I must begin by apologizing for this lengthy post. There is much on my mind and in my heart and I have no other alternative than to let it all out. So hear goes…
About 4 years ago, I had what probably ranks among my top 5 worst moments…perhaps, it could have been my single worst moment.
After what was most likely a silly disagreement with my husband (because I can’t even recall what it was about), my emotions were extremely heightened, and, quite frankly, out of control. I decided to take a shower. As the water ran from the top of my head; through my hair; across my shoulders; and down my legs, an angry sensation gripped my very core. It was as if the water had stirred up memories of every negative, mean-spirited, and hateful thing every male in my life had ever done to me. I was flooded with old feelings of hurt, betrayal, and blame. I was drowning in unresolved pain.
I remembered my babysitter’s son, the young man of age 17 who robbed the 5-year-old me of her innocence. I remembered the morning that the same fragile child tried to tell Daddy what was going on. But I, that tender child, could not find the words. All I could muster up were tears and pleas to not send me back there. But in Daddy’s eyes, I was disrupting the morning routine, and my fuss and raucus was quickly met with a swat to the backside. He didn’t know. He had no idea what his baby girl was trying to tell him. I didn’t know how to tell him. But for years, I blamed him. I blamed him for not rescuing me. I blamed him for not paying closer attention to my cries. I blamed him for the rape and molestation that I was enduring.
As the water and emotions continued to wash over me, I remebered going into a fast food restaurant with my mother. I was only 10 or 12. I was still reeling from the after effects of surviving sexual abuse. I was surviving it alone. Don’t get me wrong; my mother and father did eventually discover that I was being harmed, and they came to my rescue. They even sent me to a child psychologist. She helped me. I remember all the things she would do with me. She befriended me and made me feel comfortable enough to talk. Once my sessions with her were complete, my parents never continued to talk to me. They fell victim to the notion that I would one day forget and all would be healed in my world. So, while they pretended that I had forgotten, I was left alone to cope, to heal, to understand. What I eventually gained was shame and an innate inability to trust. I became guarded.
The 10 or 12-year-old me was standing with my mother placing an order to take home for a quick Friday night dinner. A local man with Down’s Syndrome was there. Apparently, my mother had full knowledge that this man was harmless and was a regular at this particular restaurant. She also knew of his tendency to become instantly infatuated with someone of the opposite sex. Unfortuantely, I did not know this. And he had his sights set…Locked in on the unsuspecting, already damaged young girl that was me.
He walked over to us and repeatedly began to say, “I lub ‘er. I lub ‘er.” As he professed his love for me, over and over again, his hands were all over me…hugging me, touching me, grabbing me, trying to kiss me. I fought to get away. I called for my mom. Somehow, I was expected to understand that he meant no harm, that he was different. But I was too young, and too wounded to comprehend such matters. Again, I was left to fend off a male attacker on my own. I hated him, and eventually found myself feeling uncomfortable around other males with Down’s Syndrome. This posed a problem as I had a male cousin with Down’s. I loved my cousin, but after this incident, I felt conflicted. Which resulted in more feelings of shame–ashamed of my body and myself, because I felt I was attracting these invaders, and ashamed of myself for casting blame and a shadow of doubt upon other males with Down’s.
The water continued to fall and I remebered the cool spring night…too warm for the heat, yet too cool for the a/c. I was in my apartment alone with my oldest son. I raised the bedroom window just enough to feel a bit of the fresh breeze. I positioned two window locks on either side of the window so that it could not be raised up by someone on the outside. I had fallen asleep, with my son alongside me, and woke up to the flashing lights of the television. It was 5am. I got up, went to the bathroom, got cozy under the covers again, and watched images of Dr. Huxtable and Rudy as an old episode of The Cosby Show played with the volume turned down. And then I heard it. Movement outside of my window. Slow and steady. Almost cat-like. My focus immediately shifted the window I left opened. I watched and waited. And when I saw the top of a man’s head slowly creeping into view I let out a yell like no other…”HEY!” The slow movement quickly changed into scrambling and then running. I had scared him off.
Still standing there in the shower, both motionless and wet, my mind continued to replay. And this time, I remembered the night my husband and I went to the movies. We purchased our tickets and headed towards the theater. I needed to use the restroom prior to the start of the show. And like a gentleman, my husband waited outside of the bathroom for me. I walk through a winding corridor that finally opened up to the large public restroom. I went into the stall next to someone else. While using the facilities, I noticed the white sneakers and blue jeans of the person next door. I couldn’t help but think of what a tomboy she must be because the shoes and jeans were so masculine. I heard the toilet flush and the shoes were gone, but the stall door never opened. I immediately looked up! And to my horror, there was a man about to come over the top of my stall. I jumped up, pulled up my pants and before he could get out of the bathroom, I cornered him. I was furious and beyond ready to fight! He claimed he didn’t know he was in the ladies room. My guess is that he was trying to steal my purse. I was so agressive with him in my speech and demeanor that he ran, and I ran after him. I ran smack dab into my husband and together we notified the officer on duty. Unfortunately, he got away. And I was left with the thought that I, again, had to defend myself against a would-be attacker…alone.
