It is amazing where our thoughts, our mind, will take us. When I was a child I used my mind to escape and then I used it to reshape my world.
My first memory of which I can remember is of my mother being pregnant with my little brother. I don’t remember them teaching me anything about the process of a child growing inside of the mother, but in my mind’s eye I could clearly see the form of my brother curled up inside of my mother’s belly. Maybe they did show me pictures, maybe they didn’t, all I know today is I was probably close to three months away from being four years old and I was enthralled. My mother let me put my ear up to her belly and listen to him inside of her.
I remember holding my father’s hand one time while walking around the campground where we would go camping every summer. I remember one time sitting on his lap in the living room of our home, a nice home he had built. And spattering of moments when camping.
These are the only memories I have of him that reflected even a modicum of love and acceptance. All other memories except those when we went camping are full of the hard and bitter man. I spoke to my mother either in my late twenties or early thirties about my father. He was already dead and she was finally willing to talk about him. I told her I didn’t remember my father being kind or loving. She told me he had been at one time, but then he had changed. He had changed because he had found out my mother had an affair with a married man and then she wanted a divorce. She thinks in order to keep her with him, he had purposefully sabotaged a condom causing her to become pregnant. This produced my brother, which she told me to never reveal to him for she didn’t want him to think he was not wanted. I’ve never told him and unless he sees this post and realizes who I am, he will never know it from me.
So from my earliest memories there had been bitterness and broken trust between my parents. I always knew something was wrong even though they never fought in front of us, but I couldn’t look at my mother turning her head away from my father’s attempt to kiss her, or how her lips would stiffen if she didn’t, or how her whole body would become tense when he tried to embrace her and, not know it.
I never considered my father and mother to be racists and yet my own father’s sense of humor proclaimed him one every day. He would see a black man and call him a nigger toe. It shamed me to be with him.
I had always thought my mother was open minded and accepting of all people, until one day a boy from school came over to see me who was black. As soon as he left, she called me into the kitchen and told me she never wanted to see me dating a black man. I was surprised. This was the first time I ever heard her speak against a black person or even me for that matter. She walked around our home silently, before and after my parents divorced, rarely saying anything and never speaking badly about others. I tried to live by her rule, but couldn’t.
I walked on egg shells around my father. I never knew what would make him angry. Or what I might do that would cause him to lash out. He never hit me. I recall only one spanking which was after I came home from school with a report from the teacher explaining that I had been spanked that day due to running in the classroom. I had teased or said something to my girlfriend which had me running laughing away from her while she chased me and our teacher walked in right then. We both got spanked and my girlfriend blamed me. She was very angry at me. At home I thought it an injustice to spank me again for something I had already been punished for but I accepted it and went to my room as directed.
He never physically abused us though the threat was there. He would raise his arm as if to backhand me sometimes for only asking a question. I’m persistent and have been so since I was a child and when I would ask a question and either the person didn’t hear me or they didn’t answer, I would ask it again. I don’t like people not responding to my questions. Even as a child I would much prefer a response that they prefer not to answer than silence. But my father was one to ignore me and remain silent, I guess hoping I would go away, and when I didn’t then he would raise his hand as if he were about to backhand me. He wouldn’t follow through but I got the point and would walk away without any acknowledgement to my question.
I didn’t understand the effect his actions had on me until after my parents divorced and I was with my mom one day while she spoke with a man she knew. I asked this man a question for which he ignored me, I asked it again, and again he ignored me, so I asked a third time, this time he turned to me, raised his hand as if to backhand me (just like my father) and I physically ducked and raised my arms up wrapping them around my head, to avoid the blow, which never came.
I was a teenager and for the first time I realized I had ingrained into me the ducking of a physical blow as if I had been trained to avoid it or had been hit many times in my life. It is the first time I realized I was a victim of abuse, maybe not actual physical abuse but the threat of it still damages one mentally.
I am quite passionate about physical abuse. I’ve extended a helping hand throughout my life whenever people around me whether I knew them or not were suffering from abuse. I offered my home to a complete stranger when I witnessed the abuse of her and her small child by her boyfriend. She turned me down, said she had family but I knew she would end up back with the guy. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve come across people who had been abused or were still in abusive situations. I had never thought I would end up being one of those people. I tend to think my situation was different but in reality it wasn’t. The abuser manipulates the person’s reality and that is what happened to me. That story is here.
I, however, don’t think my father manipulated my reality, not in the sense of trying to make me believe something other than what was going on. He didn’t shower me with love or tell me he wouldn’t do it again. Our life was the same, always the same. He gave no excuses and yet he also never spoke to us, nor did our mother about what was going on, or help us to understand. There just was no communication. I don’t consider commands to do this or that, communication. Oh our father laid down rules, he gave out punishment. But there was no discussion. We could not disagree with him, if we voiced our disagreement we would be told to be quiet. We were to do as he said without questioning it and regardless of whether we had a reason not to.
Got to Part 2