Shades of Black
As these pages are the beginning of my book, they will be added to and edited for a very long time, Piece by Piece ©
My stories encompass the lives of many people and spans the globe from Sweden to the United States, from Africa to Australia. Some of the stories are sad and others happy, yet they are a part of me and the reason I am what I am. By writing them down like this, I set out my life before for me to try and understand my time here on earth.
I guess I would have to start somewhere to tell my story and it really wouldn't matter where I begin, because nothing much fits into any particular order in this meandering brain of mine. You will find the stories to be in no particular order, and in fact the opposite would probably be true. Most of the stories are not from my memory, but have been told to me by various members of my family.
There is no beginning, just a myriad of happenings in one lifetime. Some in order ..others not...
Well, here goes...
I should explain, that life only seemed to have begun for me at the age of 26. A tragic motor accident when a truck ran a red light and hit the car in which I was a passenger, took my brain and left a big void in which there are few clouded happenings.
I woke in hospital many hours later not having been attended to. I cried and didn't know why. I was sore and didn't know why. I was there and didn't know why. Time inevitably passed in a world between consciousness and awareness, where my existence was in limbo and eventually they shaved parts of my head to get to the cuts and stitched them up. What hair remained, hid other deep cuts which were missed by the overworked staff. I discovered these other wounds far to late for them to be repaired. The damage had already been done.
They sent me home the next day, concussed, confused, disorientated and damaged. I sat shaking in the bath and slowly lay back into warm water that engulfed my aching head in its soothing embrace. The water soon changed color to red as the dried blood that covered my head dissolved.
Although I didn't realize it at the time, this accident had robbed me of most of my childhood memories. So my brain is only a portion of what it once was, memories are few, they appear in a fog at times as if they happened to somebody else and not me and huge areas of life have been obliterated.. life continued for me and I got used to idea of having only a few precious memories. Some parts I do remember but it feels like they happened to somebody else and not to me. Occasionally I hear some music or taste or smell something and I have to stop as tiny pieces of my life come back to me. Sometimes they stay and other times they fade just as quickly. My son, Mark, suggested that I write these memories down and then one day, hopefully, piece by piece they will all come together as a cohesive whole.
For now this will do..
My parents kept a large iron box in which they stored all the photographs taken in their lifetimes and probably the lives of other people that they had passed along the way. My Mother had a little Brownie box camera and we all posed like stock-still puppets while she walked backwards and forwards cupping her hand over the front end of that little black box to block out the sun. We had to gaze into the sun so that the light would be in front and not in the back. So with watering eyes we smiled until just the right moment when we would be captured on paper for almost all eternity.
Wow, the miracle of modern technology... So anyway you're probably asking yourself "So what, all things being equal, all people everywhere did the exact same thing and what's so damn special about this, that I have to waste my time reading about it??"
Well, the answer therein lies in the fact that when I was a child I hated images that portrayed me. I used to wait until my parents went out of the house.. Sneaky, yes, devious, yes, because I had a plan. My parents always locked all cupboards on their departure even if it was for a short while...did they not trust their kids?? Don't know! Anyway this story continues in the strangest way imaginable. I used to break into my parents wardrobe with a knife and look in the usual spot for the iron box of photographs. Dragging the full and heavy box out the cupboard and making sure the other family members were not around, I would systematically go through thousands of old black and white pictures until I came across those that held captive my own image and destroy them........ Oh yes, a few today while I had my private moments, a few the next time my parents left the house and so on and so forth, until I was sure they were all gone.. I never revealed this act to anyone ever, until much later. Unbeknownst to me, other people had copies of the pictures and of course there were the negatives that I had forgotten about. I wonder what I would have done had I realised that I had not totally destroyed my image..
About 3 years ago, I visited my parents home and in a tender moment of reminiscing, my Mother dragged from under a stairway a big box.. Obviously , well perhaps not so obvious, my family had moved Countries three times in all those years, mmmm lets see now, that would be about 40 years had passed. So to get back to the story, I was looking at old photographs and low and behold, I found old negatives of me (that damn child didn't know about the negs, naughty, naughty girl). I was fascinated and took the photographs to be processed. You know???? the pictures were of a very ordinary, rather serious and skinny blond child. Nothing special, except for the absence of the smiles that kids so often give when they know they are being photographed. I have wondered many times "Why did I do that, why??" "What was so wrong in my life?" "Why were people not allowed to see me" "Did I start building that inevitable wall of safety way back then?" "Did I know then, that the wall would be broken down and re-built many times in my life time?" A few things have revealed themselves during visits to a psychiatrist after one disastrous marriage break up, but then that's another story..
My First Marriage
Because our voices can
When the abuse is just too hard to handle
People who have not been mentally or physically abused could not possibly understand the feeling of helplessness and abject fear that invades a victim's very being. It's difficult to explain the control these people possess.
