I had an idea for today’s blog, but once I began to do some more in-depth research on the topic I quickly discovered it was a subject with many potholes so it will have to wait for another day—after I’ve had time to sort through the information and organize my thoughts. In the meantime I decided to use one of the daily prompts: When Childhood Ends
I was only ten, and the oldest of six children, when my mother almost died from kidney surgery. Once she was well afterwards she began working outside the home for the first time in my memory. Suddenly, I was in charge of watching my siblings, doing some cooking—hello burned beans—and housecleaning. The most difficult part of that was my siblings taking advantage of me, which usually ended with me being in trouble instead of them.
For example, my oldest sibling, a brother age 7, pretended one day to choke from swallowing some glue. I was very rapidly in full freak-out mode and did the one thing that was sure to get me in trouble with my mother and stepfather. I ran to the neighbor’s and called “Dad” at work so he, believing it was a true emergency, picked my mother up at her job and they returned home. However, by the time I got back to our house my brother was fine and laughing his head off about scaring me. And he denied the story when confronted by my mother and stepfather, meaning I got my hide tanned but good.
Another upshot of that episode was that I was not allowed to EVER spank my siblings. If I spanked them, I got spanked or switched when he got home. Which apparently was all the license they needed to do whatever they wanted. Is it any wonder that in later years I resorted to such things as banging their heads into doors and denying it when confronted by my stepfather? No marks, no proof. But no, I didn’t turn into a monster.
Then I became the oldest of seven children and by the time I was 12 I was cooking full Sunday dinners all by myself, plus doing the clean-up afterwards. My stepfather didn’t think the younger children should have to help, especially the boys. They also were not made to help with the housework, despite the fact they were a large part of the reason for the mess. With my mother working nights and sleeping days, I also was responsible for ironing clothes and getting everybody ready for school. My mother never bucked him on anything until many, many years later.
What childhood I had not yet lost by the time I began blossoming into a young woman my stepfather took from me. That’s when, in addition to the emotional and physical abuse heaped on me already, the sexual abuse began—and it progressively continued until I ran away at the age of 18. My mother found out about the sexual abuse shortly after my graduation the year before but it had continued despite his promises to her and me. When they finally found me in New Mexico (how is another story entirely) “Dad” promised to never touch me again if I went home with them. Foolishly, I believed him. But the abuse resumed again and continued until I moved away at the age of 22.
Do I sound bitter? In many ways I am still both bitter and angry. Partly because I never got the courage to confront him before he died, but also because he sexually abused both of his blood daughters. Until I found out that last part, I had thought it was only me because I wasn’t of his blood.
There is so much more to the story of my lost childhood, but I can only deal with the story in small doses and still make sense when the emotions kick in. For the purposes of this post, this is enough.