Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Saturday, September 24, 2011

C: Personal Introspection on the Last Post

My_Story_01a My last post about domestic violence was a report—passing on information I learned in a recent class and some of my observations from my law practice.  But in the course of discussing that post with V, she jolted me into a realization that this subject had touched my life and is, perhaps, touching it still.

As most of you know, V and I have been friends for 57 years (oh, Lordy!), and we lived right next door to each other as children.  I moved away when I was about 8, although our parents had the great, good foresight to be certain we saw each other frequently (this friendship has been a life-saver for me in these later years). 

As some of you also know, I grew up with a brilliant but alcoholic and womanizing lawyer father.  I loved him very much and miss him even now, but he was a mess, and he brought that mess down on his wife and children.  He would often come home very late at night, reeking of alcohol, women would call our home…you get the picture.  My brother and I grew up in this kind of turmoil.

I can remember being quite young (5-ish?) and awakening in the night and hearing the sounds of a party.  My parents occasionally had parties in their parents fighting home, tucking my brother and me in bed as the guests arrived.  I knew the sounds of gay conversation and laughter and the tinkling of ice in the ubiquitous high-ball glasses.  On this particular night I vividly recall that it was the ice tinkling that jolted me awake and then the loud party voices brought me to full consciousness. 

I remember my puzzlement, thinking, “Are mom and dad having a party?  I didn’t know about it…” and walked down the hallway to check it out.

Well, it was not party.  The tinkling ice sounds were of glass breaking.  The “party voices” were argument.  It was a full-blown fight.  That’s all I remember—I don’t remember their reaction to me.  I don’t remember how that night resolved.  But I sure remember the episode.  Which brings me to…

As V and I discussed my last post, she brought up another incident.  “I remember that awful night when you, your mother and R (brother) had to come to my house—and it was snowing outside!” 

I have absolutely no recollection of this, to V’s astonishment.  She went on to say that my mother had come across the snowy yards with us two kids, banging on the door for help.  She well recalls my mother lifting her shirt to show her parents the bruises up and down her back.

I was astonished!  I have no recollection of this.  V was shocked at this because it made such an impression on her.

The next day my brother and I were visiting at the office.  He and I practice law together so we are together daily (our sister is a paralegal there, so all us siblings are together every day).  He asked about my continuing education classes, and I told him some of the domestic snowy night violence statistics I had learned.  Imagine my surprise when he said:

Gee, C, remember when Mom had to take us to V’s house in the middle of the night?  I was just little, but I can remember the police coming and we had to leave to go to V’s.  At first I remember that it was very odd and fun to walk in the snow with no shoes….and then when I saw the bruising on Mom…”

When he mentioned the bruising, I got a flash picture in my mind of my mother’s bruised back.  That’s all: just a flash of my mother’s bruises.

Here’s the point:  I was there during that episode, no doubt.  And, no doubt, this was a traumatic experience for us all.  It made an impression on V and R that they carry with them today. Where is the impression on me?  

Oh, I know the impression is there, alright—somewhere in my spirit.  For me this is an up-close-and-repression personal illustration of how children (and adults) can repress things that are so hurtful and traumatic that it’s just easier not to know about them.  It makes me wonder how this has played a part in shaping my life (gives me yet another excuse for how screwed-up I am).

It is a deep lesson, I think, that all parents ought to take to heart.  Don’t do things that cause so much pain to your kids that they can’t even bear to know about it…and there is very little that is more painful to a child than one parent hurting another.  Even verbal battles are damaging.  It rocks their foundation. 

As V and I talked, we commented on the fact that both of us are children of domestic violence…I’ll let V tell her own story when she’s ready, as it has a different twist than my own.  But it just lets you know that the problem is rampant in our society and the effects are deep and shadowy.

Please take heed.  C.


Karen said...

On occassion my husband and I have argued in front of our kids, not to the extent that you have mentioned and certainly not with violence. Interestingly, my parents never argued in front of us. There was just the long silences and the obvious lack of emotional happiness. And then a divorce, just like that. I think not seeing any arguments and then just the end was a big shock too.

I'm sorry you had such a difficult childhood.. WONDERFUL that you and your siblings and V are so close.

ain't for city gals said...

The absolute best gift parents can give their child is to show them a kind and loving relationship in their marriage. I feel that is what my husband and I did for my niece and nephew and to this day their standards are high in how they are treated by everyone...

Vee said...

You are to be commended for opening the book on this one. I find it amazing when children adore a parent who was so obviously "a mess." I have not adored my "mess" and, in fact, hold him highly accountable. I think of him as irreparably broken and hope that heaven will heal him. How this has affected/effected my life, I hate to even consider even as I understand that it runs deep and has touched every generation since. I just hate to consider how much and prefer to think of it as part of the threads that weave the tapestry of our lives and that we wouldn't be who we are without those experiences and that in a weird way, they are gifts to us. Good heavens, I am getting way too intense for a comment. Anyway, thank you for going there.

TexWisGirl said...

thanks for sharing. it is amazing what our minds can repress, but our souls will most certainly remember...

A bird in the hand said...

I had the memory, but I felt nothing really. I was removed from it. I was about 5 years old.
Then as an adult I saw "the Burning Bed" on TV and one particular scene opened the emotional floodgates. The scene where the two kids are crouching in a corner, pressed against a wall, listening to the violence, that was me. That's when I felt the memory and reconnected to it.
It's only then that I could deal with the whole thing and work through it.
Love, C.

