Failing to See the Forest for the Trees

My husband and I have had many discussions about minorities and he is helping me to understand that so much anger is brought about by not having the financial, emotional and educational support necessary to achieve more. I have often made the point that we all have the same opportunities even if we have to apply for federal grant or aid money. His answer is that the passive attitude borne of oppression is passed down from parent to child resulting in lack of motivation.

Because my husband is a minority in that he is Hispanic, he does understand the struggle. We see it in different ways – I want to say “What is done cannot be undone, let’s move on.” He implies that the hurt is too deep to just dismiss.

African Americans were brought to this country against their will, enslaved, objectified and some were horribly abused, I get that. Then I look at the treatment of the Jewish at the hands of the Germans and the Japanese Americans at the hands of Americans and wonder that those two peoples have overcome anger in order to find peace within themselves.

I think it may be the way the Jewish and the Asian Americans talk to their children about the oppression they experienced. Could they be passing it on much as a history lesson expressing how they felt at the time but without bitterness? Everything I have ever read on the subject suggests such. I don’t feel bitterness today from the Jewish or Asian Americans but I do feel it from some older Americans who fought in the war against Japan. I have not let that bitterness rub off on me just as I did not allow my grandfather to turn me against African Americans.

When my husband and I have these discussions, I want to cut them short when I feel discomfort. Yet I know it is because I don’t want to acknowledge the pain that discrimination brings on everyone.

However, life does not always come out even so many of us have to work harder at accomplishments with the hands we have been dealt. We may not always get exactly where we want to go but we can get to a good place. What we want may not be what is best for us or what will make us truly happy. I don’t see a problem with being satisfied with our lives, in fact, I think we can be happier having time to stop and smell the roses and to enjoy quality time with our families making do with less rather than constantly pushing ourselves to do more, be more and have more.

So what does this have to do with discrimination? Perhaps those who of us who feel discriminated against, no matter what race, mental ability, capabilities, education, might ask ourselves if we are letting small minded people keep us down. After all, we cannot change others, we can only change how we react to them.

 

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Childhood Sexual Abuse Part Three

For me and for anyone who knows or loves someone who was sexually abused, this may be the most important part of the sharing my experience on this topic.

There was no support, validation or comfort, it was just an experience to be hidden from the world because it became my mother’s shameful burden. To this day, I can remember telling my mother about two abuse situations while she was giving me a bath and for the life of me, I can’t remember the words I used or any reaction on her part. That doesn’t mean there was no reaction, it just means that it was so minimal that I, as a young child, never saw it. My mother tells me that she protected me by not allowing the baby-sitter or the neighborhood boy to have access to me or my siblings but was that enough? She says back then people didn’t talk about “such things” and certainly didn’t take legal action. But she never even told my father. Never, ever.

I love my mother. She has made a lot of mistakes and bad choices in her life that I know came from her growing up in an alcoholic home with a pedophile father. As they say, shit rolls downhill. All my life, I have tried to force her to tell me why she did things she did because her actions or in-actions have had a huge impact on who I am or am not. She is only now that she is 84, forcing herself to give me answers. She has given me permission to ask her anything I need because she doesn’t want to leave me with questions. Unfortunately, my blocking out painful experiences is also my mother’s way of coping so  while she knows things happened with her father, she cannot recall the details. Like mother, like daughter. She has gone through her whole life blaming everything bad that happened to her on alcohol. Her father had alcoholism, her life changed when she, my dad and their friends started to drink and she was affected by alcoholism and all the mistakes that go with the release that alcohol gives from inhibitions and pain.

I believe that my mother hid my molestation because she was afraid that her secret knowledge about her father would come out. She loved her father so deeply that she sacrificed her children’s well-being for that love. She said we never showed signs of his having molested us without even realizing what she was saying. What I heard was that she knew what he was but she believed he never did it to us. She remembers him being drunk and french kissing her goodnight and her saying to him, “You are not my daddy!” Coincidentally, one time the words “You are not my daddy!” came out of my mouth as an adult. I think I might have been angry with my dad at the time but he was no where around.  I remember being shocked and confused that I would say such a thing. Mom’s sister told her that their father molested her but my mother wouldn’t listen. When you put someone on a pedestal, they can’t stay up there and you often can’t let yourself see them fall. She tells me that she knows something happened to her but she has blocked it out. I have encouraged my mother so many times to seek counseling but she is so filled with shame that she just can’t.

