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An Attitude of Gratitude – June 18, 2013

June 18, 2013

After several weeks of being very, very busy at work I have a few spare moments today.  A few moments to take a deep breath and just sit here for a moment.  I haven’t taken a moment to stop and just be for several weeks now, maybe longer. 

For some reason I’ve been driving myself to occupy every moment of my life with something.  Now that I write that I wonder what I am running and hiding from.  What part of my life won’t let me sit still?  Why have I not been simply resting in the presence of God?

Most evenings I get home from work and pop a DVD into my player.  I tell myself it’s for background noise.  The fact of the matter is, I hate being alone.  So much so that I am rarely at home anymore.  Poor Lucy suffers from that.  If I go to my parents home I usually take her with me but if I’m at church or out on my bike I don’t.  Then Lucy sits at home, all alone.  When I do get home she is so excited to see me that she tries her best to sit in my lap every available moment.  Okay, maybe not every available minute but if she’s not in my lap she’s usually laying at my feet.  The evenings she seems to enjoy the most are the ones where I put her on her long leash and we sit on my front porch.  I usually sit in my Adirondack chair and read or draw while she sits and supervises the neighborhood.  She barks at the other dogs and desperately wants to chase every cat she sees.  I enjoy those evenings as well, especially when the temperatures are warm but not overly hot.

I’ve mentioned before that I am grateful for my biological father and, therefore, my childhood.  I know if I made that statement to most of the members of my family and a few of my friends they would immediately rush me off to be committed to a mental institution.  A few of them would understand, not many.

I am the oldest of three children.  From stories I’ve been told I gather that my father wanted children very much once he married my mother.  My mother wasn’t thrilled by the idea but wanted children because that was what my father wanted.  From what I gather that is about the time the abuse started.

Let me make one thing clear, to my knowledge my father never physically abused my mother.  However, he verbally, mentally and emotionally abused my mother.  From what I remember he abused my mother almost daily.  It started when she got pregnant with me.  Really excited about being pregnant she went to the yardage store to buy patterns and fabric to make her maternity clothes.  She picked out beautiful, colorful fabric.  My father took a look at her choices and told her, “God made elephants gray for a reason.”  My mother changed her choices to less colorful fabrics. 

My father spent the majority of my parents marriage pointing out my mother’s shortcomings.  I won’t list them here (even though I could) but let me just say that I didn’t feel my mother deserved most of the criticism he threw her way.  My father felt my mother should do all the cooking and he wanted three hot meals every day, no sandwiches for that man.  He even carried a thermos to work with a hot lunch that my mother prepared for him every morning.  My father felt housework and taking care of the children was my mother’s job.  Of course, it was his job to discipline my sister, brother and I.  My mother had very few friends outside of the home, when she socialized it was as half of the couple that my parents were. 

Once my sister, brother and I grew old enough we began to share in the household chores, and the criticism.  I took over the childcare after school so that my mother could return to work and supplement the family income.  If I didn’t prepare a satisfactory meal I was told I’d never keep a husband.  If I lost the money my mother gave me for a trip to the grocery store on the way home from school my father was sure I was doing drugs.  If I didn’t scrub down the counters properly after cleaning the kitchen my father would wake me out of a sound sleep in the middle of the night to correct the job.  He didn’t like the way we vacuumed, the way we did the laundry, the meals we prepared.  And he would tell us, usually at the top of his lungs.  He yelled so hard he would spit in our faces.

We went to family counseling for a short time.  The biggest complaint we had about my father (aside from the beatings which we never mentioned) was that he yelled all day, every day.  The therapist asked him why he yelled so much.  My father told her we wouldn’t listen otherwise.  Even though the therapist told him we were tuning him out whenever he yelled my father never believed it.  I have to give him credit, he did attempt to stop yelling for about a week.  He went back to the therapist after that week and told her it didn’t work.

And the beatings?  My father had a piece of wood he fashioned into a “paddle” for “spankings.”  At the slightest provocation my father would “spank” us.  Spankings were usually prefaced by a yelling.  I cannot remember when they started, only that my sister, brother and I lived in constant fear of making my father mad enough to spank us.  Forgot to do a chore? Spanking.  Disobeyed a direct order? Spanking and grounding. Got a bad grade in school?  Spanking and grounding.  The neighbor kid broke a window? Spanking.  Us, not the neighbor kid.  Came home late, no matter the reason? Spanking and grounding.  Inconvenienced my father? Spanking.  Cost him money? Spanking.  The neighborhood kids picked on my brother and started a fight?  Spanking.  Supposedly because my brother didn’t fight back.  Once when my brother swiped 50 cents to play pinball my father yelled at him, spanked him, and then made my brother watch his favorite toy burn in the fireplace.  No wonder my brother started drinking at 10 years old.

That burning incident happened on my 16th birthday.  I ran from the house so I didn’t have to hear my brother’s screams, I could still hear him 4 houses up the street.  My father was going to punish me for not fixing dinner that night but my mother talked him into taking us out to dinner instead.  I don’t know how she managed that but I do remember dinner that night was surreal. 

How or why can I be grateful for that?

I know that the experiences of my entire life, not just my childhood but even the experiences from my young adulthood and my marriage, my experiences parenting and being an employee, all my experiences have shaped and molded me into the person I am today.  I am compassionate.  I am loving.  I am helpful.  I am hopeful.  I serve.  I sing and dance.  I cry and mourn.  I pray with and for my friends and family.  I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I believe He came to this earth and suffered much more than I ever did or will to save me from my sins.  I like the person I am today and the person I am today would not exist without the experiences I have had.  Would I have chosen that pain?  Are you nuts? No, I wouldn’t have chosen it but I cannot change my past so I have learned and grown from it.  I am grateful for that.

No list today.  I am drained just from writing that.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2013 1:32 pm

    I’m sorry for what you endured. A very close friend who lived through a horrific childhood told me, that the beauty of being a parent is to have another chance at a child/parent relationship, only from the other side. A chance to be the kind of parent you wished you had. You can’t change the past, but you can build new beautiful memories with your children.

    • June 18, 2013 3:10 pm

      I remember one evening when my son was about 6 months old looking at him and thinking, “I can be a parent to my children without hitting them!” It was like a lightbulb had gone off in my head. All three of my children are grown adults now and I can say I never, ever beat them the way I was beaten, a little pop on the diaper when they were toddlers and got out of line but it was more to startle and re-direct them and *nothing* like what my father did to me. I don’t have a perfect relationship with my children but my relationships with them are all beautiful. We all understand our human-ness and our flaws. We all love each other deeply and unconditionally. We all like each other. That is what matters.

      • June 18, 2013 3:19 pm

        How wonderful to have those relationships. It is so important. However, when the grand kids come along, that is when the real fun begins! ;D

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