My dysphoric journey
My father scoffed at the idea of God, spirituality, or anything else that smelled like 'woo-woo' or 'fortune telling’. Madeline and Ford, to the best of my recollection, never spoke to me about anything deistic or even spiritual, for that matter.
I do remember that they loved me, genuinely. I loved them, deeply, in return.
Ford, being a San Blas tribesman, was raised in an open, loving, sharing, society. They, and he, had no concept of personal property.
Our father had to teach him that he wasn’t supposed to simply go home at the end of the day, without removing the items that he had absent-mindedly put in his pockets.
My father put it this way, “You can teach them how to play baseball, but you can never get them to understand the concept of 'keeping score’.” They were raised, from birth, in a society that didn’t include the concept of competition. Their society was based on cooperation. 'The survival of the entire tribe takes precedence over everything.’
I was free to explore, to do as I pleased, but within eyesight of at least one of them at all times.
Once, I was playing near a trash barrel, near a small patch of jungle that marked the limit of the shared back yard in officer’s housing.
I had found a rusty old lawnmower blade and was using it to play with a “worm”. I didn’t know, at 4?, 5?, years old that worms don’t have eyes, mouths and funny forked tongues. It was only about six inches long. Maybe eight?
Eventually, I tired of pushing it around and chopped off it’s head.
Thrilled with the accomplishment, I ran, grinning from ear to ear toward Ford, who was directly behind our house, two yards over, the “worm” head in my little fingers.
Ford, hearing my delighted giggles, hearing me shouting, “Ford! Ford! Look! I cut off the worm’s head!!!”, he looked up from his task, smiling, until I got close enough for him to see it clearly.
Ford’s eyes became round as saucers. He slapped it out of my hand, simultaneously shouting to Madeline in Spanish.
Before I knew it, they were both shouting, Madeline running at a full, all out sprint, tits akimbo!
Instantly, it seemed, I was on the ground, my clothes being stripped, with no regard for buttons! I was screaming at the top of my lungs, never imagining that they would hurt me in any way, but greatly alarmed by their actions. They examined me, millimeter by millimeter, from head to toe, each heaving a great sigh.
Madeline picked me up and clutched me to her breast, crying with joy, Ford, with a hand gently on my head, smiling.
Sitting here now, over fifty years later, I don’t recall who explained it to me. It seems that the “worm”, was actually a baby snake, a Fer de lance. It was further explained to me that the Fer de lance is possibly the most venomous snake in the area, and, furthermore, that the babies could not regulate the amount of venom they injected. Any bite would have delivered the entire contents of it’s supply.
So, I had great love in my childhood. I also was subjected, daily, to great hatred.
I had a half-sister who was fifteen years older than me, Mary Etta. She hadn’t accompanied us to Panama. She was born of my mother and mom’s first husband, in a very short marriage. She remained in North Carolina, with our maternal grandparents, to finish school and marry her sweetheart, a Green Beret with a very hard background.
Meanwhile, in Panama, I lived, caught between very loving and caring adults, and an evil sister, Rachel, five years my senior, and her minion, Rebecca, four years older than I, and too frightened of Rachel to protect me. In fact, Rebecca often aided Rachel in the abuse of their little brother.
Our parents had been advised, on more than one occasion, to take Rachel to a child-psychiatrist. My father’s response? “No child of mine is crazy! We can handle this ourselves!”
In one instance, I was stuffed into a laundry hamper, a stack of World Book encyclopedias on the lid, trapping me inside. Eventually I heard Madeline and cried out. I was released.
The more ugly and evil examples I have blocked from my memory. They seem to be congealed into a terrifying blur.
I was six? seven? We were still in Panama. My father took me aside one day and told me, “I know I told you that you can’t hit girls, but it seems that there’s no alternative…When they come at you again, hit them as hard as you can. Hit them in the stomach. It will hurt them, but won’t leave a mark.”
Possibly, with the memory of when I was three(?), and Rachel pushed me down the basement stairs, in Ft. Knox, KY, splitting the skin on my right eyebrow,(still have the scar, 57 years later), I took his advice. The psycological abuse began.
Amidst the love, alternating with abuse, the previously mentioned Chuckie, the nieghbor boy, and I, played. We played, hiding under my bed, imitating the hero and his girl in the movies.
We only kissed, because that’s all we knew to do. It was understood, with no discussion necessary, that he was the man and I was the woman.
My sisters had begun teaching me how to read at the age of three. I started the first grade at age five. The only thing that I can thank them for is that.
Sometime in 1965 we moved to the Center Supply base, Richmond, VA.
My father, again, was never home. I learned later that he was working undercover at the local bars, supplied, by the Army, with amphetamines to allow him to drink his enlisted-men targets into a stupor, and find out what was being stolen, and by whom.
Daddy died, November eleventh,(the irony of the date does not escape me), 1966. He died from pancreatic cancer, age 41.
We moved to Washington NC, just across the river from my mother’s parents. Mom had a widow’s benefit payment from the D.O.D., and a job at the draft board for the county. We all received five year federal and state funded college scholarships and were soon living in an upper-middle class nieghborhood, among professionals and their kids, who were also destined for higher education.
I played with the other boys in the nieghborhood, nearly a dozen,all told. We were all within a year or two of the same age.
Sex was an absolutely taboo subject within our household.
When the other boys talked about sex, or had aquired some Playboy or Hustler magazines, I ohhed and ahhed, and laughed knowingly, imitating their actions, but I didn’t know what to do, didn’t seem to feel what they were expressing. Once again, I played along, behaving in the way that seemed to be expected.
I usually stayed away from the house, as much as possible. I had grown very accustomed to avoiding my sisters, at all costs, the only exception being when a family function was mandatory.
The nieghborhood boys were reasonably well mannered. We all came from well educated families, upstanding “pillars the community” all.
I was never really abused in any way, by the boys. I was a sissy, but a tom-boy sort of sissy, and didn’t really get any serious grief about it.
Jamie was the defacto leader of our group. He was the most developed, hormonally, of us. I followed his lead, always, without knowing why, and didn’t care.
Somewhere around the age of eleven to thirteen, I was out looking for the guys and saw some movement in an old car, abandoned by a nearby farm pond that we frequented. As I approached, I began to see more and more of a human posterior moving up and down. When I finally crept close enough, I saw that it was Jamie, on top of a girl. I turned and crept silently away, tears beginning to fall. I went to one of our 'hideouts' and cried for two hours.
I had no idea why I was crying. I only knew that I was absolutely devastated.
Later, I went home, got on my bed, and cried some more…