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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

broken things


one night the doorbell was well after midnight. we heard mens voices. peeking down through the dark stairs to see police officers talking back and forth with our mom. 
our dad had been in a helicopter accident with 2 other men. one man was dead, the other a paraplegic. our dad had broken his back in 3 different places. dad was broken? flying was the one thing i knew that my father truly loved. i'm certain that the knowledge of his never being able to do it again hurt him more than his physical pain.

he was at home now with a back brace and 4 teenage girls. i was 13. while mom was unaware and working full time to get us all through, dad was at home tearing it all down. because he didn't want to be the broken one, he decided to break his children instead. 

he hollered and chased us. he threw heavy things at our heads. he dragged us by our legs across floors. he threw us off the deck. forced us to eat when we were full. forced us to stay awake when we were tired. forced us to stand when ached to sit. he mocked us, humiliated us. he laughed menacingly, ridiculed often, shamed intentionally. sometimes from his big lazy-boy chair he'd slide his glasses down his nose and glare over top of them at us, like he wished we were dead. i remember being most afraid of his eyes, when his eyes caught mine i felt myself shrink quickly into absolutely nothing. 

what coping skills do most young girls have? what about the girl's that have been told they are stupid, ugly and worth nothing by the people they trusted? what happened to these girls? weren't dad's suppose to make you feel special? drive you places and tell stupid embarrassing jokes? weren't they suppose to be vaguely interested in who you were? weren't dad's suppose to keep their daughters safe? weren't they even suppose to love them?

we usually played outside till mom came home. said nothing. she was tired already. i didn't want to make her upset.

finally came the nights of raised voices downstairs. moms wooden rocking chair in a face off with dad's big i'm the king of the house chair. strained voices, tension, pleading and finally crying when i think she realised/confronted him about what was actually happening to us. then finally i remember hearing her scream 'you CANNOT hurt my kids jim!' 'you can't and you bloody well WON'T!' and the following evening crying and his acting like she was crazy...and her screaming  out 'lets just get a fucking divorce then and be done with it!' my eyes open wide in my bed. i wonder if any of my sister's heard? i felt relief. was she really going to make him stop? she was so tired and used up. his heart was black and her's was gone. but even that wasnt good enough....he wanted to conquer and control the only things in the world that meant anything to her. us, her kid's. and suddenly like an animal her strength came back to her. a neighbour and friend helped her, J. to this day mom sends an elephant to J every year on the day she left dad to say 'i wont forget'

i felt excited and scared for my mom. where would dad live? it soon became evident that he wasn't planning on actually going afraid and frantic was being told to get out. it was 'his' house after all. 'his' money. 'her' girls.  she walked out the front door. he held the house and her treasured photo albums of all of us growing up hostage threatening to burn them. we slept at the pastors house, the hospital wing where she worked in empty beds/rooms, neighbours. she made sure we knew to stay away no matter what.

canmore was a small town and it seemed smaller now. everyone knew. as if they didn't know earlier though....i remember years before being slapped in front of the entire school yard by my father. he had yelled 'you stupid little bitch' i was humiliated felt my face go red from the sting of his handpring and of my own shame. the bell rang and i had to walk across the entire playground past all the kids outside starring and into the school. i hoped his hand print wasn't still showing when i sat down at my desk. i hadnt processed it yet. i held back tears. a girl named L was the only person who came up to reassure me that day. she said it was ok that families sometimes fought, although i was sure her's didn't.she was pretty and popular and in my eyes perfect. i will always remember her kindness. that day haunts me. 

so instead of of just standing there in all the stupid, awful, broken pieces... instead of accepting the fact that my dad did this to us, that he hated us all... instead of feeling humiliated and dirty and embarrassed staying in shelters of strangers homes with my weeping mother....i exploded with anger at being let down, being hurt, at being abandoned. i seethed from every pore a hatred that was so intense i wanted to scream out. a hatred so deep that only a teenage girl can know it. a hated that consumed everything and everyone in my path. i completely shut down. my heart stopped feeling. i stopped being. i figured if nobody cared about me...i sure as hell didn't care about them. 

14. i went to school. i stayed with friends. on weekends there were bush parties down by the river and always a house party somewhere if you knew people. i lost my virginity to a remarkably beautiful boy named C. i discovered alcohol. drinking made me feel full of love and energy and purpose. drinking helped me forget how bad i felt about my life. it allowed the edges of my memories to get fuzzy and drift off as if they had happened to another girl and not to me. i felt accepted when i drank. i felt in control and cool. i felt dangerous and amazing. i felt beautiful and free.

15. when i realised the rate at which i could rebel i was truly amazed. there wasn't just cigarette's and alcohol and boys. there were cars and drugs and older men. my friend E and i equipped in our skinny jeans and sexy tops would drive into banff. we partied our underage faces off. waking up in seedy hotel rooms with people left over from the night before. smoking a pack a day, drinking constantly, hitchiking, sleeping with anyone who had something we wanted. i dropped out of school, worked hostessing in pubs, housekeeping. all i wanted to do what keep forgetting. the only way i knew how was drinking.

one night E and i had hitchhiked to the jasper turn off. it was 1am and a trucker let us out. he had been weird with us the whole way. E had her knife in her boot but we didn't know how to actually fight. we quickly thanked him and hopped out said we'd be fine. we scampered off up the exit. waiting for the truck to pull away. it was snowing. he hopped out and darted towards us. we went further into bush. i always thought he came to rape us knowing how alone we were...but maybe he was coming bak to say 'you morons nobody drives by here at 1am your gonna freeze' but we hid far into the bush and we froze. by 3am the warden picked us up and let us stay at her cabin an hour up the road. she was beautiful and quiet. i think she was in complete awe of our stupidity. when we woke up she was gone. we made a point of not stealing anything. we partied in jasper for the next 2 days. dancing, laughing, forgetting how young and afraid we actually were.

i worked at a coffee shop in canmore. met a hippy guy and flew out with him to gabriola island. his mother was out of town for 2 weeks. all i remember is cocaine, campfires and having no money. all i ate were oranges.

16. i met S, he was 31. a solider with the british army who was in canada training other soilders in outdoors adventure training programs. i don't know how it became official but it did. a boyfriend twice my age. statutory rape obviously not a concept i fully understood at that point. sure there was that aspect of the relationship but...
we climbed. we kayaked. we white water rafted. we camped and hiked entire mountain ridges. he wanted to be with me. he wanted to be with... me. he would take care of me. wasn't that love? my mother wanting me to stop my path of destruction, although hesitant of the age gap, eventually let us live in the basement when the lawyers finally evicted dad. we hung nepalese prayer flags and read books about mexico. nothing broke...not for awhile..... be continued. xo ~hea

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing Heather.. I had no idea that this was going on in your life back then. Wish I could have been there more for you.