A Loss of Innocence, A Need
by J. Michael Wimpy
When I allow myself even the briefest of a moment to pause and reflect on the utter horror of my childhood years, that very moment begins with a shudder down my spine that would make a horror movie junkie proud. Is it a mere shudder? Maybe it is fright. Maybe it is anger. Maybe it is rage! It could be utter relief that I sit here a survivor. Survivor? Somehow, that word doesn't do justice to my memories. It reveals far too little of what must be said. There is not one word that could ever tell it all. What word could possibly contain all the anger and rage, all the hopelessness and despair, all the insecurity and loneliness that defined my childhood years?
This story has to have a beginning. What person do I name? Is this person the one to be indicted for my rage? Is this the person that I am to rail against until my memory is extinquished by my own anger? Was there not one person with reason in my childhood? Was there not one person with some sense of responsibility? The answer it seems makes me even shudder again. I feel it down my spine as memories come flooding through me. Yet, here I sit -- a survivor! I take a deep breath, a deep thankful breath and continue.
Memories of my mother cannot be separated from the alcohol that eventually would take her life. I remember her anger and her rage -- an object only had to cross her path to be consumed by a person being consumed. She was called my mother, but a mother I never had. Her child that she protected was the bottle that became her shadow down every path she stumbled. In many ways, she is to be pitied. She lost both of her husbands. She lost her son. She lost her two daughters. She lost her future grandchildren. She lost every memory that makes life worth living. She closed her eyes at the very young age of fifty-five having drank herself to death.
During that time, I was a child, a mere child, with a mother (that might as well had already been dead) being allowed to experience and witness the very horrors from which it would seem every child is entitled protection. What kind of adults allow a child to witness an enraged stepfather take a baseball bat to every window in the house after finding another man in his bed? What kind of adults allow a child to witness the outbursts of rage that results in an icebox emptied in a fit of anger in the kitchen floor? What kind of adults allow flirtatious aunts to confuse a teenage child by sleeping in the same bed? What kind of adults drink to the point of intoxication and then drive with a child? I saved my mother from accidents on many an occasion be reaching for the steering wheel at the last moment. Jerking steering wheels, discovering vomit covered aunts, walking in on my mother's next sex partner, living in the cesspool of life -- that was my lot. I was so alone.
That child became a teen in spite of it all. He wandered into the path of child molesters, drug addicts, street criminals. The sadness throughout it all is there was no one to turn to, there was no one to go home to, there was no one that could make it right. There was no one to be the caring adult that the child so desperately needed. There was a house but no mother. There was a house but no father. There was a house but no home. There was a child alone in a world devouring the people responsible for bringing him into it. The child needed rescuing but there was no one. The child was alone.
Every child needs a home. Every child needs a father. Every child needs a mother. Every child at least needs a responsible adult that cares - someone to come to the rescue when the world begins to devour. If there is one lesson I've learned in the years that have followed the horror of my childhood years, I hope I have learned how to love a child.
That is my gift that I give back to this life. It is my hope that it is a beginning, and it protects a child. I give back love. I give it to my children. I give it to my grandchildren. I give it to every child that crosses my path just in case they live in a home that has no mother, that has no father, that has no love.
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