Part 1 - Child Abuse & Neglect
One’s earliest memories are brief and sporadic, they often include a family member, generally a parent, and feelings of comfort and joy. That is not my earliest memories.
I remember my biological father whipping my brothers more than anything else in my early years. I remember the moment I realized he favored me, as I was spared one of these beatings for an offense my older brother and I committed together. I was three, my brother four, we had taken strawberries out of the fridge and were eating them in hiding. Something I cannot imagine punishing my children for today. We were not allowed the luxury of free range in the kitchen. You ate what was given and all of it, or it was left on the table for you to eat later until it would mold and hunger was the punishment of such an offense. This was a moment of hunger when my brother and I were caught, my father left us to make a belt choice, and I ran and hid. My brother took the beating for the both of us, I remained in hiding for hours and was never directed back to the sentencing upon seeing him next. I had seen this man many times prior to this incident, use a belt on my older brothers. He always made them remove their pants and underwear before mercilessly inflicting their lashings to blood, often with my biological mother watching from a chair, as though it was a stage play being enacted. I never received this form of abuse, that moment with the strawberries was the only time I ever offended my father, for fear of him. I remember the terror I felt vividly. For a brutal abuser, he was gentle with me, when we did interact. He would joke, danced with me once in the kitchen that I remember, carried me when I was little, and almost always said yes when I asked him for a thing. Of course, I didn’t ask for much, to play outdoors, watch a movie, or for food.
You see, my parents spent their lives in separate bedrooms. Rarely coming out. It almost seemed my father emerged only to beat my brothers, or argue with my mother. When I was little, he cooked some, though at some point between eight and ten, he almost completely ceased to come out of his room altogether. My siblings and I would knock on his door to give him meals and clean clothes, and take back dirty dishes and laundry.
My mother was a beautiful lie. She wasn’t physically abusive to the majority of her children. She crossed the line a few times with a couple, though not on the level my father did. No, she was a monster of another kind. A manipulative, calculated, and selfish person. She watched her husband brutally abuse her children that were not his, never flinching. She insisted on him adopting them to obtain social security checks, and when she grew tired of their presence, she split them up and sent them states away to live with their father and one with her parents. She allowed the youngest to die of cancer. The baby was only four I’ve been told, on a specific treatment regimen for a hereditary and aggressive cancer that all four of my half siblings carry. My biological father was a retired college professor, he drew social security on himself and every child in his care, he also owned two successful health food stores when they married. Money was not an issue. They could have provided her with the best care, though my mother insisted they would cure her with herbal remedies and ceased all medical treatment. A nurse came to their home and tried to reason with her, only to learn my mother’s true identity upon being thrown out. The baby died not long after her decision. I remember being told once by a person present at the funeral, she never shed a tear for her child. Yes, there are people who do not believe in medical treatment, I do understand this. I remember offending a person once with my judgment of my mother, in recounting this story. A story I only know through others. My sister passed away before I was born. Before I completely cut ties with my biological mother years ago, she had developed breast cancer. She told myself, among others, she would cure herself with herbal remedies. She tried for a time, though as the cancer progressed and medical intervention became more pertinent to survival, she opted for a mastectomy to save her own life. As my father, she also spent my life in her bedroom behind closed doors. We cared for her in the same manner as my father, taking food and clothing to and from her safe place.
There were eleven children altogether. It was a yours, mine, and our collection. My father was twenty-two years older than my mother. He had been married twice before and had three almost grown children when they wed. My mother, had a previous marriage that resulted in four children. They had four together, myself and three boys, I was the second to the oldest. They adopted a twelfth, my mother’s ex sister-in-law whom was an adult.
I believe my mother had the last set of children for financial gain, this is only speculation, not fact. It may sound perplexing to some, the idea that a child could produce an income, rather than devastate it. Though in my later teens, I was privy to the amount received in social security. It was an extra seven hundred dollars a month, per child. Multiply that by four, plus her three living children she convinced him to adopt, add in his SS check, his retirement, and finally a steady income from two businesses. Now, subtract the usual costs of having children. My parents received a lot of our clothing and items from church members, others came from goodwill, we didn’t receive big ticket items, we didn’t go to the doctor, and as previously stated she eventually sent her three children away. Two of my brothers and I attended school briefly. I was taken out in second grade, never to return, the older was in third, and below me, kindergarten. (To be further explained in, “Stupid is as Stupid Does”.) Viola, math never lies, and greed is the devil’s paradise. Despite this vast flow of wealth, my brothers and I lived poorly for several years in a trailer, and in the end, my mother expended every asset and filed for bankruptcy after my father’s death.
Now as stated, that is only my feelings, not fact. After I had my oldest daughter, I tried to allow my mother a relationship with her. I brought her my baby a couple times. The last time we visited, I handed her my daughter, she almost immediately handed her back and stated, “I’ve never liked babies”. She then went to her bedroom and shut the door, a lifelong familiarity. I mulled that over for years. I never went back for her. I met my older brothers at her house on a very few occasions before my final detachment.
I’ve been told that my father loved children, something I’ve also mulled over to no conceivable calculation that makes sense. He wanted to have more children per a dream of delivering his babies at home. He was unable to convince his first wife to do this, though in showering my mother with gifts and attention, apparently was able to persuade her. My older brother was born in a bathroom, during a thunderstorm without power, with his cord wrapped around his neck. They almost lost him. I was followed in the same bathroom, something that is cringe worthy in thought to me. My parents were hoarders who did not clean. I suppose two home births were enough for him or her one, my little brother was born in the driveway as paramedics were trying to load her in an ambulance and my baby brother was born in a hospital.
So, my father did not like animals, but supposedly loved children he would neglect and abuse. My mother loved animals and didn’t like children, yet birthed eight. We always had a great deal of dogs growing up, outdoors. I remember my mother would take them to the vet, which once again is perplexing as she would not take her children to the doctor. The last vet visit I remember, we had five dogs, it was a large bill, I only recall per my father’s anger and frustration after. We had a truck with an enclosed topper on the bed. My mother chose to take the dogs to the vet, then do grocery shopping after, leaving the dogs in the back during the summer. She drove home and went into her bedroom, she left the groceries and dogs for us, which was normal for a normal trip. She didn’t come out of her room for days after. My brother said she was terrified of the law finding out. My father never liked animals, he hated cats, (I believe he was allergic) he tolerated her excessive dog accumulation to appease her and us. Though I remember him coming out of his room that day and trying to save them. She was the dog lover and wouldn’t even pull them out of the truck. My father always complained about the dogs yet tried to cool them down with water, and for the first time, it appeared to me as though he cared for them, through his actions and anger toward her. We dug four graves that night, a haunting memory among many.
Honestly, I think his actions were simply a natural reaction of compassion to life slipping away. Not many people are completely devoid of compassion, even bullies, abusers, molesters, and others who cause harm. I’ve read a true sociopath is devoid of empathy. I believe, though once again merely speculation, my mother is a sociopath. She never had a single friend visit, or even call, she didn’t cry during the greatest loss a person can endure, she showed no emotion in losing her pets which were her greatest loves, and she never cried when my father passed away. I’ve read a sociopath is generally the product of abandonment and/or childhood abuse, neither is the case for my mother, which makes a definitive conclusion questionable.
To be continued in, Part 2 - Death and a child