The Boy They Forgot

There was a victim in my family that is rarely mentioned because what he experienced was insidious, tragic and ultimately a noble act of self-sacrifice.

My little brother was born right before everything fell apart. There were problems before, big problems, but to all intents and purposes we looked like a pretty normal family for the most part. In fact, we weren’t just normal, we were thriving and well off.

My brother never got to experience that part of our family. He told me once that he didn’t remember a time when our family had been whole. He didn’t remember his Dad taking his Mom in his arms and saying, ‘I love you’. All he ever saw was the court cases, the manipulations and the pain. All he saw was what our dad did to our mom and unlike the rest of us, it was our mom that he loved best.

He was her baby and she clung to him. He was the only thing that my dad never successfully took from her. He stripped her of the love of my older brother and myself, he took away her beautiful home, first by fire and then by divorce. He made sure that by this point he had driven her crazy and taken her to the psychiatric hospital so he even took her sanity. This last thing he claimed to me he did to avoid alimony payments, I’m sure that he enjoyed himself in his games as well though.

See how quickly it happens? How quickly the baby of the family is lost in the sea of trauma that stormed around him? To even explain what he has been through I have to sort through a mountain of what everyone else was going through. He was a leaf on the currents of every one else around him and where he was pushed and tumbled was at the behest of the events transpiring all around him.
Our older brother left home as soon as the divorce papers were scented in the air. He didn’t look back except in a supercilious way to tell anyone and everyone what we were doing wrong. I hated how he distanced himself and then lectured me in a sanctimonious tone about how I should handle things after he had run away from them.

It was a traumatic time and everyone dealt with it in whatever way they could. Our dad had laughingly and gleefully sabotaged our entire family and we were left with a stack of lies and abuse to sort through and please, remember, we were only children.
All of us were only children. My mother included. Now that I understand more about trauma I see what my mother was going through. The severe shock of my dad leaving her, cheating on her, whatever else she discovered and that I was never privy to as a child had shocked her to another major trauma that had happened to her as a very young girl herself. She was so ashamed of everything that had been done to her and said about her and the shame she felt for ‘failing’ as a wife that she lost her entire support network in one fell swoop. How convenient for her husband that no one heard her side of the story because of the shame spiral he had whipped her into.

This shaking of the foundations of someone to their childhood core is often called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Nobody recognized what was going on with my mother but I’ll never forget her crawling into my bed the night we left our home forever, sleeping in a cheap hotel and her hands gripping me. She whispered to me, “You’ll have to take care of me now. You’ll take care of us all.”

Beside me in the bed my little brother started to cry softly. Was he sleeping? Having a nightmare? I don’t know, all I knew was that my mother had just put all the responsibility of the household onto my shoulders while we sat in a hotel room without a home or any way to see a future ahead. I was suddenly, profoundly alone and ‘in charge’.

I tried my best to be there for her and my brother. My mother had never been good at a lot of the vital mother activities and my dad had filled those voids by being the one who ‘took care of her’. She had married too young, she had been abused by her own dad, there were so many things wrong and she regressed into being a child.

I tried my best for my little brother. I really did. But I made mistakes, I got frustrated and I spent days away from the house leaving him to fend for himself. When he was diagnosed with malnourishment by a doctor there should have been a full investigation. Hell, I had been telling school counselors and social workers that there wasn’t any food in the house for several years at this point. I told my dad too, at that point he was busy with his new girlfriend, traveling, going to Disney World with her and the new baby and then coming home and showing me and my brother slides while we starved.
Here’s Katy (only about six months old at the time) with Mickey Mouse, here’s Katy getting ice cream, here’s Judy and Katy at the beach…

Dad had made a new family and a new life and me and my little brother were embarrassing reminders that he had failed in his old life. Deliberately and maliciously failed, but it was still a failing.

I had gone to Disney Land, I had gone to Mexico, I had traveled all over America and Canada with my parents and 2.5 kids. I had already had a great big piece of that delicious pie and seeing how my dad had moved on, left me behind in favor of his brand new family hurt like acid nevertheless.

