Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Now Is Not The Time

I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. My father was in yet another drunken rage. This was easily discernible by the fact that he was loudly reciting his favorite alcohol-fueled litany to one of my older brothers. The litany was, "You're no damned good." There were other epithets and insults thrown in, but that was the catch phrase and it was repeated often. I whispered to my mother, "I want to tell him to shut up and stop being a jerk." She shut me down, saying, "Now is not the time. You can't argue with a drunk. And we don't say shut up."

I wanted to confront him the next day, tell him that I didn't like the way he had talked to my brother. I wanted to tell him that it hurt to hear him talk to anyone in our family like that. He sat, slumped forward at the kitchen table, cup of coffee cooling in front of him, the ever-present cigarette dangling between the index and middle fingers of his right hand. My mother whispered as I walked into the kitchen, "Daddy's not feeling very well." Now is not the time.

Now is not the time took up residence in my mind right next to you're no damned good. Those two phrases together were a vitriolic cocktail that taught me not to speak up for myself.

Years later when I was the teenage subject of a similar drunken rant by my father, I wanted to say, "Shut up! You're being a jerk." But I heard my mother's voice in my head, "Now is not the time." Instead, I ran out the door and spent the night at my boyfriend's house. When I returned the next morning, Dad was in the same slumped position he'd been in so many years ago. This time he was crying. He looked up when I walked into the kitchen, and with breath that still stank of alcohol, blurted out, "Oh, Punkin, I'm so sorry!"

I wanted to tell him that his apology didn't mean anything, but that action would. I wanted to tell him that the hurt I felt wasn't hurt that would go away with a simple "I'm sorry." I wanted to tell him that I'd graduated from thinking of him as a jerk to thinking of him as a fucking drunk asshole, and I wanted to tell him that no daughter should ever want to call her father that. I wanted to tell him that I loved him, that I'd do whatever I could to help him change. But I stood, silent. Now is not the time.

I wanted to tell my school friends about my home life. They thought we were a good, happy, Catholic family. I wanted to tell them what it was really like. I wanted to say that although I was never beaten, some of the things that were said left scars that hurt so badly that it was painful to be alive. I wanted to, but I didn't. I was the friend who went along with whatever the rest of the group wanted to do. I was the friend who knew all the words to all the songs and all the good jokes. Now is not the time.

Shortly before my father died of cancer in 1982, I spent an afternoon at the hospital with him. We held hands, all the unsaid hovering between us. Now is not the time.

I never told my father how I felt. It's only been in the past decade that I feel I've really found my voice. It took a lot of hard work and courage to wave that figurative banner that reads: Now IS the time.

My circle of friends will tell you that I'm fond of saying that I wouldn't change a thing in my life because it's all made me who I am today. And I really like who I am today. Still, I can't help but wonder what would have come of that girl if she'd been allowed to say what she had to say, to take a stand. How much more of a dynamic force would I be? I don't know and it's impossible to speculate. Silly even.

At the very least it has all led me to this moment. Yes, this very moment as I am typing this and hoping someone who needs to read it is reading it. That will make every second of my life worthwhile. You see, bullies aren't always kids on playgrounds or snotty teens writing insults on Facebook. Bullies can be found anywhere and everywhere, no matter what age we are. Bullies can be found at our jobs, in our homes, in our churches, in the parking lot. Everywhere. Sometimes the bullies are even our own parents.

Please. If someone is hurting you, don't listen to the voices saying, "Now is not the time." Speak up. Keep speaking up until someone hears you. Please. Now IS the time.

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For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Grace O'Malley gave me this prompt: Now is not the time.
I gave SAM this prompt: I had forgotten all about it, but that fragrance/scent/smell brought it all back.

8 comments:

  1. This was intensely moving and powerful.Some writers really get inside your head. ..this type of prose is like a corkscrew in the brain and I mean that as a compliment.

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  2. You are an amazing individual. Thank you for sharing this. Some things just need to be put out there to help others, and to help you too. I applaud you!!

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  3. I needed to read this! Thanks for sharing! My childhood circumstances were very different from yours, but I, too, lived in a "Now is not the time" sort of household. Neither of my parents were alcoholics but the two of them equaled dysfunction. My mother was chronically sick with migraines that tended to magnify by life itself--things like stress, holidays, issues that she didn't want to deal with, you name it. Our childhood was spent sitting in parking lots at the ER and Drs. office for hours on end waiting for mom to get Demerol shots which would knock her into a senseless stupor. Now was NEVER the time. As she aged, the migraines were replaced by other health issues. At age 83, she continues to do whatever it takes to get the attention she seems to thrive on and my sisters and I are pretty much burned out on the mama drama. My brain tries very hard to sort it all out. Sadly, I avoid my mother like the plague because I see myself as a co-dependent who'll do things for her that she should be doing herself, in an attempt to make her happy. In reality, there IS NO happy for her. It's soooo engrained in me. :)

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  4. Barb,

    Your "story" really resonates with me. A lot of the drunkeness at our house happened mostly after our bedtime. I can remember all the yelling and screaming b/t my mom and dad. Later she told me a few things about their relationship I wish I had never heard, but it gave me insight into why I have always had low self esteem, anxiety and doubts about self confidences. You are amazing Barb, don't ever forget that. This "blog" just blew me away. Thanks for sharing Dearheart! <3

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  5. Hits home so very painfully... Thanks for sharing, Barb...

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  6. Now is the time to tell you: Thank you for sharing - Your words are powerful and strong and I am blessed to be able to read them.

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  7. Wow. A beautiful telling of a tragic story. I can feel the hurt, I know the hurt...For different reasons, but I know the hurt. Very courageous of you to face it head on and be the victor. Thanks for sharing.

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