I guess you could say that I was a typical teenager in the sense that I would absent-mindedly not do something. One of these incidents included not putting the toothpaste cap back on the toothpaste. I can only guess that this was the catalyst for this particular set of events.
I believe I was thirteen at the time and this incident just happened to be during a period of time when Jack A. was jobless. Dealing with life during these times were a little more difficult than the normal difficult. Normal difficult would be several ‘smacks’ across the face and a two-to-three hour yelling fest. More than normal difficult would entail the forceful bodily introductions to furniture and household appliances.
It was summer and Jack A. didn’t have to be carful (or I guess I should say as careful) about where he hit me. If my memory is correct, I was in my room when he came to get me. He grabbed me by the and as you would a small child. He led me to the bathroom and asked me what was out of place.
My first reaction was to look at his face… of course the smile was there. My stomach immediately sank to the floor. I knew that even if I had the right answer, I was still going to be hit. The right answer would not get me out of the punishment he thought I deserved. Of course I had no clue what was out of place. Knowing him the way I did, it could have been anything from the way the towels were folded to the water spots being on the mirror.
I have to pause here for a moment to explain something or this story won’t make any sense. When Jack A. would ask me a question that he expected a response to, there was one phrase that I was not aloud to use in my answer.
I don’t know.
This was a phrase that I was forbidden to use because in Jack A.’s mind, ‘I don’t know.’ wasn’t a legitimate response to any question. The punishment would usually be more severe if I used ‘I don’t know.’ as an answer.
Back to the story…
When Jack A. asked me what was out of place, without thinking, I responded ‘I don’t know.’ Jack A shook his head and said:
What was that? I don’t believe I heard you correctly.
He didn’t pause or wait for me to respond. This was one of his rhetorical questions that were put there to look pretty like china in the china cabinet.
Now answer the question. WHAT IS OUT OF PLACE?
There wasn’t much I could do but look around the room. I proceeded to sort through my mental rolodex of the specifics I was responsible for in the bathroom. I verbally went through the list as well.
The towels are folded correctly.
Jack A. shook his head. The smile on his face getting a bit wider.
The shower curtain is closed.
Again, another negative response and a wider smile.
I washed the tub out yesterday.
Another negative. At this point you can almost sense the pleasure he was getting out of this exchange. I cringed and shrank further into my self and gave my final answer. With a flat and emotionless voice, I said:
I don’t know.
He actually chuckled and said:
That’s what I thought.
He grabbed the hair at the back of my head and shoved my head at the sink. I tried to resist and the resistance caused a slight change in my direction. I smacked into the bottom of the mirror over the sink instead of the original destination (the sink faucet) that Jack A. had intended. This upset Jack A. even more and he shoved my head down to where my eyes were level with the faucet and the rim of the sink where the toothpaste and toothbrushes were kept.
W-H-A-T I-S O-U-T O-F P-L-A-C-E?
Jack A. yelled.
Finally I saw that the toothpaste cap wasn’t on the toothpaste as I know it should be. I then clearly stated what was out of place and Jack A. responded:
All I can recollect from this point was the force in which I was jerked off my feet. My calves met the side of the tup and down I went. The back of my head connected with the tiled wall at which point I became unconscious. When I came to, I was in the bottom of the tub, fully clothed with the water on cold.
I was reminded this evening of an event that happened when I was four years of age. Jack A., my mother (whom will be referred to as Kim from this point forward), and myself were all having dinner at my grandparents home. I remember being asked a question, though I couldn’t tell you what it was and standing up in my chair and saying:
the way all young children do at one point or another. I’m not sure why I was throwing a tantrum though that’s the only thing that I can assume at this point in my life was what I was doing.
From out of nowhere came flying Jack A.’s hand and connecting with my face and nose. My grandmother was extremely proud of this china cabinet that sat parallel with the dinner table and I happened to be sitting in one of the chairs that was parallel with it. Back I flew, out of my chair, and into the china cabinet. I sat in the floor too stunned to realize what had just taken place. I didn’t even cry though my nose was broken and bleeding.
I can still hear my step father saying…
YOU WILL respond ‘Yes, Sir!; No, Sir!; Yes, Ma’am!; or No Ma’am!’. Now apologize to your grandmother and come finish your dinner.
I don’t remember the actual apology though I’m sure I did because I would remember if I didn’t. I wasn’t actually allowed to clean up and I do remember the fact that out of the seven or eight people that were at dinner that night, no one offered to clean me up.
The next day, I remember my mother throwing my clothes away because they had been too stained with blood to salvage. I still remember the metallic taste of my food that night and you better believe I ate every bite.
