Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Choosing to Exhale


What attracts people to their mates? It’s a question that has been lingering in my head since the news of the Rhianna and Chris Brown fiasco. I feel compelled to respond now because I witnessed many abusive situations in my time.

At no time do I feel compelled to defend a man who hits on a woman, nor can I readily forgive them. I do realize that there are two sides to every story, so I try not to be so quick in my judgments. However, I feel compelled to answer the call to abused women everywhere.

As a little girl, I witnessed the most horrific abuse that a woman can endure. My father beat my mother. Since I was the oldest of eight I was a witness to a lot of physical abuse.

The man, who calls himself my father, beat on my mom while she was pregnant with child number five. It was not uncommon, and I grew up with this kind of abuse. However; this one sticks out in my memory so vividly. I remember getting ready because my mom was about to take us all out to Central Park for an outing. She told him that she was tired of him and his nonsense and would soon leave. He of course, threw a fit. That’s when I seen him punch my mom in the face.

She went down like a boxer being KO’d in the ring. With her dress ballooning around her as she fell in front of her dresser, I soon knew what I had to do. Grabbing my two little sisters and little brother I quickly took them by the hand and led them downstairs until the fighting died down.

I was eight at the time, and my reactions were quick. Grabbing sister A (age 7) and brother T (age 6) by one hand, and grabbing sister N (age 3) in the other hand I half dragged, half pulled them down the stairs until the beating subsided.

As I stood in the big picture window overlooking our front yard, I prayed that someone could hear my mother screaming, and would come and rescue us. I watched as one man walked by the window stopped in front of our house, turned and looked at the sobbing children in the window and shook his head.

My brother and sisters were crying, especially sister N who wanted my mom, but was too frightened to go upstairs. I was the only one who stood without tears, having seen and heard it all before. At eight I knew how to suppress my feelings and not let it be known that I was hurting for my mom and that I wanted my father dead. The guilt I felt at wanting someone I love dead, confused me to no end. I have a hard time looking him in the face to this day.

The sound of my own blood rushing in my ears grew louder as the screaming wouldn’t stop. The sound of dressers falling and tables being overturned echoed in my head as my father threw furniture around. I imagined my mother shielding her belly with one arm and trying to ward of her attacker with the other. I silently said to myself “stop, stop, stop”, but my whispers fell on deaf ears, as no one would listen.

I walked the siblings to the door as if to take them outside. By now they were shivering, and couldn’t control their chattering teeth. Soon as I made the decision to take them outside, the screaming stopped. My heart raced a little as I wanted to know if my mom was okay. I stood at the bottom of the staircase listening, waiting, and soon realized that I couldn’t breathe because I was holding my breath. Exhaling loudly, my head jerked up when I heard my father shout at me to come upstairs. Looking up at him standing at the top of the stairs my scowl spoke otherwise, and I stared him down as if to contest him. He walked away and went into the bathroom.

I wanted to go upstairs to see how my mom was doing, but looking back at my sibs who snuck up behind me, I thought it was best not to otherwise. I could hear her whimpering and crying, but was conflicted on what to do. I stayed downstairs with my little brother and sisters and we huddled on the window seat in the picture window until the “attacker” left.

He was mumbling how he would kill my mother, and she better listen to him next time or else. I still remember looking at him with such disgust, and how he stared me down as if to say ‘go ahead try it.’ He won, and I knew when to back off when the odds were not in my favor.

In reflection, I look back at those times and wonder what would I have done if my parents owned a gun and I found it? Would I have been one of those children that you see on the news who tell their story over and over again to the media who wants to know what happened? Only to be lost in the system years later and on one of those “Where Are They Now” shows?

Now that the hubby and I are faced with our own crisis but working on it, I now empathize with the women who have to wake up everyday and move on with life after being assaulted in such a fashion. I constantly ask my mom why she endured such abuse for 21 years. To that she has no answer.

