Posted in Beauty For Ashes, Faith, The History of Me

Do Not Touch That Bible

The living room of our house was there for show not use.  My family stayed in the den so everything in the living room was off limits to me. The roll top piano to the Bible on the coffee table, they were all hands off.  For a precocious five-year-old that was an engraved invitation.

When Mom thought I was in my room I was often in the forbidden room.  I would swing the pendulum on the grandfather clock, walk my fingers silently across the piano keys, and hide inside one of the end tables.  The Bible, situated perfectly to command attention from any angle, was like a beacon flashing red, calling me to come touch.

Although I was reading above my age level the King James Bible was confusing to me. Since I couldn’t make sense of the words I perused the pictures.  There were glossy pages filled with pictures that quite frankly scared the bejeebers out of me. IMG_2294

The angels were especially frightening.  One was trying to talk a man into stabbing a little boy and another fighting with a man.  Then there was the woman trying to get a snake to bite a baby and a guy nailed to a cross. With the exception of the last, none of these were a true depiction of what was happening.  It was only what my child’s eye interpreted.  Yet, as much as they scared me I couldn’t get enough.

My visits to the living room increased so it was only a matter of time until I was caught.  When my day of reckoning came I was so engrossed in examining the details of the pictures I didn’t even hear Mom’s approach.  When finished reprimanding me I took advantage of her attention and asked about the Bible.  She seemed surprised I didn’t know what a Bible was. I wondered if she didn’t tell me how she thought I’d know.

FullSizeRender (5)None-the-less, she said the Bible was about God.  And God was always watching me to see if I minded.  If I did I could go to heaven if not I was doomed to hell.  Wait, what?  There’s some guy I can’t see but who sees me all the time?  And He is just waiting for me to mess up so He can send me to hell?  As much as that freaked me out it didn’t stop my stealthily peeks of the Bible.  It was an addiction. Scared or not, and believe me I was terrified, I could not stop returning to that Bible.

Sometime after Mom’s ill-worded God introduction, I was playing hide-and-go-seek with my friends. From my hiding spot, I looked up at the night sky and saw the shape of a man. I stood stock still too terrified to move. Without a doubt that had to be God watching me. Since I had only moments ago been looking at the Bible, when told to leave it alone, I was certain He had come to throw me into hell. I ran into my house without taking the time to tell my friends.  I felt safer with a roof over my head.

Two things happened after that night. First, a reoccurring dream started. In the dream, I was alone in a room I didn’t recognize.  A voice would call out telling me God wants to talk to me. In fear of God, I would run into another room with people.  As long as I was among these strangers God didn’t try to talk to me.

When I wasn’t dreaming that I began having a nightmare.  Mom kept a yellow light bulbFullSizeRender (6) in my closet.  At night, she would crack the closet door to allow a little light in case we had to run from Daddy.  The yellow light was soft making it easier to sleep.  In my nightmare, I was in my bed looking at that yellow bulb when suddenly these winged, grotesque looking creatures would fly out of it straight towards me.

If it wasn’t Daddy disrupting my sleep with a drunken rant, it was demon bugs flying at me, or God wanting to talk.  I was just a little girl and ill-equipped to deal with any of it.  Yet, deep within I had a firm knowing that the answers were connected to that Bible.

I don’t recall how long all of that went on.  In sheer desperation, I stopped caring about punishment for disobedience.  Instead, I snatched that Bible off the table and retreating to my room where I would examine it for hours.  Tucked between those glossy photos I found my answer; the Lord’s Prayer.

Though I didn’t understand words like hallowed and thought kingdom come was an actual place (since my Dad frequently threatened to knock me there) I knew this was my key.  Blessed with the ability to memorize quickly I had that prayer down pat in no time. Then whenever the dreams came, whether God wanted to talk or the demon bugs attacked I put an end to it by softly reciting the Lord’s Prayer. It was my first introduction to the power of prayer.

Posted in Beauty For Ashes, The History of Me

Physical vs Emotional Pain

I have always had a myriad of health issues.  Within hours of my birth doctors discovered I had elliptocytosis, a blood disorder in which my red blood cells are half moon shaped rather than oval.  Since the condition is rare and the majority of sufferers have no symptoms little is known about it.  There is more information available now than in 1969 but it is still cloaked in a great deal of mystery.  Mystery that created a lot of heartache for me over the years.

Besides elliptocytosis, I was also born with partial nerve deafness.  My ears became a constant source of illness.  According to my mother, it was rare for me to go a month and not have double ear infections.  Back then there were no ear tubes to help decrease the infections nor were there hearing aids to help improve nerve deafness.  Like elliptocytosis, it was just something with which I had to learn to live.

In addition to those issues, I had trauma induced stuttering, requiring six years of speech therapy.  The trauma was evoked from the terror I had of my father.  My Dad frequently launched into screaming tirades if I was talking to my Mom and he wanted to say something.  That screaming often devolved into physical violence.  Those events were so common that I developed a fear of speaking to anyone.  The first memory of my life involves one such event.

I was three-years-old.  My Mom was cooking dinner, and I was standing in a chair next to her “helping.”  I was chatting away about the dandelions I had plucked from our yard to make a necklace for her.  Daddy came in and as was his habit poured himself a drink the moment he walked through the door.  I suppose he attempted to say something but if Mom heard him I saw no indication of it.  I certainly didn’t hear him.  All I heard was glass shattering against the wall.

The sound caused me to jump and topple from the chair.  It took me a moment to figure out Daddy had hurled his drink across the room.  In horror, I watched the amber liquid slide down the wall.  For the briefest of moments, the only sound was my own heartbeat.  I could not only hear it but feel it in my ears.  Then Daddy erupted.  He began screaming about “that damn kid” who wouldn’t “shut the hell up.”  On and one he went cussing and never calling me by name.

