July, 2012:

GIBRALTAR, THE GATEWAY TO THE ATLANTIC By Victoria Giraud

It’s been over 50 years, but I saved the mimeographed Rose Report from the USNS Rose, now very tattered and the type blurred from age. The Master’s Morning Report was featured every day and the one I kept related we’d traveled 167 miles from Naples to Leghorn at a speed of 12.9 knots and a time of 12 hours. It didn’t mention if the storm had slowed us down. I wonder how much faster modern ships sail–but I’m too lazy to check. After our visit in Livorno (Leghorn in English), we were headed for Gibraltar on July 29. Curious, but as fate would have it, I am posting this blog on the current July 29!  Our last port was 713 miles away, which would keep the ship at sea for two days.

The Report was very informative, giving us tidbits about the geography and the history of the Mediterranean Sea and surrounding countries. There were also a few articles about military personnel and their dependents, like the story about a baby born on a military plane at 7,000 feet on its way to Hawaii. My souvenir Report informed us the movie being presented that day for adults was “Wild is the Wind,” starring Anthony Quinn, Tony Franciosa and Anna Magnani, who I remembered as the tempestuous Italian actress who wasn’t a beauty like Gina Lollobrigida.

Gibraltar was our last stop before crossing the Atlantic, which would take a week. When we docked in Gibraltar port, we were all instructed that photos of the dock were not allowed. Those were the days of the Cold War and the British Forces stationed there were security conscious. Several of us wondered about the name of a British ship docked near us: the Eddy Beach. I imagine its name had some historical significance but a brief Internet search didn’t reveal the origin.

Since there was no tour offered of the renowned “Rock” or views of the famous monkeys (called apes) that lived there, a bunch of us meandered the nearby streets in downtown Gibraltar. I noted a few of the very British street names: John Macintosh Place, Cumberland Road and Spud Hill. I complained about the French fries in a tea shop—“swimming in grease and salt and not very done.” I also wrote that I bought a Crunchy bar, two caramels, and some Treets (chocolate-covered almonds)—all for watching movies on the Atlantic voyage. I saved a scrap of paper from a bag from Perez & Navarro, a fruit and chocolate store established in 1894 on Main Street!

When we got back from our very long walk, Diana and I took turns looking through my binoculars at some British fellows training in the harbor for boat racing. Teenage girls were always interested in males!

At 6 p.m. that evening the Rose departed Gibraltar and began the journey to New York harbor and the good old USA, just seven days away.

The Rock in the 1950s

 

 

From a Tempest to the Leaning Tower by Victoria Giraud

After the Pompeii tour, we military dependents and servicemen were back onboard the Rose that afternoon and left Naples for Leghorn (Livorno in Italian) at 6 p.m., June 28, 1958.  The ship tossed and turned as it fought its way north; it was our only storm during the entire cruise. A dance was planned for the teens, and my friend Diana was anxious to go since her latest boyfriend, who was the president of the Naples Teen Club, had debarked in Naples. Nature wasn’t in the mood for a lighthearted party.

The dining room had finished serving when Diana came to my cabin to pick me up.  The ship was already rocking, and right away, she threw up in our sink. That wasn’t the end of it, as I noted in my scrapbook: “Diana threw up five times!” When Diana decided she had to return to her family’s cabin, I went by myself to the dance and even managed to dance a few. The party soon broke up—not too many sailors among us. I was proud of my stamina and balance, and wrote: “I pulled through. How I don’t know, but I didn’t throw up once. Whew!!” I didn’t have any idea then that I would eventually write a saga of the sea–Melaynie’s Masquerade.   http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

The following afternoon we docked in Leghorn; most of us were relieved to see land after the rough seas. My mother, sister Tupper and I met Army friends from the Corps of Engineers who had been stationed in Tripoli and were now in Italy. Because of all the traveling and keeping in touch through letters, military people tended to stay in touch for years. The old friends took us to the Leaning Tower of Pisa before we went to a cocktail party (only for the grown-ups, of course).

“At Pisa, going up the steps to the tower was murder; I don’t know when I’ve walked up sooo many steps,” I wrote. “The steps wound around the tower. Coming down the tower really got me though.”

 

My sister and I had started up the deeply grooved steps before Mom. We were surprised how open everything was. It would have been easy to walk out to the encircling balconies and fall right off: there were no railings.  Tupper, who was only nine, was hesitant as we ascended since we could feel the slope of the tower. Once my mother, who was behind us, spotted the danger, she started running to catch up! We had reached the top by the time she got there, panting, and breathed a sigh of relief that her daughters were safe and sound. I don’t think Italians worry so much about safety; Americans seem paranoid compared to other cultures.

