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Friday, February 23, 2007

Taking a Deep Breath....

Motherhood. The ultimate bond, the ultimate trust. And when that trust is betrayed, when a mother doesn't keep her child from danger, doesn't protect her child from harm, be it physical or emotional, where is a child to turn to?

Sibling rivalry and jealousy. When does it cross the funny line? When does it stop being silly, childish pranks and become something altogether more sinister?

Before my father passed away, I used to go home to visit him and my mother. The final year and a half was very tough, seeing him faltering despite his incredible courage. Witnessing his crippling pain. Knowing that I would lose him - my rock, my anchor - one day soon. But still, even with that tragedy looming, the visits were filled with love and laughter between us.

Now I go there to the house on the sea, which he chose, the place he loved, and spend time with my mother. And I'm uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because every visit, she speaks of my brother to me, and I cannot speak of him in return. You see, I loathe him. Yes, I can honestly sit here and type those words. I loathe my brother. I cannot forgive him for what he did to me as a child. I have been told that I need to forgive him because I won't move on until I do. But I will never forgive him.

And on these visits I have to sit and hear how wonderful my mother thinks he is. What a good child he was. And a good man he is. I bite my tongue and bile builds up inside me. There are times I have to just walk away and regain my composure. My sister dislikes him, for different reasons. A recent dislike and distrust of his motives for getting closer to my mother. The reason being, our inheritance. She may well be right but I will do everything in my power to make sure that doesn't happen.

My mother took me aside on this last visit and told me that she feels upset that my brother and sister aren't on speaking terms. That for her this is something she wants to see change before she leaves us. As though it's my responsibility to make it happen. I felt sick to my stomach when she said 'I don't even want to know what the problem is between them, I just want it fixed.' My reply to her was that perhaps this is an integral part of the problem, her refusal to show any kind of interest as to what is fuelling their mutual dislike and why my sister feels this way (my sister did email him over a year ago to try to build a bridge but he never replied to her). My mother was genuinely surprised that I would say that to her. And I took the opportunity to add: 'I'm not close to him either and don't want to be.' I guess I was hoping she might ask me why, especially as I'd just intimated she should ask what the problem is between my sister and him. But she didn't.

I was so damn close to telling her. To destroying her loving son's image in her eyes. To opening a gaping wound in our family that could never be healed. But I didn't. I couldn't. I couldn't tell her all those years ago and I still can't tell her. That he and his older friend abused me for years. That she sent me out with them every day. To 'play'. From the time I was eight years old. That the tantrums she laughs about to this day were probably something to do with the anguish and fear I lived with every day of my life for years. That I was afraid to fall asleep at night because he would come into my room and pull my nightdress up and touch me. That years after he stopped, I could still turn ice cold from remembering how his fingers felt on my skin.

That his friend would make me sit on his lap in the cinema and touch me. That I had my first orgasm sitting there at the age of eight or nine, watching the Disney movie 'The Sword in the Stone'. That I didn't know what had happened to my body that day and my first boyfriend ended up with a catatonic mess on his hands when he touched me in the same places so many years later. That I was sexually shut-down well into my 30s. That I didn't orgasm again until my mid 30s and that is when I realised what had happened to me in the dark cinema that day. That I had tried to destroy the body they had had such an unnatural interest in, first by overeating, then through anorexia and finally with a passage into the depths of bulimia.

And as if it wasn't enough to steal my childhood, he also tried to kill me three times. That's harsh, I know, but it's true. My mother knows about two of them. And laughs about them as though it was some silly childhood prank. Once he helped me up onto the railing of the balcony of a ninth-floor apartment when I was only four. When my mother recounts the tale, she treats it as a joke and her punchline is: 'I don't even remember running to pull her off the railing but I suppose I must have because she's here today.'

The second time, using a bow and arrow set my dad had given him (not a toy, my dad was at sea in those days and brought home a tribal artifact, not thinking ahead enough to remove the arrowheads before giving it to him to play with), he sat on my chest, loaded it and stuck an arrow in my mouth, then shot it into my throat. For some reason my mother finds it amusing that I had to be rushed to the emergency room of the nearest hospital as my throat swelled up around the lodged arrow and I couldn't breathe. Funny stuff isn't it!

