The Irregulars

virginiastark

The Irregulars is one of my favorite collaborative projects that I’m currently involved in. It’s the story of eight children without homes or families and it’s also about the trauma that has come with that. The kids form a family unit together and as so often seems to happen these days, it isn’t the family you’re born with that counts, it’s the spiritual family along the way that gets you through life, the world and everything.

Along with their traumas, they each have special talents. They aren’t regular street kids, but their powers make them hunted by people who would exploit their powers. I came up with the idea for the concept of the story behind The Irregulars but Jason Pere, one of my co-authors helped in crafting biographies and talents for each of the kids. After that we recruited a crack team of writers to take on the perspective…

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Thoughts in an MRI

Thoughts in an MRI

By Virginia Carraway Stark

“I read what you wrote,” She said. Her flame of red hair was ringed in platinum, making her look like an angel as she pulled broccoli out of a shopping bag to make a salad.

I scanned my mind, such a loaded statement, I couldn’t think about which ‘what I had wrote’ my Godmother meant but I suspected. How she would have found it was what surprised be as I rarely saw her around my Facebook page and I had never told her about my blog.

molly and charlie

My Godparents

The machine whirled around me while I thought over our visit with Molly and Charlie.

Chug chug chug chug whir whir whir

mri scanner

I had dosed myself with sedatives and I wasn’t feeling particularly anxious or upset. I had the stoic feeling that settles on me whenever an ordeal befalls me, this too shall pass.

I had always had a huge reserve of stoicism to me, it was at odds with my delicate nature. I’m not build for endurance physically but mentally I have always been unstoppable. The physical world was something that put my will on pause from time to time throughout my entire life. My basic belief structure is that the world is made up of good things, good time, love and beauty that are occasionally disrupted by waves ‘real life’ happening. It happens to everyone and it is always in my mind this too shall pass.

My eyes were closed in the machine. They had offered to put a face cloth on my face and I had looked at them like they were insane. One of the worst feeling of claustrophobia is having your airways obstructed and having my nose and mouth covered and being shoved into a tiny loud tube seemed absurd to me even in my sedated state.

mri

They argued with me and insisted that it was the sight of the machinery was what would be upsetting for me. I had heard a lot of people who comment about their MRI experiences say that it felt like their brains had been ‘rifled through’ and had laughingly said that this must be what it would feel like to be probulated by aliens. One person said that if you listened closely you could hear a robotic voice saying ‘taking picture’ during the loud whirling part of the noisy procedure but I sure didn’t hear anything like that.

All alien probulations aside the machine itself wasn’t as bad as all that and I thought about dinner with Molly and Charlie Mumert to distract myself.

Molly had been referring to the letter I had written to everyone who knew me as a child. It was a hard letter to write and her first words to me were an apology. Uncle Charlie didn’t say anything, he just hugged me extra hard.

The problem with abused children is that there is no way to sweep them up into your arms and away from danger. No matter how much you know or guess, the best you can do is cause a disruption through social services and possibly put the child into strange environments and possibly new dangers that could be worse than the ones that they are already dealing with.

I remember one night when I was very young, only about three or so, we were driving home to Dawson from the Mumerts and my Dad asked what we would thought if anything ever happened to him and mom if we went to live with the Mumerts.

My first reaction was a totally disloyal feeling towards my family. Live with the Mumerts?

It was the equivalent of being sent to Hogwarts or some other magical place. I thought of the regular meals, of the massive library where I was encouraged to read and allowed to read any book on any of the shelves. I thought about their safe hugs and picking raspberries with Aunt Molly I thought of Charlie and his endless patience, not just for me but for every child, animal or human in his presence.

I terrible feeling came over me in that moment. I moment where I wished my parents would die. Just die. Just leave me alone. Just go away. Just be part of this too shall pass.

In the back seat of the car I choked on my ability to speak. My brother Leonard was the first to reply, “I guess that would be okay, I’d rather stay with Emily and Jerry though.”

Emily was Molly’s sister and she had two pretty girls around my brother’s age. I loved my Aunt Emily nearly as much as I loved my Aunt Molly and she too had a library. A narrow staircase made more narrow by being lined on both sides with books, books stashed in every room. The little house with it’s attic bedrooms was filled with books, whole shelves lined the area behind the toilet in the spare washroom.

She taught me how to spin on her spinning wheel and we made cookies together while Jerry smoked a pipe and told stories.

I loved Emily and Jerry but Molly and Charlie had my heart. They were kindred spirits. Their house was filled with quietude and oddities. Molly’s grace and elegance and the love she and Charlie had for each other were hallmarks I held for myself in any relationship I would ever have in the future. I saw the looks between them, the way he held her, the love and trust between them and that was the gold standard of love to me.

grandfather clock molly

Their house was filled with silence, only the ticking of the grandfather clock telling the time and tolling the hour interrupted hours of reading in the many nooks of their house. When we arrived a half wolf dog would greet us. Inside dachaunds ruled the roost. There was a drawer at the bottom of an ancient sidebar filled with coloring books and toys that would change from time to time, but the only time I played with them was when I wanted to listen in on the adult conversation. The rest of the time I was a spirit in their house, roaming from room to to room. Marveling at the wonders on the glass shelves that lit up and lined the hallway to the basements. An ostrich egg that had been collected, a rock with eyes glued on it, a dozen stories inhabited the things that lived in that house. Quiet or loud, the house had a way of silencing the noise and making it a place of hallowed sanctuary.

If I made it past the fascination of the wonders on the hallway shelves I would be sure to be found in the first door on the left where the library hid. Behind one of the shelves was a semi-hidden doorway that I made much of in my mind and played out stories of magic and wonder of castles and forbidden labratories and the libraries of magicians. In reality it was where Molly kept her freezers and her preserves but in my mind it was a secret place that could become anyplace.

secret passsage mother and child

Upstairs was the kitchen, and the heart of the house that beat every minute around Aunt Molly. Her laughter penetrated the walls and her food held her happiness and her prayers in every mouthful.

I would often navigate past the kitchen and into the living room if haunted laboratories and secret castles passages were not what interested me, or if my brother Leonard was being a bother big brothers so often are, and into the living room. This was where the grandfather clock lived. I would watch the chains move slowly as the seconds at them up. They were an invitation to my mind to think of perpetual motion machines and my heated disputes with my brother that you could too make a perpetual motion machine, most of those discussions started by that clock.

In this part of the house it was nearly always dark but there were chairs, couches and lamps placed anywhere a young girl might want to read. A piano sat in one corner and a perfectly sculpted ‘infinity’ sculpture of a mother holding a child sat under the picture of the moon. An owl haunted another wall that guarded the way to Molly and Charlie’s bedroom. A sacred room that I had never been in and had no wish to explore. The owl watching would have warned me off if my heart hadn’t already been happy to leave their secret safe and untainted from the blight of my parent’s marriage that I had no doubt followed me like a cloud. This part of the house was always silent. Even when the adults retired from dinner and on the rare ocassion they went to the den, their voices were quiet and thoughtful. It was a good thinking room.

cozy molly

(Room not actually pictured, it was quieter than this but as close as I could find)

Those were the thoughts that I choked on while my brother prattled on about the benefits of living with Emily and Jerry and I, for one, evil, heartfelt moment, wished both of my parents dead.

Those thoughts, congealed like a jello mold were what flooded my mind when my Aunt Molly apologized after all these years for not doing more. How to explain to her what she had one for me in showing me how love could be. How to explain that I knew, even as a child that there was no way for her to scoop me up in her arms and to keep me.

“There was nothing you could have done,” Was all I replied. All these thoughts hammering at my heart. All the peace she gave me, all the ideas of what a home could be, what love could be. How her example, her grace, her fortitude, her love and her smile and helped me to sidestep the pitfalls that turn children into their parents. How could I explain to her how closely I watched her ever movement when I was a child, how I internalized her as my mother when my own mother failed me. How I would never let a man treat me the way my father treated my mother or how he treated me because of their example.

