I grew up in the late sixties, seventies and eighties. In that childhood I thought things were pretty normal. My dad would get drunk, throw up, yell and my siblings and I were subjected to various measures of discipline. Looking at that 'discipline' now I realize how bizzare it actually was. Looking back at his behavior and that of my mother, I also see just how bizzare my family truly was. I had no comparison though so this was normal.
It was normal for Daddy to get drunk and tear around the neighborhood, carrying a knife trying to kill the barking dog. The dog that was compounding the headache of his hangover. I saw the bruises on my mother but I never connected the dots then either. That didn't come until much later. I thought it was 'normal' to scrub our wooden floors with an old toothbrush. 'Normal' to be lined up for spankings with his favorite device, a belt or the miserable bamboo stick. I remember the stains on my shorts and dresses, those green stains.
But were we abused? If you had asked that young child, I would have shrugged off these 'oddities' as normal and thought you were even crazy to say that word. And this was the seventies, kids weren't abused. That was the fodder of those mysterious places that was whispered about in this severely dysfunctional household. We had money, we had a beautiful house, pets, bikes, toys, cars and more. We were not 'that' family. And I could share all kinds of wonderful anecdotes about my father, the protector. Little did I know that it was just him exerting his power and control over someone outside this circle. And the damage inflicted by this and the remainder of our lives was to forever alter myself and my siblings, from the drinking to the abuse, to the seeking of abusive partners and so much more.
It all culminated on one dark night (yes I know the extreme cliche, but it was a dark night). My father picked me up from somewhere that escapes my memory even to this day. We traveled to the local watering hole for dinner for me and drinks for him. Again this was the seventies so not much was said about a young child in a bar. My father left me with a female bartender and went off somewhere. What he was doing I still have no idea. He came back several times. One of those times he handed me a was of money and told me to hold it. He got progressively drunker as the night went on. My mother soon called and he decided it was time to go home. One slight problem though. He was entirely too intoxicated to drive so he handed me the keys and told me to get us home. I don't know how we made it home that night. Yet another of those vague distant memories that is there, I know it happened, yet details escape me. Only bit and pieces are there. I remember nearly missing the turn off that led to our home from the highway. I remember the warm milk my mother made for me to help me sleep.
And then I remember school the following week and my favorite teacher hugging me and telling me she would miss me. Soon we were on a country wide 28 hour adventure with our clothes and a few toys and five children and one scared and angry woman. We never stopped at hotels, she was too afraid he would find us. We made it cross country with only two breaks for my mother to catnap while I stayed awake as the 'guard'. The Sunshine State soon hit our sights and for my mother at least, that meant freedom from the abuse she endured.
Little did I know that this existence was my beginning and would forever alter my life. Yet unlike many criminals who appear in court and state that childhood abuse 'made them choose their paths and they should not be held responsible because their parents screwed up', I have never felt that my parents choices should forever be my guide. In fact I spent my entire life trying to break free from that mold. I never knew it would take me over thirty years and many struggles, poor choices and life to get to that point.
If you read this far, I appreciate your time, and I hope you will return for more. Believe me, there is a bunch more. Just keep in mind that I am past any shame I might have for my own bad choices. They were my choices, some weren't smart, some were incredibly stupid, but I have learned from all of them.