Diamond had her first baby at 13, she’d grown up the hard way “graduated from the school of hard knocks” as she often joked wryly, but a trauma survivor can sniff out another a mile away, she had sensed my inner pain and she wanted better things for me. She was a straight shooter, she told you exactly what she thought and hit the nail on the head every time. The Queen of uncomfortable truths had unceremoniously revealed us, but we couldn’t afford to be noticed let alone ‘helped’ and parts of us saw this unprecedented show of care as a very dangerous threat and had decided to take charge.
It turned out that we weren’t about to lose our grasp on our eating disorder, in fact it was only the beginning of that saga. A monster had awoken inside us, both enraged by Diamond’s sudden exposure and fuelled by it. This had suddenly become a dangerous game, a fight to the death and any threat to their power would no longer be tolerated. They would continue to dominate our life for many years to come, eventually orchestrating and enacting our own demise. But we didn’t understand that then, we didn’t know who they were or why they held so much power over us, we only knew that we had reason to be afraid, from those around us and those inside.
I don’t know if it was that same night or in those that followed but somewhere in those hazy days of being uncovered by Diamond, she had also told a part of us a story, something that would shift the perspective of our family forever, something they would decide they needed to hold as a secret from the rest of us to stop our already chaotic world from imploding.
The story Diamond told us was her own, about what had happened to her growing up, she shared about the abuse she and my father had endured at the hands of that sweet white haired couple in the photograph album, The Devil and his Wife. She lamented that although The Devil had hurt her in the most despicable way imaginable he had also shown her more love and kindness than anyone else in her childhood ever had.
That’s the mindfuck. That’s the part that truly breaks you. When you grow up with a parent that tells you how much they love you, takes you places, brings you gifts then in the next breath steals your innocence how can you possibly make sense of the world? How can someone who claims to love you so much turn around and hurt you so badly?
It’s even worse when the other parent, the one who should protect you from the first, knows about the abuse and does nothing to stop it. Worse again when they become jealous of you receiving all the attention and punish you for it.
Your world is small and dangerous and there is simply no safe place to run. No escape.
My father didn’t talk about his childhood home life, when he did it was the same two stories over and over, how they’d lived in a shipping container while he and The Devil built their home brick by brick and how The Devil had buried his favourite car in the garden. But my father had buried things too, and his secrets went with him to the grave.
Diamond loved my father, she only ever spoke of him in the kindest of ways. To her he was not just a big brother but her protector, her saviour. My cousin Angel loved him too, she had been a baby in that white brick house of horrors before my father had left, she loved him so much she named one of her own children after him.
But he had rejected them both.
My father had point blank denied a lot of Diamonds allegations when after years of therapy she had finally spoken up about her abuse in adulthood. He had apparently told my mother angrily he didn’t remember any of that ‘nonsense’, declaring ‘I don’t believe it’ and promptly changing the subject. My father’s word was final and my mother knew when to stop asking questions.
That must have hurt like Hell for Diamond, to be denied, ignored and dismissed by the only person who you knew had actually witnessed your horror. I could empathise with the feeling of not being believed, told your a drama queen, just attention seeking. That your experiences and feelings didn’t matter.
The knowledge of this secret held inside me wavered intermittently from my consciousness in the way only things that either don’t matter at all or matter the most ever can. We had apparently told our close friend about it way back when we had found out too but I didn’t know that.
I asked my friend very recently when we caught up and were reminiscing about our misspent youth if she knew why we had hated our grandmother so much and wanted to leave home so young. Our friend had replied without skipping a beat “yeah, because she and your grandfather abused your father and your aunt horrifically”.
It was oddly validating to hear her say that, to know these memories that had laid forgotten in the back of my mind for so long were real. I have a lot of trouble trusting my own mind and sometimes that question of if my perception is accurate or not stings worse than the burn of the memories themselves.
When he reached the late stages of Alzheimer’s my father would have fitful dreams and randomly cry out “but I’ve got to help you up the stairs” over and over to my mother and the hospital nurses. We had no idea what he was talking about at first as he hadn’t lived in a house with stairs since he was a child and chalked it up to dementia craziness before finally figuring out he actually needed to go to the toilet.
When this development was relayed to Diamond she had gasped and told us that her brother, my father, had tried to protect her from their parents wrath when they were little and he often carried her up the stairs to the bathroom in the middle of the night and stood guard because she was too afraid to go alone.
The Devils Wife had claimed Diamond had always been a naughty child, my father was the good one. Diamond the thief, Diamond the black sheep of the family, Diamond the disgrace who’d become pregnant at 13.
The Devil’s Wife was of course the heroine who graciously allowed our baby cousin to be raised in her home rather than kicking “that whore Diamond” out onto the streets. Except he had hurt her grand baby too, The Devil she’d married, and yet once again she turned a blind eye.
The Devil’s Wife moved to Australia and in with us when I was around 15, I can’t remember. I just know that my brain had to pretend that none of what Diamond had told me was real so I could look at my grandmother’s face each day and not have to fight the urge to torture her or kill myself.
She was just a frail old lady now, at nearly 90 she’d outlived all her friends and once again alienated Diamond and her family. The only people she had left were the family she had poisoned with lies, us.
The more I learn about my fathers upbringing the more he makes sense to me. In his last few years after the Alzheimer’s took hold we started to see him show genuine emotions other than anger for the first time, tears would well in his eyes often over both sad and happy things. I only remember seeing my fathers face close to tears once as a child, the night of my mother’s accident, the night we thought we’d lost her.
My Dad apparently didn’t remember certain things long before the Alzheimer’s took hold although you’d never have known, his mind was brilliant, scientific and structured, he understood multiple languages and could tell you the Latin name of any plant or animal you could point to.
In retrospect I imagine he had blocked out a lot of his childhood memories in order to survive. It makes sense, he’d gone through Hell and escaped, that part of his life was over, buried deeper than The Devils car.