The third time she never found out about because my brother threatened me if I told her. And I knew his threats weren't empty. This is why. A normal day, he was told to take me out to play, to go and have a swim in the pool in the complex. I was under his care because I hadn't learned to swim yet, I would have been about 10. I was given my inflatable ring. I got into the pool with it on, in the shallow end and my brother, who could swim, towed me to the deep end, put his hands on either side of me, on the ring, and pushed it down under the surface until it was free of my legs. My buoyancy aid removed, I slid under the surface. I still remember tumbling over and over as I sank into eight feet of water. To this day I believe I had a guardian angel looking after me because somehow my fingertips found the bottom rung of the ladder and I managed to grab hold and pull myself up. He was standing there on the side of the pool laughing, holding my ring.

From that moment I feared being near him. That's when the tantrums started, my refusal to go out, my dark moods, all the tears. All of which made me a 'bitch' in my mother's eyes. To this day she'll tell people what an absolute bitch I was as a baby and a child. Well, these are the things I remember, perhaps there are some I still don't want to, still can't. I honestly don't know. Maybe I just don't want to know.

My mother may wish to see her children a happy little trio before she goes. But she won't. And she is partly responsible for it. As much as we are, anyway. I may be wrong in not telling her some, or all, of this. But to me it's the only compassionate thing I can do. To protect her. Even though she failed miserably to protect me as a child. And I cannot sacrifice myself again. I cannot risk finding out she knew and did nothing. Or that she'll disbelieve me. Or that she'll like me even less if she thinks that because of me, my brother becomes less than he is, in her eyes.

How could she not know what was happening? Or did she know and choose not to see? My father wasn't home all those years, he would be away for almost a year and then back with us for only short periods of time. That was the way it was for men at sea in those days. I know he'd have believed me, but he would also probably have wanted to kill my brother if he'd known.

Breathing out again....

Update 27 February:

Thank you all so much for your words, your support, your understanding. I'm overcome by the outpouring to what was such a difficult post for me to write, one that I very almost didn't put here. After my second quod-me-nutrit-me-destruit post way back in August, Sunny and I exchanged some comments that bear repeating here, to show that these experiences don't need to leave a person in a state of hopelessness :

Sunny: Abuse is an insideous evil in our world...but those of us who survive it AND the punishment we mete out upon ourselves for being abused....we are stronger, we have steel backbones, and we teach...sometimes in small ways...sometimes in large...YOU my dear are teaching :)

Me: We do end up with backbones of steel, without a doubt. I have grown up to be not the victim. He is more the victim than I ever will be. He is the one haunted and unable to form any kind of relationship with me. He is the one who remained silent at our father's funeral, unable to even speak of an exceptional man, for I believe he knows people would have looked at him and through him. He does not wear his guilt, it wears him, putting him in a constant state of discomfort.The perpetrator becomes the victim in the end. I instead grew up and grew strong.


Jonas said...

There are times when it is physically painful to read about your experiences...and then...there is the sweeping realization that your spirit truly is indomitable. You are an amazing human being, Fiona.

You have my utmost respect.

sophie n said...

i don't think you should ever make excuses for the decisions you make...it is your decision to not tell you mother, and thats okay...nothing and no one else matters as long as you're okay with it...

and on days when you have to take deep breaths, i will be sitting beside you, in spirit, breathing too...

it takes so much courage to say what you have said on this page...thank you for sharing...it was an honor reading...

Anonymous said...

I felt so awful reading your post, knowing that someone had to go through that when they were growing up. I can't imagine what I would do about my mother and my brother if I were you.

The internet provides a strange kind of intimacy that I don't think exists anywhere else. I know personal, intimate things about you and yet don't know you. That's why I feel torn. I would like to send you a hug and a wish for peace and happiness, but it sounds so trite coming from a stranger.

Thank you for sharing your story with us .

Sunny Delight said...

One....You DO NOT HAVE TO FORGIVE HIM!!!!! Only continue on this path you are following to love yourself.

Two....Your mother cannot and will never ever face what she knows....for whatever reasons.....I am reaching here.......but I would not be surprised if she does have similar memories from her own childhood.....but whatever the reasons are.....she will never ever face the truth......even if you held physical evidence before her eyes.

Three....You are brave, you are courageous, you are wonderful, you are loving, you are AMAZING!!!!!!!!!

Four....I love you!

mist1 said...

Grace. Dignity. Good traits. Nice post.

Miranda said...

((((BIG HUGS)))) I'm so sorry you had to go through that crap. I can't even phathom it. You do have angels all around you.

I agree with all the above...you're an amazing woman. It's a shame your mom cant get past the 'greatness' of her son.

