But I Can Share My Story . . .
It was the middle of the night and a timid five-year old boy lied awake listening to his parents argue. They’d argued before; many times before. Their voices were raised and his six brothers and sisters who were all sleeping nearby, didn’t seem to hear them. Conflicted, he loved his parents, but he wished they’d stop. His mother seemed to be making his father angry and he didn’t understand why she was doing it; why she was cursing at him; why she was being so mean. In his head he just kept repeating,
“Mom, why don’t you just leave Daddy alone.”
But his mother was his entire world and he couldn’t be angry with her. And if his mother was his world, his father was his universe.
Scared and afraid to wake his siblings, he crawled out of bed to a dark corner of the bedroom he shared with his younger brother. It was a safe corner where he could become invisible. Nobody ever noticed him there. And there he sat, curled up in a blanket, listening and wondering what he had done this time; was he the cause of their argument? He didn’t know or understand that things happen in the world that he had nothing to do with. He was never told that he was not to blame. And so he sat in the corner and cried and wished it would stop. It never stopped and it wasn’t going to stop on that scarring night.
Just when he’d thought his parents might have gone to bed, he heard his mother scream. He was frightened, but his mother needed his help. He ran to the kitchen where the voices were loud and the language biting. As he entered the hallway facing the kitchen he could see his mother yelling at his father and then suddenly a coffee cup hit her head and blood spattered on the wall behind her. His mother slid down the wall and her tears fell to the cold tile floor. The boy ran to console her, but she was inconsolable.
His father ordered him to go back to bed; instead, he crawled under the kitchen table. Then his father grabbed his sobbing mother’s arms and began to throw her against the wall. The boy dared not leave his hiding place. He’d never seen his father this angry; he feared for his mother’s life; he didn’t know what to do. If he ran to try to find help, his father might beat him as well. He waited, shivering and watching for his father’s next move.
His father raised his fist and was about to strike his mother again; she begged him to stop and he hesitated. He mumbled something about how she drove him to this point — she would never leave him alone. He turned and walked out of the kitchen. His mother spotted him under the table and placed her finger up to her mouth. The boy dared not move. The front doors slammed and they waited in silence. It seemed like hours before his mother pushed herself up off of the floor and grabbed a rag from the sink. She placed the rag up to her head to stop the bleeding and silently wept.
The boy tentatively moved toward his mother and she opened her arms to embrace him. He told himself to be strong for her, but he wanted to cry and knew he could not. He kept hearing voices from everywhere telling him that boys didn’t cry. He didn’t cry, he whispered,
“Mom, I won’t let him hurt you.”
The boy’s mother appeared broken and exhausted. She slowly retreated to her bedroom and collapsed onto her bed. He followed her and listened for the front door. She motioned for him to sit on the edge of the bed. Her movements were slow and she seemed to be in a great deal of pain. He didn’t know what to do; how to help her. He watched her eyes flutter as she fought sleep. She reached over, grabbed his forearm and said,
“Watch for daddy, if he comes home wake me,” and then she slept.
The boy knew that if his father returned home, it would be bad. His thoughts went from terror to relief; relieved that his mother was still alive, but terrified his father would soon come home. He knew that if his father came home, he wouldn’t be able to protect his mother. All he could do was wait and warn her.
The boy stared into the darkness and listened for any sound. The boy was me.
Friends and relatives called me after reading my story. Most were supportive and wanted to show their love and support and some asked me why I wrote this now.
There are many reasons I wanted to put my experience out there, but I’ll share just a couple. First and foremost, the constant emotional abuse I experienced throughout my childhood followed me into adulthood and created problems for me in almost every relationship. Therapy and a good deal of soul-searching has been helpful. I want parents to be aware that exposure to domestic upheaval will cause a lifetime of pain for a child; their innocence and naiveté prevent them from understanding their role in the anger and pain around them. I believe one of the reasons I never had children, was the fear of putting a child through what I went through.
I also told my story because of my present life journey. To be blunt, I’ve had enough of carrying this shit around and it is time to shed it; writing about it is one way to accomplish that goal.
Portimão, Portugal next weekend: I’ll be sleeping on a sailboat and documenting the whole thing . . . well, almost the whole thing.
Catania, Sicily, October 1 to 8