April 7th, 1974. I was 14. It was the day I realized I was all alone with no one left in this world to rely on. My parents had left for the hospital to deliver my baby sister. My older sister had left for a year of studying abroad.
Until that day I had leaned on my older brother. He often took the brunt of punishment/abuse whenever there was a full moon or a bad day at work…whatever it was triggered our step-dad who didn’t really want a bunch of new children to care for.
I had suspected my brother but I had mixed signals in my childhood head. My little sister appeared to voluntarily submit, often laughing. I had not heard of grooming. I attempted to fight him. Rather unsuccessfully, I might add. My little sister and my mom were screaming at me to stop. Pinned down on the floor, I see my young sister crying and screaming at me in the doorway. “Stop it! Stop!”
So maybe it was just me. Maybe I was wrong. She seems fine with it and angry with my attempts to intervene. And mom knew and she was screaming at me to stop. I guess I was overreacting.
But then late on 4/6 or early on 4/7/74, my parents woke my bother to babysit while they went to the hospital. Both parents knew their choice of babysitter had molested their daughter in the past year.
In the morning, he bragged to me about his exploits, in the form of a movie he claimed to have watch while up babysitting. I did not know what to do or who to go to. I feared my step-dad and mom defended my brother regardless of the offense. Fortunately, my little sister told my step-dad, at the kitchen table when he returned from the hospital. He hugged her and said I love ya. Watching from the living room, I wished I was part a family like that.
Then he made sure my little brother and little sister were outside playing, far from ear-shot. He, of course, did not concern himself with my location or my well-being. He summoned my older brother the the kitchen and began beating him and yelling at him.
I can hear the yelling, screaming, blows landing, shrieking, and begging.
As a child, I had a front row seat to children being molested and beaten. These childhood memories are seared into my psyche. I repressed them successfully for a very long time. But now, unfortunately, I remember everything. And when I remembered, I realized I’ve always known. And that knowledge crushed me more that the memory itself. A psychoanalyst (Christopher Bollas) coined this as “the unthought known”–that which we know but cannot allow ourselves to think.
Mom came home with my new baby sister. I was holding her for the first time when mom asked if there was any “hitting” while she was at the hospital. Umm…hitting? There was a sexual assault in your daughter’s bedroom and a violent physical assault in the kitchen, right about where we were standing. But my 14 year-old self could not speak.
Tears filled my eyes as I nodded. She sighed, “That never solves anything.” I nodded again as my new baby sister’s fingers hugged my pinky finger. She had no idea. And she had no idea. And that was the end of it. Until next time.
So I wasn’t wrong after all. I was just alone.
Unless I could somehow block all of this out. Maybe I could bury it somewhere… and I wouldn’t have to be alone. Without my brother, I probably would have died. With him, just a piece of me died.