Tag Archives: child abuse

Hell

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

[an excerpt from my memoir in progress…]

I’m not concerned about going to Hell. I’ve already been there. When I was held captive within its gates, it was an empty, desolate, desperate state of being. It was the dark side of life; hidden in the shadows, completely unexposed to light. To live it, one wishes death.

Within its depths some smother, some flee, some fight.  I fought.  I do not know the source of the deep internal strength that pulled me through, but somehow I found it.  If there truly are Higher Powers as some will claim, I think they have a debt to pay to me.  Just an answer would suffice…Why was I left kneeling cold and scared, an innocent child, to face the monster of the night?  Why were the pleas from the bottom of my soul for rescue from this horror, left unanswered?  The silence that followed my pleas only served to reinforce the message that I deserved to experience such atrocity.  A loving God would not abandon an innocent child in the hands of evil, would he?

I survived Hell and now have made for myself a safe place upon this earth.  But complete freedom is impossible.  I will always look over my shoulder when I feel the shadows passing.  The chains are broken, but the scars are thick from years of bondage.  Every time I look into the mirror I catch a faint glimpse of the Devil himself, my own father.  His eyes stare back at me; hazel, with craters of brown, much like a cat’s.  I will never be completely pure inside as his blood runs thick within my veins; an unavoidable genetic pollutant.  It was not my choice to be brought into this world by his loins.  He was blessed with a child; it was his free will to wound and destroy.

My Hell was not fire and brimstone; it was 24 hours a day of looming terror.  Surprise was his weapon.  I lived inside an edge of your seat horror film and never knew when the next demon would jump out of the shadows to inflict more pain.

That pain; it was beyond words.  It started at the top of my head then made its way through every nerve and muscle in my body. Adrenaline…my heart felt close to collapse from its accelerated pace.  My head filled with a relentless pressure; on the verge of bursting.  Veins protruded from both temples and pulsed with every breath; my mouth frozen wide in a stifled scream.  Parched throat and burning eyes from continuous tears; until the tears became no more.  I would hold myself, wrapped tightly beneath blanket and pillow, but felt no relief.  I pressed trembling hands against my ears in order to drown out the sound; a sickening, dirty, frenzied sound. My body shook uncontrollably with the fear, while my stomach twisted into a thousand knots.  I would plead with that absent Higher Power to take away the monster who lurked outside my bedroom door, terrified he would come after me again.  I felt no immediate rush of warmth or light, but would be left kneeling cold and scared; empty and alone, forced to face the ugliness by myself once more.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

Fear was what kept me captive.  Silence was his strongest ally; his inimitable power.  He inflicted silence through cunning genius.  He knew how to place fear into the mind and heart of a child through well-disguised acts which served to desecrate my very soul.

I had no doubt within my mind that he could take a life and end it without a single bit of remorse. I had seen him do it on numerous occasions.  He took the furry calico-colored kittens and placed them roughly inside a dark burlap bag.  They screeched and clawed and tried to find their way out.  Void of expression, with the exception of a slight grin at the edge of his lips, he pushed the kittens back in and tied the top into a knot.  He placed them into the back of his truck and drove us down to the river.  With a thoughtless toss, the bag rolled down the steep embankment and hit the water with a heavy splash.  I watched through tears as the bag rolled over and began to sink. I felt so helpless and sad.  I was terrified that someday that too might be my own fate.

He knew all of my fears.  I was terrified of water but he made me swim.  I begged for him to help me out of the pool; he smiled, reached out his hand, pulled me half way out then pushed me back in again.  I could hear his laughter even in the pools depths.  I gasped for air at the surface and begged for him to stop.  He smiled and pushed my head back under.  He held me there until most air escaped my lungs, as if waiting for the last bubble to reach the surface, then strategically pulled me to the top long enough for me to expel the water and replace it with one more breath.  I knew I couldn’t fight him.  He would always win.

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

There were times when his sickness was rampant.  The horrendous former Green Beret nightmares, when he would rise from his bed, grab a shotgun, and stalk up and down the hall while shouting at the enemy that didn’t exist.  He would wake up the next morning void of all memory regarding his maniacal tirade and the rest of us would pretend it never happened.  Our silence served to strengthen his power once again.

It wasn’t his collection of guns I feared.  I already knew what his bare hands were capable of doing.  The guns actually provided me with a glimpse of freedom.  Someday, when I gathered the courage, those guns would serve to annihilate the demon, or they would take his victim home to a better place.

He truly was a demon who walked upon this earth and he served to create my Hell.  A certifiable Sociopath who robbed me of my innocence before I had the opportunity to make my own choice.  I was never a child; his fault.  He forced me to face ugliness when I should have experienced beauty.  My wounds were inflicted with depth by his hands, his words, his sickness.  Even in my little piece of present heaven, the scars still hemorrhage on occasion.  There’s not a surgeon in this world that can heal the damage he caused.  Irreversible, the memories will forever remain.  It is what I choose to do with those memories that makes all the difference in my life.

