Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Until I Find Myself

I have been inspired to write about the experiences which follow for a few reasons.

The first comes from my having recently read John Irving's book, "Until I Find You," and he deals with similar themes in the story he wrote. Irving's writing inspired me to try to detail my story in order to work on my prose style.

However, while reading "Until I Find You," I found myself focusing on the memories to be detailed in this blog entry. As I meditated upon them and their meaning to me at this point in my life, and as I came closer to understanding one of the themes in Irving's book - that memories are not always as accurate as they may seem to be to the rememberer - I began to experience spontaneously recovered memories of the incident. Consequently, I have acquired a deeper understanding of what happened to me all those years ago. I am struggling with revealing this part of my personal history, so it must be of profound importance that I do so. Hence, the second reason for offering this story in my blog.

A third reason arises from the realization that the more of myself I am able to expose, the greater is my honesty to both others and with myself, and the greater connection I am capable of making with both others and myself.

Finally, I find a therapeutic value in revealing my deepest and darkest secrets. So, a fourth reason for writing this blog entry arises from personal growth which can be gained by tearing to shreds the holds over me which are expressed by: fear of being judged by others, self-recriminations because of self-judgement, and a reduced self-image, self-love and self-acceptance which arise due to my inability to accept some of the experiences from my past and some of the elements of my nature.

When I was a child, a particular memory would arise in my mind unprompted. That memory surfaced into my conscious thoughts. The memory was of a time during the end of my 6th year. School had already started, and I was in the 2nd grade, so it was sometime between early September and my 7th birthday that Halloween. A man I had barely met, and only knew for a few days, led me into the bathroom in my parents bedroom. A stall shower stood in that bathroom. This man, who I would later know as Uncle Bill, was preparing both of us to take a shower, however, I was hesitant.

"Your daddy takes a shower with you sometimes, doesn't he?"

I nodded my head, indicating yes.

"Well, we're all boys here, so there's nothing wrong. Come on, boy, get with it," he retorted with a smile on his face but insistence in his voice

After that, I remember entering the shower with Bill. However, that is as far as the memory progressed.

I have three earlier memories which color the circumstances encompassed by this experience.

As a four year old, I was outside playing one day with an older boy on the block where I lived in 1956 Northridge, California. This was a time when the milkman left bottles of cold milk on the front porch in the mornings and the Helms Bakery delivery man drove up in his station wagon woody to deliver baked goods every mid-afternoon. I would start my mornings with Howdy Doody, then run outside to play. Well, this mid-morning, I had to urinate while playing some game with this new friend. The older boy with whom I was playing didn't want to interrupt our play, so he suggested I go over to the tan colored brick wall by my house separating the front yard from the side yard, and go there. I did.

My mother must have heard me urinating. She came out the side door and asked me what I was doing.

"I had to tinkle, Mommy," I explained.

"But you do that inside, in the bathroom," she admonished.

"I know," I replied with downcast eyes. Then I looked up and met her gaze. "But he (and here I used the name of my playmate, though I cannot remember it now) told me it was ok to go here." However, when I turned to point in the direction of my playmate, he was long gone and no where to be seen.

My mother instructed me to come inside. I was told not to play with that boy ever again. I was also instructed to always use the bathroom indoors, and never to expose myself outside or to any stranger.

At some point during kindergarten, which would have been when I was five, so after Halloween of 1957, our family moved from Northridge to a home in Linda Vista, a suburb of San Diego. During the summer of 1958, my cousin Janice came to stay with us. Janice was the daughter of my mother's sister, Marilyn. Now, Janice was older than I, her birthday being 4 days and 4 years before mine. So, I was nearing my 7th birthday as she closed in on her 11th. I had twin beds in my bedroom, so Janice stayed in my bedroom with me, in the other bed.

On the first night of her stay, she got out of bed and came into mine. Janice cuddled close to me. Then, she kissed me on my lips. A skant gasp escaped my mouth. She put a finger over my lips and whispered in my ear to hush, to be very quiet. We embraced under the covers and she kissed me again and again with urgency and passion. I can't remember how many days she stayed with us, however, I do remember that each night one of us went to the other's bed where we cuddled and kissed. As the nights passed along, our hands explored each others body as well. She especially liked to grasp my penis and play with it. I achieved erections from her games, not knowing what they were. I even remember she kissed and licked me to erections.

