Strange title, huh? I know you are probably thinking what in the world is Elizabeth up to with a title like that … so I’ll tell you, but be forewarned it is not pretty and it will not take you to a happy place.
I have a reader who shows up on my sitemeter with an IP address from or near Evansville, Indiana. I cannot tell who it is but every time I see they have been by to have a look at my blog posts I have a memory that links me to Evansville as clearly as if I were a small child again. I wish I could say it was a pleasant memory, but it’s not.
Some of you may have read posts of mine in the past like this one or perhaps this one where I alluded to some of the difficulties my sister Margaret and I went through as children and this post gets a bit more specific than in the past. I think it is necessary in order to share the story properly and it is something I have debated for months, but know this … what I am sharing today is one of the milder things I could tell you.
Living as we did in a violent household some days were better than others and trips to Evansville were always something of a toss-up in terms of whether we would be safe for a few days or not. One would think a family gathering with lots of children and adults around might be a good place to go unnoticed for a few days lost in the activities and chaos of a holiday at Grandma’s house except she wasn’t really our Grandma, something our step-father never let us forget.
We knew in no uncertain terms that we were there with his family because he allowed it and it was a privilege he could and did take away as easily as he withheld food when punishing us for made-up offenses. I remember his mother as a small, faded, apron wearing woman who seemed to circle the edges of her own home never coming into the center of a crowded room except to put something down or carry it away.
The two-story white farm-house stood in the center of a large piece of land where she lived with her second husband who I can’t remember ever saying a word although I am sure he must have spoken at some point. Acres and acres of farmland came almost up to all four sides of the dusty house that was edged with just enough green grass to make a place for a border of flowers and trees.
It always looked lonely to me sitting as it did at the end of a dirt lane that was fenced on both sides to keep the animals either in or out depending on what year it was. For a while it was cows and I remember pigs some years, but mostly when I think back I can see the empty fields around Thanksgiving and the homemade pies lining one side of the last seven or eight stair-steps going up to the bedrooms on the second floor.
At mealtimes we’d sit at a long table that would have sagged with the weight of the food piled upon it had it not been built by hand for the large family seated on either side. There were multiple kinds of meats, vegetables, and breads, all made by an old woman’s hands that already had too much to do on the other six days of the week leading into the holiday period and I can only imagine that she might have preferred to go out to eat rather than hover in the background refilling platters and bowls from the kitchen before she got a good mouthful in herself. She always seemed quiet but kind and I never could understand how she had raised the child that grew into the evil masochistic abuser that her son became.
Sadly, my mother found him and married him the summer before my seventh birthday and almost immediately our lives became a free-fall into a never-ending cycle of abuse too terrible to discuss even now. One might have thought oneself safe in the company of others, but in the 60s and 70s no one in my life said anything even when confronted with obvious signs of physical abuse … not my mother who witnessed much of it and doled out her own, or my teachers, or even the people who sat at the table and watched that day as my stepfather licked his fork slowly before stabbing it deliberately into my arm with a flourish meant to attract attention.
What grievous infraction did I commit? The table was a bit high and the chair too low for a child of ten and the edge of my arm touched the edge of the table for a half second too long. Clearly in pain after being stabbed hard enough to draw blood but too afraid to speak, I sat there ashamed as my eyes filled with tears and thought I must truly be all the bad things he said about me because the others at the table watched and did nothing.
From years seven to fourteen I fought to hang onto some sense of self that was not tainted by the evil things he said and did. Strong in spirit and smart enough to seek therapy when older, I think I managed to turn out pretty well in spite of it all, but I am still haunted by the memory of that meal and that day and how no one spoke up when they could have made a difference, when they could have said enough and taken the fork from his hand.
My reason for sharing this painful story with you is one of hope really. I have thought about this for some time and I hope by writing this the person who reads my blog from or near Evansville Indiana will leave a little message in my comment section or possibly send me an email off-line to say hello and maybe share a happy memory that I can think of when I see Evansville in my sitemeter instead of the images I remember now.
I’ve done my best to forget or replace it with a memory of my own, but I am hard put to come up with one and I’d be grateful to hear one of yours. Won’t you take a minute to say hello and tell me a little about yourself.
We all have more power to make a difference than we often know and although it is not always as obvious as helping a child in need, a kind word or a helping hand may be enough for someone who needs it today.