Trigger Warning—Description of child abuse and sexual abuse
Some people are angels on this earth. My Grandmother was one of those angels for me. I have been blessed with many angels, and I know without a doubt that if it were not for them, I would not be here writing these words. That dark April evening in 1998, I remember taking the cordless phone into my closet and dialing my Grandparent’s number. My Grandparents lived on the other side of the country, but we were close. I’d spend summers with them, and they would visit throughout the year. This call is foggy for me, but from my Grandmother’s account, she said, “I called her very scared, because my father had lost it again, smashed our glass sliding doors, thrown something at me, and drove off in our only vehicle.” As an adult, I read this sentence and think, “the reader is going to wonder why I made the call and not my mom.” My Mom was scared, proud, and felt that she had to stay because she was a high school dropout stay-at-home mom who could not provide for her four daughters independently. In addition to that, my Mom was very religious and was concerned about the sin of divorce.
After hanging up the phone, my Grandmother called family friends and had them get my Mom, sisters, and I out of the house. They paid for us to be put up for four days at a nice hotel and allowed us to order room service. CPS had already been called at this time as my Mom had let it slip in therapy that it upset her when my dad would beat me. Finally, with the pending CPS investigation and the support of my Grandparents, my Mother gained the courage to leave my Father.
I never had a relationship with my Father after that weekend in the hotel. I was a child, a child he would hurt in all the ways you could hurt and scare a child. When he was well, he could be fun and would take my sisters and me swimming, on bike rides, and read to us. But I also have memories of him touching me inappropriately, exposing himself to me, him coming towards me exposed, and then nothing. I have memories of being held down against my will, a pillow covering my face, and again nothing. For years I have been confused by these polarized versions of my Father. I would feel guilty for not speaking to him or seeing him when he asked to see me. But, there is a voice louder inside me than the guilt of his sadness; this voice says, “we can’t have a relationship with him; he is not safe.” I have listened to this voice for the last twenty-two years.
We struggled financially before the divorce. After the divorce, we were poor. Our home was foreclosed, the one vehicle went to my Father, and my Mother, Sisters, and I moved into subsidized housing. None of my friends came from families like mine. They had lovely homes and vehicles and parents that worked good jobs. I missed almost all of seventh grade. The bullying from some of my “so-called friends” and my shame were too much for me to bear. I view this as my first actual nervous breakdown. During this time, my Mother fell into a deep depression. She had to get on welfare and enrolled herself in a college GED program. Towards the end of seventh grade, I was enrolled in a new school but still felt the intense shame, insecurity, self-loathing, and anxiety that I could not name.
One of my little Sisters was also victim to a great deal of abuse from my Father. By the time I was in ninth grade, she was experiencing active psychosis. Taking care of my little sister and making sure she had the treatment and care she needed pushing my already depressed Mother into a deeper darkness. Around that time, I began assuming more household duties and the care of my other younger siblings.
This content is hard to write; with that being said, it is also cathartic. I look forward to sharing more of my story with you in the upcoming weeks.