Though not by choice, my father remains an integral part of my existence to this day.  He finally met his inevitable fate but took the one thing I wanted from him to his grave.  An answer.  It was his last act of pure selfish, evil, non-remorse.  And I will forever be obsessed with the question “why?”

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The Gene Pool

©Copyrighted image. All rights reserved.

Photo:  Dr. Jean Bath in her research lab, UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA

[an excerpt from my memoir in progress…]

My family’s gene pool contains the chromosomal structure of eccentric genius. If one were to argue Nature over Nurture, it also contains the genes of sociopath, rapist, alcoholic and homosexual. My aunt Jean was the lucky recipient of all nuclei that delivered intelligence. At the time, she was the only member of my family to go on to college and receive a degree. My goal as a teenage girl was to avoid the failings of the weaker links that floated within our familial DNA strain, follow the path of my aunt and receive my degree.

Aunt Jean obtained her Ph.D. in Physical Biological Sciences and went on to perform cancer research at UCLA Medical Center. Then the unexpected happened. This brilliant, highly esteemed research scientist carried a secret deep within her cells. In addition to her intelligent DNA, she also carried the gene for Paranoid Schizophrenia.

When I was born, my mother named me Tracy Jean. Tracy after an obscure actress she saw in the credits of the movie “Old Yeller” and Jean after my aunt Jean. By the time I was old enough to interact with my aunt, she was well into her downward spiral of mental illness. I was witness to a few bits and pieces of her intelligent mind. This genius was mixed in between intense one-way conversations with her dog and accusations that my mother was not her sister, but rather, an imposter there to steal her belongings.

Jean was hospitalized when I was ten years old. My mother being her only living relative, the responsibility was placed on her shoulders to decide the path my aunt’s life would take. At the time my mother struggled with her own demons. In the midst of a very abusive marriage to my father, she lacked emotional strength to deal with the issues of her half-sister, nineteen years her senior. She did the only thing she could at the time and signed papers for the County of Los Angeles to become her Conservator. The County decided Jean’s fate, and committed her to Patton State Hospital.

As I grew older, I could not help but think about this waste of genius. Such an intelligent human who had accomplished so much and had everything to offer the world, was now locked away in a psychiatric ward pumped full with lithium. My mother had lost contact due to her own self-preservation and an attempt to avoid facing her guilt. I could only imagine my aunt, with whom I shared a name, curled up in a dark corner drooling her days away. I also wondered if I might end up in the same predicament someday. Only time would reveal.

By my senior year in high school, I had proven myself academically and had a strong desire to flee my small town and go onto college to follow in the path of my aunt Jean. There was only one problem. My family was poor. My father had reached the peak of his alcoholism and was a jobless drunk. My mother had finally summoned the courage to divorce him but this left her the sole provider for two kids plus a mortgage. She had achieved a high school education, but this left her to struggle with a single income in order to keep food on our table and the bill collector’s at bay.

The day I received my acceptance letter into college, is a day I will never forget. I felt as though I held in my hand my ticket to freedom and a better life. When I showed the letter to my mother, my hopes were deflated with the only sentence out of her mouth. “Honey, I can’t afford to pay for this.” Though I had received an offer of financial aid, which included Grants and Stafford Loans, we were still required to come up with a deposit for the dormitory and pay for various other pieces of the education equation.

My heart sank and my hope disappeared. The goal I had dreamed about for so long was right there within reach, but deflated in an instant with the realities of our financial situation. I had no idea where to turn or what to do. I had long kept secret from my friends the internal strife and struggle of my family life. Finding every excuse to keep them away from my house, I always landed at their front doors and interacted as much as possible with their “normal” families. I couldn’t even talk to them about my peril, for fear that my true reality would be revealed and I would somehow be viewed as “different”.

It is when hope is at the lowest, miracles beyond one’s imagination tend to occur. My miracle came in the form of my mother’s actions. Emotionally shattered and vacant for most of my childhood, she somehow summoned the courage to find a solution to my dilemma. She set up a meeting with the high school guidance counselor to discuss our options. I was mortified at the thought of admitting to the guidance counselor that we had no money. After all, I was smart, capable and had blended in well with my peers. The same peers whose fathers were doctors and lawyers and who were going onto school at Stanford, Harvard, and Yale. Now my cover was about to be blown.

The counselor, Terry Rose, was blind. He sat in his office with his German shepherd guide dog curled up at his feet. He was a handsome man with salt and pepper hair and an athletic build. He ran three miles to the high school every day, just he and his dog. Though I knew who he was, I had never had a reason to speak to him before this day, or so I believed. My mother explained our financial situation to Terry and the issue of the dorm deposit that needed to be to the school in three weeks in order to reserve my spot. Terry was gentle and empathic and ended our meeting with the promise that he would make a few phone calls on my behalf.

