Childhood 33 years ago tonight


I've talked about this before but today it feels especially appropriate.

I was 7 years old. It was 8 days until my big sister's 11th birthday. It's hard to imagine, I hadn't even started second grade, yet.

It's not that I didn't have trauma before that night: I'd had my face operated on repeatedly, I'd had near-death experiences surrounding surgeries, my stepfather had threatened me with severe bodily harm if I ever were to speak in public again because I sounded like a "retard" and he didn't want people thinking he had a "retarded kid" (and that was after 3 years of speech therapy) and many more.

But when I think about PTSD and how this all happened, 4th of July in 1987 is like the gateway evening. It feels like the real shit all started there.

I was standing right next to my sister watching my stepfather get thrown from Mom's horse for the third time. Cursing and belligerent, he stumbled to the other side of our bonfire. He cursed the horse over and over and my sister snickered.

And just like that, he ripped the gun out of his holster and fired at her head. I watched him reach for the gun and fire. His face was contorted and surreal, like a devil rising out of a bonfire laughing hysterically.

I turned and saw my sister running. She made it safely to the backyard where my grandmother (who had seen the whole thing) consoled her, saying she knew; she had also been abused.

The biggest problem was that she and my grandfather saw what had happened and I was old enough to know that they should not have left without us that night but they did.

And we stayed with that man and his alcoholic cocaine addicted pedophile madness for another 2.5 years - not long enough to emerge as adolescent murderers but too long to not need serious psychological help. Everything in the world that was safe was shattered. No one could be trusted.

Sometimes on July 4th I want to grieve for my lost sister, even though she has 2 kids and a husband. Still, so much of her died that night. It was only 4-5 later that she started becoming violent with me, ultimately chasing me out of the house with a butcher knife and getting thrown out. She and I have a good relationship now but there's a lot I won't tell her about my own trauma, namely how much of it came from when she finally lashed out. She knows I have had some self-esteem issues but the real nightmare of what I've had to deal with due to her childhood coping just doesn't need to be her problem - she has more than enough of those, already. She was too young for everything that she went through. She spent about a decade being regularly sexually abused by that man.

I walked into the thicker part of downtown earlier not realizing that the protests were starting early today. I have a feeling tonight is going to get crazy out there - the anticipation has been building in my bones for 3 days. Last night's protests were not declared a riot until after 4:00 this morning, but I'll give it no later than 10:30 tonight. I love the protests and the protesters but the mayhem after midnight is wearing on me all these weeks into it.

And I am left with a sentiment that I have had pretty regularly on the fourth of July - I genuinely and truly hate this holiday.

I know I probably sound morbidly depressed. I'm not. I feel like I have to pay tribute to the memories, especially today. It's been a long time since that gate swung open.

God bless my big sister.
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