I’m not holding my breath for an answer either, because she is trying to move on with her life after being divorced from my father for 15 years now. This is the moment when I exhale, and I then realize that I have been holding my breath in anticipation that I am missing something in life. Something like moving on from the pain and realizing that no one will make my life better, only me.

In retrospect, with all that has happened to me in my childhood, I have decided to try to be very careful in my selection of mates. I’ve failed in some aspects, but in others I have dutifully have tried to correct my mistakes and have no regrets in my decision making. Only vow to learn from them.

To err is human, to forgive is divine. I’m still working on the forgiving part.


Christine said...

Bibi, it must have helped to write this all down...I'm sorry.

Mr. Bill said...

Thats a HELL of a thing to have to go through.

Wish I knew what else to say...

Anonymous said...

Wow Bibi, I'm so sorry for what you went through. I just want to go back in time and hug little Bibi and the rest of the kids!

We all have our scars from childhood and I think witnessing and/or enduring abuse are about as bad as it gets. Even though my parents were a horror show they never really hit us or eachother and for that I'm greatful.

It's amazing the way things from childhood still can grip us long into adulthood.

Good for you for at least trying to forgive, it's much more than most of us can do.

*Akilah Sakai* said...

Such a heartfelt post, and very vivid. I was standing in fear with you and your siblings in that window wondering how it would end.

It's awfully sad the way you grew accustomed to getting the younger ones to a better place so they wouldn't be traumatized by it, but surely they had an inkling that something was very, very wrong. Either way, you were a great big sister to them.

I'm so very glad your mom got out of that situation eventually.

This has shaped the kind of woman you are. You're undoubtedly strong, even when you may feel weak at times. I can tell by your words.

Kylie said...

I somewhat know your pain. I witnessed my mom being beaten by my step-dads (2 different ones) as a kid. It hurts. It sucks. It is NO way to live. You live in fear of what she might say to throw him into a fit of rage. I always swore that I would never let a man treat me with that much disrespect and I have stuck to my word. B knows I will fight back (or call my dad, who's a sheriff!) We have never had a 'physical' fight, just verbal. (I'm really good with words when I'm pissed!)

carma said...

I am saddened to hear all this. You strike me as a strong and confident woman and that will serve you well going forward. BTW, love the adorable photo. Sorry you had to endure such violence at such a tender age.

Tina said...

Wow Bibi, I don't even know what to say as a comment other than I am sorry that this is the life you experienced as a child. There isn't anyone who deserves to see their Momma whooped like that. Thank you for sharing your story, it has touched me.

BIBI said...

Thank you Christine, I did and I am forever grateful to you all for your honest comments.

BIBI said...

Your thoughtfulness was enough Bill! Thank you so much.

BIBI said...

Thank you Cyndi. I am on a road to recovery and the sessions with our therapist has helped me a lot. The forgiving part is coming along so-so. I will eventually get there. :^)

BIBI said...

Thank you Akilah. It was hard to write and I was afraid to share it with everyone, but I just kept on typing. Before I knew it it was posted. This is therapy for me. The more you talk about something and get it out of your system the more you heal. I hope. :^)

BIBI said...

You know Kylie, I used to be SO angry because of what has happened to me in the past. I used to cuss, scream, and rant, but now I've learned to accept it and move on. Thank you for your comment!

BIBI said...

Thank you Carma. Yes that's me and the "scowl". I was putting it into practice even then! :^D

BIBI said...

Thank you Tina. Your thoughts and comment mean so much to me. Thank you again. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I am so grateful not to have grown up in an abusive home. I feel for you. My wife, unfortunately, went through quite a bit of abuse as well, although it was from her mother after her father died. So horrible for any child to have to experience this.

BIBI said...

Thank you Charles for your heartfelt comment. It means a lot to me!

You are all so kind, but guess what?, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger! It's the strength that I have, and the well wishes of you all that gets me through the day.

You all rock! Totally!!