1. rosemary says

    Silenced by a monster grandfather when I was two; he said he would let the ghosts out of the attic if I told anyone what he was doing to me. Fifty years later, after years of counseling, I stood over his grave and told him that he might have had power over me as a toddler but I broke that silence as an empoweref woman.

    • says

      Rosemary, thanks for being the first to post this week. As you probably know, it was my grandfather who abused me, too. Thanks for sharing your healing journey with us here.

      • rosemary says

        enjoying the chance to read and also journal within a community. Am in the final phase of a memoir manuscript and if possible, I would appreciate and value your read and comments.

    • Fran Stekoll says

      Rosemary, my oldest daughter experienced this also. She’s had counseling and the day she was going to confront him he passed away. She also went to his grave to heal. Thanks for sharing,

    • Ilana says

      Rosemary- Thank you for posting this piece. In those few sentences you took us around full circle. The end felt so triumphant that I wanted to cheer for you. IM

    • Eve says

      Right on!!! I know a few Grandpa’s & Great Grandpa’s that need a good ass stomping. Then I just want to hold mine again and tell him that I still love him, and I’m trying desperately to forgive him so we can both move on. My Heaven just wouldn’t be complete without him.
      ” I still love you Grandpa, but why did you do this to me?
      I try to tell myself that it was dementia, but I still feel like you should have known better.”

    • Terry Gibson says

      Rosemary, thank you for telling this story. The terror the abusers enslave(d) us by can actually dissipate. Who would’ve thought this back then when we were strangled with it? I am happy you had that moment as a grown, strong woman.

  2. Fran Stekoll says

    When I was 8 my best friend Shirley told me that our friend Sally was going to be given a surprise Birthday Party. I was sworn to silence. This was extremely difficult for me. I’d never been silent at all in my life. Another incident at that same age my friend stole two ice creams from the grocery store and we hid behind a tree enjoying every last lick. I couldn’t stand being silent about Sally’s surprise Birthday so I told her. The party still took place but I was not invited. I apparently came home with a guilty look on my face having eaten a stolen ice cream. I had the stick in my coat pocket because in those days there were prizes printed on the stick and I’d won a free ice cream. My Mother found the stick, called my friend who’s stolen our treats, spoke to her Mother and drove both of us back to the store and made me admit to the store Manager what had happened. I didn’t get an allowance for
    two weeks and I never stole anything ever again. I’ve never really experienced silence since then except recently I’ve learned to meditate .

    • Ilana says

      Fran- I really enjoyed reading this. I felt the excitement for the party and the loss at not having been invited to the party as well as the enjoyment of the ice cream and then paying the price for the crime. You really took me there will you. Well done! IM

      • Hazelh says

        It was comforting to learn that I was not the only one not invited to the party! My best friend who lived across the street kept telling me that I would not be invited to Patricia’s party because I was not in her social class, something I didn’t know that third graders were aware of. But, being dyslexic (no one knew what that was back then) and not really seeing things as others saw them there were a lot of things that went on that I was not aware of.

        Thank you for sharing.

  3. says

    Fifty years ago, my grandfather handed me a life saver and I put it in my mouth. I let it slowly melt. That was the whole idea. I couldn’t crunch it or bite it or crush it, even accidentally. I had to let my tongue go slack and keep my mouth open on the inside, and let that little wafer get thinner and thinner and thinner without cracking it. Swallowing was dangerous. I had to keep my mouth as still as possible so the lifesaver would last. That was the only way to stay safe.

    I knew all about staying still. I knew all about being quiet. I knew exactly how to disappear. Every time he came into the room, I’d listen to the sounds of kids yelling out on the street—the sounds of stickball and tough kids and sirens—city sounds. I’d float away on the smells of cabbage and urine and pee—tenement smells. And I’d look at the light on the wall, the one that was always kept on for Shabbos. We weren’t allowed to turn the lights off ever at Bubby and Poppa’s house. And when Poppa came in to tuck me in and tell me the story of the skunk and the railroad car, I’d start listening to the sounds outside the tall window. I’d let my mind travel out along the clotheslines that flew off the fire escape. I’d escape, too. Into the light on the wall. In the smells and sounds. Out the window to the East River, where pigeons pecked on cobblestones on the way to Avenue D.

    When he reached under the covers and into my pajamas, that was when I got quietest of all. I didn’t move. I didn’t breathe. I didn’t make a sound. I went away and when he was done, I’d open my mouth for that small white Lifesaver, in the blue round pack. He kept it in the top drawer of the dresser. It was always peppermint. He never said a word, at least not that I remember. But I knew what the lifesaver meant. It meant that I was a good girl. He didn’t have to tell me not to tell.

    Usually, on those special nights, no matter how careful I was, the lifesaver would break. Sometimes it would last all the way until the very last moment, when it was so thin you thought it would disappear, but then there would be too much saliva in my mouth and I’d have to swallow and, the pressure of my tongue colliding, even gently, with the roof of my mouth would do it—crack! My lifesaver would be cleft in two. And I’d stare at the scary, big city shadows on the wall, knowing that I was not safe, that I would never ever be safe again.

    • Fran Stekoll says

      Wow, that really touched my soul. My Father in law abused my oldest daughter . I now understand how she must have felt. I love the way you write. Thanks for being in my life.

    • Ilana says

      Absolutely chilling. I was frightened right along with the little girl. This piece is going to haunt me for a while. Thanks for sharing it. IM

    • says

      I actually found this piece yesterday when I was going through some things I’d written in class one day with my students. It was in response to the prompt, “Betrayal.” No surprise. I guess you all know that I did break silence! In just about as big a way as possible.

    • Polly says

      Laura, thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. It was deeply moving and heartwrenching. My heart goes out to that little girl. I read the first few lines on my lunch break today and then decided I would have to save it until after work, because I didn’t know what condition this piece would leave me in. It helps to know that you’ve made it through to the other side, as well as what you’ve done with your experiences, and the difference you’ve made and continue to make for countless survivors.

    • Eve says

      I keep hearing the crack of your lifesaver. It is the the crack of our silence. As hard as we tried to protect them, either the silence cracks or we do.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Laura, it’s hard to know what to say here. As I read this, I am filled with rage at the vulnerability of little kids–of you, here; other women, in their lives; and me, in mine. It also makes me unbelievably sad. However, as my eyes fill with tears, I wipe them away, vowing to push past it and celebrate how far we’ve come. How far you reached. How much love and respect you share for and with other survivors. Bravo you rockstar, you.

  4. Judi says

    I just heard about you yesterday from my writing coach Brooke Warner, and subscribed. Today was my first “writing prompt”. I found it ironic that my creativity was silenced as a child and spent a very financially rewarding but unfulfilling career as an executive in corporate america. I have retired from that life and have just begun to rescue my creative darling from the dungeons of denial! Thanks for the validation today with my first prompt!

    • says

      Hi Judi, Welcome to the Roadmap blog. I hope you come back often–and sometimes post your own work. Feel free to browse through past weeks posts (by clicking on the comments link at the top right of each post) for a sense of the wonderful community we have up here. I hope to hear a lot more from you in the weeks to come.

    • Ilana says

      Judi- Welcome to our little community! I am excited to read your work. Let that creative darling out so she can dance with us! IM

  5. beverly Boyd says

    This week I decided to try writing before looking at anything more than the prompt. The first thing that came to mind seemed too “lightweight”. It wasn’t about speaking out against injustice or some other social issue of great importance and the potential for being a channel for change. For me, though, it was huge! So I decided to go for it.

    I was in seventh grade, walking home after school with a group of my friends. Well, we weren’t actually walking home. In fact I would pass by my own home on our four block walk from the school to Seward’s Ice Cream Parlor at the four corners of our busy downtown area… It was the hangout where, much to Mr. Seward’s chagrin, “tweens” and teens filled up his booths ordering cherry colas, chocolate sundaes with chocolate ice cream and peanuts and other inexpensive items, then stayed until his five o’clock closing time, chatting and playing the jukebox. In a perverse way we knowingly giggled at Mr. Seward’s grumpy suggestions that he could do without our business. After all look how busy he was with all of us filling up his shop every day. We felt so big and grownup mingling with our older schoolmates.

    On that particular day, eight or ten of us clustered together in the herd of students, just released from our classrooms, moving along the sidewalk. Jeanne Weldon, as usual, had everyone’s attention and those lucky enough to have achieved first row places beside her knew they had a privileged place. From my place in the second row I was becoming more and more disgusted and angry at what she was saying. I don’t remember what she was saying or whether she was directing it at me or someone else. I just know I couldn’t take it any longer. Boy, did I ever want to tell her off!

