Today I want to share a story about my childhood. It’s not a great story. It doesn’t bring good memories, it’s haunted me… there are bones in the darkest corner of my closet that sometimes send out chills so I don’t forget that they exist. Today, I remember wanting to share this story that pains me when I think about it.
Many years ago, when I was a young child and there were only three younger sisters, a tragedy happened. It was on a night like any other night; the whole family was in the kitchen preparing for dinner. Mom, myself, and perhaps two other sisters were at the dining table slicing meat and chopping vegetables. Dad was at the sink sharping knives and complaining about one thing or another. He was annoyed.
My youngest sister at the time was running back and forth in the kitchen. She was told to stay put… that lasted about two minutes.
Mom and dad ended up arguing about some things. It got intense, but I was used to it but it still felt a bit uncomfortable to see two people being so verbally hateful towards one another. I focused extra hard on what I was doing in the hopes of drowning out the demeaning words my parents barked at each other.
There must have been shouting. There must have been a crash, a scream, a cry. There must have been some noise. I didn’t hear or see anything. There was just a blank space of time… and then my youngest sister was sitting on the ground holding her knee, crying. Mom must have yelled something at dad.
Dad was holding the knife and staring at my youngest sister. I don’t know how long, maybe just a few seconds, maybe longer, before he said, “you deserved it,” to my youngest sister. I assumed he meant her constant running around the kitchen. My sister was not yet seven years old.
I stayed seated at the table, just staring. Mom told me to find a cloth to stop the bleeding. I don’t remember how, but I moved and got her what she asked for. Mom said the cut was deep.
I saw it. It wasn’t a cut; it was a jab… it was deep. I could see inside. I don’t remember my youngest sister’s cry.
Mom mentioned maybe a hospital because it was deep. The idea was quickly tossed out the window.
“Don’t speak of this to anyone. No one at school must know,” said dad. “You’re going to get it if any of you speak about this.”
“You don’t want us to be taken away,” mom chipped in. “Do you want to live with strangers?”
I couldn’t go near to my sister at that time. I didn’t know what to do or how to comfort her.
No one ever knew what happened to my sister that night. Even if mom and dad hadn’t threatened us, we wouldn’t have said anything. How would the subject come up?
The abuse continued after that, more verbal than physical, but not by much.
When my sister grew up, she spoke out to her teachers about the abuse going on in the house on multiple accounts. When I was interviewed, I was fearful of what could happen and the unknown that would come our way so I didn’t back up my sister.
For a long time, I wanted to tell this story, but I fear letting it out there. What would people think of me and my family? But the biggest factor that prevented me was the fact that I had failed in being a good sister. It is shameful to me. I should have protected my sister, someway, somehow. Instead, I have protected the abusers.
I am ashamed. I am regretful.
I know I was too young to know anything and to do anything at the time. I know I was abused as well. I know that the fear installed inside of me from my childhood prevented me from protecting my siblings… I know all the truths but it does not lessen the sorrow I feel facing my past. Sorrow doesn’t sum up the storm of emotions I feel.
Now, almost twenty years later, I show her all the love I can to make sure she knows she’s treasured. I’m not going to lie… although I’m doing my best to love her and be close to her, there is a disconnect. Not because she doesn’t love me; not because she distances herself, but I believe it is because of the different paths of maturity we took from our experience.
I can’t undo the past, but I can change the future with my prayers. I rest in my all-knowing God’s promises.