Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Perfect Storm


The Big Wave, a Japanese painting, is from Wikipedia.

There’s one final episode in the “perfect storm” of my life: kindergarten—abandonment; first grade—Dad tries to kill Mom; grade one on—Dad’s continued drinking; grade five—Mr. Jackson’s molestation; that summer—Dad rapes Mom; and a three-month daily ordeal I battled a year later—in 1948.
         After completing sixth grade that year, I spent the summer with an ailing aunt and an uncle who lived a distance away. I did everything I could to help my aunt recuperate—clean, run errands, make beds, grocery shop, do laundry, wash dishes.
         The ordeal that summer wasn’t the work; it was my aunt and uncle’s son. As the leader of a gang of neighborhood boys and tag-along girls, power intrigued him. All summer, that gang, led by my cousin, vandalized local schools and businesses. And I tagged along, encouraged by my guileless aunt and uncle.

A school and playground in England. (Wikipedia)
          I became part of that gang when my cousin invited me to go to a local school playground with him. That evening in late May, he pulled me back when I tried to follow the gang to the other side of the playground. Within moments, a girl’s terrified scream echoed across the tarmac. Peering through a darkness punctuated by halos of streetlights, I saw the boys in a circle, some with their pants pulled down. Their raucous jeering almost smothered the girl’s desperate cries for help. 
          Frantically, I ran toward her. I’d gone only halfway across that broad playground when my cousin grabbed me by the arm, pulled me roughly around to face him, and shoved me to the ground. “If you tell anyone, you’ll be next!” he threatened. “Don't go spouting off what you think you know!"  
         I gaped at him. Not understanding. “Someone’s got to help! I’ve got to tell Uncle Daniel and Aunt Lisabeth!”
         “Mom and Dad?” he scoffed. “You think they’d believe you? They think I walk on water!”
         And he was right. They did. So I said nothing. To anyone. But my cousin retaliated against my instinct to tell by tormenting me for the next three months.
         When I cleaned the upstairs each day, he’d pounce, grab me by the arm, and shove me into his mom’s closet. I’d fall back against the pile of clothes she planned to give away. He’d try “to feel me up” or “have his way with me,” both of which are expressions I later learned for what Mr. Jackson had done.         
         I tried to fight him off. I’d elbow away his arms, pry away his manic hands as they groped my breasts. When I threatened to scream, he’d press one hand over my mouth to smother my cry for help while using the other to get inside my shorts.          
         The struggle seemed interminable. Then we’d hear a sound—a car backfiring in the street, a footstep on the stairs, canned television laughter, a call from his mother who was resting in the living room below—and he’d let go of me. But not before arranging his right fist so that his middle knuckle stuck out. Then he’d pummel me repeatedly on my arms and chest and leave me slumped on the closet floor.
         After the first time, I wore long-sleeved shirts each day so no one could see the accumulating bruises. All summer my cousin lurked, pounced, pummeled. And all summer I wore those shirts, until fall came and I returned home to start seventh grade.
         I never told anyone what happened the summer I was twelve. Never told that is until Dr. Nimlos—the psychiatrist I saw in 1975—said something that jogged my memory and brought back this whole series of childhood incidents. I had totally blocked them from consciousness. But of course, subconsciously they shadowed my life.
         And subconsciously I blamed myself for all of them. There was something “rotten in Denmark” about me. Something that made others act in strange ways. Like all children everywhere, always, I blamed myself for Dad’s drinking and for any violence that was done to me or others. I was at fault. I was worthless. If only I were a better person, people would love me. Treat me differently.
         Today, after much counseling and great reflection and effort, I can quote to you the words with which J. K. Rowling began her novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:
     Oh, the torment bred in the race,
          the grinding scream of death
               and the stroke that hits the vein,
          the hemorrhage none can staunch, the grief,
     the curse no man can bear. . . .
     Now hear, you blissful powers underground—
          Answer the call, send help.
     Bless the children, give them triumph now.
                                             Aeschylus, The Liberation Bearers


63 comments:

  1. Dee,
    I think your character's name got changed again....Mr. Jackson.

    I can feel how helpless you must have been. Out of the fry pan and into the fire as we used to say.. There was a sadistic boy like that in my block when I was young. For fun he throw his jack knife into toads and frogs and lit cats on fire. Everyone was afraid of him. I can only imagine where he ended up.

    I'm glad you are getting or have had the counseling to help you rid your mind of these nightmares.
    Bless you for your courage.
    love and peace

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Manzanita, I was lucky enough to have the counseling a number of years ago that helped with all this. I hope that boy that lived in your block got counseling also. Peace.

