When I was in recovery I labeled my memories as either AM or PM or in my case, PM, for pre-molestation and AM, for after molestation. Since my sexual abuse began when my father raped me in my early teens I had a lot of PM memories to draw on. The difference between the two time zones was riveting.
In the early years my life was filled with joy and happy memories. Delivered by my father in the midst of a blizzard I became not only his favorite child but in the eyes of some, his only child. People used to say there's Bernie Leick with his daughter; then there's the other three children who live with him. My world began and ended with him. He was affectionate, full of fun and blessed with, to my young eyes, all the knowledge of the Universe. When he joined the Marine Corps in 1944 my life became suspended as I waited for his return.
I remember so clearly the day he came home. We were all waiting giddy with excitement in the front yard of the small home in Bovey, MN that my Finnish grandparents had bought for us to live in while Dad was in the Marines. We raced for him and overpowered him with hugs
and kisses. When he reached down and picked me up I thought my heart would break with happiness. I was 2 ½ years old.
We moved to Beulah, ND where he found a job working as the manager of Occident Lumber Yard. Our years there were filled with happy activities; the annual rodeo, carnival, the circus and even the annual flood seemed more like fun than drudgery. Dad was even the Grand
Marshall one year when we had our annual town parade. Adored by all his children and especially his obedient wife, Dad's life in Beulah seemed complete. Once a year we went back to Minnesota to visit Grandma and Grandpa, spending part of that time at their cabin on Laminade Lake where we gathered with the rest of our large Finnish Clan, a network of great aunts and uncles, great-grandma and my mother's two brothers and their families. We took saunas on a daily basis, dashing madly into the lake to cool off when our bodies could stand no more of the intense heat, picked blueberries, fished off a rowboat, swam, rowed till we had blisters, fought off mosquitoes, poison ivy and sunburn and loved every minute of it.
Dad ,who had taken twelve years of piano lessons, and had started teaching me how to play, taught us a myriad of songs that we sang in unison especially during weekend road trips where Dad drove us to any place within a 500 mile radius that had historical significance.
My life was filled with joy. I was confident, playful, mischievous, especially with my younger sister Gretchen who I didn't like. I delighted in singing the popular song Slowpoke to her as I taunted her about her inability to do her chores in a timely manner. While I had two older brothers I adored, I pretended Gretchen was adopted.
When I was in third grade Dad quit his job at the Occident Lumber Yard and went to work for a firm that built electrical substations and power lines. We left our stable and joyful life in
Beulah and became vagabonds as Dad followed the work spending a few short weeks in each town. Our first stop was Nebraska City, NE, then Petersburg, NE followed by Marshfield, MO where Mom gave birth to their fifth child, Jeanne. Next was Tucson, AZ, then up to Nebraska again where we followed the work from Cozad to North Platte and back again to Petersburg. Now I was in the eighth grade and within a few months my life would go from joyful and stable to a living hell.
A few weeks before my 14th birthday, I began screaming in the middle of the night.Something horrifying had just happened to me as I trembled with a terror of such severity that I felt I was losing my mind. I had never known fear. It seemed forever before Mom hurried into my
bedroom and wrapped her arms around me as I sobbed, "Momma, something came over the top of me, it hurt Momma, it hurt. Help me! Momma, help me!" She kept asking what had come over the top of me. I saw Dad standing at the doorway holding his bathrobe tightly closed, watching the two of us with a guarded expression. I shuddered even more as I clung to her.
I was unable to tell her what had happened. It was of something I was unaware existed so I had no words to describe the picture. All I knew was someone had been on top of me and done something terrible. Horror and pain darkened the remainder. I felt as if I had been crushed by a steamroller and sobbed with hysteria as Mom did what she could to calm me, saying it was only a nightmare. After she left, I cried for a long time, clutching my rosary
It wasn't long before my mother found out the truth. She blamed me and periodically had Dad beat me with his large, leather belt as punishment for what he was doing. Our happy, Catholic family no longer existed. Dad got a job in a city an hour's drive away and only came home on weekends. Mom spent her days in bed crying, sometimes catatonic for days on
end. The five of us children, punished regularly for minor offenses and sometimes for no offenses, became stoop shouldered, eyes hollowed out from fear and anguish. Jeanne, age 3, who slept in a crib next to my bed, began wetting the bed and didn't talk till she was ten. My hands trembled so often that classmates teased me about it. Placed on a limited diet my siblings and I looked like concentration camp victims. My family life reminded me 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.
I ran away from home when I was 18 after the last beating that almost killed me. Within weeks I was dating my first abuser, an Irish Catholic alcoholic. I became addicted to sex. That marriage lasted 4 children and 5 years. Then I left him. After two nervous breakdowns from suicide attempts I spent time in psychiatric wards. A year later I married his boss. He was also an alcoholic and a womanizer who bragged about cheating on me often hitting on other women in front of me. He also beat me when he was drunk and I found out half way through my recovery several years later, that he sexually abused my older two daughters. After ten years there was another divorce. Then I was single for 15 years going from one man to another as I screwed my way through Orange County.Finally I met my third and last abusive mate, a man whose abuse would send me spiraling into despair so great that I had to choose between suicide and recovery. I chose recovery.
How could one person's life have gone overnight from joy to despair? While in recovery my memory traveled over the happy years from birth till I was almost fourteen, savoring everything good that had happened. There I found strength. Then I traveled mentally through the AM times. Somewhere in the deepest recesses of my mind I had stored the PM times. They had carried me through the dark times without me even knowing it. Without them I don't think I would have survived.
Once completing recovery I found myself returning to the original rhythm I had had. I became confident, curious, playful, good humored and in short regained all of the qualities I had before my abuse began. In some ways I was fortunate. Fourteen years of happiness is more than most people have. And since completing recovery I have been the happiest person I know.