aging · disability · dreams · Family · life · mental-health · poetry · recovery · relationships · women's issues

This Big Old House

Bought myself a big, old house
with a myriad of rooms; needed
it to accommodate all those I
wanted to please – it’s what I do.

Learned it living in a house full
of children – adults that were
children – do it to compensate
for never having been a child.

Raised my own family, bent
on making sure they had
their space, their autonomy,
they’re gone now, still can’t

quit – spend my days cleaning
up in the aftermath: so much
dirt to launder; need it to be
pristine so they’ll come back.

Bought this old house partially
furnished – remnants of lives
before me – the crumbs of past
denial hardened now, panicked

to imagine what petulance has
been drawn to their neglect,
becoming obsessed about the
infestation, erasing the past

confine myself to the main floor,
ignore the filth on walls – crayon
figures pleading for help – until
daylight reveals truth, and leaves

me no options but to toil harder –
cannot let these patterns repeat,
need to save the innocents –
this work is never done – refuse

to see that I am not responsible
for it all – project rage onto my
spouse (latest in a string of
targets) for the sin of taking

pleasure, when I cannot relax,
(everyone knows how to unwind
but me, Super Woman) feel the
compulsion to flee, but disability

allots me no recourse – thank
goodness for this big old house –
places to hide, be forgotten –
if it wasn’t for the old crone

who haunts my dreams, drags
me out of my spinning misery
forces me to extend myself,
meets me at the edge of calm

where tranquil waters soothe
my inner churning, and where
kindred spirits come to play,
and connections are real, and

I can roam freely, unattached,
until illness brings me back –
reminds me of my limitations –
that I have been eternally lost

in a house with many rooms
aimlessly wandering in hopes
or renewal, lost for so long
that I’ve forgotten how to let

go, and only in my dreams do
I find the freedom to walk away
and reclaim the life that awaits

(Image: bigoldhouses.blogspot.com)

 

abuse · Family · life · Love · mental-health · poetry

The Art of Survival

Learned the art of survival
from father, a commando
trained warrior, never able
to leave the battles behind

A sharp-shooter, whose
expert eye tracked our
every fault; with sniper
precision shot us down.

Innocence has no place
when the enemy resides
within; when trigger lines
are camouflaged by wall-

to-wall carpets, and young
minds, craving exploration,
are imprisoned by acts of
terror; the only conclusion

survival’s impermanence,
hostility lurking in every
shadow, caution instilled
by the omnipotent legacy

of father. Tried to reach
him in the end, touch his
humanity; his shell-shocked
glaze paused for a moment,

he focused, broke through
the fury, seemed to remember
we were his daughters – was
that compassion lighting

his expression? Take cover,
he cried, get as far away as
you can, save yourselves, I
cannot sway my path, too

committed to this private war,
there is no mercy for me – but
you, you can be saved, save
your children.  I turn and run

with all the certainty that this
is life and death and embrace
the little ones, praying to lift
them out of the ashes, give

them new life, but it seems
they learned the art of survival
from the daughter of a father,
conditioned to the state of war.

abuse · Family · Love · memoir · recovery · relationships

What Is Right If Everything Is Wrong?

My father ‘borrowed’ his brother’s identification and enlisted in the war effort at the age of fifteen.  He told me once that it was an opportunity to escape home.  He trained as a commando.  His mission was to go into enemy territory, scout out where they kept their ammunition, and get out without being caught.  His instructions were to swallow a black pill (cyanide) if captured,  and kill any soldier he should encounter, in order to keep his unit’s operation covert.  He did not carry a gun; gun’s were too noisy.  He was trained to kill with either a knife, that he kept strapped to his leg, or his bare hands.

He knew exactly how to render an enemy immobile, and apply pressure to end their life.  I know, because he practiced on me.

He never let me forget that he was boss, and he could snuff me out in a moment.

He would do it in a state of drunkenness, in front of his male friends.  He’d twist my body in such a way that if I moved, I would surely break an arm, or a leg.  He’d hold me there, humiliated, angry, and make me tell him I loved him.

“Yes, Dad.”  I would say, teeth clenched, breathing like a trapped animal.

“What?”  He’d pull tighter.  “I don’t think that was very convincing.”

“I love you.”  I don’t know who I hated more, him or me.  I felt so cowardly.  Inwardly, I plotted revenge.  He might conquer me in the moment, but not the long term.

How long he held me there, depended on how much pleasure he was deriving from the moment.  He said he did it because he loved me.

“Your father loves you,”  my mother would echo.  “He’d never really hurt you.”  I was not reassured.  She said the same thing when he attacked her verbally, and psychologically.

She said the same thing when her brother tried to slip me his tongue.  “Your uncle fancy’s himself a ladies’ man.  He’s harmless.”  Even when his own daughters accused him of sexual abuse and refuse to see him, she defended him.   “Boys will be boys,”  she’d say.  “The woman has to control the situation.”

I was twenty-eight before I told her the reason that I disappeared when I was fourteen was because I had been abducted and raped.  It took me fourteen years to build up the courage to tell my mother that when men behave inappropriately it is wrong.  That they alone are responsible for their crimes, and that women are not to blame.

“I’m sixty years old,” my mother told.  “And I’ve never told anyone.”

“What, Mom?”

“I always thought it was the girl’s fault.  I don’t why I thought that, but I just did.  I knew my mother would say so, so I never told.”  She was only six, and riding in the backseat of her family’s new car, when her uncle took her little hand and made her fondle his penis.  Her parents were in the front, but she didn’t say a word.  She thought she did something wrong.

The abuse did not stop there.  “My mother would make me visit my grandparents, even though I hated it.  Grandma would be working in the kitchen, and she’d tell me to go and keep Grandpa company.”  ‘Keeping Grandpa company’ meant climbing into bed with the old man.  Mom didn’t explain any further.

The same brother that tried to french kiss me, was also a problem growing up, she confessed.  She’d just shoo him away.

Her younger sister wasn’t so lucky.  Their grandfather dragged her out behind the barn one day and raped her, while the rest of the children stood by helpless.  Only the youngest son grabbed the shotgun and threatened to kill the old man.  It was an empty effort.  Years later, the family would shun that aunt for her inappropriate sexual behaviors.

A child may be born with an innate sense of right and wrong, but it is not long before she learns to question her own instincts.  How do you unravel the corruptly tangled web of abuse and denial?  How does a child who has not been protected from wrong, learn to trust in right?

For me, it has been a slow dawning realization that words have no meaning.  A man can say and promise whatever he wants, but it is action that speaks the truth.  Holding your child in a death grip to prove your prowess, is not an act of love.