    Did I dare to actually do it? I could almost hear my mother’s voice warning me of the danger. Other children won’t want to play with you (or other children’s mothers won’t let them play with you), if you act that way…if you say things like that! I had learned that lesson well. I also knew what it was like to be ostracized by all of the girls in my class from a very painful “queen bee bully” experience of my fifth grade year in another town. But now I knew I had to test it. I knew I had to say what I needed to say and if I ended up with no friends at least I would not have this awful feeling that I had let another day pass without standing up to Jeanne.

    I waited until we were right across the street from my house to make my move. I hurried up to Jeanne and as she stood stunned at my outburst I let her know firmly in no uncertain terms just what I thought about her and what she was saying. Ending with, “and I don’t care if I ever speak to you again!” I made my escape to the safety of my own home. I was sure I had not only lost Jeanne as a friend but everyone who had witnessed it and others they would tell.

    The next day I didn’t want to go to school. I knew I had to. I knew I had to face the fact of having no friends. If I didn’t go I might have to tell my mother I had disobeyed her warnings. I didn’t know what her reaction would be…probably, “I told you so” (she used that one a lot). As I peeked out my window to see if it was safe to leave, one of the girls who had been there was walking up my side of the street. Instead of walking by she came to my house and rang the doorbell.

    She was the first to tell me that day how glad they were that someone had finally told Jeanne off! “You were great.”

    So it was huge…so huge I remember it decades later. I had said what I truly believed needed to be said. I also learned that my mother had been wrong. I didn’t lose my friends for behaving that way. In fact, they had seem me as brave and admired me. It was a lesson I never forgot.

    • says

      Beverly, I loved this story and this girl’s courage. It’s perfectly fine not to post a “heavy” story, or one that involves deep trauma. Diversity is what makes a writing circle valuable and rich. Sometimes it’s easy to feel our stories aren’t good enough when a lot of people are posting about trauma–but they are. They all deserve telling.

    • Ilana says

      Beverly- I am sitting here in Starbucks trying not to cheer aloud and attract dirty looks. That story was awesome! I would have loved to have that kind of courage and to have a positive out come to boot. Thank you so much for posting it. IM

      • Eve says

        Your so cute, Ilana. I could just see you there drinking your coffee, trying hard not to burst out in the giggles. Let it out girl. You need a good belly laugh. I can feel it…

        • Eve says

          I love constructive guidance. Any time you feel like helping me to correctly get my point across, please do. I am very new at this writing thing and will not take offense. I need all the help I can get. Last week I used a lot of dialogue. I wanted to ask if I wrote it correctly, but I just let it go. I found one spot that I put the (“) before the (,) which was an accident, but I was not sure how to work it when the quotation ended in a ?”
          Anyway, I will not take offense to constructive corrections.

    • Polly says

      Beverly I like this one! And I can relate to that fiery child you describe so well. I think I still have a reputation for speaking up – sometimes it goes over well, but not always. You kept this entertaining and really enjoyable to read.

    • Eve says

      That was an awesome story & lesson. Some things just have to be said regardless of the outcome. Thanks for your courage and strong mind.

    • beverly Boyd says

      Laura, Ilana, Eve and Polly,
      Thank you all for your generous comments. I’m glad you enjoyed my story and recognized the fear I had to overcome to say what I needed to say.

    • Diana says

      A timeless story of standing up to a queen bee bullying that I think I will have my daughter read. Thanks for sharing it.

      • beverly Boyd says

        Jeanne was not really a queen bee but I knew what it was like to be the target of one and not have any allies from my previous experience in fifth grade. I did not stand up to that bully. The best I could do was hold my head high and try to ignore the crowd of girls taunting me. My heart goes out to your daughter. I’m glad she is confiding in you and you are an ally for her.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Beverly, it’s early morn when I’m trying to slow down my racing brain. I’m so happy to be here to read this now. I love tales of people standing up to others, especially to those so entitled, they have no clue, yet still become snots anyway. Good one!

  6. Judy E. Brady says

    All I remember was her shrill voice, “OMG, did you see that? You can’t do that. Someone call the manager.”

    When I realized she was talking about me, I pulled my sun glasses from my purse; pulled the collar up on my new jeans jacket; left the half-full grocery cart in the center of the aisle; and, headed for the front door. I was out of there like a silver streak and didn’t look back.

    To this day, I’ve not returned to that store. When I pass it, I wonder if there is a poster with my name and face placed somewhere near the cheese and snack area: you know, like at the post office’s most wanted signs. Surely, I’m not the only one guarding this secret. There must be others who have committed this taboo and carry this terrible thing.

    Then, the flash back begins. I see myself as in a lucid dream: without thinking, I took one bite and then with the same nacho chip….dive in a second serving of that famous Treasure Island homemade…yummy delicious, chocked full of Mexican spices……avocado dip.

    • Ilana says

      Judy- That’s something I would have done, complete with the mad dash from the store, never to return. Nice job. I enjoyed reading your story. And as my younger daughter said, at age 4, “Don’t worry about it, Mama. Everybody makes mistakes.” 😉 IM

    • Eve says

      I love that you put on your shades and pulled up your collar. You played it like a villain and made the lone dash. I’m still not even sure what you did, did but it brought back memories of my naughty shoplifting days. Another story, another time…

  7. Delia says

    I have finally found the courage to write. Just yesterday, I realized it’s been ten years since I was sexually assaulted/stalked by my uncle. I remember the day I was silenced like it was yesterday. One early weekend morning my uncle without knocking walked in my bedroom and said “Good morning”. Upset and in my twenties, I went to my mother who was cooking breakfast and told her “I do not appreciate my uncle coming into my bedroom. It is uncalled for and I need my privacy.” I remember being very upset. My mother then responded “it was not him, stop it, you do not know what you are talking about”. Without my mother’s support I quickly felt invalidated.
    It was then when it seemed it all started/continued the peeping tom behavior, the grooming, the inappropriate conversations, the uncalled for comments, etc. I lived in fear, disgust, in disbelieve. It was a family member and I felt I could not turn to anyone. More than a year later I finally found my voice and the evidence to bring light to my uncle’s ill intentions. After many dreadful nights coming home or to my hell, there he was naked calling for me. I yelled ran into my parent’s bedroom and in fetal position stated/yelling “No, no, I do not want to, I do not want to, he is there naked”.
    My mother in her most nurturing reassuring voice said “There you go again, it is your imagination. You probably just got scared. There nothing happened…etc.” So, like a dog with it’s tail between my legs I went to my room.
    Within minutes I found my voice. There was a very implicit drawing of a woman and a man. I was ecstatic. This was it this was the evidence! I have a voice. I took a stand and stated “you wanted evidence here it its. It’s either him or me!”.
    I am still healing. I still work on speaking up.

    • says

      Delia, welcome to the Roadmap blog and thank you for sharing this painful and intimate story with us. I’m so glad you have found your voice and are choosing to share it here with us. I hope you will keep coming back.

    • Ilana says

      Delia- This was heart breaking and beautifully written. Though our experiences were different, I felt a pull of “Oh she gets it.” When I read about your feelings being denied and downplayed. I am truly grateful that you shared this and helped me feel less alone. IM

  8. Elissa says

    I was silent in 8th grade when my neighbor slammed me up against the concrete wall of his dark, dank basement. We were surrounded by suitcases, boxes of cleaning supplies, a washer and dryer, bikes, a sled and a lawn mower. He grabbed me, pinched me and touched me. He showed me parts of a boy I had not seen since I bathed with my boy cousin when I was six. It was big, red and scary. I ran away, crying, and hopped on my bike, pedaling to safety. The banana seat on my white two wheeler supported me, but it hurt, because that is where he touched me. My breasts ached, my bra strap was broken, but I stayed silent, even when I arrived home and was scolded for being late for dinner. I still remember the smell of the grilled chicken.

