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Slice of Life: Cousin Carol

April 23, 2008

SOL Participant 2

Slice of Life Sunday is a meme dedicated to preserving the accounts of events cut out of the lives of average people just like you and me from all over the world. And like having ice cream with your pie, there is more to this meme than meets the eye – it’s a meme a` la mode .

I have received such joy from all the slice of life stories written by friends I have made here in blogsville. I have also become inspried to write more of my own. I must say one of my favorite things about Slice of Life Sunday is that there is no pressure to hurry up and write something and get it posted on a specific day. So, on a very early Wednesday morning I offer up a very long-winded Slice of Life Sunday to the prompt of Unexpected Houseguest:

I have often spoken of having so many cousins, mostly because my cousins played such a significant part in my life. Because I am in kind of a funky mood this evening, I want to share my experiences with my cousin Carol. Carol was the daughter of my Uncle John, my mother’s younger brother. She was three years younger than I, and despite the fact that I had an older and a younger sister, I considered Carol my “real sister” or my “soul sister.” This is because we shared so much in our childhood and adulthood: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

 

One my fondest memories are playing “school” with Carol under the apple tree in my grandmother’s backyard. I was always the teacher – I was the oldest after all. When I was seven and eight years old, I would keep papers from school and take them with me when I visited grandma. I knew Carol and her brother Chester would most likely be there. I would recopy homework assignments and tests, and sternly administer my lesson plans with my waist-length brown hair twisted up into a tight little bun just like my grandmother wore. Chet would tire quickly of our game and run off to play in the barn. But Carol was always a willing student. She would work so hard learning new letters and spelling words and learning her numbers. Grandma would often bring us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (made on warm homemade bread right out of the oven!) and fresh lemonade for our school lunch. Carol and I would spend entire afternoons sitting under that apple tree playing school and sharing our secrets and our dreams. It was during one such Saturday afternoon that we confided a mutual secret that would shatter both our dreams for many years to come.

 

As I think back, I realize I must have sensed what was happening to me was also happening to Carol. I noticed how she would try to avoid getting too close to her daddy’s chair, especially when he was drinking, which was most of the time. I recognized the sadness in her smile when Uncle John would pull us on his lap and tell us we were the prettiest blond and brunette he had ever seen. Yes, I knew it would be safe to tell my secret to Carol, especially after that fateful school-day.

 

On that particular Saturday afternoon, grandma and Chet walked over to visit a neighbor who lived a mile or so up the road. Carol and I were playing school under the apple tree while Uncle John slept off another Friday night drunk on the living room couch. Carol ran into the kitchen to get us some more lemonade while I drew a picture for her to color. After a few minutes I began to wonder what was taking Carol so long, but the call of nature made me decide to use the outhouse before going to look for her. When I returned to our schoolhouse, Carol was not there. I started to go into the house and just as I got to the door, I stopped. I don’t know why I stopped. I just stopped and listened to the sounds of muffled movement just beyond the door. I think a sixth sense was directing my actions. Instead of opening the screened-door, I just yelled in, “Hey Carol where is our lemonade?” There was no response. I waited what seemed like an eternity and yelled the question again. Uncle John finally yelled back and said “Cricket, you come on in here. You and sis have been playing school long enough. You’ll have more fun playing house with me and sis. I know you like playing house.” I did not answer him. I did not go into the house. I went back to the apple tree, packed up our school books and papers, and waited. I knew this would be the last time we played school.

 

After a while, Carol came out carrying two glasses of lemonade. We sat under the apple tree, not speaking, just drinking our cold drink. I was ashamed of not going in and helping Carol. I knew she needed help to get him off her because I had fallen prey to his surprise attacks when no one was within eye-sight. I knew Carol didn’t answer me when I called to her because he had his big, sweaty hand over her mouth so she couldn’t call out for help. I knew the reason why the elastic in her pants was stretched so loose they almost fell off her when she carried the lemonade was because he would have been in a hurry to get them pulled down before someone came and saw what he was doing. Yes, I knew Carol needed the help I couldn’t give because I had needed someone to save me too many times before.

