Friday, February 3, 2012


I am 28 years old. I am sitting next to the best therapist I have worked with thus far and across from me are my mother and step father.  I have informed them that several hours are booked for which they will foot the bill. We will not leave the office until I no longer own the shame I have shouldered for too long. They are only willing because they know I have been pursuing punitive repercussions. In my heart, I also know that they want to make things right, if ever it can be.  I am aware that this is more than most victims can expect and doubtful that even though efforts have been made to apologize, that they can ever internalize the damage that has so totally wrecked me.

We are all in close proximity- we could eat off of the same plate if this was a normal affair.  My therapist and I have discussed the importance of this set-up.  I want them to be able to see my eyes and I want to see theirs.  So far they have not been able to make eye contact at all as they endlessly shift and rearrange themselves and their belongings.

My therapist is also a Shaman.  She has seen my soul in a dark empty place, shattered into thousands of ragged shards. She has been to this world before but describes my place here as if it is my own somber womb in the underworld.  When I first came to her I was a carcass.  I had endured several breakdowns, catered to suicidal ideations and ingested multitudes of drugs. She has worked many a session to pick up each severed piece of me and nurse it back to life and now I am a newborn- my thin skin so tender,  my everything flailing in this new beginning, my eyes beginning to focus on life again.

I am aware that this could go terribly wrong.  I have never seen my step father cornered.  He could be a rabid dog or he could be a complacent pup.  Either way I am prepared and we proceed with words from my therapist about what she does in her sessions with me and what she sees.  My mother and step father toss out perfunctory questions, trying to fill in the lulls. I wait for an imminent silence.  That is when it will be my turn.

I begin by telling them that I know they are here because they are afraid of what I will do if they aren't. They know I am old enough and have the support of my husband and a new family now.  I am a mother of a four-year-old child and I have something to protect.  Of course,  my mother  tells me there is no need to feel protective and so I triangulate my hands and place them under my chin and scrutinize her.  The room is quiet as I hold back the torrent of crimson that is my rage.

I breath in deeply, as thought this one breath will bear everything that needs to be said. I tell them that they will sit and listen to my every memory of their cruelty- my suffering.  They shift in their seats and look at each other as though I am over the top.  My therapist touches my shoulder and like a crop to an unbroken horse, I let my memories rear up and gallop the great field of tortured recollections.  At times one or the other tries to interject.  I stomp my foot to demand silence and continue with barely a breath between each account.

And then I am done.  I am purged of the filth that has so wrongfully been mine.  I lay it at their feet.  We all look at it for a moment and then he breaks the silence.  He tells me I have made things up and that it wasn't that bad.  My mother is crying.  I have never seen her cry before.  She knows that what he is saying is ridiculous.  After a graceless moment, my step father mumbles an apology.  At first I am not sure that I have heard him and then he too breaks down.  He is a pitiful mess of lamenting and pained excuses.

Their display sickens me.  I tell them to take this mess and leave with it.  I no longer own these memories as things I must toil with anymore. I tell them never to belittle what I have said and never to forget.  My misery deserves to be paid tribute, but I will no longer be at task.  I tell my mother that she will not be able to see her granddaughter because she has not done any of the work that I have required of her in order to gain my trust.  She begins to heave with anguish. She begs to differ and says she will do more.  I tell her that the fact that she is still married to my step father negates her empty promises. Even after I state this, she asks me what more I want.  It does not cease to amaze me how stupid she is.  I tell my step father that I never want to see him again, never want to hear his voice and that I wish he was dead. I get up from my seat- a signal that this is over.  My step father tells me he is not done speaking.  I look down on him and tell him that actually, he very much is


For lack of a better statement, this was a pivotal moment in my life.  I continued working with this incredible woman until I could smile again. I began to be able to get through my days without sleeping them away. I enjoyed love and loving. I engaged with my new family and most precious of all I played with my daughter.

After a while, my mother divorced my step father. She understood her selfish ridiculousness and couldn't stand to live with herself.  Every day for and with her seemed like a rebirth and because of her willingness to finally go to this very raw place, she in turn earned a place in our lives- one that had not yet been carved out.  In the days to come we whittled away at things and created a new place for our hearts to grow together as mother and daughter and as friends.

