Nice Picture

I was visiting my brother, his wife and my aunt, who just bought a house and moved across the street from them, over the weekend.  My brother has three cats.  I have a Miniature Schnauzer who wants to “play” with the cats, so I stayed with my aunt, who also has a Schnauzer.  My aunt is still very much in the process of moving in and the plan was for me to help her a little while I was there.  I don’t think I was much help, but I tried.
 
So, we worked a bit, then decided to take a picture break.  Over the years, my aunt has taken hundreds of slides.  For those of you who are too young to know about slides, they were a nice alternative to taking a regular photo as they were supposed to last longer and be better quality.  They created a sort of negative looking piece of film and each frame was placed in a small white cardboard border so you could hold it without getting fingerprints all over it.  But you had to have a projector to view them and if you were really cool, you stored all your slides in round carousals that would turn and advance to the next slide when you pressed the button on the handheld (wired in) control.  My aunt was cool…she had tons of those carousals, all full of slides.  With her own projector.  You also had to have a screen on which to project the image, or a large space on a light colored wall.  It was always a big event when my brother and I were kids, sitting down with popcorn, lights out, to watch new slides from one of my aunt’s trips.
 
She recently had all her slides converted to electronic pictures and they had been put on DVDs.  Many, many DVDs.  When we took our picture break, we selected one at random and started working our way through them.  They were all mixed up.  There were pictures of her trip to California, a special trip when she took her mother (my grandmother) and her mother’s sister (my great aunt) with her.  It was a trip of a lifetime for them and they acted like a couple of little kids, so it was fun to see the pictures again.  There were lots of shots of teachers she had worked with and students from many different years, many of whom she still recalled and knew their names.  There were pictures of her trip to San Francisco with some girlfriends.  Beach pictures from various tropical vacations she took with a group of friends.  And there were some pictures of several Christmases and birthdays celebrated with us.  My brother, me, my mother, my grandparents (her parents) and my father.
 
We came across this one picture of my father and she made the comment, “That’s a nice picture of your dad.”  Time slowed down.  I froze for a moment…or two…or three.
 
I knew what I was SUPPOSED to say.  “Why, yes, that IS a nice picture of him, isn’t it?”  And we would move on.  All would be well and as it should be.  Everything would be left safely where it had been swept under the rug, quiet, proper.  That’s what our family does.  What’s required.  Silence.
 
But I couldn’t do it this time.
 
Instead, I said the nicest thing I could come up with and remain honest.  I said, “He was such an evil man.”  To which my aunt quickly and unsympathetically (toward me) replied, “He was a hurt man.  Hurting people hurt people.”
 
Again, I froze for a few moments.  Again, I knew what I was supposed to say.  “So true.”  Move on.  Let it go.
 
Instead, I softly replied, “I didn’t.  I didn’t hurt anyone.  I chose not to do the kinds of things to anyone else that were done to me.  I did everything in my power to make sure I never hurt anyone.  He had choices too. He didn’t have to do what he did, just because he was hurt.”
 
It was her turn to be silent.  And we went on to the next picture.
 
But inside, surprisingly, I was angry.  I mean, really!  Yes, it’s true his childhood was not ideal.  His parents divorced, something that wasn’t especially frequent in those days.  I heard stories that his mother had experienced a breakdown afterwards and he and his brother lived with his father, who was a womanizing alcoholic, for a time while his sister was placed in an orphanage.  I don’t know what is true and what is rumor because he was very closed about his past.  But I do know his mother was quite rejecting of him.  No nurturing at all.  So his childhood was rough.
 
Guess what…so was mine.  He sexually abused me!  From the time I was about 5 years old until I was around 14.  He did horrible things to me.  Unspeakable things.  Things I can’t say to anyone, even if they would listen. He hit me, was emotionally shut down, not nurturing, very rejecting, extremely angry, violent, prone to sudden mood swings, unpredictable.  My mother was abusive too, hitting me, yelling at me, hating me, demanding that I fulfill her needs from the time I was small, requiring me to keep the house, do everyone’s laundry, iron, listen to her problems and stories of her disappointments (which were many, constant, on-going), listen to her marriage problems (this is how I heard all the stories about my father), supply her emotional needs.  Be there for her.  Everything was about her.
 
My aunt once refused to allow my brother and father to enter her apartment when they were traveling back to Springfield via St. Louis (where she lived) after visiting his home state of Michigan.  She wouldn’t open the door to them.  Why?  Get this. Because when my mother was pregnant with me and about to give birth, my father tried to “make a pass at her.” She was hysterical, out of control, beside herself, telling my mother and her mother and anyone who would listen when it happened.  All those years later, she refused to let him in because she didn’t trust him.   After one incident (which wasn’t right, but it wasn’t brutal like what happened to me). And he stopped when she resisted. SHE WOULDN’T EVEN OPEN THE DOOR TO HIM AND MY BROTHER.  That’s how horrible what he had done to her seemed.  To her, he deserved to be banned for what he had done wrong after that one incident.  Yet in response to my observation about him, considering what he had done to me…which, frankly, was considerably worse than making a pass at a 20 year old woman…he was a hurting person who hurts people?  Like that made it okay?
 
Yes, we went on to the next picture.  But I’m still pissed.  And I think this is a good thing because I have had a lot of difficulty finding my anger.  Oh, I hate myself, but I haven’t been able to get angry with my father for what he did to me.  Yet it really made me mad that my aunt made so light of it.  Brushed it away.  Maybe more mad at my aunt than my father, but I’m still examining this whole new emotional “ball of wax.”  I mean, come on!  He did everything to me from kiss and fondle to rape.  He made me dance for him naked like a stripper.  He made me reenact pornographic stories he read in his magazines.  I had to shower with him…and we didn’t “just” shower, if you get my drift.  He, my “hurt” father, ejaculated in and on  me more times than I can count.  Oral sex was constant.  It was HELL.  It was a freaking NIGHTMARE.  I was DECIMATED by what he did to me…and I STILL AM!!!!  Dammit, don’t give me that line about how hurting people hurt people.  Don’t shove that down my throat to shut me up the way he shoved his penis down my throat when I was a little girl!!!!!  He.  Had.  Choices.
 
And that, finally, incredibly, makes me a little bit angry.

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