There’s no vocabulary
But not looked at, love within the light of which
All else is seen, the love within which
All other love finds speech.
This love is silent.
~ T.S. Eliot
~ David Riesman
“My mother is too protective.”
“My dad’s way too strict.”
“My mom says I should date.”
“My dad says I’m worthless.”
Not many people say that last one.
On the surface, I have a great family, and therefore a great life. My mother and father have been happily married for twenty-one years. I have a younger brother, Robbie, and also a younger sister, Rachel. And we have a dog. I also have a huge extended family: one grandfather, two grandmothers, seven uncles, eight aunts, and eleven cousins.
My parents both work. My mother works as a supervisor of the mammography department of a hospital, and my father works as a supervisor of a mechanical department of an aluminum plant. Also, my father sleeps during most of the day because he works the “graveyard shift.”
My father and I used to have a good relationship . . . back when I was four. I was “Daddy’s little girl.” He’d take me camping in the back yard. And I’d wear his camouflage make-up. And we’d sleep under the stars. I was his little soldier.
As I have become older, my dad’s become less reasonable, and more demanding. Once I received straight A’s in school. After that, straight A’s were mandatory. And if I didn’t come through with perfect grades, I’d be grounded. Being grounded meant that I couldn’t leave the house unless it was for school or because of a fire. And I couldn’t watch television or make any phone calls.
I hated being grounded.
When I got home from school, I had to do the chores. These included doing the household laundry (washing, drying, folding, and putting away), dishes ( washing, drying, and putting away), sometimes ironing, making sure all the rooms were straight, helping my siblings with their homework, my own homework, and sometimes I had to fix dinner. I was also required to carry a house key, let myself in, and baby sit Rachel and Robbie until my mother came home from work. This “routine” of sorts began when I was nine years old.
If one of these chores went undone, or wasn’t done to my father’s set of standards, I would be in deep trouble. When he woke up to go to work, my mom would tell him what hadn’t been done, and then my father would start yelling.
Now my father is always angry with me, for the tiniest things. I might not have made my bed well enough to suit him, so he becomes angry. And when he’s angry, he says things: “You lack everything necessary to be a good daughter.” “You’re worthless.” “Why can’t you be better?” “You’re 100 % disrespectful.” “You don’t set a good enough example for your younger siblings.” “You’re old enough; why don’t you just pack up and leave.” “Maybe I need to be like my old man and smack you across head one time.”
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can . . . words hurt. My father knows this. That’s why he does it. Forty-five percent of the general population of America, and maybe even up to fifty percent, insult or swear at their children (83 Mays). Though I may not believe the things he says, it still hurts me to know that he believes them.
Usually, my mother will defend me. But there are times when she just doesn’t have the strength. If my mother is on my father’s side, then my father will be angry at me, I’ll be upset, and my mother will be perfectly content. But if my mother is on my side of things, I’ll be upset, my father will be angry at me, and my parents will be angry at each other. I understand why my mother sides with him sometimes.
Generally, my dad and I avoid each other. But when he decides he wants to “talk” to me, we never talk; we argue.
I think I had brought home a C in my English class which provoked a lecture/argument between my parents and me. My father particularly proceeded to tell me how stupid I was, and how horrible of a daughter I was. I didn’t want to hear it. I had heard the same thing a thousand times, and he repeated the same insults over and over and over again. Words hurt!
But my parents weren’t done talking “with” me.
Once I arrived and my boss saw how upset I was, he told me that I could go up to the break room and take as much time as I needed to calm down. And once I got upstairs, a fellow employee came up and informed me that my mother was in the lobby looking for me.
With angry, worried tears streaming down her cheeks, she searched my pockets until she found my car keys. She put them in her purse and said she’d be at work to pick me up when I got off at 9:30PM. I told her that I wasn’t going to be there.
“You’d better be here,” she said.
After my mother’s departure, I called my friend, Erin, who immediately came to pick me up. I went to her house where her family gave me a warm meal, my own bedroom, clothes to sleep in, and clothes to wear the next day.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I wasn’t running away from my parents; I was running away from my father. It hurt me to leave my mother, even if it was for only a night. This night wasn’t like a sleep-over at a friend’s house. My mother didn’t know where I was. I really felt horrible. But I couldn’t call her.
The next day at school, I was called to the office. My parents were both there, and they demanded that I return home with them. “If you don’t come with us now, Shelly,” Dad said, “I will take all your belongings and put them in trash bags on the street. You can come by and pick them up, and that will be the last you see of this family.”
Sitting there in that tiny room in my school’s office, I just could not see how my father could give me that ultimatum, especially after what he had done.
After eighteen and a half years to the day, I reached a turning point. Actually, my father brought this change in attitude upon me himself . . . with a clenched fist.