My little brother though, he never got a piece of any pie. The only time he went on a trip was once when I paid for him and my mom to come and see me in Ontario. I took him to the zoo and he told me as an adult that those are his only memories of ever having a trip. He still loves white tigers because of the one we watched together at the Toronto Zoo.

The only other trip he went on was with my dad. My wonderful father took him across the border with him so that daddy could go to the casino. He made my brother hide in the backseat under some blankets so he wouldn’t get in trouble for leaving his child in a vehicle while he spent the day gambling. That was it.

Meanwhile, Katy and Judy and Dad were going on cruises, traveling across the country, going for shopping trips in New York… I had fled by this time and where did that leave Frankie? Starving, alone and the one who had to ‘take care of her’.

Like myself, there came a time in Frankie’s life where he was given an option to escape. Dad dragged him through court and my brother, looking at his mother in the courtroom, tears streaming down her face, said that he would stay with his mother.

He didn’t say it in court, but he said it in his heart with a heavy sigh, he would be the one who took care of her. Just like I had done my best to take care of things when I was far too young, now the mantle fell on him. He was the one who had to deal with making sure mom took the right amount of medication, who had to make sure that the bills were paid and try to find enough food to survive on while mom ran around to garage sale after garage sale. She was still a child and she spent money like a child.

Now all this burden fell on Frankie. He stayed with her until the very end. He was the one in the hospital who, all alone, waited and waited to see if our mother would come out of the coma that had been induced by the simple error or a low salt diet and a lot of water. Someone had told her these were healthy things to do and, childlike, she obeyed. Frankie was alone when they told him that his mother was gone.

I didn’t know about our mother’s death for several years after. By this point I had run away into my own life. I had escaped and I didn’t even think of them all that much. I had shed that life like a skin because every time I came close to my mom or to Frankie my dad showed up on my doorstep. My dad was a black hole and my mom and the rest of my family were swirling particulates around him waiting like lures to suck me back into the whole mess.

Yes, I was selfish. Yes, I was thinking of me. At that point, I had no option except to think of myself. I had to build a healthy scaffolding away from the toxic environment. I had to to survive.

But my little brother, faced with the same choice, gave himself over and stayed. He still stays. I get mad at him because he doesn’t stand up for me the way I always stood up for him when I was home. But at the same time I understand that it’s the same flexibility that makes him too weak to stand up for me that also made him capable of staying with our mother until the end.

Did it benefit anyone that he stayed with her?

I don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t know what would have happened to my mom if my dad had managed to take away her baby from her. Or if he had run away to start a fresh life the way I had. Their is a poignant, tragic nobility to the choice that he made that deserves to be acknowledged and appreciated. He sacrificed everything for his mother, to this day his life is molded by the choice he made in that courtroom that day. The choice he upheld at the cost of his own happiness and physical and mental well-being.

I couldn’t have done  what he did. I didn’t. I ran away from home and as far across the country as I could conceive of going. I traveled the world, I got educated, I wrote, I made a family, I lived my life. All things that Frankie was never able to do.

He has a son, but his son lives with the mother and her husband. His son took his step-father’s last name and thinks that grandpa is amazing and that Aunty Katy is his favorite aunt. He has a son but he doesn’t get to keep his son, he only gets to visit with him when his health is good enough and his finances are such that he can afford to feed him.

The mother, Ashley, wrote me hate mail for telling the truth about my dad. She thinks he’s amazing too. She called me a filthy liar and never once wondered why Frankie had been left in the position he had been left in. She never examined the man who had been a boy and wondered why he was so ill, why he had been left without dental care. Why his father, who she idolizes and gets all her other kids to call, ‘grandpa’ never once took care of his own son.
When I met my nephew I was shocked by how similar he looked to Frankie. It was like meeting an echo. But he was so alien to me. In fact, when he met me and my husband he said, ‘They don’t look like people I’d be related to’. How different from Frankie who had clung to me every minute, who had wrapped himself around my legs and begged me not to leave the house to go be with my friends.
I was happy for the kid, he has a good life and I don’t need to be his favorite, in fact, I don’t even consider myself to be his aunt. He is so sheltered from all of ‘what happened’ that I’m happy to leave it at that. I don’t need his mother to acknowledge that grandpa is a monster and to the best of my knowledge he’s never sexually abused any little boys. He just abandons his boy children. I doubt he’s in much danger with the man who pretends to be old and doddering and to not remember the pains of the past.