When I worked for a police department, I was filing and came across a card that told me that my grandfather had been arrested for child molestation. My grandfather was dead at the time and I guess I had a need to totally remove his existence. I went to the evidence technician who is responsible for criminal reports and let him know of the death so he could remove the record, which was standard. Lest you think that the entire history was removed, no, it wouldn’t be as the records were put onto microfiche at that time. In fact, that is why I couldn’t read the actual report on the incident, it was on microfiche in storage. I am not a rule breaker but I would have looked up that report if I could have. The evidence tech asked me if this man was a relative and I told him that he was my grandfather. I have never forgotten that he looked at me kindly and said, “We can pick our friends but we can’t pick our relatives.” and told me that he would take care of it. Since that time, I have learned from my mother that my father actually bailed my grandfather out of jail. She says they believed that the young girl was lying. Reading between the lines, it is easy to see that my mother couldn’t have believed the girl was lying. Another child sacrificed. My aunt was very angry that the judge dismissed the charges though she probably kept this to herself until she told me. My father’s naivete has often frustrated me but not more so than in this instance. However, my mother hid so much from him. Once when I told my parents that I was very uncomfortable around the husband of a family friend, my father told me that he knew the guy would never do anything to my father’s children. So Dad, he would molest his stepchildren but not your children? Wake up and smell the coffee! I was actually hurt that he would not proclaim to stay away from the man in order to help me feel more comfortable. Naive or lacking courage? The man ended up shooting his wife and stepson. You can read about it in my post “Tragic Endings”.

My grandfather molested my cousin, sister and me and we never told anyone. My not telling about me was understandable, I blocked out the details, but my cousin and my sister told me about it happening to them. I was the oldest girl grandchild so chances are that I had the experiences prior to theirs. The three of us talked about why we didn’t tell anyone and we all agreed it was that we didn’t want to hurt our parents who had so much love for this man, a love we all resented. If we couldn’t tell how could I expect my mother to tell. She and I have had several very honest conversations about this and while her answer has hurt me, it was extremely honest. She says she would never have taken action because she would not have wanted to split up her family. I don’t think she is alone in that, after all, isn’t that why my sister, cousin and I didn’t tell. She says not only did she love her father but her mother was a woman with no education, means of support and had 5 children. It strikes me that she said her mother had 5 children which says to me that she was not talking about my molestation but hers. However, she made it clear that she would not have told anyone had she known about me and my sister. She was not the exception, she was the rule during those times. If we look the other way, it didn’t happen. I was hurt when my mother made her admission to me and told her that it was her responsibility to protect her children, we weren’t capable of protecting ourselves. A few days later, she called me and told me that she was haunted by what she said and that she would answer any questions I had. Oddly enough, after that it was difficult to want to bring the subject up. It was like I finally had what I needed, her acknowledgement that she was wrong not to protect me. However, we have talked about it since and while she knows she was wrong, she still contends that she would not have split up her family. I have to accept that because nothing is ever going to change it but it is hers to live with. So my dad died never knowing the family secret. He never knew why I pursued therapy, he never thought I needed it. He didn’t know that my continuous talking, talking, talking and difficulty not filling the silence were symptoms of a person with a painful secret.

There was no education when the abuse took place. People were truly ignorant, willfully so. I don’t mean they were ignorant of the fact that it took place, they were ignorant in the fact that it would matter. There was no courage when it came to emotional situations. It was easier for a man to kick his daughter out of the house for having sex than it was to try to understand why she had sex. It was easier to turn her away than to listen or talk with her. I know of several situations even within my own extended family where the child was blamed for being molested. The thinking was that the child brought it on herself by being promiscuous. So much easier to sacrifice you own family than to have the courage to confront. A child cannot be held responsible for an adult’s actions. If a child is promiscuous, there is a reason in my opinion. The word “incest” is abhorrent to most of us. Its creepy that a relative would have sex with their child relative. However, when I was in therapy, I attended Incest Survivor meetings and incest was considered to be the term used in relation to any adult who is responsible for a child and betrays the trust of the child. If a child is dependent on an adult, he/she she has to place their trust in that adult so the child doesn’t usually have a choice in what happens between the child and the adult. I can tell you that I have been to several different genres of support meetings and I would have to say that the people in the Incest Survivor meetings appeared to have been the most damaged emotionally and mentally. There is so much shame, anger and sexual acting out. Each person thinks another pers0n’s experience is worse than their own but they are all horrendous because they were so very betrayed by someone who they were supposed to be able to trust to take care of them.