Meanwhile the machine whirled around me chugging and whirling and being entirely inexplicable. It was like being a child all over again. Subjected to noise, not understanding the purpose of the loudness or discomfort but trying as always to be very very good. Trying not to move, it would blur the image. The surge of happiness when I was told through the nearly inaudible microphone, ‘You’re doing very well, Virginia. Just a little bit longer.’

That was the mantra of my entire life ‘You’re doing very well and the pain will only be for a little bit longer.’.

There were times I admit, when things were very bad for me that I went to a facsimily of my godparents house in my mind. I could listen to the godfather clock ticking and believe in the endless possibilities of perpetual motion machines of mother’s holding their children and having only love in their eyes as they looked down at the baby they held in their arms.

When my own mother refused to move or feed or clothe me I would think of Molly and her endless grace and I would find a way to be my own mother. I would find food, I would find clothes and I would seek out others with the resonance and kindness that she emitted like a beacon to me. She showed me that there was always good in the world and even if I couldn’t stay with her and Charlie forever I could align myself with them in my heart and mind. I could find my own way to grace and love and happiness because I was a good girl and this would be over soon.

mother mary

They finally let me out of the machine. I could barely stand I was so dizzy and as soon as I left the ‘safety zone’ area my husband was waiting for me. The husband I had found for myself that looks at me with the same sort of love that Charlie looks at Molly with. The husband I know I can trust and who would never do any of the things to me that my father did to mother, especially when she was weak and vulnerable like I was now.

I had formed a life for myself that lacked the stability and grace of my godparent’s life. My life is dynamic and terrible and wonderful things are a staple in my life but nearly always, the good things outweigh the bad.

Even after being run over by the minivan people tell me they are jealous of my life. I laugh and ask them if they’re sure of that and to be careful what they wish for.

Maybe one day I will master the peace my godparents exude and that I was never quite able to capture for my own understanding. Maybe one day I’ll figure that part of things out, or maybe my nature is too much to ever be like that. Maybe I will never have an angel’s corona of silver to give my flame a halo. Maybe I’m made of a different sort of substance too dynamic to ever find that sort of quietude.

little virginia

(Picture of Me, too dynamic to be held down for long, my life has an air of the ‘curiouser and curioser’ that  better angels are not cursed with)

Maybe I wouldn’t be happy if things were ever that calm. Maybe my nature is so dynamic that to imitate her peace is to betray myself. Understanding such things, coming to the wisdom that we can learn but we cannot emulate is something else entirely. I have learned that stoics learn wisdom even if it often comes to us the hard way.

On Bravery

A Note on Bravery

By Virginia Carraway Stark

“You’re so brave.”

lions mouth brave

It’s a phrase that is said with envy, appreciation, pride and genuine joy in the ability of the human spirit to recover from trauma and harm or even facing the threat of them.

I am someone who is extraordinarily brave. I have learned this mostly from having it repeated to me by so many people, most of whom have only heard a fraction of what I’ve experienced. I don’t feel like I’m a brave person. I feel like I’m just a person.

author pic fiesty

This is just me. If I can be brave you can do it too.

The difference that I’ve learned between those who are called brave and those who are not is that brave people have limits. Brave people have boundaries and these boundaries are inflexible and will not, cannot be sacrificed. Brave people don’t know how to be any way except brave. To our admirers we are told we are strong, beautiful, courageous and to our enemies we are obdurate, frustrating and devastating. Brave people can still have fears, anxiety, problems and enemies.

brave greek

I have a lot of enemies. I have a lot of people I have said, ‘no’ to. I have a lot of people who I have had to say, ‘I cannot go on this path with you, it goes against my heart’. I have lost friends, I have lost family, I have found myself in danger because my boundaries are what they are and when they are impinged on my heart speaks loudly and I am sworn to follow my heart. I have problems. The Universe may love me, but he’s also not at all concerned with giving me an easy ride.

To those people who are not brave it is confounding. We cannot be bribed, cajoled, convinced or threatened when our heart speaks. We, the brave, will die for our convictions without a second thought because to betray our hearts is to betray our souls, our very selves and to unmake ourselves.

I have been told that I am impossible to understand. Why could I go for years having forgiven my father and my family only to speak up now. The answer is simple: I realized that to not tell my story with the new information I had would be a betrayal of myself. I have to tell the truth now and to do anything else would be to obliterate myself. I have been demonized and shunned by my biological family and I have been abandoned since I was a child by those whose sole duty to their child was to protect them from as much harm as possible.

None of that mattered until I realized that my Dad ‘merely’ hadn’t violated my body and mind, he had also violated my soul and fed others lies about my very nature. That was the line for me. That was the boundary.

boundary brave

There is no trick to bravery. It’s hardwired into you. The universe guides your footfalls and when your heart bids you to speak up against a wrong you must. When your heart bids you to protect someone who is being attacked you must. When your heart bids you to face your enemies down no matter the consequences you do so.

brave girl

It has been a surprise to me throughout life that bravery is a rare quality. Fear is a predominate characteristic and people care more about offending strangers than they care about betraying their own heart. People would rather be ‘friends’ with relatives they despise than speak out and face the danger of creating an enemy even though every minute with the relative is a corruption of your own essence.

Fear is an easy cage. Fear is the idea that different is bad. That ‘what ifs’ are dangerous. Fear is the idea that the only point to living is to live as long as you an despite your circumstances, despite your joy, despite your love, despite your heart screaming in agony inside you. Fear is prolonging life at any cost. Fear is doing the same thing that you hate doing every day because it’s ‘not so bad’ and ‘it could be worse’ instead of taking the plunge and running to see what’s over the next horizon.

brave cat

Bravery. I am me. I will follow my heart and if I die tomorrow I will know that I died without regret or betrayal of myself. Bad things can happen to you and you can still live without regret. You can have deep sorrows in your heart as I do and still know that you did your part. You can live every day making the best choices from where your path leads you.

I want to thank everyone who has told me that I’m brave. It’s so much better than being told that I’m wrong for listening to my heart or that I’m lying for telling the truth.

I also want to tell everyone that you can be brave too. You don’t need to do battle with monsters who abuse you in ways so horrific that they are worthy of being ogres out of a dark fairy tale to be brave. You can be brave by being the person who is kind when others are being cruel. You can be brave by saying, ‘this is wrong’ and not just looking away. You can make boundaries and you can keep them. You can be happy. You can be proud of yourself for making and keeping boundaries.

boudary fence brave

If everyone is just a little bit brave everyone will have a better life. The evil bullies and monsters that infect this world will be shocked to learn that they can’t do whatever they want to you or to anyone else. You’ll make them mad, even if you do it a little bit. Do it anyway. Then do it again.

There are worse things than death and cowardice is one of them. Be brave. Love. Laugh. Don’t be captive to your fears. If you are sad be brave enough to ask why you’re sad and then be brave enough to face the answers you receive.

grave angel

You will face rejection, pain and death no matter what you do in this life. Choose to be the protagonist in your own story and start being just a little bit braver every day.

Walk with me, be fearless.

With much love,

Virginia

A Postscript:

Are you brave? Have you been even a little brave and it’s made you braver still? Please share your story to inspire others. Sharing your own story is yet another piece of bravery and I believe in you.

To Everyone Who Knew Me as a Child

Dear Everyone,

I have to wonder why nobody ever asked me if I was okay. I wonder about a lot of things from that time but it especially bothers me with my aunts and uncles and cousins.

Why did you think it was normal that I always had broken bones? Why did you think it was okay that I looked like a little starved thing? Why did you never ask what was going on?

ignored broken

When I ran away from home after a long history of being a smart little thing who cried when you asked me too many questions about what was going on at home to someone who became emancipated and ran away right before turning 16, didn’t you ever wonder what my family was doing to me?