    When my daughter sat on the toilet at age 3 and cried because it hurt when she peed, I was surprised. “Right here” she pointed. Her vulva was bright red and swollen, hidden a bit between her chubby toddler thighs. In between her tears, she told me that my friend’s 11 year old daughter had pinched her there while they were playing downstairs. My 6 year old son chimed in that she did the same to him, and she squeezed his arm, which now had a bruise. They had just left. I was stunned.
    “Why didn’t you come get me?” I asked, guilt filling every ounce of my being.
    “I didn’t want her to be mad at me, she told me not to tell.” So, early on, I had the unfortunate opportunity to teach my kids about good touch, bad touch and secret keeping. We had already talked about it a little bit now that my son was 6, I had not yet broached it with my 3 year old. My husband and I talked at length about how to handle this with our friends. When I called my friend to discuss it, she was quiet on the phone.
    “Oh.” she said. The screaming silence of her response felt like a huge punch in my stomach. This was my closest friend…wasn’t she concerned about her daughter’s behavior? I did not ask that then, but I did a few weeks later when she told me she did not want me in her life anymore…that she could not trust me and she needed to make a choice between me and her daughter. How dare I accuse her daughter of such behavior?
    “We can forget the whole thing, if you agree right now it was an accident.”
    “I will not do that.” I said. “It minimizes my kid’s experience of that day and I trust that what they are telling me is true. They need to know that I hear them and believe them.” Her husband called the next day.
    “How do you know that you did not plant this idea in their head? Isn’t you who had a whole conversation with you son before preschool about bad touching? Maybe they are trying to get attention from you? You were upstairs talking, not playing with them.”
    I refused to engage anymore. I told my friends that we each needed to take care of our own children and parent as we see fit. I recognized that they were in a tough spot and I was sorry that we are all in pain over this. My kids were fine…bruises healed, conversations had. It is over 10 years later. I look back with sadness…best friend lost, voice found.

    • Elissa says

      Laura, this is the first post I have ever made to your blog or community. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to participate here. Both of these incidents have greatly impacted my life, and I have written about both, but not in any way that connected them.Thanks so much! I look forward to doing this again.

    • says

      Elissa, welcome to the Roadmap blog. Thanks for sharing your painful, evocative story with us. The woman in your story made a powerful but very difficult choice to put her children first. Bravo!

    • Ilana says

      Elissa- Startled, stunned. This is an amazing story and so well written. I really appreciate your sharing it with us. Thank you. IM

    • Eve says

      What a story!!! Being the mom of a 3 & 4 year old, this is really close to my heart. That would have been a really difficult situation for all of you.

  9. Hazel Muller says

    For some years before I was eighteen I had secretly been rebelling against the religion of my parents and in particular blamed my mother. At that time the rules for the Seventh Day Adventist’s were strict and many. I just wanted to be like the other kids in my regular high school. Make up was forbidden as was dancing, movies, dating anyone outside the auspices of the church. Every morning after my mother left for work I would run to my secret stash of lipsticks and choose the my color of the day. I would apply it and then make sure it was in the inside pocket of my purse, grab my books and hurry to the school bus stop. Each afternoon when I got home I would run to the bathroom and wash my face being particularly to get off all traces of the lipstick. Then I would change into my jeans and go to the kitchen to start dinner. My bratty brother would come into the kitchen and say, “I know you wore lipstick at school today.” And, I would say, “You better keep your mouth shut or I will tell that you were kissing that Catholic girl today, I saw you in the hall.” So that was the way it went with secrets kept from Mother.

    After I graduated from high school I got a job at a large TB hospital in the area working in the kitchen. For a while I lived at home but transportation was difficult as I had to work a split shift. Even though I had a car it was becoming expensive. I decided to get a room at the hospital dorm so I could stay there during the week and only go home on the week ends. We are only talking about 15 miles here but back and forth 4 times a day added up and after all, the gas prices were up to $.50 a gallon.

    At this dorm there was little to do and very few of the residents had a TV and I certainly couldn’t afford one. One night one of the resident doctors asked if I would like to go to a movie with him. The old rules and the implied consequences popped up like a screaming “Gizmo” in front of my face. I took a deep breath and said, “Sure.” Well, don’t you know that the last time I went to church the minister had harangued the congregation about the sins of those who went to movies. He even had a story about a girl in Washington state that had left the church and gone to a movie and the whole theater collapsed on them and she was crushed to death. Proof that you must not go to movies.

    I will never forget that movie! It was “Wake of the Red Witch” with John Wayne. As I bought my ticket and we entered the theater my knees were shaking and as I bought my popcorn I was waiting for a lightening bolt to strike. Of course, it didn’t and we went on into the curtained room with it’s rows of plush seats and the usher showed us to our seats about half way down. We scooted in to the middle and sat down in the semi-dark. I was holding my breath. The doctor leaned over and asked me if I was okay, “oh, yes . . .” I said as my breath exhaled. The cartoons started and they were a distraction, but the movie started and the lights went down further until I could barely see the people around me. My mouth was so dry I had trouble eating my popcorn. Maybe it wouldn’t have made such a profound impression if the it wasn’t for the name of that movie. But it was about a sailing ship that went down. Oh yeah, the Wake (the sinking) of the Red Witch (the name of the ship). It was a good movie and different from the usual westerns that John Wayne made.

    The movie was over and as the credits rolled people began to stand and move toward the exits. I stood up as the doctor on my right stood up. I was a bit shaky but was okay. We made our way to the exit, out through the foyer and onto the sidewalk. I drew a deep breath, the air tasted sweet and fresh. I had defied God and the Seventh Day Adventist Church and lived to breathe again. Talk about breaking a taboo!

    All I can say is that it is very good to have a doctor with you if you are going to defy God, the church and all the taboos.

    • Laura Davis says

      Hazel, I loved this post. I was right there with that terrified girl in the movie theatre. You painted an unbelievably vivid picture. Well done!

    • Ilana says

      I agree with Laura, Hazel. Well done. It was a vivid beautiful picture of a girl finding her own will. I really enjoyed reading it. IM

    • Polly says

      I enjoyed reading this, and being brought back to a different time with a whole (hilarious) new set of taboos. I was raised very catholic but left the church around the time that I came out, so I felt for that young version of you with all her nerves. Thanks for posting.

    • beverly Boyd says

      I remember the first movie I saw on Sunday. “Moulin Rouge” about the life of Toulouse-Lautrek. I managed to convince my mother that there weren’t any church activities I would be seen missing. The iconic scenes in the film will always be mixed with furtive looks around the theatre hoping no one would see the minister’s daughter ignoring the sabbath1

      • Hazel says

        Thank you all for your comments. I treasure every one of them as it helps me with my writing and to know better what to write about.

  10. Ilana says

    I Told But I Never Told

    “Ilana can’t keep a secret to save her life.” It was just another in the long line in the Montgomery family litany of what was wrong with me. I’ve often wondered if the reason I could not keep a secret was because I did not have the power to tell the one secret I so desperately needed others to know. As a child, I’d told my parents what Andrew was doing to me. They blamed me for the abuse, “What did you do to set him off?” My mother would ask when I told her he hurt me. I internalized it and it reverberated in my head each time the pain hit me. “You deserve this. You’ve done something to set him off. It’s your fault.” I only complained about the sexual abuse a couple of times. Her responses were so minimal that I believed I was making a big deal out of nothing. Everyone knew that “Ilana is too sensitive.” Another one of their tag lines. Besides, it was my fault and that made me disgusting and ugly. I didn’t like to talk about it.

    I didn’t even tell my beloved aunt and uncle whose home seemed so safe and healthy. I fantasized being rescued by them. They’d take me in and I could live in their house with my cousins and Andrew would never get to me there. It was a nice dream but who was I kidding? If they’d have been able to help me they would have done it. Everyone knew that Andrew was a problem child, that he made things difficult and his parents couldn’t control him. Everyone knew that Ilana was tiny, terrified of her own shadow, always sick and struggling to eat enough to get by. Couldn’t they put two and two together? No. They didn’t because they didn’t want to figure it out. That’s how I managed to keep silent and tell at the same time. I told. I showed all the signs but no one heard me, so I stopped trying.

    A year and a half ago I finally faced what had happened to me, realized it was indeed incest and finally admitted to how profoundly it had damaged me. Then I began the long journey to healing. During those first agonizing months, the emergency phase, I found myself faced with a particularly insensitive medical provider. Tearfully I gave him my history. He looked at me, annoyed, and asked, “Why didn’t you just tell someone?”

    I don’t remember what I said to him but I know what I would say now if asked the same, horrifying, question. “I did.” I’d say it quietly, plain and simple, with no outrage or bitterness. The simple answer to such a devastating question. “I did.” Let him sit with that information. So many children are abused. So many children are terrified into silence with threats. Not me. I told. I told the people who were supposed to protect me, the people who were supposed to care for me. They pretty much told me that it was my fault, that I deserved it and that I was making a big deal out of nothing. Because of the shame combined with the belief that no one else would see it differently, I never dared to tell anyone who actually would have helped me. No teachers, no doctors, no rabbis, no school nurses, no one. I told but I didn’t tell.

    How different is that, really, from today? I tell some people but the words are often hard to pronounce. They don’t sit well in my mouth. My sister-survivors and male-survivor friends try to help me see that it was not my fault. I do my best to believe them. It’s a little hard to take in after all those years of being so carefully taught to blame myself. It was a big deal, it was incest. Still working on that one too but I’m getting there. The problem is, I’m still ashamed. I’m still embarrassed. The information still makes people uncomfortable; like I have some kind of disease that makes me disgusting and dirty. I tell but I don’t tell.