      Delete
  2. Dear Dee--I hope you've learned to love yourself. I love you!! The world is not your fault.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Fishducky, I have learned to love and value myself. I've also learned to accept the consequences of my own actions and to realize that the actions of others are their own responsibility. But oh, that took a long time! Peace.

      Delete
  3. Dee, that you are able to open your heart anyone, much less all the people you touch with your life is an amazing testament to your good heart and will.

    I just have to know- did your cousin ever come to mend his ways, or, as is usually the case with someone who turns to evil at such a young age, did it travel poorly for him?

    Hugs to you, my survivor friend~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Shelly, my cousin did mend his ways, but he never seemed to develop much empathy for others. He remains arrogant. And once, when I recalled to him what had happened all those long years ago he belly-laughed. As did his wife. Of course they'd been drinking and perhaps that's why but I admit to being astonished that they could view that summer so cavalierly. Peace.

      Delete
  4. Oh, Dee! Children take too much onto themselves, blaming themselves for events beyond their understanding, let alone control. Continue the healing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Susan, yes, as children we feel ourselves to be the center of the Universe and so everything revolves around us--both guilt and joy. I was powerless as a child. That was the real tragedy. Peace.

      Delete
  5. The violence with which so many of us live becomes absolutely unbearable. I guess you survived by blocking it out, but at such a cost. I'm glad you're still here.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Janie, the blocking did help greatly. It helped me cope. And then when it all came back, I was old enough to be able to understand and to change the patterns I'd developed for coping. Patterns that really didn't work well for me as an adult--that kept me from forming friendships with men. I now have a number of men friends and I cherish them. Peace.

      Delete
  6. Oh Dee, nothing of that was or is your fault!

    You are too sweet-hearted and nice of a person :)

    I'm so sorry you had to experience these things as a child :(

    I'm sending lots of love to you :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Baiba, thank you for your kind words. You are young and your life lies before you. I so hope that it is blossoming. Peace.

      Delete
  7. These words resonate with me even though I have not endured what you have. Be well. It is wonderful to see you blogging. It truly is healing don't you think?

    b+

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Barbara, Yes, I so agree with you that blogging can be healing. I struggled with all this for many years but have also been for many years at peace with all of it. I've let go of the pain and the guilt and the confusion. All is well. Peace.

      Thank you for stopping by my blog. I'll look at yours today.

      Delete
  8. I hope the process of sorting out these events has been freeing for you, Dee. I sense that it has in many ways. Continuing to appreciate what you share.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Deanna, mostly it was counseling years ago that helped me get to the place where I can share this with others. The blogging has made me aware that many others share similar incidents in their life. And so I find myself grateful that I have a blog on which I can share and perhaps help others come to peace also.

      Blogging is such a wonderful way of reaching out and touching the lives of others. I have learned so much from reading the postings of people like you. Peace.

      Delete
  9. Oh Dee.... Makes me cry. Thinking about what you went through --and thinking about kids today who go through the same type of things just grieves me so much..

    You may not like Bill O'Reilly on Fox News (since he's conservative)---but he is all about taking care of the children... He has gotten states to pass laws protecting kids from rape, etc. and making stiff laws for for those who hurt children. We need so much more of that. Rapists get in and out of jail constantly--and just go on doing what they do, hurting children... Makes me so sad...

    I hope you can help others someday --because you have LIVED it.. You have some stories to tell which could make a difference in the lives of children.

    Hugs,
    Betsy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Betsy, I think the national statistic is that one out of every three women in the United States has been sexually abused and/or molested. One out of three. And I know that what happened to me was mild compared to what some children have gone through and are going through. It is a national scandal.

      Betsy, I am so glad to learn that Bill O'Reilly is working hard to help change this. I applaud anyone--conservative or liberal!!!!--who works to help our children grow into caring human beings. Abuse can so affect a child's life that their humanity becomes warped. They never develop into the human beings they could have been. So I say, bless Bill O'Reilly! Peace.

      Delete
  10. Oh, the cruelty of children! Well done for trying to help that poor girl, Dee, and I'm so sorry you had to suffer all summer because of it. A s a child we always think things are our fault, when in truth it has nothing to do with us. I'm glad you found the help you needed eventually.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Perpetua, yes, children can be cruel and most of the time their learn that cruelty from adults or that act cruel because they have been unloved and uncherished by the adults in their lives. Growing up is hard enough without having to live with violence and abuse. And it is so true that children mostly think that if only they were different, the adults would be also. For years, I thought that if only I were smarter or prettier or something, my dad would stop drinking. It simply didn't happen! Like you, Perpetua, I will also be glad that I found help. Peace.

