Writing the truth about this incident is hard for me because I cannot write without addressing come part of my older siblings’ trauma related to their having been my parent’s children, which included them being forced — continually and without escape — to witness the abuse that my mother did to me.
I cannot soft-shoe around in this story and tell my own truth about what happened to me. I cannot explain or defend what I remember to be the very strange (to me) and bizarre actions of my siblings toward me as it relates to this incident. This situation remains to me to be the single unhealed and unresolved interruption in how and who I understand my siblings to be. Any understanding that might ever come to me about this would have to come from them. Because this seems to me to be the only time that I know of that my siblings actively participated against me in my mother’s attack of me.
We had returned to Alaska and to the homestead from having spent the winter in Tucson without my father. This story follows being scrubbed in the tub, the miracle in the parking lot, and the silent treatment I received from my father while I traveled in his Jeep with him back to Alaska from Tucson.
I do not know what the atmosphere of the home was when this particular day began. I don’t know if my siblings sensed that my mother’s inner volcano was about to erupt. It is not an uncommon occurrence in battering cycles for victims of abuse who know no other route to escape to trigger an abuser’s explosion BEFORE the full eruption can happen. Because I have never forgotten this incident any time I happen to remember it I couple the memory with this knowledge.
If I don’t? What am I left with?
If anyone had asked me, I would have thought I was having a good day. It was outside with my three older siblings on a clear, warm sunny early June day helping to prepare our family’s garden plot. It lay between the house and the outhouse in clear view of the kitchen window. I working to clear the left edge of the garden with my back to the valley, facing the rounded hills that seemed stacked against the ragged peaks of the bare stone mountaintops behind them, the left side of my body toward the house,
I was using a shovel to dig up clumps of unwanted grasses that didn’t belong in the garden. The movements of my body were rhythmic. Standing the end of the shovel straight up, pushing the blade into the black moist soil with my right foot, giving it a little push forward, tip the shovel, bending and reaching down with both hands to grab the clump of brilliant green grass, right hand grasping the grass and pulling, left hand teasing the soft dirt from the roots, tossing the unwanted grass off to my left. Over and over again. I loved it!
John was also digging along the far edge of the garden ahead of me, closer to the mountain face. Cindy and Sharon were working on the other side of the garden along the same edge that John was. They were carrying on a conversation I wasn’t paying any attention to. John and I were intent on our work in silence.
Everything seemed peaceful and productive. I listened to the song birds and felt the perfect breeze whispering through the tree leaves. I was happy to be outside, in the sweet fresh air where I most loved to be. I could not have been happier to be out of the city of Tucson and back on the homestead that I loved. I was happy to be able to share this day with my siblings, to be included as ‘one of them’. That was not an experience I had often been allowed to have.
Suddenly my pattern of work was interrupted when I bent over to shake the dirt from the unwanted roots and saw a miniature perfectly shaped tiny spruce tree entangled in the grass blades. I carefully worked it free from the grass, held it between the fingers of my left hand by its spindly truck, stood holding the tiny thing up in the air and spoke to my siblings, “Look what I dug up!”
That’s it. That is what was happening. That is what did happen. There was absolutely no possible way in the known universe that I could have anticipated what happened next. To put it mildly, there was an instantaneous clash of realities. Because of the trauma of this incident, a part of me never moved from that spot where I remain transfixed, innocent, pure of intent and action, still holding the precious new life that was that tiny tree in my left fingers with my arm in the air.
Interesting, one of my computer’s programs completed an update and mandated an inescapable computer restart at the exact instant I had finished typing those last words above. That’s kind of like what my experience is regarding this memory. It’s like some part of me crashed at that instant and everything I knew about being in my life with my siblings shattered around me, fell into tiny pieces and fragments, and vanished. Nothing about my relationship with them was after the same after this incident happened.
So what DID happen? I won’t say who did what here though I know. One of my siblings stopped working and shouted with exclamation, “Linda, you shouldn’t have said that! You KNOW mother doesn’t like it when you say shut up! I’m going to TELL HER!” Down went their garden implement and off to the house this one ran. Immediately I could hear my mother yelling from inside the house.
“She did WHAT? Go get her right NOW! Tell her to get in this house this INSTANT. She’s going to be sorry!”
Of course, into the house I did go. Mother confronted each of my siblings in their turn and demanded to know if Linda had, indeed, dared to say “Shut up.” They all, each in turn, affirmed that this was the truth.
My mother’s violence erupted with a vengeance. The more I tried to explain and describe what I had been doing and what I had REALLY said, the more I was accused of being a despicable liar — as always! I was beaten, my face was brutally slapped over and over again. But this time my mother made use of an inventive punishment she had never thought of before.
My father had hauled up a plywood shipping crate and left it in front of the house in the parking area. He intended to move it down where the outhouse was where another such crate stood with our gasoline generator in it. These crates, fortunately, were large. Floors were a full 4′ x 8′ sheet so that the ends of the crate were 4′ wide and 8′ tall, sides were 8′ x 8′, and it had a hinged 4′ x 8′ door on the front.
After my mother had tired herself by beating me, she launched into an escalating verbal attack that ended with her dragging me to this shed by one arm as she carried the kitchen stool in the other. She opened the box-shed door, threw in the stool, shoved me inside and latched the door on the outside.
I was left in there to sit in the dark, hot shed on that stool for four days. I was let out after everyone else had gone to bed at night, given something meager to eat, allowed to sleep in my bed until just before everyone else awakened, and forced back out into the shed. I could not go to the bathroom. I could get nothing to drink or eat in between. I sat in there for four days, with my entire family going on about their business of living as if I did not exist at all.
What do I do not only with this memory, but with what happened to my mind and heart as a result of this treatment? I’ve never known. I’ve never, never known. Do my siblings remember this, and if they do, how do they remember it? It pains me too much to even think about approaching any of them about this. I am as afraid of their judgment, condemnation, and of their participation and complicity in the ‘Lie About Linda’ as I was when I was 14 and this abuse incident happened.
I am left with a nearly overwhelming sense of NO SENSE. Translate this into non-sense, into nonsense. NOTHING about this experience EVER made sense to me, and it doesn’t now. There was no REASON, in the largest sense of that word. I simply do not understand how the events of this day could possibly have happened to me. But they did. They really, painfully, unreasonably, nonsensically and traumatically did.
I hate it that writing this story takes me all the way back full circle to the thought, “And I am NOT lying! LISTEN TO ME! BELIEVE ME!” Did my siblings, in their reality, truly hear me say what they swore they did? How could they not have believed me when I told them what I said, even if they had misunderstood me at the instant the words first fell out of my mouth? How could they turn on me and attack me even, as I stood with that pitiful, precious (to me) tree sapling of new life in my raised hand, watching at the same time the beginning of a horrible drama unfold around me?
It all enclosed itself around me leaving me no hope or power of escape. I could change nothing, and I suffered terribly because of it. I don’t even bother to question how ‘shut up’ could possibly create such a reactional fervor in the first place. That is just how insane my family of origin was.
Please see the post for July 5, 2009 where I talk about why some of the memories might appear ‘sterile’, ‘clinical’, ‘remote’ or ‘stark’ to the ‘unitiated’ reader.