copyright 1992, Linda Alexander
photo: Mama Linda, son Erik, & nephew
Have you ever driven on a dark deserted road, alone late at night, when the world is in a deep fog and you're unable to see dividing lines on the road? Suddenly, a break comes in the fog--as if by Divine Intervention. You breath a heavy sigh of relief and feel, finally, that you might be able to get where you were meant to go and actually know how you got there.
Alas, this respite lasts only long enough for your hopes to rise, just before the fog returns and you have no other choice but to drive on, determinedly, doggedly but, for the most part, blindly.
This was my childhood. I survived child abuse and that forced the majority of my childhood memories into the darkness of my memories. I believe and accept the reality of that abuse, because I do have a few, isolated recollections. . . .
I was about sixteen. My steady boyfriend and I had just returned from a date. We sat in his car in front of my house, kissing, listening to the radio, enjoying each other. There was no sexual activity; I was a true "good girl."
Eventually, it was time to go in. Leaving the car, my boyfriend said something amusing and I looked over my shoulder at him as I walked toward the house. I paid no attention to my short walk from car to door; I had made this walk countless times before. As my feet contacted the first of three short concrete steps in front of me, I turned in anticipation of going inside.
And I froze in my tracks.
And I screamed. And screamed more. Over and over and over.
There, ahead, staring back at me through two little panes of glass at the top of the front door, was the head of my stepfather. His eyes were glazed, staring sightlessly, wide, unblinking. From under his chin shone a bright, eerie light, illuminating the lower part of his face with an artificial, luminescent, graveyard glow. His mouth set in a grim line. Not a muscle twitched.
He was dead. Had hanged himself, I was sure, hanged himself in the front hallway so I'd see him when I came home. He was just perverse enough to plan it that way.
My boyfriend whipped past me, flew at the door, and yanked it open.
Suddenly, the face that had stared at me in death only seconds before, now broke into a sheepish but triumphant grin. He laughed and the flashlight held under his chin jiggled with his merriment. He climbed down from the chair upon which he had been standing, the chair which made him tall enough to showcase his face in that window in just the right fashion, and he "apologized" for scaring me. He said there were prowlers in the neighborhood and it was his turn to be "the watch."
I don't remember what I felt from that moment on, how I handled my fear, my physical reaction to the fear, or how I reacted to his concocted story. I know, beyond doubt, that it was a concocted story. My stepfather was not civic-minded. Never before had he done anything to cooperate with neighbors. And logic stated that one man with a flashlight looking out two small panes of glass towards a car where, inside, were two teenagers . . . this was an action not likely meant to catch a neighborhood thief.
Another time I was replacing the toilet paper roll in the bathroom. I reached under the sink, pulled out another roll, and proceeded to take off the old piece of cardboard and install the new paper. My mother taught me to never leave the bathroom without a roll of toilet paper. It was a simple lesson in consideration for the next person. I had no problem complying.
Moments later, in the hallway, my stepfather came at me and grabbed me by the wrist, squeezing with a man's strength against skin and bones of an adolescent girl. He cursed me, called me names no human should ever be called, and yanked me back into the bathroom. He was yelling, telling me I was useless, a poor excuse for anything. I couldn't even put the toilet paper roll on the right way, he said. It was upside down, he screamed maniacly. Upside down. Backwards. Like me! Why was I so stupid? Such a goon?!
I still feel his pressure on my wrist as I write this, and sense his hateful words. I know that instance occured but cannot recall my emotions from that moment on. I have no idea where I went after he was finished with me, or what I did, or how I felt. I have no memory of where my mother was in the house, or if she was in the house. I cannot tell you where my brother and sisters were, or if they reacted to the incident. I do not even recall how old I was.
Another time, I recognized the sound of my mother and stepfather screaming obscenely from the den. This, in itself, was not unusual. Unusual would have been for them to talk calmly and with concern for the other. This day they were calling each other names, as they always did; screaming their hatred of each other, as they always did; making banging, loud noises amidst their verbal violence, as they always did. I went downstairs--I don't know why, usually I stayed as far away as possible. I think I wanted to try and stop them. There was a note scarier-than-usual in this argument. I just plain could not take it anymore. I had to stop them. Somehow.
When I ran into the den I came to a precarious, immediate halt. What I witnessed made me scream and cry. And beg.
My mother was chasing my stepfather around the coffee table with a butcher knife. A few beats ahead, amidst the cursing and yelling, he laughed, taunting her. It was as if in some sick way he enjoyed it, enjoyed the danger of being steps away from the point of a large, dangerous, killing object. Enjoyed the fact that, once again, he had driven my mother, his wife, to a point of desperation and, truly, insanity.
When they saw me, they stopped immediately. My mother lowered the knife and tried to comfort me with words, but that blade was still in her hands. Neither of them physically approached me. My stepfather said they were only playing; this was a game, they were teasing.