    Sometimes I wish I could blurt it out in mixed company. When people say to me, “You don’t work? What do you do with all that time while your kids are in school?” I’d like to say. “I’m trying to survive so get off my case. I go to a support group for survivors of incest that is an hour away and two hours long. That takes up all of my Thursday and on Wednesday I drive 45 minutes each way to spend an hour in therapy.” Instead, I search for the answer that will satisfy them, make them feel comfortable. “I’m writing a book.” Or “My new hobby is making chocolate.” Or “I study Torah.” It all sounds so self serving. True, I also spend several hours a day folding laundry, cooking for and cleaning up after five people but doesn’t every mother do that? I end up feeling pathetic and ashamed again. The truth is I do all of those things. That’s why I don’t watch TV without an iron or fresh laundry in my hands. That’s why I get up at 4:30 in the morning to get to the gym. I simply don’t have time go otherwise. But, no, I don’t work. That’s all I can say to those who don’t get it, the very people who need most to be told.

    I tell you. Coward that I am, though, I don’t give you my real name. God forbid you figure out who Andrew really is and make it public what this man did to his sister and brother. His business would be affected. His son would be taken away. His wife would be devastated. (The only reason I can live with myself is because I did tell her. I wash my hands of the little boy who I will never call my nephew. That child’s mother knows. She knows what her husband did. It is her responsibility to protect her son. Not mine.) It would ruin all their lives if I told, if word got out that this man who moves around in the world as a professional, as a father, used to be a monster. I can’t ruin his life. I’m his sister. So even though I told, I didn’t tell.

    There is no way of knowing when or how my story will end. I’ll continue to do the best I can with the information, strength and support I have at each moment. Maybe everything will change. Maybe I’ll break out of this confused, half way, silence. Then again, maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll learn to live within it. If that’s the case then I’ll do what I’ve always done. I’ll tell but I’ll never tell.

    • Laura Davis says

      Ilana, you are no coward. You are making in empowered choice that serves you and your healing at this time. You’re also making a choice not to out your brother. I fully respect that. However, if in the future you change your mind, it will not be your telling that ruins lives; it will be his original actions. The teller should not bear the responsibility for the outcome. It’s the initial abuser who shoulders that responsibility.

    • Polly says

      I think you’re courageous. I felt a lot of different emotions in reading this piece but the ones that are easiest to identify in this moment are admiration for your courage and strength, and empathy. I also admire how honest you are. Your style and approach to writing make me want to push myself to do a little better each time I post on here. Thanks for that. Last thing: if you can, try to take a second to be proud of the way you have fought to get through everything – the strength and will that it must have taken. I understand the shame, believe me, but I for one am seriously impressed.

    • Eve says

      My whole body is trembling from the energy of this piece. You just keep on releasing your power like that & your spirit will shine, girl!!! You are very powerful and you will find the meaning of it all. You will help heal this world…

    • Hazel says

      I haven’t seen you as a coward in anything you have written on this site. You are a very courageous soul and with the sense to get help.
      Thank you for sharing.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you all for your supportive comments. It is amazing how much this community has come to mean to me. Things that were once so scary seem to lose their power when I show them to you. I truly appreciate it. IM

    • Elissa says

      Ilana, I have thought of this piece all week, trying to find something to say that was worthwhile. You exude such strength in this situation…doing all the things you need to do to help yourself. It is very admirable. Surround yourself with those who nurture and nourish you. They will help you through. Life will go on, you are in the middle of your own story.

  11. Eve says

    A Tidal Wave of Silence is Being Broken Tonight. I’m Gonna Ride It… (maybe I should have said, I’m Gonna Write It…)

    What have I broken the silence about? My Great Grandfather & what he did to me- yeah so what- it was only one time. What I have done to me is the real story that has to be told. I have been my own worst enemy. Yeah, something happened to me that might have triggered these naughty behaviors, but I have chosen to exhibit them.

    I chose to start stealing at an early age. It started with my step-uncles piggy bank. I would sneak into his room and take a bunch of his change. Then I would walk to the 7-11 down the street on my way to school. I would buy a bunch of candy with his change.

    I can still taste those utterly amazing Fireballs.

    I would have to take them out of my mouth several times because of the burn. Slowly & delightfully I would reach the yummy sweet middle. I would crunch it into oblivion.

    The same way that I let my relationship to this man disappear into oblivion.

    What kind of so-called uncle watches a porno called Fantasy In Blue with his 8 & 9 year old daughter and his 10 year old step-niece? That was the same night that his daughter showed me that she knew how to do all those same tricks. All this in the same year that all three of us girls were baptized at the church his dad used to be a pastor at. I was defying God in all kinds of ways at the ripe age of 10.

    I was good at keeping secrets, but the guilt of it was pulling me under…

    By the age of 15, I was arrested at my K-mart job for stealing from them. I was preparing to go to a concert called Night of Joy for the weekend. A weekend away from my family to go to a Christian Music Festival with my church group. I was stealing new bras, under wear, socks, make-up & cassette tapes, etc. All this for my lovely Christian concert. I was taken out in cuffs, right in front of all my co-workers by the security guard that I knew very well. This should have stopped me, right??


    I stole through most of my 20’s. I had been an RN from the time I was 21 years old. I was still stealing razors from Wal-mart until I was 29. I would have an entire cart overflowing full of stuff. But I would just throw those expensive tips for my razor right into my bag.

    Just utter naughtiness! Wow, I didn’t expect to be visiting this area of me tonight…


    I need to take my butt to bed…………


    • Laura Davis says

      Eve, I loved your piece. I love the specificity and clarity, and the juxtaposition of the church stuff in the stealing. I was a young kleptomaniac, too, probably for some of the same reasons. I’ve written about the last time I was caught, in a Safeway in San Francisco when I was 28 years old. That was my last time stealing. The store dick scared the shit out of me! I was afraid to go back into another Safeway for the next 20 years. I was sure they were watching me and that they had my picture pinned up on a wall–for the throat lozenges I stole when I was 28 years old. Thanks for sharing this great piece.

    • Hazel says

      No judjement here. We all react to situations in different ways. That doesn’t mean that you have to keep on acting out. Forgiveness does a lot to help. Everyone finds their own way to peace and I believe you are on your path

      Thank you for sharing.

      • Eve says

        Thank you, Hazel. I feel like every day my heart is becoming more & more free. You all are an integral part in this process. I am thankful for each and every one of you.

    • says

      I thought I already posted a response, but it didn’t show up–so here goes try number two–I was a kleptomaniac too. Probably for the same reason. Feeling the world owed me something. A chip on my shoulder. The last time–I got caught at Safeway for stealing some throat lozenges I could have paid for. I was 28 and the store dick scared the shit out of me. I didn’t set foot in a safeway store for 20 years. I was so sure I’d be arrested.

      • Eve says

        Thank you so much for posting that! I was freaking out about my piece. You told me not to write in the arm pit of the day, but I couldn’t stop last night & I just posted it. I freaking love you! I was born on Christmas and felt the world definitely owed my butt something. I felt utterly alone there for a minute. Kind of like Will Ferrell in Old School when he’s running down the street naked…

          • says

            I always say to my students, don’t leave your writing for the armpit of the day–the time you’re already tired, worn down, used up. Give your best energy to your writing!

          • Eve says

            It was like 1am in the morning after I had really busy day. This could have possibly been considered the butt crack of the day.

    • Ilana says

      Eve- I’ve read this piece a couple of times as well as the conversation that was posted beneath it. Just to add my two cents, I agree with Hazel. No judgment here but you do have a way of startling me, making me sit up and pay attention. I love it. That’s when I really pay attention and learn something. Here’s to you, IM

      • Eve says

        No, Ilana, here’s to you. You are a very beautiful & powerful woman. I am very thankful to have you in my life. Thanks for the compliment.

  12. beverly Boyd says

    I wish I had spoken.
    Growing up the folks who I knew best as “extended family” were several ministers who had gone to seminary for three years with my father and then had churches in the Central New York Conference. We called them Aunt and Uncle and their children were like cousins. In addition to conference events where I saw them, we frequently visited each other and sometimes took vacations together.

    On one of those visits with the Lewins when I was about nine-years-old, as usual, the women chatted in the kitchen over dinner preparations, the men and children had scattered around with their close in age friends. Rosemary and I were the oldest in our families and went off together to her bedroom. I still enjoyed playing with dolls, but Rosemary was three years older and preferred to spend time alone with “girl talk”.

