Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Getting to The Hard Stuff

In my previous post I talked about on of the most vivid memories I have of my father. It was not an easy memory to share, but it is my memory and my story to tell. Not anyone else's, so I persist and move on to the next vivid memory I have of my father.

I spoke before about my mother not having the strength to leave my father even though he was abusive. I don't know why that was, why do battered women stay in abusive relationships? It is not my question to answer, that is my mother's story and hers to tell. For me what stands out more is what it was that made her leave.

I don't know every detail, I don't know how she caught him, I am not sure why this night was any different than all the other drunken nights, except that I do know that my mother caught my father outright attempting to force himself on my sister. You have to understand that this was my father's daughter from a previous marriage, the age between my sisters and my mother was barely noticeable, but she was the wife and the step mother. She may have had a million reasons to stay through all of the hell. But on this night my father had crossed a line that she could not ignore. She had no option but to leave.

You will learn as this blog goes forward that my mother and I never had a seriously close relationship, as it goes boys cling to their mothers and girls to their fathers. I wouldn't say we hated each other, I wouldn't say we didn't get along, I would even say she showed some interest in my life once I was old enough to come and go and have a job. I will even go so far as to say my mother loved me and my sisters, the problem was that my father had beat the hell out of her for so long, that throughout my life that torture reflected on her parenting skills. They say abused women are drawn to abusers, and as a reflection of that her interest was never as clearly invested in my life as it was the lives of my brothers. Even having a clearly stronger bond with my brothers, my mother was in a position that she could not allow me, nor her step daughter to remain in a home where my father's wrath was not just physical abuse but sexual abuse as well.

I remember very little about that night but what I do remember is very clear. I remember my mother and brother holding my hand as I walked barefoot down a paved street. I don't recall where my little brother was. I want to say she was pregnant with him, but not too far along. This fact resulting in many family rumors over the years that my little brother was not my father's child.  Looking at my younger brother today, there is no doubt that he is my father's son.
I do remember not knowing where we were going, I remember my mother crying and I remember that we were walking and I remember that we ended up with a man who was in my life for a short time yet left a huge impact on me.

I also remember very clearly that the man who we ended up staying with took me to a store to buy me a dress and shoes. I recall wanting the same dress in many different colors, but my mother telling me that one was all I could have. I chose a yellow dress. I remember having that dress until I was 16 years old when it was lost in a house fire. I recall that man taking my brother and I to the park and pushing us on the swings. I clearly remember him teasing me about a birthmark that is in the center of my forehead and pretending to remove it with sand paper. I clearly see him even today in my child's mind. He was Mexican and he was the nicest man I had ever met. He worked hard and came home dirty every day.

I also remember the first time that I had to have a court ordered overnight stay with my father. I won't beat around the bush, it was my first experience with sexual abuse and every detail of it has staid with me my whole life.
  I will never forget my father's new home, if you can call an efficiency apartment a home. I remember it clearly. As you step in the door to the left was a kitchenette, to the right was his bed, straight ahead was the living area and a door to the restroom. We had barely arrived when my father packed us off to bed.  I remember that I was on the side of the bed closest to the door and my older brother was in bed next to me. As soon as I was in my night gown and in bed my father stepped out of the apartment and returned with another man. The man brought a pack of beer with him. The two men talked next to the bed, next to me, as if I had no clue that they were talking about me. The entire time they talked the man stroked my legs and tummy. After the deal was made the man handed over the beer and my father stood there drinking, chatting and watching as the man fondled and fingered me throughout the night. I was scared shitless and my brother was laying there wide eyed, as stiff and afraid as I was.

The next morning the moment we arrived home my brother blurted out about the man touching me and how our father allowed him to in exchange for a box of beer. My next clear memory was of me in a room on a hospital bed allowing a male doctor to examine me, it was the night before all over for me, in my mind he was touching me just like my father's friend had. I do not recall anyone comforting me, explaining why the doctor was touching me too or even holding my hand throughout the exam. I recall my mother and the man who had taken us in being furious. They didn't tell me why they were furious, they were just furious.

