Read Part 1 Here
I often felt at a disadvantage and later I believe either the situation with my mother or something else caused him to act towards me differently than my brothers. I was the only girl, and when accused of doing something I didn’t do, he would never believe me when I told him I hadn’t and in one case I knew it had been impossible for me to do what he said I did and yet he would not hear me. I came to understand he would never believe anything I said.
There was only one time I stood up to him and that was when he decided that I would not go to the track meet our school was attending. Both he and my mother had agreed I could be part of the event. I was part of a four leg relay team. I was the anchor, without me, the team could not participate. They had signed a paper saying they approved my participation and that they would make sure I got to the event. I told this all to them, and so everyone packed up into the car, and my father drove me to the event, and dropped me off. Then they went on their merry way to whatever it is they thought was so much more important than watching me run my race. I was hurt by this. (and yes it can still anger me, I’m sure it is obvious in my words) I was in fifth grade and it was the first time I participated in an event like this and I had been proud that the school had asked me to take part in it. They had chosen students who had performed the Presidential Physical Fitness test and I had been awarded for passing it. It had been the first award I had ever received outside of my swimming certificates for passing beginners, intermediate and advanced Red Cross swimming classes in the time it took to take just one class.
I ran that race. I ran it with my heart aching but it was no different than the way I lived every single day. My heart ached for a real family. If I wanted to do something which needed one of my parent’s permission, I would go to one of them and they ALWAYS, without fail always told me to ask the other. Then when I went to the other, I would be told to go back to the other and ask for which I would say I already asked and was told to ask you. Sometimes I would be given permission but most times not. I would never be given a reason.
The one place I could count on them letting me go to was the woods. We lived in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The Appalachian Trail was only a mile away from our house. We went camping every summer, several times a summer at a campground only two miles from where we lived. I knew the woods intimately from as early as I can remember. They knew I never became lost when I hiked in the woods. They let me go there alone. It was my sanctuary. It was my real home. A place where I felt accepted. When I heard the trees blowing in the wind it was as if they spoke to me. They welcomed me every time and I embraced them. They were the solace to the pain I felt deep inside. Their embrace replaced the hugs and kisses I never received.
For a long time I thought this is the way it was in all other families and for I guess many that is true, but maybe not the physical threat of violence or maybe so. All I knew is when I went to bed at night and could not go to sleep right away for my mind, heart and soul being in turmoil, I would create stories. I would rewrite my life. Or, I would write my life the way I wanted it to go in the future.
I had heard about divorce, and this became the major theme of my stories. When our mother told us when I was in the midst of eighth grade that she was leaving our father, I was shocked. I think I was in more shock over the fact that the stories I created in the dark of night were coming true than I was over the fact our family was breaking up. She had said she had waited as long as she could but she could no longer stay with our father. She told us we were old enough to decide for ourselves who we wanted to live with and she left it up to us. She said she would try to wait until the end of the school year.
One day I got off the bus and she was there waiting for us. My oldest brother wasn’t there, he had a car of his own. What I didn’t know was he stayed home to help her with the moving, while the rest of us went to school. The car was packed full of our things and when I got in I asked her what was going on. She wouldn’t say anything. I asked again, and my older brother told me to be quiet. I was furious. All I wanted to know was what was going on, then she pulled away and drove away from where I had lived my whole life. And took us to a house in another town, an old house just off the center of town.
No one spoke about it. All she did was show me my room, and though it was a nice large room with lots of windows, it didn’t replace the fact that no one spoke about it and no one helped me with how this made me feel. I had just left everything that was familiar to me to a place I didn’t know and I was terrified.
The next night was choir practice and she took me to the church. When we pulled into the parking lot I saw my father’s car. When I got out he was on the sidewalk waiting for me. I tried to go into the church from the door that was closest to me but it was locked, so I had to go by him. I tried to walk by him but he stopped me. He then told me he wanted me to live with him. My mind flashed through all the times he had raised his hand as if to hit me, the harsh and condescending words ricocheted around in my head. My heart was being torn apart and all I could think was, “I can’t, it is better for me if I lived with my mother than with my father.” But what I told him was “No, I can’t.” and pushed my way past him as I watched him start to cry. I ran from him into the church, stopping just inside the door to walk sedately to my place while inside my world had been turned upside down, my heart was torn apart, and I had no one to talk to about it. My face was like stone. I wanted to cry out in pain and cry my eyes out but all I did was keep swallowing, trying to get rid of the lump in my throat, while I sat down in the seat in the choir that my boyfriend had saved for me.
Yes. I had a boyfriend. Four years older than me. My parents knew and had approved as did the church. The church was proud of how we conducted ourselves and told us we were good examples to the others as to how to behave. I never told him about my parents separating. At least not until I had to. Things at school happened where I had to fill out a paper with my current address which notified them of our move and they made us move to the school in our district instead of waiting until the end of the school year. If we didn’t my mother would have to pay tuition fees for attending when we didn’t live in the school district. Yet another blow to the upheaval in my life that no one talked to me about or helped me with how it made me feel. When I told my best friend of my having to change schools, all I could do was watch her cry. At least she could cry.
Go to Part 3