Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Putting it all out there, Part II


WARNING!  This post contains very graphic language regarding child abuse. It also contains graphic language regarding empathy and self esteem, as well as graphic photography regarding illness.  It's not a negative post, but rather an empowering one.  I am a survivor.  I am God's conduit.  I suffered with fear and shame for many, many years.  But...I am no longer afraid.  I am proud of myself for what I have accomplished after what I have been through.  I am amazed at my strength.  If I can help even one person not to have to face some of the stinging indignity I have faced - then I can leave this plane in peace.

Here's a little of my story.  I am putting bits and pieces of my story on this blog.  The full story - complete with all details - will be in my autobiography.  I will be leaving NOTHING out.  I finally like myself.  It only took me 52 years.  Okay, here goes:

Today our story starts when I was ten years old.  The year was 1970.  I was in the third grade.  I was a typical 10 year old kid.  No, that's not really true.  I had a lot of secrets.  I was a good student.  Straight A's.  Never got in trouble.  Always pleasant and respectful to my elders.  That year I was teacher's pet.  Only time ever.  I still remember that angel of hope.  Her name was Mrs. Singer.  I wonder if Mrs. Singer had any inkling what was going on at home.  If she did, there wasn't much to be done. Remember it is 1970. No one believed kids at that time. No one believed kids (or women) until Phil Donahue and Oprah broke new ground.  Thank God for that.

I had three little brothers I took care of.  We lived in a hoarders' house (not shitting you).  That's probably why I'm anal about my place now.  More will be revealed about the living conditions in subsequent posts.  We didn't have enough food, towels, toilet paper or even sheets on the bed.  I understand now - but didn't understand then - why my parents were never home.  Believe me I preferred when they were not home.  My heart would drop when my mom announced that my dad was on vacation.  Oh man, a week of hiding in my room hoping that I didn't fuck up and set him off.  My three brothers felt the same. Thank God for my brothers.  I don't know how I would've survived without them.  We bonded together as a team.  We were all above average intelligence - gifted even - and we knew that we were in some fucked up shit. We just didn't know what to do about it.  The few people I mentioned it to, with my limited vocabulary, didn't believe me.  To this day, my brothers and I are often faced with disbelief.

I always felt ugly and fat.  I walked with my head down, I was so ashamed.  Mrs. Singer tried to get me to pick my head up.  I had greasy hair, and was so embarrassed.  We never had enough soap or shampoo.  We had to share bath water and I was only allowed to wash my hair once a week.

Back to 10 year old Peggy.  One day I received a particularly brutal scolding from my father because I hit my middle brother.  He hit me first.  So I hit him back.  Middle brother had an exceptional talent for screaming like bloody murder.  When he screamed - you crapped your pants.  Now I've already explained in a post below that my father spoke in a strange, mysterious and often contradictory way.  I never understood what was expected of me, though I about killed myself trying to please him.

My dad was seldom home. Worked two full time jobs, gave a very beautiful (false) impression of being a martyr who would do anything for his family.  When he was home we had to tip toe in silence.  Dad believes that children are not to be seen OR heard.  We were to stay out of sight.  I hated when he was home.  When he was home, he slept.  So waking Dad from his slumber with a blood curdling scream was taking your life into your hands.  Dad told me not to be a pussy.  If someone hit me, I was required to defend myself.  If he heard that I didn't defend myself, he would beat me.  Also, he reminded me, no one likes a fink.  A fink is worse than the perp.  If I tattled, I would be beat.  Yet.... when he asked me who broke something (since it was my job to make sure nothing got broke, being the oldest):  if I told who broke the lamp, I got beat for being a fink.  If we refused to tell him who broke the lamp, we all had to line up to get beat.  I never could figure out what the hell I was supposed to do.  I didn't even know what a Catch-22 was, but I was sure as hell always caught in one.

Needless to say, I never did anything right.  No matter how hard I tried to please, I got beat.  And I don't mean spanked.  I mean beat.  With whatever object or switch or belt buckle or vacuum cleaner he could find.   Just a few days prior to my fateful day, I had gotten my dad's particular brutal brand of "scolding" for taking the law into my own hands. He yelled at me, "MARGARET....." I always shit when I heard my full name.  I knew I was about to get smashed.  I had hit my brother.  He screamed.  Dad woke up (something you never, ever wanted) and then...I think you get the picture.  This particular scolding, he informed me that I was never to lay down the law myself.  I am to come to him and he will lay down the law.  Oh.  I don't quite understand, isn't that finking?  I thought.  I didn't say it out loud, because challenging Dad would've resulted in....."scolding."  I never knew what he wanted from me.