After all these years I come back into your life and I was confused about why you, my family, wasn’t happy to see me. My Dad and my stepmother apologized and cried for what they had done to me, they begged me for forgiveness and I never for a moment thought that anyone who was intimately connected to me as a child could be unaware of what was going on, even to a small degree.

emo broken hearts

When I started writing my blog it was a way for me to work on my own feelings which I planned to eventually turn into a memoir. When my family found it they reacted universally as though it was a frightful lie that they could never have imagined as happening.

I know my dad was very charismatic, but you guys, what about all the broken bones????

I never broke a single bone after I left home. Not one. I went from one a year or more to not a single broken bone. I got run over by a frickin’ cab and I didn’t break a bone.

As a child, nobody bought me clothes, nobody bought me food and I relied on the friendship of strangers to feed me and clothe me in second-hand clothing. My little brother was diagnosed with malnutrition by a doctor and still nothing was done. I told my school counselor that I was hungry and that there wasn’t any food in my mom’s house and the little bit of food there was had bugs in it…my entire family turned on me then too.

The fact of the matter is that none of my aunts or uncles or cousins or immediate family wanted me to have food or wanted my broken bones answered.

When I was about twelve I had broken my collar bone again, I had broken it nearly every year since I was three years old. I remember the doctor who looked at the x-rays well.

His name was Dr. Browne. He had long, cool and gentle fingers that he touched my collarbone with. My right collarbone had been broken so many times by this point that it had scarred badly. I had a lump that was almost an inch high at its apex from it being rebroken and never properly tended. Of course it wasn’t tended properly; I still had to do all my chores every day even with a broken collarbone. It was bad enough that you could easily see it through my t-shirt and it hurt all the time, even when it wasn’t being actively broken.

Dr. Browne looked at the x-rays a long time and then he asked me about my other breaks. I glibly told him about broken wrists and hands and legs and bragged to him about how good I had gotten with crutches. It was at about that point that the old doctor turned on my father and demanded answers for my broken bones. To put it finely: He flipped shit.

“Why has your daughter had so many broken bones?” He demanded of my father and mother. Both of them jumped in guilt and surprise and I had no answer to give to protect them. I had been told what to say so often when I broke something and no one had ever questioned it. I said what made me a good girl and got me a pat on the head from my daddy and the doctors would usually look at the x-rays, sometimes set bones, put me in a cast or in a sling and sent me home.

Dr. Browne noticed though, he noticed through my well-practised lines. He fixed me in his pale, blue-eyed stare, “Why have you had so many broken bones?” He demanded, now of me.

My mouth was agog and the doctor narrowed his eyes at my parents and shook his head. “What about her broken collarbone? Why has it been allowed to get to this state? Why has it never been properly set?”

I shook my head again. I didn’t know what to say. No one had ever demanded answers since I had been three and had been told to tell the doctors that, ‘I fell off my daddy’s back while he was giving me a horsey-back ride and hit the coffee table and then it hurt’. How could I tell him sometimes we would just put my arm in a sling for awhile if it didn’t look like whatever lump of bones had been too messed up, just to prevent a trip to the hospital.

crying broken anime

Dr. Browne knew the score. He ordered tests to see if I had brittle bones or a calcium deficiency or some other undiagnosed condition that had previously gone unnoticed, all the while muttering under his breath and glaring daggers at my father.

The tests all came back that I had healthy enough bones, they just mysteriously ‘broke themselves’ all the time. One of my friends who knew me since elementary school summed it up best over coffee, she said, “You were just the girl who always had something broken on her and you had always been that way and so none of us thought to ask you why you always had broken bones.”

My Dad didn’t come into another appointment to see Dr. Browne who was also an orthopedic surgeon. He ordered surgery for me and they cut off the lump of misshapen, linked together bone and put a pin in my shoulder. After a few months he removed it and I was left with a couple of scars and a collarbone that’s nearly an inch shorter on the right than on the left but the constant pain was gone.

After that, the incidents of broken bones settled down a bit. For a while.

I had a broken foot from trying to run away from my dad once and a greenstick break of my right wrist from it getting bent backwards when I was defiant of my father. I had yet more casts. I had doctors’ reports. Dr. Browne retired and much later I was emancipated and ran away from home. I never told anyone that my dad had hurt me because I didn’t want to get him into trouble and he convinced me that they were all accidents.

Even running away from him, that was just another ‘accident’, wasn’t it? A girl shouldn’t be afraid of her father… should she?

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Except for the wrist one I think they were largely accidents. He bent and crumpled me for his own enjoyment and I was too small and he broke me. ‘Whoops, sorry honey, it was an accident, we’ll go out for a banana split after we go to the hospital. I love you so much, you’re so brave not to cry.’

So to everyone who knew me as a child: Why didn’t you ever wonder about the broken bones? Why didn’t you ever ask me if someone was hurting me? Why didn’t you know someone was hurting me?

I don’t expect the people who were my friends, who were just kids at the time, to know any better.

It was when I moved from Dawson Creek to the Okanagan that things started to go wrong for my Dad and people started to ask me why I was bruised. It was there that they began to ask questions and while I never looked anyone in the eyes and said, “My Dad is hurting me”, I didn’t need to. They knew the answers and that was much of the basis for the emancipation that would follow.

help me abuse

To all the people who were adults then and noticed, I thank you. It was them who, when they asked me why I ran away from home and I told them a fraction of the whole story, they hugged me and said, “I thought something was wrong, honey, I’m so sorry,” I want to say thank you.

Thank you for believing me, thank you for wondering at the time. Thank you to the Dechiefs and the Bedells for letting me sleep at your house and for feeding me and not telling me to go home. Thank you to the school counsellors who tried to help. Thank you to Ms. Watts who helped me skip a grade of school and talked to me like I was an adult. Without you, I would have had to spend another year in high school and who know what might have happened in that time.

Thank you to all my friends from the Baptist Church youth group who loved me even though sometimes I didn’t know how to say the bad things that were happening to me. Thank you for holding me through it and forgiving me for being a spazz. Your unconditional love meant the world to me.

I don’t blame you for not knowing how bad it was. My voice was stolen from me by my father’s manipulations. I believed we had something special together, something I must never betray. I couldn’t speak the words that would damn him for the longest time.

fear abuse

Later on I blamed it all on my stepmother. I thought it was all her fault, she was the bad influence on him, but that wasn’t true either. The truth was that they were a good match for each other. Evil for evil, a love story of abusers, puddles of blood and booze ending in a frozen corpse in a snowbank and a man who has grown no less evil for age; he has only grown more canny at disguise.

Where once he hid his abuses behind his charisma and generosity he now hides it behind the guise of an old man, too old to remember the past, too distraught to talk about it, but wiley enough to hide it from everyone after all these years.

Ironically even though my stepmother abused me harshly she was a jealous woman and she put an end to things like ‘bathing with daddy’ when I was 12. She made sure he was rarely alone with me. The abuse changed at that point and I thought what I was now seeing was the first abuse, making excuses for every broken bone, dismissing it as my own weakness.

silence abuse2

I made excuses for my father until I finally realized that he had never done the same for me. He never protected my image, nor my soul, not like I had protected his darkest secrets so willingly. While I had been gone he had told people that I was mentally unstable, that I was all the worst parts of my mother. How tragic to see her go crazy like Debbie, he explained to anyone who asked him why I had left.

Then one day I came back and it was apparent that I was intelligent, beautiful and passionate. New excuses had to be found. Quickly. While I had been gone he had told people things ranging from believing I was dead to telling people I was in prison, and what could one expect? Best case scenario I was just too unstable. He covered up the fact that after I had left home I had worked a job at a diner and saved up enough while still going to school to run away to Ontario. He just told them I had run away and he couldn’t understand it except that I was a troubled girl.

Meanwhile, this whole time I’ve been making excuses for him.