 

Finally I gained the courage to speak. “He is a liar. I don’t like to play house with him. He makes me sometimes, but I don’t like it” Carol began to cry and in a soft little voice said, “I don’t like it either.” We shared our secret that day and never spoke of it again, to anyone, until we were both adults. I was eight and Carol was five.

 

The summer of my tenth birthday my grandmother discovered what was happening to me. Although she never shared how she knew, not then or ever, she told me over breakfast one morning that I was to stay away from Uncle John. She did not elaborate on what I should stay away from.  I guess she assumed I would understand. As it turned out, it did not require any effort on my part. Grandma obviously had a talk with him because he never came within an arm’s length for four years. But, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

 

On a Saturday in late August I was supposed to go to a friend’s house for a late afternoon birthday party. I had worked all morning helping mom with extra household chores to earn money for a present and the 15 mile drive to my friend’s house. Once the chores were done, I eagerly took my dollar and walked the mile into town to the local 5 & 10 to pick out just the right gift. When I returned, my Uncle John was sitting on the front porch drinking a beer with my mom. I went to my room and waited for him to leave. A half hour before the time I was supposed to be at the party I finally went out to ask mom if she was ready to drive me to the party. She started to stand up but fell back down into her seat. She obviously drank too many beers and said she had better not drive. Uncle John immediately offered to drive me as he “was going in that direction anyways.” Although I said I really didn’t need to go, my mom insisted I go with him as I had hounded her for two weeks about going to the party. Reluctantly I got into his car.

 

We never made it to the party. He stopped in town for more beer and then drove to a wooded part of the far end of a community park, where he raped me. My dress had gotten torn and he said I needed to make up a story about how it happened, along with the bruises on my arms and legs. He then said something before dropping me off at home that I knew was true, “Cricket, you better not tell your mom about this. She won’t believe you anyways. You know she has never really liked you and she loves me. And you don’t want anyone else to know ‘what kind of girl you are’.”  I didn’t have to make up a story about my dress because mom and dad had gone out for the evening. She never asked how the party was or whether my firend liked her gift. I guess she never noticed the bruises or the heart necklace I had purchased for the birthday present I never got to deliver. That was the last time Uncle John ever made any attempt to touch me in any way.

 

Although we saw each other often during those pre-teen and teenage years, Carol and I never discussed what happened the last day of school under the apple tree, nor what we both endured silently at the hands of her father afterwards. As children we had shared many good times and a very bad secret. As adults, our relationship would endure the ugly aftereffects of a childhood of incest.

 

Two years after the rape, I was pregnant and married at age 16. Carol had become pregnant at age 13 and immediately had an abortion, the first of five that I know of before she had a baby and then a tubal ligation at age 23 to prevent further pregnancies. Shortly after her first abortion, my Uncle John and his wife got a divorce. I learned much later in life that her father was the sperm supplier of her first pregnancy. Carol had excelled in school with straight A’s on her report cards and even winning the county spelling bee when she was in the sixth grade. She placed second in the science fair in her freshman year of high school. She became involved with drugs shortly after her abortion and dropped out of school in her junior year. Many psychology articles and books have been written over the years analyzing the fallout of childhood sexual abuse. Self-hatred, alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, depression, the inability to trust and suicide are reported as primary symptoms of incest. Between the two of us, Carol and I fulfilled the prophecy of our lost childhood.

 

I had been married for seven years when Carol became an unexpected houseguest. Her mother refused to allow her to continue to live at home after she had her fourth abortion at age 20. She showed up on my doorstep in a drunken and drugged stupor and asked if she could stay a few days. A few days turned into four months. I threw her out of my home when I came home early from work and found her in bed with my husband. We did not speak for almost 20 years. During those two decades, I gained eighty pounds, became a cocaine addict (have been drug free for 26 years now), considered suicide on a regular basis, and divorced my husband after 22 and a half years of marriage. Carol was married and divorced three times, was an alcoholic and a drug addict, lost custody of her son when he was three years old, spent two years in prison for drug trafficking, was hospitalized for anorexia and attempted suicide twice by cutting her wrists. And through it all, despite each of us knowing of the troubles of the other, we did not speak. Our silence ended when our grandmother was on her deathbed and requested us both to sit and talk with her.

