by Andrea Delph
I get emotional. I some times believe I make these memories up. I some times think these are false memories and he only hit me a total of three times. I start to doubt the seriousness of a daughter being beat by a man who stood at 6 foot two, weighing at about 200 lbs. I can only remember those for now. The way your eyes filled with anger when you beat me because my hips were filling out, for reminding you that I was my mother's daughter.
I remember the time you gritted your teeth at me and bit my face. I had just come back from visiting my mother in Cleveland. I was twelve-years-old. I'm remembering this because that was the summer I hid my becoming a woman to you and my mother. I felt the tension building inside of you as you searched for clothes my mother bought me during my trip. A mini skirt, tight jeans. During that search, you found pads. You found what you were looking for: A short, iron buckled mini skirt from Kohl's my mother loved to see me wear during our trip to Chicago. I blocked out the words you called me but remembered the breaking of my lip as the buckle on the belt hit my face. You never meant to hurt me. You beat me for my own good.
I was a growing young woman with a mother living in Cleveland and you were a passionate man who understood the thoughts of men. With the misunderstandings of your pain and addictions to pornography, You were trying to keep me aware, it was misguided, but I understand and love you for your efforts. I understood early that you beat me because something was beating you. I reminded you of the first woman who broke you. My mother. whose hips built up your desire as she walked past you every day on the summer sidewalk on the south side of the Bronx, whose face men were drawn to and thick exotic accents as she spoke. A slim thick Peruvian woman with curves and lips that excited you and men around. Nevermind the complexities of who this woman was and still is today. Her psychical attributes reminded you of my growing body and how I should hide it from the men at the mall, from the boys at school and to you in our home, playing basketball in our yard, going to dinner, walking our dogs.
At twenty-six I can understand my shame when I look at how my body has filled out. At twenty-six, better articulated, I spend hours with these thoughts. I spend days ruminating over realities and memories that are painful so that I can understand how we, the three of us got to where we are today. My mother, a cold, distant women who internalizes her pain so no person can call her 'weak', --possibly a byproduct of my grandfather, her father Papa Lucho (I'll speak more on family later) And my father who at days and even hours before he beat me spoke gently and told me he loved me are keeping secrets that are not their own to keep.
Having toxic parents is more challenging than those with relatively functional families can imagine. Nothing is ever a simple conversation. Almost everything is riddled with passive aggression, subliminal trauma, and projection. It is truly an acquired skill to not become triggered. And these are the same individuals who usually grow up to become hypersensitive, almost like a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are accused of overreaction, because of toxic family members truly believe that their abuse is validated and should be digested. When it is not, and the individual expresses sadness and discomfort, they are made to feel as if their reactions are wrong. As if they are confused about the nature of what's going on.
I wish you could have chosen one kind of touch. Even if it was just beating me. That would've made everything less confusing.
"Liberation and resistance took shape and form first within myself. I did not write this as an indictment of my father, mother or family, but rather in a sincere effort to continue to radically challenge myself and those reading towards a greater personal and societal liberation through finding our words and telling our stories. Liberation began by asking myself questions such as: How do I begin to change what is known to me? What does internal abolition look like? I needed to know first that I was bound by a thing to become freed from it. I had to say yes to my collective grief and then learn how I could use it so that I was no longer stuck by it. I had to ask myself, How do I move from pain to power? Knowing through imagination that there was something better I had to decide I wanted healthier relationships, that I wanted to find love and forgiveness and so I was willing to interrogate myself to arrive at a different place.
My words, the vocabulary I found became my form of self-liberation. From an honest woman who realizes that radical politics must also be coupled with radical responsibility of our own lives and a willingness to name the pain and move forward beyond the ugly complexities, fears, and insecurities that destroy our intimate relationships and keep us alienated and isolated in an internal prison of shame and self-hate, such are the struggle of many black and brown adults who are deeply traumatized by their childhoods. I wrote this for self-awareness and so I could think more deeply and seriously about how we parent our children and the legacies we will leave behind for them. This, whether in the inner or the outer world, the painful struggle for liberation continues and for many of us, in fact, are engaged in a similar struggle."