Thursday, July 13, 2006

Before Ya asks, NO! It's not a poem, it's my lack of computer skills when transferin' this stuff around. Hope it's easy enough to read, bein' in funny-typin'. Sorry. A Darkness Decends Over My New Life This part of my life is very difficult for me to think about, let alone write about. I must do it so soon after my last entry because, having dredged the memories back to the surface of mind from the depths to which I had pushed them with so much effort, they are once again disturbing my sleep with such vividness that rest is impossible. Therefore, as soon as I put them to paper, it's my fervant wish that I'll once again be able to force them back into the compartments from which they seemed to have been loosed. As I type this it's 4:00 AM and I woke a while ago from the most vivid nightmare about that time that I've had in years, many years. So it's all fresh in my mind, far too fresh. As, after counselling evoked the memories, I once before was able to banish them by writing and discussing them, I'm optimistic that will once again be the outcome. I'm in a much better mental position to effect the ouster this time than I was so many years ago. Enough delaying, into the fray. As I alluded to in a previous post, the rough treatment at the hands of MM on my first time alone with her was indeed a harbinger of the evils to come. All of this has been verified by disccussions with Dad, after an extensive series of psychoanalytical screenings had been administered seeking answers as to my suitability to be placed in an extremely sensitive government position in my very earliest years of involvement with Uncle Sugar. He was reluctant at first, but once he heard the detail in which I had recovered memories he had striven so hard to erase, I saw him shed tears for the first and last time ever. He then proceeded to fill in the gaps over many bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, a rarity for him indeed. In the intervening years, I've been able to suppress and avoid those memories, which I find myself even now avoiding putting to paper. The following condensed account is a synopsis of the first 4 years of my life with my new family. At first, the evil was very subtle, a slap across the face or being literally tossed into my crib, which I'd outgrown, for the least perceived violation of MM's everchanging "rules". After a few months, one day I spilled my cereal after eating almost all of it. The words aren't important, if they are later, I'll try to include some very familiar phrases. What's important is the severe, sputtering rage emitting from MM at this trivial occurance. This "violation" of her rules", the contents of which I was ignorant, led to my introduction to "the hole". Our house's first floor was divided into two very large rooms with a stair- way between, that had at its bottom a smallish platform with two short flights of steps arranged perpendicular to the main stair. The short stair on the right low- ered the person descending to the living room, while the stair to the left led into the kitchen. The platform was approximately four foot square and the two short stairs were four steps each. The main stair was seventeen steps tall climbing up to the upper floor where there were, at that time, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a large-ish hallway that led from the big bedroom on the left to the bathroom, with a small ell off the right that led to my room. A closet covered by a curtain ran along the length of the hall for its entire length. The top of the stair faced south, the left bedroom faced the street on the east, and my room and the bath were on west end, with my room consisting of the northwest corner of the upper floor. The living room was below the big bedroom and my room and the bathroom were over the kitchen. The street-side or front door was centered on the livingroom to the east, after passing through a very small enclosed front porch, and was rarely used. The back door, centered on the west wall of the kitchen, led to an enclosed porch with cellar steps a ways to the right and the back door to the left. The driveway, headed by a detached garage on the southwest corner of the property, was just out this door, which was the commonly used entrance and exit to the house. If you stood in the center of the stairs leading to the sleeping areas facing to the platform at the bottom, and if you were to raise your right arm, it would extend into the living room, as the stairway was open on the living room side be- low the level of the second floor. The drop from this point was about six feet to the living room floor and there was never a railing installed. This will be key to an evil I'll describe shortly. If you raised your left arm you would touch a wall. Behind this wall was a space sited between it and the kitchen wall. This space was tall, going all the way to the second floor ceiling at the top and to the first floor on the bottom. This space was accessed by removing a piece of plywood fronting on the area to the south of the short stair leading to the kitchen. This space was about six feet deep and two feet wide with a chimney at one end and the short stair at the other. This was not a finished space at this time although, long after my time there, it was put to use. This tiny space, when the plywood was in place, was utterly dark. If you have ever visited a cave or other lightless place and doused your source of illumin- tion, you know the utter lack of light to which I refer. Dad was a great carpenter and the plywood fitted with absolutely zero light bypass. This is what I call the hole. My first time in the hole, following the rather severe, but average, thrashing I received for spilling about two tablespoonsfull of cereal and milk onto the table, was by far the shortest time I spent there. After being advised the beating I'd just had was nothing in comparison with what would happen to me if I were to go astray of her newest rules. No noise, no moving about, and above all, the new "rule of most importance". This rule said I was to never, under any