    That day she was excited about something she wanted to show me. We were lying on her bed and, saying she was cold, she pulled the blanket up over us into a tent and took off her clothes to show me the breast buds she was starting to have and was interest in seeing me. I thought it was odd that she was still wanting to play that “show me yours” game that I had gotten bored with years ago, but I went along with it. Then she began telling me about an older guy she was seeing and some of the things they did together. She produced a coke bottle. We could use the coke bottle to pretend we were doing it. At first, even though it seemed weird, I was curious and played along but as her actions became more pointed and inappropriate I began to be uncomfortable, only partly about what we were doing. Even more i worried that we might be discovered. I was glad when she was willing to stop. After that I never played alone with Rosemary but chose to spend my time helping the mothers in the kitchen.

    I never said anything about it to anyone, though I’m sure my parents would have listened and believed me as they had on other occasions when things happened. The most frightening was one time after our swimming lesson when a man tried to lure my brother and me into his car. Rick’s quick thinking got us away and we ran all the way home. I am grateful that my parents believed us, and my father picked us up after class for the rest of the week. I’m not sure whether authorities were informed.

    Several years after that afternoon with Rosemary, a few of the families rented cottages in a vacation community on the St. Lawrence River. We drove up to spend an afternoon with them. While we were there my mother took me aside. She wanted to ask to me about something. It was clear she felt a little embarrassed. One of the other mothers had told her that her fourteen-year-old son had asked not to be left alone with Rosemary. When they were out swimming she had wanted to do things he felt uncomfortable about. Mother found it hard to believe. I told her I believed it because she had done the same to me years before. Mother was stunned but believed me and I suppose she told her friend.

    I took me years for me to fully understand some of the implications of that experience. Who was the older guy she talked about. Could it have been her own father? I recalled that of all the ministers he was the only one I felt uncomfortable around and tended to avoid being close to. Had some instinct warned me about him? I knew that about that time he came out as a alcoholic and as a result he lost his church assignment. Drinking was against the Methodist Discipline which all ministers were required to follow. Her mother had always had a rather worn out look and my mother thought she had generally poor health. Hmmm…This all seems to fit together.

    But even without the father connection, was she “playing” this way with her younger siblings, children she babysat for, maybe later her own children or even grandchildren. I will never know and I have long since lost any connection with her family. I don’t blame myself. I understand that I was young, my knowledge was limited and parents didn’t have the same conversations with their children they have today. I was warned about strangers and kidnapping but I don’t think people realized the number of children who were molested by trusted friends and family, including older siblings.

    Could I have changed anything?
    I wish I had spoken.

    • says

      Beverly, but you did speak–just not right away. And what’s even more powerful about your story was your mother’s reaction–she believed you and supported you. How many people on this blog wish that they’d gotten that response when someone transgressed their boundaries or abused them. And you’re right–something probably did happen to Rosemary for her to be so consistently wanted to do sexualized play.

    • Eve says

      I love your mom for believing you. She sounds like an emotionally intelligent woman. Boy, what I would have done for one of those kind of moms. I am breaking my chains and becoming one myself though.

    • Ilana says

      Beverly- As I read this my mind kept screaming “But you did speak! You did say something!” and it sounds like you did a lot of good. That boy was saved by your being honest with your mother. You probably saved others but even if you didn’t there’s an old saying, “If you save one person, you’ve saved the world.” You did speak and I, for one, want to thank you. IM

    • beverly Boyd says

      Laura, Eve and Ilana
      Thank you all for you supportive responses. I know I am fortunate that my mother believed me. We had plenty of dysfunction in our relationship, but she came through on this. Also I know I did speak up but that doesn’t change wishing I had spoken sooner.

      This issue strikes very close to home since the court case in Portland Oregon involving the leader of a Boy Scout troop my sons were in during the early seventies. If you want to know more, I wrote that story on the Roadside “Forgiveness” prompt for July 2012.

  13. Eve says

    Has anyone read Finding Peace for Your Heart by Stormie Omartian? I guess that this book has been in my Kindle for about a year and a half. I just happened to read the preface right after I wrote my story the other night. This book is speaking right to all of us. I am desperate to find peace for my heart. For our hearts…

  14. Sangeeta S. says

    I’ve been silent about something for a very long time–that silence has to do with me. I’ve been silent about how wonderful and awesome I am; I’ve been silent about how beautiful I am; I’ve been silent about why the world hasn’t allowed me to express myself in the way that I know I can; I’ve been silent about standing up for myself to the people who hurt me the most; I’ve been silent about making a difference in a way that I think I will be able to; I’ve been silent about letting the world see “me.”

    It is taboo to break this silence because I am supposed to be quiet; I am supposed to be demure; I am supposed to be a submissive woman who has no rights of her own. It is taboo to break this silence because I am supposed to repress my qualities; my talents; my beauty– and let the funny looking man who doesn’t know what he’s doing take the prize.

    If a coworker, a superior, a male in a position of authority will not be able to handle me breaking these taboos, then they will just have to learn to live with it. I am going to be loud; I am going to be proud; and I can’t wait to see what happens.

    Oh, and I’ve also decided I’m going to be really, really rich.

  15. Polly says

    First of all, I love that this prompt includes an Audre Lorde quote. Sister Outsider was one of the first feminist texts I ever read. That woman was an inspiration and she was not silent.

    “Go to where the silence is and say something.” – Amy Goodman

    On a number of levels, I have been outspoken for my entire life. My mom likes to say I was her “earliest talker.” She says that I was speaking in complete paragraphs at the age of 10 months. I’m assuming that’s an exaggeration, but she maintains it to this day.

    Everyone knew I couldn’t keep a secret. I remember the days leading up to Christmas when I was maybe 4 or 5. No one would let me help them wrap their gifts, because a couple of months before that I had blurted out my mom’s birthday present days before her birthday. So no matter how many times I promised to stay quiet, none of my older siblings wanted my help. That’s when my oldest brother ushered me into his room, and said that he would trust me to keep a secret for him. Suddenly I felt so important. He was placing his trust in me and I would do anything to prove myself. He closed the door. He let me help him wrap a marble rolling pin for my mom. I’m not sure what happened next – whether things stayed innocent for that day or not. Time stopped in that room. Always. I will say that given the things I have started to remember these last few months … that day might have been the beginning in a messy swamp of terrifying secrets I kept on his behalf, for decades. I even kept those secrets from myself.

    It’s been almost 30 years and I am just now starting to wake up. Everything is hazy and at moments, all too clear. To this day I can’t seem to shake the shame. I believe the things that happened because I have to give myself some credit: I wouldn’t just come up with this information out of the blue.

    I am slowly breaking silence. I’ve told a few close friends, my therapist, and my wife. I am horrified at the thought of ever telling my family but I think that someday it will be important – necessary even – for me to do that. I’m just not ready yet.

    I won’t stay quiet when injustices involve other people. I always stood up for the nerds on the playground (I was one too). I would jump in the middle of fights between my brothers and sisters. I felt so responsible that if anything bad were to happen – if anyone got hurt – that was all on me. I had to save the world and I was up for the challenge.

    When a gaybashing happened (almost 10 years ago now) in the middle of the night when I was out with friends, a friend of mine and I jumped in and tried to stop it. The men were huge and I’m 5-foot-nothing and about 100 lbs. but I had to do something. I wouldn’t have been able to look at my reflection the next day if I had just stood on the sidelines. I had to act. I always do. Then I went on to raise awareness within the community. Not being silent in those days felt so good.

    With the abuse however, it remains much harder to say anything.

    Now quite often when I look at my reflection it becomes a chore of almost epic proportions, particularly if I have just had a trigger. My face tends to change to that of a devastated little girl. Recently in the mirror, my face changed into an expression that was so harsh and severe, so full of hate and anger and rage, that I struggled to recognize myself in it. It felt like I was hidden somewhere down below, in the pit of my stomach, clambering to get back up, and I couldn’t see …

    Am I going crazy?

    Now, each time I “come out” as a survivor I find it to be a terrifying process. I am afraid of the judgment, the stigma, the potential of being called a liar, or worse: thought of as one. I am trying to learn to trust myself but it’s scary. I am trying to simply remember that I am a good person, that I didn’t deserve what happened to me, that I was so little … I will learn to speak out about this, in time.

    • Polly says

      One day, the following summer, I was playing with a friend of mine across the street, in her backyard. Her parents had just given her a new orange kitten from somebody’s farm. I remember how cute and tiny that kitten was. I remember his adorable sandpaper tongue. That day my friend taught me the word “vagina”. It was brand new in my vocabulary. I’m not sure about the context but I know she taught me that word that day.