Few days later.  Middle brother and I are in the kitchen playing with his trucks. Middle brother takes his dump truck and smashes me in the toe with it.  I thought my toe was broken!  He could be a little mother fucker (don't have any idea where he learned that from).  I limped into the living room where Dad was sleeping on the couch.  I said Dad, "I think J broke my toe."  That's nice, was Dad's reply.  I was absolutely stupefied.  Okay, he's told me to defend myself or I face his wrath.  Okay, he's told me not to take the law into my hands, or I face his wrath.  Fuck!  My toe is friggin' broken, swelling, hurts like hell.  Okay, I'm gonna have to face Dad's wrath, but I am not letting that little mother fucker get away with breaking my toe.

In a huff I go into the kitchen and punch J in the arm.  "Don't ever hit me with a truck again," I say.  Okay, I'm a girl and I'm 10.  I'm not that strong.  I don't hit him that hard, I do love that little mother fucker, although sometimes I don't know why.  He lets out the most blood curdling scream you've ever heard in your life!  Dad wakes with a start.  Oh shit!  I run into the dining room.  Big mistake.  Here comes Dad and he is furious!  He looks so huge to me.  Coming toward me, breathing hard, nostrils flaring.  My toe is friggin' swelling, my ears hurt from J's scream and I am terrified.  Terrified.

Time warp.  Happens so fast, but seems like forever.  The grizzly bear approaches with surprising speed given his stockiness.  The fist comes out of no where at lighting speed.  Hits me square in the face.  Let me reiterate this point - a 200 pound, muscular, strong man cold cocks a 10 year old 85 pound girl square in the face.  I'm lucky to be alive. I fly through the air.  Again, seems like time has stopped. As I land I hit my temple on the corner of the sturdy, wooden dining room table.  I fall to the floor in a heap.

By this time Dad is awake and is shitting.  He picks up the rag doll on the floor and shakes me. "Peg?  Peg?  Peg?"  So, so groggy I can barely see him or hear him. With lightening speed and agility, the grizzly bear morphs into a gazelle.  The gazelle has a cold wash cloth on my face.  The gazelle is running around the house, carrying me, rounding up my brothers and cleaning the blood and puke.  I have blood coming out of my nose, eyes and mouth and I'm puking.  Yeah, it's pretty.

With lightening speed, I am in the car with Dad and my three brothers.  In and out of consciousness. Grogginess.  So much blood.  So much puke.  Man, my head hurts.  I recall a lot of lights.  They are killing my eyes.  I'm moving on a cart.  Fast.  Oh, I'm in the hospital.  Lots of mumbled words, confusion.  I hear my Dad talking.  Cracking jokes.  Then comes the lie.  The lie I've heard a million times.  Yeah, he says, I smacked her on the butt and we tripped over a rug together, ha....ha....ha....

Doctor is taping my nose.  It's broken.  I didn't even realize you could break a nose.  In two places.  Not much can be done he says.  She'll need sunglasses for quite some time. All of a sudden, Daddy is holding me on his lap.  Something he never does.  And calling me his little princess.  He tells me I can pick out as many pairs of sunglasses as I want.  Even a pink pair!  Oh boy!  I am eating this attention up.  Finally, my Daddy loves me!


Quick little break here.  It's shocking, I know.  Or as my favorite cousin and I say, "The shit is deep."  Took me years before I could tell anyone what happened to me.  And no one knows everything.  Those I trust just know bits and pieces.  That's partially because I don't like to talk about it.

In addition, please bear in mind these are not recovered memories.  I never forgot.  I remember the events I have described like it happened yesterday.  Yes, there was confusion after the impact and after the drugs, but I know what happened.  I have experienced recovered memories for another horrible trauma in my life, which will be described in a later post.  Suffice it to say that memories never lost are very different from recovered memories.


Back to the day of the broken face.  Daddy and me and the boys are in the car.  I've picked out two pairs of the cutest sunglasses you've ever seen.  Daddy and I are chums.  I'm eating it up.  It's me and Daddy against the world.  It's time to pick up Mom from work.  I am sitting next to Daddy in the front seat.  The boys are sleeping in the back.

