You cannot substitute the absence of love, for the source must be compatible with the need.
There is one question I always ask myself each time that I write or speak about the most crucial stage of our lives, childhood. Should I include what others have said? What about the many reports and statistics, should they be included. Each time my answer is no. I do not need it to say what it means to lose your childhood. I know so well how hurtful it can be.
There is no pain equal to the hurt you feel that you do not know how to stop. The more I would think about it, the heavier the load got. It was a load I had to carry alone. No one seemed to care. My low self-esteem and insecurity were always with me. The harder I tried, the harder it got. There were not many days, especially in a row, where I felt at ease. Now I have to tell it the way it was. Here though, just a glimpse into the saddest show in town.
Early on, when I was no more than 3 or 4, I realized that my situation did not reflect in any way the lives of the girls and boys and families where I now lived with my “new family.” Parts were missing. Things did not feel right, look right, and they were not right. My feelings were all over the place. It seemed as if they were up for grabs for whatever came my way. And much did.
I was apprehensive and full of dread one minute and trying to still my mind the next. It did not take long for me to understand why. I had no “real” family. And it was not a nice feeling. It was painful. The other kids had a mom and a dad, and I did not. It was not that I did not have parents. I did. They were alive and well. I did not have parents who—in my mind—wanted me. I could find nothing to change that thought and the way I would think about it. What I felt, saw, and heard always confirmed for me what I knew, and it told me the truth. What I did not know was why.
I do not know why I came up short, and I no longer feel a need to know. I will never know. Indeed, it has lost its relevance and importance, it no longer haunts me, and I am okay with that. However, I would like to think there was no other choice. For now, it would be my father’s sister and her husband who would be tasked with my care. They took good care of me, and the painful thought that the “they” may have only been he is now never far from my mind. Much too soon, my uncle would be out of my life. And judging from my aunt’s surrender to her new love, I would not have her support from now on either.
My uncle died in the midst of my pubescence after suffering many months from the ravaging effects of lung cancer. If he were awake, he would have a cigarette in his hand. He once told me that he started smoking when he was a mere 8-year-old boy. And he had just crossed the threshold of 52 when he died. He was much too young on both ends, and I was too young to be in the middle. But there I was, the person who wanted me most is gone. Even so, I could not have imagined how his passing would change my life. And it would not be for the better.
It seemed only a matter of mere days, though, for sure, it was a bit longer, had passed after my uncle’s death that it all changed. I had no way to know that one of the most trying times of my life was upon me. It would be a nightmare. What was will be no more. He seemed to have come from nowhere. A man who would become, in short order, my what? I did not know, and no one told me if he was an uncle by marriage, a stepfather by my aunt’s adoption of me, or plain old mister.
It did not matter one bit what I called him; his agenda would not change. So, I did not address him at all, nor did he ever call me by my name. Either way, it would be in name only. To add to my feelings of unease, the new “man of the house” will soon be on trial for the killing of another man—a boy he and his wife raised who would become his wife’s lover.
This killer had thrust himself onto the scene, at least it appeared that way to me, and he left no doubt about his intentions. He wanted and got control of all that my uncle had worked for and had loved, including his wife. He wanted it all, but he did not want me. So much so that he made a threat to my mother that he would do to me what he did to the boy he raised. I did not doubt that there were no lengths he would not go to carry out what seemed to me to be an obsession. That would be my departure.
Now, I am only 13 years old. My aunt said nothing as if she did not see what her eyes were showing her. She was in love. For the second time in my life, I felt abandoned. This time by the aunt, who was now my mother, for she had adopted me: This was after my uncle’s death. I had thought it was out of love, but now I am not so sure. It may have been more about survivor benefits.
You can never win a race against your Self. You will always be the last one to the finish line.
I am terrified as this man’s large hands closed around my throat. I feel nerves where I never felt them before. My whole body is shaking in fear. I am in shock as my aunt’s soon-to-be new husband’s grasp tightens as if he is trying to squeeze the very life out of me. I feel his dislike for me ratchet up as he shouts out his angry words not even inches from the back of my ear.
Yes, it is as bad, even worse than it sounds: He “sucker-chocked” me from behind. Suddenly and just as violent his hands were wrapped around my neck and clinched. My feet were barely touching the floor. I have no way to know what else he has in mind. Is my next breath to be my last? My heart beats as if it is headed for the finish line. As though in a hurry to stop.
Just as unexpectedly as it started this man, stepped away and went back to my aunt’s side. Had he choked me just because my aunt had asked me to turn off the television, and I had not moved fast enough? No—it was a message from this man to me. I was in his way; he wanted me gone. I was terrified, thinking about what he might do next.
Thinking about what he would do next took my mind and twisted it in knots. It was difficult for me to go about my day when my thoughts were about having to return home. What turn would my fate take tonight? Whenever I neared the door, I did so with dread. My aunt would utter not a word. It is not as if she did not know. She was a witness to much of his cruelty and said not a thing. Had she lost her voice? Was it shock because he did these things or was I not worth the trouble. She did not speak, and I could not understand why, though words did not need to be said. Her silence spoke for her as if her eyes did not see what they saw—this is what hurt the most.
When I was around him, I could not help but think there is not much up there. He acted as if he knew so much, which only showed how little he knew. That he could not read or write did not help his case at all. Who is this man, really, and what does it mean to me. More so, what is his plan? He came to us. We did not go to him. Only he knows what he has in mind.
(To Be Continued)