When we were safely down again, our little group walked over to the nearby cathedral.  I was told one of the bronze doors, which had various historic scenes in bas-relief, had a magic lizard carving. It was a superstition that if you rubbed the lizard, you would have your wish come true. It was the shiniest thing on the whole large door! I couldn’t resist and my wish did come true. I attracted a short-term boyfriend, one of the initially  “unfriendly” group that had gotten on the ship in Istanbul. Bill was an easy conversationalist, a good dancer, and knew how to kiss: must have been that advanced age of 18! The newer passengers had gotten comfortable, lost their shyness, and all of us made the most of the voyage.

Next stop–Gibraltar.

Turkey to Italy, a Journey on the USNS Rose By Victoria Giraud

Seeing ancient culture and enjoying a voyage was wonderful, but socializing with other teenagers was the highlight for most of us military brats. The two-day cruise from Turkey to Italy gave ample time to hold a teen dance in the Aft Lounge of the General Rose and a chance to get to know the nine teenagers who’d embarked in Turkey, plus the thirteen who’d come aboard in Istanbul. I was diligent in putting down first and last names of almost every teenager. My early newspaper experience must have influenced me! It’s unfortunate those skills didn’t extend to using my fairly simple camera. I took plenty of black and white photos but the lighting is off in most of them, or it was too overcast focusing from the ship and the backgrounds look blurry. Coming into Naples, we sailed past the island of Capri, which my photos depict as lumps in the mist.

We would only stay a night and day in Napoli but it was time enough to explore after dinner and then again the next day. A small group of us, including two mothers and three teenage boys, walked from the ship to a nearby downtown area and bought a few items. I was evidently slightly disgusted and wrote in my scrapbook, “Charles (an Explorer Scout) was paying too much attention to me and I ignored him. He’s a slob. He bought an icky gray tie. We went in about every store. The boys were very bored with it all.” So much for my teenage opinions!

The next morning there was a bus to take us to famous Pompeii  and a guided tour, although at the time I thought that Leptis Magna, the Roman ruins in Libya, were much better. Apparently, the continuing excavations have since made Pompeii more outstanding.

I was annoyed when our tour guide took us to an almost completely restored house in Pompeii, but as a young female, I wasn’t allowed to enter. It was an ancient whorehouse with explicit graphic paintings and ceramic tile artwork. Some of the younger fellows who’d been able to go in told me the pictures on the walls were obscene, but they were too embarrassed to explain. The photo shows a Pompeii street.

One of the Explorer Scouts from Tripoli was my companion for the Pompeii tour. David was a couple of years younger and very entertaining and energetic. When we lagged behind the tour guide by stopping to buy  postcards (the photo above is one of those postcards), we had to run to catch up. In my scrapbook I commented, “If we didn’t look a sight running through the streets of Pompeii.” I must have borrowed that phraseology from my Southern mother.

After the tour, our group was taken to a nearby restaurant for lunch. After all the exercise, we enjoyed the spaghetti.  Many of us got up to leave right after we’d finished what we thought was lunch. The waiters hurried to usher us back to our tables: the pasta was just the first course, they were already beginning to serve the second course of filet mignon. Unsophisticated military personnel and their dependents, especially in the 1950s, weren’t used to the two-course meals served in Italy, especially ones starting with spaghetti.

 

 

SAILING TO ISTANBUL VIA USNS ROSE By Victoria Giraud

A Mediterranean Cruise on a luxurious floating city isn’t such a special experience these days when everyone seems so used to world travel. Back in 1958, we military brats were excited by the prospect of visiting exotic ports, buying souvenirs, and enjoying the teenage social activities aboard a Navy ship like the General Rose. When we–my mother, sister and I–embarked in Tripoli along with about 100+ dependents, the Rose headed for Athens (I described this part of the voyage on my June 20 blog). A couple of days later, the Rose left Greece and headed east across the Aegean Sea to Istanbul. That night there was a teenage farewell dance since the families we had recently met, who had boarded in New York long before we had gotten on, were getting off in Istanbul to travel inland to their new homes in Ankara, Turkey. I wrote that we passed through the famous Dardenelles at 10:30 p.m., but since that famous narrow strait is 38 miles long, I’m sure it took us a while. The ship’s daily report probably informed us that the ancient city of Troy is near the western end of the strait and we would be sailing along the peninsula of Gallipoli (site of a famous WWI battle) until the ship entered the Sea of Marmara and kept going east to the port of Istanbul.

