Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Chapter 8

There is a time in the early morning, right before dawn that I still get a bit spooked to this day about my past.  It happens more often than I would like. It rushes at me. 
Too quiet. Too many memories.
You know that time of day when it's near silent and the entire world seems to still be sleeping. The sun isn't up yet but you know that the day will begin with you or without you.  
That time of day. 
It is a haunting time of day for me and sometimes I have to run find a loved one to hug or be sure not to be alone. Something about that time of day connects me to the little girl I used to be.
 Memories of childhood demons that still seem to drift back into my consciousness and it takes me back to that time and place. That time when it all seemed so dark. Dark, but never, not once did I feel hopeless.
I think that is what Bob and Barbara tried to beat out of me. 
My hopefulness. 
They couldn't. Hard as they tried.
I always knew somewhere deep inside me that there was hope.
Soon, I was going to need it. Lot's of it.


Winter time.
Cold weather and dark dreary heavy days.
They weigh on me now as they did back then.


Things in our house began to take a twisted, really ugly turn around this time. 
You see, I am about to become a teenager. 


Girls at school all taking about their periods, tampons.
I was completely clueless. A young girl needs to be of a certain weight to begin that process. I probably didn't weigh 70 pounds.
I was so behind all of my friends emotionally and maturity-wise. 
Being denied food takes it's toll. My clothes hung on me and I caught every sickness that was out there. Mumps, measles, chicken pox, colds, flu.
Somewhere I got a nasty virus on my lip and missed over 3 weeks of school. My lips were green and orange/brown with pus and seeping blisters. Caked and bloody lower lip that would not heal.  
Open sores that seeped pus. Green.
Weeping and putrid.
Could it be from eating unclean food, mice feces or vomit?
See a doctor?  I don't recall seeing a doctor since we left the orphanage.
Teachers and friends were beginning to notice. 
Why are you so thin? Why do you look so lank, pale and pathetic? 
My eyes sunken in from malnutrition and lack of sleep. My tiny boney back beginning to hunch over from lack of proper nutrition.
I had learned that you can drink syrup from the bottle and no one notices the amount if you take it in small amounts at a time. 
Mrs. Butterworth syrup in the dark brown bottle was hard for Barbara to monitor any missing amount. I took a pickle from a pickle jar once and was beaten so bad I could barely walk. Barbara counted pickles?
Of course she did. Keep us weak and hungry. Ugly and useless. 
 I missed more and more days of precious school. 
 I ate baby aspirin to alleviate the hunger pangs. Two olives at a time not missed but take 4 or more and it was a certain beating. 
Flour was never missed so mix it with water and it was a meal for the day. Raw and pasty but it kept the constant hunger away for a day...


 My nights were filled with nightmares and terror. So tense I would wake up from sleepwalking or even worse, a dream so horrific, I thought I was in hell.
Even in sleep I was on edge. Afraid.
Questions I was too afraid to answer. Too young to know the right answer may be an end to my own nightmares and those of my sister's too.
Questions but no clear answers.
Why all the bruises and scars? Why aren't you showering after gym class? Why don't your ever brush your teeth?


WHY didn't I open my mouth?


I can't really give you an answer  except as with most victims of domestic violence, we learn early  not to "talk" about it.  
You learn to live your life tense. Never relax. The next slap or punch or fist or pinch or burn. 


Tension. 
Tension. It drives you. Your focus is to get thru each day with the least amount of pain possible. Tipping that scale could, and most likely would, cause more pain. 
To yourself or to someone I loved more than myself, my sister. 
You learn quickly that one small word or glance or a silent plea for help could cause more pain and the results were always the same. 
Pain. 
Pain for you or pain for who you love.
Besides, who would believe us over them?
Some disheveled waif of a kid that probably smelled bad and had disgusting hygiene? Clearly no one.


Bob's mother Maggie would come out to the farm and ask me why I was so bruised and bloody? What do you do to yourself? 
I would mutter something, unable to tell her that her son was a monster.... 
Her daughter in law equally as evil.
I wanted to tell her. I wanted to cry and beg and plead with her to get us OUT of here! 
She was a kind woman.
She knew. She just chose to do nothing.


Barbara tells my sister and I that Child Welfare is coming out to do a Home Study and will want to talk to us.
"If you open your mouth and say one word about Bob or I, we will make sure you go back to Cary Home. Back to the orphanage."


Really? Wow, I would love that! 
My heart was singing!  My face must have looked like she was about to give me the greatest gift.
She made going back to the orphanage seem like a punishment. It would be like opening the gates to Heaven if only they would send us back there!


"Don't think for a second they will put you back there, you idiot. You would go to JAIL! 
I will tell them you STEAL food. 
You're a thief! 
You're so stupid and ugly, who is ever going to believe YOU? 
I hate you. They will hate you more. You are worthless and ugly. You are nothing!
You will go to jail and they will take our kids, my babies, to Cary Home and it will be all YOUR fault," Barbara sneered at us as she pinched the soft flesh of my upper arm, kicking my sister as she passed out of the room. 


Jail? Oh horrors. Not jail. Anywhere but jail! And those little innocent babies of theirs to an orphanage? No!


How stupid were we to believe her lies. 

