15 October 2004

Deeper Into Darkness

"I shall despair. There is no creature loves me; And if I die no soul will pity me: And wherefore should they, since that I myself Find in myself no pity to myself." ~ William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), Richard III, V.iii

The summer I was ten, things were unravelling quickly in my life. I had become fearful of leaving my house because I thought I might be able to intervene if my father became violent. Sometimes I seemed to be able to stop things, but I'm no longer certain whether that was just a delusion. I know that I came to a great realization that year which forever altered my relationship with my father.

Ever since I could remember, my father would, from time to time, start talking to me about "my poor old daddy" who was going to die alone. It always broke my heart; I could never tolerate other people's suffering. He made me cry for him every time. The summer I was then, I finally realized that he actually liked making me cry. I think, in addition to being a sadist, seeing me cry for him made him feel loved. Once i understood the dynamic, I never cried for him again. I started to harden my heart.

I spent a lot of time outside in the summer, trying to escape from the threat of violence against me or my mom. There was a girl, India, who rode her bicycle around the block where we lived. She was a couple of years older than I. My father started to hound me about getting to know this girl. I didn't see much point in it. She was too old to be of interest to me and I didn't really like the idea of my dad choosing my friends. Finally, I gave in to his badgering. I don't recall how much time I spent with her until she became my father's friend. He started out by telling me I should feel sorry for this girl because she had a bad homelife. (Even now that strikes me as hysterically funny.)

Slowly but surely, he groomed her until at some point they had intercourse. My mother saw it all happening and didn't like it, but she was powerless to do much about it. Complaints were bound to result in terror. I remember I started to hate this girl really quickly. That didn't matter, though, because she had long since ceased to hang out with me. It's interesting how angry this still makes me. I can barely tolerate writing about it.

As summer ground to a close, she was practically living at my house. I felt abandoned and angry. not being really clear about the sexual aspect of the relationship, all if felt was that my dad was choosing someone else over me. Not all that unusual, really; he frequently made unfavorable comparisons between me and other kids I should "feel sorry" for.

I got ready to start the fifth grade, sinking into despair. One of my favorite songs was "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying." Even today when I hear it, it makes me want to cry for the little girl who was so abandoned. I had a diary at the time and I wrote a lot about my sadness. I don't know who read the diary, but my father was the person who confronted me about it. He was angry. He called me in to the bathroom where he was taking a dump and asked me if I was crazy. What can one say to that when one is 10? I said no. He told me he thought he might have to have me locked up because it sounded to him like I was crazy.

Like so many of the stories in my life, I no longer remember exactly how the evening ended. I never kept a diary or journal again until now.

14 October 2004

Just the Dreary Facts...Even More

"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."~ Theodore Hesburgh

I remember very little of the fourth grade. I recall being at school still when the news arrived that John Kennedy had been shot. I was cleaning the blackboard for my teacher; I always tried to develop caring relationships with all of my teachers. I suppose I recognized the need for more nurturing in my life. My mom's attention was becoming more and more consumed by my father's insanity.

My teacher sent me home and I think I was a little dazed. Later, I grieved for the family he left behind. I also had some firm belief that I was somehow responsible for it. My birthday is in November, but there was no particular reason to take resonsibility for the tragedy, other than that it seemed I was behind all of the tragedies happening around me constantly. When it became clear that I would have to be home for some time, I was really miserable. At that point, any escape from my home was a blessing...even if it only meant going to school.

When i spoke earlier of my father's insanity, I was referring to an actual psychiatric illness, although I couldn't have known that at the time. I could identify crazy behavior, but my only real knowledge of mental illness was related to my father's sister who had been institutionalized more than once. My father seemed to like to believe that my aunt was just faking it or maybe that she just refused to pull herself together and get on with things. Whenever I did something he didn't like, he always threatened to institutionalize me. I wasn't sure what that meant, but it didn't sound good.

much later in my life, I found out that my father was actively psychotic for most of my childhood. I used to believe he suffered from schizophrenia, but it's more likely that he had some schizo-affective disorder. Psychosis explains his firm belief at some point around this time that my mother was trying to kill him by putting glass in his food. She wasn't, of course, but no one could have blamed her if she had.

My mom had a job at that time and my father believed she was having an affair. My mother would never have had an affair. After being with my dad, no one would wish to embark on another relationship with a man. So he got to torture her for that. I remember one weekend things got really scary. He was making my mom drink alcohol. My mom didn't drink; she was also a tiny person at the time, around 5'3" tall and 103 pounds. A little aochol went a long way with her. He made her drink, beat her, made her drink, beat her. It went on all weekend. He reassured me there was no reason to be afraid. Right. Then there was the glass in the food incident. That may have lasted an entire weekend, too, but all of this tends to run together after a while. More later. I've just reached my emotional limit.

