(There was an article being passed around on Facebook recently, about how children should behave and how parents let their kids run wild. this was also the day of the Casey Anthony verdict: and I don't know exactly why, but it brought back a memory, maybe the idea of children being inconvenient. Don't read this if you're prone to getting triggered, 'cause it ain't pretty.)
I don't remember what she was mad about. I had done something I wasn't supposed to do, again, and I would pay the price. She was so calm when she delivered her punishments: my father would get crazy angry, but her stern steady verdicts were somehow more terrifying.
She told me to put out my hand, flat on the table, so I did. I didn't know what was coming, maybe the flyswatter again, or maybe a slap or two without my hands to involuntarily interfere. But she smashed down on my fingers, hard, with nothing but her closed fist, powered by muscle that had pushed a wheelchair for decades. I started screaming. I couldn't stop. The shock of the pain was breathtaking: nothing else existed right then. She told me to calm down but I couldn't. She finally looked, and her lips pressed together in annoyance. She came back with emery boards and tape, and splinted my two broken fingers. I was quiet by then, shaking and breathing erratically: but I could still hear just fine. She told me that we couldn't run to the doctor for every little foolish thing I did, and told me how I would explain my injuries this time. I absorbed my cover story and nodded numbly. I knew that somehow this was my fault: and the anger that should have been settled into a sick leaden lump in my stomach. I believed everything she told me back then: that I was everything that was wrong in our family, that I was fat and graceless, that it was my job to take care of everyone. I don't believe now, but I remember how it felt. I wanted to earn her love with my silent acceptance of her abuse, by taking her place in ways I never should have so that she would be off the hook, by absorbing all the abuse for myself to protect my brother and sister: but I failed utterly. I wanted to keep them safe. I could not. Of course I couldn't, I was a kid, but I still feel the indescribable weight of my failure. I loved them all so much: and my brother loved me back. Without him, I don't know if I could have survived any of it.
The worst part of those moments was never the physical pain: it was the belief that life was horror, and the knowledge that I was utterly powerless to save any of us. I left home at 16. It has taken me years of wandering through the land of addiction to finally come to the other side and put the horror to bed. It does not control my life anymore, because I have the power today that I didn't have then. I no longer expect bad things to happen. I have discover a sense of outrage that was lost to me for so many years.
...but the weight of my past, the sorrow, the fact that I couldn't protect them, and most of all the hunger to be loved - these things persist. Healing is a slow and painful process. With every tear I shed, I get a little more free. With every memory I share, I am less ashamed. And with every bit of love that comes my way, I am healed. It feels like having my heart pried open with a crowbar: but I am finally learning how to let people love me. And I am grateful for every kind word, every gesture of affection, every little bit. I know how to treasure it. That is my silver lining: I never take it for granted. Not any of it.