Down with the sickness: my grandmother’s reaction
I hope your week is going good. Tonight I introduce you to the second part of one of Red man’s story. I encourage you to read the first part here before. In the first part, the Red man began telling us how he got new school clothes (a rarity for him) and how after daring of his brothers, he got them as dirty as they could be. We heard about a piece of his childhood, his relationship with his brothers as well as his kokum (his grandmother) who raised him. Tonight, let’s focus on the second part of the story, this time a story of child abuse. I want to warn you that this is not an easy one to read. My heart broke more than once while reading it. The Red man was nervous about sharing that one as he thought it would affect my opinion of him. I will explain more after you read the story. Brace yourself for a reality that was only too present in many houses and communities. And still is today. Let’s look at a story of child abuse, down with the sickness.
Where were we again?
We left it off with the Red man having fell into a pool of stinky dirty water and asking his brother to go get him clean clothes before his kokum saw him. He then sent his brother to the house fearing his grandmother’s reaction to his now ruined clothes.
Eventually he agreed (his brother) to sneak into the back of the house and fetch me some dry clean clothes. My hate for him only increased as he crept into the back door, seconds later, followed out by my enraged grandmother. He had ratted me out!
“Skanuk kosanuck awaa”, you dirty rotten son of a bitch, she muttered between closed false teeth. “Get in here now!” she screamed like some sort of banshee or bat out of hell. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, a nervous twitch that started at the base of my spine crept up my back like a fast moving feather that tickled and repulsed at the same time. Goose bumps popping up everywhere. My heart raced and beat like a drum in my ears as I limped toward the back door.
I knew what was coming and I knew it was going to be bad. It was always a great mystery: what would she beat me up with next? I had seen it all. I walked with my head down, limping, my bare foot stepping on every rock in the yard. As soon as I was within arm’s reach, her hand shot out and grabbed my large stretched ear. “Get in here you little bastard, you are going to pay for this”, her sneer made me weak at the knees. Flashes of violent episodes, reference matter for what was to come, call it what you will, but instinct told me that I needed to get out of my cold wet clothes. The whipping would then hurt less. She pulled and pushed me like a rag doll, my ear like a leash, where the ear went the body went. She threw me into the bedroom and slammed the door shut. I pulled off my clothes in 2 or 3 seconds flat, I put on jeans and a long sleeve shirt, aka armor against the impending attack. Fully clothed, I jumped in bed, got under the covers and pulled them over my head. Safety, security, my good bed provided it all. Even though I knew that I was going to get it, I hoped, for a minute, for a miracle and began to pray for one.
And I prayed….. but it did not work
“Please God, please Jesus, help me out here. I will be good, I promise”. The door then crashed open and the beast stood there screaming in Cree and English. The blankets came flying off from all around me, leaving me exposed to the harsh elements. I raised my arm up to block my face and peeked around, just in time to see the foot and a half spark plug wire in her hands. It came down a second after the blankets were drawn but I knew where it was going to strike. Like a boxer, she would always go up and down, up and down. Only sometimes could she surprise me with an unexpected blow. I would keep my eye out on the weapon so that I could move just enough so that it never hit me in the same spot twice.
It always seemed to hurt more nonetheless. I tried to block the first blow with my forearm but it caught me just behind my shoulder. The pain was 10 times worst than expected, as it seemed to go all the way to the bone. I closed my eyes and lost all control. She hit me over and over wherever she pleased. Each blow felt like an explosion in my head. But I knew one thing: the more you cried, the more you got it. The beating lasted only for 2 minutes, but time stood still. It felt like it lasted for 2 hours. Then it was over and she stomped out of the room slamming the door shut. I pulled the blankets over my head just in case she came rushing back in. My skin was a mess of goose pimpled tormented painful flesh. It burned and ached everywhere. I rubbed my arms and legs with the palms of my hands to heat up. The chill of the water was still there.
The spark plug wire really packed a lot of punch. Every spot it hit left a half egg bump. I cried as quietly as possible, hoping that the beast would leave me alone. I could hear her endless monologue in the front room. It was always the same. “You dirty rotten son of bitches want to kill me” yadda yadda yadda. My bedroom was next to the bathroom and I needed to pee. I left the comfort and safety of my good bed and crept into the bathroom.