13 October 2004

He Loves Me Anyway

"If [man] is not to stifle his human feelings, he must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals." ~ Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German metaphysician & transcendental philosopher

It's been a really hard day. I spent most of it dealing with the (previously) feral kitties at my office. I got one of them back this afternoon (Cary) and, though I was fearful he'd reject me because I betrayed his trust, he loves me anyway. Jonathan is spending the night at my vet's office after being neutered. Owner and I managed to grab five of the six baby kitties and I delivered them to his vet to be vaccinated, treated (if need be) and given away (we hope). It's all been so stressful and traumatizing--as much for them as for me. I have a few kitty-inflicted wounds, but none too serious.

Tonight's the final debate, so i guess I'll need to work out while watching. Luckily, this is a weight night, which is much easier to do when I'm listening to the television.

I don't really have the time or energy to write more, but I wanted to make a note of how the day went.

12 October 2004

Just the Facts, Part 2

"Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it."~Michel de Montaigne (1533 - 1592)

In the third grade, violence in my home escalated. My paternal grandmother was staying with us for a while...I think primarily to act as a babysitter for me. My mom must have had a job then. One of the very worst things that ever happened to me occurred then. I was out driving somewhere with my mom and we got into a traffic accident. It wasn't my mom's fault...not that that mattered much. The front of the car was kind of crunched in, as far as I can remember, and we were able to drive it home. My mom let me play in the car, since it was clearly going nowhere. I remember turning on the turn signals.

My dad came home and things went rapidly downhill. He liked to beat up people over a period of time. It could go on for hours. I think this was one of those times. My clearest memory is when the violence went outside. My father had a butcher knife and was straddled on top of my mother, who was on the ground. I was absolutely hysterical. I tried to get my grandmother to intervene, but she just sad there in the living room. It was left up to me to try to stop my father from killing my mom. I was nine. I managed to get my courage up and went outside and stood there, begging my dad to stop. He kept yelling at me to go inside. I think I did go inside for a few minutes, once again trying to enlist my grandmother's help. Nothing. I know I went out again and my dad threatened me.

Just another ptsd memory snippet. I don't remember how it all ended, but it did end. Maybe someone called the police. I know that, as I stood in the yard, I was frantically looking around at the houses surrounding us and wishing someone would call the police or come over or do something.

I spent the next 20 years of my life believing that I had been the cause. At some point in my history, I forgot about the accident and began to think that I broke the turn signals when I was playing in the car. I thought that was what had incited the violence. When I was about 30, my mom mentioned the wreck. I'm sure she would have told me sooner had I asked. It's probably a fairly common thing for family members to maintain silence with each other about violence.

My uncle came for a visit at some point...in the summer, I think. Oh, actually I think he and his wife stayed with us for a little while. I specifically remember someone going to the little convenience store about a block away and getting ice cream to make floats. While everyone was having a good old time, I somehow got the assignment (from my dad, I'm sure) to go sweep out the garage. I dutifully went out and started the work, only to be interrupted by my uncle. He sexually assaulted me in the garage. While everyone else was just a few steps away. I know I must have looked traumatized after the many sexual assaults, if anyone had really looked at me. No one ever did. My father was constantly occupied with looking at himself, like any narcissist. My mother was constantly occupied with my dad. That was more of a life or death kind of situation. I just tried to maintain the peace, whenever some small peace existed.

I remember reading "Charlotte's Web" sometime that year and, when the spider died, I began crying in school. In retrospect, I suspect the crying had less to do with the poor dead spider than the great sadness in my own life. If anyone saw me crying, no one ever mentioned it.

For right now, that's the extent of my memories of being nine. I know that I was doing well in school and I came to see it as a refuge from the madness at home. Enough dredging up the past for one day.

11 October 2004

Why I Hate October

I started off the morning by thinking of my dad. It's exactly a week until the anniversary of his suicide. For some reason, I was reminded of an incident that took place when I was around six. I'm thinking six because I started school when I was seven and I know it happened before I was in school.

I was quite precocious, I guess. Before he died, my father told me that he was so amazed that, even when I was two or three, I would answer questions like an adult. I suspect a lot of that was related to survival instinct. My parents used to get these workbooks that purported to teach various subjects. I had already completed all of the first grade work and had progressed to the second or third grade. Unfortunately, I had reached my limit. Maybe under different circumstances I could have been successful at higher grade levels, but I don't think so. My memories of childhood tend to focus on one aspect of an event; this is a ptsd symptom. My recollection was of sitting at the dining room table with one of those workbooks (math, i think) and being completely unable to complete the work. That made my dad very angry with me. I just remember that he yelled and hit me, left the room while I attempted to complete the work. As I said before, I was unable to complete it, so he kept coming in and hitting me and yelling at me. I can't say how long all of that went on, but in my child's sense of time, it went on for a very long time.

It's incidents like this that make the anniversary of his death so difficult. Despite his paranoia and sadism, he was the only father I will ever have and I did love him. I get bombarded by all of these bad memories, followed by memories of how I felt I failed him as a daughter. I wish I could have saved him from himself, but if I had been there at the time, I fear there would have been two others dead--my mother and me. The idea that I could save my father from his mental illness is absurd, but he was kind enough to instill in me a sense of responsibility for him. I was also responsible for my mother, too, and just as unable to really help her. Days like today are filled with self-recrimination. I'm very sad today. I still have a week to get through. It's going to be a long week.