I have spent most of my adult life trying to understand the terrible things terrible people do; glad to know that means I’m not one of them.
But I don’t think they understand either; in my experience, terrible people seldom realize they are, indeed, terrible.
They are disingenuous and phony; they fake their feelings – especially emotions such as love, regret, compassion and remorse. They know they are different from others, but they don’t recognize or acknowledge the depth of their own darkness.
And that leaves the rest of us scratching out heads in wonder at the malevolent things they do and say.
Worst of all is Evil that masquerades as Benevolence.
Even in my childhood home, where abuse was the norm, Pat and Ed were occasionally warm. I can remember bedtime stories, and sitting close to him on the couch watching TV — and she, though never nurturing, tried to soften the pain of a skinned knee with a bandaid and a pat on the head – the itch and discomfort of Chicken Pox with a baking soda bath …
But these acts of human kindness were confusing to me — so contradictory were they to the fear, pain and humiliation I’d come to anticipate and expect, that I didn’t understand them, didn’t know how to understand them. How is my parents could be kind in certain moments, and cruel and dis-compassionate in so many others – most others?
It makes no sense to me still, and as a child it was its own form of abuse – emotional and gut-wrenching.
Time and time again they pulled the rug out from under me, time and time again they taught me not to trust them, not to believe them – kindness would become pain again soon enough.
I don’t have to wonder how it is I got sick, the miracle would have been if I hadn’t.
From what I understand, child abuse is multi-generational in my family, as it is in most where it exists. It breaks the child, who later breaks his own child, and so it goes on and on and on.
It is important to talk about. It is important to remember, especially how you felt if it happened to you …
It is in knowing how we felt that we are able to stop the cycle – to love and nurture our own children so they will be whole and able to do the same for their children someday.
Ed once said he couldn’t recall ever having beaten me with a wire coat hanger – he remembered how much those hurt when he’d been beaten with them as a child and had told himself he’d never use a wire coat hanger to beat his own child.
He used belts and sticks, what is the difference?
It was OK for his parents to beat him, just not with a wire coat hanger?
NO! It wasn’t OK for them to hit him EVER, with anything!
And it wasn’t OK for him to hit me EVER, with anything!
Guess I was the first member of my family to think this abuse thing through to its logical conclusion, the only correct conclusion.
My mother, too, was subject to humiliating, painful and abusive ‘spankings.’ She was also shunned by her parents for getting pregnant out of wedlock at seventeen, which leads me to believe she may have incurred other forms of emotional abuse in her childhood. She, my sister and maternal grandmother are, and always have been, so much alike …
and still I cannot fathom doing the things my parents have done – to anyone, much less my own children.
Terrible people perpetuate the cycle.
It is, to my mind, that simple.