Biographical Non-Fiction posted February 7, 2020

This work has reached the exceptional level
A secret buried with childhood scars

Branching Points

by JLR

A Deep Secret Contest Winner 
I am a child of four years rarely do I remember any family outings. But I remember this one. I feel the bright shine and warmth of the sun. Mam has a picnic blanket tossed onto the grassy bank. She is unpacking the bread, jams, and sausage. I hear the shrill sound of Millie, my small 15-month-old sister being held tightly in a wrap beside my again pregnant, Mam. Da is at the end of a long dock with a fishing pole dangling in the deep, dark blue water.

The lake is calm, I can't see a wisp of a wave. Da motions to me to come to his side. I cautiously look back at Mam then out to the end of the dock. I shuffled my feet onto the pier. Each step moves the boards to and fro. I feel a deep concern that there is no railing to hold onto.

I finally work myself to Da's side. He looks at me with his typical frown and glares hard into my eyes and says, "Well lad, today you're going to learn to sink or swim" and quick as a I can blink my eyes, he grabs my right arm and leg and tosses me out over the water and off the dock into the lake. I floated just a bit, and then, in a flash, I feel myself going under as I watch Da, walk away. I feel such terror! My mind reels about whether he really means for me to "sink or swim." I felt the tension in my arms and legs as I begin to shuffle my arms and kick erratically.

I manage to stay afloat, and my splashing in the water serves, little by little, to bring me closer to the dock. Exhausted, I finally grasp a half-rotten rope attached to the dock. I use it to pull myself up onto the dock. The heat radiating from the planks gradually heals my shivering from the fear and the cold. No amount of heat from the sun, however, can cure my shivering of the stark realization that I will never trust Da again.

I am a child of five, we have just come out of a harsh winter. The spring rains have been drenching. I lay awake at night, hearing the deep raspy cough of my newborn brother, Shaun Stephen. On a Saturday morning, I am doing my regular chores. I empty the pee pots and bring peat into the firebox to keep the chill-out. The morning is filled with a freshness in the air when suddenly, I hear this horrific, death curdling scream coming from inside the house. I know I must get the chores done before Da comes back in from the fields to eat his morning meal. But curiosity overcomes me, and I find a container to stand on and peer into the bedroom window where Da and Mam sleep. Mam is holding Shaun in her arms, where he lies limp and lifeless. Mam sways back and forth with tears streaming down her face, bouncing onto the baby. She suddenly sees me staring in. She shakes her head and yells through the window, "Go to the pub and get your Da! He didn't come last night, tell him his son is dead."

I am a child of six, 1956 is a bitterly lousy year. Lambs die weakening the flock, potatoes fail. The farm is mainly failing. Da is seldom sober, and when he does come home, his labor is shoddy and far too little to put food on the table and comfort in our home. Mam and Da go at each other and fight physically with little regard for the eyes of us children.
The final fight happens on a frigid and wet spring day when Da, drunker than I had ever seen him, hit Mam so hard that her skull cracked, and blood covered her face. I grabbed a log from the hearth and swung, again and again, hitting Da with all my might. Divorce didn't exist in Ireland in 1956 unless you were living separate and apart for periods totaling four out of the last five years. So it was that Mam's Da sent us funds for Mam to take Millie, LaRae and Ira and me to sail across the ocean to America.

I am a child of eight -- Ms. Benner, my fifth-grade teacher -- asks me to see her after school after the spring break. I am concerned! I can't figure out why she wants me to stay late? I just know I am in some type of serious trouble. As we begin talking, Ms. Benner says, "Jimmie, do you know how talented you are?" Frankly, I was stumped, I cannot get to where she is coming from, so I say, "I don't understand what talented means." Ms. Benner tells me that I have shown exceptional skills in math and science and that I test the highest in the school in all my subjects.

Then she says, "Look, I know that things are pretty tricky for you around the other boys in the school." Her words that followed were words that stayed with me right to this very day -- "Never concern yourself about anyone else when you are bringing your very best efforts forward. Try live every day in a place of curiosity and exploration. Do as you always do, and that is your work. Pay no attention to people that tease and ridicule you." Then she simply said. " I want you to always come to me, at any time, for any reason, even if it is just to talk. You will be just fine, and I am pleased to be your teacher."

I am sixteen, no longer a child -- I'm just about to finish my Junior year in high school. I am frustrated with the acne and the constant growing pains I feel in my joints. I have just taken a real job that starts when school is out in June at the Veterans hospital on the grounds crew. Things are going well. I just sat for the entrance exam to West Point, and the high school counselor was talking about some college classes I could take in my senior year. I came home from visiting friends on a Friday, after a Latin toga party.

It is about midnight, and as usual, I am taking my bath in our only bathroom. My mother taps on the door. I can tell she is drunk. She needs to use the facility. Then she walks in undressed. I turn to face the wall away from the commode. She does her business, and she is leaving, I think, suddenly, she is in the bathtub behind me. 

I am very anxious and embarrassed that my privacy was violated. The situation turned ugly. As she began to fondle me. What happens next makes my life fall into a deep crevice. I try to go into a corner of my mind and shut out all sensation, noise, feelings. I lose any sense of time. But at some point, I cannot take it and bolt out of the tub and run from the bathroom wrapped in a towel -- I feel so filthy, so ashamed, so outraged, and just empty. I can't stand to look at my mother the next day. Nothing was ever said, but that night, I ended my relationship with the woman who birthed me.

I carried this secret with me for seventeen years into adulthood. Three years after the death of my mother, standing at her gravesite, I had a long angry, honest, sobbing purging of this secret event. I was motivated by my therapist to do this and at the same time to ask God to forgive her for her transgression so that I could put down the monkey on my back and move on!

Writing Prompt
The topic for this writing contest is: a deep secret. Share a story based on the topic.

A Deep Secret
Contest Winner



Non-fiction memoir to be added to my Non- Fiction autobiography. This is being shared, in order that others who have been scarred and carry the wounds of incest know that walk not alone, regardless of gender.

Irish terms: MAM - Mother DA - Father

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