PTSD: The Story of My Life, Pt. 2

So many things have happened in my life.  Today some people just don’t want to hear it.  Others say “You’ve had a hard life.”  I try not to drag on and on and on about it.  But, in the end, I guess I just have somethings I need to get off my chest.

I’m still stuck in “daddy mode”.   My introduction of him wasn’t bad.  You’ve got to realize though, he came from a family with six kids.  Four boys, two girls -one little sister died, hence, there would have been three girls.  Some family members have flat out said that my grandfather was abusive.  The attitudes and culture in that side of the family certainly support those accusations.  There is NO doubt in my mind that my dad was beaten as a kid.  What else he lived with is beyond me.  He did not spend a lot of time speaking about childhood to me.  He was put to work young.  He did not finish high school, and in fact got kicked out for taking a 2×4 piece of lumber to the principle.  He did later in his life get a high school diploma through a night school program, when I was a little girl.

I loved him, still do, always will. But, to this day I’m not so sure I like him.  I was pretty much afraid of my dad growing up.  I do not remember the first “hurt” he gave to me specifically.  I only know that in the summer as we swam in our little kiddie pools that he’d hold me under the surface pretending to drown me.  And I struggled. He laughed for him it was all in fun.  But, I took it very, very seriously.  I really thought I might die.  And if it is directly related, I’ll never know, but I do not drink straight water. I hate it.   I would probably die of dehydration first.  If I should be around a pool of water, and am offered a swim.  I do not jump right in, and probably never will.  I watch people, and see if they are trustable.  My father took me with him after his first heart attack to the Hayward Plunge, a huge indoor pool in Hayward, California.  I was supposed to swim too.  But, as long as my dad was in that pool, I would not swim.  I sat on the outside watching, waiting patiently.  Wishing I could swim too.

He had no issue with using a belt. All good parents did that.  He made a big deal over his belts that had holes, or other types of ‘bling’ on them as they would hurt our butts even more.

Before he passed, my mother’s brother, Uncle Tommy told me that once he and my father had gotten into a fist fight.  I BARELY remember them rolling on the ground in some kind of struggle.  What I remember was way more than a fist fight.  My uncle never told me specifically what the fight was over other than how my father was treating me. I wish I had thought to ask him now.  Where was my mother?

I do not know what my mother said to a therapist that we had when I was still a teenager. But, when I went back to see Carol after I was grown and a mother myself, Carol told me that the things mom told her had led her to believe my father was an alcoholic. I can tell you if he was, I grew up with no clue of it at all.  He did not openly drink in front of us kids.  Though, I knew where the alcohol was stored.

I was a bigger kid maybe 8, 9, or 10 years old when I decided that I was NOT going to eat that yukky canned spinach.   My father told me I was going to sit there all night until I ate it.  So, I said to myself, “OK,  I can sit here.”   The reason for this attitude on my part is that the vegetable made me sick to my stomach.  If  I forced it down I’d end up in the bathroom hanging over the toilet.  I would think that it would be natural for most people to avoid that situation. Throwing up is not pleasant. I tried to explain to my daddy that it ade me sick. He was not going to hear of it.  And I sat, and I sat, and I sat.  Dad went to the living room to watch TV, and I sat and I sat.  I honestly do not know how long dad had me sitting there.  But, I do know that he ran out of patience and that I was going to eat that veggie.  He literally forcibly shoved it down my throat.  I did struggle, and fight it, and there were many tears, and I did have to run to the toilet.  My dad also shoved a green salad down my throat once.  Is it no wonder, that I’ve had such a time liking foods that are good for me–especially spinach, green salad, and water.

I can remember dad running over two dogs — two separate instances.  But, the contrast in attitude is a study in something.  It must be! LOL–night and day in the who/what/why of it all.  I can not remember for sure which was hit first but I think I am remembering right.

The first dog, was a little dog.  Probably a little terrier mix of some kind.  We were on our way back to the Bay Area from Oregon when mom noticed a little dog beside the freeway.  Mom and Dad had been arguing. I do not recall over what.  When I was little, I learned to ignore it the best I could.  Both my parents seemed pretty angry, but dad seemed the worst.  So, mom asked to stop and pick up the little dog. I think she wanted to take it to a shelter.  Dad put on the turn signal to pull over, we thought we were picking up a dog.  Dad purposely ran the dog over.  Killed it.  Mom did not speak to him all the way home.

The second dog, was a Shepard of some sort.  My dad accidently hit it as it crossed Thorton Avenue right by where the Top Ten Market used to be.  My father knew who the owner was this time.  He pulled the vehicle over.  And he immediately went looking for the owner.  As a little girl it’s hard to piece together all the meanings of things.  But, I found it a contrast to when he hit the other dog purposely.  At that time, I did not understand why.