Suzanne said...

It's called dissociation and it's a mechanism used by the psyche to protect you from being overwhelmed by something that your young brain was not able to process. Children don't have the experience or psychological maturity to understand the violence presented to them. Some separate the memory from the emotions (as Bird in the Hand has mentioned) in separate compartments. Some children are so psychologically threatened by the experience that they "dissociate" or totally lock the memories and emotions away. It's kind of a secret compartment that is opened only when the child has grown and feels safe. Your flashback is the sign that this is what happened to you. Five year in therapy pretty much made me an expert in some of these things.

E-mail me if you want to talk more. (Abscissa63@aol dot com) Hugs to you and your family.

Vickie said...

C, I'm so sorry that your young lives were influenced by violence. I never had to go through any of that and my best friends didn't either. How very sad. I know of kids at school that DID have that problem at home. I'm glad it was repressed for you - it may have even saved you more trauma. I think it's so neat that you and V have remained bestest friends all these years. Y'all have a great bond!

Immigrant Daughter said...

I find this a very sad topic. I never ex[erienced seeing or hearing of volience, eveb though I grew up in a small town of Italians where the mafia ruled society. Dads' household was very strict but not violent Oh we got our whippings thats' for sure but we all new dad loved mom even though when they were "mad" at each other and mom had to walk two paces behind dad when they walked to the restaurant and said lots of things in greek we kids didn't understand. But I guess I was more blessed than I knew, ID

Zuzana said...

Very touching and poignant post. I grew up in a very harmonious and loving home, but even a happy childhood can hold unhappy memories, not brought on by family itself, but by life. There are episodes in my childhood that my sister recollects so well and I have no recollection off whatsoever. Clearly, some traumas are simply repressed by the young mind - as you are an example of too.;)

Anonymous said...

Someone who reads your blog & is ashamed to use her "regular sign in"

"It is a deep lesson, I think, that all parents ought to take to heart. Don’t do things that cause so much pain to your kids that they can’t even bear to know about it…and there is very little that is more painful to a child than one parent hurting another. Even verbal battles are damaging. It rocks their foundation. "

Amen, amen. Been there/done that basically. I am old, much older than you and I too have blocked things but what I can remember DISTINCTLY is the shock/disblief I felt when one time when had to leave home (again...lived out in the sticks but my mother's first cousin's house was in "seeing distance" of our house and they basically talked everyday, etc). Anyway, my mother decided that we were not going to stay out in the elements that ptl night after we had to leave for her safety and we went to that cousin's house -- knocked on door, said cousin got out of bed and after listening to my mother ask if we could come in out of the weather -- I will never forget this -- my mother's cousin said "I have to ask ________(her husband)." We stood on that porch,shivering, wondering, not saying a word among the three of us..... waiting for the answer ....he said "yes." I've often wondered where would we have went in the middle of the night with no flashlight, etc...we had left "on the run"...with no time for my mother to get car keys, etc.---prolly to the barn I guess. Surely in this day & age, a woman could say "yes" without asking her husband .It rocked me to my core that the cousin had to ask her husband if it was okay to give us safe harbor for one night.... "It rocks their foundation." Oh -- yes, yes, yes, yes. As I said, I am OLD.....and it shaped who I am......with the love of Christ thought, I 'll get by, get by. Thanks for offering outstanding advice to parents...

Anonymous said...

Just posted and hadn't read your comments - still ashamed to use my regular sign in

@ A bird in the hand -- I hadn't read comments when I wrote my lil novel as a comment...lol. I could not watch The Burning Bed...hadn't thought of it in YEARS. But I very well remember mentioning to a coworker -- whom I loved dearly and who helped me grow tremendously in my faith and she was just a few yrs shy of my mother's age -- that I couldn't watch it and when I explained why she was astounded....said she would have never guessed . It's ironic cause I thought "everyone" knew. The "emotional floodgates" of the commericals & ads for The Burning Bed were too much for me...

KathyB. said...

This makes me sad for the many families that suffer from the effects of parents, spouses, children, who cannot seem to find any other way to express anger & disagreement without hurting each other, and most definitely they hurt the children.

I remember my grandmother coming to our home in the middle of the night with a black eye, telling us children she ran into a door. I know my mother suffered abuse from her father, and left home at 14 years of age to live on her own, rather than suffer what her dad dished out in alcoholic rages.She recalled to me once how she and her mother fled into the night to hide outside in the cold.I vowed to myself I would NEVER suffer from such abuse and deliberately made sure to not be involved with any young man showing violent tendencies.I also vowed that should I find myself with such a man, my children's safety would come first.

My grandmother always seemed to be able to blame herself in the end for the abuse she suffered.I suspect that is the case with so many women who continue on with abusive men.

I completely understand blocking out memories, sometimes that is what saves us for the time being.

Your life-long friendship with V is a true gift & blessing.Thank-you for sharing this sad part of your life.

lifeinredshoes said...

I've heard for years that children are so resilient, really?
People who say that have never experienced the things "we" have. Either that or they're using it as a sorry excuse to sooth their conscience.
I am 54 years old, and to this day I can still remember with clarity those ugly moments.

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