circumstances, tell Dad or any- one else about being in the hole. She had early on given me a horrible beating with a two-by-four through my "punishment clothes" for no reason, other than to show me the result of telling about any of the punishments I underwent. This beating was administered during a week when Dad was away on business and the bruises were pretty much gone when he returned at any rate. I was also constantly told of the even more severe beating I'd get from Dad for making MM punish me so often. Don't ever believe that wearing thicker winter clothes will protect you from the blows she would deal me with a board, a ball bat if I was deemed really bad, and a length of 3" steel pipe for the worst of my offending actions. The severity of my offense was at all times arrived at by the depth of her rage, never anger, screaming mad rages. In those years Dad was attending college part-time to further his career and he was often gone for long hours each day and even days at a time on weekends. This left just the two of us home, which gave MM loads of time to list my offenses that she felt strongest about. I'll run through them quickly and leave them. These first few were ones over which I had no control, as you'll see. In no particular order they were: being male, having darker skin than was acceptable, having dark brown eyes, not being young enough, being able to talk, being able to walk. These last two were of importance to her as she'd bragged to everyone that they were adopting a newly- born only a few month old. This would play havoc with birth certificates as she tried in her depravity to make me younger. She'd wanted a girl, Dad wanted a boy. He saw me & fell in love with me, while she was horrified. I later found out that both my and my sister's adoptions were without revue and illegal under then existing law. They were both accompanied and facilitated by the exchange of very large sums of cash. This was necessitated by the fact that MM had repeatedly been disapproved as a potential adopter as being mentally unstable. Dad wasn't aware of the degree of her instability at that time, as they underwent separate screening, rather unusual in the 1940's. All I can surmise is that the psychiatrists, she saw several, saw through her. I'll now list the punishments as I recall them, the offenses were all in her head on most occassions anyway, so they're not relevant. I'll admit the treatment abated for a time on the arrival of my sister as she fit MM's wish list, at first. She then was the cause for additional punishments, as when she cried, I caused it, she mess- ed her diaper, I caused it, do you detect a growing trend here? Punishment for most things, was several face slaps, rings on. Then came paddling on bare bottom. Not to bad, except she had a paddle from one of those old toys with the ball attached via a long rubber cord. This evolved into the paddle of choice as it was me who was using it when the rubber cord came loose from the partially installed staple meant to hold it to the paddle. The other reason, was it still had the staple attached, which never failed to draw blood, which in itself was a further offense. Bleeding led to the next level of pain, soaking in a shallow pan filled with rubbing alcohol, of which she had a source who provided it by the gallon, literally. We had many gallons in the cellar which she told Dad she used in housecleaning tasks. Placing your raw, bloodied, bottom in a pan of alcohol not only hurts a mite, it evokes an unusual phenomenon, it causes such pain your bowels let go. Being a particularly horrid offense, it led to the next level of inevitable pain, the alcohol enema. This she deemed necessary as I had uncleanliness within me needing to be excised. This enema was always applied using what I thought of as the big sticker. It was the largest size enema application tube I've ever seen. It was as big around as a hen's egg, and being freshly cleansed in alcohol and inserted dry, was a pain only exceded by that felt by the inrush of the two pints or so of pure alcohol thru the colon to the intestine. Every drop was made to go in by means of rolling up the water bottle she employed. These were the most usual treatments I received, followed each time by hours in the completely dark hole. We're nearing the end, I promise, as relating this is very painful to me mentally. The importance of cleanliness was always stressed by MM. One treatment was being scrubbed raw with SOS pads to remove the filth on my skin from being in the sun, followed of course by the above routine. My heritage causes my skin to be of a rather dark hue when at its palest. Five minutes or longer of sunlight causes it to turn a beautiful reddish-copper color, which was unacceptable. Too dark for our kind. See, there were then, and now, no blacks in the area, so the plentiful local Indians were "it". Hey, somebody gotta be the inferior race, right? This cleanliness rule was enforced in the hole too. In the hole would be me, naked. A shiny metal pail, and a small bowl with my rations, the cheapest canned pet food available at the time she went shopping last. These cans were kept in her "special" private metal box in the cellar. To wash this treat down was water served by the quart in the container you associate with quarts, not milk. Hint, it didn't all drain into the car engine, always some left for me to drink to flavor the water I suppose. As the stays in the hole could last several weeks at times, avoiding the use of these items was unavoidable. And void was what my bowels would do endlessly after sipping from the can as care- fully as I could. That oil works wonders. Ever sit in absolute darkness, naked, raw skin, severly bruised, cold, and really wish you were dead. Heavy thoughts for some- one not having yet attained his seventh birthday. You're preached to how this guy God loves you all the time during MM's lucid moments, but you don't see how he lets you live. Not why you're being punished, but why you can't die when you want it so bad you spend hours on your knees in the hole until they're raw, praying to die. Just