Chapter Two: IN THE BEGINNING
“I don’t want her! That’s not my baby! Take her away!” These are among the first words I was told I heard as a newborn. My mother was expecting a boy. In fact, the whole family was expecting a boy and I was a keen disappointment. I was to be named “Dickie” after my Grandpa who, as I said earlier, was called “Dick”. Upon learning I was a girl my parents didn’t know what to name me. They finally decided the closest thing to Dickie was Dixie. Besides the disappointment of having a girl no one in my family had ever seen a newborn with hair like that. They expected a blonde baby because they were fair people. I am blonde now, but at birth I looked like the Cherokee Indian that is in my blood line. It took three days before my mother would accept me. I would be brought to her for feeding and she would yell that I wasn’t her baby, and to take me away. At times I have felt like crying for the poor little girl that was rejected in the first few days after birth and wished I could pick her up and love on her. This early experience began instilling into me that life was all about abandonment and survival.
To make matters worse I was born breech–buttocks first and bent in two. This was in the days before caesarean sections were the norm in such cases. I was told the doctor managed to strip my left arm and shoulder and literally broke the bones in them in an effort to pull me out of the birth canal. There was no effort on the doctor’s part to repair the damage. My parents accepted his diagnosis that I would “grow out of it” and to this day I cannot lift my left arm over my head. It has been a handicap that I have struggled to keep hidden all of my life. This handicap had a very big part in convincing me that there was just something wrong with me. Otherwise why would God have allowed my life to start with such a traumatic, damaging birth? It was a feeling that troubled me for years.
I remember the early toddler days of being a happy little girl with fat rosy cheeks who adored her Daddy. He delighted in me and we swam together and played together and I was always on his lap. He would tell me that I had beautiful blue eyes and they would twinkle just for him. He was my hero. Daddy worked in the oil fields and, according to my Mother, was a real “John Wayne” type. I had his blue eyes and when I looked at him it was with adoration and trust.
One day when I was seven my relationship with my dad changed forever. That was when he began a five year stint of sexually molesting me. It began when my baby sister was born. He would take me places and find wooded areas for him to secretly do things to me that threw me into total confusion. I became his mistress. I don’t think my Mom knew but I do know the signs were there that could have told her something was wrong. Mom was one to ignore signs of anything that would change her life as she knew it—especially when it had to do with my dad. That first time he touched me in a perverted way I became a victim and my life changed courses forever. That was the day my adored Dad became my pursuer and everything became twisted, confusing, and tormenting in my little mind. You would think that nothing in my life could have been more damaging than that awful day but there was a day to come that would be much worse for me. However, the day I became a victim of incest the molding and shaping of my life’s course was set in motion.
From the very first act of incest my emotional development came to an abrupt stop. Everything I did from that point on was from a new perspective of who I was and of my own lack of value. Where was God through all of this? I learned to compartmentalize the Dixie who was her dad’s mistress and the Dixie who longed for God to deliver her and take her away from it all.
At twelve years of age he stopped molesting me, but only because he feared I would become pregnant. Though he ended his affair with me my innocence was gone forever. I had missed my childhood which came to an abrupt halt from the very first time he victimized me. I have only ugly, uncomfortable, fearful memories from the age of seven to adulthood. Even after my Dad stopped molesting me the attachment was still there. I could discern it easily so I was constantly afraid to be alone with him. I was no longer an innocent, adorable child. The day my Dad violated me was the day I became ugly. And from that moment on I was on the outside looking in as life passed me by. A bomb was dropped into my life that first day, the effects of it rippling out for years to come. This violation of my body and soul would be behind every decision I would make in life, until 30 years later I would find complete healing.
Imagine every waking moment of your life as a child, always maneuvering yourself into a safe place so you won’t be alone with your Dad–without anyone picking up on it. I hated what he did to me, especially because it was a non violent molestation. He would profess his love for me and his desire to teach me womanly things. The profound guilt and confusion that accompanies that kind of violation enveloped my every waking moment. As a little innocent girl I wanted to continue to be Daddy’s little girl, but at the same time I was horrified by what he did to me and requested of me. I couldn’t find the strength or courage to find my way out.
How does one describe the profound transition that takes place in the heart of a child when their natural and innocent boundaries have been violated by a trusted, loved authority in her life? Something inside of you shuts down and life takes on a haze of darkness and fear and craziness. I vowed to keep this violation a “secret” until the day I died. After all, it only happened to me because I must be flawed in some way–though I wasn’t sure what it was that made me different that my Dad would want to do that to me.
After I knew it was over with my Dad I packaged it all up in my mind and put it away to never be brought up again, or so I thought. Unconsciously, I also stopped trusting men in general. None of them could be trusted as far as I was concerned. The lies that satan told me every day were: that I was worthless, all men will hurt me, when they do hurt me I am powerless to do anything about it, I couldn’t say no, I would never be as good as my friends, if people really knew the real me they would be disgusted, I could never tell the secret or I would be destroyed as well as my family, I was the only one this has ever happened to, and it is all my fault.