And yet, the water continued. I remebered the “so-called” men in my young adulthood who had wronged me. And not the normal let-downs, but the wrongs that can never be made right. The wrongs that, if not dealt with properly, can stick with you for life. I won’t mention the details right now. Those are stories for another day.
I thought of all the women and girls in the news who had been sexually assualted, kidnapped, murdered. I thought of female friends who had sustained abuse from a man. I thought of women who were enslaved and beaten by their husbands. I thought of all the wars that were started by men.
And as the last drop of water fell upon my cheek, a new me was born. A hateful, angry, bitter, unforgiving me. Ready to fight, ready to hurt, ready to take on any man who thought for one moment they could hurt me. I was Brash and Harsh. My 5 foot 5 inch frame stepped from the shower as if a giant…undefeatable, ready to crush and devour.
I called my husband into the room, and, with tears of rage, proceeded to proclaim my newfound revelation…”Everything that is wrong with the world is the result of a man!” I continued with no regard for his feelings. My words may as well have been daggers because they cut him…they cut him deeply. And what’s worse, is that, at the time, I didn’t even care.
I lashed out. Snapped. Crumbled.
And then, a very short while later, my senses returned. The mother of boys in me called out. I heard the real me saying, “How can you say these things about men, and then claim to love your male children? How can you raise them up right, if you detest the very thing they will become?” I listened to her. I listened to me. I realized at that moment that my wounds ran deeper than what even I knew. And the only way to heal them was through forgiveness. FORGIVENESS…a huge word. I still work on this daily.
I began to really explore what that meant…to truly forgive someone. I realized that what I was struggling with was not forgiving, but forgiving when the offender is not a part of the forgiveness process. I learned that I was needing my offenders to ask for absolution. I thought it should be as simple as apologies amongst children. You say, “Sorry,” and I say, “Okay.” I was naive.
After a little time, and a lot of thought, I grew. I let go of that hurt. I let go of the bitterness. And I let men off of the hook. I apologized to my husband and begged him to understand that my crazy, mixed-up thoughts must have been an unfortunate part of my healing process. I didn’t want to excuse my behavior; I wanted to understand it. I learned that sometimes you have to hit rock-bottom before you can begin to crawl back up.
Since then, I have come to realize that men have played an enormously positive role in creating the woman that I am today. Despite my fragile moment, I am a strong, independent, fearless woman, who is not afraid to love, willing to open her heart, and gives freely. I am a daughter who cherishes her father; a sister who has always been protective of her not-so baby brother; and a niece and a goddaughter to a man who taught me so much about love, commitment, hard work, and dependability.
Today, that man, my Parrain (Creole for godfather) died. He lost his battle against cancer, but he never gave up the fight. He never lost his will to live. He never lost his ability to give. He never lost the strength to love. He never lost the Faith to Trust.
My Daddy, my brother, and my Pa were the males in my life who helped to shape me into a wife who adores and supports her husband and a mother who sees God in her sons (and daughters, too, but this isn’t about them right now).
My Daddy taught me loyalty and the importance of family; my brother was my first baby and, in a sense, showed me how to care for a young boy by allowing me to nurture and protect him; and My Pa, my dear Pa…he taught me many things, but most of all he taught me the importance of a strong relationship with God. From when I was a very small child, he was the one who taught me The Lord’s Prayer, The Hail Mary, and The Glory Be (We were Creole Catholics). And even as his faith in God changed and grew, he continued to teach me how to pray to our Almighty Father. He taught me to stand up for what you believe in and to never leave from God. He was a blessing; He was mine; And I was his.
I was able to spend a few days with him at the end of June. I knew when I went there that those would be the last days I would ever spend with him. I knew the day I left that that would be the last time our eyes would meet. He told me he loved me in a way that meant so much. My response, “Oh, I know you do, Pa. That’s the one thing you have always made sure I knew.” And when it was time for me to go, I kissed him, and I kissed him again, and said, “Well, I’ll be seeing ya.” I backed out of the room, our eyes locked in on each other. And I know he was thinking what I was thinking…this is the end.
And today, Thursday July 14th, he’s gone, but he will never be far from my heart. I have spent the better part of the day crying, but I have also called to mind times well spent, memories shared, and special moments created. And that’s when my mind went on that terrible day…the day that I thought all men were the bad guys. I couldn’t help but reflect on that moment because the opposite is what holds true. I have actually been and continue to be surrounded by men who love me, spoil me, care for me, and support me. Thank you Pa for being one of The Men That I Come From.
I love you Pa! You will be deeply missed...