In the backseat of our big old car, my grandfather pulled out his penis and undid my pants. My mother was driving. He wanted me to touch him, but I was scared. I was 5.
My grandfather found me playing behind the granaries on our acreage. Again he exposed himself. I ran away. I was 8.
My grandfather closed a bedroom door in his house and came toward me. I didn’t know where grandma was. My aunt came home and opened the door, scaring him off. No one said a word. I was 10.
No one said a word, about any of it, ever. Not to me; not to my knowledge.
But appearances and well behaved children were very important to my mother. She encouraged (forced) me to acknowledge my grandpa, hug him, speak to him.
I had no voice but my anger boiled. My sadness deepened. My self disappeared. I had no voice to advocate for myself; all I had was rebellion and attitude. I lashed out at my mom every chance I could. I hated her. I loved her. I wondered if she loved me. I drank (alcoholically I would later learn), I slept around, I didn’t care about myself or anyone else. I had anxiety, paranoia, violent tendencies. I was a messed up tornado, destroying relationships, my mental health, myself. And all the while I was the ‘good’ granddaughter.
One day, in my 20s, my dad made a positive comment about my grandfather. My head swirled. How could he favor that man after what he did to me? And then panic; what if he was like my grandfather and I have blocked it out? I couldn’t eat, sleep, function properly. I went to my dad’s for Christmas and was zoned out in anxiety. My step-mom asked me what was wrong and I confided in her in the bathroom. I said, “you know that thing with my grandpa that happened when I was young?” She gave me a blank look. “You KNOW, the THING, what he did to me. Dad must have told you.” And she said, “Shandi, he has no idea. I guarantee you, he has no idea this happened.”
She was right. Not only was my dad not a predator, he had no clue whatsoever that I had been abused, and he also had no idea my mom knew and never told him. He was furious. He cried with me. He wanted to kill the old man. He said he was sorry for not protecting me. An ever-present invisible wedge between us was removed that day.
I. Thought. Everybody. Knew.
Don’t stop telling people until someone listens. Slowly, the rest of the family found out. Everyone was worried that the rest of the grandkids had suffered the same. It was a thought that had never before occurred to me, I am ashamed to admit. We are all very confident that it did not happen to any other children in our family.
He died 3 weeks after the secret was spilled. Everyone attended the funeral except for me. How freeing. I was 26.
I attended C.C.A.S.A. in Calgary. It was definitely a great first step. I saw a psychologist and talked at length about the incidents with my grandfather and the aftermath with my mother. I fought with her, I talked to her, I yelled at her, I hated her, I tried to forgive her. I was angry.
ALWAYS ANGRY. I hoped the old man was rotting in hell. I was still drinking excessively, still sleeping around dangerously, and was a sick force in every relationship.
One day something inside my head said, Alcoholics Anonymous. At my sponsors house one night, I sobbed ‘Why? If there’s a god that is supposed to care about me, why would he let that happen?!’ And she said, ‘Shandi my girl, when that was happening, God was in the corner crying watching one of his children hurt another one of his children. God can’t usurp someone’s free will. But he can heal you now.’
In AA’s 4th step, there is a prayer that asks God to save you from being angry. I prayed with my grandfather in mind and I felt anger shed off me like sheets of weight falling off. In my view now, he was a spiritually, mentally and emotionally sick person and I have found forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not condoning what happened. Forgiveness is accepting that people are grossly flawed, and that one can heal and grow after tragedy, if they seek to do so. When I think of my grandfather now, the incidents don’t play out like a movie. I don’t feel raw hatred. It is just a thing, an experience, and it no longer defines me.
My mother. That relationship is not healed entirely. I still harbour resentment over the fact that she did not protect me, did not advocate for me, did not support me. But as with other people who have harmed me, I need to be willing to seek the help to heal. To be healthy. To Heal Thy. I will not stop trying.
From this angry, violent, fearful girl that was afraid of men, afraid to have kids, afraid of never being healthy, afraid of life – I sit here content, sober, full of beautiful life experiences, a good wife to a healthy man, and a GREAT mom to two girls! I am 40. And I’m a survivor / THRIVER.