Okay.  This won't be what you're expecting - I know you're expecting my mom to shit.  Or to leave my dad, or maybe even yell at him, or maybe console me.  Uh uh.  None of the above.  I say, "Hi Mommy!" like nothing's wrong.  She looks at me.  I can see she is carefully examining my face.  But her face is not revealing any concern.  She asks what happened. By now Daddy and I are expert at our little lie.  He's even starting to believe it a little, I think.  I play along because he finally loves me.  I've finally gotten his approval.

Of course, I'm being a ham.  I ask my mom if I can stay home from school the next day.  She says no.  No one was prepared for what I looked like the next morning.  I screamed when I looked in the mirror.  My parents came running.  "I'm a monster!"  I sobbed.  Oh the joyous comforting I received.  I ate it up.

But let me tell you.  I was a monster.  I wish I had a picture of it.  Mom said I could stay home.  Yippee!  Can I have pancakes for breakfast?  Of course was her reply.  I was a mess.  My nose was huge and misshapen, with a big scab covering most of it.  My lips were bulging.  So much snot and drool and blood had caked on my face.  Hard to wash because the pain was unbelievable.  Both eyes were black and blood shot.  Hell, both cheeks were black.  I had a strange, purplish bruise that went from my ear down my chin, jaw and neck.  I did have cute pink sunglasses, however.

The next day I went to school.  My parents begged me not to go.  I insisted.  I had a part in the school play. I was a mouseketeer and I was terribly excited.  My mom told me to be sure to keep my sunglasses on.  I still remember Mrs. Singer's horrified look when she saw me.  But I was in the play.  My brother (not the brother who was complicitous in this mess) assured me you could not tell I had a broken nose in the audience.  To this day, I don't know if he told me the truth.  He was always my protector, so believe me this situation left him broken hearted.  As I walked off the stage, a particularly cruel teacher told me I needed to go wash my face.

Mrs. Singer disappeared that afternoon.  It seemed like she was gone forever, I always missed her when she was gone.  Upon her return she informed me that Mr. Leighton, the principal, wanted to see me. Mr. Leighton was a kindly man, and I liked him.  I was nervous, though.  I'd never been to the Principal's office.  To this day, I dream about going into his office for various problems, though I was only in his office that once.  He was noticeably upset.  I thought I was in trouble.  He asked me what happened to my face.  I said, "My dad hit me."  It's true.  That's what happened.  I didn't say it with any animosity.  Mr. Leighton called my parents and told them they had to come to the school immediately.  I waited outside his lobby.  It seemed like forever.  When my parents got there, I could hear arguing, but I couldn't make out what was said.

When my parents came out, Mr. Leighton was red in the face and looked like he'd been crying.  Officials would be coming to our house forthwith was what he said.  Officials?  Forthwith?  I'm still Daddy's princess, but he's a little different today.  Uh oh, what did I do wrong now?  I was always told never lie to the teachers or principal.

Dad was making a joke out of what happened.  I was dumbfounded.  He said, ha, ha, I can't believe you told the principal that.  You're confused because of your medication.  I hit you on the bottom and we both tripped over a rug and you hit your face on the table....and some such shit.  Over the last 43 years I have heard this story many times.  Too many times.  And it always gets embellished.  And he always makes a joke out of it.  He says something, like, "Ha, ha, remember the time you and I both tripped over the rug?  Time stood still...."  Yeah, mother fucker time did stand still, but I didn't trip over no damned rug.

To this day he has never acknowledged what he has done.  Nor has he ever apologized.  Damn.  I don't even really need an apology where he admits his wrong doing.  It would be enough if he simply said, "I apologize for what happened."  Because then at least he'd be admitting that the shit is fucked up.  And believe me, the shit is fucked up.  It's not a joke.

Officials did indeed come to the house.  It was like his beer drinking buddies had stopped by.  They slapped each other on the back and laughed about what a silly girl I am trying to get so much attention.  Then left.  After about 5 minutes.  Oh BTW - Dad talked to them on the porch.  If they had asked to come in they would've seen filth and cockroaches.  But they didn't.  I guess it's a good thing.  I wanted to be taken from my parents, but not my brothers.  I could not have survived without them.