      I went home later that afternoon. I was in the bathroom and I used the word “vagina” when speaking to my brother. He scolded me: “Where did you hear that word? Don’t ever tell Mom you know that word. That’s a bad word. It’s dirty.” Then he asked me to have a shower with him. I complied. I remember seeing him standing naked in front of me. Then everything spirals, and goes black. But I kept that secret for him too.

      • Laura Davis says

        Polly, you are definitely not crazy. I was touched by your piece. It really addressed the way we can stand up and speak out about the injustice shown to someone else years before we can do the same for ourselves. Thanks for sharing this honest, powerful, well rendered piece.

      • Ilana says

        Polly- What a brave soul you are. I admire and applaud your ability to stand up for the people that you did. I agree with Laura. I have always had a harder time standing up for myself than others. What kept going through my mind as I read about your uncertanty about telling was, “It will happen when you’re ready. Trust yourself because you are doing it right.” Sometimes I just wish I could take my own advice. Take care of yourself, my friend. You are a precious soul. IM

        • Polly says

          Thanks Ilana. I always appreciate the nice things you have to say. Needed those words today.

          PS You’re doing pretty great yourself.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Polly, sorry I wasn’t here to respond sooner. I see lots of myself in this story. Again, I feel angry about all who hurt you. You didn’t do anything wrong or deserve it. It is hard work to sort through all the baggage they heaped on us by eliciting our silence, confusion, lack of knowledge and naivete. You will trust yourself again; I started in this community two years ago and I was never called a liar, crazy, or laughed at (unless I was soliciting a few giggles on purpose). I trust you’ll get where you want to be. We all will. Cheering for all of us!

  16. Diana says

    I grab my sister’s hand. As the elder I am responsible for her safety and discipline when Momma is absent. We cross the school parking lot to the shoulder of the road. Looking both directions for oncoming traffic, we sprint across. Once safely delivered, to our apartment complex, we scan the neighboring day care grounds for a siting of our baby sister. We scurry to the door of our McApartment before the day care keeper fixes her judgmental scowl upon us. Her stare is capable of emanating the condemnation of two minor children keeping themselves alone all afternoon.
    I retrieve the key from under that mat and let us in. I deliberately return it as a forgotten key would relegate us to staying with the Wicked Witch of Daycare. As a middle schooler, to be seen entering the babysitters would mean swift and certain social death. Being a latch key kid is way cooler.
    We place our backpacks down and lock ourselves inside. The apartment is low end 70’s builder’s cheap with stark white walls, popcorn ceiling, not so plush golden rod shag carpet and olive “yuk” linoleum counters. We set about doing our afterschool chores. Completion of the chore list is our bargain with Momma for the privilege of keeping ourselves after school. Today we need to finish our homework, do the breakfast dishes, set the table for dinner and start cleaning our room. Cleaning our room is a long term project in preparation for moving again at the end of the school year.

    Employing a divide and conquer strategy, I assign my sister, Dot, to start putting toys away in our bedroom. I will do the kitchen chores. I quickly finish the kitchen chores and head to the bedroom to help Dot. I stand at the doorway and to my shock and horror, Dot has not put single toy away. She is sitting on the floor playing! This is an infraction worthy of swift retribution. Remaining silent, I back out of the doorway. In the kitchen drain board, I grab the aluminum hand held egg beater. Made of stiff aluminum and rotating hand crank, the beaters make a loud metallic racket when initiated. I am going to get her good. Sneaking back to the bedroom, I see Dot sitting on the floor, engrossed in Barbie land. Using a stealth Ninja leap, I crank the egg beater right into Dot’s ear.
    “AAAAHHHHHH”, Dot screams, drops the toys and runs. I give chase, taunting her with the clanking, grinding, gnashing arms of the beater. I approach and withdraw at Dot’s head as she runs and screams to my wicked delight. Oh the joys of no adult intervention.
    She emits a piercing yelp. I let go of the tool and it dangles from the back of her head, her long brown hair snarled in the beaters arms. Oh crap!! If Momma finds out we’ll lose our stay at home privileges. Thinking fast, I grab a pair of scissor and cut the offending tool free. I lie and reassure Dot that no one will notice the chunk of hair missing from her head. Making a pact of silence, we stash the tool among the detritus under our bunk beds.
    When Momma arrives home that evening, she finds us settled in front of the TV watching “Bonanaz”reruns. Doddie, our little sisters runs over to greet us.
    “How was the school”, say Momma
    “Fine”, we respond.
    “How was the afternoon?”
    Having presented a picture of typical afterschool ennui, we proceed with our evening routine of dinner, clean-up, bath and bed. During bath, Momma notices Dot’s chunk of missing hair. “What happened to your hair?”, says Momma. “Oh I got gum in it at Dad’s”, she says. “Yeah, she got gum in it”, I say. We settle into bed confident that our deception is complete and we maintain our latch key status.
    In the ensuing weeks the egg beater remains silent and the incident is forgotten until moving day arrives. The bunk beds have been loaded and we are sorting the debris underneath. As we sort trash, clothes and toys, Momma reaches down, grabs the hair ensnarled tool. “What’s this?” she says, holding the tool eye level, mouth agape. “Mmmmmmm”, we reply, shrugging our shoulders. Momma walks out of the room staring at the egg beater. With approaching summer day camps, out latch key status is not a concern. We maintain our secret upon sisterly principle.

    Decades later over margaritas Dot and I reminisce about “The Egg Beater” incident. Momma looks at both of us wide eyed and says, “That’s how that happened”. Our secret had endured.

    • Laura Davis says

      Diana, I love the way you capture the older sisters glee at being unsupervised. I also love the conspiracy between the two sisters, and the confession here is later. It all felt so real. I was right back there with the two of you!

    • Ilana says

      What a delicious story! I so enjoyed it. The best part was that by the time you told the truth you were adults and there were no consequences. Good read! IM

  17. Dayahna says

    As I sat beside my sister in one of the folding chairs, I felt a numbness. The day was hot, markedly hot for the end of May in New Hampshire. I dreaded the day, for many reasons, and although minor in comparison, the thought of those blasted black flies on a hot day in May, just added to the feeling of being on guard for what might and could happen.

    The sky was blue, a beautiful clear brilliant blue. Some trees had begun to bud while others showed some newly forming leaves. As Fred, the minister, began to speak, my emotions were everywhere. But what rang loudest in my ears was the deafening feeling of silence. I wanted to scream. I felt a hate for my life and how silent I had been and for how long. I felt like a robot. A scapegoat. And as I type this now, I feel a rage of injustice for the little girl deep inside of me.

    Fred’s words were calming to the crowd gathered. He was known by most everyone there. I remember going to his wedding when I was 6 or 8. The first wedding I had ever gone to. My Mama had bought my sister, Bonnie, a year and a half younger than I, and I new outfits and black patent leather shoes. She didn’t tell us where we were going. She wanted to surprise us.

    Fred seemed the same to me, as he kept speaking and recited poems and words of remembrance. Sure, his hair had turned gray and a cane helped to steady his limping leg but the essence of the man before me had not changed at all. My mind wandered. I remember his wife being the teacher at Bible School, when I was a kid. I remembered baby-sitting for their three children. I remember the ride home in his little blue Nash Rambler station wagon after baby-sitting one warm summer evening. I was 13, the age when I first felt his hand on my breast, after he guided me to pull the car off onto a back road. He let me drive. He was teaching me how to drive.

    I kept thinking about what had brought me to this place. I kept thinking about all the painful decisions I had had to make along the way. I felt my body sway gently to the music as Kathy began to sing “Friends In High Places,” a song she had written, as she accompanied herself on guitar. Kathy was a trusted friend from school days and I immediately felt a little warmth of safety in her presence.

    As I sat in my chair, it was amazing to feel a wonderful breeze, that cooled the air and kept the black flies away. Fred spoke, as he gestured into the air with his hand. “We all know that Estelle must have had a hand in creating this breeze today, don’t we?” “I’m sure she’s up there cooking up a storm for Leo and the boys,” he continued. I gave a slight chuckle. My head was filled with thought.

    It just felt so cruel to think my own mother had pre-planned her own funeral and wanted Fred to preside over the service. Some people have asked me since if she knew about the abuse under his hand. “I sure hope not,” I’d snapped. It was a tough decision. I chose to say nothing to my sister and let him officiate. I couldn’t run the risk of having any family fall out . . . again. Ten years prior I had confronted one of my brothers about childhood abuse and was met with total family fallout. It was so incredibly painful for me to endure. I just couldn’t go through it, again.

    I had to fake it.