I can’t help but wonder how different my life would be if my mother had the courage to step up. What if my dad had known? Would he have had the courage to fight for me? Sadly I doubt it. My brother was angry with me for telling him about my grandfather because my grandfather was his idol. He didn’t say that he didn’t believe it, just that he didn’t want to know about it. Can I judge him? No, I can be angry but I cannot judge him. Our whole lives have been complicated by the dysfunction that has passed itself down but the one thing I know is that we survived. In spite of all the dysfunction my siblings and I lived through, we all survived and have gone on to live productive lives. The odd thing is that I attribute that to the love and support of our parents. No matter how crazy things got, the three of us hung on to the knowledge that our parents loved us and wanted the best for us. When my mother was in a downward spiral, she was still our anchor because dad was the supporter and she was took care of the children. She took on all the burden to protect him from worry and responsibility and his children were shortchanged.

We somehow knew that we had to hang in there until our parents grew up enough to come back to us. Because in our very early years, we had a good, solid family and it stayed with us. My mother said to me recently, “I always wanted to be a good mother.” and I was able to tell her that in some very important ways, she was. Even during the chaos, when we made mistakes our parents didn’t punish, they talked and we actually listened. They always let us have our say and if they felt we were right, they would concede. We were rewarded for honesty by having our parents let that be enough to convince them that we were aware of our misdeeds. We were never shamed.  We have all had our trials but we have our own families and we try to do our best for them.

 

 

 

 

Childhood Sexual Abuse – Part One

I binge watched Dr. Phil last night and there were two shows about false accusations. One was a stepdaughter who is lies compulsively and  accused her stepfather of molesting her and one was a woman who accused her child’s father of physical and sexual abuse. How someone can fabricate something so serious and that will adversely affect a person’s life for the rest of their life, is beyond me.

As a survivor, I wish that those women could understand what an insult it is to those of us who truly experienced sexual abuse. My innocence was stolen from me. I never remember not knowing about sex. Imagine that as a 4 or 5 year old or perhaps younger, I knew that my parents had sex and what it entailed. I knew because I had an older boy orchestrate   intercourse between me and my brother when we were approximately 5 and 6. That is a secret I never thought I would write about. But my hope is that it will free me from the shame and anger. About the same time, a girl who went to our church was babysitting my brother and I and she molested me and him, though separately. And then there was my grandfather… I have blocked the details of all but the encounter involving my brother and remember only up to the actual acts. I did tell my mother about all but my grandfather but we have both blocked out the details of those conversations.

Back then, no one talked about it and no legal action was taken which is why so many women and men are coming forward later in life. I believe it was as rampant then as it is now, it was just kept quiet. Alcoholism can be a contributing factor. I heard a saying once, “Scratch and alcoholic and you will find a pedophile.” I am certainly not saying that all alcoholics are pedophiles just that they often go hand in hand.  Which is the contributing factor?  Do pedophiles become alcoholics or do alcoholics become pedophiles?

I have to wonder how someone can see a child as an object rather than an innocent human being. How can a man or woman see their own child as an object to fulfill their deviant desires? How can they believe that because it is their child, they are a possession to be used for pleasure? Then there are those parents who prostitute their children for drug money. Although sometimes it seems that suspicion has gotten out of hand, thank God that abuse is coming to light. Although the internet has encouraged blatant child objectification, it is also exposing the perpetrators.

