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June 22, 2004

the past vs my future.

When I was 17 years old, I got into a huge fight with my father. I donít have any idea now what that fight was about, but it couldnít have been anything serious or drastic. I was a good kidóI never drank or did drugs of any kind, or dated boys or stayed out late or stole things or cause any kind of trouble that ďbadĒ kids did. I worked a part-time job and babysat regularly. I got excellent grades in school and was loved by all my teachers. I usually spent my Friday and Saturday nights at Marianneís house playing Scrabble or just reading a book. So on that particular day, when everything in my life changed, I can only assume we were arguing about something silly, something typically teenaged and normal. Perhaps I hadnít done the dishes or I had mouthed-off to my mother. Something in my brain tells me it had something to do with my mom, that maybe my dad was making me apologize to her for something I said, some rude or flippant remark I made. Who knows. But she was definitely there when it went down, standing in the kitchen watching and listening but doing and saying nothing at all, even when things got so crazy and my dad became a madman.

What I remember clearly is saying that I hated him and my mother, and when he told me to take it back I refused. Naturally, he slapped me across the face, hard, and dared me to repeat what Iíd said. I was 17. So I did. And he slapped me once more, harder, angrier, told me to say it again. I did, louder this time, tears stinging my eyes, my face red and burning. He slapped me again, and then again, encouraging me to keep saying it, because he could go on like this all day and all night. He kept hitting me and pushing me, there in the kitchen. As much as it hurt, I refused to give in, so through my tears and his smacks, I said, ďI hope that makes you feel better, I really do.Ē And that just set him off. The hits kept coming and I was using my arms and hands to cover my head and face, to protect myself, and he just wouldnít stop, even as I pleaded with him. I got away from him and ran down the hall into my bedroom, thinking I would be safe, but he chased after me, telling me Iíd learn respect if it was the last thing I did. I scrambled across my bed into the corner and curled up into a ball and he followed, this time using his fists to hit me. He finally stopped when he saw the blood on my face and I was hyperventilating from crying. He left the room without a word.

I sat there for awhile before I called Marianne, sobbing and asking her to come pick me up. She showed up 15 minutes later and I left with a pile of clothes and my school books. I didnít go back home for quite a long time. On the ride back to her house, Marianne kept asking me what had happened, but I couldnít talk about it, it was embarrassing and shameful and it hurt too much. When we got to her house, Marianneís mother stood in the hallway, hugging me and smoothing my hair and comforting me and telling me everything would be okay. I wonít ever forget that.

The next day at school, one of my English classes was held in the library. I was sitting at a table alone, with my busted-up, fat lip, when I broke down and started crying. My teacher sat down next to me and asked what was wrong. I said simply, ďHe did it again,Ē meaning my father had beaten me up again, which was the truth.

What happened after that feels like one of those stories you read about or see on TV, where something small snowballs into some regrettable tragedy. Mrs. Kirk (the teacher) was one of my favorites and we were relatively close, considering I was just another one of her students. I had baby sat for her and she liked me. Mrs. Kirk took me to the nurse and told her that my father had molested me again. Because she had misunderstood my words. By that point in my high school career, I had begun writing about molested children, disguised in various fictional or non-personal roles (like a speech I did for Mrs. Kirkís class). She was not a stupid woman and to any observant adult, it was clear that I had experienced sexual trauma at some point in my life, not through anything I said or admitted to (because back then I couldnít even admit it to myself) but because of what she and other teachers had read and understood from my assignments in class, from my behavior, from my demeanor. When I said ďhe did it again,Ē I meant physical abuse; she took it as sexual abuse.

That afternoon, in the school nurseís office, the nurse sat me down and examined my face and lip and then asked me point blank if I had been molested by my father. When she asked me, I just stared at her, stunned into silence. No one had ever asked me anything like that before. I was so hurt and so angry and more confused than any teenager has a right to feel. Everyone was looking at me, expecting me to say yes, needing me to say yes, staring at me, waiting. I wanted everyone to just leave me alone. I was so furious and hurt by my father and I wanted to hurt him, I wanted to lash out. So I said yes. Yes, he touched me inappropriately, when I was a little girl. I said he only did it once and he never had sex with me. I thought that admitting this small minor thing would make them go away, that I would be left alone, that it would all blow over and life would go back to normal. And I could tell from their faces that is what they wanted to hear from me, so very badly.

But what I didnít know was that Mrs. Kirk and the school nurse had a legal responsibility to report what Iíd said to the authorities. I was still staying with Marianne. By the next day my whole world fell apart. My dad was in all sorts of legal trouble. The police went to my parentsí house, as well as social workers. My little sister was 9 at the time (and still sharing a bed with my father, which everyone at social services and the police department ate up with relish) and they were going through the procedures to have her removed from the house. My sisters were beyond angry with me, calling me at Marianneís house to yell at me and tell me how awful and horrible I was and asking why I would tell such outrageous lies, that I had caused my father to cry. My mother told my sisters she no longer considered me her daughter and refused to talk to me at all. I felt pressure from everyone and everything and from deep inside me as well.

