Overexposed and Other Worlds

Continuing from here, here and here..........

I don't remember much about the 7-11 incident. I remember the look of panic and despair on my dad's face. I think, I remember being placed in my mother's arms in the parking lot. And I do remember that feeling of failing and betraying my dad was intensified by this whole scene. I once again, was screaming on the inside to let me stay with my dad, but absolutely no words came out.

The thing that I find so interesting when I reflect back on this is that up to that point, I had no real "reason" for wanting my dad over my mom. The worst was yet to come, though I couldn't know that. But nothing had happened yet to make a 4-5 year-old want to stay with one parent over the other. It wasn't something that had evidence behind it. I guess you could just call it a premonition.

I don't really know where to go from here. I don't really remember finishing kindergarten, though I know I did. I don't even really know what time of year it was when all of this was going on. I suppose it must have been Spring/Summer when I was actually 5. Some time had passed, but the memories, for me are compressed into one big lump.

The only thing I know for sure is that 1st grade was crazy. And where I'm about to go is a little disturbing. You'll know it when you read it.

When my mom & I moved into our one-bedroom efficiency apartment, she had a boyfriend, B. (I later figured it out & pieced together that B. was what happened to my family. Or I should say, B & my mom were what happened to my family).
B. would spend the night a lot. And when he did, mom & B. would sleep in the bedroom & I would sleep on the fold-out couch. One night, B. was over & it was bed time. I don't know why I had to go in my mom's room (I'm assuming to ask a question). When I walked in, B. looked me dead in the eye, he pulled back the blankets and exposed himself to me. I remember thinking This is weird. But I made no reaction. I completely ignored him. I walked over to my mom & asked her my question - or whatever I was in there doing. And left. It didn't come out until a couple of days later, that this had happened.
I know that they broke up & I'm assuming that by a smart-a** comment he made to me when my mom was giving him the boot that it was because of this incident.
Whatever, good riddance a**hole.

The next guy to join us a short-time later (still during 1st grade) was D. D was a raging alcoholic and drug addict. I really, really didn't like D. D lived just down the road a bit from mom & I. And he had a niece that was in my 1st grade class. I remember being at D's apartment - with a bunch of adults around (including my mom). There were 3 kids there - including me. They shuffled us kids into a bedroom, where we were supposed to stay and play. But me, ever aware that situations were screwy & wanting to do something about them, but not really having an understanding of what was going on, walked in on a circle of drug use.
I believe a large fight began, because I remember being under the apartment stairs, hiding while my mom & him raged on.
Another flash of memory and a short-time after that, we had to go pick up a wasted D somewhere. As I'm sure he was too wasted to drive (if he even had a license). He got in the car and about as soon as he sat down on the passenger seat, a fight started. I know I was retreating into myself - I don't remember what I was hearing. All I knew is what I saw. His face all red and crazy. Fists flying quickly back and forth....then bloody. From a scuffle with the dashboard of my mom's car.
And the next thing I know, we deposited him in a random parking lot.

That's the last I really remember of him, though I think he was around for a little while longer.

Though I remember it being a school night, rather late in the evening. And driving to this bar with my mom. We pulled in the parking lot & I remember thinking that I knew I wasn't allowed inside. And even if I was, I wasn't going in there. And surely I didn't.
Mom walked in before I even knew what was happening. And all I knew was I was inside our car, by myself in the parking lot of this scary place. She's taking a long time. When are we going home? What are we doing here?
Being ever resourceful and knowing that things aren't right, I began to honk the horn like it was my job. After a few minutes, she came out. I'm sure she had some words for me, but by then I had already retreated again. I had shut down. And when I did that, I heard nothing. I only saw.

During this time, my dad had moved in with my grandmother at The Farm.
This is where I spent every-other-weekend feeling normal and safe. This is where Dad & I would explore the farm. This is where Dad & I would drive around the country looking for ducks in the marshes, we would talk about the abundant life going on in the marshes and estuaries - even though you couldn't necessarily see it. Dad & I would fish together. We would talk about anything and everything. We would take motorcycle rides down to the beach or downstate to my Uncle & Aunt's house.
The Farm became my island. My dad became my strength. I felt that as long as I were there or with him, that I was OK.
When he would pick me up, and I would sit in the cab of his old pick-up truck, I felt like I was in a whole other world. A world where I was loved, safe, and treasured. I knew that being in the truck meant that I was being carried away to somewhere better. Even if it was only for 2 days. It meant that the only thing I had to worry about was how to get a slimy fish off of a hook, if I was going to find any arrowheads or cool pieces of broken pottery in the fields of The Farm, what songs my dad was going to play on the radio, what cool dessert my grandmother had made, what Saturday morning cartoons I was going to watch.
I never had to worry about being shut-up in a room while a bunch of grown-ups got high. I never had to worry about feeling scared.

And yet as wonderful as the two weekends a month felt, I couldn't reconcile in my now 5-6 year-old brain, why I felt so conflicted and confused all of the time. I couldn't reconcile why I wanted things to be different during the week and the other two weekends. I couldn't reconcile why I was so angry when I would come home. I couldn't reconcile the dread.

6 ripples in the pond:

Anonymous said...

god, i'm almost near tears reading this, tabba. i have a custody/visitation hearing tomorrow in which my daughter's father is attempting to get standard visitation. i see her time with him being much like what you've just written about. but with plenty of verbal and physical abuse courtesy of her father. :(

Tabba said...

Anonymous - I wish the best possible outcome for you & your daughter. It is so frustrating as a parent who is not trying to be the kind that is difficult just to be difficult, but rather the kind of parent that just wants to protect their child from an obvious threat.
I will keep you & your daughter in my thoughts and hope that it all works out for the best :)

Joker The Lurcher said...

you were so young to go through this. i hope it doesn't give you too many nightmares now, although i suspect the feeling of anxiety doesn't ever leave you after this sort of thing. take very good care of your self.

jen said...

oh tab. no wonder. all the pieces are coming into place slowly now (for selfish reasons, for me) and it makes so much sense.

poor baby girl you. amazing brave woman you.

deb said...

It wasn't fair, you shouldn't have had to go through that, nobody should.
You survived though and you seem like a pretty wise woman as a result. It's nice to see when good comes out of bad.

Oh, The Joys said...

Here, reading, appreciating you...