More and more school teachers are being arrested for child molestation. I have a theory on that issue. Teachers are most often hired straight out of college so they are about 21 or 22 years old. The senior students can be as old as 20 so there isn’t that much age difference, hence the attraction. That, of course, doesn’t excuse the teacher or the student crossing the line but I don’t believe that young teachers should be hired to teach high school. Now when it comes to the older teachers and the garbage they are orchestrating, I am still shocked when it comes to light. Though even when I was in high school there were rumors about gay teachers and students, true or false.

Something of which I became aware when I worked at a police department was that many women will sacrifice their children for the sake of having a man in their lives. Sexual abuse by a boyfriend or husband would be reported and the mother would take the word of the man over her child. Why? Because they were desperate, as many women are, to have a man in their lives. I believe they knew the child was telling the truth but didn’t want to give up the man. Throughout history, we women have been pressured by society, especially our mothers, to get married and have children. It was an embarrassment to our parents if we weren’t  married by a certain age. Being that there were more women than men, there was a scramble to find and hold onto a guy, any guy. Or was/is it hormones driving the desperation? I don’t know but I have seen situations where we women couldn’t see the forest for the trees as evidenced by my last post. The atrocities in the news about the abuse of children by stepfathers and boyfriends make me wonder when we women will wake up. Not to leave the men out of this topic, there are men who look the other way as well, however, statistics show more sexual abuse by men than women.

I want to encourage all survivors of childhood sexual abuse to realize that it wasn’t our fault, we were not objects and to have been used as such was the product of a sick mind. Maybe it felt good and maybe that’s why we block memories perhaps out of some sense of guilt. However, we were children who didn’t understand that it was just a sensation, one we couldn’t control. There was a gained awareness of our body’s sexual reaction to stimuli and that may have added the guilt feelings. We may have even began to seek out stimuli or become promiscuous to duplicate that feeling. We didn’t understand that we were exposed to these sensations before we were equipped with the emotional maturity and knowledge for making responsible decisions regarding our actions.

Though this post started out in disgust for false accusations of sexual abuse, I would like to make the following suggestions based on personal experience and what I have observed. I do not hold myself out as an authority, these are just suggestions:

  • Parents listen to your children when they tell you of inappropriateness.
  • We are not equipped to judge the truth because we are most often guided by our emotions where our children are concerned so get your child counseling by professionals who can get to the truth and they will take action or advise you where to go from there.Be advised that they are bound by law to report their findings to law enforcement if evidence of impropriety is discovered.
  • Watch your children for signs but don’t interrogate, have calm conversations so that your child feels comfortable and non-threatened talking to you.
  • Support them no matter what! You don’t have to approve of what they do and they should know that but they need to know that they have someone in their corner unconditionally.
  • Be honest with them about your feelings, let them know that you are angry about what happened to them but don’t show bitterness.
  • Tell them that the two of you will get through this together, step by step.
  • Don’t rush the process.

Your child’s ability to heal will depend upon your reaction.

Emil – Part Three

 

When I worked at Galveston Police Department...
When I was employed by the Galveston Police Department…

     Emil’s affect on our lives did not end there. When I was employed by the police department in Galveston, I came across information revealing that my grandfather had been arrested for child molestation of a young girl. I notified the evidence technician that the “subject” was dead. I will never forget his kindness. He asked me how I knew the man and I told him that he had been my grandfather. He looked at me with kindness and said ” We can choose our friends but we can’t choose our family.” He told me he would take care of removing the information from the files. Now don’t think he did anything illegal, once a person is deceased, the files are archived. He, of course, checked with the Bureau of Vital Statistics for verification and date of death. I voted for that him when he ran for sheriff 30+ years later, he won.

My aunt was angry that the judge dismissed the charges.
My aunt was angry that the judge dismissed the charges.

