Domestic Violence Awareness Month- Memoir of Abuse (We Survived)

For the three women murdered every day in the U.S. by current or former romantic partners, and for those still trapped in abusive situations, I share an excerpt from my forthcoming memoir Transgressions in Rouge: A Father’s Gender Rage, a Daughter’s Reckoning.

This represents a typical night in my childhood home.  Domestic abuse is family abuse.

——Christmas Eve——

     Mom did not answer, and something about her silence made me inch towards the bathroom door. It was open when I peeked in. Dad had the bloody towel pushed to Mom’s face, obstructing her nose and mouth. Unable to breathe, I watched her fall to her knees.          

     Preying on her low position, Dad let go of the towel to grab her curls with both hands. Hurling her towards the toilet, he slammed her face on the porcelain bowl three times before immersing her head in the water.  Mom moaned, her breath bubbling at the surface.

     Fed up and fuming with adrenaline, I crossed to the corner of my brother’s room where his finally useful baseball bat rested. Taking the bat in hand, I closed Robbie’s door behind me lifting the weapon over my head. My heart slammed against my ribcage as I entered the bathroom swinging. I had no idea what I might strike as blind rage engulfed me. I only knew I had to end him. The weight of the first wide swing knocked the extra roll of toilet paper with the crocheted doll cover from the partition between the sink and toilet.

     Dad ducked, releasing Mom who came up for air, gagging and spitting. My next swing landed on Dad’s arm, which he’d raised in defense. “Why are you doing this?”, he asked in the victim’s voice he slung on like a holster after every battle.  I lost my footing then, which softened the impact on my father’s hand to a mere tap. He squealed like a newborn pup, grabbing his barely bruised hand with the other.

     Mom sat on the toilet in a trance, staring at the cheap butterfly art on the wall in front of her. Dad howled, “Look what you made her do. You turned my daughter against me. You see this, you bitch?”

     I grabbed my stomach, the angry scream of the ulcer and seism of my muscles nearly bringing me to my knees. My voice ricocheted through the bathroom, “It’s you, Dad. It’s always you. You’re evil. I hate you. We all hate you.”

     Dad stopped his venomous blaming to look at me. The mask of hate melted into a pathetic mourn of false accusation. He tightened the drawstring waist of his red and green pajamas which had loosed in the melee. I raised the bat again; sure he would punish my mother for my tirade.

     Dad turned away from my hateful stare, his voice deflated. “All you had to do is clean the fucking bathroom. Now, see what you done to my daughter.” He pushed past me, leaving through the master bedroom. I knew he was headed to his chair. The sulking throne where he rocked away his perceived wounds.

     “My daughter. You made her hate me,” he mumbled over the indignant creak of the rocking chair.

     Inside the bathroom, I coaxed my mother to her feet helping her rinse her face. Patting her cheeks dry, I watched her retreat to the semi-conscious cave that was her refuge. Her eyes were open, but she did not see me.

     Guiding her to her side of the bed, I kissed her forehead before pulling the blanket over her motionless body.  She stared at the ceiling, not blinking at my father’s rant in the other room.

    “You made them hate me you bitch” Dad chanted his spent soliloquy. “You turned dem against me.”

     Confirming that Mom was breathing by laying my head on her chest, I left my parent’s room to check on Robbie. He stirred as I shut the door, “Santa?”, he asked as I caught my breath, wiping away tears to hide my upset.

     “Yes, Robbie, Santa,” I lied, wondering if there would be any gifts under the tree. Spooning my brother’s back in the twin bed, we slept five hours as the malevolence of my birthday morphed into Christmas.

     I woke with Robbie’s finger poking the small of my back, “It’s light out. Let’s go see.”


If you know someone who is being abused, find a local resource and help save them.
My family escaped to a shelter for battered women.

If you are being abused- please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Blessings for the safety of women & children everywhere,
V.L.
—————
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

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Santini Shrugs- My Wound is Paternity

My wound is paternity. Southern author Pat Conroy wrote in Prince of Tides, “My wound is geography.” I disagree. Pat’s life in our low country became a healing irrigation for the legacy left by his sulfur-veined father. I believe, paternity is our mutual wound.

I once shared my life story on a Southern writer’s panel, and a fellow panelist proclaimed, “Whoa, That beats Conroy.” No one will ever beat Conroy. That’s a given. But when I tell you that my Daddy died a woman on the steps where I hoped to kill her, you might have to take a breath. I do. Living with something so true and outside, robs me of clarity, self-definition. I can hardly believe it is my story.

Hating my father was easy. A New York City iron-worker, he was a tall drink of water with a leathered, fists-up attitude and a penchant for killing cats, dogs, and (if rumors hold true) men. Kids ran from him, coworkers fell from bridges he worked on. His size twelve work boot left an indelible mark in my mother’s ribcage. He was that ugly, domestic monster you hear about and pray your daughter does not marry. I came to my father’s home in the arms of a social worker.