Growing up in a small town has its advantages. A week after our meeting with Terry, my mom received the news that the local Rotary Club was donating the money for my dorm deposit. I breathed a great sigh of relief. My goal of going to school seemed a bit more realistic now. But there was still the missing chunk of money that needed to fill the spaces between government financial aid and the cost of attending college. I could only hope that somehow I would receive a scholarship.

Graduation night finally arrived. I felt so accomplished. The path towards my goal of following in my aunt Jean’s footsteps seemed even more illuminated that night. I sat in the grandstand surrounded by friends that I had gone to school with since the first grade. There was a feeling of excitement and anticipation in the air as the band played “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters. I truly felt that I had only just begun to live. I would no longer be held captive by the innocence of my little town and my dysfunctional family life. There was so much for me to see, to experience, to learn out in the world beyond what this quiet little valley had to offer.

Towards the end of the ceremony, the scholarship recipients were announced. One by one the names were called for a variety of monetary awards. My heart pounded in my chest and my stomach dropped with each recipient named. The whole list of scholarships was announced and my name was not among them. There was only one scholarship left that night, the largest one, the Mammoth Mountain Scholarship. This was a four-year academic scholarship that awarded a substantial amount of money to one student who had shown both exceptional academic and athletic achievement during their high school years. My eyes began to fill with tears as I realized this was my last shot. I believed at that moment that I didn’t have a chance to win this scholarship. There were so many other seniors in my school who deserved it more.

When the announcement came out of the speaker’s mouth, it took me a few seconds to realize that the speaker was talking about me. There she was in front of this crowd, singing the praises of my accomplishments, as she outlined my dreams and my goals for my future. Then she said them, the words that I will never forget. “This scholarship goes to Tracy Jean Butler”. My hands flew to my mouth and tears streamed down my cheeks. I shyly stumbled to the podium as my friends rose to their feet and cheered for me.

As I reached my hand out to accept the envelope, I felt that things would finally be okay. Somehow the gene pool had blessed me with at least a portion of the positive DNA that had created my aunt Jean and my life seemed to be moving forward. Jean was now very ill from a form of inoperable brain cancer, ironically the same disease she had spent years devoting her life to finding a cure. I could only imagine had her mind been given the opportunity to know me in this life, that she would be proud. I could only hope that the mental illness and now the life-threatening cancer that she contracted would not become a part of my own destiny. I could only wish that doors would continue to open up for me so that I might one day reach the goals that were burning inside my heart.

©Copyrighted image. All rights reserved. Me (left) during my freshman year in college with my good friend Patty.


The Ties That Bind

Skewered

"Skewered" ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

Photo:  Razor wire on the River Walk in West Sacramento, CA.

Some people believe we choose our own parents before birth.  I beg to differ.  If this were true, I certainly would not have chosen the father whose DNA merged with my mother’s to create me.  He was the personification of evil; the sly, sadistic, terrorist type who hid his bad deeds with the skill of the most talented sociopath.  Everyone outside of our family who knew him loved him.  His personality could charm the Queen of England; with his toothy grin and his Elvis Presley swagger.  He was a man’s man, a former Green Beret and an avid outdoorsman.  Yet he had a putrid, ugly side that hid well in the shadows.  It had to in order to survive.

My childhood felt nothing less than a prison; my cell was a dark, dank and musty place filled with constant fear of the demon’s prowl.  My nights were sleepless followed by days of a foggy haze.  It took every bit of my strength to survive the pain he meted out on my child’s soul.  I learned early on to be an actress on the stage of life, to make everything appear just fine on the outside, while my insides bled profusely.  My screams filled every cell of my internal being but those around me never heard.  His threats were palpable so I kept silent.  Every day of my existence was a living horror film; adrenaline poised.  It was an on-the-edge-of-my-seat fear of impending terror.  I was hyper-aware of every dark space, every lingering shadow, every threatening noise.

My whole childhood I prayed to a God who did not listen; who failed to save me from the pain at this monster’s hands.  He continued to prowl this earth until my 40th birthday, though from the age of 18, I made sure I was safe from his grasp.  The day my father died I did not shed a single tear for him.  Inside I felt only sadness for the memory of my childhood lost and an empty nothingness towards a father who should have never been.  For me there can be no forgiveness when there is no admittance of sin.

I survived a Hell that no child should have to suffer, yet many do.  The one thing the experience did give me was a strength beyond measure.  I will never be anyone’s victim again.  The memories on occasion still rear their ugly head, but I am no longer powerless to defeat them.   I am now the owner of my own soul and it is free to live a long, happy and fulfilling life if I so choose.  While his soul, if there is a Hell, is burning slowly, painfully, without pause.  And I rest peacefully in the knowledge, though related by blood, there is not a single tie that binds me to this pathetic man who made the choice to stalk innocence from the shadows without a single ounce of remorse.