      Delete
  11. I wonder why children so often don't tell anyone. When I was bullied at school between ages 7 and 10, I don't think I told my parents. After that, I went to an all girl school and nothing bad ever happened to me again. I was also able to talk to my mother about everything.

    As for what you went through as a child, I hope you realize what an enormous reservoir of kindness you had within you. It saddens me so that you went through all this alone, without support from anyone, from any grownup. And still, you became such a loving, caring person. I too think writing about it this openly, getting feedback from others, must very healing for you. Take care, my dear friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Inger, I think we don't tell because we feel that the fault is ours and we don't want our moms and dads to know that we caused something to happen. We're a little afraid, I think, that they will punish us in some way for being at fault.

      You are right about sharing this. Reading the comments from you and others as affirmed the person I have become. I am so grateful for all of you. Peace.

      Delete
  12. wow, another jerk in your life. I am sorry to hear this. Did you ever get through to your aunt and uncle??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mimi, I never told either my aunt and uncle or my dad and mom. In fact, the story about my cousin was never even told to the psychiatrists or counselors. It simply remained something that I puzzled over for years. Peace.

      Delete
  13. Dee... All I have is hugs. I am so sorry that this was your life, and overjoyed that it is no more.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Juli, thank you for your hugs. I, too, am overjoyed that it is no more. But the knowledge that other children endure this and much, much worse always niggles at my mind. I've thought of volunteering somewhere to help children, but I wasn't sure that I can relive any of this vicariously. And so I simply try always to be a friend to the children who come into my life. Peace.

      Delete
  14. What an unbelievable accumulation of molestations and abuses, Dee. There was so much violence in your young life, and one of the things that comes to my mind is how you chose to move towards pacifism and defending the weak and defenseless. Others, take the years of cruelty and become cruel themselves. That tells me how very strong, and naturally kind you are. As hard as it is to hear that you have suffered so, I am still so glad that you trusted us with such sensitive memories. Isn't it amazing how our pain goes so deeply "underground" at times for decades. You were quite the survivor, though, and it's a good thing you had the benefit of a good psychiatrist to bring you through! oxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Debra, I have been so blessed to be able to afford to get professional help when I most needed it. So many people cannot afford that.

      Dr. Nimlos told me that I had a "keenly developed sense of survival." In fact, she said she'd never met anyone with a deeper sense of survival. I don't know where that came from, but I do suspect that living my childhood led me to be really independent and to speak up for those whose voices are silenced by culture or memory or the hatred of others.

      And so I find that out of that childhood came good. I wouldn't want to relive those days, but I will be forever grateful that I learned from them. Peace.

      Delete
  15. How helpless you must have felt and so totally out of control. You must have thought all people were cruel and senseless. That you emerged as a caring person tells so much about your character. I am so glad you finally got some help yet sorry it wasn't sooner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Arkansas Patti, I felt mute actually. No one to tell because of the fear that they would become angry at me for causing what happened to happen. I was, I think, afraid that I'd be punished for causing other people to do these things. I remain grateful for the help I finally got and I'm glad that having lived this, I have become a person attuned to the pains of childhood. That's partly I think why I was a good teacher. Peace.

      Delete
  16. I think many of us suppress memories that are too painful to remember. I'm glad you finally got these up and out. You are a survivor!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear DJan, I think you're right about suppressed memories of painful events. I don't know where I got my sense of survival, but it did see me through! Peace.

      Delete
  17. It occurs to me, dear Dee, that your words through this series have far more power than any of these males in your life, for, through these words, you are reaching others who have or are going through these same traumas that insinuated themselves so cruelly into your childhood. You are giving others the power to speak out, seek help, move on. I know that is not easy, and don't mean to imply that it is, so forgive me if it sounds that way, I'm just trying to say that your strength of character shines through and your willingness to share will help others. You have answered "the call, send help. Bless the children, give them triumph now."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Penny, your kind words really touch my desire to always help others. I so hope that my writing does do that. Thank you.

      The sharing comes because, I think, I've come to peace with all this. We are all flawed and we have little that we can control. But we can control how we will respond to the events of our life. I've needed professional to see that all this wasn't my fault and also to embrace it as my life and to see how it has formed me into the woman I became. And understanding, I can finally let go of the patterns that don't work for me to bring wholeness and holiness. And so I'm at peace.

