Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sentimental Sunday - A Senior Class Picture with No Yearbook to Call Home

What a babe, right? ;)
***WARNING!  SKELETONS FALLING OUT OF CLOSETS!***

No laughing!  Well, OK you can laugh.  I had big hair in the Fall of 1989.  I fought with my hair on a regular basis.  Heck, I still fight with my hair the majority of the time, but I think I'm starting to win.

Anyway, this post is obviously about me.  I decided to do it even though I cringe to look at my 17 year old self's hair.  This summer when I went back home to visit with family and do some research, I took some pictures of old Hazleton High School yearbooks and it dawned on me that when my descendants looked through yearbooks for their ancestors (if they looked through yearbooks), I wouldn't be there.  Would they wonder why?  I realized that I wanted the story as to why passed on so when people go looking they'll know why. 

Not being in my yearbook wasn't by choice.  Well, it was partly by choice, but not because I didn't want to be in a yearbook or anything.  I just didn't know it was going to play out that way.  If I could borrow Doctor Who's time machine I'd go back in time and smack some yearbook people around...and then I'd smack myself around.  Perhaps those aren't the best words considering the story that gets me to the lack of a being in a yearbook.

All of this needs a bit of explaining, so I'm going to dive in, but this is where the skeletons start to fall out.  The story is much more involved than "My school made a boo boo".  The story is not a nice one and it is a bit disturbing so turn back now if you're squeamish! It's a part of my family's history and ignoring it doesn't change it, so here goes...

I lived in Hazleton, Pennsylvania for 17 years.  My parents began divorcing when I was in 2nd grade.  Long story, but my dad ended up with custody of us kids through a series of manipulation/guilt techniques.  So much for not using your kids in a divorce.  He was all about doing whatever it took to get my mother to stay...to not lose control.  He's a control freak...and she was leaving.  He actually convinced himself that she would eventually come back and did everything to drag out the divorce.  As long as it wasn't finalized then there was a chance, right?

In 1986 (four years before I would graduate from high school) he lost control of another member of his family.  My older sister graduated from high school and immediately left to live with my mom.  I've been told the story several times as to why she left, but I never write it down and I always forget it.  Why?  Bad memories + me = blocking.  I do need to talk to my mom and sister and finally write it down, because she did have her reasons for leaving.  I know that my father and sister had a fight before the graduation ceremony though and he told her that he wasn't going to her graduation.  He went, but he told her he didn't.  She went on for years believing he wasn't there.  That's the kind of guy he was.  My sister left and never turned back.  She hasn't spoken to him since 1986.  Harsh?  Just you wait...

In 1988 my mom finally got the divorce pushed through, she remarried and soon after had my baby sister.  I met my baby sister for the first time in 1989 when she was a few weeks old.  I was going to the prom with my boyfriend (a senior) and my mom and step-dad brought her to the prom so I could meet her.  I always loved babies and my baby sister is probably the catalyst that caused me to stop treating my mom like she was the bad guy and to renew a proper mother-daughter relationship with her.  My father had all three of his daughters treating my mother with contempt for years...we all eventually woke up and saw reality.  This was the beginning of my awakening.

My boyfriend joined the Air Force and went away.  While he was gone I began visiting my mom more.  My dad didn't like this.  He didn't say it, but I'm smart enough to figure it out.  I was dating.  I wasn't letting him bad mouth my mother in front of me anymore.  I had a job....and a smart mouth, but that was nothing new.  I was becoming an independent young woman which meant he was losing control.

It only happened 3 times.  Yeah, I know I said that I block bad things, but there are some things that don't get completely blocked.  I smart-mouthed my father one evening in the summer and he slapped me.  And slapped me.  And slapped me.  I was backed into the corner of my bedroom and couldn't get away and he just continued to slap me.  I was screaming and doing my best to cover my head and face with my arms.  I had fallen to the floor in the corner of my room by the open window.  He calmly stopped what he was doing, shut the windows in my room and came back and resumed slapping me.  The next day I had to work.  It had to have been July or August and it was warm.  I had bruises all over my arms.  I wore long-sleeves to work.  People at work did notice.  One person asked.  No one ever did anything though.  One of those things, that you kind of wish someone would be your hero, but no one wants to interfere.

I wrote to my boyfriend about what happened.  He was on his way home.  Being discharged from the military for medical reasons.  At least he'd be back soon and I'd have a bit of an escape.  The second time happened shortly after he got back.  I had just gotten back from seeing him and he wanted me to call him when I got home.  I did.  My father came out of the kitchen and started screaming at me.  I don't remember why.  There really didn't have to be a reason to get him to start.  Maybe my room was a mess.  Maybe he just didn't like the fact that I was out with my boyfriend.  I never asked.  There was little point in asking.  But I yelled back at him and he punched me.  Not in the face.  In the arm, not that it really mattered.  It hurt and I started crying.  My boyfriend knew what happened immediately, and I heard from the other end of the phone, "He did it again, didn't he?"

