For most people, other than those living in a third world country, no evil enters their life. They have hardships, disagreements, sadness and disappointments. But they meet them as they need to and move past it and life straightens itself out again. It’s to be expected, endured and wisdom hopefully gathered from it.
The life of someone who was sexually abused as a child does not know what a world with an absence of evil would look like. They know fear; they know pain; they know confusion. They especially know Shame, that most painful of all. They look at the world outside and wonder what it must be like to live in a world with the absence of evil.
When I was growing up life was good until my father entered my bedroom in the middle of the night when I was thirteen. From then on I too no longer knew what the absence of evil was like. I remember when we drove through towns looking out the car window at houses as we passed by. I’d pretend I was peaking in their windows and seeing what a normal family life was like. I pictured happy children, children who did not live in fear, children who were not afraid to go to bed at night.
One time, for reasons I didn’t understand as this had never happened, my parents allowed me to spend the weekend with Pat one of my closest friends. She came from a large family and they lived on a farm about a mile outside of town. I was a very shy, timid and almost emotionally retarded child and backward about the ways of the world. Pat’s family welcomed me with happy smiles and big hugs. They joked back and forth about their day, making fun of each other. No admonishments punctuated their parent’s comments. Dinner was the largest feast I had ever seen. Platters of fried chicken, mounds of fluffy white mashed potatoes with rivers of butter swimming over it, a green bean casserole, salad, lots of bread and butter met my amazed eyes. For dessert there was apple pie with homemade vanilla ice cream. Everyone helped themselves to as many helpings as they wanted. When they told me to dig in I mounted my plate, shoveled it down like a starving person and when I meekly asked if I could have seconds the only answer was I could have as many helpings as I wanted. I dove in.
The next morning they woke me up while it was still dark. We went downstairs and out to the brooder house. I gathered eggs, dozens of them. Next I was taken to the barn, handed a three legged stool and was invited to milk a cow. They moved me and the stool next to a large cow who kept flicking her tail at me. I told them I’d never done this before so they showed me how. The next half hour was spent laughing at me as I squirted the milk everywhere but the pail, that’s if I was able to pull the teat right, which was seldom. Their good natured teasing made me feel as if I belonged to their family. Then they took me into the basement of their home and showed me what happened to the milk that I had filled my pail with. I was amazed at the milking equipment, all shiny silver. They explain how they separated the cream and set it aside to make butter. By the time they finished educating me I felt I could make a real good farmer.
Then we all trooped in for breakfast, another feast; scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, sausage, toast, fruit, orange juice and hot chocolate. Again, I was amazed at all of the food. No one tried to admonish or control anyone else. Everyone helped themselves as much as they wanted. They belched and teased and laughed and filled their bodies with as much food as it would hold.
Later in the day Pat’s father put me on the tractor with him and we drove through rows of corn growing almost as high as the tractor. Her dad let me drive by myself causing surges of joy. Never before had I been so happy. We saw two small bunnies running through the rows and Pat’s father allowed me to bring them home with me. I named them Pat after my friend and Perry after our favorite singer (Perry Como)
When it was time to go home I blinked back the tears, thanked them very much for a wonderful weekend and slumped over with despair went into my own home. No one asked how it went. I was told I was behind on my chores and to get busy. No one laughed or teased or did anything with freedom and joy. It was like living in a home for two days where there was an absence of evil and returning to my own where everyone lived with fear in their hearts, where dad ladled out the small amount of food we were allowed, where there was no talking allowed at the table. There were no hugs, no joy, no laughter.
My family life reminded me of a camp of mutilated and injured soldiers from some obsolete war, indescribable in its agony. All the figures were shadowy and disoriented, as if only half alive and that half living in a well of misery. We moved in and out of our days appearing to wait for some catastrophic happening, all of us knowing that once it did, we were ill-prepared to handle it.
There was no absence of evil, especially as I headed for my bedroom praying a rosary that tonight the dark and painful form would not come over my body.
Even in times of anguish, the wounded family seems unable to bond together and fight the battle from within. Lost and desolate, we carry our pain, a load that grows with each passing day, until it becomes more burdensome than our lives can handle.