This I Believe

Ruth - Woodburn, Oregon
Entered on May 20, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family, fear, legacy
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Daddy hits me with the buckle of his belt. He says he is going to take me to an orphanage and have me locked up, then he is going to throw away the key. He sometimes leaves me by the side of the road and drives off with out me. Daddy ties me into my room and says I don’t deserve any dinner. Daddy says I am turning his hair gray, and sending him to an early grave. He says I am a millstone around his neck. Daddy says that I am the biggest mistake he ever made, that he rues the day I was born. He says that I am nothing but a blob of fat on the face of the earth.

I live in a little ranch house on Parker Street, at the center of Sixteen Acres. A white, rail fence rings our lawn. Our yard is full of peach and cherry trees. Daddy’s garden overflows with orange zinnias and round tomatoes. I have a sand box with a green canopy. I have a metal swing that carries me high towards the sky. I have brown, curly hair and sad blue eyes. I sit on the cellar stairs and try to jump from way up high. I want to kill myself. I want Daddy to find my lifeless body. In summer, I hide under the dock at Bass Pond waiting for someone to notice a little girl is missing. In winter, I skate near the Danger sign by the place where Mill Pond becomes a waterfall instead of staying solid ice. I don’t know why I do that.

I starting writing this story when I was eight. I threw the story away so I wouldn’t get in trouble. I re-wrote these words when I was eight, and threw them away again. I did this over and over again until I wasn’t eight anymore.

These words are now almost elderly. They have spent a half century lined up in sentences and paragraphs waiting to return to paper. They haven’t waited patiently. They won’t go away quietly. They won’t go away at all.

I am now far closer to old age than childhood.

The calendar says 2007 but my mind says 1962. I am tethered to a time and place that have vanished. I live on a Twilight Zone Memory Lane surrounded by ghosts and echoes.

The statute of limitations on child abuse has long expired. How do I get my mind to know that?

Get over it. Three tiny words, four syllables, eleven characters with spaces and punctuation. So easy to type, so hard to do.

Daddy died in January. The words have become even louder. They have followed me across the country to Oregon. Parker Street now stretches across the Mississippi River. The sounds of Sixteen Acres are now louder than the endless Oregon rain.

I grew up to be a counselor. As a counselor, I must believe that people have the potential to escape their pain. I believe that if someone reads these words, it could set me free. That isn’t as true as should be.