It wasn't long after that the last time happened.  It was October and I had just come back from hanging out with my boyfriend and his family at their house.  As soon as I walked in the house he started yelling at me for whatever reason and I got mouthy.  I was standing next to my bed and he shoved me.  He shoved me so hard that I flew over the bed and landed on the floor on the other side.  I picked up my purse and ran out of the house and to my boyfriend's.  He called my mom and told her what was going on and that she needed to come and get me because I couldn't go back there.  A little over an hour later, my mom and step-dad arrived, escorted me to my house and had me pack some stuff up quickly.  We'd be back for the rest later.  It was late.

And so I moved in October of my senior year.  I moved an hour away.  I started at a brand new school.  I was glad to be with my mom, but I was a bit upset at not being in Hazleton High School anymore.  That's where my friends were.  As a young 17 year old I just couldn't conceive of starting off new.  I was a shy kid (at least until you got to know me) and going to a new school was intimidating.

I had given my senior picture to the Hazleton High School yearbook.  When I moved I had already ordered a yearbook and I made sure to let them know that I wanted my picture to stay in that yearbook since that's where my heart was.  I didn't find out until I picked up my copy of the yearbook that it wasn't in there.  Words cannot describe the hurt I felt.  This is about where I'd like that time machine so I could smack someone at the HHS yearbook, but it's also when I'd like to go back and smack myself.  I never turned my picture into my new school's yearbook.  I was stubborn to a fault.  Regardless of my scared little girl feelings, I did make friends at Pocono Mountain High School.  A wonderful small group of friends that I was probably closer to than most of my HHS friends.  I bought a yearbook, but my picture, of course, wasn't there either because I hadn't turned it in.

Looking back part of me thinks, "Good.  It was an awful picture," but really most people don't absolutely love their senior pictures anyway.  The other part of me...the family historian/genealogist part says, "Dumbass."

So a fairly disturbing, graphic story of my dad the a-hole.  This blog post may be the only way the story of my picture...the whole story...gets told.  I don't know how long blogging will be around.  How long these posts of ours will be seen, but I will be having my blog printed annually to keep a record for future generations.  I blog to find others researching the same lines as I am.  I blog to help others by sharing local information as well, but mostly, I blog to pass on my family's story.  I don't think that family history is about hiding the bad bits.  I have had a wonderful life...with some speed bumps, but who doesn't? 

7 comments:

  1. When I hear what you three went through with him I want to start throwing punches. You're all better off without him. It makes me feel even more fortunate that I had a wonderful father who never, ever would've done those things to me and never laid a hand on me.

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  2. Thanks, John. It's amazing that none of us turned out like him. I expect that it's the strong and kind men that our in our lives. Thanks for being wonderful to my little sister!

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  3. Oh Cheryl, it takes courage to put your family history out there. The good and the bad. You're an amazing woman, and I think some of that comes from all aspects of your history. Lovely picture, by the way. I actually spent hours in the bathroom trying to get my hair to do the same thing... with no success. Ever.

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  4. hey cherie, even if your father is a ****, i for one am thrilled u ended up at pmhs! God uses everything 4 good! love u!!!

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  5. This was a very brave thing to post. I believe you did the correct thing. I agree that eventually someone would want to know why they couldn't find your picture. Sometimes, tough as it is, we have to be current and tell "our own" personal story. I do posts sometimes that reflect the here and now also, as they will one day be history. Sounds like you have a very wonderful life at this point, congratulations with that. Many of us have skeletons in the closet, thanks for sharing yours.

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  6. Hi Cheryl,

    My heart goes out to you for sharing this story. My older sister went through exactly the same thing - in exactly the same year as you did (1989-1990). She escaped to our mother's house and left me behind. For some reason, my father never laid a finger on me, but I watched him beat her up twice. I didn't know what to do, or whom to tell, so regretfully I did nothing. Thankfully she was able to get out and get safe, even if she hated living with our mother.

    I just wanted you to know that your story is shared by others, even if they don't tell it. My sister would never speak of what happened to her. Thank you for sharing yours.

    For what it's worth, I have a similar story about why I am enumerated in Boston for the 2000 US Census. There's absolutely no way anyone would ever know to look for me there if they don't read that story.

    Jessica

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  7. Thanks for sharing as well, Jessica. Same thing in my story. I'm the only one he hit. He was mentally abusive to my other sisters. He had a method of control (or so he thought) for each of us.

    It's really a story that we wish wasn't shared by others, but sadly is. I'm sure you and your sister are strong women.

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