On Monday morning, we woke up in the harbor of Istanbul. Greece and Turkey weren’t on good terms and my mother was concerned we’d be caught up in it somehow. She’d also heard that Turkish cab drivers were erratic and drove too fast. Rumors about  driving talents were rampant in the Middle East. The British, for instance, were considered dangerous in Tripoli. Despite being an enterprising and usually fearless Army wife, Mom did worry, probably more so because she was in charge for this trip, not my absent dad.

Mom, my sister Tupper and I were meeting up with Army friends who either lived in or were visiting Istanbul, and we had to catch a taxi to take us up to the main city from the harbor. Listening to the angry Turkish voices on the cab driver’s radio didn’t assuage Mom’s fears, but we did make it without incident. Our friends made sure we hit the hot spots in that large bustling city: the Sultan’s Palace, the Blue Mosque (we had to remove our shoes), and the exotic Bazaar filled with hundreds of shops, where I bought a Turkish towel. There was nothing terrycloth about this so-called towel: the material seemed like linen. Through the mists of memory, I can still see the fancy embroidery depicting a frog highlighted with shiny pieces of metal.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul

 

The ship left Istanbul that night and by the next morning, we had already sailed back through the Dardenelles and south to dock in Izmir, once called Smyrna. Per usual, military passengers and dependents departed while new ones embarked. Wanting to document everything about this voyage, I kept track of all the teenage passenger names. It’s no wonder I later became a newspaper reporter.

Diana Darling, a friend from Tripoli, and I hung out together during the cruise. I documented my remark that her brief shipboard romance was getting off the ship in Izmir, and that the new kids, who’d gotten on in Istanbul, weren’t very friendly. According to my next scrapbook remark, it didn’t take long for all of us to get acquainted. One of the new fellows, Bill, was the ripe old age of 18, and he and I got very friendly. He didn’t seem to mind that I was only 15.

In Izmir, Diana and I ventured out on our own. We took a tour of the city and saw a Roman fort, a market and Kultur International Park. “We met two cute American sailors who bought us a Coke at the snack bar after the tour,” I wrote in my scrapbook. From the ship, I had taken two blurry photos of the mountains bordering the city and two clearer ones of the harbor area but didn’t take the camera on our excursion. My camera skills in those days were pitiful.

Izmir seen from USNS Rose - my amateur photo

The two of us didn’t understand the Turkish currency, or the language, but managed to figure it out enough to take a gharri ride.  The familiar horse-drawn carts had two horses here; in Tripoli they were pulled by a single horse. The ride was quite bumpy over cobblestone streets but we made it back to the ship safe and sound. The ship pulled anchor that night and headed west to Naples, a two-day sail.

 

WEIRD DATES BUT TRUE ADVENTURES By Victoria Giraud

I love chronicling my real life adventures on my bi-weekly blog, but I also like to publicize the books and stories I’ve written. All of them are based on my life, even though I’ve changed the character names for the most part. Being single provides lots of dating experiences. There are more of us out there and we live longer! It’s such a popular topic that the LA Times is publishing a true story every week in their special Saturday section. I may just submit one of mine sometime.

Here are two excerpts from my Kindle Single book on Amazon: Weird Dates and Strange Fates

A Single Gal’s Guide to Cross-Dressing

The man who answered the door was friendly and natural as he guided her into his house. Proudly telling her he had inherited the home from his uncle, he suggested they take a little tour. A typical one-story postwar 1950s home, it had nothing imaginative in its design, inside or out, but she pretended to be impressed. He led her through a step-down, rectangular living room and then outside to a concrete atrium whose only amenity was a hot tub and a few cheap and fading lounge chairs. Occasionally touching her elbow, he told her of plans to make a few changes here and there and asked her opinion. When he took her into his small square bedroom, she noted a white lacy negligee hanging over a closet door and beneath it, four-inch black spike heels.
“How do you like my new negligee?” he asked.
“It’s beautiful,” she responded evenly, wondering what revelations might come next.
“My wife liked me to wear lingerie to bed. Now I can’t sleep without it.”
She could tell he was watching and listening carefully for her reactions. So far she was accepting all of it as if it were all perfectly normal.
Back in the living room he showed her some photos of a recent costume party. “How do you like these? You see, here I am in my French maid’s costume.” He handed her the photo.
“Mmmm.” She didn’t know what to say as she looked down at the photo, which gave her time to compose herself. She was too startled after the negligee reference to take in the photo’s details.

