Sanctuary Garden for Sanctuary Blog

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.