After I used the toilet one of the hardest things to do after a brutal beating was to look at myself in the mirror and I would. I had to, I felt compelled. If nobody in the whole world had empathy or sympathy for you sometimes you have to have it for yourself. So I took off my shirt and avoided eye contact with myself. In the mirror, the examination of the purple, angry red and bluish green bumps began. It was all that I allowed myself to look at, I avoided eye contact with myself until there was no more reason not to do it. As soon as I locked eyes with myself tears rolled out and distorted everything.
And the question remained
“Why” the question was barely audible. Only a whisper of a cry. “Help me God, help me”. The grumbling was still going on in the front room and I was sure that the beast knew that I had left the confines of my room. I was once again vulnerable to attack. I gathered myself and crept back into my room. I lay under the covers, in pain all over. I prayed to God, Jesus and the father whom I didn’t know, a father I had never met but my father nonetheless. In my imaginary world, he would come along one day, full of love and kindness and rescue me from this terrible situation that I was in. I did not have a choice but to live there.
I did have a choice but I knew that there was a consequence worst than the terror that I endured. I would be taken away and put in foster care. Even worst than that, I would never see my family again or so I was told.
Suddenly, the sound of the door flying open froze my body stiff. When the blankets were once again ripped from my body, I lay curled up in a fetal position, my arm instinctively shooting up to block my face. I peeked through the bend in my arm. “Look at what you did to me. You little bastards are trying to kill me”. She held her arm out for me to look at. There was a half grapefruit size bulging contusion on her wrist. When the spark plug wire moved to strike me again it had such harsh force that it injured her. “Look at it, look at it or you will get some more” she threatened. I dropped my defensive position and looked directly at her injury. I momentarily looked at her and saw that she was seriously feeling sorry for herself.
The rage I was feeling inside
The thought that she blamed me for hitting herself brought out a great hatred deep inside of myself. When she walked away and slammed the door behind herself, a rage unlike anything I ever had sent me into fantasy mode. I clenched my teeth and screamed silently, the pent up frustration had to be let out. I wanted to fight back with every ounce of hatred and rage that had built up over my entire life. Into the imagination I went:
My kokum stood in front of me with her injured wrist held out for me to see. I sprang out of bed and grabbed her by the waist and pushed her toward the far wall. The old house we lived in was in rough shape. There was only a piece of gyprock between my bedroom and a long descent down the basement staircase. I was 10 or 11 years old but I had the physical strength of an older young man. In my mind I was even more powerful. Her body crashed through the wall with ease. While we were airborne, I climbed her body. We landed on the wooden staircase, my feet firmly planted on her chest. I rode her body down the stairs like a surfboard. At the bottom, a rake, shovel and various gardening instruments were waiting for her, to come crashing down on. As she plowed into the tangled mess of rusty metal, I began to jump up and down on her ruined body. Blood seemed to drain out of her body as I looked at my kokum’s bloody face.
But I loved my kokum
A sadness worse than any I had ever experienced rocked my body. I loved my kokum, how could I be thinking about hurting her? What would I do if she were gone? The thought of her dead made me cry uncontrollably. I held my knees , buried my head in between my legs and cried. I stayed awake until the wee hours of the night. My mind was always racing, dreaming and scheming ways to fix my broken life. I had to face the night, and the nightmares that came with it. I was not safe even when I slept. In the morning, with only a few hours of sleep, I awoke too…
There you have it. Part 2 of the story. Part 3 coming up in the next few days. The Red man shared this part of his story because he wanted you to hear it from a child’s perspective. He wanted to share his story of child abuse, down with the sickness, so that people understood what it does to a child. And it was not an easy share. A few of my thoughts:
The Red man was nervous about me reading this story. He was worried I would judge him for imagining himself hurting his kokum. When I said to him: It’s normal that you would as she put you through hell. His answer was: It is? It’s not just me?
And the answer is no it’s not just him. He wanted to hurt his grandmother just like she hurt him. But at the same time, she was his everything. And without her or if he talked about the abuse, it meant being in foster care and losing his family. And in the Native communities, there was nothing worse than being placed in foster care. Because then, all connection with one’s family would be lost. It meant going into the “white world” and risking never coming back home. Because the reality of it is that the majority of Native mothers losing their children in the system, do not get them back. Or it takes significantly longer for them to get them back. Is there a solution here? Is there a lesser evil as they say? I don’t have the answer to that one. But losing all cultural beliefs and every family member is not the solution. Helping the families, helping the parents, that might be the solution. Not taking the kids away but rather helping the family as a unit.
What are some of your thoughts on all of this?
All my Relations
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