He still grinned that maniacal grin. He was in no way afraid of her or her knife. He didn't care. I would almost swear he found the experience exhilarating. And he placated me not from concern for what I had witnessed, what it might do to my heart, my soul; he placated me, seemingly, to put a sane voice to what was going on in his demented head.
To this day, I have no memory of what possessed me to go to that room when I did. I have no idea how I felt afterwards, what I did, or how I dealt with the emotions from that point on. How old was I? I have no idea where my brother and sisters were, or what my mother and stepfather did once their explanations were said and done. I have a strong suspicion that my mother went into the kitchen to prepare dinner, and my stepfather went down to his workroom in the basement. This was how most of their arguments ended. And life went on, as if this were how all families lived.
Would my mother have killed him? I'm not sure. Would he have welcomed death? I almost believe he would have. I feel that's what he truly wanted, and has wanted all his miserable, hurting, unhappy life.
There are more recollections, not as many as I know there are things to recollect, but enough to make me realize how traumatic they were, how deeply ingrained they became as points in my life that will always be part of me. I will never be able to truthfully deny their existence.
I know I went through hell but I am not actually able to remember each distinct descriptive point of that personal hell. Memories usually allow for action--be it an action born of intense anger or an action which flows from overwhelming relief. But my foggy snippets allow more for frustration at being a victim without a weapon with which to defend myself.
I am a survivor, though, not only because I got out of my hellish childhood physically and emotionally alive. I call myself a survivor because I am stubborn. I refuse to bow to conventional wisdom which states I must know exactly what I fight before I put on my armor. I am a survivor because, out of the forgotten negatives of my past, I have determined to make life better for others going down a similar road, or those yet to walk that road.
There is an intense anger I have carried, and it fed my stubborn determination to ensure my children never walked that road. Throughout their childhoods, I was solidly certain I would have for them nothing less than important, positive memories.
I am determined to make a way for all children, kids who, like me, grew up, or are presently growing up, in emotionally abusive homes. I cannot sit by and just let it happen. Nor can I stop it all. I understand that but I want, to the best of my ability, to work to break the cycle of abuse, a cycle I refused to allow to be passed on to me. I am determined that it WILL stop with me.
It is a God-given determination which makes me a survivor, not a statistic. Where I was berated, I will encourage. Where I was ridiculed, I will lift up. Where I was ignored, I will give attention. Where I was physically downgraded, I will offer hugs and love.
This is the birth of an activist. The fog is still there. I am still not sure how to get where I am to go. But, gratefully, I have my faith and a determination that I will, ultimately, get there. By the time that happens, maybe I will have remembered every spot on the road. The only way to forget is to fully remember.
Because of the road that led me through childhood I pray that others will have a clear, sure drive ahead of them into that wonder we call life.
Site: Linda Alexander: i-am-america
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|Reviewed by Annette Hendrix Williams
|I don't think that the abuse that I suffered as a child was as extreme as what you described here, but it was there. My own father considered himself to be a very loving father and wanted respect as such or he would beat my legs with a black leather belt if he did not get it. He called me Duck Butt when I was not fat and used this kind of humor on everyone, expecting them to laugh at his tormenting "funnies" until he got so sick in his last days that he could not talk because he did not have the strength. He spent many days in his bed growing weaker every day unable to say what he really thought. At one point he got frightened and wanted my mother to help him go over the sinner's prayer with him though years earlier he would have told anyone that he had made everything right with God. It must have taken all the strength he could muster to write a note one day and tell me that he was proud of me for being such a good daughter. I did not know what to do or say. I felt so helpless for not knowing what to do. The last night of his life on Earth, it was obvious that he was wasting away and that we would not have him twenty four more hours. I sat at the foot of his bed praying out loud, "Father, he is our daddy and we love him (I was including a sister who was not in the room at the time)is there anything I can do for him?" I felt an answer rise up in my spirit, "It's okay, he is mine". The next morning I said my final goodbye as I could see that his body was there and his eyes were rolling, but he did not acknowledge my presence in the room. I went to work as usual, knowing that I would get a phone call from my mother during the day telling me that he had died and that I would not work for the next few days. It all happened just the way I described it, and I had peace because my Father in Heaven assured me that it was okay.
|Reviewed by Tami Ryan
|I understood every word I read here - and more. I literally cannot remember the years of my life between the ages of eight and thirteen, save a few isolated incidents, mostly school related. My training tells me that I can't remember those years because my mind knows the truth and is protecting me. I know that one day something, somewhere, will trigger the memories, and THAT scares me. Really scares me.
As with you, I have made it my life's work to speak out/up... to create awareness... to help children... If I can make the difference in the life of even one child, it will have mattered. I have to try.
Thank you for speaking out and creating awareness, Linda.
A thousand hugs to you,