I can’t help but recall some of the most devastating moments of my childhood. One such devastating moment was the week my parents left to visit my mom’s suicidal sister. My parents, probably out of desperation, left us with a family from our home group that they didn’t know all that well.
It was one of the worst weeks of my young life.
I don’t recall all the terrible moments of it. I do recall trying to fall asleep in my parents bed and sniffling with tears, missing them. I remember the parents of the family watching us coming in and scolding us, telling us not to cry, threatening us with spankings if we did. I remember the walking on eggshells feeling around them. And how I felt so excluded from the family; like I was expected to take care of myself. And the always constant threat of spankings if we cried.
But the one thing that hurts the most in my memory is when they locked my sister Rachel in the bathroom for 25 minutes.
I don’t remember what it was that she supposedly did. I don’t know why they decided to put her in the bathroom. But nonetheless they told her to go sit in my parents dark bathroom for 25 minutes as a punishment. I still feel so angry that they thought this was appropriate for a child.
I went and sat with Rachel, just for a minute. I was terrified they’d find me and do something to me. But I had to be with her. I went and sat with her and gave her a minute of company. I checked on her to make sure she was okay. That moment stands out to me in memories of my childhood – a moment where I actually cared about my sisters and wished for their wellbeing. I was the big sister, for once.
One thing that I find terribly ironic though, is that later on my dad also refused us our tears. He didn’t want us to cry, either. The very thing these “wicked” people had started, my dad perpetuated. The abuse should have stopped with them. But my dad stole our emotions and called them stupid, nonsensical, unneeded. And I spent many a dark night alone in my room, trying to figure out a way to make my dad stay.
Finally I gave up, and that’s what made me isolate from my family for so long. I couldn’t do it any more. I couldn’t save my dad or make him love me. So I ran away. I tried to find someone who would.
The sad thing is, I never knew my sisters like I could have. I never understood them like I wanted to. Had I known they were going to be brutally murdered a few short years later, I never would have been so distant and cold. But you don’t know what you don’t know, and when you’re hurting you just keep running.