     Late one night, I received a call from my mother’s sister who was intoxicated and crying. She knew I was in therapy and wanted to know if she could get help. She told me that her father had molested her repeatedly when she was growing up and she went to live with one of her relatives. She said that she told my mother at the time and my mother wouldn’t believe her. I think it is more accurate to say that my mother was in denial, she didn’t want to believe. As her life progressed, my aunt became more and more inappropriate. She had an affair openly with a married man whose wife supposedly knew, she was into porn which would have been her business if others didn’t have to hear about it, she made a bride’s care package for me that included a used vibrator and various other gross objects (I refused to open it in front if others because I knew it couldn’t be good and trashed the whole thing), and she would say things for “shock” value.  I loved her very much even though she was often the source of much embarrassment. I believe that she was tortured by the reality of what life dealt her including a failed marriage due to sexual issues. Anyway, I revealed to my aunt that Grandpa had also molested his granddaughters and that I learned that he had been arrested on charges of child molestation. She was angry when she told me that the “stupid” judge dismissed the charges and how she had wanted her father to go to jail. Galveston was pretty corrupt at the time so who knows what the judge was thinking. She also said that being in the bedroom next to my grandparents (the walls were very thin), she knew that he was perverted and forceful with my grandmother and gave me details. I have the ability to talk, write and hear about almost anything with detachment; perhaps my aunt had that same ability.

My parents believed that the little girl was lying.
My parents believed that the little girl was lying.

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that my aunt would run straight to my mother with what she had learned, probably not out of support for me and my sister or to comfort my mother but more to say “I told you so.” A few days later, I got a call from my mother who asked that I come talk to her. I hope to reveal the details of that conversation at a later date but she did deny that she knew about my grandfather’s Pedophilia. She said that we didn’t seem to show any effects of his having molested us because we never acted like we didn’t want to be around him. O.K. so if you didn’t suspect him of being a child molester, why did you watch us for signs of his having molested us or did I over-analyze her reasoning? My mom told me at that time that my father had been the one to bail my grandfather out of jail when he was arrested. She said they believed that the girl was lying. Of course they did! I believe that Mom was the one who was lying, at least to herself. Denial? My father always appeared to be a bit naive or we were just stupid, not sure which. I know that my mother kept things from my dad about her children and her father. Honestly, I feel anger towards my father for never protecting us, for his not wanting to see things that could or did affect us. I will talk about that in another post.

My mother was uncomfortable putting flowers on her father's grave in my presence.
My mother was uncomfortable putting flowers on her father’s grave in my presence.

I feel sad for my mother because she had to accept what her father really was. I believe that she always knew but her love would not allow her to acknowledge, even to herself, that her father molested children. My sister asked that my mother remove the picture of her mother and father from the wall in her house. I was proud of my sister for asking because she is one to give of herself to others no matter the cost to herself. Forgiveness is her mantra. In spite of supporting my sister, I sense my mother’s pain at believing that she had to remove the only thing she had left to symbolize normalcy regarding her parents. Once when I went to the cemetery with my mother to visit my dad’s grave, Mom downplayed putting flowers on her father’s grave. His grave is located with the graves of my father, grandmother and two aunts. She took the old silk flowers from her mother’s grave and put them on her father’s saying “I’m only putting flowers on your grave because you are next to my mother, you old bastard.” I knew it was only for my benefit and told her that I didn’t have a problem with her placing flowers on her father’s grave. I have had to come to terms with the fact that like it or not, he was her father, my grandmother’s husband and my grandfather. I am grateful that he died when he did so that our family has not been forced to make difficult choices.

I have tortured my mother all my life by trying to get answers or justifications.
I have tortured my mother all my life by trying to get answers or justifications.

      There are some things about Emil that I wish I knew and a lot that I don’t want to know. Alcoholism is a family disease, my mother and her only sister seem to be the only recipients. My grandparent’s youngest son was diagnosed with Schizophrenia.  I wonder if these mental illnesses were in any way related to sexual abuse perpetrated by their father?  Was my grandfather molested by his father or did he molest his sisters? Did he ever feel any remorse? How did he feel about Anna? Did he harm her? Recently, my mother has given me permission to ask her anything and promises she will answer. My questions have been very general because I have tortured her all my life by trying to get answers or justifications to comfort my inner child. When is it o.k. to hurt others to satisfy your need to know? Is is it our parent’s obligation to own up to their mistakes and the mistakes of their families before them?

I am O.K. today.
I am O.K. today.