To exit the womb on Christmas Eve and fight jaundice without a parent’s love was easy because it transpired before language. In the fleshy dialogue exchanged since I found my biological family, the reality of my given home singes. I spread roots in assigned cement, only to watch it crack under the constant pummeling of my adoptive family. So went adoptions in the 1960s. In the best interest of the child, they sealed me from familiarity and set my feet on fire.

Dad could not love the families he decimated. There were two. Ours and another secret clan, which ran from him changing their names for safety. Dad could not stop his angry tornado from pounding us into a shelter for battered families. His storm formed in the windswept years of his youth, while stealing women’s underwear from a laundry line in College Point. Gender was a given, so German mamas punished with rank sternness, and German papas crushed any hint of girlishness from their sons.

Act like a man, I told my ten-year-old self as I sat in the hall closet, clutching my father’s weapon.  Risking death if discovered, I reminded myself that Dad wouldn’t hesitate. Just kill him, I thought. Faith and femininity ordained my failure that day. I chickened out at the sight of the marble crucifix in the hall. Did Jesus move? Dad’s malevolent masculinity would always win in my teary eternal truth.

The truth, not beholden to scared little girls or damaged women, held its tongue for five decades. Dad died in 2015, on the stoop of the three-bedroom prison I once called home. He wore rouge and the full form of a female. The vile man who spun to toss my baby brother against the dining room wall died a woman.

Hyper-masculine behavior? Madness born of hiding her truth?
A risk too painful to take until it was too late?

My wound is paternity.  Daddy’s was her gender.
My forthcoming memoir explores both.

Blessings for healing of all wounds,
V.L.

—————
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

 

 

The Placement Poem

Familiarity slips away, noticed.
Metallic taste-buds pant milky.
Silent Night nurses wave, embracing end of shift.
Shrill-voiced newcomers mingle, pipes untested.

I wait, finding my way from yellow to white.
Retinas flash, sad for the unnamed.
Fingers swish down sallow cheeks, cooing songs from someone else’s childhood.

Cold wool. Leather gloves. Pen scratches paper.
Tucked and whisked in borrowed things.
Yellow cab. Four journeys- clandestine.

Slats surround. White walls.
Looming lookers, feed, change, retreat. No tethering. Foul foreign breath.
Floating without- what?

Eight months on.
Curly nose tickler. Silly smile.
Lace bonnet belonging.
Kisses on top, bottom, front.
Mom.

 

Blessings,

V.L.

—————

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

Sibling Bonds- Formed in the Belly of The Beast

I had a surprise visit from my baby brother over the weekend. Spurred by a recent health diagnosis that is not life-threatening but is life-altering, my brother decided I needed some cheering up. So he hopped on his motorcycle for the five-hour trek from North Carolina to Savannah. It was the best gift I’ve received in some time, for along with the familiarity of family, his visit gave me a new insight into suffering.

As most of you know, my memoir Transgressions in Rouge in almost complete. I’ve been working on it for eighteen months. It’s the story of my adopted father who beat, blamed and denied our family without remorse. It is the story of the family secret that made fists fly and turned suppressed identity into constant rage. My father Joe became Joann in her late seventies and died on the very spot where I had planned to kill her. His gender was my family’s albatross.

But, was it also a gift?

My brother’s surprise visit convinced me it might be. Re-framing the darkness of our childhood in the calm of sibling care, I found a long overlooked purpose for our suffering. In addition to a life estranged, the evil of my childhood gave me a life attached.

As I chatted with my brother about work, health, life’s struggles and triumphs, I found myself listening. I mean the most beautiful kind of hearing; an audio experience that transports one from inner ramblings and into the cosmos of another. I find that of all the people in my life; I listen to my brother best. Mostly because once upon a time, the ability to sense his state of mind and body was essential to avoiding death.

This weekend, I rode the waves of our conversation keenly. My brother’s presence calmed me. He was aware that it would. To have my brother nearby enveloped me in the same peaceful state I felt at ten years old, sitting behind my bedroom door, peeking through the crack, on guard for Dad’s approach.

Sibling love, when born of shared experience and years living under the same roof is a powerful bond. No other relationship can compete with the sharing of childhood wishes, secrets, survival tactics. We never have to explain the past. We know its scars and escape routes. Adopted from two different families, we are closer than any siblings I’ve met. Like Sully’s Hudson survivors, we faced what we knew was the end and survived.

Thank you, Rob, for visiting and for reminding me that sometimes suffering breeds miracles.

V.L.

—————

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

Disappointment Day (a.k.a Father’s Day)

Here it comes. In shades of blue greeting cards, barbecues, and goofy tee shirts proclaiming World’s Greatest Dad, Father’s Day is upon us. At any minute, Facebook will overflow with gushing remembrances and salutes from little girls (long since grown) who adore their daddys.

I envy them. I envy all women loved by fathers who showed them respect, love, adoration, selflessness. I envy their happy memories of a daddy’s arms- safe, warm, tucked in.

Father’s Day is the saddest day of the year for me.