It was 9 o’clock in the morning, and we were arguing about something that I can’t even remember. The rest of my family was seated in our living room watching television, when the argument began. Not wanting to fight, I had walked away; I didn’t want to run from him, didn’t want to show my fear. I was in the middle of the staircase, walking up, and my father ran up behind me. I really didn’t think he’d do anything to me, except scream at me, maybe.
But he grabbed me.
He spun me around, grabbed my wrists, and threw me down, against the stairs, banging my head and upper torso into the hard steps. He pulled, yanked me up, and threw me back, repeatedly hurling me into the stairs.
I was screaming. However, besides my own voice, I would have sworn that the entire world was silent. I heard myself scream, “NO! NO! NO! NO! NOOOOO!”
Right then, the banging stopped, and my ears were next confronted with a different voice, the voice of my angry rampaging father screaming, “JUST LISTEN TO ME!”
Then everything stopped for what seemed to be an entire moment, yet was only a nanosecond in time. Then, in this “moment,” he let go of my wrists, and I immediately covered my face with my hands and started to shake my head. At the same instance, out of my body flew more than a barbaric yawp, but instead, a shrill, high pitched, blood curdling scream, when any time before that moment my response to fear would have been to refrain from motion and noise.
I tried to get up and on my feet, but I couldn’t even feel my body. I could only gasp and cry. I wasn’t even able to process any thoughts, except instincts. I tried repeatedly to arise to my feet, but stumbled each and every time, just the same. I finally managed to crawl to my bed, climb into it, and I lied there until I regained some composure.
I tried the front door, a logical escape, but my father wouldn’t allow me to leave. He held me back, and I nearly vomited at the thought of his touching me. I wrestled away, and ran to the back door.
I opened it, and ran out. Finally, I was free!
Free . . . until my father dragged me back in.
I then tried the windows, but I couldn’t get away from my father long enough to get one open.
I then grabbed the phone, and called my boyfriend, Scott. And with it being so early, I woke him up. I was crying so hard that he couldn’t understand me. “Scott, come and get me, PLEASE! My dad hit me, Scott, and I need to get out-” But then my mother grabbed the phone from me and told him to stay where he was and to leave us alone. She hung up on him.
Next, I ran as fast as I could to the back door . . . again. I ran down the steps, around the house, hopped the fence, and started to walk.
He promised me he’d take me to Scott’s house. What the hell? I thought, after much internal deliberation, and I reluctantly entered the vehicle.
I was conned.
He didn’t take me to Scott’s house; he took me home. However, he did give me my car keys upon our arrival, and told me I could go if I wanted to.
So, I went.
My mother ran outside to stop me, though. She was crying, as was I, and she didn’t want me to leave. She was afraid that I might not return.
But I didn’t let my mother’s tears get to me.
I tried to calm down during the twenty-minute drive to Scott’s house, but the flood of tears streaming down my face made me a live traffic hazard. When I arrived, the tears had stopped flowing, yet their previous existence was still apparent on my face. I began to walk towards his house, down the driveway, across the lawn. Once I had nearly reached my destination, Scott came outside in an effort to meet me half way. When I saw him, my face exploded once again into tears, and I lost all feeling my body once more.
I next began to stumble. But Scott ran to me, and he caught me, and held me, allowing me to cry on his shoulder, not even knowing why. He took me inside his house, into his bedroom, and laid me down on his bed, on his pillow. I told him all that had happened, because he didn’t understand over the phone. And Scott comforted me, soothed my needs, and cried with me until I fell asleep in his arms. He stayed with me, watching me sleep, keeping me warm and safe.
But after the hell of that day, March 5, 2000, I still went home. Maybe I’m crazy, but I felt that I just had to go home, at least to be with my mom. It was weird though. My family acted almost like nothing had happened. They ignored me as usual, and wouldn’t talk about the violent event.
I recently read a survey entitled Parental Discipline. Apparently 40% to 50% of parents will insult or swear at their children repeatedly in order to punish them, yet 28% to 38% of those parents believe that repeated yelling or swearing at a child will lead to long term emotional damage (Mays). Rather hypocritical, I’d say.
It was a tough decision, but just as every other day, I went home. I tell myself that I had to come back; I had to, for the sake of my future children. Without my parents, I couldn’t afford college. And without college, I couldn’t get a well-paying job. And consequently without that good income, I couldn’t afford to give my future children and family the life that I want them have, that I didn’t have.
Sometimes I’m nearly glad that I live in this uncivil environment. Emotional abuse may destroy a child’s self esteem, but if you realize that you are not the one who misbehaved, and your parent was wrong in his or her actions, then you probably won’t become an abuser yourself (Gelles). At least I know that I won’t hurt my children. I’d rather die.
I don’t know what the future holds for me or my family. I might be living here for five more years. Then again, I might be living here for five more days. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” I know that no matter what I do in my house, I’m wrong. But if I have the same outcome either way, why care?
http://home.worldnet.att.net/~e.zeiser/quotes/quotes.htm. “Don’t Stop the Carnival.”