My daddy hurt me. My daddy raped me. My daddy held me down when I was too small and broke my little bones. He left big bruises on my arms or my neck or my ankles. He did all these things and I lied and covered up for him because he made me believe we had an entente. I did it to be his good girl. I did it since I was three years old and until I ran away from home. I lied to the police who asked me if my daddy had hurt me in ‘that way’. I lied to the social workers who asked the same. He controlled me in every way and it was a miracle that I ever found the power to lift my chin and tell him ‘no’.

It’s taken me a long time to tell the rest, but here it is.

To everyone who shunned me and told me I was crazy when they first read my blog, I want you to think. I want you wonder about those broken bones. I want you to wonder about the quiet scared girl who still loved and embraced life even in a sling, even bruised and casted, in her tatty clothes. I want you to ask yourself if you really believe parents who let such things go on right before them are the ‘good people’ you assure me they are.

broken heart

This is a letter to all the people, good and bad in my life when I was a child. To those who were adults and who looked the other way, to those who were just kids like me and didn’t know that it was weird that I was always broken and bruised.

This is a letter to all the people who see children like me today and look away. Especially doctors and nurses who repeatedly see children in the Emergency Room and never say a word. When you are an abused child you remember every kindness and everyone who ever tried to protect them. Please, please, please do not ignore these children. We are all worthy of love.

you have to stop child abuse

 

 

 

How My Dad Broke my Silence.

When I was run over this summer and spent the night in the hospital my husband was a long ways away and couldn’t be there with me. I called my Dad who got my message and got into his car and headed in the opposite direction because it was too upsetting for him that I had been hit by a car. I messaged my brother who lives in the town where I was in the hospital, he read my message and didn’t reply. I had to get myself home while I was still in massive shock because my family didn’t care enough to see me after I had been hit by a car. I could have died and they could have cared less.

Last night my Dad reported symptoms of congestive heart failure to me. He could barely talk he was in so much distress. My husband called one of his paramedic friends to borrow his jump kit, and drove an hour out of town to take his vitals and see if he was in immediate need of medical aid. The symptoms and my dad’s medical history made this a direct and immediate threat.
I called my Dad to let him know that Tony was coming and his response was that he didn’t want anyone to take his vitals, he’d hide if Tony came over. He acted frantic and edgy and weird about it. He was so upset I was concerned he would react violently if Tony showed up at the door.

Today I’m not sure if my Dad is alive or dead and today I don’t care anymore. I’m forgiving to a fault and now, after showing him concern and love when he showed none for me at all and to be rebuffed so harshly… well, if he won’t even let me love him then I really am stupid to keep trying. In spite of all the abuse and the horrors he put me through, up until today I still loved him.

As far as I’m concerned my dad died last night, or at least any lingering delusions I had that there was anything good or intelligent or kind about him. It’s one thing when you wouldn’t show love for me when I was hurt but not letting me show love for you is the line. I lost my father last night and the worst part is that every good thing I took from our relationship was tainted by that rebuff.

Moving along now, I’ve known the score since I was fifteen. It took me until last night to actually accept it and all its ramifications.

For the First Time

By Virginia Carraway Stark

Over the past couple of days I’ve had my life unravel.

After I ran away from home when I was a teenager it was many years before I came back into contact with any of my family. The first thing that happened when I saw my Dad and Stepmother were tearful apologies and pleas for forgiveness for the abuses they had committed willfully and maliciously to me. I forgave them both and re-entered the family.

But something was wrong.

My extended family seemed confused, hurt and puzzled by my absence. I asked my Dad about it and he said vague things that threw me off the scent of the deeper cover up going on, a cover up that I only recently discovered when my family found my blog and accused me of being insane and demanded I take it down. When that happened I was confounded because my Dad had said that everyone knew what had happened. Everyone had known why I had run away from home.

So, if everyone knew that he and Judy had been abusing me and that the police and social services had been called and that I had been emancipated because of the extreme abuse I as suffering: Then why was everyone calling me crazy and defending Judy and calling me a liar?

Something smelled funny.

Yesterday I called my Dad and I asked him why my Aunt Linda had called me a backstabbing liar. Why my nephew’s mother had vehemently defended Judy. Why so many relatives had attacked me when I had spoken out loud what he had previously assured me was common knowledge.

He didn’t have an answer for me.

He said all these things like: I’m not taking sides. Judy’s dead, why does it matter now what she did to you?

Finally I asked him: Did you ever tell anyone what you and Judy did to me to make me run away from home?

He refused to answer. He said it wasn’t his fault what Judy might or might not have done to me. I asked him if that was the case then why had he apologized and cried when he saw me again and I forgave them? I asked him why he thought that it wasn’t his responsibility to make sure his child wasn’t injured? I asked him why no one seemed to know the truth?

He had no answer for me.

I said to him, “Daddy, did Judy hurt me?”

He refused to answer.

I said, “Was she good to me or bad to me?”

He refused to answer.

And with that the conspiracy of silence he had kept on me all of these years was broken. I realized that I had been duped. He had been running around not letting anyone know, covering up for himself and Judy and throwing me under the bus. He sure got quiet when I reminded him that there are police and social services reports, reports that I have and more reports that I have ordered. He hung up on me when I asked him why he thought I had run away from home.

He said, “Boy, that sure was hard on me when you ran away from home.”

I was crying now and I said, “Fuck you, Daddy, everything is always about you.”

He hung up on me and I expect the next time I see him it will be under very different circumstances because he broke the bonds he had put on me my whole life. He stole my family from me by not telling them why I had run away. He had led them to believe that I was mentally unstable and that is why I ran away from home. I had been an honor student, I had a lot of friends had always been a good natured person.

I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so standoffish to me until yesterday when my Dad hung up on me for the last time.

We make a lot of mistakes in life and the biggest mistakes I ever made were about my Dad. Up until this very day I protected him, remembered the good and tried to block the bad from my mind. I put everything in a good light and tried tried tried to make sense of what he did and said and how he acted within a paradigm that would let me think that my dad was a good.

My Dad made me feel special, he made me make promises to keep his secrets and I kept most of his secrets, especially the big ones for many years but I’m done keeping his secrets.

I’m a dreamer and I want to believe the best of people. If someone tells me something I want to believe them. If they tell me that they are really and truly sorry for something then I tend to believe it.

I only recently realized that nobody knew what I was going through in high school except for the two people who put me through the most: my Dad and my Stepmother. When the social workers asked me questions I kept quiet about the big things. I didn’t want to get my Dad into trouble even then. But now that bond has been broken. He stole my childhood from me, he stole my family from me, he stole the last years of my mother’s life from me and now he wouldn’t even admit any of it.

You want to talk about backstabbing liars? Well, I know one of them.

My own mother didn’t know the extent of how bad things were for me, although she had experienced similar abuse when she was growing up herself. She tried to rescue me once and ran away with me to transition house. I was furious with her. I wanted my daddy. He made me feel special. He told me how pretty I was. He was the one who had baths with me. He was the one who rewarded me for being good.

I was furious with my mother for trying to rescue me. I was so deeply under his sway, my head was so turned my his manipulations that I wouldn’t say one word to the counselors. I refused to talk to the police then, years before I ran away from home. I refused to say anything and I knew all the things I wasn’t allowed to say or they would take Daddy away. I knew how to cover up for him and that was by keeping my mouth closed

I protected him but he never gave a thought to protecting me.

I was stupid about him. He is a sociopath. He told me that he had systematically worked to drive my mother insane so he wouldn’t have to pay alimony. He bragged about the tricks he had played on her. He bragged about a lot of things to me. I was his special little girl. I was the most important thing in his life and I would have done absolutely anything for him. I did do absolutely everything for him.

Today is the end of that. Today I am breaking the silence.

There is no statute of limitations on child abuse in Canada. I’m done protecting my abuser. I’ve done it for too many years.

I was shaken when my brother accused my Dad of molesting his children, but I stood by my Dad even then. It had only happened to me because I had been special. He promised he had only ever done those things to me, that we had something together that must never be spoken of. Part of me believed that my brother was lying. Wanted to believe it.