To this day, I will still address people in the manner of:
‘Yes, Sir!; No, Sir!; Yes, Ma’am!; or No Ma’am!’
I’ve even caught myself doing it with my children and for the life of me, can’t break such an ingrained habit. I wonder why?
To begin this post, in high school, I kept a journal and wrote down all of my thoughts, fears, and hates! After this incident, I stopped writing.
Once upon a time, I was fourteen and kept a journal. Much like people writing blogs these days. I would write sometimes three and four entries a day depending on that days events. Over all, I think I was a pretty good kid. Didn’t drink or do drugs and let’s face it… I was terrified I would be killed if I ever did.
One time I did skip school and got caught. I was fourteen and my boyfriend and I had decided to have sex for the first time. So, we skipped school together. As a teenager you don’t consider the ramifications of your choices.
The school called my step father at work to let them know I had skipped and when I was asked why, of course I lied. I told him I hadn’t felt well and couldn’t go. The school called him a second time to tell him that the boy I had been seen hanging out with was also missing from classes that day.
Again, I was questioned and after several torturous smacks on the face because he assumed I was lying, it came out. I skipped school, had sex, and lied about it. Yes! I made a mistake and a poor choice. I know I deserved a punishment being a parent myself for the lack in judgement I showed. But, I’m not sure I deserved what I got.
Once everything came out, a phone call was made to my mother who worked away from home a week at a time. Once he hung up, he had a smile on his face. Immediately I sent my sanity to reside in an unconscious part of my brain because I knew what was about to happen. The beating was about to start.
Immediately he came toward me and his signature move would be to grab me by my hair first. I remember being punched in the stomach. I was thrown into the various large appliances like the stove and kicked.
After he was through, he went and sat down to watch TV. At least that’s where he was when I became conscious on the kitchen floor. I crawled to my room for the first aid kit I had bought with money I had saved. I kept it hidden in my room for when he would lose his temper. I went to retrieve my journals as well and they had been confiscated during my unconsciousness.
The next morning, instead of goin to school, I was woken up and informed I had been expelled and would be going to his cousins house since I couldn’t be trusted to be at home alone.
It was a female cousin of his in her forties. I remember telling her what had happened and the extent of what he had done and saying,
I know I was wrong and shouldn’t have done what I did but does that mean I have to put up with being hit like that?
I was asking for help without saying the words. I was picked up a week later on Friday by my step father. That smile was in place the whole way home. I sat shaking in my seat huddled against the door… Waiting for what was to come next. Mentally, I did my best to check out and turn on the auto pilot mode so I could survive what was to come.
When we got to the house, my mothers parents had stopped in for the weekend and my mother was ‘entertaining’ in the living room. This is NOT as elegant as it may sound. I wasn’t aloud to say hello and was sent to my room to unpack my bags. I lulled myself into believing I would be okay. This set of grandparents are NOT the grandparents from my Sanctuary post.
An hour later, I was recalled to the living room. Which is where everyone sat. Apparently everyone had been told about my indiscressions. My step father (for the sake of these posts I will be referring to him as Jack A.) proceeded to question me about my actions and if I thought what I had done was right. I can’t remember the answer I mumbled and it didn’t really matter because that smile was back in place.
Jack A. pulled my journals out from behind his back and in them the pages had been marked with little markers like the stickie note flags I used so much in college.
He opened the first flag in the first notebook and pointed to a sentence he had highlighted. Yes! Highlighted. He told me to read it out loud.
I hate him!
He turned to the next flag and again told me to read it.
I hate him!
I said again.
He asked me to tell everyone what the bible said about how you should treat your parents.
To honor thy mother and thy father.
I said. By this point, I was so scared I was in tears.
To honor your mother and your father. Does I hate him sound like you are honoring your mother and father?
Jack A. asked.
In my journals, I had written that I hate him referencing my step father.
I was told to go to the kitchen and close the divider. There was a sliding door that closed the living room off from the kitchen but didn’t shut out sound. I sat down at the table and waited. Nothing was said in the living room and Jack A. followed me to kitchen within a few minutes, journals in hand.
There was a razor strap sitting on the table. This was something Jack A. favored on special occasions. For those that may not know what a razor strap is, it’s a foot to a foot and a half long piece of leather about an inch thick that barbers used to sharpen shaving razors with in the olden days. He stood at the table and placed the journals in front of me and told me to count the markers or the flags. So I did.
These two journals were the 70 page, college ruled, single subject notebooks you can get dirt cheap during the school shopping season. There were 47 flags. When he asked me how many there were and I told him, I was told to stand up and bend over the table.
