Today, a guest poster with a beautifully touching story about how her life began - and how it's shaped the who she is now. This person is a good friend of mine, and wants to stay anonymous on this one, but I hope you take as much from her story as I have...
I have a story in my life that has shaped every inch of my being. I've wanted to share this story for so long but haven't been able to put words around it. I don’t want to put words around it on my own blog either as I don’t know how I’d feel if my Mum read this post. With last week’s White Ribbon Day and reading a number of articles about abuse I’ve increasingly had thoughts swimming around in my head and weighing down my heart.
One of my earliest memories is seeing my Mum cowered down, sobbing, curled up like a wounded animal on our lounge room floor after my Dad had stormed through the house he had abandoned us in. I remember the energy he had left behind as the door slammed behind him. I would have been about 3, the same age as my eldest child now. My Mum would have been about 21. Whether he actually hit her on that occasion I don’t remember, nor do I know the circumstances that caused his rage on that particular occasion.
I didn’t grow up in a particularly stable environment. Actually, that’s playing things down a bit, it was actually a bit bipolar in a way....when Dad wasn’t around, which was for years at a time it was a happy house with just my Mum and brother and I....when he was around it was occasionally great fun but most of the time sad and a lot of the time full of anger, a pretty typical abuse cycle really. There were several break ups between my parents, years where they lived apart. He wasn’t always violent, in fact physical pain was not his specialty at all, it was the emotional abuse that really caused a lot of pain. He only ever hit me once, aged 17, when he thought I’d been out doing god knows what with my boyfriend of the time. When he did hit me I had to go to hospital. When he did hit me I was glad because it brought on the beginning of the end, he finally left for good and we got on with creating a family life without him. And though he hit me only once my Mum and brother weren’t so lucky.
When they did live together he couldn’t be relied upon, even as the bread winner. Our electricity was turned off regularly, he left us with a fridge full of beer and nothing else, including no money. Every single time someone knocked at the door we worried who would be there – who did he owe money to and were they coming to collect it. We didn’t feel safe in our own home. He would pick a fight, undermine us, call us every vile name possible and storm out of the house for days without a phone call. He was proud of the fact that he never rang home to tell us where he was. He picked on me least of all but in being so horrible to the two people that meant most to me he hurt me more than when he was abusive to me.
He was a gambler, he lost the roof over our heads, literally, on several occasions, he was a womaniser and my Mum received several very unpleasant phone calls from the various women whom he slept with, he is absolutely a compulsive liar. He’s never been able to be honest with himself let alone the people in his life. My Mum told me she’s never cried more than when I came home from a visit with him aged 7 saying, “Mum, he’s my Dad and I know I love him but he can’t love the three of us back the same way can he? He doesn’t know how.” I clearly knew what was what from an early age.
As a result I made decisions to not be at all like him and I felt responsible for protecting my beloved other family members, I never was a “child”.....as a result my Mum is totally unable to move on with her life and find real happiness....as a result my brother ended up addicted to hardcore drugs and is now an alcoholic. I can categorically say these things would not have happened had we not experienced his abuse.
I know WHY he is the way he is – he was raped several times as a young boy and has never been able to repair himself. His family, devoutly Catholic, blamed him and his impishness rather than looking to the perpetrator. That this happened to him is truly awful. That he never got over it is understandable. That he took this sadness and anger out on the people he should have loved and protected most is something I will never understand. He was always better to strangers than he was to his family. He charmed them, offered them support, assistance, a smile, a kind word – things he rarely offered us.
After a certain point we all have to stand on our own two feet and I’ve accepted all of this for what it is, I’ve even accepted him in to my life to a certain extent but I remain fiercely loyal and protective towards my Mum, even though in some ways I was equally as angry with her for bringing him back in to our lives so often.
If my Dad read this account of my life he would totally disagree, he has never been honest with himself about his treatment of us. He’s remarried fairly recently to a genuinely lovely woman and he seems to have recreated himself for her and her grown up children. I can see them looking at me with an accusatory eye as to why I am not warm to him, that I blatantly prefer and seek out my Mum over him. In some ways I wish they’d ask me why so that I could tell them the truth, though I know they won’t ask.
It has made me a person who absolutely craves stability and safety. My husband is a rock solid man and our family life is all about creating a stable environment so that all of us can flourish. It has made me a Mum who really understands the need to create, “roots and wings” for my children. I want the roots for my boys to run as deep as they possibly can. Never a day goes by when I don’t think about allowing them to flourish through knowing they’re loved and secure. It has made me who I am and in a strange way I’m incredibly grateful.