It was the same every night.
The same dinner table ritual.
While other families gathered around their kitchen tables and passed heaping bowls of mashed potatoes, green beans and a platter of mom's meatloaf with animated and loving exchanges about their day.... asking questions of what they did, how their day went, what the best part of their day was, what their disappointment of the day was, etc....
We gathered around the table in stony silence. We knew our place. We knew to shut up and keep quiet. We knew when he arrived at 5:30 p.m. sharp each evening just in time for dinner our place was to sit, eat and not speak. For this was HIS time. His time to shine. His time to talk. His time to be heard. His time to have the floor.
It was all about him.
We would be asked two questions each night during dinner:
1. Do you have homework?
2. Is your homework done?
If we answered that it wasn't done it would be responded to with a grunt and a:
"After dinner get it done. Then showers and bed."
Children were seen.
There was no laughter.
There was no play.
There was no silliness.
Those things brought noise, irritation, mayhem and a lack of control.
Being the eldest child I was targeted the rebellious one.
I was the headstrong one.
I questioned his motives, his actions and words.
I knew something was wrong.
But at the time I just didn't know WHAT.
I knew what was expected of me; that I was to carry out his dreams, goals and future. I knew in his eyes I was merely an extension of his ego, not an individual. The few favors he did for me were tiny morsels given sparingly yet followed with an insidious guilt trip of "I have gone above and beyond for you." Or I'd be outright abused with "If it wasn't for ME you'd still be gone, living in poverty, on your back, and have ten kids by now." I knew how much hurt he was further capable of inflicting when I gave him gifts he never opened, cards he never read, and then shockingly denied my ever giving him gifts to begin with. The outright lies would leave you with your lip curled in disgust. No one would have ever believed he could behave this way behind closed doors because in public he was deceptively charming and pleasant... even to extended family members and the two men I dated, which in turn made you question the dark reality you knew and lived. I would endure his guilt trips of "I thought I was going to have some help" on me whenever I gave any minscule thought to doing something career wise that didn't line up with what he wanted me to do... which was to follow in the obligatory footsteps of his family business. In his world my feelings didn't matter and anything I asked for was responded with "That's not necessary." He made it clear my mere existence was a disappointment because I hadn't been born a boy... his name wouldn't go on. What I felt didn't matter, he didn't have time to hear about what I thought because he couldn't get past his own needs first and foremost. When my siblings began rebelling I was deemed the reason for their rebellion.... "This is because YOU wouldn't behave." And what was even worse is that in this sick nightmare he managed to temporarily manipulate my mother for years by whispering lies into her ear that "All our problems are due to these kids who can't behave." When you live in this it strips you of objectivity because he is cunningly skilled at creating confusion and self doubt. He twisted and manipulated the truth to suit his own distorted way of thinking and when you didn't conform to what he wanted, what he NEEDED to make himself look good to the outside world, he would toss you aside like a newspaper from last week, suddenly deemed utterly useless to him.
You live trapped like this for so long. You don't understand it yet you know without a doubt it's not normal and it's not healthy. Yet you are trapped in it and you don't know what to do and how to cope. Inside you are screaming out for help. But no one hears you. There is no outside support system. He has purposely seen to that. So you leave. And you swear you'll never go back. You swear any amount of pain couldn't be worse than what you've lived under his roof. But you do go back. You think of the two younger ones you left behind. And yes, just as you feared, it's a million times worse when you return. It's like living in what you can only imagine living in hell must be like.
You are silenced.
You are discredited.
You are shamed.
You are abandoned.
You are used.
You are scorned.
You DON'T have to go back into the lion's den.
NOT. EVER. AGAIN.
This doesn't make you a bad person.
This makes you a healthy person.
You can be free.
You can escape his snare.
You can pray for help,
for clarity and strength.
You can heal.
And you can LIVE.
© gps-gracepowerstrength.blogspot.com ~ 2013
image “Dining Room And Dinner Table” by digidreamgrafix via FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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