I wasn’t going to talk about this publicly, then I recalled just how far silence gets you.
A little background:
I’ve been seeing a therapist for the past nine months because of an internal signal fire that’s struggling to be identified. A years long heating that showed up as annoyance…evolved into anger…then burst into rage. A rage directed only at my mother, the last living parent.
But where did it come from? And what was it trying to tell me?
I began to dig deep into a childhood that I never felt I’d examined properly, not as a sober adult. A childhood wrought with foul memories of violence and accusations. During the sessions, I kept going back to that childhood. Whether I was confiding to the therapist about marriages, or my kids, or my jobs….we inevitably ended back at mother and father.
Why did it take so long to get here? Its a question I’ve asked myself every day, over and over again. My personal journey is one of drug abuse, truancy, depression, petty crime, alcoholism and failed marriages that began when I was 13 and continued until I was 38. Maybe 14 years of sobriety, solitude, and plenty of yoga to rub at memories, was the way to turn on the beacon. A call to stop teaching yoga and return to my personal practice a means to recognize the fire I’ve carried around for many, many decades was actually fire. Not imaginary after all.
This is my sister, Deborah Wagner. She was sexually and physically abused by our father. I am the small one at her side, an eight year gap in our ages. I’m guessing it was taken somewhere around 1970 when I would have been five and she would have been twelve. Today, I’m 52, she would have been 60.
In all the photos that I’ve found of the two of us (or the three of us, as we have another, older sibling) my sister is holding me. And not just holding me, hugging me to her. Our relationship was mutated and destroyed by our parents. When I was 10 and she was 18, she married and moved out. As I grew older, and when I did see her, we rarely spoke of our parents or their cruelties. Pictures were painted of Debbie in order to maintain their story line and undermine the love my sister and I had for each other, evidenced by her holding me close in EVERY single photo of us I found. Every single one.
My sister was made out to be the bad one. The trouble maker. The story teller. The liar.
And when truth smacks you in the face, guilt calls the accuser “Liar!”
Our mother looked the other way. The same mother that did it again when I recently confronted her with too much unearthed evidence for her to ignore. The same mother who threw me out of her house and called the police when I did.
And the excuses were numerous…
“If he did do it, I didn’t know.”
“Maybe he did, but nobody told me.”
“That was your father, not me.”
“I saw a movie once about a therapist that put ideas in her patient’s head….”
I’ve heard others tell me “Oh, her generation….”
FUCK THAT. Right is right.
And wrong is wrong.
How far and how extensive that abuse was, well, I don’t have all the details, though memories resurface daily now.
Abuse should never be in the dark. Light should be shed on it for all to see. And shame to the abusers, no matter the current day or age. Because you tried to shame all of us up until November 6th, 2017 when that big old light came on. When the signal flared.
Debbie died a tragic death over two decades ago in a fire that also claimed her husband and youngest son. She left three other boys behind, all of them fathers now. The truth of our father and mother had not been accounted for and she died without the vindication she should have had.
To my sister, I’m sorry I didn’t do more sooner. I’m sorry you went to your grave and our father and mother carried on living. I’m sorry our relationship wasn’t the same as it was back on that couch when you wore cool 70’s striped pants. I know you loved me.
And from here on out, I’ll tell anyone who will listen. Because I love you too.
If you know or suspect someone is the victim of abuse, do something, say something.