The next memory I have about this ordeal was me standing on steps outside the courthouse in my yellow dress listening to my mother and the man who saved us discuss how unfair it was that my father's friend had gotten away with what he had done because my brother and I were just to young to tell the judge. I also recall setting on the shoulders of the man who saved us as he promised me that the man would not go un punished. I sat there watching many other Mexican men beat the living shit out of my father's friend on the court house steps. I remember hearing my mother say the cops had arrived, and I clearly recall the cop watching my father's friend be beat on the courthouse steps and doing nothing about it.

I don't remember much else about that time except that the man who saved us, the man who's friends punished the bad guy died a few months later because some how the work he did, the work that brought him home dirty every night had made him sick. I do remember his name, I remember what he looked like, I remember how funny he could be and the yellow dress that I clung to for years after he was gone.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Starting Point

This is one of my first photographs, taken during a time when I didn't know better than to use my husband's copyright.
I found it fitting for Today's blog because I feel, much like my broken childhood,  I  could pick up any one of the rice pieces and find a starting point for the telling of my life.
I will however go back to the beginning as I remember it, with the very man who I have always felt was at the root of my dark childhood, my father. In my first post I mentioned my dad, the man I call dad was in fact my step father, in this post I am talking about my birth father.
I have only a few clear memories of my father during my younger years, they are vivid memories as seen and lived though a child's eyes. They are my memories and my story as I remember it. There may be those in my life that would challenge my story, but then perceptions differ per person and this is how I remember my early years of life.
One of my most vivid memories of my father is set in an old ran down trailer home located on a corner lot in Madill OK. I have no idea why he was mad, I have no idea what the fight was about or how it started, what I do know is it was dark outside, my older brother and I were playing in the front yard because we couldn't go inside the house. I know that I didn't hear most of it even though the door was open and my mother was laying in the door way with her bloody head hanging out onto the concrete steps.  She was begging us to stop the cop as he drove by. I didn't see the rest, I didn't hear the rest because rather than listen I spun in circles and sang as loud as I could. Maybe to block out the drunken rage, the fighting, and screaming and the abuse that for some reason didn't seem out of the ordinary to me. I saw the cop drive by, I did hear my mother begging us to stop him and I heard my father telling us to stay out of it. I don't know what made him stop, I don't know how my mother survived it, I don't know what took place after that moment that the cop drove past my brother and I as I spun in circles singing and ignoring my mother's plea for help. I was not yet old enough to attend school and I was not nearly old enough to defend myself or anyone from an angry, mean drunk man who had no respect for his wife or his children. All I know is that I was in that yard, in the dark, barefoot, spinning and singing some children's tune for a really long time, my brother was there but I have no idea if he stopped the cop or not. I know that I would catch glimpses of my mother's head dangling from the door and blood spilling out onto the steps, those moments when I would see her the world would slow down and I would see her for a really long time. I also know without a doubt that this was not the first nor the last beating my mother received from my father. I also know that as bad as it was she chose to stay, she was not strong enough to leave, that strength would come later when my father crossed lines that my mother could not ignore or accept. But on the night of this vivid memory, she was not strong enough to do more than beg him to stop and beg us to ask a cop for help.
At one time my oldest sister didn't speak to me for a long time because in my Yahoo  360 Blog I said that I grew up white trash. I love my sister and I know if she ever reads this blog she is very unlikely to understand my need to publically tell my own story, then again maybe she will. Either way this is my story and I need to tell it as I believe it to be.
Later I will talk about my dad, and the life I hade after he came into it, but for now just know that for all of my adult life when roots are discussed I always say my roots are in Arkansas at the end of a dirt road lined with the members of my dad's  family, this is partly true as my dad and his family helped shape the adult I became, but the truth is my roots run deep in pure bred white trash. Any time a man is willing to beat his wife, beat her until all she can do is lay in the floor bleeding and begging her small children for help, any time a man is willing to do this with his children watching, there are many names I could call him, but the truth is he is nothing more than white trash. I am his daughter and that means I am a product of white trash. It is a label that I was once ashamed of, a label that I hid from and later in my late 20's I used as a tool to force myself to be strong enough and to push myself to work hard enough to ensure that my children would never wear this label.  It helped me become strong, it gave me a reason to push myself, it is in my roots, I accept that, but I will never like it or allow it to be a part of my current life, or the life that my children live.

