Trigger warning: physical abuse/child abuse.
I have a near photographic memory for certain things.
1992. My brother and I with a friend tried to burn a wasp nest because we thought we were doing “justice” as we’d seen it performed.
We (my brother and I) were not at choir practice because our ride had left without us. They went to another event birthday party or something.
My father enters while we were eating in the dining room after speaking to a neighbor who apparently saw us or investigated after we gave up. He started by beating our friend with a dustpan.
Our friend ran home. He escaped.
Our beating continued until he eventually had us cowering in our bunk bed. I was in front of my brother covering us with pillows until the belt hit me in my eye. It in fact hit the left side of my head first wrapped around and lay across my right eye but the crack of the whip caught my left eye. I started screaming, “My eye!”
He said “I shoulda knock it out.”
The beating continued. I kept crying about my eye. Noone came to help or stop him.
After he left, I remember crying in the bedroom and in the bathroom and washing my eye in the sink and seeing if it would open and if I still had an eye ball. It felt like forever. Eventually it did open. I could see, but everything has been blurry since. I still had my eyes but neither of them worked like before. I remember standing in the mirror on tiptoe in the bathroom alternatively opening my left then right eye.
The next day, Sunday, I went to mommy. I asked her if she could take me to the doctor to check my eyes. Daddy was on their chair in the room while mommy was ironing for church. I was looking at her. He was to my left. I could make his shape out but could not see him clearly.
He said, “Daddy sorry. y’hear?”
I said, “you are not my Daddy.”
He got angry. I knew then that if he had attacked me I would have stabbed him with the little scissors in my hand. It would have made him more angry and he may have killed me that time, but I would have fought and I would never stop. He did not move from the chair. Instead he said “what?”
I said, ” a father would not have beat us like you did and would not have said you should have knocked my eye out.” I said it plainly matter-of-factly. My voice never filled me so much. After that I remember my cousin’s boyfriend taking photos of my black eyes. The right had swollen as well but only puffed and red not the black and purple the left got up to.
I remember telling the doctors at PMH and the eye doctor at imperial optical. “I got hit in the eye.” No more. No less. Mommy always went with me to my appointments. Or I went alone. I entered 7th grade with glasses. And every time I put on those glasses, I remember the whole thing.
Everyday, all day, I wear glasses. I remember it less each year, maybe but I cannot forget. End of July, before my eleventh birthday (August 6th, 1992. Just long enough for the bruise to fade, for the glasses to be the only evidence. Long enough to capture my birthday. I am approaching my 39th birthday. 28 years remembering that.
Today July 28th, my sister sent a message for me to call my father. He thought I had not called him for awhile because I was mad at him. He asked that I not be mad at him for something he did before, before I even went away to school. I told him that I still remember him beating me, telling me he should have knocked my eye out. But that I had forgiven him. I told him I have forgiven him. He said “I sorry fa dat.” I could feel he meant it. The man I was angry at all those years is gone.
He had a stroke the day I left for my PhD. He has been bed ridden since. He has a new wife, whom I met briefly before I went away, before the stroke. Seeing him with her and her kids, gentle and docile, made me realize that he was different and the anger I held was from something he left in me.
I truly believe I have forgiven him, but if ever you lay hands on me or hit me, even in playing or because you are laughing, this is what I see with my blurry vision. This is why I do not tolerate violence toward children or anyone. This is why I fight back. Always. And I will not stop.
For my birthday this year, you can plant a tree and take a photo of you with said tree or you can make a donation to one of the homes or shelters that care for children. There are many, but I have connections to the youth at the Ranfurly Homes. Thank you for reading.