Please understand, I am writing these family stories so that they can breathe fresh air. I have had enough shame throughout my life and I am not one who shakes it off easily. You see, in spite of my family history, I am O.K. today. I took responsibility for my mental health, educated myself and had therapists who helped me learn to live with my life’s experiences and the choices I have made. I learned that life is made up of all kinds of experiences, some of our making and some not, some happy and some sad, some good and some not so good but together they make up who we are. If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn. If you embrace your family’s history, whatever it is, you will understand that you are not responsible for who or what they are or were or the choices they make or made. Without getting into each person’s skin, we don’t know what kind of pain or experiences drove them to be who they are or were. Understanding why people do what they do doesn’t excuse their behavior, what it does is help us to see their behavior with more compassion. We never have to accept unacceptable behavior.

I am making every effort not to apologize for my family being who they were and are.  Fortunately, they are good, friendly and loving people who have worked hard for their accomplishments. Unfortunately, I don’t think that we have truly exorcised our discomfort with each other over the past. I think no-one wants to “rock the boat” and  we all have to deal with things in our own way. Do I wish it were different? I’m  not sure, I just know that I can live with things as they are.

Our Family Baggage.💞
Our Family Baggage.💞

Galveston Panorama, Galveston Police Department Website, File name: document.jpg

Caricature of a sitting judge, 123 Royal Free Photos, http://www.123rf.com/search.php?word=judge&start=4300&searchopts=&itemsperpage=100

Photo of a young girl, 26198945-cute-little-young-girl-standing-in-the-park-holding-yellow-flower, 123 Royal Free Photos

A digitally converted painting of a single bench in a cemetery, Crystal Graphics, http://powerpictures.crystalgraphics.com/photos/view/cg8p3956745c //digitally_converted_painting_single_bench_cemetehttp://

Photo of Vintage Suitcases, istock Photos by Getty Images, http:www.istockphoto.com/photo/vintage-suitcases-49442414?st=bd567c8ry

Photo of Mother and Daughter in Conversation, http://familycouplescounselchino.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/ilissas-family-tip-8-have-you-considered-mother-daughter-counseling/

Photo of woman looking out window, http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/young-woman-looking-through-red-curtains-rear-view-20604007?st=69b97fa,

Emil – Part Two

Grandpa would walk my brother down to Ofatts Bayou when as a baby he wouldn't sleep at night.
Grandpa would walk my brother down to Ofatts Bayou when as a baby, he wouldn’t sleep at night.

     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 him 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 thought 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

When I look back, I realize that it was a strange conversation.
When I look back, I realize that it was a strange conversation.

     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.

My sister and I were sleeping on a hide-a-bed.
My sister and I were sleeping on a hide-a-bed.

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.

 I do find my mother's blocked memory really frustrating because I always want details that she can't or won't give me.
I do find my mother’s blocked memory really frustrating because I always want details that she can’t or won’t give me.

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. Many

My sister said she forgave him in her heart.
My sister said she forgave him in her heart.

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 thinking 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

Emil

     Emil was my maternal grandfather for whom I feel nothing but pity. He was an alcoholic and a pedophile and I wish I could totally discount him, but I cannot. He was, after all, my mother’s beloved father. Is love blind or do we only see what we need to see?

My grandfather was born in 1900, the year one of the worst storms in history all but wiped out Galveston Island. As this was before hurricanes were named, it has always been referred to as “The 1900 Storm” or “The Great Storm”. Galveston Island is located approximately 50 miles from the town of Alief where my grandfather was born. Could that be an omen?Devastation of Galveston Island, Texas

September 8, 1900, hurricane. Texas State Library photo

Historical map with Bohemia proper outlined in pink, Moravia in yellow, and Habsburg Silesia in orange.
Historical map with Bohemia proper outlined in pink, Moravia in yellow, and Habsburg Silesia in orange.

Emil’s family immigrated from Bohemia, now Czechoslavakia. My grandmother, Anna, always told me to never marry a”Bohunk” (slang for Bohemian) and though she never gave me a reason, I think even as a young girl I understood. I don’t have much information on timing but at some point, Grandpa followed his brothers to Galveston Island when they went there to work for the newspaper (he took a job but I cannot recall what it was.) In Galveston, he met Anna and no one still living seems to know how they met or anything about their early marriage. One of Anna’s sisters did often say that my grandmother got pregnant “every time Emil hung his pants on her bedpost”. Emil and Anna were always poor and lived in a small house with 2 bedrooms. One of the bedrooms was a passageway to the bathroom from the living and remaining bedroom areas so it was the kind of house referred as a “shotgun” house. The house was on stilts, typical of Galveston homes, in order to prevent high water damage. They had five children, all of whom they raised in the little house.