I remember my mom telling me once (when she knew I was about to get into trouble) to wear jeans because it would hurt less. I was wearing jeans on this day and I don’t think I felt a difference.
I was hit 47 times on the back of my legs and my butt by the razor strap and not one person sitting in that living room stopped Jack A. when they heard my cries. I had to peel the jeans off and throw them away because he had hit me so hard it lacerated the jeans and my skin.
I once wrote a letter to my mother asking her several questions that I felt that I needed the answers to. The response I got didn’t cover hardly anything that I asked about. I’ve typed it below. To preface this letter, I have a younger sister and we are a decade apart. My mother left Jack A. after I moved out. Her response when I asked her what happened was that she didn’t want my sister to grow up in an abusive home. Here is the letter, please let me know what you think.
You say that I am upset at you for giving Suzie the things she wants. I do have to say that is horribly far from the truth that you couldn’t possibly realize. I am upset, hurt, and angry because of all of the things that you let Jack A. do to me when I was younger. You divorced Jack A. because you wanted Suzie to have a better childhood than I did but what about me? Why did you put me through that? When you were gone for work during the week, you didn’t seem to know what I went through though, I find it hard to believe that you didn’t because of the times you would see the bruises and some of the comments you would make. I was punished way beyond what’s acceptable. For example, sending a four year old to time out as opposed to back handing them for something as slight as saying ‘NO’ instead of ‘No, Sir.’ Jack A. made me feel worthless. It took me until I was physically ill and wanted to die to realize that I needed to change. That didn’t happen unit I was twenty and that was only after I half starved and dehydrated myself and was hospitalized for a week. You always told Jack A. what I told you and that made it so much worse on me so I just stopped talking altogether.
I would spend every free period I had in high school in the counselors office in tears because of the things that went on at home. I was NOT a bad kid and I refuse to believe that I was. I never did drugs, never smoked, and I only made the one mistake.
Why was I so different? The counselor at the school wanted to call child protective services and I begged her not to because of Suzie. I had to make sure that she was okay and that Jack A. wouldn’t hurt her. She was so little and I wouldn’t have survived knowing she was being hurt. I think back now and I should have let her call them. With everything that happened, I couldn’t imagine a worse situation. I don’t know if you just didn’t care or what, but you didn’t want Suzie to go through it. So you wonder why I get upset. Now you know. There is nothing you could do or say to make me feel better about all of it. I’m sure that even now as you are reading this, you still don’t understand. I could never confront you about this face-to-face because I do my best to make you proud of me… but sometimes it seems I can never do enough, be enough, or come close to how you think I should be. I just can’t take it anymore. Suzie has medical issues; you do everything on this green earth to get her what she needs. I needed braces and help with my teeth because of some of the physical damage, I was never taught how to drive, and I could keep going with this but I honestly don’t feel that it would do any good. I feel that even this much is a waste of time. The way that I feel inside is that you care more about Suzie than you ever did me. I was never important to you as she is and I never will be. You knew some where deep down what he was doing to me. You ignored it and stayed with him. You could have made it on your own even with two children had you truly cared more about us than you did him.
If you have decided by this point in reading this that I am just an ungrateful child (like you told me so many times) and that none of this holds any merit in your heart, then you never should have had me. There are times when the emotional pain is so bad that I wish I was never born. You should have had an abortion and never went through the pregnancy if you were just going to ‘let’ all of this bad happen to me instead of protecting your child. I would rather have not been born than to have lived through all of the things I did. I would rather have been a figment of someone’s imagination. I want answers. I know you won’t give me the ones that will satisfy the hurt in my heart and the resentment that has built from the time before I can remember. There is nothing you could say or do that will ever ease this pain.
I was the one that got hit. You let him get up in my face and yell and scream and you turned your head when the beatings took place. Why? That’s all I want to know. Why? Why was I so different? Why do I still cry myself to sleep at night wishing I had a parent that protected me? Why does it feel like I am only half of what I’m supposed to be. These are the questions in my heart that I know will never be answered.
I received a response and this is what it said.
Well you had such a terrible life. As far as what Suzie gets now, your sister is having a very hard time at school, her dad not wanting to talk to her, and puberty just around the corner. When you were little I worked a lot, never made any money, never had anything, and never wanted to complain. You will find that after you are married that you have to put up with a lot from your spouse. I put up with a lot from everybody. I am such a terrible mother and person. As far as an abortion goes, that would be a sin. I guess you really want me to go to hell. I am your mother – good, bad, or indifferent. However, I won’t call myself that because I don’t think that’s how you see me.
