“Happy” Anniversary (Trigger Warning)

Yes, that says “Happy”. I am not sure this anniversary will ever be happy. I chose today to teach a class. I am trying to wind my brain down from the horrors that are the sound of fireworks. I spent the entire day in my room being cranky with myself. I got over that fairly early actually and enjoyed a mental vent session by reading a site called http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com . Eight hours later I am feeling almost normal and great for a stressful PTSD triggering day. This was the first fourth of July where I did not get sick from the smoke.

I am still feeling like the world is made of sand paper against my skin, but, I can control my snarkiness now. It’s in my head, and that has always been the case. I like to think that even Spock from Star Trek actually thought vindictive things up. “Vulcan Blood. I’ll show you McCoy!” If not, well, I am definately not a Vulcan or a Half Breed so it doesn’t matter. I am just human. That has been the theme for the week. I am just human. I am not Super Cripple, Amazing Woman, or even Functional. Just human. In preparing for the class I am to teach in nine hours, I realized I chose this day on purpose.

This is where I pause, and hide the triggering things, so you have to click a link today to get to the rest of the juicy details.

One of the times I was institutionalized for my Undiagnosed Autism and Undiagnosed Disabilities, the first time in fact, I learned a key fact. Violence is actually bad. It hurts, and pain is the brain’s way of saying, “Red Alert, All hands to Battle Stations.” I beat up another patient, and was told I could’ve killed him. It didn’t matter that he was bigger than I was, and hit harder, at least I thought he did. What mattered was that I had broken bones. Looking back, I feel a pain in my chest every time, how could I not understand that I had hurt him? I had already suppressed the memories of my sensei, and was living to merely survive. Every moment was fear, and he had triggered that fear.

It took a month then I earned, just in time for the Fourth of July, an over night stay with the parent of my choice. I remember, sitting in the head therapists office, my choice. I made the choice to visit my father, because the last thing he’d told me was he would kill himself and my mommy on the next Holiday if none of his children loved him. I wanted to go home to my mom and my cat Colors. I went with the obligation. My mother wouldn’t die, and then eventually I could see my cat again. I dreaded the visit. I pretended to be happy. The other children who were getting LoAs, (Leaves of Abscence) from the insitution were happy. I was merely relieved to get away from a staff member who always reminded me my hair was ugly.

My father was three hours late, and I had actually gotten ready for bed, relief and disappointment mixing in me. I wanted him to love me. A part of me still does. I also was terrified he would be angry at me, he was. I made him miss dinner with the Preacher of his latest  church. I cannot remember what order we went through religions now, but, He had recently married a vegetarian woman and she insisted that he was another religion I had never heard of. His chameleon nature and trying to be everything did something other than damage, it planted the idea that there were other religions in my mind at a young age.

I didn’t get dressed, I was allowed to go outside in my pajamas. I left my stuffed Garfield behind, trusting my roommate, and the first friend I really made to guard him. We even talked about how I couldn’t sleep without him, and I remember telling her,”That’s okay. I can’t sleep there anyway. I’ll die if I do.” July 2nd, I went to his house. His wife fed us a salad. I took a bite of cucumber and passed out. My allergy wasn’t nearly as bad as it is now, so I didn’t die. When I woke up, I locked myself in the bathroom. They were fighting. My step brother, we’ll call him J, had just asked if he could kiss boys. He was aware of his homosexuality from birth and didn’t know it was “bad” until that weekend. He and I had never had a chance to talk. He came in to the bathroom, or I let him in, that bit is vague and we huddled in the tub, talking about barbies and other toys we liked.

I remember how thin he was. He reminded me of a little bird, he was fragile and underfed. He looked like the girls in the institution who were there for Anorexia. We slept in the bathroom, the light on. I could sleep because we took turns with the watch. I taught him how to take watch, explained to listen for any creaky floors, the bathroom door opening and we scattered legos on the floor inside and out of the bathroom. We woke up to my father screaming. He’d cut himself on a lego. He was bleeding and left us be for a few hours. It was July 3rd. I still had four more days before I had to go back. I was so afraid, that the injury didn’t add to it. It was merely a fact, we were going to die.

J’s mother, also with a J name took us grocery shopping. She bought meat, because she was afraid to feed me anything but hamburgers. J mentioned he’d never had a cheeseburger before. I thought it was silly, I thought it was wrong. How could he not know what Hamburger was like? I talked her into letting us get ingredients for lasagna for my last day there. We had a lot of food in the cart but the only other thing that is important for this story were the Au Gratin Potatoes. The box was red, and they looked good even though I had no idea what “a grating” was.