Over the years I've barely spoken to my father.  He remarried, had a whole new family with a bunch of new kids that he treated like shit.  One positive thing came out of all of this.  He never hit me again.  I did get hit by various aunts, uncles and my mom and, oh yeah, my ex-husband, but all of those are subsequent posts.  On the downside, he continued to beat my brothers mercilessly. My oldest brother getting it by far the worst.  I struggled with horrible guilt over the years because I didn't protect them. Until a kind psychologist reminded me that I was also a child and that it wasn't my fault.  It wasn't my fault.

I'm at peace with my dad now.  He's an old, dying man, filled with regret.  None of us call him.  Not even on fathers' day.  But I have spoken with him recently.  He did tell me he loved me and that he was proud of me. Too little too late.  But I'll take it.  I guess I'm Daddy's princess after all.  I'm glad we made peace before he went other side.  I believe I understand forgiveness.  It's for me - not him.  I hate harboring anger, hatred or ill will in my heart.  Does that mean I forgive the horrendous action?  No.  Does that mean I'm going to spend time with him?  No.  Does that mean he can pass to the other side without guilt?  Yes.  He can pass and I won't feel as if there are unresolved issues.  I am going to use my experience to help others.  I am what the Native Americans call a Wounded Warrior.


Okay.  Flash forward.  You already know I've been wrestling with a strange illness.  I don't want to belabor that point, except to say that I have no idea how much what happened on that day is still affecting me.

About 20 years ago I had jaw surgery.  The surgeon performed a technique called "rigid skeletal movement."  He was a specialist in facial reconstruction.  He had repaired the faces of soldiers who had been shot in Vietnam.  He asked me if I'd been in a car accident.  He said my upper jaw has been shattered at one point and that it was lucky I had not sustained another blow to the face (I had) because it might have killed me if bone went into my brain.  He said that the right eye socket had been broken as well.  He said my nose was still broken in two places and that approximately one year after jaw surgery - once everything had healed - he could repair my nose.  Unfortunately, I was never able to get my nose fixed.  The insurance company considered the nose job cosmetic.  But thank God they paid for the jaw surgery.

I had upper jaw surgery, which according to him is as dangerous as cutting into the chest cavity.  I was glad I had the surgery, I also wore braces on my teeth.  Both improved my smile substantially.  In fact, for the first time in my life (after a lengthy recovery) I could smile.  Remember, I always thought I was ugly.  I have pins and plates in my jaw to this day.  When I became ill several years ago, the doctors thought maybe my body was rejecting the hardware.  After many tests, x-rays and MRI, they no longer have that opinion.

I was treated by an Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic for bilateral orbital edema.  The guy saved my life.  I was a frustrating patient, though.  After surgery, and injections and massive steroid treatment, I would improve and then relapse. I am so grateful for the many doctors who have treated me.  The point of this is, the doctor at the Cleveland Clinic mentioned that my right eye socket had sustained a major trauma and was misshapen.  This could cause several problems in that my eyes were not symmetrical.  The right eye bulged out too far.  The mass that was removed as well as the misshapen eye socket could be working in tandem to cause the problems with double vision, as well as balance problems.

More on my illness later.  Suffice it to say, perhaps some of my current problems are caused by my father.  I suffer from excruciating pain in my face.  I could be on prescription pain meds, but you know the docs are very careful with narcotics in Ohio.  I'm almost always in pain.  Some days are better than others.  Some days aspirin dents the pain.  I'm never 100% pain free.  But there are those glorious days (which I am so grateful for) where I can tolerate the pain.  Illness is like anything else, good days, bad days.

This is getting long enough, so I thought I'd share some pictures to help you know me a little better.

I find taking glamorous self portraits very difficult!  But I'll keep trying.  I actually really loved this one.  As you know, I hate my nose.  So I cropped it out with Picasa.  I also got rid of a lot of scaring and veins in my  face.  I love this picture.  But my nephews think it's creepy because it doesn't look like me.  I thought it was kinda arty.  I really love the shadow my face is casting.

This is an old one.  My nephews encouraged me not to alter my nose, so I thought I'd try to blur it using color.  I'm wearing a Fedora here.  My favorite hat.

I love this one.  I successfully altered my nose using Picasa.  Again, my nephews found it creepy.

