Today is the day my father died 26 years ago.
I suppose that is some kind of anniversary but I keep thinking of Old Yeller.
I keep thinking about how that little boy loved that dog and how that dog would’ve eventually killed him had he not been put down.
Obviously – to those of us who’ve seen the movie – Old Yeller was loyal and good.
My father was not.
He was broken.
And not in the way of the movies where the hot guy just needs love.
He was broken in the way mythical bridges fall and can only reclaim power by pulling innocents into the darkness below.
He was broken in a way that caused him to hurt others so that he could feel better, powerful, right in the world.
I was hurt. Collateral damage.
In moments with other survivors, I feel pretty lucky that my father had a brain aneurysm and died.
Other survivors are not so lucky. Perpetrators don’t just disappear for all of us. They are found in our classrooms, in our workplaces, at our family dinner table, at a mutual friend’s party – the next day, the next morning, the next week – always there.
I don’t have the physical presence of my father to haunt me anymore.
But if I were honest – and I am – I would say that my father hurt my body and left fingerprints in my brain.
It’s not a competition. It’s the truth.
Nothing ruins good ol’ child development like abuse.
He is here in more ways than I’d like.
When he died, he left me with a great burden that I didn’t understand. He left me to define what he had done to me. He left me to choose what to do with it.
(I suppose the only part of the victimization that was unintentional was his
untimely perfectly timed demise.)
So I did. I discovered through lessons in a classroom that what I had suspected was true; sexual abuse is not normal. I found someone trustworthy to tell his secret to after a full year of holding it inside. I learned later in life that rape and incest is what happened. I learned those words and although it pains me to say them, I preach them.
This is the first year that I have ever taken pause on this date.
I lost my father’s urn years ago. I don’t like looking at his pictures. I wish his existence away.
However, every day I encourage other survivors to share their stories.
I believe that when they speak, perpetrators cannot hide.
And I love that.
I believe that every time we share our experiences, another survivor feels less alone in this world.
I have had this sigh of relief myself.
I believe that when we feel less alone, we can support others with a fullness of spirit we didn’t even know we possessed.
And I am all about that.
This year, I am hosting an online collaborative story telling series called Why I told.
Join me. Tell your story. Starting at midnight on October 20th and ending on midnight October 21st.
If you feel safe and comfortable* where you are in your life, share.
Be a beacon to those still searching for a voice to say, “It happened to me. I believe you. You are going to be okay.”
After the honor of collecting stories for Soulfire 2015, something in my own soul wants to throw fuel on the fire.
I want to invite you over – virtually.
Join me on Saturday, October 18th at 4 p.m. EST in a Google Hangout. Sign up using the form below.
I’ll be there with ideas, prompts and guidelines.
For those of you who have never shared your story before, I’ll be there to encourage you.
I’ll also likely have a glass of wine, some light snacks and a comfy place to sit.
I suggest you do the same.
If you are a survivor that would like to participate, fill in the form below and I will send you information on how to join the google hangout. You must be over 18 to participate.
Can’t make it? Sign up anyway and I’ll send you some sweet info to get you started.
If you would like to hold the stories of survivors in community, RSVP to this facebook event and I will share details on how you can support us.
Let’s turn this strange anniversary into days of speaking truth.
*Don’t skip over that part. If you feel safe and comfortable. If you don’t, share the stories of others as they speak out on social media or email me yours to be shared anonymously to tashmicatorok at gmail .com.
Your story belongs only to you.