I wasn’t made to cook or clean at all, it was frightening. J tried on my dresses, we took turns and stole his mother’s make up. My father was at work that day. He never found out about our dress up game. I found out too he had been hurting J just like he’d hurt me that Thanksgiving before. It wasn’t alright but I couldn’t tell J that. I didn’t remember. I just knew it was bad and evil. I told him he should tell his mother. The evening passed and we were already in hiding, our lego trap set again, this time with trash can full of empty cans added to the door, just in case the same trick didn’t work twice. I didn’t sleep that night. There was more fighting. He beat his wife, and told her she had better get the devil out of their house. I wasn’t sure what that meant, and I am gratefully clueless now.

We set off fireworks, and had a picnic the next day. My father was working as a Christian Life DJ at this time. He had the Js and myself come in for a while and wish everyone a Happy Fourth. I got to sing on the radio for the very first time. I sang the national anthem and Amazing Grace. His boss sent him home early since we were there. He used us to manipulate the man, something he’d done often when we were smaller. We went to a business next. I remember they had wanted posters and he pointed them out, telling J and I how evil the Mexicans are. I wonder if he actually got to take part in the great national excuse for Racism with the border fence before he was too sick, and hope he was deprived of it. He taught me about the slang for them. My roommate and friend happened to be hispanic. I didn’t want an evil person to have Garfield, and I didn’t think she was so evil. I didn’t say a word. A man was putting fliers on the cars.

Josh and I got in the back. It was hot, but we weren’t allowed to sit in the truck itself. There was a wooden bench that slid when he turned corners and we would take turns trying to keep it from moving a lot. It had splinters and hurt. We were in shorts, so both of our legs were full of prickles. I remember too that he attacked a hispanic man that day, because it was his “duty” as a “veteran”. Some of you may see my quotations there. I am not sure he really was a Vietnam Vet. I cannot find any documentation for it, and do not want his lies to denegrate the sacrifices that real soldiers made. According to his brother, he was just a janitor in Virginia. I am not sure if that means he wasn’t enlisted or if he was but, he didn’t die in the care of the VA. Wouldn’t he have qualified for at least the insurance?  God and being a Veteran were his excuses for much of the things he did wrong.

I don’t remember much about the fireworks, just dinner the next day. We were allowed one meal, after all children eat too much. Our food was rationed. I was very hungry, and I wanted to eat. Dinner came around and we were given two slices of potato, transparently thin, two green beans, and I was given a hamburger. My father ate five pounds of meat by himself, his wife most of the salad. J wasn’t even allowed the really small burger I had. It was my fault, thoughI am not sure I feel guilt over this now or not. It’s more a confused numbness, the adult knowledge and the child’s terror and belief mixing in a sort of mud pit. I finished my food and was still very hungry. So I asked for seconds.

My father froze, and asked what I wanted. “Another burger?” We weren’t allowed to call them hamburgers,he was afraid people might think we were eating pork. That’s what he said. He put a very big  burger on my plate. I remember the look in J’s eyes. Jealous, and the look a starving dog gets when another has food. I was done with my burger before he spoke. “Can I have more potatoes?” My father had just put the last of them on his plate. No one moved, and he snarled, “What am I supposed to eat then? You want seconds?” I remember the tone, it was just as feral. It was meant to shame us. “I gave her seconds because she wants to be fat.” It was my fault, and he finished it up by throwing the serving bowl at the wall. It shattered. No one cried or moved.

“I’m really hungry!” I think J had something inside him break, I made it impossible to turn back. He’d never said no before and he was starving. “Fine Take it all.” He slung his plate at J’s. It cracked both of them. His mother sniffled and my father grabbed her son and started shoving potatoes down his throat. J’s mother just ducked under the table and left both her child and myself there to shield her. I actually remembered something new, typing this, that happens often and that is why I go into detail here. To document the memories before they are gone. I took the wooden spoon from the potato bowl and I hit my father’s hand. I said something like, “You’re hurting him and he could die!”