Despite his behavior, I loved my father and it was killing me to think of all the trouble Iíd caused for him, for something that wasnít even true. To imagine him crying, that really just made clear to me what I had to do. I called up the detective and the social worker and told them that Iíd lied. That Iíd made everything up just to get back at him. None of it was true and they could put me in jail or whatever they wanted to do, but that my dad had done nothing wrong. All the charges were dropped and my family eventually forgave me, although it was a long, long time before my father could even look at me, much less talk to me. My mother, however...well, she never forgave me. She started talking to me again and my sisters stopped hating me as much. Things smoothed over. Time helps to heal a lot of wounds, you know?

Years later, I went to one of my sisterís therapy sessions, at the request of her therapist. The whole debacle came up, and I explained to Jennifer what happened. No one in my family ever bothered to get my side of the story and they never knew what pressure had been put on me to say what Iíd said. I have to say, that session really helped to heal some things between us and brought us closer together.

But what I wonder now, all these years later, is why no one in my family believed me. Why everyone assumed I was lying. And what I wonder now isówhat really happened to me? There are oceans of things that I canít remember, that Iíve blocked out, that I canít begin to consider or imagine. And I have so many questions, and I know I will never find the answers, because there are no answers.

Why does my mother dislike me so so much? Even before I gave her any good reason. My whole life, as far back as my mind can go, she hasnít liked me. What did I do? What didnít I do? Was I that rotten of a child?

Why does my father, even today, make me feel just a little bit icky and a little bit anxious, way down deep inside me? Why do his eyes feel a little bit leering? That queasiness I have around him sometimes, this unsettledness, this desire to hide every part of my body from him...it seems like Iíve felt this my entire life. Why? Is it because he reminds me of my uncle, his brother? Is it because heís just a man? Or just the first man to ever see me naked? Or am I just some crazy messed up girl?

And the nightmares and panic attacks that come from these vague hazy dreamlike recollections of mine, of a figure, a man, standing over me in the dark, as I lay in bed? Why does the strong stench of beer on a manís breath make me so nervous? Why do I hate being touched, especially from behind? Why does Gordonís touch sometimes make my stomach roll over and bring a thick choking taste to the back of my throat?

Why did he really beat me up that day? He hadnít hit me in years. What else happened that I donít remember? What happened when he followed me into my bedroom? And why didnít my mother stop him?

Why did I say he molested me?

My father loved me. I was his little girl, his favorite. He took me out to restaurants, just me and him, and he bought me presents, better than those he got for my sisters, and he made me his special sandwiches late at night when I couldnít sleep. He let me fall asleep on his lap watching TV at night. On our family vacations, when weíd drive across country, he used to let me sit between him and my mom in the front seat, after everyone fell asleep, and it was dark and quiet and sweet and heíd tell me stories and let me hold the wheel. He let me have and do anything I wanted when I kid. I was his little girl. He loved me. He would never have done that to me, never hurt me. Sure, he would beat me, he beat us all. That was his way of disciplining us. But not that. He wouldnít do that. No. No.

He scares me sometimes because he reminds me of my uncle, thatís all. Please donít let it be that I say it was my uncle because he reminds me of my dad.

There is so much I donít know, so much lurking beneath the surface that Iím terrified of uncovering. Was it my father? My uncle? Neither? Honestly, Iíd rather go my entire life believing it was my creepy dirty alcoholic uncle than knowing it was my father. I refuse to believe it was him.

What little I remember, what little I allow myself to deal withóit could have been anyone, really. But I know that he was dark, with dark eyes and stale breath reeking of beer and he said this is how we show love.

God damn it, what happened to me, why canít I just remember? Itís there, I feel it, but I canít find the edges, I canít make out the shape, I just know that itís massive and looming over my whole soul, casting me in a deep shadow that I canít escape.

Does my mother hate me because I took away her husband? Or does she hate herself for what she let happen to me? That day, when I was 17 and he was out of his mind, why didnít she stop him, why did she stand there silent and approving?

Why does sex become such a burden, such a painful difficult act for me, once I become familiar and filled with love for the man Iím with? Why can I only enjoy sex when itís with someone I do not love or know very well or am not in a serious relationship with? Am I doomed to pay for my past forever, a past I am too scared and too weak to remember?

My dad has never apologized to me for that day. Neither has my mother. Theyíve never apologize for anything. I would like to hear that someday, but I know it will never come. Mostly, I just wish I was the daughter they had wanted.

Tonight, as I sit here alone in Morgan and Tiffanyís spare room, I donít think I have ever felt such immense, drowning loneliness. Despite the great love and support Iím being given from my friends and from Gordonís family. I donít deserve such kindness from them. My choices have been poor and I have to accept responsibility for the position Iíve put myself in. But I canít help wishing I had never been born.

But you know something? Right now, this very second, I am feeling Ryland moving around inside me, and as I stroke my belly and whisper to him, I know that Iíll be okay.

Posted by christa at June 22, 2004 06:30 AM

Comments

Wow...I am sitting here bawling, I wish I could just hug you and stroke your hair like Marianne's Mom did.

Posted by: Michelle at June 22, 2004 10:08 AM

wow. i really feel like i just read a page out of
my friend dawn's life. kinda freaky...

anyway, is your email working yet?

Posted by: neila at June 22, 2004 03:46 PM

*hugs*

You write and you release, and yes, you'll be okay - go Christa go. :o)

Posted by: Flip at July 1, 2004 04:23 PM

 

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