one more item, the penalty for really breaking rules, followed of course by all the above. If you guessed by now a real beating, WRONG! That was "minor", don't you remember? Nope, this was saved for special times and only used every month or so. This involved stripping naked, an SOS bath followed by an alcohol rubdown, very roughly applied. Then you stood naked against the wall until the bleeding stopped. When she was satisfied you'd not get blood on things, usually after standing for at least four or five hours, you got "what was coming to you". First you marched to the top of the steps and stood arms to your sides. You hold that position, knowing what always comes next, just wondering how many times it'll be this time and if you can die before the paddling, alcohol pan, enema, and then the hole. While you stand still, very important to stand still and not cry, she ties your arms securely at your sides. Then she ties your feet together. Then, this is the good part, she forces you to your knees, as you're never fast enough on your own. Now, on your knees, trussed up, back to the stairs, you're ready. Next is the best part. She walks back a bit. lifts her leg, and kicks you down the stairs. If you're lucky, you go down straight. If not, and you go toward the wall and don't reach the platform, it doesn't count to her. If you go the other way and fall into the living room and hit the stuffed chair, it doesn't hurt so bad. If you drift onto the maple phone table or go between to the floor, those both hurt quite a bit. Did I forget to mention the stair treadboard construction? They were 17 rock maple steps, but the edges and corners were nicely rounded, so not as bad as it could've been. The roll down was followed by your feet being untied, didn't expect to be carried up did you? The minimum was five rolls down, the maximum was when she tired of watching you. She always made sure there were at least a few days in which to heal in the hole before Dad returned. Now you have an idea why I hate the memories. I'm not looking for pity, but this is a record of my life, and this was part of it that went into shaping who I am today. Just part of the mix. I'll not speak of this ever again voluntarily after today. Now to end this dark chapter and move on. All this came to an abrupt end one day when I was around seven. Close to that date anyway. I was newly in the hole after the full range of treatment because I hadn't reached the ringing phone in time. Never mind that we had a crank type phone with a live operator who'd cheerfully tell you who had called and what they'd wanted. On this day, me in the hole, my sister playing outside being watched through the wind- ow, and MM and her best friend playing cards, the unexpected happened. Oh yeah, I could always hear them in the house doing things, MM told her friend I was with our relatives out of town. This day, after his professor took ill and cancelled the classes for the week, Dad had driven home with no notice to surprise MM. This he was very successful in. My sister made the "fatal" gaffe of telling him, when he asked where I was, I was in the hole. MM tried her best to get him to leave so she'd be able to do a bit about my condition, to no avail. When he kept asking her, my sister showed him "place for dirty, bad boys". Dad practically ripped off the plywood getting it off. What he saw did something to him I only ever saw that once, he literally turned a bright reddish-purple color, looked at MM, and just pointed to the back door and mouthed the word "out". It took him some time to coax me out as I was petrified at what he'd do to me. After all, it had been threatened to be worse than anything I'd ever experienced. He got me out finally, shaking in fear, took me upstairs, cleaned the feces off me in the tub, and wrapped me in a blanket. Then he gently carried me to the car and drove me to the local doctor's house, as it was a Saturday. I stayed with the doc and his family in a separate room for two or three days before Dad took me home. He'd been to see me every day until I fell asleep. When we went into the house there was no sign of MM or my sister. Dad said they went to visit my aunt about 200 miles away for awhile. We stayed there and at the college together the rest of the summer. MM and my sister finally returned as school was about to start, but I was never left with her again without Dad there. I started then to spend more and more time on the farm, eventually that became my main residence and Dad's house a place I rarely visited. If I was in town to stay after school, I went to an aunt's house until Dad came and got me. Finally, at age 16, by their birth certificate (MM's original), I moved out to live with a friend while working two jobs and finishing school. I left town, never to move back, 13 days after graduation. I returned to visit, but the feelings never died, even though the memories were well suppressed for many years. After Uncle Sugar was sure I was okay to go, he generously provided me with intense counselling to re-suppress them. There they've stayed until about two months ago when reading a friend's blog, made me realize when I'm gone, my kids and grandkids can never know who I was, as I've never spoken much to anyone of my youth before. I don't want them in the position I find myself, hav- ing a nearly untraceable family tree. Other than the counsellors years ago, I've never felt the need to tell the story again until now. Now it's done, RIP evermore. One ironic footnote is that when MM reached old age and needed care, I was the only one to step forward as she'd alienated so many by that time. A few stuck by her, but I was the one to ensure she was well taken care of until her death several years ago in her mid-nineties. I find myself feeling pity for her, as she was very ill mentally. Next time we'll move on to brighter subjects and happier times. Take care and cherish all those God gave you to love, even at their worst, they're the only family you have. Now maybe he'll grant me some peaceful sleep and allow my demons to return to the depths of my mind.