The Day Before You

This morning I set in my bed, next to my husband who is not fully asleep. I know this because he is facing me and not snoring. But I feel a need to write about him, the life we have, how we got to this point and where we will go from here. So, knowing he will read this at some point, I decide it is our life but it is also my life. At this moment I am going to take my first steps onto the path of selfishness and begin to publicly share my life, that I am in charge of, without regard for his opinion.

One may find it unfair and selfish of me to air our life from my view point with no concern about his feelings. I will say simply this... in our 7 years of marriage, he may feel that I have been difficult, he really can say what ever he feels, but reality in my eyes is that I have rarely been selfish nor have I put my wants or needs above my family very often, but today I am writing again for the first time in years and I intend to do so as honestly as I possibly can.

My first thoughts for this blog stem from a lot of soul searching, recent honest discussions, heart breaking realities and looking back that has taken place in my life recently.

Looking at the person I was only seven or eight years ago compared to the me of today has been difficult, but necessary.  The day I met my husband I was a single mother who had recently accepted that I could not force people who had chosen to exit my life to stay or appreciate how much I did love them.  with the long road to that revelation had came changes within me. I had a nice strong wall, a heart that questioned and guarded everything, but I still believed there were good people in the world, I felt safe in my bubble, even with my x trying to pop it any chance he came upon. I had confidence that I could do anything I wanted to. I felt strong and able to live my life with my daughters on my own and go to college and survive this world whole and happy. I was a part time soldier, a mother and a student. I was strong enough to do all of this while working full time and dealing with some deployment related health issues. I was smart, strong, confident and mostly happy.

Part of my feeling good about who I was came from all the things I have talked about already, but part of my self worth came from my ability to close the door on my childhood and build a life where my children would never know about, hear about or realize the true nature of the things I had dealt with in my childhood. They would only know about the good things.... my dad who became my dad when I was in second grade, living on a dirt road surrounded by his family, working at young ages, go-carts, fishing, four wheelers, bullfrogs  and blackberries growing wild near my home.

Those are the things I would carefully select and share with my children, I would leave out a long dark past full of drunken rages, kidnappings, child molesters and white trash memories. I had already made sure my daughters would only ever know the good. The bad was off limits to them and I assured this by closing the bad up in it's own dark little place, putting a lot of distance between me and any link to that part of my life  and leaving it in the past. For my ability to do that I was strong and proud.

I cracked open that heavy door only once, because I had to in order to do the right thing for a child who needed protecting. In the process I shared a few bits of information with only two people, a DHS case worker, and the one person that I trusted beyond anyone else in my life. Now, eight years later the one person that I trusted to keep the few secrets that they knew has ripped that door wide open and spilled the contents out for his friends to play with. This blog will be my attempt to put my secrets out in the open so that never again will anyone be able to use them against me. It will be my attempt to work through the loss of my strength, my pride, my security and my white trash roots that until now have always served in making me a stronger person.

As of today, no one will be in charge of keeping my secrets or exposing my history, because I am in charge of my life. I will put my life out there on my terms and in my viewpoint, no one else has a right to play with my pain or secrets, I am taking charge of my own telling.

I hope that somewhere along the way some person who is struggling with their own closet full of memories will find a grain of hope for their future by reading about my fight to regain control of my life.