Saturday, July 28, 2012

Things Remembered

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 does. 

     My early memories of my father were pleasant enough. I knew he could be mean to my siblings but my child's mind couldn't process that yet.  I wasn't afraid of my father, not then. He was playful and kind to me,  always had time to fix my broken toys or place band-aids on skinned knees. That all changed the year I turned five, once I had seen who he really was, there was no going back. A once seen a monster cannot be unseen.  It was a normal thing to be called into the living room of our small 1950's house with its postage stamp size lot, to watch my father beat my half-brother, who must have been about seven years to my own four then. My father would pick him up and throw him into the walls. My brother would slump to the floor, laying as still and silent as he could, but It didn't matter how compliant he was. My father kept picking him up and throwing him until he tired himself out. Meanwhile, my other three siblings stood silent. We were powerless to do anything, to say anything that would change what was unfolding in front of us far too many times.  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 could mean a  clap to the base of your skull, as his running out of cigarettes could, dinner being served late or heavy traffic after work. Really, anything could be the impedance of a violent outburst. This highlighted my feelings of worthlessness and a sense of deep despair.

   I recall my mother's response my father's episodes well. She would scoot past her children, lined up like tin soldiers, awaiting a firing squad. She'd whisk down the hallway into her room, waving a romance novel and complaining of a headache. She completely gave us up to that man, who one day, would go to prison for molesting 6 little girls.  My mother carried her own demons.  She was no match for her husband's fury.

     I remember my father once threatening to pop my sister's head off and being four or so, was the way my Barbie's head came off and being afraid for my sister. I don't remember getting hit a lot in the beginning, not like the others. Not until my three oldest siblings went to live with their father.  My younger brother and I did not know until they left that they had another father, but we quickly decided we wanted one too. That did not go over well with my mother, she had a certain passion for raising her voice,  usually before she threw something large and heavy. It was a kind of early warning system. My mother had an 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.

    Living with my parents was a crapshoot. One day I was second youngest and the next I was the oldest, no preamble, no warning. Then came a stern lecture regarding the fact that we had gotten away with murder for long enough, now we were going to start towing the line. Now, at five years of age, I was very literal so spent the 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 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 temptresses, 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 from my mother. Unfortunately, there was no spare father standing in the wings to send me to. I can see now why a child might have an accident or two while trying to balance on a tightrope she is predetermined to fall from.

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