By Jeanie White
There are so many stories I can get into from the earlier years of my childhood, I can read my life like a book in my head. I have gone over everything in my memories so many times I don’t think I will ever forget my past. Trying to take the story in my head and put it to paper has proved more difficult than I expected it to be. There are so many lessons I can put down. So much wisdom I can share. The truth is, I can keep writing until the day I die and it still wouldn't be the end of my story. Part one of my story was simply a prelude to a much longer, more epic tale. There is so much more to be said, so much more to be shared, so many dreams that have yet to come true and so many ideas still swirling around in my head. Where this life leads me will be a story for ages to come.
In every person’s life, there is a moment that seems to define us, some search for this moment in earnest only to come up just shy of their goal because they searched too hard, expected too much, and missed the moment when it came. Once we realize we missed our moment we try getting it back, searching for a replacement and yet never truly finding one, only to miss all the moments that came before and after the moment we spent so long waiting for. Why does it seem that so many fall short of those defining moments? It seems so simple to accept each moment as better than the last, but it's just not reality, is it? I know that was never the case in my reality, even though it could be the case in other's reality. Truth is, my view of reality has never been normal, not since I can remember, anyway.
One of my first memories was one such moment. I was always a fast learner and a smart child. I was walking and talking earlier than most children my age. My mom said I was walking by my first birthday and I have a picture to prove it. I was talking sooner than most kids my age, although I think I did have a slight speech problem when pronouncing some words as I got older but with a few speech classes that was quickly fixed. I learned how to roller skate when I was about 3 years old. As one of my first memories, I can only recall a few single moments In time around what had happened to cause the memories to last. It's probably one of my safer memories, one that took place before the abuse started when my father was still my dad and I was his little angel face.
It was one of those warm days in spring and we were living on a little piece of land my dad was renting somewhere in California. It wasn't a big piece of land, only a few acres I think. It was just big enough for a yard and a small grazing field for a few animals. I remember we had billy goats about 4 of them. I loved going out with my dad every morning to feed them because their beards tickled my palms when they ate the grain from out of my tiny hands. I can still remember the sound of my dad's deep amused chuckle as I giggled out of pure joy. I had no idea what true pain was in those moments. I had no fear when my dad picked me up to hold me or move me. I saw my dad as my hero. We had a few chickens and a cow, but the animal that was my pride and joy was the pony my dad had got me for my 3rd birthday. It was an all-white female horse, and I got to name her sugar all by myself.
I was so proud of how much of a big girl I was becoming, and I took responsibility for my horse without fussing. I got up with my dad every morning to help with chores and to feed the dogs, horses, and goats while my dad mucked out the stalls and pins and fed the chickens and dealt with the one cow we owned. I remember being scared of the chickens because they liked to chase me and peck at my feet.
There was one day after the chores were done where my dad decided to give me skates because my step-sister's skates were too big for my feet. After I put on the skates, I decided to use the patio as a skating rink. Dad was on the patio washing it off with a hose because one of the dogs had pooped on it after we had all gone to bed the night before. As I came around to the patio, I heard my dad yell.
“Be careful, the patio is wet and slippery! I don't want you to fall and bust your head open.”
I didn't listen though and before I knew what was happening I was falling headfirst towards the patio's corner edge that protruded out of the ground by about 4 inches. I don't remember going to the hospital, but I know dad took me because my next memory is right after we got home from the hospital. It was later in the day and the sky had already darkened into night. It was so late that dad allowed us all to stop and get fast food so no one would have to cook. We got home and all the lights were out so instead of going in the front door of the house dad walked us around to the kitchen door at the back of the house. As we all had come around the corner I remember hearing what sounded like an animal in pain and my dad looked worried so he told my stepmom to take my stepsister and me into the house while he went towards the back of the yard the sounds echoed through the darkness.
As my dad stepped into the darkness, I broke loose from my stepmom and ran towards the sound, only to hear my dad bellow for me to get back. As I ran closer my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I could see the shadows in front of me viciously tearing into a mass laying on the ground. I heard my dogs growls and then realized too soon that the other noise being made was my horse sugar neighing in pain because my dogs had attacked her and were chewing on her hindquarters and front legs. Too soon I was ripped away from the scene by my dad picking me up and handing me off to my stepmom.
“ Take the girls inside while I deal with this mess.”
I heard my father tell my stepmom as she quickly made her way back towards the house. I could hear my dad yelling at the dogs to release as he proceeded to kick one in the head and swing a shovel he had picked up at another one. Tears streamed down my face as I yelled to my dad not to hurt my dogs and to save my horse. I knew dad was mad because of the tone in his voice as he yelled the dog's names and every cuss word he knew into the night sky. I don’t remember the rest of that night, but I know dad put down all my dogs and my horse.
It wasn’t long after that that we left our house and moved into the travel camper attached to dad's pickup truck.
The abuse started after we moved into the camper. I don’t think I remember the first time my dad became my father, but he did and it was that first moment of pain that changed my life forever. It was after that moment that nothing would be the same for me. My innocence was lost in that moment, and everything I thought I knew was now completely wrong. My trust in those around me was broken, and I became a scared little girl hiding from a very cruel world that I no longer understood. If a girl can not trust her own father to do the right thing for her, how could she trust anyone else too? I was only 3 or 4 years old when life turned upside down for me. There was no changing it and no going back anymore. The memories began being burned into my mind and that is where they have remained this whole time.
I know I am not the only woman who has suffered at the hands of her father. I have met a few who had it worse than I did and some who were subjected to abuse for longer periods of time than I was but that doesn't make my story any less valid because everyone's story is different and we all heal differently so my story will never match anyone else's story but we can all learn something from listening to each other's stories. I only wish to be understood better by those in my life. Is it too much to ask for? It would seem so most days.
I spent the first year in my new hometown of Frederick Maryland trying not to be scared of everything and everyone. I was always the odd one out because I wasn’t like all the other kids. I was smarter and more mature for my age because of what I went through. That first year was hard. I made a few friends, but I had trouble connecting, and therapy was no easier than going to the doctors for tests and checkups to make sure I had healed from the abuse my father subjected me to. I learned fast how to hide how I felt so everyone in my life would stop treating me like a porcelain doll that would shatter if you even looked at it the wrong way. My family thought they hid their pity and pain for me so well, but I could see it every time I made eye contact with someone. It was so bad for me that I stopped looking people in the eyes and just kept my head down like the scared child I was.
Within that first year, I had to travel back to New Mexico for the court trial to put my father In prison. I was to testify and speak in front of a jury and a courtroom full of people. I was going to be questioned by both the state's lawyer and my fathers' lawyer. Before I was put on the stand to speak, I remember the judge coming into the room they had me waiting in to talk to me. I was terrified, and I was holding onto my mom's hand for dear life, just wishing I could go back home. I can’t remember the Judge's name and the transcript from court I lost years ago when my room had leaked water all over my tote of papers. I remember the Judge asked me if I was strong enough to sit on the stand and tell my side of the story, and I simply nodded my head yes. The judge then told me I would be handed dolls in order to show the jury where I was touched and what my father had done to me and asked me if I could handle that in person or if I wanted to do it in a live video feed. I only wanted to get it over with, so I told him I would just talk on the stand. I remember spending hours on the stand answering questions and playing with these barbies they had handed to me. After everything was discussed in detail I was asked to point to the man who had done these things to me and it was at that moment I realized I would have to look my father in the eyes as I told the room of people what he did. I remember having a hard time seeing clearly through my tears. It hurt my little heart to put my father in jail, but I knew I had to or he would do it again. Maybe not to me but to someone else and I couldn't let that happen. Not if I could prevent it.