By the time I reached high school I had such low self esteem that I would spend my lunch hours hiding in the girls bathroom stalls, or walking around on campus as fast as I could go. This was to give the appearance to anyone that was watching that I was somebody important and had places to go. This began the cycle in my life of painting a false picture of myself so others would think I had it together and not see that I was flawed and ugly and damaged goods. My own actions projected to others that I was on the outside looking in. I would not allow myself to join in with the other kids. No one would want me if they knew the truth about me. I made no friends because I was sure they knew how different I was just by looking at me. I taught myself how to give the appearance that I was someone else by making myself look secure outwardly. Thus I began to paint unreal pictures for all to see, an act that would stay with me for decades. I always made myself look different than what I was feeling and projected confidence by the way I carried myself. I was a fraud.
I did have one friend in high school. Her father was a pastor. She told me some very inappropriate stories about her household. I couldn’t imagine her family being a religious family and doing some of the things she talked about. Her pastor dad would walk around the house, in front of his 5 kids, naked every morning. He would carry on his household chores of ironing and eating breakfast nude. She would share the details, in vivid descriptions, of what a man looks like naked. Of course I didn’t tell her that I already knew what a man looks like naked. That further confused my mind as to what was appropriate and what wasn’t. If a pastor would do this and my friend thought it was cool, then what did God really think about this sort of thing? Did God condone what my dad did to me? Could God really love me to allow my father’s abuse to happen? It was all so confusing. That friendship was just another step to form my negative opinion of religious people even though I became one.
The handicap of my crippled arm caused me to feel inferior to the other kids as I was growing up in elementary school. I was always being yelled at in sports for not using both arms to hit the volleyball, or tether ball, modern dance, you name it. I was the one who was always picked last on teams. This reinforced, again, that I was just a reject and would never be acceptable.
I was constantly afraid of being called on. The teachers obviously thought I was just being obstinate and lazy for not using both arms. I refused to tell them I couldn’t. My admission would ruin the picture I had painted. When I finally did decide to tell my best friend she wanted to see me try to lift my arm. When I tried and it looked weird she ridiculed me. By the time we got into high school she would tell the boys about my arm right in front of me. She would badger me to raise it in front of them and I would actually do it, for some unknown reason, perhaps to maintain an acceptance, and everyone would laugh at me. I was horrified. As a result, I became a very lonely kid because I learned to avoid getting close to anyone who would ridicule me for my imperfections. My relationship with this friend ended when I moved out of the area with my family at the beginning of my junior year in High School.
I believe from a spiritual stand point that Satan meant to harass me or even kill me before I even got started in this life. But God can take what was meant for evil in our lives and turn them around for good. By His grace He has brought me through this life and allowed me to take the evil and help others. However, for many years it took me a while to realize this. As I grew I learned to function very adeptly without most people knowing anything about me. I learned to do elaborate hair styles with one arm, reach things in high places, carry babies, and most everything I could think of. Of course I looked funny doing it but I kept that well hidden. The things I couldn’t do I avoided.
Years later as an adult I burned my right hand very badly and couldn’t use it for many months. I would cry as if my heart were breaking because I couldn’t even take a bath without someone’s help. The injury tore the mask off of my capability of taking care of myself and I hated it. I now realize that this handicap has given me a deep compassion for those who struggle with much worse than me. God also used it to toughen me and harden me to difficulties in life. I developed perseverance in life and the word “can’t” just wasn’t in my vocabulary.
In addition to my handicap I always felt fat. As a teenager I was a normal size and when I see pictures today I realize I was quite attractive. But, at the time I was horrified by my looks and felt huge. My mother was from a family of Irish origin and no one was over five feet tall. Her sisters called me “the moose”. In reality, I was 5’6” and medium size. Mom always pointed out to them how large I was and so when I was around all of her family I felt like an Amazon woman, towering over them. In the years after I left home every time I was around my mother she would make a comment about my weight, pointing out that my sister was smaller than me and as a petite size she could wear anything and look good. On the other hand, in Mom’s opinion, I was large and cumbersome and always needed to lose weight. I was never complimented when I looked good. Fault would always be found in the way I looked. Later, in my twenties I would play a game with myself when it came to my mother. When I knew I looked really good and was quite thin I would wager with myself how long it would take her to find something negative to say about my appearance when I would see her. It never took very long for her to find something to say to make me feel inferior no matter how good I looked. I would marvel at why she did this. How come she couldn’t just say something nice about me? I realize now that she was reacting to something in me that made her feel inferior. She had issues, but this behavior towards me just reinforced the fact that there was something wrong with me and that I wasn’t like normal people.