I would like to state that now that I am a mother and have kids, if my husband ever thought about doing some of the things Jack A. had done to me, there’s no limit to the lengths I would go to protect my children. If you are in an abusive relationship, it won’t change once you have kids. It will only get worse and you DON’T have to put up with things from your ‘spouse.’ You have a choice to protect yourself or let it happen. Your kids don’t.
There was only one place that I could go when I was a kid that I knew I would be safe, even if it was only temporary. This specific incident is what turned that place into a s-a-n-c-t-u-a-r-y.
When I started fifth grade, my mother and step-father had gotten me a puppy at the beginning of the school year. The house we lived in had a semi-storage unit attached that was large enough for a game room but my ‘parents’ never did anything with it.
It was enclosed but not insulated and it let into the back yard so the dog could run around. Instead of pooping in the yard, the dog would pool in the ‘game room.’ It was my responsibility to pick up after him and being the fifth grader that I was, I sometimes shirked my responsibilities. When I did this, I would cover the poop with old carpeting tiles that had been there since we bought the house.
It had come to be summer and I think I was nine. I was in a hurry because my Grandpa was coming to get me so I could stay with them for a month (after this, it became a summer-long event). My bags were already packed and sittin’ by the front door. I think that Grandpa was supposed to be there in two hours once he got done fixing his truck. My mother was at work so it was just me and my step-dad. He decided to do an inspection of the game room before I was supposed to leave.
My shirked responsibility had been discovered and I have to say that my step-dad went nuts. He started yelling at me and then he sent me out there again to clean. So I did. When he did another inspection, I had missed a pile that I truly hadn’t seen. I was sitting on the couch and when he came back in, he had a grin on his face so I thought I was in the clear, that I had done everything okay.
I learned quick to fear that smile. He went and got a plate from the kitchen and took it out into the game room. He came back with the pile of mess on the plate and my stomach sank to the floor. He grabbed me by the arm and took me to the kitchen table. He pushed me down into a chair, slammed the plate in front of me, and told me to eat it.
I refused and refused. Then I refused again. I did okay and held out for a while. I am not really sure how long I fought him on it. He threatened me with a long list of things if I didn’t eat it. A whippin’, canceling my trip and grounding me, and a few others you may or may not be able to imagine. Finally, I guess he got tired of arguing with me and he grabbed me by the hair and dragged me to the hall closet, got his gun case out, and drug me back to the table.
He took out his 45 and laid it on the table and told me that if I didn’t eat the poop, he would pull the trigger and kill me where I sat. Being a kid, it doesn’t cross your mind about the things that would happen to the adult that committed a crime like that. Being that little, I didn’t think about the fact that he would be sent to jail.
As much as I would like to say I stayed tough and stuck it out, I ate it. I was so scared that I pee’d my pants at nine years of age. That reaction… I can’t explain how it felt. I really had absolutely no control over my bodily functions. None! When he realized what I had done, that I had gone in my pants, he whipped me pretty good. Unfortunately, on that day, my grandpa was running late picking me up. He had some trouble getting his truck to start. The first and only time that he was ever late.
When he finally got done ‘punishing’ me, I had to go take a shower and change because I didn’t want to be that way when my grandpa got there. My step father just went in the living room like nothing had happened and was playing video games even. We had a Sega Genesis that was hooked up to the living room TV.
My mother claimed to never have known what he had done. She was at work after all. However, from what she reiterated he told her was that I got a spanking for not cleaning up after the dog once I had been given ample warnings to do it right.
I never told my grandparents what he had done but they knew something was wrong. My grandma always asked me about that visit and why I was so different. That was the first time my step father had ever gotten violent. I know that on that day, any childhood I had maintained to that point, had died.
Later in life, when my grandma would bring it up, she would tell me that for the first three weeks, the smallest noises would make me jump a mile high.
She even told me that when I got there, and she tried to give me a hug, I ducked my head like I was going to be hit and I flinched. I don’t remember that part but I don’t doubt it happened. She would ask me about that day at least every other visit but I still never told her.
I ended up staying for the full summer. I refused to go home and when it came time for school to start again, I cried and begged to not have to go home.
I told them that I would be a good girl and keep the house clean and do the dishes… that I would be really quiet and stay in my room. I remember even telling them that I would make all A’s on my school work and not ever get into trouble or have detention.
After crying hysterically for hours, I still had to pack my bags, walk them out to the car, and go home. When I got home, since it had to have been after my parents got home from work… I went outside to play with the dog and deliberately got him riled up by rough housing and because he was still a puppy, he nipped once too hard and broke the skin. I ran inside screaming and crying on purpose because I wanted them to get rid of the dog.
Looking back on it now, I wanted something to blame for what had happened. They gave the dog away. I never knew to whom… just that he was gone.