have a natural desire to please. I learned fast.

  When my sisters and brother left us, that's how I still think of it,  an abandonment. My brother and I were devastated. They packed their things and headed for the coast. With no warning, no explanation and we who had been five in the morning, were two by night. At four and five years of age, we couldn't possibly understand. It was like a death. I only saw them three or four more times in my childhood. We never had that bond that's shared when you lived in a war zone, trying to stay clear of the land minds. My brother and I were alone, and we felt it. I was now responsible for both of us. If my brother did something wrong, lord why was he ALWAYS doing SOMETHING wrong? I got the punishment, for letting it happen. I was mourning the lose of my family and trying to be what was expected, as much as a five year old can. Feeling pretty sad, really. But I had yet to learn the rules, the truth, the agreement between my Parents.  My father started visiting my room. At first it was fondling that left me full of fear and shame. Later, it would be worse. Shortly after the loss of my siblings, my mother started questioning me. This was odd in the very fact that she was speaking to me. Unless it was to give a command or to express her displeasure with the fact that we were still there...in her home, she ignored us. She really just wanted us to disappear and made it quite clear that our still existing was a disappointment.

  But talk to me she did, in private and with an urgency she would repeat for years to come. Did my father touch me? Did he ask me to do things...I was so frightened stuck between those two titans that ruled my world. I didn't tell, not yet. When she found my panties hidden and stained with her husband's mark, she asked again. I said nothing and she turned away. Things went on in this new arrangement which we three shared for years. For an eternity, for a childhood.

  When I was ten I broke down. I couldn't hold those secrets and pain in any more. I told. I told her everything. She said she would handle it. She told me about others and that it had happened before. That she had known it was going on, that I had lied to her. She said it in an accusatory way, like I had been stealing from her. That's exactly how my mother would come to treat me, as a rival, a thief. She held me responsible for what what happened between my father and myself and that was how it was to stay. I think she loved us, as much as she could. She just loved him more.

   No matter what the game you play to try to survive, it is important to know the rules. Just like with numbers and letters, I learned fast and played by the rules.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Things remembered, to be forgotten

Please be aware this material may contain triggers.        
This one is hard. I wrote it in 2007 and just discovered it on here. It gets better...it does. 

 

    My early memories of my father are pleasant enough, though I remember later, he was extremely violent with my older step-brother. I wasn't afraid of my father until I was five or so. Before that, he was playful. He would pull me into his lap and lay me across his knees, on my back, then lower his head to my tummy pretending to eat me for dinner. All the while tickling me and calling me a fish. Later, I remember being called into the living room to watch him punish my step-brother, who must have been about seven years to my own four then. My father would pick him up and throw him into walls; it didn't matter how compliant my brother was. My father kept this up until he tired himself out. I can't remember my brother ever doing anything wrong and as I would learn all too well later, my father didn't need a reason to hit us or at least not one that had to do with us. If he couldn't find a lighter, you could get a clap to the base of your skull, as could running out of cigarettes, dinner being served late or heavy traffic after work. I recall my mother's response to these episodes so well. She would go scooting past us down the hall and into her room waving some romance novel or another complaining of a headache. She completely gave us up to this man, who would one day, go to jail for molesting 6 little girls.  She carried her own demons and so she was no match for her husband's fury.

     I remember my father once threatening to pop my sister's head off one day in the car. All I could picture, being four or so,was how he would screw back on my Barbie's head every time it came off and being afraid for my Sister. I don't think I got hit a lot in the beginning, not like the others. Not until my mother gave up her three oldest children to their father, in an attempt to keep them safe. My younger brother and I did not know until they left that they had another Father, but we quickly decided we wanted one too. This did not go over well with my mother, who loved to scream like a demon, right before she threw something large and heavy at you. My mother had uncanny aim for someone who hated all forms of sports. Four and five year olds do not really recognize crazy when they see it in their parents. We just learned to duck a lot.

    Living with my parents was a crapshoot. One day I went from second youngest and the next I was the oldest, with no preamble or warning. There was a stern lecture about how we had gotten away with murder for long enough and we were going to start towing the line. Now, five year olds are very literal and I spent this entire recital trying to figure out who I could have murdered. I, of course had learned by then not to ask. All I knew was that half my family was now gone and I was somehow to blame. Children don't naturally take these things well and being new to first grade, I started the school year by wetting myself in class. That by the way, does not make things go better for you, in or out of the classroom. As a coping mechanism I don't recommend it. This coincided with my father's first visits to my then, nearly empty room. We three girls had shared one bedroom and sometimes one bed. I hated having my own room and would sneak into my younger brother's room, who was equally as lonely, now that our older brother was gone as well.

    When I was ten, my mother told me she sent my sisters away so they would not become pregnant. She said this as if this was done for their benefit, at great sacrifice to herself. It would never occur to her to leave the man who was sleeping with her thirteen and ten year old daughters. My mother  blamed them and later me, for my father's predilections. She felt we were trying to take her man from her, and by god she was not going to let that happen. We somehow were temptations and she was not pleased.

     It was hideous after my sisters left. I had to keep the house clean, watch my brother and try to deal with my father's "special" attention, which caused another kind of attention to be directed at me from my mother. Unfortunately, there was no spare father standing in the wings to send me to.You can see why a child might have an accident or two while trying to balance on a tight rope she is predetermined to fall from.