My childhood wasn’t all bad there were good times mixed in. Like when my dad would take my brother, sister and I for a walk to the park. After dinner we’d head towards the elementary school with our dog Pocho (Poh-cho) in tow. I still remember the feelings of togetherness and excitement during these evening hikes. Our little mutt running around the grassy area as we attempted to skip rocks on the pond. My dad did it effortlessly while we struggled to make our rocks bounce and jump across the water.
As a kid you don’t know things are bad until good enters the picture. Maybe even then you have trouble seeing it. No matter how long it takes one day truth makes itself known and when that happens confusion sets in. If this new discovery is personally embraced then what will this mean? Blind acceptance of the status quo will now be a problem. Unfortunately children rarely have the power or authority to make changes in their life. Especially where adults are concerned so maybe it was better to remain in the dark?
My dad had the gift of encouragement. I think it went hand in hand with the fact he was also a dreamer. Always saying things like you can do anything or you’re a genius. A ritual he continued on with his grandchildren. He allowed me to constantly explore new things too. Ballet, acting, stained glass art, softball, basketball and more. I can’t really remember a time when he said no to an activity. Something I tried to pass on to my boys but just not quite as well as he did.
Then for no apparent reason things would change.
The same lips that were used to uplift and edify you could cut you quick and deep. Sometimes he didn’t even have to use words – it could just be a laugh. Not lighthearted but one that was full of venom and judgement. Left me feeling about an inch tall every time. Was it driven from stress at work? His relationship with my mom? I’ll never know what demons drove him to utter vinegary sharp daggers to the ones he loved most.
Back and forth between devotion and cruelty and love and disdain over time took its toll. This ping pong game took my budding brain and heart into overload. Which was true? Was I truly special or the punch line to my dad’s biting joke?
The way he freely expressed his love through song and silliness was simply the best. A childlike moment where he allowed the walls to come down and showed us a untainted side of him. If I had known these times would be far too few I would’ve appreciated them more.
The first person in my life who loved and protected me would also look the other way when I was in danger. I honestly can’t remember when my beatings began. It was a normal part of my growing up – along with shouting and strife. I knew I didn’t like it but I didn’t know it was wrong. Life was just always that way.
As an adult I wondered how he felt about my mom’s treatment towards me? Is that part of the reason they had issues? As a child I viewed my parents as good cop/bad cop, but I was wrong. They did things that were both good and bad, and my brother, sister and I repeatedly paid the consequences for their choices.
I struggle with truly accepting love from others. There is a wall inside me that waits for the flip side of loyalty and kindness to rear its ugly head. Fiery arrows that require this self-created dam to protect myself from the disappointing pain of betrayal. If you look closely you’d see countless rusty dent marks left behind from decades ago.
Unexpectedly one day truth showed up and paid me a visit once more. This time around shining a light on my lack of trust. Years of abuse and neglect that built this wall kept me from fully living. It was useful during my years of childhood trauma, but has now kept me from growing meaningful relationships. Did it ever actually protect me? Who knows for sure but it definitely hindered my ability to heal and grow.
The truth is I’ve continued to pay the consequences of my parents actions (and others) even all these years later. It’s an exhausting and barren place and I just don’t want to do it anymore.
The good news is I’m no longer a child and hold the power to change it.
But the idea of existing without my manufactured refuge grips me with fear and doubt. I learned early on vulnerability came at a cost. Is there still enough time to peel back the layers and learn to give, share and express my authentic self to others? To myself?
Will I find the courage to walk towards healing?
My heart pounds loudly inside me because fear of the unknown has lost its power over me. Resolved that all doubt and trepidation within me has an expiration date. The truth is I want to know what’s it’s like to live with my whole heart. Love with all of me.
Disappointment and hurt are a part of life. I know this but can see the little girl is still trapped there. I want to see her face when warm rays shines upon it and she can’t help but smile.
And that fills my soul with hope.