 

My grandmother was a very wise woman. She was too ill to speak more than a few words at a time. Once Carol and I stood by her bed, she looked up at us, gave us a weak smile and said, “It is time you two had a talk,” and closed her eyes and went to sleep for the night. Carol sat down on the floor and cried. She had not visited grandma for several years and she knew she had waited too long. I went outside to smoke a cigarette, then another, and before the night was through I smoked an entire pack.

 

Carol came outside after sitting at grandma’s bedside for almost an hour. She lit a cigarette and stared at the stars. We both sat there, on a seasonably warm November night, for over an hour staring at the stars, not speaking. Finally she spoke.

 

“Cricket, I want you to know that I never wanted to hurt you. Back then, I was so drugged all the time it didn’t matter who I slept with or what they did to me as long as they supplied the drugs. I am so sorry for what I did to you. I know it is too much to ask for your forgiveness, but maybe we could just talk a little.” And we talked, and we talked.

 

All through the night we talked. It seemed that grandma had also put the pieces together about her and her father because she received the same instruction about the same time I did. She also had a four year reprieve from the sexual abuse. However, after Uncle John had raped me, he began raping her, sometimes several times a week. She never told anyone until she became pregnant. After her first abortion she got on drugs and stayed on drugs, any kind of drugs from any source. We talked about our lives “after” the abuse, our children, and the worthless men in our lives. We laughed and we cried.

 

The next day grandma, who hadn’t eaten hardly anything for months, requested an old fashion Sunday chicken dinner. Carol and I went to the store to buy the needed food and returned to cook the dinner together. Grandma wanted to come to the dining room table to eat, but she was too weak to sit on one of the chairs. Instead, we propped her up in a comfy chair in the living room with a tray on her lap to hold her plate of chicken, mashed potatoes, noodles and a piece of apple pie. Carol and I sat on the floor at her feet to eat our dinner and reminisced about the days spent under the apple tree. We all three laughed until we cried. Carol left that evening. Grandma went to be with the Lord the next day. Three days later, at grandma’s funeral, while sitting on a hard, wooden pew in a one-room country church, I accepted the Lord as my personal saviour. Before we left the cemetery, I told Carol I forgave her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2008 5:29 pm

    Oh my goodness, Cricket, what a horrible thing that happened to you and your cousin and no telling who else that man took advantage of. You are so brave to share that story with all your fellow bloggers, but I hope it has helped you to heal some more from just putting it all into words.

    ~~ Thank you Betty for your comment. And yes it helps tremendously to put it down in writing. It is something I have shared in words and tears with a few close friends and relatives, but there is something about putting it in writing that takes the pain off my shoulders, and my heart. My hope is that my story will help others deal with their secrets. Cricket

  2. April 25, 2008 7:36 am

    I had no idea you had gone through this, Cricket. I am so sorry. It must have been a form of hell. What courage and strength you have to share it with your readers. I will reiterate what Betty said and hope that writing it down has brought you some peace. Take care.

    ~~Yes, Selma, writing this has given me a form of peace about my childhood. I have shared this story with different councelors throughout my adult life, but I never received the relief from telling the story as I did from writing it. Cricket

  3. April 25, 2008 5:22 pm

    Well Ollie, I have heard this story many times as we have discussed our problems through the years but I have to tell you, even knowing some details that are not included here….reading it makes it so much more brutal! I know healing was a long time coming but you have become a survivor not a victim. Very well written and a compulsive read, Thanks for sharing it. My love to you!!

    ~~ Ahhh, brutal is an accurate description of my childhood. But with good friends like you, I have become a survivor. Love to you too! Cricket

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