A while back, I started to write about the disaster of my marriage. I stopped. I didn’t know why. Now, I think I do: the end didn’t start there, it was just an easier (more socially acceptable) place to start.
I don’t like to remember my childhood because there weren’t too many “good” moments, and for some reason, the truly painful ones are the memories that stick with me. My parents divorced when I was three, after that, my mom, brother and I moved in with aunt and uncle in Colorado. My mom met the man who became my dad and they were married after knowing each other a few months. (He was a friend of my uncle’s).
My biological dad didn’t have much to do with my brother or me. When I was five, he was going to have us stay with him and his new family for a weekend and I was scared (crying hysterically) because I’d never been away from my mom. They stopped the car and let me out, and my brother went for the weekend. As months and years went by, I regretted my “being a baby” and said I would go if he asked again, but he never did. I made a comment to my mom once that I missed dad. I was young, maybe 6 or 7. She snapped back, “You can’t miss him; you don’t even know him.” The harshness of her tone caught me off-guard and I learned to keep that stuff inside.
My mom and my new dad fought a lot. In my house “go to hell” was like a term of endearment. I never liked loud noises. My aunt told me that when I was little, I would cover my ears and cry every time an ambulance siren went by. So, imagine the anxiety I felt when doors were slammed so hard, door jams came loose, heavy wooden tables were thrown, or I saw my dad pin my mom against the wall with his hand around her throat. I was terrified.
School wasn’t any better. I was extremely shy and an easy target for bullies. No matter how much I tried to be invisible, they would find me. There’s the stupid saying that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” That is a total lie – a physical beating would’ve been a relief. I have always liked cats, and one day, I wore a button with a lion on it and it said something about pride. Tracy pulled at the button and said “what pride” and they started laughing. One day, I tried to stand up for myself when they told me to move, they wanted to sit where I was sitting at the lunch table. I said “no”. They picked me up and moved me to the floor. It was humiliating. Even worse, were the times people would be nice to me and act like my friends, only to take advantage of me (get me to do homework for them, steal my necklaces during hopscotch games, etc.).
But this wasn’t the half of it. The worst betrayal came from my own family. I’m told that when I was little, I adored my older brother. I would follow him everywhere and looked up to him. When I was six my brother started touching me, and having me touch him. I probably knew it was wrong, but I trusted him. I don’t remember a lot of the details, I blocked all that out, but I remember it was ongoing- until my parents found out. My mom told me she was ashamed of me and disappointed in me. She told me my aunt and uncle were thinking of adopting a child, but after this, they didn’t know if they wanted kids. (I was horrified that she told them, and that I was so terrible they wouldn’t want kids.)
Every time my parents left the house, they told us to “behave” and that would make me feel disgusted all over again. I spent a lot of time alone in my room. I created imaginary worlds that were much better to live in. A lot of scenarios that played out like a Disney movie- where someone would find me beautiful and rescue me.
When I was nine, I was befriended by a girl who was a year older. I was happy to actually have a friend. I’m not sure how long we spent time together, but I remember the day that stopped. I was at her house and we were having a contest to see who could blow the biggest bubble (Hubba Bubba banana bubble gum). I’m not sure if I won, but my bubble was so big that when it popped, it covered my face, my glasses and got stuck in my hair. Diane took my glasses and and went to the bathroom to clean them. Her dad picked at the gum in my hair and told me it was going to be okay. He was overly soothing – I wasn’t that upset. He sat me on his lap with my back to him and wrapped his arm around my waist. I tried to get up but he held me tighter and put his hand where he shouldn’t, quite firmly. I tried to get out of his grasp and I couldn’t. Then Diane walked in. She paused and didn’t say anything. Her dad let me go and I grabbed my glasses and ran out of the house and never went back.
I told the neighborhood girls what happened and warned them not to go to Diane’s house. They laughed at me and told me I was lying and that I only wished it had happened. I didn’t tell my parents because they were so disgusted with me before, I knew it would be worse if they knew it happened again. I was sure there was something wrong with me because now it happened twice, with two different people. And no one could ever know.
My brother didn’t touch me for six years, that I know of. (Years earlier, I started wearing 2-piece pajamas instead of nightshirts because sometimes I would wake up uncovered with my nightshirt up and I didn’t want to be exposed. I still wear 2-piece pajamas to this day!) That lasted until I was 12. My uncle was in town and invited us to swim at his hotel. My parents and uncle were in the hot tub and my brother and I were in the pool. I don’t remember what led up to it, but he said, “what would you do if I did this” and he grabbed my crotch. I screamed “no!” and backed away. The adults all looked over and my mom asked what was going on. I panicked and said “don’t dunk me!” I didn’t want to disappoint them again. At that point, I wondered if maybe I wasn’t a restless sleeper, but maybe he was looking at me. That thought unnerved me, and I told myself I was being paranoid.
Needless to say, my brother and I aren’t close. Sometimes my mom will try to guilt me by saying things like, “I wish you guys were close and we were a real family,” or “I don’t think I’ll do holiday gatherings anymore since no one talks to each other.”
Seriously? It’s like no one remembers what happened. Sometimes it makes me feel crazy like I imagined it all. When he had his first daughter, my parents were all excited to have a grand-daughter among all the grandsons. I was freaking out. Was I the only one that thought having a young girl in his house was a bad idea? Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I have forced myself to make small talk and pretend like life is just great. I have tried to give her that. In reading the book the therapist gave me, I see my family role as “peace-maker”. But this was at a cost to me. This role led to more misplaced trust and bad choices, which I will write about later.
Jesus said to him, no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God –Luke 9:62