Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Regret

The last few weeks I have been struggling with insecurity. It started with a phone call I received that brought me back to my childhood. A part of my life that has never been discussed in my family.  It was a year of my life that was extremely difficult, and also caused grief for many.  I'm writing about that experience today because I'm tired of it creeping up on me when the phone rings, and because I can't allow it to upset and control me anymore.  This is me letting go. Think what you will, but know that I hate being haunted by these memories.

I think as a child the world just seems...simple. I was living in what seemed like a horrible place. In relation to what a family life should be like, it was awful. But at the same time, when I set out to fix our circumstances and possibly change the course of my life I had no idea that there could be something worse waiting for me around the corner.  It's the only blind corner I've encountered in my life, and I can honestly say that if I could have seen around it I would have stayed in the hell that we were living in. I would have found a way to make it work. But, I think even as a child, we have our limits. At some point, regardless of age, we all make a decision.

I was chopping wood. My favorite thing to do in the Fall. It was a Saturday morning and I had managed to get my brother to swap chores for the day. It was just me in the cool crisp air, standing beneath the huge weeping willow tree that had grown for years on the south side of our home, planted and raised long before the Echols family had come along. I was taking in the smell of the wood stoves burning throughout the neighborhood and secretly wondering just how quickly I could make it through this pile of wood.    

I've always loved the smell of freshly cut wood, and the sounds of the wood splitting with each strike.  I considered myself lucky since most of my elementary school friends weren't allowed to participate in such a "difficult" task. Chopping kindling was my favorite part.  The smaller the pieces of wood became the more precise my aim would be. Seems like a metaphor now because the more difficult my options become as an adult, the more quick and precise I am at making a decision.

Okay, where were we?  Oh yes, the wood pile.

I had been chopping wood for about twenty minutes when the back door opened and my step-mother, Freda stepped out. She rummaged through the pile looking for a perfect piece of wood and then as quickly as she came, she was gone. She looked at me through the glass in the door as she locked it.  I could hear yelling inside. It was a horrible exchange between her and my brother and before I could process what was happening I could hear the sounds and literally feel the vibrations of feet running up to the second floor.

By the time I climbed up the wood pile and crawled through the laundry room window and made my way to the stairs...Freda was on her way down. It was at the moment when I passed her on the stairs and looked in her in the eye that I knew I had to do something to change our life. Our eldest siblings had all ran away from home and I knew it would be just a short time before my brother would do the same.  I also knew I would be next, and I didn't want to be next. I just wanted it to end.

I sat down with my father when he returned from over seas and I flat out told him that Freda needed to go. I was eleven at the time, and clearly I was better at this adult stuff then he was.  After all, this wasn't the first incident and we already knew that over time, the older you became the bigger the target you were.  It was a vicious cycle that would never end.  And to help him justify the decision I reminded him of things she had done over the years that were just...dumb. Remember the time she bought the new car without asking? Or when she insisted I eat the same bowl of disgusting stew every single day for every single meal for an entire week until you came home and stopped it? How about the time she bought that house on the other side of town and didn't bother to tell you?  Remember how you showed up at the old residence only to find out that we didn't live there anymore?  Or the times when I was grounded and was only allowed one meal and potty break a day?  Remember those plastic eggs you found in the bushes below my bedroom window?  Do I really need to tell you what they contained?  Or how about the fashion business she started?  DISASTER!

Obviously he agreed or I wouldn't be writing this post. I just assumed I would take over the household chores and be the woman of the house.  I had no idea there were actually laws in place that wouldn't allow children to live in a home without adult supervision.  At the time it just made perfect sense. I would do the cleaning and the cooking, Dad would set us up with all the food before he would leave on his business trips, and  we'd be there waiting when he came home every few weeks. It was such a simple solution to the problem.

But this is where the story takes a disastrous turn...

We were sent away. Two weeks later our bags were packed and we were shipped off to live with our sister and her husband and his family on the Island of Oahu. I'm sure most children would be envious. I admit, I was excited, and I couldn't wait to leave.  I imagined the warmth of the sun and the sounds of the ocean and  the feeling of sand between my toes.  Instead it was a blind corner. I couldn't see past the sun and the surf, and if I had been given any idea of what was really around that corner I would have put the brakes on the divorce and I would have made them stay married.  That's how much of a disaster this turned out to be. I was already living in hell and I was about to find out in the worst possible way, that there is indeed, a place even lower.

Without too many details, our living arrangements were less than stellar. We would be living in the bottom level of a two story home. The stairs were blocked off from the residence above, and our living arrangements were for 5 people to share a two bedroom and one bath section with a living / kitchen combo. My brother roomed with our nephew and I got the pull-out couch in the living / kitchen area. I wanted to tell my father that night when we called that we needed to go back, but...Howard told us what to say.  I watched roaches crawl across the dishes and ants feast in a corner all while trying to sound like I was living in the best environment a father could give me. There were mice.  We had lizards that crawled on the ceilings at night and would drop on our heads while we slept.  Not to mention the centipedes in the bathroom.  It was disgusting.

But...I honestly thought I could make it better. When I went to bed that night, knowing after the phone call that we wouldn't be returning home, I was resigned to my life and was willing to adjust.  I've always been willing to adjust.  But my resolve to make it work switched to despair when on that very first night- I was forced to  share my bed.  I tried to ask for help, but all my letters were stolen and  I was beaten more than once for trying to send letters to my father. I was there an entire school year and never once did I unpack my bag. My packed suitcase was always a symbol of hope. Something to look forward to, I suppose. Who knows now. And does it matter?

It ended. I survived. I moved forward...when I was forced to forget.

Unfortunately my inability to endure Freda has become my only regret in life. It wasn't because of what I went through. At the time, everyone said it was deserved. I do regret what it did to my brother and also for what it did to my eldest sister who has, for years, tried to seek forgiveness from me for the things she allowed to happen. But did she really allow these things to take place? In her mind she seems to think she did. And no matter how hard I try to move forward and try to forget, eventually the phone will ring.  The phone will ring and I'm forced to listen to an apology choked out through tears with such incredible sorrow that it forces the very breath from my lungs. She regrets the year in Hawaii and I regret the incident that led to it. I blame me and she blames herself.  In the end I always smile and tell her to let it go because until she finally comes to terms with it, I will never be allowed to forget. I'll be forever looking back...when all I really want to do is move forward.

I'm always trying to move forward now...and praying that the phone doesn't ring.

This post is being written  as a form  therapy and for personal growth.  If anyone reading this looks at me with sympathy I will personally scratch your eyes out.  Thanks for reading and I appreciate you visiting my blog.


Leah Anderson said...

Love you, Sabrina!

Darilyn said...

Anytime we can think about our past in a healthy way and come to terms with it is one step closer to becoming a more whole person. I'm glad you shared this. xxxooo

jchrz said...

I am glad you wrote this story and have gotten things off your chest. I have always felt it is not healthy to keep such trama to your self. Everyone needs to talk about things that they have gone through. It is good for the soul.

pamstam said...

I truly believe that once you can put words to your life's pains, then you are taking the steps to move beyond them. I applaud you my friend!

Christine said...

Your story was very appealing and made me appreciate my childhood. We always think we "had it rough" until you hear of others. Look how far you've come, Sabrina/Kate. Thanks for opening up and trusting us with your memories. See, people can make changes in their lives if they have the determination. Enjoy your day!

Sara said...

I am glad you shared your story with us. Thank you for being brave!

angelabarra99 said...

i loved that, thanks for letting us in

Thomas Pluck said...

No one ever gets over belittlement and humiliation at that age, but we learn to fake it.