If Frankie wants to tell him one day what he’s been through while his bestest aunt Katy was globe trotting on cruises and having the best of everything then that’s his choice. Let the kid love his grandpa, let Ashley love him too.

I can’t talk to my little brother. He’s still circling the black hole. He belongs to that family and he’s not going to tell the truth to anyone any time soon. That’s okay. You don’t get to be the bestest anything by telling the truth and it’s a very, very hard road. The  only thing that you get out of it is the redemption and healing of your own soul.

That’s why I’d like to say a word for Frankie, the boy everyone forgot. The boy who to this day is abandoned by everyone, including myself. But it hurts me a lot. I think of the last time I saw him and him waving, so happy because for the first time in his life he had had his teeth fixed. He did that himself, no help from dad the amazing there!
He waved to me from inside his car, the car that had been his inheritance from our mother and said, ‘See you soon, Sis!’.
It was shortly after that that I found out what had been going on behind my back, how my dad had been telling everyone I was crazy. How I had realized when my dad hung up on me when I asked him why everyone was saying these things about me that I wouldn’t see him soon. Because Daddy would always be there. Because I had told the truth and I didn’t want Ashley to stop Frankie from seeing his son because he was around his ‘crazy’ sister.

But the stupid thing about this all is that Dad won again. Frankie is still alone and I won’t see him soon because of yet another crime our Dad committed against us. It’s like he’s radioactive and I don’t have what it takes to sacrifice myself on that pyre. Our relationship that had just begun to heal was ripped apart once more. As I write this I wonder what could possibly be done differently but I just don’t know.

I talked to him virtually last on FaceBook. He sent me a message to ‘call dad, Len is dying’. My older brother had drank himself to death and his kidneys and liver were failing, it was a matter of days.

To put it politely: I lost my shit.

Finding out how I was spoken of behind my back, finding out why no one knew why I had run away, no one had been told of the abuse and then without so much as a word, just an order, a command: call dad.

I told him that I wasn’t going to call dad about a brother who had made it clear he didn’t want me in his life. I asked if Len had asked for me me: No, of course he hadn’t. It all spilled out of me then, how hurt I was that he hadn’t let me read my mother’s journals, how heartbroken I was by how no one ever stood up for me. How unacknowledged I felt that I had lost my mother while Katy was cooed over after her abusive alcoholic mother finally died of her own crimes against her body. How Katy had cruelly told me my mother was dead with barely a, ‘sorry’ before changing the subject back to herself again. How no one, not even Frankie had come to see me in the hospital when I had been run over or had my miscarriage. How no one in the family seemed to care whether I lived or died so why should I come running to their hospital bed when they had never once come to mine?
The cruel unfairness of having spent a year at Katy’s hospital bed while she had cancer, everything about Katy. Then holding my evil stepmother in my arms and letting her weep and telling her it wasn’t too late to change even as she prepared to go out on another binge that would end her up in the hospital again and again until she was found in a snowbank, too drunk to find her way to work or home. How much time had I wasted on them and caring for them to never have it repaid to me even once? When my baby died my Len didn’t call to say he was so sorry for my loss, he didn’t say, ‘Hey, I’m glad you’re not dead’ when I got run over. Neither had Katy. No, Katy had thrown a temper tantrum at me for not mourning my step mother’s death while I was so anemic from losing my baby I still passed out if I stood up too fast.

How badly neglected and hurt I was when I received the demand to ‘call dad’ like a dog called to heel, for being called a liar for telling the truth, for being called crazy for running away…

I’m sorry, Frankie. I wish I could think of an answer. I think of you often and I think that you were brave to stay. You did something in staying that I could never do, I could never give myself over to my abusers.

