YOU ASKED WHEN I REMEMBERED
(This email from Alice, dated August 1, 2004, always makes me cry. Alice is the daughter of one of my fathers former colleagues I contacted for the incest story. Her father put us in touch with each other. I remember her from about age eight or nine, a tomboy with a long blond ponytail and boundless energy. There will be more letters and poems from Alice.)
I remembered the childhood sexual abuse when I felt comfortable and secure in my second marriage. It was the longest I had ever been in a sexual relationship with anyone, and I thought I was just growing by leaps and bounds. I told my friend Toni, who had helped me over the years with managing the system for my handicapped son, and she said, Your husband is old fashioned enough to see you as damaged goods if you tell him. I dismissed that as too alarmist, thinking our intimate life could only improve as I became more aware of I dont know what all. I mean I dont have a voice for that sentence I just started. So that marriage has been nil for more than a year now and thats a good thing in most ways.
When I first remembered, I wondered if I was just making it up, or lying to myself, so I emailed my Aunt Jean and asked her if she remembered the guy from the summer camp my parents sent me and my sisters to one summer when mom had two babies to take up north for dads work. Thats how it was explained to us, and we bought it. We were lucky to be able to go, and bonus, Aunt Jean was coming too. I had always remembered that she had been really mad at me for breaking a rose she had saved by crushing in a book. Looking back now, Im sure it was a rose that I knew he had given to her. I knew she was saving it because she was flattered at his attentions and eventually I knew what a despicable rapist of little girls mouths he was, so when I broke the rose, I must have been desperately trying to communicate something I had no vocabulary for. The guy basically left me with the impression that I was lucky to have not choked to death, that I must be very strong and that for anyone in the world to see me as feminine in the future, I should always wear my hair like this and he pulled it all around to hang on the left side.
So I asked Aunt Jean a few years ago now, if she remembered the guy who gave her the rose I broke. At the time, she had demanded an apology and when I said I was sorry she said, Sorrys not good enough. So she emailed me back that she had always worried about me growing up unloved because my mother didnt know how to show love. And I emailed back that while my mother was a hard mother, I felt my issues with intimacy went deeper than that because that camp guy had taken me to town to do laundry, and we stopped at a house with a long hallway, and you know the rest from the poem. So she wrote back, Oh so thats why he was asked to leave early. Do you think he was trying it on with other girls? He attacked me but I was 20 and able to deal with it. Its too bad you couldnt have told me sooner, maybe we could have done something about it.
She has never written back. I can only surmise that she embarrassed herself right out of existence. Imagine thinking you are about to enlighten your niece and realizing you have re-victimized her with the old standby of if you had said something earlier, we may have been able to save some other unknown faceless person. May or may not, but never mind about you at any rate. So I told my father that he wouldnt have to worry about his emotionally needy sister as he called her, since I was pretty sure she had mortified herself away for a while.
So my dad said, Was that the summer you broke your arm? Yes, I guess it was. Then my dad and his second wife and I fell into what can only be described as a Quaker silence. My dad has never been one to talk about anything but his work, with the exception of reporting about the events in the lives of people I know but have less knowledge of than him. Since then my family has done all kinds of things to shut me up and shut me out. Which I dont fight because I cant see it being worth the effort. Trying it on with other girls. Goodness, what kind of an expression is that? Trying it on? Talk about rewriting herstory right away! Have you read the book, The Woman Who Gave Birth To Her Mother? Theres the idea that survivors of childhood sexual abuse are motivated to martyr themselves in adult life in order to find redemption.
Thats all I can do for now. Write back soon. Alice
This week at group I got pretty irritated with things. I used to jump right in and start talking when I first started, thinking that I wanted to get as much out of it as I could. I mean, what was the point of sitting there being too shy to start? But after a while I thought I would let other people have a chance, so I did, and sure enough, after a couple of seconds, someone would say, Well, I guess Ill go first. Well, it got out of control, and I found myself last to talk, and with insufficient time at that. Apparently, needing to control every little thing can be a sign of childhood sexual abuse. I get mad when I dont have control. If I cant get it back, I disappear. What happened was when it was finally my turn, I disclosed that I had emailed my oldest son and told him that I had remembered being abused as a child, and that the denial I was in before I remembered was most likely a factor in my not being able to better protect him and his sister. So the rest of the group started talking about age!!!! When the three, yes thats three, facilitators didnt lead the talk back to what I had said, I went out the door, grabbed my boots, and sat back in my chair (which was right by the door) and started putting them on. That pretty well ended the meeting, and on the way out, one young woman invited me back to her place, but I asked for a ride home instead. On the way home she said something about my email to my son so I thanked her for acknowledging my words and said I had felt bad when everyone changed the subject. This morning one of the facilitators called me so we had a good talk about it. She said she hoped I wouldnt stay away because of it and that it would be okay either if I wanted to say something about it next group or not. More later. Alice
COMING TOMORROW You Asked When I Remembered