The two of them sold the house that knew my hauntings. My mother found a condominium not five minutes down the road from me and he found a place not far enough away for my liking.

Over the years I initiated correspondence only to ensure that he payed all bills having to do with my health. Once and again he wrote to me trying to explain himself.  My heart had grown compassionate with time so I tried to make sense of his words, but they have never really spoken to my sensibilities.

He is dead now. He died of a massive heart attack.  He did not suffer- not even a full minute.  I still do not know what to make of that.


  1. How lucky you are to have acknowledgement. My family still lives in denial. As my mother was dying, she wanted me to apolgies (once again), my sisters wanted me to beg for her forgiveness (for all the wrong I was supposedly to blame for--starting with the very first--getting born)and they still hold me responsible for single handedly "destroying" the family.

    I know the truth--but my siblings live in a state of denial--and the family is a fractured now as it every was--and i am still labeled the cause. I have my own family, my children and grandchildren, those i chose to be part of my life.
    Its not an easy task to become whole--It wonderful you found the help and courage you needed.

    1. No one should have to carry this legacy for as long as you have. Even if your memories are muddled and you are finding yourself in a place of repression, I know that you can still see the plight of others' and care deeply for the people in your life who do make your days brighter. Mine is brighter for having met you. <3

  2. It still astonishes me that your mother stayed with him after she found out what was happening to you, but I'm so glad that eventually those repairs were made and that you have a relationship with her now.-Bethany

    1. I know. It just goes to show how strong these generations of toxicity are. I too am so grateful that I have my mother now- better late than never. <3

  3. It seems you have a relationship with your mother today, Cairn, because of your long and hard work, and I expect that relationship is worth the world to her and I imagine the resolution which it represents must be precious to you. Wow! :)

    1. I really hope that folks might see a way that is different from silence. I am thrilled things went the way i made them! My daughter has a sound and loving grandma. I have a sweet, thoughtful and fun-loving mom! Who'da thunk it! :)

  4. Uff. I'm glad you wrote this, because I had been wanting to turn to the final chapter and see how it all came down... the fairy tale part of me wanted him locked up in a high tower, guarded by some sort of ogre of Sodom. >=) Heh, heh, heh...

    In some regard, though, I have to think that when such stories don't end the way you want them to, the perpetrator's continued ignorance *is* the price he paid. Particularly when you see his ignorance side-by-side with your enlightenment, that's one hell of a price. I'm glad your mom finally rose to the occasion and you've built a healthy connection with her. Still... I wish you hadn't had such experiences - even if they contributed to making you the strong & amazing woman you are.

  5. I thought it was about time to throw something hopeful in before we all needed ( to up our ) Prozac!

    Believe you me, I had many a desire to see him put away- especially after Anna was born and each year brought me that much closer to realizing just how bad things had been.

    I have always been glad for my experiences, but I always back that up by saying I would not choose it again!

    He paid a price of humiliation and possibly some genuine angst over what he did and who he was. But I am convinced it was never for long enough for him to reach a true understanding as to what he did.

    The questions? page on this blog is for questions like "what ever did happen to him? Did he go to jail?" "Did his family find out?" I am hoping that the stories are making people wonder and ask questions.

    Thank you for this comment an for introspection. This kind of thing makes me want to write more.

    Love, CAirn

  6. Reading all this brings back the memories of being in your house, when we were 15, 16, 17, and how it was just always completely fucking surreal. Like upsidedown world. And then, and then, this is the first time you ever saw her cry! They both must have had mercury poured over their frosted flakes as kids, is all I can say. -- JK

    1. I always wonder what it felt like for you. You were on of the only people who ever entered that house.

      Mercury-If only they had such an excuse!

    2. Denial- this answered so many questions that have been in the back of my mind. I wanted to believe that my aunt was under his mind controlling spell. Reading about the way you showed them what they did in the presence of your therapist was so awesome. But most of all I'm am so happy for you that you have a mom. That your daughter has a grandmother and that it's an earned and newfound trust. If she's anything like her sisters she is more than capable of love. Your strength is healing your family. Amazing and selfless of you.