Emily said...

That's so horrible, Fiona.

Quite honestly, I wonder if it would be healing for you to tell her. She might not believe you. She might continue to defend him, which would be painful for you to hear. But there are not many opportunities to have an honest relationship with these problematic parents and I wonder if later you will feel that you should have taken the risk.

I wrote a letter to my own father once. He was angry, I was angry, but ultimately it was a good idea. We don't have the closet relationship now, but at least I have the satisfaction of knowing that, at some point, he did see the damage he had done. I did get a semi-apology. It makes it a lot easier to see him now and just interract in a casually affectionate (but not very close) way, knowing that he knows.

That being said, one of my best friends is in a somewhat similar situation (abused by a member of her family's community household) and her telling them has turned everything to hell, at least in the short term. She is furious with them for not protecting her and refusing to see them. Actually, in her case, I think she is doing the right thing. Who knows what may happen in the future? But for now, I'm glad for her that her self-protection mechanism has kicked in and I think it's fair that they should share a little of the pain.

I truly admire the person you have become through all these trials. I think someone else has said grace and dignity? Amen to that.

Matt Kohai said...

Fiona, I can only imagine the horrors of what you went through. I'm so sorry.

You need never forgive him.

You should try to talk with your mother, I think. She may never believe you, she may deny it to high heaven. But there is the chance she'll listen, even if it's a slim one. Even if she refuses to face it, you can know that you've tried. Too may times in the past, women in her position lacked the inner strength and courage to face up to the horrors occurring under their own roofs - perhaps she'll finally show the strength she should have shown then.

Jac said...

It seems as if you have intuited all the right things to do, but nonetheless you are pained that you cannot heal this diseased group. They don't want to be healed. But you do! So move on to the wonderful new family-by-choice of those who love and cherish the magnificent person you are. The commandment is to honor parents, NOT to love them, protect them from themselves or enable them. I hope you feel no guilt or regret for not being able to do the impossible.

The school of hard knocks has made you a wise and wonderful woman and your pain is what makes you so sensitive and acutely tuned in to others. Like Deb, I don't know you, but am drawn to your immense compassion and wisdom. The price was too great for anyone to pay, but look how deeply you touch others and are touched by others. Plus you have humor, humility, and joi de vive. You are a model for all of us!

chele said...

I never fail to cringe and then go to rage everytime we speak of this horrible person that is your blood. The things i read here I knew of course..but to see them in print and then to hear your voice in my head made it 10 times more real and much more evil. I cant say much more than has been said..your strong of heart and mind..he will never touch you again this you know! I wish for certain peoples deaths and I know thats wrong..but it dont stop the blackness from wishing it to be so.

I love you my dear friend..*hugs*

Anonymous said...

Fiona we have a lot of childhood anguish in common. I hate that you went through those things. I went through almost the exact same things you did.

Maybe this is why I find such a kindred spirit in you.


Fusion said...

Dear Fiona,
I too cannot fathom what you have been through, your bother is a very sick person, and you should never ever feel you have to forgive him. My god, what he has done to you, and I worry about what he's done since then to others.
I think you should tell your mom. What she would do with that infomation would be up to her. Sadly I think she must atleast suspect something was wrong with her son, and if that's true she may deny knowing anything about it as a coping mechanism.

Fiona, you never cease to amaze me. ( I say that alot about you!)
How you have managed to stay strong through your life is inspiring. Thank you for sharing it with us.

LePhare said...

Have read and re- read. I'm so sorry Fi. You are a special person.

Fiona said...

Jonas: your respect means a great deal to me, thank you. I'm not sure about being amazing, I guess I'm just a survivor.

Sophie: thank you for your kind words and for sitting next to me :)

Deb: Your words ring so true, and having read your blog, I think you are the one with incredible strength.

Sunny: great big hugs and thank you..for 1-4 :) I think I will continue as I have been, avoiding him and anything about him. He doesn't deserve a place in my life.

mist1: hello and welcome and thank you. If anyone hasn't been to mist1's blog yet, do yourself a favour and visit.

Miranda: big hugs back, thank you....she will never want to see him for what he is.

Emily: I think I might regret it more if it all erupts into something even more ugly than it is now. She seems pretty content in hiding from the truth, if she does know it. Probably the one who should get a letter from me is my brother, but to be honest even the idea of reaching out to him makes me feel ill. I may be strong but I don't think I'm strong enough to enter into an argument or facing his denial. It took a very long, very hard struggle to finally understand it and deal with it, I didn't even tell anyone until I was 43. I didn't have much counselling, I think I just needed her to tell me it that it happened TO me, not because I asked for any of it.