Detriment By Virginia Carraway Stark

Detriment

By Virginia Carraway Stark

A Nightmare based on truth.

I was sitting in McDonald’s with my older brother who is now deceased and my younger brother who was grown up. My dad was sitting across from me on one of the bench seats and my older brother was sitting beside me while my little brother was in the corner beside my dad. We all had hamburgers and things in front of us but we weren’t eating except for my dad who was devouring several hamburgers, like Kronos eating his young.

His face was tender, his eyes were moist with concern but underneath it there was that same glint of cunning knowledge I have seen before. I was an adult but I didn’t feel like an adult in the dream. I felt like when I was very young and I had first learned that my parents’ marriage was over. It was like every word was being told to me for the first time. Each one a gut punch, a wrenching of all that I had known, the pain of knowing nothing was ever going to be the same, while being forced to accept what was happening to me. Kids don’t get to give their input into these things, they’re at their parent’s mercy, vulnerable, naked and in every way open to the woundings and injuries that parents can thoughtlessly dole out in the pursuit of their own apetites.

There was nothing thoughtless to my dad’s eyes as he sat kitty corner from me in the booth.

My little brother had an injured look to his eyes before my dad even spoke.

My dad wiped some ketchup from the side of his mouth and swallowed before speaking, “I wanted to bring you all here to talk to you about me and your mom.”

“What about mom?” Leonard, my older brother, asked edgily. His foot tapped out a staccato rhythm of nervousness on the central metal pole of our table.

“What about your mother?” Dad replied, he looked past Leonard’s head thoughtfully, gazing out at the view through the window behind us.

I didn’t say anything but poked at the ice slowing melting in my cola. I had taken the lid off the waxed up and was taking turns drowning one ice cube after another. I had a feeling of great sorrow as soon as he had said the words, ‘talk to you about me and your mom’.

It was no secret he and mom had been fighting. It hadn’t been a secret to anyone in a radius of them. It wasn’t a secret that dad was having sex with a female parishioner at our church. A woman who was another man’s wife. It was no secret that my dad was unrepentant and had been kicked out of the church, unlike the woman who had bent her head in shame and returned to her husband and the recriminations of her fellow parishioners.

I watched my dad while jabbing at the ice cubes. I felt sick to my stomach.

Leonard exploded. “What about mom?” He demanded.

“I’m real sorry to tell you this, but it’s over between me and her.”

“How can that be? Can’t you talk to each other?” I implored.

He shook his head and I saw the mock sorrow in his eyes as he lowered his head to take another bite of a fistful of french fries. “I’m sorry, sweetheart, it’s gone too far for that.”

“Can’t you say you’re sorry?” Leonard demanded. His voice was harsh, accusative. There was no doubt to him whose fault this all was. I myself was confused, the middle child, torn between the two parents. Old enough to see too much and too young to understand what I saw.

Frankie, my little brother was crying silent tears. He didn’t speak. His perspective was different from me or Leonard’s. Leonard saw our mother being torn apart by our dad, so did Frankie, but Frankie also saw the aftermath. I saw the ways our mother had let our dad down. The times she hadn’t been there for our dad. Daddy. How I loved him.

I picked up the slack every time my mother couldn’t handle the day to day duties of being a wife. Those days were more often than the days she could stir herself to life as she drowned in the pain of her childhood and the pain of the present. Married to a man who had decided to drive her mad so he could avoid paying her alimony; heartless and cruel he drove spikes between her and I with a glee I never saw in him until after her death.

But there, in the McDonalds in my dream, there was none of that knowledge. There was only the reality I was being presented with: Daddy said it was the end between him and mom and what Daddy said Ruled the World.

I hid my tears and viciously stabbed an ice cube. It hurt not to cry but tears were not acceptable. Tears, my dad had told me so many times, were a woman’s way to control men and were not permitted under any circumstances. The end of the world as I knew it was certainly no exception to allow me to weep.

“Aren’t you hungry?” He asked me roughly.