    Five months later after a niece had appeard to have taken her own life, I was once again faced with Fred officiating over the service. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I could NOT stay silent one more minute. I had to break the silence. I didn’t want to interfere with my niece’s funeral and yet, I had to find a way to break the silence with Fred. I wrote a note. After the service, while Fred was standing in line to get food, I walked up to him. He opened his arms to invite a hug. I sidestepped it. I handed him the envelope and said, “Read this another day. For your eyes only.”

    It may have taken me 52 years to speak up, but I finally did it. It felt powerful to do but I did not anticipate the residual feelings that would bubble up and give me more things to process. Today I am in this place. At times a lot of overwhelm and at times gratitude that I am continuing to heal, to matter how old I am or how long it takes.

  18. Eve says

    Dear Readers,
    I just wanted to take a moment to let you know how truly sorry I am if I hurt you with the last piece that I wrote. I allowed my fear, frustration, and anger out on the page before I thought of you. Thank you for helping me to explore a more gentle voice that takes time to consider the feelings of everyone that might come across my words one day. Much love to you all…


  19. Terry Gibson says

    It was 1983 and I was in Parry Sound visiting my brother Steve, Dad, his second wife and their two little boys (my brothers).

    “Steve told me you’re going away again,” he said. I studied his nicotine-stained fingers as he dragged a long haul of his cigarette.

    My face lit up. I smiled with excitement. “The Orient. I’m going to China!” I was giddy, deliriously happy. I wanted Dad to be proud of me. I needed him to be proud of me.

    “Jeesus Christ!” Dad’s eyes had a look in them I did not like. “What do you want to go there for? All you’ll see there is a bunch of Ch—s.”

    My eyes showed deep disappointment. He had spoiled the light all around us; I felt the candle blow out. My mouth would not cooperate with slinging back a rebuttal. Even if I could, I was still scared of Dad’s temper and did not want to jeopardize our new relationship; after a sixteen-year absence (with no letters, birthday or Xmas cards, or even phone calls), Steve reintroduced me to Dad; father to his first born daughter.

    Also, I was so suicide driven back then, that I needed him desperately. He was the only parent who loved me as a little girl. Most of the time, I felt dead inside. Since meeting Dad, I could cry! In fact, it was hard to stop. I had to know if he unwittingly possessed the key to helping me save my life.
    Vancouver is a Pacific Rim city and, as such, has a high percentage of Asian-Canadians in our community. Personally, I love that; I may have only been in the Far East for a short time but—aside from the fact that it is yet another culture (like my own) where women are held back in some ways—I admire its people and different elements of their culture(s). One Tuesday in Vancouver, I got the chance to say so. Finally, I was blessed with an incident to stand up for what is right.

    It was early afternoon and I was waiting at a bus stop at Main Street and South West Marine Drive. The day was sunny and the sky was robin’s egg blue, with a few thin-lipped straggler clouds loitering about as if for fun. Their presence was just enough to keep the doomsday preppers and fatalists on their toes. Thinking this, I smiled.

    I snapped to attention and checked out my surroundings. There was a young Asian-Canadian man standing by himself. About three feet away, stood two older Caucasian males who were speaking directly to the youngest man, whose red face told me enough of what was going on.

    “Look at those slants eyes!” one said to his partner. They both erupted in raucous laughter, not caring how ignorant they sounded and were.

    “And he’s even GAY!” the other gasped. “Look how he stands!”

    That was quite enough. I assessed the situation quickly. It was not safe to confront them, so I took a few steps toward the Asian-Canadian

    When I stood beside him, the other young men stopped speaking, in hopes of hearing our conversation, I thought. The man was just a boy, really. He looked rattled and embarrassed. My voice was gentle and kind yet had a firm quality as well.

    “You know you don’t deserve to be treated that way, right?” A bus whizzed by us. It propelled itself through our stop with such speed; the wind swallowed any spoken words–as did the roar of the two new, charcoal-coloured Mustangs that followed ten seconds later.

    “Yeah,” he whispered, while casting a half-glance over his shoulder, seeing where they were.

    I stared at the ground at a large grey pebble I had dislodged from the hoof of my left shoe. It was important I get this right. After one long breath, I tried just that. “You know, there will always be racist idiots out there but they are WRONG!” Our eyes met quickly. No doubt, he saw that I was dead serious. “Try not to let them get the better of you.”

    We stood together in silence until the bus pulled up and opened wide its doors, welcoming us both, different but the same. The two of us were equally deserving of respectful and dignified treatment.

    While I sat on a single seat, halfway down the length of the bus, I studied the rusty orange, mustard and red coloured exterior of the Dominion Building; I used to pass it on my way to the Women’s Book Store, until they had to close down. How I missed browsing through their books and chatting with their eclectic employees.

    As I exhaled, my contentment was still strong. I worried about the young man and looked at the back of his head occasionally. Also, I was in awe at the outcome of our chance encounter. When I spoke to him, I savaged a thick wall with a sledgehammer. There was no going back or a desire to do so. In my way, I had just stood up to Dad and every racist in my family who tried to spew their poison on me.
    Guess what? It snuck passed me! What? you ask. The second when I shifted from a severely detached and depressed girl/woman, into a fully functioning, feeling and articulate person.

    PS: Rough draft here. Had to post before it was way too late. :)

    • Ilana says

      It’s a great story, Terry. I’d love to see it when you are satisfied. You probably did a lot for that guy. A kind word means so much. Nice job! IM

    • Polly says

      I love this story, and I miss Vancouver! Give it a great, big hug for me, k?

      It’s good to hear that you had the courage to stand up for this young man and show him some respect, compassion and understanding. In that way, I think you did stand up to your dad (and those stupid men). Nicely done!

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thank you Polly. Did you visit or live here? Yeah. This is a beautiful city, majestic like what I’ve seen in California but with its problems too. I’m glad a situation happened that thrust me past my fear and into ACTION. (caps for emphasis). I almost have a boatload of similar stories now. :)

        • Polly says

          I lived there for quite a few years, and will again someday :) Sounds like we have the action thing in common! (See my post above.) Actually that’s something I need to tap into a bit more again.

    • beverly Boyd says

      What an inspiring story. Yes, you certainly did “savage a thick wall” but I think it was your “voice that was gentle and kind yet had a firm quality as well” rather than a sledge hammer that did it. What is the saying…”a soft voice turneth away wrath?” And at the same time you stood up to your father in the form of those two racist jerks.

      I also loved some of your imagery: ” a few thin-lipped straggler clouds loitering about as for fun” and “a large grey pebble I had dislodges from the hoof of my left shoe.” These were really nice descriptive details that also spoke about your state of mind.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Thanks Beverly. It’s always nice to hear from you. I got behind the last two weeks but will check out yours as well. That voice of mine fails me at the most inopportune moments; so glad it held up then. Take care.

    • says

      Terry, I loved this story. You modeled for me something I never thought of before–a creative way to support someone when the risks of confronting the attackers isn’t wise. Thanks for that. I hope I get the chance to support someone in a similar way, using your example.

      • Terry Gibson says

        Laura, thanks. Glad there was something to help. Yeah. Given the absence of all lily-livered perpetrators when you really want them–to sit them down and force them to listen–I’ve learned to adapt to an ‘on the fly’ state of affairs. It works. And you could never guess how many stray men I’ve left zip-tied to chairs in strange buildings. Ha! Take that. :) Ole. (missing accent for ‘e’.

  20. PJ says

    In 1983 we were working on a double plant expansion design or General Motors’ in the Atlanta. Area and the Mechanical, Electrical, Civil, Stuctural and Environmental Departments had to make a presentation to the GM engineers on where the project stood. We got there about 10AM and had a 6PM departure and the meeting got hurried late in the afternoon to complete the high priority stuff (my Civil work was not in this category and pretty dry) I escaped my ‘run through the gauntlet’ from young execs trying to make points with the senior execs by poking holes in your design there could be hell to pay if you got trapped in one of these sessions, so I opted out, taking the “safe way”, by not protesting bypassing the Civil efforts to date:1500 miles lunch, dinner, and drinks and a day’s salary wasted by me and others

      • PJ says

        It may be that most of us have moments like this where we don’t have the energy, guts or ambition to risk it all with little or no reward for going over simple details that could possibly lead to missing a flight. Not worth it as there were bigger battles to fight that day.

        They say you have to “pick your battles” and that seemed to be the perfect time to bring up the fact that GM had contracted with us for our design and recommendations and then told us to change our recommendations. Our structural people stuck to their guns and fought the cost cutting measure as poor foundation design for the tanks in question. “Do it anyway” was GM’s response. It was about a week or so after the tanks were filled and one side of the tank was 9″ lower than the other. With “Do it anyway” (or words to that effect) in the meeting minutes as our direction to proceed, we were off the hook for that SNAFU! Thank goodness… this would have been an expensive fix if we had been duped into following their low budget foundation they had recommended we might have been obligated to pay for part or all of the fix.