I didn’t have a clue what I wanted from life by the time I was sixteen years old and graduated from high school. I was still living at home. I was trapped on a mountain where we lived to accommodate my father’s job and I had no transportation or anyone available or willing to help me move past this time of my life to even think of college or a job. My parents offered no help and appeared to think I should figure it out for myself with no transportation and no offer to help me find it. My father did say I could drive his old pick up but it was a stick shift. I couldn’t drive a stick because it made me feel out of control due to my left arm feeling too weak to control the steering wheel while I shifted. Of course I didn’t tell anyone this because it would blow my cover of being handicapped. My parents sort of forgot about the effects of my crippled arm, I think, because I had quit complaining about it years before. The truth is they really didn’t want to be bothered.
I hated being trapped in my parent’s home with no way to escape. I became very depressed as day after day went by with me feeling like a caged animal. So, I married young to escape my home life of fear and unhappiness and memories of abuse. It could only get better, right?
I met my first husband on a family camping trip the year I turned sixteen, was engaged by seventeen and married at nineteen after he returned from the front lines of fire in Viet Nam. He came home a different man after seeing so many of his buddies die, but I was just a kid and really didn’t even have a clue that this might have some effect on him as time went on. The whole idea of marriage to a war hero was all very romantic to me and I continued to build my elaborate princess pictures of marriage in my mind. I pictured us on desert isles with only our love to help us to survive. We would have babies and the house with the white picket fence. I would become someone else and wouldn’t have to think of my childhood ever again. My children would be safe and secure in my care and no one would ever touch or hurt them the way I was.
I did fine in the early years of our marriage. I loved being Mom to our two beautiful children, Jason and Heather. I was the classic happy house wife with beautiful babies to love and enjoy. They were my world. I dressed them up every day and basically made them look like little dolls. Everyone would be drawn to them and I would just beam proudly.
Jason, my first born, was born with a club foot that I pretended I didn’t see. He was a few months old when a church lady pointed it out and said I should have it looked at. I was horrified and very angry at the woman. How dare she point out a flaw in my child! I never really liked her after that because I was sure she was jealous of my perfect child. But underneath the surface I feared that she may be right. After many weeks I relented and took him to the doctor. The office visit for me was like sitting in a lion’s den and facing the lion himself when I was called in to talk to the doctor. He said Jason needed a cast put on his foot, and then needed to wear that ugly bar between his legs to correct the problem. When the doctor first told me this, I grabbed Jason from off the examining table and dramatically ran out of the office crying all the way home as if my heart would break. The doctor and nurse called after me but I would not turn back. They had found a flaw in my baby. I needed to protect him. I vowed they wouldn’t touch him or put him in that torture device. However, after a few weeks of tormenting myself I eventually returned, somewhat embarrassed, and had the doctor put the device on him and I felt like my world had shattered. The pediatrician tried to reassure me, but I would not be consoled. This didn’t fit in with my perfect world.
In the following months Jason learned to roll over, sit up, stand up and generally everything a normal baby does; all the while he was wearing the bar between his legs. He learned to bang it against the crib if he was hungry or wanted attention. I also became somewhat accustomed to it when I found that it didn’t seem to affect Jason. At eight months of age they removed it and his foot was perfect. When it was removed I was relieved but was confused as to my own over-reaction to the whole ordeal. Looking back now I find that my reaction was a big clue as to what it did to me to suggest my life wasn’t perfect like the inward picture that I had created. My children continued to be my biggest blessing in life and I knew I would be dedicated to their upbringing for God. They seemed like the only real thing in my life.
When Heather was born I would dress her in elaborate dresses and bonnets everyday. I was constantly doing her strawberry blonde hair with foam rollers and elaborate bows, as she was born with a good amount of hair. However, at nine months she had only a few hairs left on top of her head and I would diligently sit her on my lap every morning and take the one roller out and clip her bow to the one curl left on her whole head. Then one day when I went to fix her hair, which was a definite morning ritual, I realized she had no hair left! All of her curl had been cut off and, when I looked, there it was under her crib. Jason was hiding behind the door. By the time I found him he knew I was more than angry and in his little boy way let me know that I spent far too much time on his sister to make her perfect in every way and not enough time with him. Once again, my standard of perfection was coming into play and affecting my kid’s perspective on life. Today, thankfully, it is family joke.
I began the co-dependant role with my husband right from the start. He had trouble keeping a job for very long and making decisions. I took on that role, gladly. I thought it a good idea so that I could continue to envision us as the happy family with the white picket fence. I was in control, which was necessary to enable me to keep the picture of success vivid. He loved it because I was the mom he needed as well, since he and his mom had been very enmeshed in one another as he grew up and she took care of his every need. Even at 19 years of age, I saw things in him that disturbed me and I still didn’t have a strong man in my life who was a leader. I quickly learned to make the best of it and fill in the gaps where needed. I didn’t see that I very quickly became the controller and didn’t trust him to do what needed to be done, so I did everything. It never occurred to me that we needed help to overcome these issues. I was a prime target for co-depending him in his lack, and he, being a Viet Nam veteran, seemed incapable of taking the bull by the horns and being a leader. Thus our pattern began.