      And Penny, I cried at your last words. I would like to think that in my teaching children for many years and in my friendship even now with children, I am blessing them and that they will know the sense of triumph I have because I lived through all this and come to peace.

      Peace.

      Delete
  18. Reading this has made me appriciate how lucky I was to come from such a wonderful family.........having such a childhood must had been to terrible for you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Jo-Anne, I am glad that your children was a happy one. That means I think that you have less distance to travel to wholeness. And the glory of that is this: you have had more time to concentrate on others because you have been more whole yourself. I had to find wholeness. And I'm still looking!!!

      And so I rejoice that you are able to be happy for yourself and for others. Peace.

      Delete
  19. Dee,
    I'm so sorry that you went through this. You are such a strong, wonderful person. Please know how amazing you are and always have been.
    Love ya,
    E

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Elisa, thank you for your kind words. I suspect that my strength somehow comes from having lived through this. All remains mystery to me. What gave me the sense of survival I have? I don't know. I'm just grateful for it. Peace.

      Delete
  20. Dee after giving some thought to how you blamed yourself I just got to thinking that I decided to blame God. No caring God would place such pain on his creatures was my theory.
    The world today is just as cruel as it was in our day. I think it's so sad to witness how poorly adults pay attention and protect their young. It goes against the norm of so many other species!
    I hope your peace is growing day by day.
    It's Buddy that helped me to see the ways of people and how they can be very cruel. Oddly why he was born I asked God why me? Now I look at Buddy and say 'You are my angel' and he grins. He represents the angelic people on this earth so very well. His patience is never fading and his depth of understanding is so amazing. How those before him were considered demons and killed or looked away is a mystery to me. His visible imperfections just make our invisible ones all the more evil to me!
    Not just children need to feel safe. We need to redefine freedom and what is acceptable behaviour for everyone. There's reason why alcohol and drugs are or were banned substances. Our brains cannot tolerate them and function in a conventional good manner. Aggressive suppressed behaviour is unleashed and then the afflicted individual looses all sense of common decency. Each of us has a dark side that we try to keep controlled. We are taught to behave and we model ourselves from observing what's around us. Your mom carried on saying nothing. You say nothing or very little (Jackson). Both just endured.
    I am wondering how the church time as a novice did not give you any means to deal with such a terrible childhood as you stood 'in the face God' praying? How were you able to separate God and how people treated you? I could not do it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Heidrun, how blessed you and Buddy are to have one another. There is so much to be grateful for in both our lives.

      As to the convent and coming to grips with the past, I was there, running away from that past, so I didn't want to think about it. I tried always to think good thoughts. Kind thoughts. Generous thoughts. And to stay away from darkness and negativity.

      Fortunately, my mother helped me see that God is never vindictive. Instead, from her words I knew that God always loved me no matter what happened. It's just, I thought, that I was such a lousy individual that all these bad things kept happening. If only I were a better person, they wouldn't happen and God would be even more pleased with me. Peace.

      Delete
  21. Oh, Dee! Isn't it sad how abused children blame themselves? I understand so well what you felt as a result of all these experiences, none of them your fault. What a lot of pain to keep inside until you were able to access it in therapy all those years later!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Kathy, yes, it is sad that children take the blame on themselves. Do you think it's because they are necessarily narcissistic at that age? Peace.

      Delete
  22. I'm all for integrating lessons, but it would seem you had to learn so much in the worse ways possible at too young of an age. As an adult I feel that most of the time we are better off not shielding ourselves from things, but I feel very differently when it comes to children. Having to go so headlong, with eyes wide open into life at such a young age is rather terrifying. ~Mary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mary, I think it was terrifying and I know that as I child I was afraid most of the time that people would discard me because that had happened once before (or so I thought) and could happen again at any time because of some way I was being. So always I had to consider: do I laugh too much? do I not laugh enough? do I talk too much? do I not talk enough? am I ugly? am I awkward? am I too serious?

      So much questioning so as to determine exactly how I needed to be so that people would love me. And so of course, I thought that if only I were different, none of these bad things would happen. That little girl, whose name was Dodo and then Dolores, was brave I think and I find myself admiring her greatly. Peace.

      Delete
  23. Oh Dee, poor Dee, having to experience life the hard way from such an early age. I cannot believe that not one adult in your circle saw what was being done to you.

    It is too hateful. That you fled into religion instead of revenge is equally inexplicable to me. But then, we are what we are.