He won’t let my dad see his grandchildren. Well, I’m not close to my brother but I have no right to doubt his accusations. When a man will do those things to his own daughter there is no stopping them. They will do them for all time. The rest of my family turned on my brother and my brother kind of sort of backed down from things after threatening to press charges. The rest of my family has turned on me too, but I’m not going to be silent. This man has hurt too many people and I’ve protected him for too long. His true nature has been made apparent at long last and I won’t lie for him or cover up for him anymore.

You can call me a liar, you can call me insane but after a point the evidence builds against even the most charming of psychopaths and you would have to be willfully stupid to not ask a few questions. Go ahead, ask him why I ran away. Make sure you get details though. Ask him if he ever told people that he was worried from the day I was born that he would be able to not have sexual feelings for me. Ask him and watch his charismatic blue eyes carefully. It took me a long time to see through the gaslighting he was doing to me, he knows how to be clever. Ask him directly and see if you’re heart can believe his lies.

One final word: I had forgiven my Dad for everything but after finding out that he’s been covering up for himself and Judy ALL these years and his apology was just more manipulation I don’t forgive him anymore. There is nothing he could do now to make me every trust him again and forgiveness is something that I will have to work on anew.

 

We Learn from History, Not Silence!

We Learn from History, Not Silence!

By Virginia Carraway Stark.

How Silence Dooms the Generations. Tragedies can bring people together or tear them apart and it’s all down to the willingness of those who have been affected to share and talk and learn and love each other.

condemned to repeat history

I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support at my courage to tell my story. There have been some bizarre messages that are simply removed, people who aren’t willing to listen and at least consider the possibility that my story is true are not compassionate. They are not reasonable human beings. For example one girl told me that she knew for a fact that nothing I said was true because she played Sims with Katy and Katy was nice.

sims

Well, I’m sure both things are true. Those limited experiences however have absolutely no bearing on my experiences. Katy didn’t invite friends over when her mother was on a bender but most of her friends did know about a lot of her struggles.

When I wrote the blog about Katy I did not intend it as an ‘attack’ on her. I didn’t write it for her or for her friends, I wrote it for me. I wrote it about my observations, my thoughts and my feelings. One friend of Katy’s sent me ten copies of the same message saying that I clearly needed mental help as I couldn’t tell fact from fiction. That one was interesting because it is true that someone isn’t being able to tell fact from fiction. That was the whole point of the article is that Katy is delusional about the fact that her mother died from being an unrepentant alcoholic. That Judy wasn’t a wonderful woman and that the world, as far as anyone who experienced her violence and malice is concerned, her being out of it makes the world a better place. In fact, that was the title of the article: Katy’s Delusions. Gosh ma’am, your psychology is showing. Turning things around on people like that (or attempting to) is called displacement and you have it in spades.

displacement

Katy’s delusions and wishes to have the perfect mom and the perfect family are understanding and sympathetic but one day those delusions rise up and bite you in the ass.

To this day my Dad is still cleaning up her many messes that she left for him. From the fact that her life insurance wasn’t honored because she lied and said she wasn’t an alcoholic to all the unpaid bills and taxes that her addictions and feckless behavior left in its wake. Even my Dad was a victim of her abuse especially as his guilt about how he had treated me ate away at him and he became more and more at the mercy of the whims of Judy’s alcoholism. Would today be a day when he had to call the police? Would she kick him out of her second hand store and tell him it was hers and he was trespassing or would she kiss him on the cheek and ask him to watch the store for her while she ran to the bank? Nobody could ever say.

codependent triangle

My Dad is more honest about his feelings about losing Judy than Katy is by far. He admits that he misses her every day even though he knows that he was miserable with her and he’s also glad every day that he knows he won’t come home to find a horrible disaster on his hands. He told me that when he drove he would reach for the phone to call Judy and had even done so on a few occassions to tell her he would be home soon. He was with her and her abuse for so long that he doesn’t have a life of his own now that she is gone. His life hinged on Judy, keeping her sober, keeping Katy together and then one day he woke up and Judy was dead and life moved on.

alcohol abuse

He isn’t like Katy. He doesn’t tell me that Judy was a wonderful person. He tells me that she could be really good to him sometimes. He tells me that he misses her. He tells me that everyday he learns more things she did behind his back to ruin his life and he fought between his grief and his anger ever since she died. He tells me these things while wiping away an errant tear. He tells me how angry he still is at her for the things she did to me and then he tells me again that he still misses her every day. His conflict is so profound and he has so little left after she tore everything in his life into little pieces that all he can do is roam restlessly from place to place, a restless ghost himself.

The fact of the matter is that all families have things that go one behind closed doors and things can appear more or less normal to outsiders but the truth behind those doors can be very dark indeed. My mother was terribly abused by her father and years after her death I read in her diaries: ‘To everyone else we seemed like the perfect family but nobody heard me cry and nobody saw my blood stained nightgown except for my mother and she couldn’t protect me.’

bloody dress

My mother ran away and got married when she was only fifteen. I ran away from home when I was fifteen. My Dad ran away from home when he was fifteen. Every last one of us ran away because we were being abused. My Mom and my Dad both tried so hard to break the cycle of abuse and they did pretty good jobs of it until they divorced and new, abusive elements were brought into our lives.

When I was fifteen, I thought I was alone. I was alone for the most part in the physical sphere. Not a single aunt or uncle offered to help me. Now, when I speak out about it I had my own aunt call me a ‘vicious, back-stabbing liar’. Well, Aunt Linda, where were you when I needed your help? You’re quick to jump on the criticism but you never offered to help me. If you were really a relative with any love in your heart you would say things like: Are you okay? Do you need any help? Do you need to talk?

It was attitudes like that in my extended family that lead to me leaving the entire mess for good. They made me feel alone because that is another way to hold power over someone. I have talked to other friends of the family who have said things like: I had no idea what you were going through, I would have helped if I had known.

I didn’t tell them what I was going through because the family’s veil of silence was too profound for me to breach at that time. There were threats made. I was told that I was a bad girl for telling the school counselor that my mom didn’t buy food because she was too depressed and that I was hungry. I was punished anytime I reached out for help. Isolated like all the other victims who are taught that they can’t hurt anyone’s feelings. The past should stay in the past, all those other cliches that lead to the cycles off violence, alcoholism and neglect continuing generation after generation.

This is what I have to say today: You are not alone.

I obviously won’t publish the outpourings from people who have sent me their own stories of anguished childhoods, or a cryptic comment from one lady who said she would have to wait for a lot of people to die before she could share her story. This is what I have learned from working on this blog:

For every hundred people who read it only one of those might comment publicly on the ways it helped them or made them feel.

Five(ish) people will private message me and tell me that they read my story and often tell me how it affected them and how akin we are.

Most of the rest will be silent at first but later will drop a comment in passing about how good it is not to be alone.

The point is: People are listening and this is helping them with their own struggles. This is helping people to know they ARE NOT ALONE.

I write a lot of this with my own mother in mind. One of the last pieces of correspondence we exchanged before her death was a card she had made for me. Inside she had written: ‘Every day I hear of something new you write I am so happy for you. You have unlocked a power that I never had, to write about the good in life as well as the bad. I can only write out my pain and writing is pain for me. How happy I am that you have turned it into an act of joy!’

After my mother died everyone poured over her diaries. All those journals that she had written out her pain in. All her sorrows, her defeats, her angers and most of all her pain. My older brother, a preacher man, reviled her for sharing her pain, even in her secret diaries. After reading them he grew enraged. At her funeral he said: ‘She’s better off dead, now maybe she’ll finally be happy for once.’

