Archive for the ‘Child Abuse’ Category

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He was a violent man who wanted to control everyone and everything.  He thought affection was unnecessary.  My mother had to give us hugs and kisses in secret.  He beat us all up and told us we were nothing.  Once, he pushed me down the basement stairs.  I didn’t tumble to the bottom, breaking my neck in the process.  But I could have.  He tried to choke my sister and was banging her head against the wall and only stopped when I came running in from another room.  One beautiful summer day he took his BB gun rifle and shot a red-breasted robin out of a tree, right in front of me.  When I asked him why he killed the bird he said it wasn’t necessary.  The next day, when there were three dead baby birds on the ground under the empty nest I scooped one up in a trowel and walked with it to the front yard, where he was spraying weed-killer.  “Maybe it wasn’t so unnecessary,” I said as I shoved the trowel holding the lifeless chick under his ridiculously mustached face.  I was 9 years old and in love with nature and I could not get out of my mind the image of that beautiful and happily singing bird suddenly spewing blood from its orange chest and falling to the ground.  I still feel the need to apologize to it.  Perhaps I could have somehow saved it.  But my thoughts at that instant, when he leveled the rifle were:  No way he’ll really pull the trigger and then If he’s really that much of an idiot and actually does pull the trigger, no way he’s a good enough shot to actually hit anything.  Turned out he was both, and I was too slow to realize.

Later that year, when my oldest sister went off to college, I, being the tomboy that I was, became the protector of the family.  And I know very few people escape childhood without some measure of trauma, but when you’re ten you shouldn’t have to jump on your so-called step-father’s back to stop him from repeatedly punching your step-sister.  When you’re 12 you shouldn’t have to wait outside for your mom so you can let her know that while she was at work her “husband” almost cracked your sister’s head open.  And when you’re 15 you shouldn’t have to run into the master bedroom because your mom is screaming for help.  You shouldn’t have to know that your step-father is trying to rape your mother, who wants no part of him, and take your mother to your own small bedroom, pull apart your single bed so she can sleep on the box spring and then sleep on the mattress by the door so you can protect her by tackling him if he tries to come in.  For months.  Until the divorce is final.

When your father dies when you’re 16 months old you tend to grow up fast.  And when you grow up fast you realize, even as a child, that abuse is wrong and you have a choice.  You realize, mature child that you are, that you can grow up to imitate what you see and become a similar type of asshole, or you can break the chain and be just the opposite.  You can grow up and be loving and affectionate and passionate and caring.  You can, someday, miraculously, have kids and hug them and squeeze them and tell them all day every day that you love them with all your heart and you always, always will.

And sometimes, while living in difficult situations, people develop coping methods that help them get through each day.  Mine, because I had always been somewhat of a trickster and an imp, was clever humor.  So one day, when I was probably 10 or 11 years old, I had had just about enough of the bullshit and needed to do something.  It had to be something that wouldn’t get me in deep trouble, get me pummeled and severely punished.  But it did have to make a point.  There was a large, empty pickle jar on the counter.  I took it and washed it out.  Then I filled it with water from the kitchen tap.  And then I went digging around in the pantry until I found the box of food coloring I knew was there, since we had decorated Easter eggs recently.  I grabbed the yellow and squirted some into the clear pickle jar.  Perfect.  Then I got some paper and some tape.  On the paper, in big block letters, I wrote, YOU’RE IN JAR.  The paper got taped to the jar and the jar got placed, quietly, in the refrigerator with the new label facing out.  Then I calmly walked away.  He saw it in the morning.  Chuckled but said absolutely nothing.  And nobody got hit that day.