I think maybe, to dad, animals were animals, not friends, and certainly not people.  We got a little long haired Chihuahua. The dogs name was Pepper, because he was black and white like pepper. Pepper was not yet house trained and he had a little accident.  My father chased that dog all over the house to teach it a lesson. The more the dog ran, the angier my father got. Eventually the belt came off and dad started using it to try and hit the dog.  And in the end, dad hit the dog on the head with this heavy molded brass belt buckle.  I do not know how exactly the dog was injured.  But, I do remember mom had to end up taking him to the vet, and that the wound did turn green.  But, it also did heal.  And the dog became an outside dog. I saw that whole thing happen.  I remember crying.

And then there was my pet rabbit, Nosey.  My father was given (I think) a female greyhound named Fleet Ember. She was not wanted by her owners because even though she was a champion racer, she was not producing puppies at all.  She was a sweet dog, as most Greyhounds are.  And if I recall properly she had 14 puppies for us.  But, in the meantime, while working with the dog — at some point my father used my rabbit as training fodder.  My pet rabbit was used as bait.  I did not know it at the time. I was told that later when I was in my early 30’s by my mother.  She also admitted to boiling down my pet rabbit and using it for a college class science project.   At the time, I was told that neighborhood dogs had jumped the fence, let the rabbit out, and killed it.  I had no other reason to believe otherwise.  But, it is in this experience that I can find my first experience with my “defragmented personality”.   My brain is kind of split into two pieces–two worlds in a sort of way.  On the one hand, I can honestly tell you I had no clue what happened to my pet bunny.  But, on the other, I remember hearing it scream when my dad used it for bait to train the dogs.  I think that it would be safe to say that this was one of my earliest (that I can remember) experiences with disassociation.  Maybe….

My father could be brutal, of this there is no doubt.  He grew up in a very brutal world.  I’m sure that he was sent out to pick his own switch, just like he sent me out for mine.

Dad liked to play with us girls. In someways, at times he could be very tender.  I remember soaking that up too.  I remember sitting on his lap, and loving it.  I remember being allowed to brush his hair and style it.  Putting our hair pins into his carefully crafted hairstyles.  Lot’s of giggles and little girl fun there.    It was an honor to get to unlace dads work boots and take them off his feet when he got home each work night.  Dad really liked to tickle, and wrestle, and he must have firmly believed he had to make us “tough”.  That is a theme that often was played out in our home–the theme that life was tough, that we were going to be tough, that he was going to make us tough.  When dad tickled and wrestled his little girls, there was really nothing gentle about it.  I only realized that after I became a mother and when I thought about how dad ‘played’, I realized that I’d never treat my children the same way.  We endured indian burns in the name of fun–and yes they burned!  I inherited a foot condition from my father, fallen metatarsals.  My feet are pretty much always in pain.  I think that either the pain makes them very sensitive, or they just are; but dad tickled them, and my tummy until I cried.  He also would wrestle us, and pin us until we cried.  And mom was always on the couch–“Alvin stop that”  Not a yell, not even really a concerned tone of voice, and she never really made an attempt to stop him.  What was fun for him, was not fun for me.  I did not liked being “Pantsed” and I’m really surprised that a neighbor or two didn’t have something to say when their child became the next one to be hung upside down by the ankles until his or her pants came off.

Boundary issues… daddy could be brutal, and mean, and sadistic. These types of situations made me more or less very afraid of my father.  I basically did all I could do to please him, because I sure didn’t want to make him mad.  One Thanksgiving, as we all sat down to dinner with the family. We had a houseful: grandma, grandpa, uncle, aunt, mom, dad, sister, & me… maybe more.  Dad found some food on a fork or something.  Anyway, he got up from the table, and he was yelling.  He went to the sink which was just feet away from the dinner table–he started taking dishes out of the cabinets and slamming them into the sink, ranting every step of the way about dirty dishes, and how I was going to clean every single one again.  This was done in front of everyone.  I was pretty sure at the time that I was not the guilty party.  I think probably because at that particular time it had not been my turn to do the dishes..but to be honest, these days I don’t remember that particular part.  All I knew was that when dinner was done everyone left the room.  I stayed behind, and I washed every dish in the house.

My uncle, the same one, that got into a fight with my father over my treatment, told me that he and my grandparents and wife, would sit around the dinner table and talk about how I was treated.  It was obvious to them that I was mistreated, and treated differently from my little sister.  I did think to ask him, why did not say or do something.  The answer was really very sad.  They were afraid that if they stood up for their granddaughter/neice that they’d never get to see us kids again.

How many kids in this world, grow up with this kind of normal?