She felt alone her whole life. She was alone. She didn’t feel safe sharing her secret feelings and abuses with anyone but what should have been the sacrosanct pages of her diary. Those diaries were later used against her in court by my Dad. They were used against her by my brother at her funeral. To this day I hear disparaging remarks about her from the outrage people had that she was in pain. I haven’t read all of her diaries. I have only read one or two and I thought that they were beautiful. Her words were in the language of pain but each one was poetry. How she struggled against the sorrows of being abandoned by her husband, how she tried to be a good mother but she couldn’t escape the darkness of her childhood. Now I can only tell her grave that after all these years I understand and that she wasn’t alone.

grave angel.jpeg

She was offered the chance to press charges against her father for rape years after the statute of limitations ran out and refused. She couldn’t do it, she couldn’t face that monster that had surrounded her as a little girl with a blackness that would pursue her her whole life. I wish so much that I had known about these things when I was a child. I would have been more forgiving of her lapses, I would have been able to have more empathy for her when she needed me to be a mother and she the child. She was silent and so she remained alone.

She was silent because she was afraid of being told she was a liar. She was silent because she was afraid people would say she was sick and no one had hurt her. She didn’t press charges because the monster her father was was too big of a monster for a woman who inside was still a raped eight year old girl.

darkness.jpg

Leave the past in the past. That’s what people will tell you when you tell your history. I call bullshit.

Learn from history or you will be doomed to repeat it. That is the real truth here. Those who try to silence history are no different than any other petty dictator. What I observe about my family isn’t written for them and their anger at my rending of the veil of silence implicates them all as those who held the veil in place.

I was driven from my family by the abuse of my stepmother and my father taking her side again and again. As a result I missed my mother’s funeral. I found a paper doll she had made. It was folded up in layers and on the body of the doll she had written her feelings. Each doll went a layer deeper into her feelings and how it made her body feel. On the innermost doll, written on the heart she had written, ‘Maybe Ginny will come home’.

paper dolls

Oh how these veils of silence hurt us all. She wasn’t there for me and I wasn’t there for her. I didn’t come home before her death, I didn’t even know about it for several years afterward.

I don’t want you to be a paper doll, I want you to be a speaking, living breathing powerful being. Every time we break the veil of silence we pull through another layer of truth and become more real and less of what the abuse we suffered made us into.

Learn from history and share it. I had no idea what my mother was going through, she was so silent, so hurt, so broken she had become a paper doll. Each layer filled with more pain. Unable to break through the two dimensionality of victim hood and find her voice.

For all the ‘family’ who have taken to stalking my every word and sending hate-filled innuendo my way, allow me to flip you the bird right now. You never helped me and I hope you read every word and you sting with its truth. Tell yourself that Judy was a wonderful human being and Katy’s inability to talk about the trauma her mother visited on her is a good and normal way of being. We all know you’re lying and the truth is driving you mad with rage.

If I were saying this out of some sort of ‘inability to tell fact from fiction’ as apparently some ‘family’ seems to think what being a writer is about, then why would it burn you so bad? Why would it bother you? The ravings of the mad don’t bother me, I feel pity for them but no anger. Enjoy the stalking and enjoy my tiny little finger flipping you off in defiance. Your attempts to bully me won’t work, they let me know I’m on the right track at clearing out all the monsters that my mother never had the courage to fight.

th_009.jpeg

Stay tuned for my next blog to hear how an accidental conspiracy to become enablers of my stepmother’s drinking was made by one errant promise by Dad made to Katy when she was still a little girl.

Wolfspiders and Vodka

Wolf Spiders and Vodka

By Virginia Carraway Stark

When I was very small I was terrified of spiders.

It was pretty classic little girl fear of the eight-legged monsters. I knew that they ate the bad bugs and all the rest of the things but I was still scared of them.

When I was about five years old I came down with the chicken pox. It wasn’t a regular run of chicken pox (yes, I had my vaccines), it was the sort of chicken pox that kills.

chicken pox

I was lying on my mother’s lap while she talked to some lady friends of hers. We had some pictures on the wall, blue mountains and lakes painted on thin slices of log. On the bottom of one of the logs there was a white spider. I don’t know if it was dead or just extremely stoic but I had seen that spider there for ages. I wasn’t very afraid of it because it didn’t move and it hadn’t moved since the first time I had seen it. I still watched it though, I didn’t trust it on general principles.

Then something strange happened, something that had never happened before, I noticed that the white spider had a couple of friends with it. These ones were moving and I told my mom about it. She shushed me and kept talking with her friends. I shushed and watched the spiders and then… There were more of them. At first there were only six or seven of them and then they were everywhere. I mean, everywhere. They were all over the walls, the ceiling, everywhere. I was terrified and started to cry and panic.

many spiders

My mom realized that something was wrong and called my Dad home from work. He had been working at a grain elevator at the time and it was only a few blocks for him to come home. He picked me up and at this point he noticed that I was burning up with a fever. He asked me about the spiders, trying to figure out what I was seeing, even trying to kill the spiders that I was having a fever dream about. There were fewer in the kitchen than in the living room. In my fever I saw the stippled ceiling of the living room as each stipple being a spider. Every nail hole, every blemish was a dancing, moving, threatening spider.

fever thermometer

I was crying and absolutely on fire at this point. They rushed me to the hospital which was nearly an hour away. When they took my temperature they found out it was 104 and I was slipping in and out of a coma. The last hallucination that I had was that they put my bed inside of what I saw to be a janitor’s closet and closing the door, leaving me in darkness.

closet

This darkness was actually a coma. I was in a coma for a couple of weeks and they thought I would never wake up. Both of my parents were prepared to lose me and then I woke up. Everyone was crying and holding me and I remember that the first thing they brought me to eat was cabbage rolls which were not appetizing in my state but my Dad loved them and ate them and gave me the jello which was all I could handle. Then we went home.

I was sick with the chicken pox for awhile after, all spots and sore throat and a fever but not a dangerous one any more. The spiders were all gone and I recalled how each imperfection in the wall had been a spider. I could remember them all and now I could see the reality, just specks, nothing else. The only ill result of my chicken pox adventure was that I couldn’t stand creamsicles after that. They tasted horrible to me and still do to this day. Ditto for orange floats, they just taste rotten.

The one positive result was that my mom was so deeply impacted by my form my fever hallucinations took and my fear of them that she took on a campaign to desensitize me to them. There was, of course, readings of Charlotte’s Web, which I had heard before, but then my mom did something very special. She took some pages of paper, folded them in half and stapled them into a booklet.

After that she wrote a story in her book. It was the story of a little girl who was afraid of spiders and then, rather predictably, was rescued by a spider who became her friend. She drew pictures on every page (something that didn’t come easy to her but that she drew each with only the love a mother can give.)

crude spider

She presented me with the book and we read it together. I knew what she was doing, of course. I knew that she was trying to make a miracle. She was trying to make me not afraid of spiders anymore. Her gesture had so much love in it, so much hope that I couldn’t stand to let her down. The story didn’t make me OK with spiders but I pretended for her sake that it had worked and over time, it did work. I was braver and braver about spiders and even playing with dandy long legs and letting them outside instead of squishing them. She had made the miracle real in the end and I was no longer afraid of spiders.

Fast forward about nine years round about.

I was living with my stepmother Judy and my Dad in Sicamous. My Dad was a long haul truck driver and he would leave me at home with Judy and Katy for weeks sometimes. Sometimes Judy wasn’t too bad. She even tried to help me with my homework a couple of times. She worked me hard but this was before they owned a restaurant and there was only so much work to be done. She mocked me for my weight frequently, and gave me a pair of jeans that were 24 inches at the waist. She said I could eat more food when I could easily fit into those jeans and I was sliding into anorexia and my cheekbones were more like jutting ledges than high cheekbones. I was gaunt and I ran everywhere to lose the weight she constantly assured me I had at ninety pounds.

One night things became very dark. None of the lights seemed to be working and Judy was sitting in my bed. She had collected quite a few very large wolf spiders and was letting them crawl on her arms. They were the size of my hand. I was horrified. This was NOT a hallucination and my fear of spiders came flooding back all at once.

wolf spider

“What are you doing?” I asked, terrified. She looked freakish, unnatural. She grinned at me like an evil clown.

