I set aside specific days to write this journal/introspection of my childhood and life. If anyone reading this has suffered at the big, callous, hand of abuse…both visible and invisible. If there is just one person suffering from the pains of stretching your now adult skin over the remnants of a child’s constant insults, adult bullying, slaps, rug burns, turmoil…They would understand the shaky, sweaty, palms of the victim.
For the victim, who lived seemingly short years, over a lifetime of abuse. Your body shakes without notice. Your mind wonders. Your thoughts come up with excuses for not unraveling the mystery of parent’s injustice.
Personally, I am a fan of tuning out. I have done so all my life. Through writing, drugging, music, television, anything…
I did not ask to be the asphalt jungle to my parent’s car wheels filled with the air of neglect. But I did what was needed to hide away. To take shelter behind words, lyrics, anything to drown out the sounds of flesh hitting flesh, the accusations, the screaming and yelling…
‘You’re not fuckin’ good are you?’
‘I don’t give a good goddamn what you think?’
‘Can’t you get off your fat, lazy, ass and do something?’
Over, over, and over…again.
My father’s favorite?
‘Who’s gonna help you now? Get the fuck up! I’m not done with you…’
Jack Sanders, one of my father’s attorneys, was fairly simple to track down. Having been the assistant district attorney for Rockingham County, during the early sixties…He left a paper trail.
I can assume when I phoned him at his current law office in Portsmouth; I had certainly caught him off guard. That being said. Jack remembered both my father…and, later, my mother.
“If I had been in your father’s shoes. I think I would have done the same thing! Mind you I can’t divulge much of the case…lawyer – client privilege…you know. But she (Elizabeth Laughlin-Bowley) was very easy. She got around! She pushed your father into thinking he had no choice …”
Jack could not elaborate further about my father’s first wife. Or, her such severe, indiscretions; That she (Elizabeth) deserved to be stabbed to death. However, it had been obvious that during their marriage, Elizabeth had a habit of prolonged infidelity.
It boils my blood…even now.
Infidelity gone bad?! WTF? Stabbing someone 35 times because they no longer wished to be with you? Stabbing a mother in front of her child? And, Mr. Sanders…making excuses for such horrendous behavior.
Had I been surprised? Not too much! After all, one of my cousins on my father’s side…killed a man in Texas. Killed him because the guy came onto him. Another Hate Crime…another soul lost. I had yet, another cousin, convicted of vehicular homicide. She too…contained the Bowley blood.
I had been aghast at Mr. Sander’s response…A typical good boy response…It is the woman’s fault.
My father had been shipped to New Hampshire State Hospital in ’63. And, not two years later, my mother gave my half-sister and half-brother up to catholic adoption services…in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Pushed to the edge by her father’s physical abuse. My mother, Janice, always found comfort in the arms of even more abusive men. Aside from taking steps to becoming a nun, joining a convent for short time…and, all the priests, she encountered. One of the other men with meaning had been, Louis, her first husband.
Always frail, toxic in dampened in thought and lacking in confidence, Janice fulfilled the role of woman on the edge…often.
She attempted suicide many times during this era. Pills, razor, down and out reckless behavior. She became less and less lucid. And, eventually, had a nervous breakdown. We had always been close. Possibly because of my need to discover the depth of life beyond more money…and, more into madness. Perhaps, we were also close because she wrote. She penned poems quite frequently.
In the two years spent at New Hampshire Hospital…she had been encouraged to write her feelings down.
Janice felt the need to disclose her innermost secrets to me. She would tell me of the time Electro Shock Therapy had come to fruition at the hospital. How, roommates, friends and others…were being carried off. Carted away to try this new and improved treatment for all that ails you.
Janice would also talk of the plastic bed-clothes they wore. Plastic, lacking in excess thread. Thread that a patient could hang themselves with. Supposedly, these clothes also cut down on laundry. Being easily to wipe clean when a sloppy and drug awed patient made a mess.
Cigarettes would need doling out. And, screams and cries for help would echo from behind the walls of cemented observation rooms. The blood on the ceiling and hallway walls…from former inmates. So on and so forth.
I am certain the experience drags what little of you that is left…Drags your soul down and keeps hold of it until you completely down and…totally, out.
What shook me the most, today…Had been taken the folder of poems my mother gave to me, down from the closet. Glancing at them for the first time in many, many, years. I felt as though the air had thickened and my soul had been dismissed. The same exact way I felt when I first read Janice’s writings.
J. A. Scalf
I’d try to forget
The red roses you sent
If roses stopped being red
I’d try to forget
The winter we met
The spring we wed
If it snowed in the spring instead.
I’d try not to remember you at all
If two little children didn’t call you daddy.
I’d try to forget you
but my heart won’t listen.
So, in order to forget the hurt
red roses, spring and the rest
Most of all
The love of two children
Who call you daddy
For them I can’t forget
What A Way to Live
by J. A. Scalf
When life is distorted and you’ve got the facts wrong
When your unstable and confused
On Thioridazine you belong
When your sad and depressed, blue and low
On Mellaril or Elavil you should go
When your high and loud, happy and new
Thioridazine is after you
If you reach a happy medium
You’ll never know
Because your medicated so.
Your numb, that is all you’ll know
What a way to live
What a way to go
**Excerpts from Janice’s poetry/journal circa 1965 – 1966.
I can only read the poetry in bits and spurts. It hurts so much to feel another’s pain. Pain that could have been alleviated by others. The cycle of abuse! So vicious! It starts with a great, grandfather smacking his kids around for being in a room, for playing outdoors or taking too long to eat dinner.
That vision takes hold by the daughter or the son. Faded and disgruntled…the memory means little. Then the child becomes a parent, finds himself…or, herself, overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with long hours and short paychecks from work. Suddenly, a slap becomes a fist. A spanking turns into a leather belt with heavy grooves in it. Not much later, the parent lives a solemn life of…
I could have been a photographer
I could have been an army general
I could have been someone important
Like a broken rim to a bicycle. The wheel keeps turning. Children are born. Parents become grandparents…but there is little talk. Very little is said about the hitting, screaming, mistreatment, etc. No one talks, therefore, no one listens…And, in a short while, that is just life, one generation after another.
Fifty years into my life…Thirty-five, or so, sitting in my own shit. Behaving badly. Thinking of just myself. Being a poorly educated parent. Providing little comfort for my lover.
Sitting on my deck in the late winter…I wonder,
“Could I have been better…had my family discussed the abuse…the shame…the sick state of health…”
Those thoughts languish in the late afternoon sun. I don’t ponder and putter on them…for too long. I can only change what I know how to change. Living improved, is a daily process, the forgiveness, the purposeful forgetfulness…