Shall I break free from my past and move forward?
|Part of me hated him. Part of me wanted to scratch his face off. And why would I have stopped there? Once I started, given the opportunity, would I stop?
But I wasn't convinced it was his fault, either. After all, he was a child as well, trapped in our dark and crazy family dynamics.
Looking back, it was always a battle, or so it seemed. The Montgomerys on Mom’s side blamed the Somers on Dad’s side for making Mom live such a "horrendous" life. At least that’s how they viewed things. Sure, we had a mess of kids in our family and, yes, we lived in a tent for a few weeks while Dad was looking for work after we packed up and moved to Oregon. But what kid wouldn’t think that was the greatest thing under heaven? It was camping...we picked berries next to the rushing Williamette River, we slept in a tent, we roasted marshmallows and hot dogs on a stick...it was great! We weren't suffering. It was one of my favorite childhood memories. We were all together and there were no secrets. I felt safe.
What the Montgomery’s expected when Mom and Dad married were cream-of-the-crop, upper middle class people and what they got was my dad and the salt-of-the-earth Somers family... camp-outs, fire-pits, guitar-pickin’, country-singin’ folks who loved to make hot-dish and get together every summer for family reunions...that's who they were. Thank God is what I say. I love my Montgomery relatives, but I didn’t identify myself with any of them at all. Too stuffy and arrogant for my taste. What good is a childhood if you have to sit still and listen to adults talk when you’d rather be outdoors catching fish or finding fool’s gold out back of Old Man Fethers' barn?
Anyway, back to my brother. Anton lived with my Grandma Montgomery until he was about 12 years old, but even when he did move back home, Grandma still lived lived next door. I think that way she could keep tabs on Anton and stay in control. Anton was her precious angel and he received many perks that the rest of us did not: special treatment, his own separate area of the bedroom we all shared, his own toys while the rest of us had to share. We couldn't step foot over into his area, we didn't dare touch his toys, we couldn't even look at him sometimes. Anything he would have done to us (like beat us up on the way home from school, etc), my siblings and I would never consider telling our parents because it would have been a waste of time. In fact, it would have made things worse because then I would've had to deal with Anton’s anger for having told. I learned early to keep things to myself.
I was quite young when I figured out that Anton wasn’t my dad’s natural child. This was a highly guarded secret in the Montgomery family. I was bright (“sneaky” according to the Montgomerys) and discovered this on my own after I learned a little about biology (and Mom and Dad's dating story) and a lot of things started to make sense…such as why he was favored and never disciplined, etc. I didn't know why this would have made such a difference. In my eyes, this made my dad even more special. He came home from the Korean War to his sweetheart who was pregnant with another man's baby and married her anyway. A hero, if you ask me. Where was the other man? Why didn't he step up? But that's another story.
Despite the fact that Anton was spoiled and favored, he wasn't happy. He was very controlling and hurtful to my siblings and I; I think because he was bullied himself at school and his position at home was very tenuous. He was kind of a skinny kid and that made for easy pickings, I guess. I did harbor a little pleasure inside that I knew bigger kids picked on him when he was at school. My secret smile had to remain so, but it was there. It was mine. There were times I felt sorry for him, but those times were overshadowed by the abuse. It didn't happen often.
But even if he did have issues of his own, that did not give him the right to control and manipulate me, to touch me and make me feel dirty and small. I was angry, but didn't know how to voice that anger. Instead of fighting back, I pushed it deep inside. The more he did things to me, the smaller I became and the less I had a voice. Very quickly I learned how to make myself disappear into my mind, a place where no one could hurt me.
I’m not sure how I figured out how to recede into the background to avoid a bad situation, but the brain is an amazing organ. It seemed to take care of me when I was unable to handle what I was facing. That was my explanation for it, anyway. If I stared at something long enough, eventually, that object would almost disappear. In fact, I had to reel it in (blinking brought things back to focus), afraid it would vanish altogether. It made me feel very tiny as well because if I could do that to something inanimate, would I be able to do that to myself? Would I be able to do that to Anton? The thought of it both exhilarated and horrified me at the same time.
To survive the fact that it was my brother who was abusing me, my brain would take me someplace else. I endured because I knew it would end. Anton would go away and I could return to myself. I never told anyone about the abuses because I knew it was pointless. Anton was more Montgomery than I was. I knew from early on that he was a “prince” in their eyes.
Anton wasn’t the only person to use me in this way just because I was a girl, either. There were minor players in a whole string of molesters. They didn’t affect me in the same way as Anton did, probably because he was my brother, but influenced me just the same. I never had a “first time”. I never fell in love because I didn’t understand what true love meant. That didn’t mean I gave up trying. Over and over again I looked for that one man who was going to love me for who I was.
Problem was…I didn’t know who I was. I locked myself up in my secret place a long time ago. To break free meant to dig through all those painful memories and that was something I wasn’t quite ready to do.
Or was I?