“I’m playing with the little spiders,” She said. “Don’t you like the spiders?”

I shook my head and started to edge towards the door. She got off my bed and followed me, still holding two wolf spiders in each hand, “Come play with the spiders, you aren’t afraid are you? I’m not afraid,” She said.

I was afraid. In fact, I was terrified and bolted from the room she chased after me with the wolf spiders still in her hands. I had never imagined spiders so big, so hairy existing anywhere outside of the tropics and Judy was alternately petting them and trying to keep them from escaping her clutches as she chased me.

evil clown abuse

I ran down the hallway and she grabbed me by my nightgown and pulled me to the ground and tried to put the spiders on me. I was in a panic now. All my fear had returned. I kicked and writhed and screamed and got out from under her, brushing the wolf spiders off of me. I ran into the kitchen and turned around and she was gone.

I was terrified and alone and I didn’t know where she had gone but most of all I was hurt and sad that she hated me.

That was the only thing I could think of: that she hated me. She didn’t follow me into the living room and I went into the living room and held my legs and cried. I had done everything she had told me to do. I had happily worked to try to please her, I had bought her mother’s day presents, I had never imagined someone who could hate me like Judy did. The house was still dark, I later discovered that she had for some reason partially unscrewed all the light bulbs. I don’t know what her logic was except that she wanted to give me a scare.

It was at that moment that I heard the most wonderful sound in the world: The phone ringing. I brushed away my tears and answered it, “Daddy!” I cried, trying not to dissolve into tears.

“What’s wrong?” He asked, his voice was extremely concerned. I told him what happened and after a very long pause he sighed.

I know that the average child would have recognized that Judy was drunk but I had been raised by parent who never ever drank or stayed around people who drank. I had, to my knowledge, never seen someone drunk.

“Honey, I want you to go and see if Judy’s asleep now, just set the phone down. If she’s awake tell her I want to talk to her. If she’s asleep I want you to keep going down the hallway and go into our closet. Look under the shoes and tell me if you find anything there that shouldn’t be there.”

“You’ll stay on the phone?” I made him promise.

“Yes, honey, I’ll be right here,” He assured me but his voice sounded tinny and far away to me. It would be days before he would be back.

tacky shoes

I crept down the hallway, she had ‘fallen asleep’ in my bed. I closed the door and went to the end of the hallway where the master bedroom was. I was terrified that she would wake up and fly into a rage at me. I was not allowed in her room and I had never been in there before without her inviting me in. I opened the door and went to the closet.

Down the hallway I heard her sigh and mutter and turn in her sleep. I froze in place, my heart beating in my ears. She went silent again and I opened the closet. There were a lot of clothes in there and even more shoes. She had a ton of shoes and boots. I rummaged around in the mess of vinyl and patched leather and found something strange. This must be what Dad had meant when he had said to look for something that didn’t belong. It was a pickling jar, just a plain old one pint glass jar with a screwed on brass lid.

mason jar

It sloshed in my hands as I lifted it. In the other room I heard Judy moan again and froze in place. It looked like water, just plain old water. But why would she put it in a mason jar and why would she hide it under all her shoes in the very back of her closet?

darkened hallway vodka

I carried it out to the phone, running past my bedroom the way you run past a haunted house. There was no sign of the wolf spiders in the hallway. In retrospect they probably were worse off than I was.

I picked up the phone and right away Dad said, “Well?”

“I found a mason jar. I think it has water in it.” (Yes, I really was that naïve I am embarrassed to say.)

His breath caught and I could hear that his voice as a little choked, “Open it up.”

I unscrewed the lid. I was scared of the contents. I knew from his voice that it wasn’t water. Whatever was in that jar was liquid evil. As soon as I opened the lid a stench leapt out of the jar and bit my nostrils, “Uch, it smells gross, like paint thinner.”

It was he favorite at the time, Vodka. Easy to hide from little clueless girls who might tattle to Daddy.

He sighed loudly and I heard true sorrow in his voice. It was as though I had told him someone had died. Something had died, some of his trust and a lot of his pride. It was time for the truth.

“Daddy, are you coming home soon? I’m scare…” I started to choke up. It was an ironclad rule not to cry in our house because Dad said that women only ever cried to manipulate a man. He didn’t reprimand me though.

“I’ll be home as soon as I can,” He paused, calculating in his head. “Tomorrow night. Don’t tell her I’m coming though.”

“Daddy,” And I started to cry for real now, silent tears that streamed down my face. “Daddy, why does she hate me? Why can’t she love me? What did I do?”

I let go and sobbed, gasping for air and desperate for silence. I didn’t want to make my only ally turn against me and I didn’t want Judy to wake up and start chasing me again. There was yet another long pause, “Sweetheart, she doesn’t hate you. She’s just drunk.”

My head swam and then cleared. I knew about drunks. I knew about alcohol, I hadn’t recognized it but I knew about it. Dad had told me stories about his own parents and how they would beat him or humiliate him when they were drunk. That was why he never drank, that and because he learned at an early age that he was a mean drunk. He was a smart man and he never picked up the bottle.

vodka

I could breathe again a bit. This wasn’t about me. She didn’t hate me, she was just drunk and didn’t know any better.

“Pour the jar out into the sink and put it back where you found it,” He instructed. “Don’t say anything to her in the morning, act like everything is normal. When I get home, I’ll sort things out.”

Those last things that I thought and that he said to me were lies.

Judy did hate me. Unlike the rest of my family who she treated more or less decently when she was sober she treated me like crap all the time. She demeaned me and stole from me and even undercut my relationship with my own mother as best as she could.

The other lie was that he didn’t sort it out when he got home.

They got into a big fight. He yelled, things were thrown, she cried and begged him to forgive her. He yelled some more. In the morning there was a hole in the wall that Judy patched up primly. She avoided eye contact with me. It was the first time I had witnessed, albeit obliquely her being punished for her drunkenness. She was extra nice to me for a few days but I don’t bribe easily and a veil had been lifted for me. I could see the drunk nightmare clown chasing me with spiders in her nervous laughter and her shifting eyes. I knew now that she was dangerous. I knew that my Dad had made a huge mistake in bringing her into our lives and I knew that my road was about to become a steep one.I just had no idea how steep.

steep road

The Truth

The Truth

By Virginia Carraway Stark

After the last blog I published I had a roaring response from my family who were angered that I dared to talk about the abuse I had suffered. The responses fall into the chart of classic abuse to perfection.

abuse children

 

The minimized, denied and blamed me for the abuse. One member of my ‘family’ said that it wasn’t any wonder Katy shunned me because I dared to talk about the abuse. The messages sent to me by family who were suddenly made aware of my blog was phenomenal. They attempted to intimidate me, threaten me, call me names, abuse me emotionally and to shun me.

abuse intimidation

I don’t think they realized how that made me feel because it let something loose inside of me. It was like it was the midnight hour and someone called out, ‘Unmask, unmask’ and all their true monstrous faces were revealed. There was no more idea that these people were my friends or family. They uniformly seemed to think that I was mentally ill for talking about the abuse. They all claimed to know my family so well that they would know better than I, who lived in it and was horribly treated by the people who were supposed to love and protect me.

you have to stop child abuse

The rallying cry of those who would protect my drunken abusive stepmother was (briefly) deafening. Some of the people were so ashamed of themselves that they actually posted from accounts labelled as, ‘fakeemail’. Others used their real names and as I read their comments I smiled because they had unmasked. When I was little they had never helped me and now that I am speaking up they use all the tricks abusers use to silence their victims.

silence abuse

My half-sister ordered me to take down everyone of my blogs (as if she has any right to order me to do anything). She sent me the first message she had sent in years where she demanded that I not be allowed to speak any of these words. She claimed that they are defamation but there is only truth in every word. To every relative of mine who sent me intimidating, hateful messages all I have to say is: where were you when I needed you? Why did you protect my stepmother and why do you continue to do so?

how dare you abuse

 

The best thing I ever did was run away from all of my family. They were so angry with me, they made a big production of ‘forgiving’ me all the while knowing what they had done to me. Anyone who looked at me SHOULD have known what was going on and NO ONE offered to help me. No wonder they are so angry at me for speaking now. If they didn’t feel so guilty maybe they wouldn’t feel so angry.

help me abuse

 

How dare I speak The Truth? How dare I tell my story? I dare because I am strong. I dare because what was done to me was wrong. I dare because of all the messages I have received saying, ‘thank you for sharing, you are a sister to me. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone.’

