The Summer I’d Like to Forget

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#FWF Free Write Friday: Are You Up For This?

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I’ve been debating with myself as to whether it is even worth writing about a decade old story. I have alluded to it in poetry ( Hidden Hunger ,Witness ) but never in memoir.

It is difficult to admit that there was a time that my family went hungry.  The details of how we arrived at our sorry state are way too complicated and frankly, too boring. Here are the highlights:

  • Husband gets fired-not laid off- from six figure job.
  • Husband decides to start own business causing significant decrease in income.
  • Wife works part-time while in a year-long clinical graduate program.
  • Wife told that her job must now carry the benefits, cutting her measly salary in half.
  • Wife told that since her job does not pay in summer, she must get full-time work and the children can stay home alone all day without mom and dad.
  • Wife is not able to get full-time job but finds work that keeps her away from home for just a few hours.
  • Wife’s tiny wages go to food.
  • Wife eats less to save food for kids.
  • Husband squanders all savings  and other finances while secretly making major purchases.
  • Wife tells no one about situation even though her parents live just eight miles away and her brother thirteen.

I spent the summer of 2004 in a state of shock, or as a friend said “survival mode”.  I knew things would get better in the fall when my job resumed to a nearly full -time position. But the 12 weeks of empty bellies seemed endless. A wall of resistance and repudiation was put up by my husband. In his eyes it was my fault for not getting full-time work. Not his fault for getting fired and pursuing something that barely brought a paycheck in to pay bills.

I felt stuck. As summer turned into fall, a latent anger was born. I took it out on everyone but him at first but then it boiled over when I found out about another major purchase he had made. I went into therapy where I began to unravel the pieces of my situation as well as my marriage and more importantly, myself.

We never went hungry after that summer. I refused to have my sons experience that dull, hollow feeling that comes from not having enough to eat ever again. Their father never accepted responsibility for his decisions and instead continued to lay the blame on me. But for the  next summer and for all subsequent summers, I secured positions where I could make money and have my children productively occupied and supervised.

Life trucked on, the marriage ended, battles were waged and the three of us (as many of you know by now) have a wonderful, wonderful life. He lost us but we gained ourselves. I still worry about food and going hungry. I cannot have the refrigerator or cabinets or the pantry ever be empty. It triggers that feeling again.

The boys and I did talk about that time a few years ago. I apologized to them for what happened but they both said I did the best I could. They had come to understand the circumstances that caused the situation in the first place. It was just one of many moral violations committed by their father.

I eventually confessed to my family, who were at first angry that I did not come to them for help. I was too ashamed and I knew I would suffer the consequences of revealing the secret. It didn’t seem worth it at the time.

And do I have shame today? No, I let that go a long time ago. Although I was not conscious of it at the time, I was being abused. The blaming, the passive aggressive behavior, the snide remarks began in earnest that summer. They increased over time until I finally realized what was happening.

When one is in the midst of negativity and abusive behavior, it is nearly impossible to see a way out. One only wants the abuse to stop-not for the abuser to leave. Strange dichotomy but oh so true. Lucky for me, he left. But he still abused from afar in various ways. I only got stronger and my children got wiser.

We know how to feed our bellies and our souls. Loaves and fishes abound. Abundance is present. And we are very grateful.

Never let yourself be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

~Robert Frost

 

This was THE most challenging free write for me.  I really went back and forth as to whether I could write about it. Frankly, I didn’t want to. But sometimes you just have to put your muscle into it. It was NOT cathartic. It just had to be written and done with once and for all.

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20 thoughts on “The Summer I’d Like to Forget

  1. A bare to the bones, honest, heart wrenching post. I could feel how hard it was for you to write and that made it all the richer. You should be proud of yourself on so many levels. So many people do not find a way out and yet you did and taught your children so many wonderful lessons. Be proud, be very proud. x0x0 Laurie

    1. Thank you Laurie. It took hours for me to write this story. How do I get a message across that does not look a sob story but won of eventual triumph? This was the challenge. I was editing all along as well which made it less of a free write. This is one story that could not have been written that way.

      Thank you again for your kind words. 🙂

  2. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so much for baring your soul to us. What I see now is that your experience has made you stronger than you were – and that your sons have a love for you that is just as strong.

    1. It was very hard to tell this story. And really, this is just but one layer of it. Truly, that summer was setting the stage for me. I hung on for 3 more years and during that time I was making sure my voice was finally heard. It became too difficult for him to stay knowing that I would never back down again. And my sons are better men because of their mom’s standing up for herself.

      1. Good for you. And now you have someone that is the opposite in your life. Shows how standing up for oneself does lead to better things – even though it is difficult to do.

  3. Suzanne

    like you I’ve debating whether to write about a hurtful time in my life. Good for you for writing it – Like you I’ve had times in my life when money has been very, very short and feeding the kids has been a problem. Luckily it’s always been a temporary state. To have it drag on for weeks and months must have been a terrible emotional burden to bear. Writing it must have been cathartic for you and also, I think of benefit to readers. It’s good to hear voices explaining to us that life isn’t always a bed of roses and that people can and do hungry in the affluent west. Your post has inspired me to go and write my own painful memory.

    1. Oh excellent! I look forward to reading it. Hiding our hunger that summer was equally as painful as the hunger itself- given where we live.

      I appreciate your encouragement in the writing of it. A large part of me was truly afraid when I was composing it. At times I was shivering even though the temperature was warm!

      1. Suzanne

        It’s weird when we express these deep secrets that seem so dark and shameful. Bringing them out into the light frees us to move I feel. Doesn’t mean the telling is easy though. Shivering even throwing up are par for the course for me. I usually have some kind of major physical reaction when I do this kind of writing (purging – to put it politely). Getting out in nature afterwards grounds the healing for me.

  4. Thank you for finding the courage to get through this post, Kim. I’m glad you and your children grew from this and that you learned to believe in you…abusive relationships are difficult to recognize sometimes especially when you are made to believe You are the problem. I’m glad this is behind you now. Blessings, Oliana xx

    1. Thank you Oliana! The fact that it is behind us was one of the reasons it was difficult to write. I didn’t want pity nor did I want to convey that we were stuck in the past. Thus, the dilemma as to whether or not to write about it in a truly factual way.

      I know that the abuse was occurring in subtle ways throughout my marriage. It just happened to be sprinkled into various situations through comments and body language. I remember being nervous to drive with him in the car. His running commentary made it seem like I was a bad driver (right down to how I shifted the gears on an automatic vehicle!)

      Thank you for your support! 🙂

      1. I do know what you mean, Kim. There are some posts I’ve shared for a prompt in the past and although it was a release I did not want pity. I do see however, your post as being helpful for others who have not dared recognize signs of abuse. So thank you for that. Have a great Sunday.

  5. Your post is very important. Especially for people undergoing verbal abuse and negative treatment. Abuse is not just punching; it’s about words, verbal punishment, living in a world that it’s of your own creation.
    I think you were very brave to write this. And these stories reach out to people who need to know these things, but were too scared, too put down, or unable to find a woman’s shelter/assistance group in their area and/or a therapist who can be another resource.

    1. There was a small part of me that was actually afraid to write it because I kept thinking he would find out that I wrote the story of that time. Even though I have written about abuse many other times, this was one that contained very specific facts. I had to get myself over that hump and go forth because it was a message that others needed to hear.

      Thank you very much for your affirmation. It means very much to me.

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