Historical Galvez Hotel Galveston, Texas
Historical Galvez Hotel
Galveston, Texas

Grandpa once worked as a mechanic for the historical Galvez Hotel until he was fired for being drunk on the job.  As the story goes, he let his supervisor know that he had been drinking and was told to come in anyway, hard for me to believe. He also took in appliances for repairs and had a shed in his yard where he did his work. When I was a teenager, he worked at a full-service gas station. I was on my way to meet my mother at my grandparents house and stopped for gas.   I didn’t know that my grandfather worked there until he approached the car to pump my gas and clean my windshield. Later at the house, he told me that I shouldn’t let men working at gas stations clean my windshield because they look up dresses. It didn’t take much to figure out that he was talking about himself.  He and his oldest son, his namesake, had a shrimping business. They lived about a mile apart and were had a close relationship but my uncle never knew that his father molested his daughter, only my sister and I knew.

I never felt any love or affection for my grandfather, he just was. I never felt any animosity toward him either because sometimes a child’s mind has a way of protecting them from the truth. Most of the memories I have of him are pretty mundane even though we were around him quite a bit. What I remember follows

  • He told me to hold a spoon full of sugar in my mouth to get rid of hiccups.
  • When he passed gas, he said he stepped on a frog.
  • He had rabbits and Beagles, the rabbits became dinner.
  • He once let the grand-kids ride on the running board of his truck and my grandmother yelled at him for it.
  • He helped my father work on cars and other projects.
  • He would sit me on his lap and bite my cheek. I have read that cheek biting is something that pedophiles do for whatever   reason.
  • He called me “Pat”, a name for which I have an intense dislike to this day. When people call me “Pat” or ask if I am called “Pat”, there is an unreasonable anger that wells up in me and I have to work to keep it from showing in my tone of voice.

As the story is told, my grandfather lost his mother at an early age and his father never remarried. My great-grandfather was rumored to have been a bit of a tyrant. Two of grandpa’s sisters,in my mother’s opinion, were distant and introverted. Family lore has it that my great-grandfather physically abused my grandfather and Mom suspects that he molested at least some of his daughters. One of my grandfather’s sisters ended up in a mental health facility; I am not aware of the diagnosis. My mother’s observation of her grandfather is that he was stoic and unfriendly. One of my grandfather’s sisters was a constant in my life. She was a very strong and independent woman having the opposite personality from her two sisters. My great-aunt called my grandfather, “Brother” and he called her by her last name, “Fenack”. My uncles called her “Aunt Fenack” but the rest of us called her “Aunt Louise”. I asked my mother why Aunt Louise was so different from her sisters and my mother said she thought it was because Aunt Louise married “up” meaning that she married “money”. Aunt Louise raised her granddaughter as her daughter was shot and killed by her husband who ended up in prison. Aunt Louise was very strict with her granddaughter, parenting possibly learned from her father or possibly because she was afraid her granddaughter would follow in her daughter’s footsteps. Aunt Louise late, late in life married my grandmother’s brother when they were possibly in their 80’s. Aunt Louise had Colin Cancer and would not marry him until after her cancer surgery. When she was cancer-free, they married but the cancer came back. They were in their 90″s and his family had to remove him from the home he and Aunt Louise shared and take him to live with them. Aunt Louise and Uncle Johnny had opposite medical needs; she had to have the house hot and he could not tolerate the heat. Aunt Louise eventually died of colon cancer.

See Continuation in “Emil” Part Two

Picture Credits:

September 8, 1900, hurricane. Texas State Library photo

Description: Historical map of Bohemia (Bohemia proper – pink, Moravia – yellow, Austrian/Bohemian Silesia – orange), Source: German Brockhaus Konversations-Lexikon, 1892, Author: Photo made by User:SebastianBreier,  License: Public Domain, because copyright expired

Description: Hotel Galvez and Spa, A Wyndham Grand Hotel, http://www.wyndham.com/property/GLSHG/Images/18122_x1.jpg.