Shame on all of you who see abuse and don’t stop it. Double shame on you when you hear about it and you blindly run to defend the abuser. You are no family of mine. You are very evil people to hear the truth and to not even for a minute say, “Could this be true?”. I know that you know how Judy behaved, how she would pass out on beds in the second hand store, how she would pass out on the street. You saw her drunken benders and you even have likely heard that she hit my dad and he had to call the police to stop her from hitting him. She was a monster and YOU KNEW IT.

You become monsters yourself for covering up for her. Trying to tell people I’m crazy when there are police reports, social services reports, witnesses, the list goes on and on. It’s intimidation and it shows you to be abusive. When Katy messaged me it was a threat plain and simple: take down your blog or I’ll start a war against you. She was metaphorically putting a gun to my head plain and simple, the same way her mother did when she would threaten me to stay quiet…or else.

girl with gun abuse

It’s midnight now and the monsters have unmasked. I’m grateful to you all for showing me your true natures. I won’t be silenced, I have memory and I will tell my story. Your insistence that I stop just tells me that I am doing the right thing and that you are as evil as she was in your own special way, even if that way was in being silent. Thanks to all of your anger at me for speaking the truth I feel so free. I feel free to tell even more of the truth, to go into even more of the details and to help other survivors of abuse in any way I can.

 

abuse freedom

Katy’s Delusion: Children of Alcoholics

 

truth

I saved my half sister’s life when she was a baby. I didn’t think twice about it, I grabbed her out of a bathtub of water that was spilling over the edge of the tub and flooding the hallway. She was face down in the water, her mother drunk and passed out on the couch.

What did I get for my troubles?

Well, my half sister Katy won’t talk to me now because I criticized her mother for being a bad person in the present.  In the past, my step mother punched me in the face when I told the drunken hag that she had almost let her baby die.

Yep. That’s the thanks that I got for saving a human life. My sister never said ‘thank you’, no one did. My older brother spread stories about me and said I ‘lived the wrong lifestyle’ and wouldn’t let me talk to my niece and nephew. I think he says that because I ran away from home when I was just about sixteen as a result of being punched in the face and telling social services and the police about it. I’m not sure of his real reasons. He’s never told me to my face, only whispers behind my back.

My half-sister is a big girl now and she thinks she is the only one who ever lost a mother. I lost my mother eight years ago while I was gone from my family to escape the abuse. My mother wasn’t perfect either but I still lost her. Why is my loss less important than Katy’s loss?

When Katy was about three or four the woman delivering the mail heard a baby screaming in the house. She looked in the window and saw that the house was filthy and could see my stepmother Judy passed out in the living room. I would imagine it was in about the same spot that she was passed out when I woke her up with the crying and recently resuscitated infant in my arms and got punched for saving her child’s life. She liked to swan dive onto the couch.

The mail carrier tried the doorknob and it was unlocked.  She came into the house and followed the sound of the screaming baby to the bathroom where Katy had become stuck behind the toilet and was covered in her own filth and waste. Nobody knows how long she was stuck there.

When my stepmother died last year around this time I posted a meme that said, ‘ding dong the witch is dead’. I was so relieved that the insanity was over. Judy would stalk me, drive around and around my block, park outside the house until the cops chased her away.  I worried for my safety and the safety of my family and pets. I found poison set out for my dogs. Hearing that she was dead was exactly like hearing the boogeyman wasn’t real and being able to truly believe it. She was truly the most wicked of witches that there ever was.

I wasn’t the only one who suffered from her abuse. I ran away and Katy lived with the abuse her whole life. When Judy was alive Katy would call her and yell and scream at Judy and alternately extort large sums of cash out of her as an ‘apology’ for something her mother did when she was drunk. She obviously had a lot of anger to do that. T

The thing that confounds me is that Katy defends her mother now that she is dead. Her mother died because her body was failing from the alcohol abuse and she fell over in a snowbank and didn’t wake up. She brought her fate upon herself and yet I am banished for speaking the truth about one of the most horrible mother figures in the world.

At first glance this seems to be another injustice visited upon me but I think it goes deeper than that.

Examining Katy from a neutral perspective it is easy to see that she hasn’t accepted her mother’s death. Her mother never tried to stop drinking. She could barely admit, even at the very end that she was an alcoholic. By extension, Katy since Katy never accepted her mother’s death, she also never really accepted that her mother was an alcoholic.

More and more I see her sliding into her mother’s patterns. The first of these patterns is in demonizing me in the same way that her mother did. The second way is by increasingly the rumors I hear about her becoming a ‘party’ girl. Just like her mother, her career comes before her family and is only interrupted by binge drinking and in Katy, an observer can see this leaning increasingly towards alcoholism.

Katy is not only embracing all the mistakes and evils of her mother, she is also glorifying them and putting her mother on a pedestal. If Mommy drank, Katy always got gifts and money afterward. Judy would do anything to make it up to her and my Dad. This set up a cycle of punishment and reward that resulted in a pattern of endless dramatics. By making her mother into a saint and me into a demon she negates the truth that her mother was abusive, not just when she was drunk but when she was sober as well.

This is a common trait in children of alcoholics and it is part of what perpetuates the cycle of abuse. If Katy admits for one minute that her mother hurt me, she will have to admit that Judy hurt her too. She will have to admit that if it wasn’t for Katy and my Dad enabling her behavior Judy would have died drunk and on the street the same as she did even after they put her through every counseling and rehab program available. Katy would have to admit that if I was right about her mother that she had been left behind the toilet for days covered in filth and screaming. She would have to admit all the times when her mom didn’t show up for important events because she was drinking. She would have to admit that the only reason her mother is dead is because she refused to stop drinking.

I don’t have much in common with Katy. She doesn’t have a sense of humor, she isn’t creative, she isn’t adventurous and most important of all, she isn’t a realist. I don’t want or need a friendship with her.

I am glad that I saved her from drowning that day. I’m glad I knew first aid and got her breathing, I’m glad she got to grow up and make mistakes. I forgive her for her treatment of me because she is bound in a world of delusion and she can’t even see me.

I forgive her for being Judy’s daughter. I forgive her for using that fact to get special treatment and rewards after mommy was drunk. I forgive her for everything. I won’t get a chance to say that to her face, at least I would be surprised if I ever did. She has a hate on for me that rivals her mother’s hate for me. What did I ever do to Katy?
Well, I told her the truth. Sometimes that’s too much, especially for children of alcoholics. I feel a deep pity for Katy and her inability to face her reality because I see her walking her mother’s path and I see no sign of her waking up and realizing that she is becoming the same as her mother.

I hear the things people say about her. That she says cruel things, that she has a ‘mean’ mouth on her and it’s the same thing as her mother… generation to generation. Unless you are very proactive, self-aware and willing to examine any delusion you may have the curse repeats again and again. I forgave Judy before her death and am at peace with my relationship with her. Katy never forgave her mother and without facing the reality of the situation, she never will.

I forgive Katy now. I forgive her for hating me. I forgive her for the horrible things she says about me. I forgive her for not loving me. I forgive her for following her mother’s path. Being the child of an alcoholic is a tragedy and forgiveness is the only cure. Forgiveness and bringing the wounds that were caused by it into the light of day.

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