“No, I’ll save it for later,” I replied. Waste was not permitted any more than tears. My throat was filled with unshed tears and my words were rough.

“What about you?” He asked Leonard.

“Of course I’m not hungry!” He exclaimed. “You took us out to tell us you’re leaving mom. Our Mom. The only mother we’ll ever have and you’re cutting our family into pieces. Fuck you, I don’t want your hamburger. You don’t want us? Did it ever occur to you that we don’t want you? Ever think of that?”

“Watch your mouth,” dad said. His eyes glowed red and a whip licked from him and sliced Leonard’s shirt and cut his chest.

“I won’t. I won’t. You wreck everything! You always wreck everything! You take it all away!”

The whip came again, this time slicing Leonard’s cheek and neck. A flap of skin hung down from his face. I saw that he was crying as he screamed in agony.

“Stop it! You’re killing us!” Leonard screamed as the whip curled around his bicep. It pulled off his arm.

Frankie gagged and I turned away. What was Leonard thinking? Speaking out like this? I was horrified, my heart already felt pulled out of my chest and now Dad had brought forth the whip.

But Leonard didn’t stop, he kept on, losing blood out of his chest where his arm used to be. “You’re killing mom, you’re killing me, you’ve already killed our family and you brought us here, what? To have communion with you? To salute you for your destruction? What do you want us to do, dad? Bow at your feet for your noble choice to run away from all your promises, all your lies?”

The whip lashed out again and again, it tore at me as it went by. I flinched from the burning pain but it was the pain of the sundering of our family that I felt more than the very physical burning of dad’s powerful whip. I saw Frankie had received collateral damage on his face as well. He was openly weeping, in a quiet voice, he begged, “Daddy, please stop hurting us.”

Daddy replied with his glance falling on him, followed closely with a direct lash from the whip. I dared not look at Leonard, he was a bloody wreck and still he screamed. The whip fell again and again, pulling off his limbs one by one.

“Kill me! Just fucking kill me! I want to die! I don’t want to live!” He screamed out. It was a death knell. Dad nodded in satisfaction. A tube came down from the ceiling and sucked what remained of Leonard’s battered torso up it.

Still I didn’t cry. He whipped me, the whip curling around my arm and tearing at the skin of my shoulder socket. I remained silent my eyes surreptitiously seeing the glee shining in those eyes. My lack of reaction caused him to turn on Frankie. One arm missing and the opposite leg gone too, he too was soon crying, “I don’t want to live, Daddy, please, please! Have mercy on us Daddy! Don’t leave Mommy!”

The chute positioned over my little brother and my dad’s eyes, now openly wicked and excited, turned to me. My brother was about to be sucked up the chute, he cringed and I could see it exerting its pull on him. Frankie would soon be gone.

“What about you? Have you had enough yet?” He asked me with his glinting eyes.

I lifted my head and met his gaze. “Fuck you, Daddy.”

virginia-natasha

My ‘fuck you, Daddy’ face.

His eyes flared into a blaze of hatred but it was too late. I vanished from the table and into my bed. A grown up, those events so long ago past. Still, the burn of his whip anguished my skin. The bite of his words rent my heart.

Maybe a child never heals from divorce. The absolute sundering of all trust. The rending of the proof of love. The way a man can betray his wife and consume the potential of his children, handing it all to a ‘new’ wife and child is comparable only in mythological terms: Kronos eating his children, the betrayal of a man who cares more about his own future than the future of the family he’s built with a woman who trusted him with her heart. Scattered as a family to the wind and forced to watch as he devoted himself to an evil hag to the detriment of all that had come before.

It’s an underestimated trauma, the trauma of having a broken family. Still, it screams to be recognized. I know that I need to examine this great agony of the past because this was my dream last night.

Katy’s Hate, How No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Katy’s Hate

or

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

By Virginia Carraway Stark

I was horribly abused, neglected and treated badly in a plethora of ways when I was growing up, that’s why I tried to always give my all to my kid brother and my half sister, Katy-May, then Katy and more recently, ‘Kat’. Unlike our older brother, I did everything I could to be a safety net for them while working without any safety net of my own. I never did anything to Katy and yet she hates me with a frightening passion. The only other thing she is more passionate about is defending her dead mother as a saint. Me disagreeing with this is the number one reason why Katy hates me.

