This is about childhood violence. Please, take care of yourself.
I always associated blackouts with drinking. I'd have too many beers, and my inner monitor went blank. It's one of the ways I knew I had a problem. I didn't drink like most of my friends. Jeanette told me that when I was seventeen.
A long time ago, I got help. Thankfully it stuck.
Two cute kids. That's how my brother and I looked to the outside world. People used to compliment my parents on how well-behaved we were. They didn't know that being good was how we stayed safe.
Chuck was 6'2" and weighed between 250 and 375 lbs. He was a big man.
But the first time I remember blacking out was around age six or seven—in 1969 or 1970.
I'd gone to the store to get something for him. Crossed a four-lane road in Burlington by myself. Those were the days. Something tempted me at the cash, and I spent a quarter on myself. Was it a lot of money then?
When I got home and my father found out, things got crazy. His rage was scary and unpredictable. He let himself go to dark places. Insanity is what I call it now.
After he beat me, he did the unthinkable. I was terrified of the dark. He dragged me up the stairs to the bathroom, threw me in it, closed the door, and turned off the light.
Everything goes blank.
Around the same time, my brother and I are playing on a swing set in a campground across from our apartment. I saw my father in the distance coming towards us. I think I peed myself. I could tell by his gait what was coming.
I don't remember what we had done.
The thing about violence is it distorts all infractions. Nothing is minor. Everything is worth hurting over. The threat of it is omnipresent—its scent is in the furniture and the baseboards. The line we walked as kids was frightening and narrow.
Getting it just right took so much of my childhood.
On that day, my dad had gone to the crock that held kitchen tools. He chose a slotted spoon. It was swinging by his side as he came toward us.
As an adult, I've wondered about the progression of instruments—from wooden to metal spoon. There had to have been a moment of thought about it.
The kids playing with us backed away to a safe distance. They watched while my father wildly grabbed at us. I was trying to swing myself away from him while in his grasp. To soften the blows, I put my hand up and felt the pain of it connecting. He dragged us away. Out of sight. Behind the curtains of our lovely home.
Everything goes blank.
One of the hardest things I've had to recover from is childhood violence. I think there's an ancient vein of it in my family. No one wants me to talk about it. One of the side effects of doing it is isolation from relatives.
Blackouts protected me from the pain. The unbearable feeling of being wrong to the core, of never, ever living up to expectation.
Of feeling unloved.
My dad made a blanket apology once. There might have been a scotch at hand. He never talked about it in detail. Didn't want to hear about it from us. I rode that out for a while.
Then when I was 49, I confronted him about another incident. I did it under good guidance—had rehearsed it with a therapist. Had a support network behind me. I was fucking scared.
It's the bravest thing I've ever done. And I've done some brave stuff.
Because we were in public, he seemed to handle it okay. But the next day, at the dinner table, he exploded. Behind the curtains in his lovely home.
I left. Our relationship changed. He built higher walls.
I've been trying every way I know how to tear mine down. Getting softer is my mission now.
I held my breath the first time I read "Breakfast at McGee" in Kate Christensen's Blue Plate Special. I could not believe it.
I was not alone.
It was hard to choose a song, but this felt right for where I'm at. After writing this piece I bought myself dahlias and ate a couple of oatmeal raisin cookies in the park.
Today I'm in my kitchen cooking beautiful food. I sent messages out to friends. My phone dinged for a while last night.
Good people sending me love.