My parents kept secrets from each other but would often tell a secret to one of us in hopes that they could win our vote.
When I was a sophomore in high school, my dad told me he had been seeing another woman for a while. I just listened to him speak with no expression. I lived in fear of expression and in a sick way, I still wanted my dad to love me and to want to be my dad. If I kept the secret, he would love me. I didn’t want to look at him with disgust either. He had a talent for making me feel little and worthless. He knew just the right words to say to me and at sixteen I had no emotional strength to not let it affect me.
I kept quiet for a week, I think, but eventually my mom had another emotional breakdown. She must have known something was going on. Because I was her oldest child, she would have me sit down and listen to her aches and sorrows. I was often reminded of how exhausted she was from parenting bad kids and working two jobs while my dad chose not to work. Again, I just listened with no expression. My mother also had a great talent for striking you with harsh words and she had a set of nails that were not afraid to draw blood as she squeezed your arm in anger.
My parents kept me quiet, scared and afraid to move. The worst part was that they were both doing it. The children were the pawns for their sickness and we had no way to cry out for help.
A week after my dad told me about his affair, my mom was having her breakdown before her evening shift at the restaurant and called me over to listen. She won my heart over with some subtle comments about my grades in school. I listened to her sadness and anger. She campaigned hard with me and I weakened yet again. I wanted to be loved by someone and I spilled my dad’s secret to her. Maybe this time she would love me for telling her something that would help her. She took in my words and her eyes darkened in anger again but she thanked me. I interpreted that as she loved me and I was happy to be loved for a few minutes.
Eventually my dad came home and my mom passed him as she drove to work, which was only a mile away. When she arrived at work, she must have found the courage or drive to call up my dad and confront him with her new information.
I remember hearing my dad answer the home phone. His tone went from easy going to anger. My heart was racing out of my chest. I knew he knew. He was going to kill me or at least break me. I quietly listened in as he hung up on my mom and called a friend. He was explaining that I had told my mom about the affair. It was fight or flight time and I only weighed 90lbs. It was time to fly. I ran to my room, kicked out the screen in my window, jumped out and began running into the woods. I could hear him screaming my name and I continued to run.
I ran though thorn bushes and jumped over fallen trees. I had a general hiding direction but could still see the country road. Eventually, I saw his car driving by. He was looking for me. My legs were bleeding and my heart wouldn’t slow down. I sat down in the woods and tried to think of a new plan. I remembered that my mom sort of loved me today and thought I had a chance if I could make it to her at work. I started running again until I could see the end of the woods and the start of the parking lot where she worked.
I waited for my dad to give up looking for me in the parking lot and head elsewhere. I quickly ran into the building where she was waiting tables and she came over to me. She didn’t seem angry, but then again, all of her coworkers were watching. She took me downstairs to the bathroom and helped me clean all the dirt and blood off of me. Then she hugged me and told me it was going to be alright. She had not hugged me in years and I didn’t know what to think. Maybe she did love me and I really needed someone to love me.
She told me I could go lay down in the car. I did but with fear. I just knew he was going to find me or that she would tell him I was in the car. They seemed to get along when they were both punishing their children. It kept the focus off of their issues. At the end of her shift, we quietly drove home and I was told to go to bed.
I laid there in terror. He was going to wake me up by hitting me. This time he didn’t. I was left alone all night. He would eventually settle matters but not for a couple days.