As an adoptee, a cat-drowning, wife-beating, son-of-a-bitch father raised me. Yet, I’ve spent a lifetime aching for his love. As a child, I tried to be a better daughter by appealing to his masculinity. I thought if I grew harder/more boyish he might like me better, or at the very least, stop trying to kill my mother and brother.

Later, it became apparent that toughness would never have appealed to Dad. His free-wheeling fists camouflaged a hidden gender rage that would blow up my life. My father transitioned to become a woman in her seventies. She died in 2015 on the very spot where my terrible, twelve-year-old self, planned to kill her. (My memoir Transgressions in Rouge coming soon).

My biological father, a retired Delta Force officer, whom I found after a five-year-search, is very much alive. At least I think he is, as we have not been in touch for years. He decided that rather than engage in the healthy father/daughter relationship I crave, he would continue to live in a paranoid state of distrust.

When I first found Delta Dad, he was ecstatic. It soon became apparent that he was still fighting the wars he survived. He raged at me like a mad dog one day, and I walked away choosing to distance myself from any further dysfunction. I reached out to Delta Dad again recently, and he decided again that he’s not interested in a relationship. I say again because he also denied me when he found out my birth mother was pregnant in 1963.

Having spent a total of 12-years (pre-internet) searching for the biologicals (closed book NY adoption in the 1960s), I am quite attuned to my needs. I always knew that I needed my history, my story, and the story of my ancestors to feel complete. I searched and found to become solid, defined. Before finding my blood relatives I could not focus on what I would be. I was far too busy finding out who I was.

Likewise, I see patterns in my behavior that reflect the blank space of lacking a father. I need one, and because it is unattainable, I find myself drawn to friendships (or fanships) with men of a certain age. I find solace in their respectability, honor, achievements. I guess they look to me like father material. Desperation casts fatherly shadows over strangers.

Fatherlessness is my wound.

I share my disappointments this Father’s Day for those who have a decent dad to hug; for those who recall tender moments with their father. You have my one missing thing. Love him, embrace him, keep his memory close, share his stories with your children. Make his love your legacy.

Blessings that my disappointments light your way,

V.L.

—————

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

Healthline Names Adoptionfind a ‘Best Adoptee Blog for 2017’

As a blogger, reunited adoptee. abuse survivor, and writer, I live in a whirlwind of emotion. Occasionally, I am able to capture those feelings and heave them onto the page. The result, when I don’t delete the post, is this blog.

This morning, I am honored and blessed to report that adoptionfind has been name one of

Healthline’s Best Adoptee Blogs of 2017.

“V.L. Brunskill is an adoptee and acclaimed author who found her birth parents 25 years ago. Her writings about how the current political climate impacts adoption have a literary quality. One of her most touching posts was from Mother’s Day. She wrote a moving piece in which she speaks fondly of her adopted mother and birth mother.”

Thank you readers and heathline for the love.
I promise to share more and to stop deleting the tough stuff.
Blessings that you may live your truth,
 V.L.
—————

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
View the Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

A Mother’s Day Post Worth Repeating

Reposted from last Mother’s Day.
Happy Mom’s Day to all the Mothers, and Grandmothers of the world!

As Mother’s Day is folded and tucked away like a treasured quilt, it is hard for me to imagine a more blessed weekend. I had the good fortune of engaging in a day of celebration with each of my mothers.

The mothers in my life wear labels cast upon them by society and the process that brought them to, and removed them from, my life. They are my birth mother and adoptive mother.  No matter what the labels, they reside in my heart with an enormity so wondrous that at times I feel it will burst.mom

While some take the existence of a maternal figure for granted, I count both of my mothers as blessings hard won, and hard kept. I was born into a world that was not ready, and in her desperate need to see me well, my birth mother made a tortured exit from the hospital with empty arms.

After foster care, I was placed for adoption seven months later. While my adoptive family was not the safe haven my birth mother envisioned, my home was survivable because of the heartfelt love of a woman who never once questioned her role as my caregiver. She lifted me from the crib at the adoption agency and never looked back. In sickness, in health, in torture, in want, in love, she became my mother.Nana

During the seven-year search for my birth mother, I was not looking for a replacement mother. I wanted roots, a face and name to stitch myself too. I was never content to just be. I felt an existential craving to know the place from which I came. I could not move on in life without a biological connection, without touching the face of the woman on whose belly I rested after being born.

I hold in my soul a deep bond with both of my mothers. Their fragility, endurance, and lifelong search for happiness, are life lessons that allow me to smile and forge on.  No industry label can fairly represent the way in which these women became the nurture, and nature of who I am.

They are my earth link, and angels. They are loved far beyond Mother’s Day dinners and swapping of gifts. Without either, I would be so much less.
Love you ladies!

Blessings that all mothers know their worth,

V.L. Brunskill


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SYP Publishing is having a Mom’s Day sale on all books.
Get 15% off all books now through May 8. Coupon code: MOM
Shuffle over to the SYP site to buy Waving Backwards, or another delightful read.
Southern Yellow Pine Publishing /Waving Backwards.