One night, we must have made too much noise, because my father got out of bed and came to my room, telling us to be quiet. I huddled close to Janice, trying to look like one body. I watched him look from her bed to my bed and back. I'll never know if he knew I was in bed with Janice, but he just turned and went back to bed with my mother. After he left, I went back to my own bed, stealthily.

I had a friend who lived down the street from me in San Diego, whose name was Colleen. She was a year younger than I. We both loved Popeye cartoons. At our house, my father had purchased and installled an antenna tall enough to receive television transmissions from Los Angeles as well as San Diego. Colleen's family did not have such an antenna. So, we would invariably meet at Colleen's home to watch Popeye on San Diego TV, and then we'd run over to my house to see an LA broadcast. We also played other games together, either at her home or at mine.

One day, when I had gone over to Colleen's home and we were playing, she wanted to play house. I didn't know what she meant at first, so I went along with it. She explained I'd be the daddy, and she'd be the mommy, and her dolls would be the babies. Colleen had a toy stove, so she pretended to cook meals. We played with the dolls, then put them to bed. At some point, Colleen decided it was night time, and announced it was time for Mommy and Daddy to go to bed. Now, this was after my experience with Janice, so I understood that this was something we shouldn't be doing.

I told her we shouldn't play this game. However, Colleen just said it was what all parents do and decided it was ok. I allowed myself to be talked into it. Now, this was completely innocent - we didn't kiss or touch or anything. We just kind of laid there next to each other, fully clothed and probably, in a moment or two, Colleen would have decided it was morning and we'd have gotten out of bed. Unfortunately, Colleen's mother came in to check on us, probably because we had grown too quiet. Well, Naomi scolded us both, telling us never to do that again, and then she sent me home. Of course, I was scolded again when I got home, and we were grounded for a week. Needless to say, we never played that game again.

Each of these three experiences preceeded Bill taking me into the shower. I remembered each vividly, in its entirety. Why, then, could I not remember anything more from the time that Bill took me into the shower with him? What was I repressing? I couldn't fathom why I had a missing piece to this memory. Then, for many years, the memory faded into the distance and ceased being something I recalled.

As I read "Until I Find You," this memory started to return to the surface. "Why now?" I wondered. So, I started to try to piece the puzzle together. That began with the arrival of other memories from my childhood.

One which resurfaced during the time I was reading "Until I Find You" concerned the events of a night when I was 8 years old. Please allow me to preface it with some of the details which lead up to the experience and which contain significance in the grand scheme of events relating to the core story.

My father left my mother in San Diego. They separated. He went to Saudi Arabia, working for the government as a foreman on a construction project. He left before we moved from San Diego. That explains the presence of Bill at our house there, right at the end of my and my mother's stay in that house. Bill must have traveled from LA to San Diego to assist my mother with the move. You see, Bill was, as I would later find out, my mother's sister, Marilyn's latest boyfriend. He was also a foreman for a steel fabrication and ironwork construction company. Likely, in that role, he could have taken time off if necessary to help my mother, or they could have been between jobs.

Now, was he sleeping with my mother during his stay? I cannot say. That he took me into the bathroom in my mother's room may or may not be suggestive of anything. I do not want to cast aspersions on my mother's character, however, I know that years later, long after she and my father divorced (and that divorce didn't occur until 1974), she had an affair with a married man who was an old boyfriend of hers from high school. My mother was, over the years, prone to many dark moods when she felt wronged, and she might have slept with Bill to get even with my father for leaving her.

Regarding Bill, I also know that he had made remarks on numerous occasions after my parents divorced that I need not worry about my mother in old age, that he would take her in and she could live in the house with he and Marilyn (who he married sometime in the mid-60s). I also know that Bill sometimes made suggestive remarks to my mother, even in my and my father's presence. Finally, at the business location for the steel and ironwork fabrication company, Bill had a huge collection of pornographic material, not just picture books, but also sex novels of all kinds detailing many strange and bizarre fantasies. (I know this because I went to work for Bill for a few years in the 80s and saw the collection).