I felt like a wolf or a demon was looking at me. His eyes over his shoulder were angry, wild. The look he had when he killed the small animals in the neighborhood. It was the look that meant I was going to die. He flipped the table over and let go of J. He turned and came for me. He was barefoot. I don’t remember why, he’d had a fit about shoes however. It was July 5th. I ran. I was wearing shoes. I ran not to the bathroom but to J’s bedroom. i flung the toys all over. J actually had toys, I’d had some fun with them but was afraid my father would know. Legos hit the floor and I started smashing the  glass things. My father did not get me yet, he paced. Watching me. I was cornered but, I had made it away. He hadn’t hit me at all.

I remember waiting, I expected him to come for me. Instead, when my step mother began to cry, he walked away. I remember thinking that she was stupid for crying. I fight the things he taught me about tears whenever I hear children cry. I want to hit them. I was taught you hit people who cry to give them something to cry about. I didn’t know then that was wrong. This is why I still cannot cry, and if I do I am so very afraid. When i hear people cry, I am afraid they are going to die.  I wasn’t afraid for her. I thought J’s mother was very stupid and weak. She only ate vegetables, how could she be strong? I did not comprehend yet that this was a cultural issue on some levels, and a belief people could have. I associated meat with strength. You are what you eat. Flowers can be picked. Lions can use their claws.

While I waited behind my safety zone, unsure what to do next, I could hear a clanging and screaming. I don’t know why I went out, I think I felt responsible for J. He was my baby brother, and my siblings and I always protected whomever was the weakest. We hadn’t grown apart yet. We all thought alike at this point, merely on survival. I hadn’t made the choice to become non violent. I remember seeing them. J’s mother was behind the table, watching my father beat her son with a cast iron frying pan. She was screaming. J had already lost consciousness. I ran to the table and hid behind it. I knew what to do. Even the mean caregiver made sure I knew that if anyone was going to hurt my body, I had to run. I was stronger than J’s mother. I had to go last. I don’t remember where I picked her purse up at but I had it. I also had the keys to her car. It was a white square thing. I hated it. It smelled like onions. “You go. Go to the car. I’ll get him and we can get away.”

She bolted out the door like a scared rabbit. She didn’t wait for her son, she drove off instead. She left the door open and my father, to punish us further took J and threw him down the stairs. We were on the second story. I hated how high it was, I had to be the last one up or down the stairs, already afraid of my father’s stair based violence. J started to cry. My father was laughing and I bolted past him. J was bleeding. His arm was broken, I didn’t know I was seeing bone, I just knew it was bad and he couldn’t run since we were abandoned. A neighbor even looked out and saw us. They did nothing.

I made J walk back up the stairs. I was going to die. I decided I could die and J could live. I had to die. Someone had to, then he’d be nice and happy. J learned his lesson, he wouldn’t eat anymore. I took J to his room and put him in his bed. “Stay.” Like a dog. Dogs obey, I wanted him to stay. My father followed us and had the pan again. He started swinging at J. That’s when it happened. What makes this a potentially Happy Anniversary.

I screamed, “STOP IT.” I couldn’t stop now. He looked at me, I drew his attention and I was going to die. If i was going to die I had to finish saying what I needed. “You’re being bad! You want to go to hell?” J had fainted. I could hear the whimpering stop. My father swung the pan and stopped right beside my head when I said, “You’re going to take me back now!” I didn’t want to go back to the institution. I didn’t want to be alive anymore. Death was a way to be unafraid. I could die, and then if I was good god would forgive me, and since i was bad, I’d be in hell but I could handle that. I deserved that. J didn’t. He was just a baby. He was older than me or younger by two months, but to me he was an infant. Only babies had toys.

I felt like it was an eternity, I waited for him to hit me. Instead, he cried. My father started to wail like I was the one who was being bad. “I can take you back in two days, you have two more days with me. I’ll be good.” I was afraid he’d kill me if I fell asleep again. I was afraid, and I had to tell on him, before he figured out that was what I was going to do. “No! I am going back right now, then you take him to the doctor or I will hate you.” I didn’t just say hate. I hissed it. I wanted to tell him I hated him now, but he’d really kill me. “You’re bad and I am  never going to visit you again if you don’t take me back.” I hadn’t even unpacked my things. I didn’t want J to think I could stay, it was just a visit.

J’s mother returned. she’d gone and bought more meat and potatoes. She came in and knelt before him, “I have more potatoes Steve.” Then, he looked at me, “Can we eat first?” The pressure of being the adult was on me again. I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t expected to live. I pretended I was him, without the hitting so that I could visit my mother, if i was good. “No!” I yelled, “You have to go to bed without food. You’re bad. Bad people don’t eat. J gets to eat all  he wants, you have to watch. Then I go back.” He was still bleeding but I couldn’t figure out how to get that to stop. J’s mother didn’t ask why he was bleeding she just made the food. I sat with  my brother. He was a step brother but, I always wanted him to be my real brother.