Matt: I can never forgive him, I already know that. But with my mother's health, I can't do that to her either, I can't put that onto her now when she doesn't have much longer. I know my mother, she'd find it just another way to dislike me and there's a weakness in me, I don't want that.

Jac: I have an amazing family-by-choice as you call it. I am blessed by my friends and I am so incredibly lucky in the love I have found. They all inspire and support me in ways I never thought possible. And when I think of my experiences, I know that there are so many who have had much, much worse happen to them. Thank you for dropping by, it's been a while. Hugs.

Chele: Hugs to you my friend. I still believe that in the future, there is a whole lot of goodness coming my way. I am already feeling part of it, but I know there will be more. I believe that. And for you too!

Oblivion: Giving you a great big hug of understanding. It's true that only those who have lived through it, can really understand the big and small feelings that come from it. I'm so sorry you went through it too, you have my understanding.

Fusion: I just don't think I can. It will open up more pain for me, it will make me relive too much and have to argue it. I know my mother, she's a great one for denial. I know she worships my brother and would find it too hard to believe this about him. If she knows then she's keeping it inside and is in his corner. Nothing will move her from there. I don't want my last months with her to be angry ugly time. I'm not so amazing Fusion, I just chose to survive it in my own way. And each moment I'm loved for me, just me, I get stronger.

Fiona said...

Ian :) I should have known you'd be there as I was typing. Thank you! I think there is more of this than we realise, I wish I could reach out to more people who still haven't dealt with it and tell them....it's OK...it's really OK.

anna said...

I am sobbing after having read this. I am so very sorry that you had to endure that. No child should ever know that kind of trauma. And, please forgive me, but in this moment I hate your mother. How can a mother not know unless she chooses to not know? I'm amazed that you can spend even a second with her without wanting to gouge her eyes out.

I am so so very sorry. I am mourning for everything that child in you lost all those years ago.

Fiona said...

Anna: I've noticed with my mother, she's said "I was the best mother I could be" more than a few times lately. I realise this is part of her coming to terms with her legacy, with the children she will leave behind.

And maybe a little bit of it is trying to explain our upbringing. She was never warm, never caring with us. I realise her mother was like that with her, but you can break that chain can't you? I know if I had had the blessing of children, I'd not have been cold like she was.

Thank you for your words Anna.

Emily said...

Well, its up to you, honey. And truly, you are inspiring in your strength and graciousness. Also, in your determination to have a good life. Living well really is the best revenge.

When I grow up, I want to be just like you :-)

freebird said...

The first time I read this, Fiona, it was so painful I just couldn't comment. And I haven't been able to get back to it until now. Sorry.
Half of me is screaming at you to tell her, but the other half knows exactly why you can't. I just wish you hadn't had all this happen to you, and I wish I didn't feel so helpless.
Sending a hug.

Fiona said...

Emily - I do believe it's the best way...for me anyway *S*. And you're right, he's the one that can't look me in the eye. As for growing up, hell I STILL don't know what I want to do when I grow up :)

FB - hugs and thank you. It happened and it's a part of me...it was a bad part of me for too long and and I made too many poor choices because of it. Now I feel open and ready to be loved - and I've found the perfect man to love me - and that's the best feeling!! :):)

Sally-Sal said...

Let me first just say, that I love you.

Usually it's the people in our lives who are the most beautiful, the most wonderful, the most compassionate who have been through hell.

Getting that glimpse into hell tempers you in a way that is unfathomable.

Fi, I admire you so much. As a friend, a person, and as a woman.

My wish for you is that the rest of your life be spent with that wonderfully smart man who is in love with you. That you have days of joy, sunshine, and happiness.

You deserve it. :)

Fiona said...

Sally, my friend. Thank you. I don't know what to say except for that. Your comments have touched me deeply. You really do get it. Thank you. And that's my wish too :)

McKay said...

You have my upmost respect for sharing such painful and personal experiences. They struck me deeply (note to self: don't read emotional posts while at work...).

You don't need us to tell you that you are and have lived the life as best you can or who you have to forgive or not. You already know it. That you can make beauty in writing of your life and experiences is pure hope.

You are very courageous.

Joker The Lurcher said...

i have just found your blog from deb's. you write really powerfully and honestly.


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