Monday, 5 August 2013

Damages



I pity the children who live in small spaces and have nowhere to hide from violence and abuse.
Growing up on a six acre fruit farm, I found lots of spots to hide out during the day, but the dark, fragrant orchards were no place for a small child trying to escape madness.
On the long nights when the fights raged, and I couldn't stand the yelling anymore, I would retreat to my mother's old car parked down the lane a far distance from the main house. Sometimes, I found peace sleeping in the doghouse with my beloved springer spaniel Susie who snuggled beside me.
Nobody ever looked for me on those dark nights. They were too busy snapping beer caps and pointing fingers, too consumed with pacing and agitation.
I don't know where my brothers were on these nights, I only know that I was alone with my fear and anxious thoughts. Sometimes I worried that when it finally went quiet, there would be no one left alive in the house. There were guns in the house, used for target practice in the basement. Maybe one day, I thought, my mother would pick up one of the rifles from downstairs or a carving knife and put an end to the bickering once and for all.
The fights raged on between my mother and my Uncle Ivan who would shake with fury over some slight or other and then spew forth venom towards his sister. Why they hated each other so much back in those days, I never knew, never wanted to know.
All I know is I wanted peace.
During these fights, my mother did a lot of what I call mad drinking. She would drink everything in the house in a weird sort of "I'll show you" manner, and that's when things got worse and I had to take my little self out of the equation.
Self-preservation was all that mattered on those nights.
Why were they always so mad?
I never understood it.
The bottom fell out one afternoon when Ivan and my mother got into it pretty bad.
My mom had had a lot to drink that afternoon, maybe eight or nine beers, and then it was gone, so she went to the cupboard and found Grandpa's whiskey bottle and chugged the whole thing, all forty ounces of it. A little while later, she collapsed on the couch and began to vomit.
My Granny shouted for me to find a pail and hold it under her.
I did so until I couldn't watch another minute of the woman who had given me birth looking like a sad Ironweed drunk who had happened out from under a bridge. I went to the phone and called my aunt to tell her what was going on.
I was, in a word, hysterical.
She tried to reassure me, telling me that my mother had problems with mental illness back when my dad was stationed overseas, that she had been held in a psychiatric facility for a couple of months and had been given shock treatments. I didn't know what that was. I didn't care what that was.
All I knew was that ten year old little girls should never have to hold a pail so their mothers could vomit in them, nor should they have to pick puke out of their hair after trying to wipe up the mess.
No one spoke of this incident after it happened.
I was left, all by myself, to try to pick through the shards of glass shattered in my psyche.
I spent a lot of years forgiving my mother her trespasses, but the pain never left me.
That day, I saw the face of an evil that no child should ever witness.
I have never spoken about this before.
Maybe I shouldn't speak about it at all.
But there it is.

2 comments:

  1. Oh my... there are a thousand words that come right to the top. I know you don't want sympathy, but I am sorry for the little girl who had to see and know so much. And I'm sure you don't want comparisons, but alcoholism runs rampant in both sides of my family so I truly do understand what you're saying here. We also have issues with depression. Nothing worse than a depressed drunk. Except for a violent one.
    Thank you for feeling safe enough to get this out.

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  2. It breaks my heart to think of you having to be the adult at such a young age.

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