        • beverly Boyd says

          I wonder what was in the tank? Could the fact that is was not level lead to a possible catastrophic result?

    • beverly Boyd says

      PJ I am fascinated by the experience you are writing about for this prompt. I wonder if it is the same or another situation that you posted in the next week’s response string for “Going to far.” At the time you posted that one I wondered if you had intended to post it here. As a volunteer, I’ve had more than my share of experiences in meetings, serving as parliamentarian for three organizations, and sitting on some city level advisory committees. I know something about the dynamics as people try to manipulate things for their benefit. Except for stories my son tells me about his experiences in meetings of more than one large company he has worked in, I know little about the corporate world. Your experience sounds like mine on steroids! I’d love to know more of your experience and what you have learned from it.
      I hope you will post on the roadmap often.

  21. Naomi White says

    Her breasts definitely were bigger. That much I could tell, as we undressed in the locker room that Christmas vacation. And I noticed again, two nights later as we were playing charades with a group of childhood friends. It was her turn to act, and her small pudgy hands glided over rounded, soft, delectable curves, chastely covered with a soft, wine-colored sweater. Judith’s hands and feet were the only part of her that were unlovely, less graceful, not perfectly formed. Everything else…luscious. I wasn’t the only one who noticed.

    “How come Judith is always so sensual?!” came a low and appreciative remark from one of the men in our small group seated on the floor of my living room.

    I wanted to scream at him “It’s because she’s fucking pregnant, you idiot! You have three kids with two women – don’t you know what a goddamn pregnant body looks like?!?!”

    But I didn’t. I pretended that I hadn’t heard, although it felt like one more confirmation of what I already thought of myself in those days. I was the older, more beautiful but less sexy sister. Doomed to asexuality and the Altar Society and Corporal Works of Mercy and being a spinster school marm forever.

    I had promised to say nothing about that new little life, the unexpected product of sweaty ecstatic night after night in a small cottage by the Pacific, a Chilean moon making its camino de la luna, on the quiet waves of the small inlet outside their front door.

    After coming home, she had intended to forget all about Max and the giving and losing of her virginity. Forget about Chile. Move on. Finish school. Until this complication came along and made that no longer possible.

    And so now she was trying to pretend everything was normal, everything was business as usual until the last possible moment when it would become obvious that everything was definitely NOT.

    I hated her. I hated that she broke the rules and got to be sensual and desirable and tell her best friend and me about how she and Max would climax together multiple times in one night. I hated that as she grew bigger, she would only grow more lovely and glowing and everyone would coo. I hated that, as the only and oldest sister, I would be expected to throw a sumptuous baby shower for her and pretend to be happy and loving and supportive.

    I was so tired of keeping her secret and of being angry at her. And most recently, of living with her. It had only been two weeks.

    • says

      Naomi, welcome to the Roadmap blog. I was intrigued by the story of the two sisters–and wonder where’ it’s going–how their relationship is going to transform over time. I hope you come back and write more.

  22. Kathryn says

    Feather Falls Run

    Randall and I are physically fit for our age group, though by no means triathletes. We set out one morning to photograph Bald Rock and to hike to Feather Falls, having spent a nice evening at Oxford Suites after dinner and beer-tasting at the casino. What Northern California lacks in culture it makes up for in scenery, and beer. Feather Falls Casino hosted by far some of the best craft beer around, outside of Sierra Nevada, but the casino atmosphere is exactly what we expected, with a nice dance floor and a band about to start covering tunes from the seventies. We were “done” with our taste test, (not overly hoppy orange wheat beer was my favorite, although the porter was quite good as well), we dedicated our evening to an interest in air conditioning and cable television back at our suite, spread out across lavish mattresses in the hum of a very hot July evening. When I say very hot, people might think 95 degrees, but this is very hot NorCal style, otherwise topping out at about 112. That’s not even all that hot for the area, where one June we sweltered around 120 degrees. All that said, our main objective was a waterfall slated to be one of the top ten in the country, with our two cameras, supported by a hotel room with HBO (we don’t spring for cable at home) and a little beer.

    The morning drive to the Bald Rock Trailhead was exquisite, although the temperature was already soaring over ninety. We wound our way up to the mountain top, and within a quarter mile dusty hike were exposed on mountain rock, brightly surrounded by Stonehenge-size granite perched in chunks, weather-worn to a kind of soft shape, piled against more granite. We even photographed the daring of trees springing up from any crevice. I hid in the shade of behemoths while I tried to stop down my camera’s light to capture the scene. We wandered around for awhile, going from shade to shade, exposed in the full sun to a battering of rays despite our long sleeves and wide-brim hats. In the end, we were satisfied that we had seen something truly beautiful, despite the fact that it was really too bright to get any definition into the photographs of the rocks we wanted. We vowed to come back here in October, on a cloudy, misty day, as we chugged the water I carried with us in the shade beside the car.

    Next stop was Feather Falls. Inspired by photographer friends who told us of these amazing falls, we drove to the trailhead, something not easy to find, parked, and noted all the other cars there. We drank yet another glib liter of water before setting out with our equipment, though we decided carrying tripods was too much, considering the temperature. This day was well into its 112-degree capacity. We set off down the trail at an amble, overconfident in our fitness and joy.

    Before long, a fork in the trail announced obscure options, and it seemed difficult to discern the truth. The falls were said to be ten miles away. Oh well. My partner and I have hiked ten miles easy in a day. We imagined a cool running brook at the end, a dip into the Feather River. Again, we turned down the trail, our happy feet carrying us with a swinging stride. I did note to myself that it was mighty hot, and the return would be uphill. No matter. We passed all manner of women and children with babies and strollers who had made the trek ahead of us. No kidding, I thought to myself. Must be right around the next bend.

    An hour and a half later, we were still thinking it might be around the next switchback. We had left the water back in the car. We passed a small creek where people suffering from their hike were slumped. We didn’t take the hint. Surely, the falls will appear soon. We could almost hear the water running.

    In truth, we probably could hear it. Four hundred and ten feet of cascading water dives off a cliff to the valley below from 2500 feet. Some of our hike, then, was also uphill, in an confusing winding trail around the side of a rocky slope that was exposed to full sun at many points. The trail difficulty is supposedly moderate, unless you are pushing fifty in July on a day that would singe the flesh off a teddy bear. When we arrived at our viewpoint, it was a platform at trail’s end overlooking the waterfall from the other side of the river. Another treacherous hike would take us over to the river right at the falling point, but it appeared to be too slippery and arduous for a nice dip into river water. The movies with people sucked over the falls by their desire for the river come to mind.

    We trampled down the last stumbling steps to the platform. I’d estimate the baking to be well over 200 degrees in that granite valley beneath the sun. I didn’t stay long, and I still haven’t looked at the photos I took.

    When we turned back, we had to climb about three flights of steps up to the top, where we could take another potential mile hike across exposed rock to the river and top of the falls. It was perhaps four in the afternoon. The beer from last night was edging back up in my throat.

    We turned back. On the way, we made the sullen, intelligent decision not to talk. We needed to conserve energy. Whose idea was this anyway? There could be blame. It could turn into a Flannery O’Connor story any moment. The Sunday Family Hike and Picnic. So we said not one word, not even when some twenty-somethings with great butts passed at flying speed. I thought I was doing so well. Eventually, I lost track of anything but placing one foot in front of another, and I studied the rocks and grey swirls underfoot, rather than appreciating the scenery. We found the little creek and climbed in.

    Still, we had half the distance to travel back. Neither one of us drank from the creek, because we hadn’t even bring that hiker’s friend, the water purifying system. Cameras. Heavy lenses. No water. We heaved the equipment back onto our sweaty shoulders and hoped for the best. That we would actually live through this day.

    Miraculously, we made some trail turns and discovered the sign again, with its telltale mileage. We saw the warning in miles and temperature that we had somehow missed in our previous glee. A couple of miles yet to go, we stood there staring, vacant, wondering. We felt old. We didn’t need to say it. We could see it in each other. We had gone too far.

    We arrived at the trailhead without an emergency. My Toyota Camry shone in late afternoon light as if a beacon. We drank the remaining liter of warm water from a bottle in the trunk and drove back to Oroville to the Raley’s Supermarket, where we bought sports drinks and more water. As perception returned to my foggy brain, I discovered I was standing on asphalt in a dusty-hot parking lot in the shade with my lover, and we had almost died. I was grateful, and I said, “We need to talk about this.” He agreed.

    “We won’t do this again,” he said. And it was that simple. We knew.

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