It was a stand off. While she cooked my father kept swinging the pan and stopping it beside my ear. If I flinched, I would die. I wanted to cry. Every so often he asked if I would change my mind. I had to say no. J woke, after some effort and made himself eat as much as he could. I think despite the pain, the starvation he;d been enduring made it easier for him to wolf down that food. I ate more too. I had to, if I was going to be as powerful as my father. He stopped crying after we started to eat, I made him watch, afraid he’d get his gun. He had one, and I knew he would probably shoot at us. He’d shot at me before, he probably did that to them. After dinner I told J’s mother to take him to a doctor. I told my father it was time for me to go back, and as we drove, he kept begging me to change my mind. “Don’t you love me?” “No. I don’t love bad people.” “I’ll buy you anything you want.” “Then you’ll break it. You’re bad. Like SATAN.”

When we got to the institute I let him haul my bag to the door and told him to go away. I couldn’t page the councelors with him there. He went and sat in the truck watching me. I pushed three buttons on a keypad, the staff answering, “Hello?” No one was supposed to come back, and this was also the door where they took me in as a patient, “It’s Kat.” I had my other name then, but, this was the start of me being Kat, so my current name is stated. “I can’t stay with my Daddy.” There were no questions. The door opened and I stepped inside, looking backwards at him, I didn’t wave, I didn’t smile. I waited until that door closed, the sky gone, it was like going into a cave. The staff member who teased me all the time was there, and I just melted into tears.

He had never seen me cry, and for once didn’t say a word. He took my trashbag of clothing, and we walked to my room while I told him everything. I still had blood on me, and they even let me take a long shower. My roommate gave me my Garfield. I felt like my world had ended. I was never going to see my father again, they told me I couldn’t. I just told him I would never see him again so he’d not kill J. Out of blind obedience and terror the next day I tried to recant, but wisely they did not allow this. My mother came and stayed over night with me. She didn’t always do the right thing but, I did something she never did. I told my father No.

When Steve, my biological father returned to his apartment that night, the only thing left inside was a bowl of potatoes. The neighbors helped J’s mother haul everything out, and she left him. J lived, and last I heard he’s a dancer in Jersey. I am not sure about that though, I do know he lived. I know his mother was no longer a vegetarian after that night as well. He was also arrested, and lost his job at the Radio Station. Their contract had explicit wording that meant if you were even falsely accused you were fired without a severance check. His colleagues saw him for the monster he was, and he was stripped of access to all Bible Studies, the Baptist (or other Christian Denom if I guessed wrong) equivalent of Excommunication.

It turns out this is a Happy Anniversary. This is my Independance Day. My D Day. This is the day when I made history. I stopped the monster, and this day is symbolic too, in the start of my own freedom. Without the actions I took, I would be dead. J and his mother would be dead. This is the day that my biological father and abuser became afraid of me. To every survivor, I send strength. To every victim, solace. This is the day when I lived.

I lived.

I did see him again. Four times. I was 13 or 14 the next time. It was another Anniversary. Thanksgiving. His wife invited us all over, and the only reason my siblings and I, the older two who are actually his children, attended was to meet another sibling. I may’ve even been younger. Time is out of phase for most of my memories, but I know it was July 5th, 1993, the day I lived. He evaded us, faked going to work, and when he did show up I promptly told his wife, “You know, he’s a child molester and tried to kill us often when we were babies. Don’t breed, he’s evil.” He responded with violence, and fled. I was afraid, again but, I took the power from him. Each time he saw me after that, he tried to intimidate me, and found that I am not his little girl. I am instead a warrior forged by the flames of his wickedness, a warrior scourged through who has been tempered by the love of the rarest peopole, and who is stronger than anything he can comprehend. This strength is that of the Survivor. It is the shared strength of not being alone.

This is my first anniverssary with him being dead. I lived. He died. Happy Independance Day.

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2 Comments

  1. If you had just read this to me in person, I wouldn’t say a word. I would just hold up the revolutionaries salute. One closed fist, raised. Keep up the good fight, Kat.

  2. Wow. I hope you realize your own strength, Kat. You certainly made me realize mine with this story – which feels selfish, in a way, but it’s too easy to forget that there’s more to being a victim than just victimhood. Happy Anniversary, indeed.


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