Barbara made us dress for the visit carefully. Long sleeves. Long pants to hide bruises and scars.  Our hair plastered with Dippity Do, clean and combed. Finally given a toothbrush to clean our teeth. Our faces scrubbed clean. Did we almost look normal?
The case worker arrived and now the memory seems a blur. I was probably so focused on not slipping up and fear of jail that I blanked most of the visit out. I do remember her asking us if Barbara and Bob were "good" to us. 
Barbara sitting there with her face set in a pasted on smile looking so "motherly," so angelic. Her eyes darting from me to the Welfare worker.  She knew Norma would never have the nerve to talk but I might.


Open your mouth. Scream and tell her.
Tell Her!
 Ask the Social Worker if we can talk alone. 
Do it! 
Barbara's threatening face loomed across the room.  Open my mouth and HOPE for rescue or suffer Barbara's evil wrath if the Case Worker does nothing?  Could any word I mutter impact her enough to do something?


The opportunity slipped away.
 I never saw another case worker arrive to interview us. 
Mission accomplished for them. Now that they passed that test with flying colors, Barbara and Bob had a free pass.


The Case Worker did have a message for us:


 Our mom wanted to see us!


 Bob and Barbara would handle that issue in their own special way later...


As I said before.... 
Things began to get ugly and twisted.......

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chapter 7

It was a bright hot summer day.
I'll never forget it.
Bob had gotten a long boat oar from somewhere. He just came home with it and since most of Indiana is land-locked he had no where to play with his new toy. 
What to do?
No water. No fun.
Since when would that stop him?
He could create his own fun.


He sets up a chair in the front lawn of the old farm house we lived in. 
We lived in one of his parent's homes,  an old farmhouse, way out in the country. No near neighbors. Very few cars passing on the dusty gravel road.
The chair is in the middle of the front yard.
He calls my sister and I out to the yard. Of course we obey. He is sitting there in the middle of the yard in a chair with a boat oar slicing through the air. Whoosh.


What evil will this day bring?
My sister and I look at each other with fear.

Bob tells us to circle the chair he sits in. He sits in his chair like an over sized Budda, sweating in the hot sunshine. 
The birds are singing.
The sun is shining.


Norma goes first. As she passes, he whacks her on the butt. The smack echoes as the flat paddle of the oar hits it's mark. 
Whoosh. Smack.
My turn.
Whoosh. Smack.
It hurts!
Your butt stings and it's even worse when he misses his mark and the hard wood of the oar hits the back of your legs and it cracks against the bare delicate skin of the back of your upper thigh.
Whoosh. Smack.


Norma.
Me.
Norma.
Me.


Whoosh. Smack.
Around and around the chair. Each taking a turn.
This goes on and on. Surely he will tire soon. 
Around and around the chair. 


Whoosh. Smack.
My turn.
Norma.
The wind has kicked up. 


My turn.
Norma.
Bob raises his arms up over his head and around in an arc and swings. 


Norma.
The paddle has a 6 foot handle. Not much control in the wind.
As he lifts his arms to swing the oar, the wind catches it just wrong, lifts it up and 
WHOOSH. 
SMACK.
It hits her in the back of the head!
I will never forget the sound of that crack as wood meets skull. She stands upright and sways for a split second then falls to the ground in a heap.


I run to her. "Norma! Norma, wake up!" 


She is out cold. Is she DEAD????


The look on Bob's face shows his fear. Not fear for Norma but fear for himself. He must know the authorities will have questions.
"Make her wake up!" he screams at me.


"Norma! Please wake up. Please! Wake up!"
She is breathing but there is a bloody gash on the middle of the back of her head.  Her hair matted with blood. So much blood.
Still out cold. It takes her what seems like hours but she comes to. Groggy. Pale.


We didn't know it at the time, but now, because of this and the boat oar, my sister is as deaf as a rock.
My sister is two years older than me but within the next two years, she has failed two grades and we are in the same class in school.
No one cared enough to take her to a doctor. The nerves were damaged and her hearing is gone.


I'd like to tell Bob where he can stick his fcking boat oar.....

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Chapter 6

Humiliation.


I think these two people must have lain awake in bed at night to dream up new ways to humiliate my sister and I.


5th Grade.


Lunch time.
I open my lunch bag so ready for a bite of food. Hunger was a way of life for me. Always hungry. Always worried when the next meal would be. 


Back to my lunch in it's brown paper bag. The top folded over so carefully. 
All my friends seated at the same long table, eating the food from the school cafeteria. It always smelled so good. Like it was cooked with love for children. Sloppy Joe's on the menu today. The wonderful sweet smell permeating the cafeteria.
The lunchroom is full as usual at noon. Children chattering and laughing. All of my friends eating, joking and talking about the new boy in our class that is so cute. 
"Lana, have you seen him? He's dreamy."
Nodding "yes" and laughing
I pull my sandwich out of the bag and unwrap the wax paper it's packaged in and hurriedly take a huge bite. Going to school works up an appetite. 


In seconds, I am choking and running to the Girl's Room coughing but trying to hide it. 


Face red. Embarrassed. Sick.
I slam open the stall door. Gagging and spitting. Using my hands to scrape it off my tongue.... Anything to get the vile bite of food out of my mouth.....
The sandwich was coated on both sides with red HOT Tabasco Sauce and mouse droppings. I could feel them in my mouth. 
Tiny crunchy bits of black.
Hot and disgusting.


Did anyone see?
What would all the other kids say if they knew I just ate a mouthful of mouse poop coated in hot sauce between two slices of bread?
I scrub my mouth over and over, splash water in my face to hide the tears that have streaked my face.
No lunch again today. 


What will tomorrow be?