The Dark Side

When the letter returned with no forwarding address a week later, I was tempted to drive to his apartment. Derek’s daughter lived across the street, but I didn’t know the address or remember the daughter’s last name. I had an odd feeling of apprehension as I pondered what could have happened and searched my memory for little details that might indicate what to do next. Had I missed some important minutiae about him in all these months? How well did I really know him? I reflected, as my mind raced with a slew of possibilities.
Derek had meant too much to me to let the matter drop. He couldn’t have just left, I reasoned. What of all his obligations, his children, his friends? He filled his life with so many people and duties; surely someone would have the answers.
I called the office again, remembering that Derek’s best friend, Tom, worked in the same building. Tom told me he couldn’t talk in the office; he would call me at home. His comment piqued my curiosity. What would he tell me that was so secret?
The following evening he telephoned, eager to share the story.
“You remember that Derek went back to Boston to spend Christmas with his aging parents. He said he probably wouldn’t be seeing them again. I just assumed he meant because they were getting older. Then Derek ended up talking to me for three hours after our office party the Friday before New Year’s. He usually scooted out of there right after work, no matter what.”
Tom continued, “Derek didn’t show up for work the Tuesday after the New Year holiday. When he didn’t come on Wednesday, I called his daughter, Susan. Susan hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, she said, but there was a letter from him on her desk. She said she’d check on things and call me back. When she called back a half hour later, she was hysterical.”

To read what happens in both stories, check out my Amazon link or just look up Victoria Giraud’s author page on Amazon.

MAKING PEACE WITH MY ABUSER By Victoria Giraud

Making peace with life’s great hurdles is a long process. I knew there must be many ways to let go of old emotional pains that eventually became physical pain and resistance. What came to mind were the helpful familiar steps used to overcome the sadness of death. Isn’t the past a death of sorts? Besides, my abuser has now been dead 15 years. At his viewing before the funeral, it didn’t bother me to look at the dead body in the open casket. I wanted to make sure he was dead.

Letting yourself grieve is a beginning step in dealing with death. Since my abuse is over or dead, so to speak, why not grieve over me, the sad little girl who had her childhood taken away? The second step is to understand I wasn’t alone. That’s an easy one: who hasn’t seen recent headlines of children being sexually abused? There are plenty of us out there. Don’t hold it in was another suggestion. No problem, I’ve discussed it on my blog in three installments so far.

A “happy” family — me, Dad & Mom


Asking for help was one of the steps. I’ve been able to discuss it with close family members and good friends, and that has helped me a great deal. I went to a unique therapist with psychic talents a few years ago. Without telling her much, she analyzed the basics of what had happened—that since I couldn’t express my anger or tell my secret, I’d turned it inward and became an adult too soon. It was time to process what happened and let it out. I’ve been processing for a while, but lives aren’t fairy tales and letting go of old baggage might be a lifelong pursuit. The memories come and go but get less powerful as time goes by.

Using invented names, I’ve told a more complete version of my story in my Ebook on Amazon: Colonels Don’t Apologize.

This most recent exploration of my inner being has netted some results, but the story isn’t over. My postings attracted quite a few readers and some private positive comments. I also rediscovered an old file of letters from my dad. After he died in 1997, I decided to read through the letters and find some enlightening passages to share with my sister and brother. As I’ve mentioned before, Dad could relate to me in letters, and I’d forgotten that most of what he wrote was surprisingly encouraging and supportive. He did not visit me from his Washington State home nor encourage me to come there, and he didn’t call (he never got over the old fears of wasting money on phone calls), but he enjoyed writing long detailed letters and so did I.

As I mentioned previously, I confronted him in a letter about his abuse, but he could not acknowledge it. I then decided to push the old emotions aside once again, and we both buried the past as we continued to correspond. Not long after that, he began to obviously decline in mental prowess. As his mind deteriorated, he only managed to write a few more brief and very flawed letters.

Life isn’t neat and tidy; it’s complicated and full of errant emotions. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to say, “There, that’s done and I feel totally at peace,” but there’s solace in the many blessings I’ve received and continue to have. And, ironically enough, I feel this man who abused me also loved me.

In a letter Dad wrote to me a few years before he died, he said, “You know I am proud of the progress you are making. Remember I love you and am proud of you. Hoping the best for you. You have ‘the right stuff.’”