When I was just about sixteen I emancipated myself after I ran away from home and never looked back. I had the help of a former Hell’s Angel who blocked the door and didn’t fall for my dad’s ‘look at how charming’ line and told him with the threat of deadly force to stay the hell away from me. That was what it took to make my dad let me go, that and the constant knowledge that at any time, if he refused to let me go, I might stop keeping his secrets. The really bad secrets. The secrets that could have gotten him put in jail if I had wanted to hurt him.

I didn’t want to hurt him, I just wanted away from him. I just wanted him and my stepmother to stop hurting me. I just wanted a little bit of safety and quiet and rest. I was so tired from being worked in their restaurant from the minute I got up to when I went to school and then started again the second I got home and often worked until three in the morning but always until after midnight. It was after that that I started on my homework. I fell asleep in class and had to drop one of my classes and they let me sleep in the school infirmary. I was so, so tired.

I still graduated with honors. I still graduated on the principal’s list along with only two other students. After I ran away from home I worked as many hours as I could get at a little place called ‘Maggie’s Diner’ and I was SO happy to be treated with respect and to even get paid for my work.

I wasn’t paid anything except my stepmother’s second hand computer for all those hours that I worked. I also had to take care of my half sister and she was a handful and a half to take care of.

She was spoiled. She had had cancer when she was a baby. She was born with it. She was a sickly thing that cried constantly, pulled my hair and hit me and was given first go at any food before I was allowed to eat her scraps. She screamed and screamed and hit me and hit me until she got her way. She was a dreadful child and my dad and stepmother’s answer to everything was, ‘she once had cancer, she could die at any time so do whatever she wants.’.

I very ironically pointed out that I could get hit by a car at any time and die and my dad said that that didn’t seem too likely.

I guess he was right because I didn’t die when I got hit by the car.

I ran away from home in the end because I saved Katy’s life. My reward was that my stepmother punched me in the face and called me a lying bitch.

Let me explain to you what happened if you haven’t heard it before.

I didn’t live in the house, I lived in the basement of the restaurant along with the mice, rats and bugs. I didn’t care though, I was happy to not live in the house with my ‘family’. My stepmother, knowing I was asthmatic and allergic to cats would actually blow smoke on my pillow and wipe the cat repeatedly on my pillow case.

“She was so loving and such a good person,” (this is what everyone of my biological family and their friends has informed me since I started to speak out publicly.)

Judy was such a good mother to Katy that, on this particular evening when the restaurant was hopping and the cook and I were the only ones working, when I went over to the house to tell Judy we needed help, that it was too busy for me to waitress, prep-cook and dishwash, I was surprised to see water streaming out from the bathroom door.

I went down to the door, looked inside and saw my sister, face first in the water. Her eyes closed for the last time as I ran to her. She had stopped breathing. I knew pediatric CPR and quickly got her airway clear of water and got her breathing again. I wrapped the naked, terrified child in a big soft towel after I turned off the water that was still overflowing the large jet tub.

I went back to the living room with Katy in my arms. Judy was just starting to return to consciousness. I pushed Katy into her arms and I said, “There you go, you almost killed her again, I hope you’re happy.”

She dropped Katy and came after me. “Just where do you think you’re going?” She demanded as she ran in front of me and blocked my access to the door.

“I’m leaving. I’ve had it. I can’t take any more from any of you.”

She grabbed me by the throat and pushed me against the wall. “Oh, you aren’t going anywhere,” she said. Then her voice raised to a shrill, hysteric scream, “And it was you who almost killed Katy. Not me, I’m a good Mommy, it was you!”

She pulled back her hand and punched me, it was meant to be a center on punch but her aim wasn’t very good and she mostly got me in the head and ear.

I ducked away while she was off balance and ran for the door. I still had to escape from my father, I only took my schoolbooks and homework with me. I wasn’t very sentimentally attached to anything my family had any association with at that point.