A chill swept over me as Mom moved me behind her.  But that put me in a corner.  With only the kitchen cabinets behind me and Daddy between me and the door, I was cut off from any escape route.  Brenda, my protector, the big sister I looked up to, wasn’t home.  I was on my own.  I could do no more than stand there and watch as my Dad grabbed Mom by her hair, dragged her across the floor and flung her like a rag doll out the back door.  I opened my mouth to scream but no sound came out.  In that instant, I lost my ability to effectively communicate with anyone outside my family and friends.  And it would be many years before it would be recovered.

It wasn’t long after that event that I had an urgent physical ailment to accompany my traumatic one.  My elliptocytosis was of the most severe form.  I had far more abnormal blood cells than I did normal and they were accumulating in my spleen.  My spleen was so enlarged that it rupturing was a certainty.  My life was in danger and my spleen had to be removed immediately.

I recall more about the incident with Daddy than I do the drama surrounding my health.  One clear memory is of Mom’s face when the doctor told her they would need to cut me from bellybutton to backbone.  It was something I heard her say several times but didn’t fully grasp.  I was far more concerned about having to remove my panties before going into surgery.  Mom and I were at the hospital with totally different mindsets.  She was on the phone crying about me being cut half in two and I was crying about losing my panties.  Finally, the nurses agreed to let me keep my panties on until I was under anesthesia.

I have two clear memories when I awoke.  The first was that the searing pain in my side made it clear why Mom was worried about my incision.  The second was that no one had put my panties back on.  They were hanging at the end of my bed and I wanted them.  For years Mom told the story of how I had complications during surgery and her first sign that I would be fine came when I asked for my panties.

After a week or so in the hospital, I was discharged.  Once at home, I learned what Brenda already knew; Daddy was gone.  He had demanded Mom leave me at the hospital and come home.  When she refused, he got himself a girlfriend and moved in with her.  Despite Brenda only being 11 years old, he left her alone then called to tell her to inform Mom and me.

Later, as adults, Brenda would tell me how painful that was for her.  She said that even though she knew I couldn’t help being sick she still resented me and that somehow she blamed me more than Daddy.  As for me, I thought the surgical pain and having my panties removed was well worth the price of getting rid of Daddy.

hope

Posted in Beauty For Ashes, The History of Me

Seeing Me

I can see me as clearly today as I did that night. It was pouring rain pitch black. The rain was exceptionally cold or perhaps I was in a sort of shock that had me experiencing the rain at a much cooler temperature. The rain pounded relentlessly against the windows of the car. I sat alone in the backseat and my sister Brenda, who was eight years older than me, occupied the front passenger’s seat. While she had her eyes deadlocked on the front door of our house, I stared out the window in the opposite direction.

Daddy was not just a drunk. He was a mean, merciless, abusive drunk. We never knew when the whiskey would go down wrong and he would turn on us. Sometimes he didn’t. Most times he did. That particular night the drinking prompted Mom to accompany me to bed. She wasn’t the sort of mother who tucked in her children so when she took me to bed I knew what it meant.

“Sleep in your clothes and put your shoes by the bed so that you can slip your feet in them. And no matter what stay with Brenda. Don’t come back into the house.” Her instructions were unnecessary at this point. Despite not even being school aged, I knew what Daddy’s drunken rants meant. In a few hours I would be awakened by a ruckus that would be my parents literally fist fighting.

True to form, I hadn’t been asleep long when I heard it. The sound of your father slamming your mother into a wall while punching her viciously is unique. One that I can’t describe and one you should never know. I barely had enough time to roll to a sitting position and shove my feet into my shoes before Brenda filled my doorway. There were no tears or words. She simply snatched me up and ran. Mom made sure the three of us were a well-oiled machine highly skilled in escaping.

As Brenda carried me to safety she never glanced to the kitchen to see exactly what our parents were doing. But being carried with my head over her should I had an uninterrupted view of the violence. Some nights the three of us got out before Daddy threw the first punch. That would not be the case that night. Mom was taking a beating though I had no time to react to it. Mom’s mantra was no emotion, stick to the plan.

And the plan was that Mom would keep Daddy from attacking Brenda and me. Our job was to get to the car, lock all the doors except the driver’s side, start it and wait exactly five minutes. At the end of that five minutes if Mom hadn’t appeared we were to get out of the car and run across the street to our neighbor’s house. If the worst happened, Mom was badly injured or dead, and Daddy appeared I was to lock the driver’s door and Brenda would blow the horn relentlessly until someone rescued us. Under no circumstances were we to get within reaching distance of Daddy.

Once Mom made it out, she would slide into the driver’s seat of the car and off we’d go to a hotel. How long we would stay in the hotel would depend upon Daddy’s rage. Most times it was only overnight but other times it would be days weeks or months. Yet, we would no doubt return. And that fact often left me hating my mother for returning more than I did my father for drinking.

On that night, however, there would be a new addition to the routine. Through the rain, just outside my window, I saw an older version of myself. Her facial features were obscured but her hair was the same wild mass of curls I currently had. I was transfixed.

“It won’t always be this way,” she spoke to me. I blinked a couple of times thinking I was hallucinating or dreaming but Older Me remained. “There is someone who loves you and will take care of you. Be strong.” Before I could respond or at least ask Brenda if she saw Older Me, Mom exploded through the front door and Older Me was gone. Never to be seen again.

Not until I was grown and married did I recount this story. The moment was so profound and personal I wanted to be the only one special enough to know about it.  Many times later, in great fear of my father, I would try to conjure up Older Me. I never could. Yet, one very distinct message remained. Daddy wouldn’t kill me as I feared. Older Me was proof that I would live to adulthood.