This is also an old one.  This is before I got sick.  Such a shame the disease attacked my eyes, I loved my eye makeup.  And shit yeah, my teeth looked great.  I spent a fortune on them.  I've been cutting and coloring my own hair for years to save money.  I was wearing it short then.  I prefer it long.

Here's a graphic example.  The picture on the left shows how bad my nose is.  It's broken in two places.  I'd still love to have my nose fixed, and will when I win the lottery.  To the upper right is an example of a small mass growing on my lacrimal gland.  My condition causes bilateral pseudo tumor and orbital edema.  The doc at Cleveland Clinic said it would actually be easier to treat if I had cancer.  No one knows what's going on and, hence, a lot of people don't even believe that I'm sick.  The picture on the right is heavily altered with Picasa.  I can't afford photo shop, and actually find it difficult to use.  I've altered my color, my nose, edited the tumor over my eye and cropped the pimple.  Wish I knew how to make my eyelashes longer.  I used to do that in picnik.

Around the same time period.  With glasses and pink lips.  Touched out the wrinkles around my lips.

Here's a pic my sister-in-law took of me at Target.  What a dork!  I admit it.  I sometimes use hats to take the attention away from my swollen eyes.  Shoulda bought that purse!  Isn't it cute!

Yes, I'm a goofball.  Here's a selfie I took while waiting for my sister-in-law at Starbucks.

I'm really a five year old trapped in a 52 year old body.  My nephew and I are always clowning around.  Here is a pic he took of me at Christmas.  He told me to pretend the tree was eating me!  Oh no Mr. Bill!

Everyone calls me Aunt Peggy.  So here is Aunt Peggy as a Simpson!  LOL!

If you've read this long post, I thank you so much for your time.  If you are curious and would like to see what a bad flare up looks like, click here.  If you'd like to see what my radiation treatments looked like, click here.  Warning!  These pictures are very graphic.  Thank you to Cole Eye Clinic and MetroHealth in Cleveland for all your kind care.  I am receiving treatment in Akron currently, but unfortunately the care is no where near as good.


Jennifer Peters said...

Hi Peg, WOW. I think it was brave of you to post this, you really did put it all out there. I know there are those that think you should forget about the past and focus on the positive, and that is true. However, by posting this you might be telling someone out there that they are not alone in their experiences and they too may see that they did nothing wrong as well. Plus, writing this down is also healing. You are beautiful and keep up the good work!

Jennifer Bolden said...

Oh Peggy, no one should have ever let that happen to you. You are such a strong woman, because you live your life to the fullest. My parents beat me when I was younger, anything I did wrong I got the hell beat out of me. But they were careful, never where anyone else could see it. I'm so glad I've got to meet you. You are beautiful, always remember that. Jennifer Bolden

vineeta said...

You are beautiful. Because you are brave and because you love life and yourself. And putting this down here is a fantastic way of liberating yourself.
You are inspiring. I'm a little short on words because I'm still a little overwhelmed by what you wrote. Sending you a BIG HUG. I'm so so proud of you.

kim. said...

WOW Peggy. It takes guts to put all this out there. I'm so glad you did. I bet that feels like a weight off your shoulders. It's REALLY sad that kids can go through stuff like that and no one gives a shit. I can't believe your father did that, and your mother didn't care. I have awesome parents, and while I got a serious smack in the ass every now and then cause we 3 girls drove them nuts with the constant fighting, that was the extent of anything physical from them. I consider myself very lucky.
You're awesome. Thank you for this post.

raelynnvand said...

Very brave and selfless to share your story. I'm sorry you had to go through what you did. I say I'm sorry because no one deserve that kind of behavior toward them not BC its my fault. I too saw my brothers get beat but it was a different era but what was the same was stories were told and excuses make to cover the unacceptable abuse. Your storey is gonna to touch someone ...someone who needs yo know they are not alone. They can overcome.as you have.and continue to do.every day is a step toward healing andpeace.thank you. For sharing and growing and being brave enough to be you.

Peggy said...

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post! I was a little scared, but no longer. Any vestige of fear remaining is now gone.

I was expecting a lot of haters. Surprisingly, I had only one hater, the rest were all very loving.

The outpouring of love I have received is humbling. I am so grateful.

I've been called brave. It's not bravery. I have no choice. I'm doing God's work. I'm merely a servant.


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