6 comments:

Mies said...

It sounds like similar treatments were given to you as to the residents of POW camps...It's appalling to say the least. It's also amazing how the mind chooses to deal with it to survive.
MM, on some level, was possessed by the devil and it was generous of you to see that she was taken care of in her last years. Shows a lot about the kind of man, despite the abuse, you became.
I cry for the many kids out there today that have fallen victim to an neglected and abused childhood.
As you say, this is put to rest for you...RIP.....

Jim said...

Mike, you know what kind of work I do. Yet your story has touched me to the very core of my being.

Hold your head up and be proud, Mike! To have gone through that, and at such a young age, and to turn out to be the man I know as Mike makes you one helluva guy!

I'm proud to be able to say "I know a guy called Mike!"

Patricia said...

Mike, you know I'm not very often speechless. But I am, over that story.
It's clear that woman was insane. But, in my book, there's still some part of us that is responsible for what we do, and I think the hottest, most horrible part of whatever hell is, must be reserved for those who mistreat a child.
Sorry. I can't forgive that. I don't think God can, either.

Annette said...

Mike, I'm speechless. I can't comment this here. You'll get a mail. I only wish I could hug you now. Don't let it get you down!

amanda said...

OH MIKE I AM SO GLAD YOU ARE HERE TO TELL YOUR STORY, GOD REALLY HAD HIS HANDS ON YOU.... NO WONDER YOU ARE SUCH A WONDERFUL PERSON... MAY GOD BLESS YOU RICHLY

Mar said...

Mike, it's so sorry to hear a child is suffering the least, your story is appalling, this MM must be burning in hell, she might have been insane, but she had the wit to do what she did when she couldn't be caught, so she wasn't that mentally insane, I think. How good God let you see the end of it and you survived it, you've turned into a good and generous man, lucky us all who know you at least a little, evenmore your family and close friends. A big kiss for you, I hope your life improved after that, I'm gonna keep reading to know ;)