This wasn’t the first time I had saved Katy’s life. One night Judy got drunk and decided to take me and Katy out for dinner. Judy routinely made me breathe in the breathalyzer that had been installed in her car at this point. On this night, she was going to take me and the toddler Katy out for steak and lobster dinner. It was the off season in the Okanagan and the restaurant was eerie and quiet except for the raucous commentary that Judy kept up and her shamelessly embarrassing flirting with the waiter.

I had a hard time eating. I had gotten used to not eating and Katy was screaming and crying and Judy was laughing and making lewd jokes. Finally she decided it was time to go home. We got into the car and Judy drove most of the way home swerving from lane to lane in the slush and sleet. She had us pointed directly at an on-coming semi. She was laughing and hooting like the headlights coming at us and the horn blaring was the funniest thing in the world. The truck tried to swerve but it was clear there wasn’t enough room or time for her to get out of the lane, assuming she realized or cared about the danger that me and the ever-screaming Katy were in, let alone herself.

She didn’t care and I grabbed the wheel and pulled us into our own lane with inches to spare. Judy got mad at me and told me that I wasn’t old enough to drive and that she was going to tell my dad on me. She did and I got into trouble. Not for grabbing the wheel but for blowing in the breathalyzer for Judy. What choice did I have? I had been ordered to obey Judy in everything and she would have hurt me (more wolf spider chasing, more sharp things in my sandwiches, more work and slaps) if I hadn’t done it. What choice did I have? Just more pain. I went into my bare cellar, it was cold down there and the restaurant was closed so there wasn’t any heat at all.

So there, two times when I saved Katy’s life.

Two times when I was punished for it.

Before that, when she had had cancer, I had spent every minute with her. I spent my pennies on presents for her, anything that might make her smile.

Before that, before we knew about the cancer and she cried all the time, screaming from the pain she was in, I held her, I rocked her, I sang to her, I carried her around the house for hours singing to her. When I stopped singing she would wake up and start to cry again and so I would sing until my throat was raw.

Everything was for Katy. Presents, food, clothing, shelter, respect, a bed (I slept on a mat on the floor) even though Katy had a bunk bed.

The top bunk was for Katy’s stuffed animals.

It didn’t matter to me. I just wanted out. I didn’t want their love, I didn’t expect anything to ever be fair, I wanted escape.

So, I escaped.

Years later Katy found me on Facebook and sent me a heart-rending message about how badly she wanted a big sister and had wanted to know me all her life.

I replied to her and that’s how I got entangled with my bio-fam again.

She and I talked on the phone and she callously told me that my mother was dead before changing the subject back to herself and her mom and her dad. I had the news of my mother’s death dropped on my head by this grown Katy with such thoughtless cruelty that I didn’t even get a chance to process it.

Things went badly.

That’s another story. Judy got violent with me, tried to frame me for stealing from her second hand shop, didn’t pay wages… it was exactly the same as when I had left. It was like a time lapse photo without the lapse.  I took Judy to a tribunal for lost wages and got them back; again having to push she and my ‘I’m letting the courts decide’ dad up against the wall of the government before they would pay. It was like I had just traveled back through time.

And Katy? Well, Katy got her secondary schooling paid for, she got her car paid for and another one paid for when she crashed the first, she got everything. She wanted her hair dyed the same red as mine is and daddy paid for it. She’s short on the rent, mommy paid for it.

Meanwhile Judy was still drinking and now she was in the end stages of alcoholism.

Judy died alone, drunk, wandering through the snow.

Katy, for her part, went ape-shit.

Somehow, I was expected to be sad about this.

Ding-dong, the witch is dead!!

The woman who had tortured me brutally, starved me, physically beat me, worked me as child slave labor and forced me to serve Katy like she was a princess.

I never held that against Katy. I never held it against her that she had everything handed to her on a silver platter while I had to work for every penny and make my own way in the world without any family. I treated her with love when I saw her and didn’t tell her about how I was treated until she finally asked.