REMEMBERING BEING CONTENT WITH BOB By Victoria Giraud

“Inch by inch, it’s a cinch; by the yard, it’s hard.” Robert Content, known as Bob to me, had lots of words of wisdom and he didn’t hesitate to share them over the 25-year friendship we shared. “In the darkest of nights, you can see the stars,” was another one and he shared that one the afternoon we met at the Sheraton Hotel in Santa Monica, CA.

A native of Los Angeles, Bob was proudest of his many years as a teacher; he played that role, in one form or another, nearly all his life. He was always in pursuit of learning and then passing on the wisdom he had gained. His adventurous life –Navy pilot, FBI agent, running a traveling summer camp for kids, teaching gifted elementary school children—was an examined one as he grew older. When I met him, he was a divorced father of three grown children and 20 years older than me. Although part of the WWII generation, like my parents, he ventured into the unknown territory of learning about himself, evaluating why he had acted the way he had in his marriage and fatherhood. He explored and pondered various educators and philosophers and even got his doctorate in education along the way. He examined better ways for people to communicate among themselves and was always curious about why people thought and acted the way they did.

I was blessed that he was my friend. We had begun by meeting because of a singles’ ad in a newspaper. I was impressed with his intelligence and forthrightness; he was not shy or retiring but full of vigor and inquisitiveness. It was a meeting of the minds and definitely chemistry, which turned into a long friendship. He had a youthful enthusiasm, which he never lost and which made him a good friend for all ages. My grown children got to know him over the years.

He loved people but grew to cherish his independence, living in a tiny apartment in Hermosa Beach when he could afford much more luxury. As he grew older and had to give up his motorcycle, he pedaled a bike to work out at Gold’s Gym, over a mile away. He loved to carry hundred dollar bills in his old but serviceable wallet. When he felt someone needed or deserved a cash contribution, he would give the bills away.

Bob at the Great Wall of China

Although he could be changeable and a bit irascible as he aged, I could always count on compliments. He told me I was a genius and that I was fabulously rich from the love of family and friends. I could say the same for Bob, who left this mortal plane at the ripe old age of 89.

Describing this multi-faceted and generous man requires a book, and I was lucky enough to help him write his memoirs in the 1990s. He self-published it and gave it to his large entourage of family and friends. Bob was still in touch with former pupils from all the years he’d taught. He had a neatly written list of friends and family and he made sure he called them on a regular basis.

My son, Hans, remembered: “I’ll miss Bob. Even though I hadn’t seen him more than a few times in the past 15 years, I’ll miss getting the updates and hearing his stories as told by you. I’ll miss just the thought of him being around. For so many years, Bob just seemed so invincible and I could never have imagined him fading-out or away. He was one of the only people I have ever known that could actually have you believing that: You can do anything on this Earth that you wish.”

HAPPY JULY 4th TO ALL FREEDOM LOVERS By Victoria Giraud

My multi-cultural apartment building is a symbol of what America stands for. There are people here who were born elsewhere but have happily assimilated in the land of opportunity–Southern California in the City of the Angels. And we have four American flags displayed: two in windows and two flying from the balcony. Makes me proud to be an American.

I was also proud of my country as an Army brat living in the Middle East. Americans living in Libya in the 1950s didn’t forget their normal holiday celebrations.  The Fourth of July celebration had its own unique touch. Not only were we celebrating Independence Day because of the U.S. Revolutionary  War, but also the fact that four American Marines serving on the ships sent by President Thomas Jefferson had died in 1805 fighting the infamous Barbary pirates. The Barbary Pirate fort still stands facing Tripoli Harbor.  Americans familiar with the Marine Corps Hymn remember the well-known words, “From the Hall of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli.”

Wheelus kids + Brit friend at the beach

I fondly remember a huge Fourth of July celebration about 1956  held west of Tripoli at Thirteen Kilometer Beach, named appropriately for its distance from the city. As I recall, the beach was wide enough for lots of activities and  for the many American attendees from Wheelus Air Force Base, and  various residences throughout Tripoli. My Libyan friend and Los Angeles neighbor, Mahmud, tells me that area is now a resort city named Janzour.  Now that the Libyan war is over, I hope it’s doing a booming business.

How exotic it was to celebrate an American tradition with camels and donkeys and on land once occupied by Phoenicians and Romans, who left many well-preserved ruins behind. Besides traditional American food like hot dogs, we had fireworks and three-legged races.

