For the Sanity of Our World

Children in Naranja, state of Chiapas, Mexico, wearing balloon hats my friend Bob made for them.
Children in Naranja, state of Chiapas, Mexico, wearing balloon hats my friend Bob made for them.

The abuse that happened to me in childhood has happened to many others.

There are children whose lives are so much worse and I ache for them. I cry for them. We must help them. If not for the children, for the sanity of our world because abused children often grow up to be damaged adults.

We have come a long way in this country but we have a long, long way to go. Lack of equality for women lies at the bottom of many of these problems as it does for people of color and others. As you will note, my mom had no choice but to put up with my dad, which put my sister and me at risk. This at-risk situation is presently happening to countless children. A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds in the United States. I believe this is why we have so many “walking wounded” on our streets and why so many resort to guns to solve their problems. I also believe child abuse is why so many get unreasonably angry about not wearing masks. They have been hurt and are still hurting.

My life appeared normal at the time. You believe your life is similar to the lives of others. I read this now and think how horrible this man was. Did this truly happen to us? This was my Dad?

One place you can help these children is Childhelp. Please.

My story is typical, yet one of many.

Dad removed us from the last people Mom could trust to help her.

One afternoon our family joined my Aunt Dot, Uncle Vic and our cousins at a veterans’ club where Vic was a member, and I recall having a great time playing on a machine where I slid a disc across a slick board to knock down “bowling pins.” Everyone seemed to be having a good time. Shortly afterward, Dad declared we were not to see Dot and Vic because they “drank too much.” That was the last time we saw our cousins, Sally and Nancy, and I believe it was the last time Mom saw her sister until after Dad’s death many years later.

My Uncle Vic had difficult experiences during World War II.

Mom told me he had been captured by the Germans during the Battle of the Bulge and tried to escape several times. He said the Germans were always waiting. He never liked the Russians because he had seen them strap German prisoners onto the front of their tanks before going into battle. My uncle was not a drunk. He held a government position in Akron, and years later after Dad’s death helped my mom. Dad waited for my maternal grandma to pass on before he dared separate Mom and us from the rest of her family. Mom didn’t have the nerve to oppose him.

How could she? During the fifties, she was a woman alone with two children and without a high school degree. She did the next best thing. She got a job as a clerk at the local drugstore at Dietz’s Landing about six miles from where we lived—to help with the bills. She waited until both Diann and I were in school, and at first worked only during the week, but later, worked weekends, as well. She accepted more hours to get away from Dad. They appreciated her there. They didn’t cut her down like Dad. She eventually learned to keep their books and run their computer, something Dad couldn’t do. He became jealous. But that’s another story.

Dietz’s Landing at Portage Lakes, Ohio. The drugstore is across the road to the left.

Our separation from family and friends, Mom’s working, the presence of my dog, Maverick, all occurred within a few years.

I don’t recall how old I was when Dad first did what he did, only the occurrence.

I’ve never forgotten that. Never. Mom was at work, Diann out playing somewhere. Dad and I were downstairs in the living room. He got me on his lap on the arm of the sofa, like when we played horsie. Only I was too old for horsie. He spread his legs a little, which spread mine. His fingers were thick. What he did felt good. And horrible. I recall the exact words I thought, “Do Daddies do this”? He said things in a strange voice. “Don’t tell your Mom.” I was old enough to have an orgasm. My knees and legs shook when he let me down.

I went upstairs to our room, my top bunk. Where my stuffed animals were. Hugged them— a large panda bear, a pink rabbit named Peter, a puppy, a gold lion, a green and yellow snake. I got them all around me, wanting someone to tell me I was not a bad person for what had happened. But I was. Mom would know I was bad. Everyone would. So I couldn’t let anyone know, especially Mom. She would be so hurt.

What had happened was sex.

 I knew it from the books I had read and from what kids in the neighborhood joked about. Dad left Playboy magazines lying around the house and I had seen the jokes inside about sex. Sex was dirty which was why people made jokes about it. Unless it was romantic between two people who loved one another.

Sometimes I had heard him and Mom at night and he hurt her; I could tell from the sounds. Some years later she told me she nearly died birthing Diann because she wasn’t supposed to have any more children after me. The doctor said she wasn’t made to have children. She lost a little boy between me and Diann. But Dad wouldn’t “leave her alone.” In addition, she was a bleeder, unusual for women. These were my child’s thoughts.

I “buried my nose” in books more than ever and begged to be taken to Mary’s house for visits.

I felt safe there. Her brother, Jim, collected science fiction stories and Mary and I borrowed them to read. I read everything at our house, including Gone With the Wind, though it was supposed to be years too old for me. The drugstore where Mom worked was the only other place we could get books, but, in the 1950s, not much was available besides mystery stories for men. We did manage to pick up a few westerns by people like Zane Gray. Mom had a subscription to Saturday Evening Post which ran a continuing story, and Mom and I waited with baited breath for it to arrive in the mail. It would be years before I was old enough to take the bus downtown to the library with Mary.

Dad walked around upstairs naked in front of me and Diann, but not when Mom was around.

Mom always wore a nightgown. I wanted to run, but had to pretend his nakedness didn’t bother me like everything else he did. I quickly looked away from that thing that swung between his legs. He gave me the creeps.

I couldn’t forever avoid being alone in the house with him.

This thing, sex, with him happened again. Upstairs on their bed. I recall bits and snatches and it scares me how parts of my memory are gone. It’s strange when parts of your memory are cut off. When you know something is there, but it’s gone. I have emotions and see and feel the chenille bedspread and a part of me says, “Are you making this up or did it really happen?” The other part says, “I know it happened, but I don’t want to think any further.” There were a number of these occasions with him. Did any go beyond touching?

I was not a virgin when I had my first intercourse with my boyfriend when I was twenty-two. For years I told myself I lost my virginity from riding my bike or that stick horse. Now I know that was practically impossible.

Food was a comfort, especially if I ate while I read. I gained weight. Perhaps, subconsciously I thought this would turn him away. It didn’t work. 

This situation would have been bad enough if he were a loving father, but I feared and hated him. 

He killed our pets, broke or took what was supposed to be ours, made promises he didn’t keep, invaded our privacy, told Mom she was stupid.  I would go to one of my special places outside or to Maverick and repeat, “I hate him, I hate him, I hate him.” I couldn’t say a word to him, not to his face, no matter what happened. Stuffing in my feelings became habit.

Now this.

My eventual loss of control finally scared him enough to make it stop.

I didn’t lose my sanity (maybe temporarily) or become dangerous (depends on who you ask), merely overweight, anxious, fearful of boys, prone to migraines and, oh yeah, stuffed full of withheld anger.  






2 responses to “For the Sanity of Our World”

  1. Cindy Georgakas Avatar

    Dear Karen,
    Thanks for sharing your story here and your bravery and courage it has taken to write it. I agree with you on everything you said in regards to the abuse of children that has infiltrated people’s spirit with no where to express it which often shows up in anger and violence.
    I am so sorry about your abuse with your dad and I think we have a protective mechanism to shut off parts that are too painful to remember. I find that too. You have a beautiful heart that is reflected in your writing.

  2. Karen Lynne Klink Avatar

    Thank you from my heart for your comment. Many years later I let some of my anger out safely, by throwing several clay pots against a cement wall (outside). I learned those emotions have to break through sooner or later. The more I speak and write, the more the experience loses its power over me. Bravery and courage don’t feel like words that apply to me. I am merely attempting to get past it all and hopefully help others who have gone or are going through the same or a similar experience.

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