    I feel I want to hug you and help with the healing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Friko, the healing is mostly done. But thank you for commiserating with me.
      The convent seemed safe to me; the world beyond didn't. Peace.

      Delete
  24. I had nothing so terrible in my childhood but one episode with the old man in the choirloft, and when a woman walked in while he had his hand plunged down my dress, she scolded him (he was well known for this) and I felt humiliated. I realize now that one element of my humiliation was the idea that I'd somehow been at fault. Mostly him, of course--but there was something bad about me to attract that attention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Murr, the old man in the choir loft seems pretty "terrible" and scary to me. That feeling at fault seems to be the bane of childhood. Peace.

      Delete
  25. How sad that your childhood was such a nightmare Dee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Pam, thank you for your concern, Pam, but truly so many, many children have horrific childhoods. Mine was just sad at time. Peace.

      Delete
  26. I saw your comment on my blog. I looked up the painter Prendergast you mentioned and found a painting I may be able to use on one of my posts, thanks. It is painful to read your posts and I am sure it must have been terrible to live through such abuse. Such sad memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Vagabonde, I'm sure this is hard to read and I find myself weary of writing about these things. But I've finished them now and so will go on to more cheerful happenings from my early years. The next several posts will, I hope, bring forth a few chuckles from readers. Peace.

      Delete
  27. Oh, honey. What a tormented and tormenting time for you.

    Hugs,

    Pearl

    ReplyDelete
  28. Oh, that's harrowing. Did you ever get a chance to talk to the other girl? I feel so much sorrow, for both of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Emily, I did talk with her because she still was part of the "gang" after that incident. In fact, we became friends that summer. But she had such a hard life at home that she was desperate for attention and so what the boys did to her she simply viewed as their liking her. She started to, as was said then, "put out" for whoever asked. After that summer, I never saw her again. So I don't know what happened as she grew up. Her story here is what is tragic. Peace.

      Delete
  29. I sometimes wonder whether it is the light of purity and love that shines inside certain people that leads others to try and squash it with whatever means they have. That is by no means an indictment of you or an absolution for the acts perpetrated against you, please don't misunderstand. I believe that those who feel the most powerless or "dark" for some reason need to find ways to prove to themselves that they do have power or to put out light and love in an effort to deny their own lack of it. I am so glad that you not only survived, but that your inner light continues to shine as brightly as ever despite all of the trials you have experienced. You are a shining example for so many, Dee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Kari, thank you for your kind words. I have a friend in whom there is a deep, down innocence, a belief in goodness and in humanity, that shines forth in all she says and does. And her husband got to where he couldn't abide that goodness and began to abuse her emotionally all the time.

      Ultimately the marriage ended in divorce, but it took her such a long time to see that the fault was not in her. She is fine now and still has that quality of innocence. And so what happens then is that often she is simply unaware of why people seem to think they can take advantage of her.

      I think that Yeshua (Jesus) was like this. An innocent at heart and so others who couldn't abide such childlikeness began to hate him. Peace.

      Delete
  30. Dear Dee,

    Children of abuse keep so many secrets because of fear, guilt and humiliation. Many of them grow up to be the perpetrators of the same crimes that were inflicted on them. One has to wonder why your cousin was the cruel, despicable person he was. The fact that he and his wife laughed when being confronted by his past is unsettling. I hope that they never had children.

    Your last line was beautiful, "Bless the children, give them triumph.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Arleen, they did have children who are adults now with grown children. Both my cousin and his wife were drunk that night so who knows how "sensible" they were to what I was saying. That last line is from the Greek dramatist Aeschylus. So it's about 2,400 years old. And it still tears at my heart as does so much the dramatists wrote at that time. I'm writing about them on my other blog--the Sunday one--now. Peace.

      Delete
  31. Bless the children. Yes. Then and now. God bless you Dee. I'm so glad you survived.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Michelle, yes, then and now. Peace.

      Delete
  32. Dee--I just caught up on these last several posts and my heart goes out to you, dear one. When things happen to us in our lives at a young age that make us feel that we are not lovable--lower than dirt (believing you were abandoned by your parents, for example)--well, then we start out in a hole that we have to climb out of on our own just to feel like we can crawl our way up to being equal with others. Those people who enjoy an easy position of power can sniff out those of us with little or no self-esteem quite easily--and take advantage in a wide variety of ways. [Such pathetic souls who need to do that to feel better about themselves! Imagine what a cruel, dark world they live in.] But you climbed out of that hole. You survived the abuse...and did not lose your innocent soul. You shine! You shine brightly!

    ReplyDelete