Facing My Past is When I Became Free
The reason that opportunity came about was due to the fact I had to drive my two sons into Chicago so they could take a bus back to Memphis after a few short days home in Mauston for a benefit Kyle performed at. I was already in a fragile mood as I hate seeing my children leave - I so wished we could have had some more time together, but the whirlwind of the few days they were here wouldn't allow for that.
Last Friday was when they arrived and I picked them up. On that drive, we stopped by the cemetery where my father is buried - All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, IL. We didn't have a lot of time as Kyle needed to be in Mauston that evening for a practice session with the band, Bangers and Mash, that were backing him up at the performance. We had long enough just to clean off my Dad's headstone and the boys buried some items in the ground along the edge of that stone, little things that served as a symbol they were there and he will always be with them.
|My boys getting ready to return back to their home in Memphis.|
Justin is on the left and Kyle is on the right.
I love the city -every time I am in one of the larger metro areas I feel myself coming alive. The hustle and bustle is exhilarating - witnessing all the diversity contained within the neighborhoods fills me with promise. Around every corner is a new experience, history mixed with innovation. There's no doubt, I am a city girl.
|My childhood home in Evanston.|
|Our porch was on the top floor.|
I needed those days with Carol even though then I didn't realize why nor how important they would be for my future healing. Those days came after the very first time I was ever molested at the age of 5 and when we lived in a different apartment building in Evanston. I didn't know then that I had been previously molested. All I knew was when the 16-year-old neighbor boy cornered me in the foyer of the building and made me touch what I only knew to be his "private parts" and he forcibly touched me, I felt a heaviness to my spirit that wasn't there before - I was different in a way I didn't understand and that I needed to follow his instructions in being "a good little girl" and not tell anyone. That first attacker would one day end up being my junior high bus driver seven years later, and when I lived in a different city, ten miles away from Evanston. That story is one I will tell in another posting.
|I was about 4 or 5, right before the very first time|
I was ever molested.
Those days with Carol offered me a balance of hope to the evil that touched my life at 5 years old and at the hands of that other neighbor, Mike. He lived with another man. I cannot remember his name, all I can remember was that he was a school teacher who rode his bicycle to work as much as possible. When he would take Duke out, he didn't need to pedal that bike, Duke would do all the work. I remember my parents questioning why one time Mike and his friend painted the walls to their apartment black. "The landlord will have something to say about that, " commented my father. You could see the black walls from that back porch through their kitchen window, a window we had to walk by to get to our back door. I can remember thinking the black walls matched my emotions everytime that neighbor was brought up in conversation. They also matched the dark closed closet in my mind where I held on to the memories, the truths - the horrors, of what he did to me - how he groped at me every chance he got...downstairs in the storage room or after knocking on my backdoor, fully knowing I was alone in the apartment. It got to the point where every time he was at that backdoor I would crawl down the long hallway in our apartment and hide in the walk-in closet until I was sure he was gone.
As an adult who turned into an advocate, looking back at some of those memories, I once realized something that sent shivers down my spine. I wasn't the only kid in that apartment building to know his evil. The memories painted a picture of pure evil - the boy downstairs from us was the same age as me - just 8 years old. He always wanted to play a game that made me uncomfortable. He wanted all his friends to pose naked so he could pretend to take their photos, just like the man upstairs did. That man would have been my neighbor. I shudder to think about the abuse that boy downstairs suffered. I will probably never know to what extent...I pray that he has found healing.
The time frame this was all happening, the mid-70s, I suffered yet other assaults from another adult male. Someone married into our family. It all happened away from that apartment building in Evanston but the attacks were more traumatic. They started out slowly like most do - child molesters groom their victims, waiting for the right time to attack.
It was the last one from him that caused me the most trauma. I was 9 years old and was spending the night at their home, sleeping on the couch. He had been out that night and returned in the middle of the night and during a thunderstorm. I awoke to the odor of wet leather from his boots and jacket by the couch and then also the alcohol on his breath. He was groping at me and I felt pain, intense pain, it was then I looked out the window concentrating on the storm outside- how much time passed, I do not know. The next thing I can remember was his hand over my mouth, and him telling me if I told anyone he would murder my entire family and that I needed to be a "good little girl." He then took his leave and I laid there on the couch, in pain, emotional and physical. I had no words to define what had just happened. I was a little girl.
A week later I was back at his home with my parents. We were there for supper. I sat emotionless and made not one sound. I was trying as hard as I could to keep that secret and my family alive. All I wanted to do was vomit.
Yes, these were extremely traumatic experiences that could have broken me for the rest of my life had it not been for the balance of hope that also entered my world. In addition to the fond memories of my time spent with Carol, there was the peace I felt at St. Nicholas Church. A church that we attended and was just one block up from my home at 900 Washington Ave.
|The back alley doorway shortcut is now bricked up.|
|St. Nicholas Catholic Church,|
I would sit in that pew and try to imagine what it was like for my grandparents when they were married all those years before at St. Nicholas. Grandpa (August Woywod) had made a life in America, far from his home in Prussia and once settled in Evanston he sent for the love of his life, my Grandma (Bertha Keuchel) to marry him in what would be their new home, their new country.
St. Nicholas Church was my sanctuary. The doors were always open back then, and whenever I needed some peace and safety.
My trip on Monday brought back those memories. I knew they would make it to the forefront of my mind, I wanted them to. I needed to see if I had made it to a point in my healing where I felt the balance of good and evil or would the evil trigger a PTSD response within me? I am happy to report that this trip I was able to realize all the good outweighed the bad.
I needed to know that before I dive back into my project I started a couple of years ago - When I Became Free. It is something I need to do, this I know. I feel destined to do and complete it. It has been on the backburner for a couple of reasons. Soon after originally starting it is when my editor at the paper I worked at was diagnosed with cancer. All my focus and time went to the paper and then also to help my son, Kyle - who was busy building a music career. My project was side-tracked due to not enough time, energy, nor money. Since resigning from the paper last month, I now have more time. I am building up my energy...and, hopefully, the financial part will also fall into place. It is now or never to complete this project - and now I know I am ready.
The goal of this project is to locate abuse survivors who have moved beyond the dark moments from their past and want to use their life experience to create better tomorrows for others. In doing so they share their stories, owning their life experiences and help guide others to do the same.
In just a couple of weeks, I am kicking off the rebirth of the #WhenIBecameFree project with a local speaking engagement in Mauston, Wisconsin. I hemmed and hawed about charging a ticket price, but reality set-in. I need to fund this project and the time I put into it. The $20 fee will help purchase some gas to travel beyond my county and those who attend will receive a copy of the project's outcome, an e-book, once it is completed and published.
I've never been good about charging for my services and all the things I do, however this year I am working on me and realizing my own worth and as well as my limitations. If all of this is meant to be, all the puzzle pieces will fall together. I believe they already have.
If you would like to help me see this project through, you can donate via PayPal. I so want others who have experienced abuse, whether it is child sexual assault, child abuse, domestic violence or sexual assault as an adult, to know there is hope - I want them to realize the balance so they can step out on to that foundation of their healing journey.
Having experienced all those forms of abuse my life could have turned out differently, and I know now that it was those seeds of hope and comfort that helped me along the way to be able to share all that I do and offer guidance to those on their healing journey.
Yes, I truly believe in that old saying, Everything Happens for a Reason - even the evil that touches our lives -somewhere along the way that evil can be learned from and those lessons can turn into seeds of hope for others.