Emil was loved by his children, daughter and son-in-laws and grandsons. My brother, who was the first born grandson, is fiercely loyal to our grandfather. When he was a baby, Grandpa would walk with my brother in his arms to the bay when he wouldn’t stop crying. That story is very sentimental to my brother and is and was to my parents. When the truth came out to my mother about my grandfather, I called my brother because we were close at that time. He became angry with me because he said he loved my grandfather and I was ruining his wonderful memories. I was disappointed in my brother for not supporting me and my sister and though we have never broached the subject since, I believe it remains between us. I’m pretty sure my brother considers me a “shit stirrer” and I see him as delusional. When I was a baby and my brother two and a half years younger, we lived in a tiny house in my grandparent’s yard though I am not sure for how long. My Dad always called my grandfather “Father-in-Law and loved and admired him. They would do projects together like working on cars, painting, repairs, that sort of thing
The night before my grandfather’s funeral, my sister and I were spending the night with our cousin, the subject turned to my grandfather. Both my sister who was three years younger than I and my cousin who was about a year older than my sister said that our grandfather had molested them. When I look back, I realize that it was a strange conversation. They were very matter-of-fact with no emotion and I had no reaction. I remember thinking that we were just making up stories. We knew it shouldn’t have happened and were offended by it but there was no anger. I wonder now if the lack of emotion was because we thought we had a responsibility to protect our parents, as if we were the adults and they were the children. Following my father’s funeral, as adults the three of us discussed our experiences with our grandfather again and agreed that we did not want to disillusion our parents. We also agreed that we but resented their putting him on a pedestal.
When I wrote about my grandmother, Anna, I told the story of what little I remember about a night my sister and I spent the night with my grandparents. I am repeating it here because it is, after all, his story. My sister and I were sleeping on a hide-a-bed in the living area when my grandfather came in drunk from the beer joint and sat down on our bed. My grandmother came in and told my grandfather to leave us alone and he told her to go on back to bed in a stern voice. She did. I don’t remember anything else. My sister remembers the details of her being molested by him but I cannot. I was the oldest granddaughter so it only makes sense that he would have started with me. I do have body memories, however, there is no way of knowing what experience or experiences they are attributed to. I wonder whether my memory is shut down because I don’t want to accept that my grandmother would actually let something happen to me and/or my sister, especially within her hearing.
My blocked memory is something that I can validate because I have other instances of child molestation where I can remember up to and afterwards but not the actual act. Then how do I know anything happened? Because other than with my grandfather, with each instance, I can still see me telling my mother about the things that were done to me. Yet, I cannot recall what I told her and because she blocks things out she doesn’t want to face, she can’t tell me either. We just both know that I told her what happened and who perpetrated the sexual abuse. Sometimes, I think not being able to remember is a good thing and other times I want to stomp my feet and have a temper tantrum. I do find my mother’s blocked memory really frustrating because I always want details that she can’t or won’t give me. Earlier in my life, I tried hard to remember until I heard enough times from therapists that my mind would reveal what it is protecting me from when I am ready. Sometimes when I am drifting off to sleep or waking up, I hear a doorbell in my head. It has been happening for most of my life so I just accept it now as being tied to something that upset or shocked me in my childhood. It is just a part of me that apparently will always be there. I also still have a need to know everything going on around me and have a phobia about situations when I don’t know what I might see. Memories relating to sexual abuse have always been very vivid to me as if they happened yesterday and would pop in an out of my mind until the last 15 years. While I can retrieve them, they don’t pop up any more. However, the damn doorbell is still with me.
When Emil was diagnosed with cancer and we knew death was imminent, my sister said she forgave him in her heart. I only pitied him. I remember him playing with my niece who was a baby at the time and feeling uncomfortable. I was afraid that he would molest her even though they were surrounded by people. I was a teenager at the time and then I remember that my next thought was that it was sweet, my mind often does flip-flops. I felt nothing when he died. My father was very upset with me because I was going to go through with my plans to host my best friend’s birthday slumber party during the wake. He said that I should stay, out of respect for my mother. He didn’t know that I had no reason to respect anything to do with my grandfather.
See Continuation of Emil in Part Three