This is a story about me. My own personal experiences. You don’t have to agree and you don’t have to like what I write but it’s about how I see it and how I feel about it. I’m not looking for a psychoanalyst I just need to speak. The events that I am writing about are over forty years old yet they have affected the quality of my life down to this day. By all worldly standards, you could say that professionally I am a success; yet my mind is broken and my heart aches in a way that I cannot put into words. I’m not angry and I do not live my life wearing this on my sleeve but I am affected by my story each and every day. I hurt. I will not be able to put all of these thoughts down in one day so I will write each day until I have said it all. Maybe it will help put some of this to rest for me.
It was 1969 and I was lying upside on the little green triangular piece of sectional that had the gold shiny fabric sewn inside; just hanging upside down as I always did with my finger in my mouth watching black and white TV, the ABC Movie of the Week to be exact, with my brothers sitting up too close blocking my view. Things felt pretty quiet that night until suddenly I saw my mother sliding down the steps; fourteen beautifully polished wooden ones to be exact. The ones that brought me and my siblings so much joy when we played bump-a-link or dumb school on them. There she was and then I saw him, my father on top of her pounding her relentlessly in the face. The screams of all of us engulfed the room. I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe and that my ears were going to explode. The tears were burning my eyes and I was pulling my hair and stamping my feet in sheer terror. Why did “this” particular moment affect me so deeply?
My father made a habit of beating my mother. Like the time I was out back with her and she was hanging clothes and I asked her why she wore sunglasses all of the time and she said, “Because I want to.” But being five years old, I could see clearly under those glasses that her eyes were swollen black and blue yet I never questioned her again. This night was different. It was as if I could “understand” what was happening. My father was actually beating my mother. How could this be? I adored my father and as far as I could remember up until that very moment, he was a nice guy. This was the guy who took me out for ice cream and put up with my telling him, “Now don’t touch me because you got chocolate and if your hands are dirty then you’ll get me dirty.” This is the guy who would come home from his construction job every day dirty and dusty saying, “Where’s my girl?” and I would say, “Right here but you can’t touch me until you are clean, daddy.” You see, I was such a girl; a real girlie-girl and a perfectionist neat queen. I loved looking nice. I took pride in the dresses that my mother and father purchased for me and I enjoyed how my mother made me feel when she dressed me up so nice and clean. She spoke real nice to me when she dressed me and combed my hair. I appreciated her love and tender care so much.
Finally the police were there and I remember my father talking to his best friend who happened to be the police chief and then my father was gone. Not arrested just gone. I recall the dog turned up missing around the same time. Later on I realized that he had taken our pet from us. I found out that dad had moved out to live with some woman across town. I remember passing her small ugly shack each time the school bus rode by and crying all of the way to school. One morning, my mother woke us all up—there were four of us; all under seven years of age. She got us up out of the bed very early one morning. We piled up in the back lined up very neatly and fell asleep on one another. The car came to a stop and I heard her say “Get up and come on.” When I rose up I could see that we were in front of that ugly shack where my daddy lived. My mother beat the door with her fist, out comes the woman and my mother proceeds to assault her in front of us. I was paralyzed, not able to move my tongue, my feet, my thoughts frozen in that moment. My father emerges from the house into the doorway hardly clothed and he proceeds to assault my mother.
That day was a blur for me and to this day I cannot remember what transpired after that. I only remember that some time passed along. I’m not sure how much but my father started coming around again and boy was I happy. I remember cleaning up extra special every time that I knew that he was coming over. I remember one day I wanted everything to look extra nice so I cleaned the dining room table with Scotts Liquid Gold furniture polish and my dad being such a fine dresser came over in a pretty off-white suit and got his sleeves all dirty from the polish on the table. I don’t remember how mad he got but I remember being terrified that he was going to hurt me like he hurt my mother.
I started to see more and more of my father around that time and one day they sat us all down and told us that they were going to reconcile. I was about eight years old at this time and clearly remember shouting for joy and crying myself to sleep that my daddy was coming home. I couldn’t wait. I don’t remember praying and hoping for his return but I must have wanted it to happen badly because I was so happy when I heard the news.
It was a very nice fall day. I was outside playing neatly in my mud pies that I had made in my mothers pretty front yard when my mother’s sisters stormed the house. I didn’t know what was going on but I could sense that it was bad. I rushed into the house, ran up the stairs, and saw my mother convulsing on her bed. Dropping to my knees, I screamed hysterically. One of my aunts rushed to my side to comfort me and remove me from the house. I remember my legs going limp and my bladder releasing and this mumbling type of humming noise ringing in my ears. I saw the lights of the ambulance and watched as they wheeled her out of the house on a stretcher. I suddenly began to think of my baby sister—where is she? Where is my sister? She was so fragile and so little. I searched until I found her and when she saw me she smiled and I held her close to me. She did not have a clue what was happening but I took care of her.
Where did that ambulance take my mother? My mother was gone … was she coming back? Was she alive? What happened?