I looked forward to my first camel ride and eagerly climbed onto a makeshift seat that rested upon the camel’s sole hump. I was grateful that the irritable, growling camel was muzzled. The camel’s legs were folded under him, but at his Arab handler’s insistence, the back legs unfolded first and I swayed, rump first, into the air. The front legs swung up and suddenly I was sitting above everyone with a view of the beach and the 1,000 or so celebrants. The handler led his camel slowly around a circle, and I enjoyed the swaying back as the animal crunched along on the heavy beach sand. It was a brief thrill and remembered again not long ago when I saw the second Sex and the City movie, filmed in Morocco, which featured the four heroines riding camels. Too bad I have no photographic evidence of my camel ride.

Not wanting to miss out on new experiences, I decided to try a donkey ride as well. The donkey I chose proved too much for my limited bareback equestrian talents. After meekly walking around a circle for a few minutes, the animal decided I was a pushover, and off he went up a small adjacent hill in search of grass. I shouted for help, concerned partially for my bare feet, but my friends thought I was having fun and waved at me happily. When the beast found his grass, he stopped and I gratefully jumped off, feeling foolish that I hadn’t done it sooner. Animal training was not among my talents.

I’ve celebrated many July 4th holidays on California beaches, but the times in Tripoli will always have a special place in my heart.

 

WHAT IF MOM MARRIED A PEDOPHILE? Part 3 By Victoria Giraud

How would an unsophisticated small town  woman know if her postwar suitor was not all he seemed, especially in the 1940s? My mother  had grown up in a large loving Southern family. Shortly after she married my father in 1942, he went off to fight in the invasion of Italy, and she moved back to her parents’ home with me. The war broke up many relationships, including my mother’s.

When World War II was over there were plenty of men available and Mom was very pretty. Introduced by her brother and sister-in-law, she was impressed with the man who became my stepfather: he was a handsome over-achieving type who  had graduated #2  at the Citadel.  He had a way with words but in later years directed them at his family  in a biting, sarcastic manner. Officers’ military training is not conducive to listening to others’ opinions or concerns. In general, husbands and fathers of the 1940s-50s always knew best, according to popular opinion. They were to be obeyed not questioned.

I don’t have a memory of having met my stepfather before we joined him in Germany as US Army occupiers in 1947. He certainly took a shine to me; I have the photos to prove it. But the attraction didn’t mean he’d spoil me. Far from it—he threw me in the deep end of a swimming pool when I was four and I had never been in a pool before. It was literally sink or swim. Perhaps a deep instinct told me even then that I’d better swim and keep at it since it wasn’t going to be an easy childhood.

Because I hid the molestation deep in my mind, I don’t remember how many times it happened. I have a poignant memory, however, of a toy I had: a four-inch dollhouse mother figure. I called her Mrs. Brownie and I fantasized that she protected me from my stepfather. The abuse stopped when I was 12 and he became the taskmaster who made all the rules and regulations. He never beat his children that I remember. He didn’t need to: we were all afraid of him, including my mother.  The years have taught me that those who need so much control have deep-seated insecurities. I wonder what he’d think now of modern ideas, like the loving encouragement of children?

For a more complete story of my childhood, Colonels Don’t Apologize, for instance…visit  http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

My sister and I on the left on the steps of Mama Jake’s home. We weren’t pleased with the photographer, our dad.

I hardly saw him in his later years and when I did, he could always find a way to “push my buttons” because he knew my sensitivities. And then he’d say I was too defensive. I never blamed him or accused him of wrongdoing to his face. The most positive part of our relationship came when he was much older and enjoyed writing me positive letters for the most part; by then he had buried and forgotten his transgressions. He even called me “lucky.” Yep, I was lucky I survived his treatment. My mother didn’t: she died at 52.

In researching pedophilia, I came up with some interesting facts. According to a Kaiser Permanente study of 17,000 people, one in four girls and one in six boys had been sexually abused. It’s been said that pedophiles, who are usually men and are more attracted to children (13 and younger) than adults, might inherit the trait.

Like me,  most children don’t talk about what happened since it’s usually perpetrated by someone they know and trust, and the child thinks it is her/his fault. We learn to hide our emotional wounds since we don’t know what else to do. The damage sticks around and in many cases doesn’t get processed, like mine for many years. I was astounded to learn that a few of the repercussions in later years include: depression, addiction, heart disease, obesity, suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder.

I have  strong feelings of  optimism; I intend to keep on processing my experiences and move on. We all have  challenging negative incidents in our lives; they make us who we are. It’s not what happens to you that makes the difference, but how you handle it. As one of my favorite sayings goes: “Learn to let go as easily as you grasp or you’ll have your hands full and your mind empty.” Perhaps my story will help someone affected by this kind of abusive behavior.

 

 

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