In any event, my mother and I moved next door to her parents. We moved into a converted garage which was made into a one bedroom. I slept on the couch in the living room. This garage was attached to a two bedroom home in which Marilyn resided with her children Janice and Ricky, who was male and a year and a half younger than I. I was introduced to Bill at this point as Marilyn's boyfriend, and I recall now having been a bit dumbfounded why I was being reintroduced to someone I had met previously.

Eventually, my mother and father reconciled, and he came to live with us there. A few months later, he moved us out and into a home of our own. It was while we resided in the converted garage and after my father had returned to live with us there that the next event took place.

One night, my parents went with Marilyn and Bill out to dinner. They left us with Janice and another, slightly older girl who babysat for us all. Ricky and I were in his bedroom playing some game, likely a board game. When we finished the game, he suggested playing doctor. I had no idea what that was. He took me in his closet and showed me. Janice and the babysitter found us there. Naturally, they told our parents. I remember trying to explain to my parents that Janice had done the same thing with me in San Diego. She denied it, and everyone believed her.

As that memory resurfaced into my consciousness last month, I began to think about the odd coincidence that both Janice and Ricky (who would have been about 6 years old at the time) were sexually active (to a childish degree) and both initiated sexual games with me, and both had a fascination with my penis. I wasn't yet able to put all the pieces together or recapture any of the missing memory from that day with Bill.

That Ricky and Janice molested me, made me wonder if Bill had molested them. Maybe it was because of Bill molesting them that they became sexually precocious and initiated me into their games. Maybe, because he probably would have admonished them to keep his secret, they would have kept their sexual games secret, even from each other. Maybe that also explained why Janice, who had been a very normal, straight laced, conformist of the mid-60s, turned into a heroin using biker girl in the late 60s, left home, and never wanted anything to do with Marilyn or Bill after she left.

Finally, after understanding there might be a relationship between all these circumstantial facts, my memory of that day in the shower grew full and complete. I recalled what happened in that shower.

I remembered my face being just about the height of his penis. I remembered him lifting me in his arms, holding me in the water as he played with my penis. I remembered Bill putting me back down and telling me to play with him the way he had with me. I remembered him constantly repeating to me what a good boy I was as I did what he told me to do. I remembered him getting hard. I remembered Bill wanting me to kiss his erection and lick it. I remembered him telling me to open my mouth and him inserting himself into my mouth as he had me stroking his shaft. I remembered him taking himself out and shooting on my face. Finally, I remembered him telling me this would be our little secret and that no one should know about it.

After all these recollections had come rushing back and reached their conclusion, I just sat down and cried. I was furious and wanted to wring his neck right then and there. I was panicked because I was confused and afraid to admit to myself how much Bill had ruined my life during that moment when he sexually abused me. I was shocked that I never told anyone about it, and that I had forgotten all the horrid details of being an innocent little boy violated. I was afraid to ever let anyone know about this experience. And then, I began to cry, uncontrollably, for hours as I sat in a Tucson park, all alone, with no one in the world who cared about me or what had happened, no one with whom I could share the story so I might be comforted. Instead, I sat there with tears streaming from my eyes, ashamed and irate.

But today, as I conclude writing the details of the experience, I feel pity for him as well as pity for me as a little boy. Maybe Bill had been abused like this when he was a child. I know that when I hit the "publish post" button, I will have revealed entirely too much to the world. Yet, I also know, I will have revealed entirely too little for my own benefit. Inside, I am crying as I type this. I cry not only tears of pain for having relived the experience once again, but also tears of release. I can finally let go of the trauma. With the trauma, the drama also departs. I feel more whole now as I finally come to grips with accepting times and events long past and their strings no longer linger, they have no hold over me anymore.


mummydalkeith said...

I am moved, and so impressed by your openess. Cathartic for you, yes, but also for others!

Violetwrites said...

Isn't it strange how the memory was gone for so long and then reconstructed itself.
If it had only been you and the children-I may have chalked the children's acting out part up to curiosity. To think of a man behaving that way with a child - I want to kick his ass and make it hurt, seriously hurt, knock a few teeth out.

Michelle said...

Oh Don.