I took her to the Aquarium and paid for her entire day of fun. I took her shopping, I took her out for ice cream, my husband took time off of work to drive her to the ferry and back because her boyfriend didn’t want her to take her own car. Yep. I’m a meanie. I did nice things for her, supported her in her art and actively sought venues for her to show it and tried to get other people to buy it. I didn’t dwell on the past and didn’t talk about all the things that had happened until she asked me one day what sort of a child she was.

Well, I didn’t lie to her. That started her off screaming at me in Faking Sanity in what would be our last truly civil exchange.

This is the thing: my dad never told anyone how I was treated. He told people I ran away from home because I was insane. He kept everything a secret and painted me as unbalanced. Meanwhile he had been arrested multiple times for beating Judy, neglecting Katy etc etc etc. I ran away and that was the right move.

Now Katy makes remarks about how, ‘even though she doesn’t have a sister that’s any good she’s got her family’. She mounted a campaign to see me driven from the family (I was already cutting communications with them so at least this wasn’t a big deal.)

katy wiebe novemeber 25 2015

Save her life at least twice and it’s not nearly enough to be counted as a ‘decent’ sister. I wonder what it takes? I’m thinking she only counts abuse as love because she’s twisted by what she went through. I’ll just go on being a ‘bad’ and ‘crazy’ sister, I’m not up for giving her the sort of ‘love’ that leaves a little baby to drown or wedged behind the toilet until the post woman hears her screams and calls the police. 

I was talking to my therapist the other day and we were talking about this particular experience and how Katy treats me now. I told my therapist how Katy (now ‘Kat’) says horrible things about me- how she jumped on the bandwagon when I came back and Judy and my dad started abusing me again.

I said, “That’s some thank you for saving someone’s life.”

Then I thought about it for a minute or two and said, “Oh, to have a time machine.”

I stopped.

I thought of those blue eyes submerging for the last time. She was just a little kid. Her going down for the last time, the sound of water pouring off the edge of the jaccuzzi bathtub and onto the floor…

With tears of frustration in my eyes I said, “I would do the exact same thing. If I had the chance to do it all over again and known everything that happened afterward and how she would hate me, I would have grabbed her little body out of the water and got her airway open. Because how could I do anything else?”

Some cultures believe that if someone saves your life that you owe your life to them, I didn’t ever expect or want that. All I wanted was to save a child’s life and even if that child had been baby Adolph Hitler I wouldn’t have hesitated. I couldn’t. She was just a child whose life I saved. Just a child I had soothed to sleep again and again while her mother screamed abuse and fed me off Katy’s scraps. All that should have been shared or mine was given to her and I still couldn’t stop myself from saving her if I was sent back in time. All her hatred and vitriol and I would still save her. Because that’s what you do. Because we’re supposed to love each other. I wouldn’t, couldn’t let someone just die, there was a deep instinct that impelled me without thought to pull her out and take that punch for a reward. And I’m happy to say that, after all of the abuses the grown Katy has done to me, that there is still that instinct.

There was a deep force in me that never held it against her what I endured for her. But Katy hates me and she always will because her mother was a drunk. An abusive drunk who abused Katy her whole life as well as me and my brothers and even my dad.

Lets also take one second to say that Katy had nothing but bad to say about my mother and that she heartlessly told me in one breath that my own mother was dead and buried by two years. Katy’s family is the only one that mattered, ever.

She hates me more than anything else because I can’t feed her lies and I never will. Her mother was bad. As close to all bad as you can get and still wear a human skin. Katy is now carefully, worshipfully, donning the same skin as her mother. She has peeled it back from Judy’s bones with her adoration and now she wears her hands like gloves, her face like a mask, Judy’s thirsty lips are  now Katy’s lips.

Her hatred is absolute because she knows that if she admits that her mother was a bad person that all the rest of the the bad things that happened to her might have to be faced. Blotting me out is the best way for her to blot out the pain. I’m the only one willing to face the past and she won’t stop until she drowns in the past once and for all.

katy wiebe and ugly

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.

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