In Durban, South Africa in 1968 at age twenty-one, while ice skating, I met the typical tall, dark, handsome flirt who worked nights there. I was naive enough to believe that he flirted only with me and that I actually meant something to this man. We began dating and after a while he told me he had been married and was paying support for four children.
We had what I thought to be a fairytale romance, and we started living together after a few months. He seemed kind and gentle towards me, until one day he lost his temper and suddenly grabbed me around the neck for no apparent reason. He immediately apologised and at the time, I didn't even consider the significance of this action. During the next year things moved along fairly smoothly. His ex-wife phoned me one day and tried to warn me about what a terrible bully this man was and how he had mistreated their children but I regretfully took no notice.
I also turned my back on all the street fights he continually got into although each one of these caused me a great deal of stress. He decided that we should move to Johannesburg and I cannot remember the reason he gave, but I naturally agreed and we were married there shortly after our arrival. Thankfully we had no children. He worked as an electrician for the council and was often on different shifts which did not coincide with my regular office hours of 8 to 5. Hence, we lived a sort of happy lifestyle for a few years until one day, knowing that something was wrong, I found a photograph of a woman i didn't know, in his wallet.. He explained to me that this woman was just a friend who didn't mean anything to him and that he loved me, that I was the only one for him, etc., etc., etc. In a temper, I decided I could not accept this and made plans to run away.
I had a friend at work who told me I could stay with she and her husband in her flat until such time as I could find myself somewhere to stay. That night my husband came looking for me and in a rage he banged on the door so loudly the neighbours started complaining. We did not want to let him in, but he threatened to continue to make a noise if we refused. To save my friend further embarrassment and inconvenience, I eventually opened the door and had no choice but to go with him. Things continued to deteriorate in our relationship and his behaviour became more and more unpredictable and irrational. Over the coming months, I left several more times only to be forcibly returned.
Most of my friends had given up trying to help me and virtually stayed away from us in order to keep the peace. My parents lived in another State and I wasn't willing to tell them anything was wrong. I had many brothers and sisters but chose to keep all this anguish to myself. It's beyond me why I did not reach out to them for any help. I also cannot explain why I did not go to the police.
Life continued, but I felt I was living in a vacuum and wanted so badly to leave. During this time, another lady at work had commissioned me to do a portrait of her three sons and because of that, we had become friendly. Once again I started making plans to leave. I gave my two weeks notice at work, bought a train ticket to the East London where my parents were living, and prayed everything would go smoothly. He came home one night and asked why I had not prepared his dinner. I told him that I had decided to leave him and that he could prepare his own dinner. He retorted by saying he didn't care at all, that I could leave any time i wished and calmly walked out of the door returning to work. After phoning my parents and letting them know I would be arriving in a couple of weeks, I went to bed in the spare room and felt at peace for the first time in years.
The following day after work, I came straight home and climbed into a nice hot bath to relax. I had my eyes closed and was drifting off to sleep and did not hear my husbands arrival. The next thing I knew, he was holding my head beneath the water trying to drown me. I struggled as much as possible and only near unconsciousness, did he let go of me and I managed to take a breath of air. He simply ran out the house without saying a word and went back to work.
The night after that, he told me he didn't care and that I could leave if I wanted. But the following night it was a different story again and he stormed into the house and demanded food. I reminded him that I was leaving and that I was not prepared to get his dinner. He came up to me calmly and lifted me by my hair and threw me across the room. He came at me, grabbed my head and slammed it into the outer corner of the cement wall. He then dragged me into the kitchen and held my face against the stove and turned the hot plates on one by one. Thankfully, something in his mind must have snapped and he stormed out of the house.
The next day, I spoke with my boss and asked if I might leave before my two weeks notice explaining my problems. I was afraid to not abide by what I believed to be a lawful mandatory two weeks notice. My boss could not see reason and told me that I HAD to stay for the two weeks. It would be many years later when I would learn there never was such a law…
One week remained to serve my full two weeks work notice, but the weekend to come would cut it short. It was Saturday when in uncontrollable anger, my husband threw me to the ground, straddled me and held my throat, strangling me. He screamed that if he could not have me, nobody would. Through my desperation, I managed to scream. My bull terrier heard me and threw himself against the front door. This commotion must have caused my attacker to stop because next thing I knew, I could breathe again and he had driven off in his car.
This was the day, I left for the final time, never to return. About a year later, I was walking along a road and I saw his truck travelling in my direction. He swerved his truck, mounting the pavement in an attempt to run me down. I managed to avoid being hit and ran away.
For me this was a very real and terrible part of my life.
What is it that keeps a person in a physically violent relationship? I cannot explain it but there are many pages on the internet that you can read up on.
One of these is . http://www.athens.net/~rblum/dvpindex.html
|Mark & Kim Nienaber|
© 1997 Esther. All
Rights reserved. Reproduction of this information in whole or in part is strictly
forbidden without the express written permission of the author..
More to come....much much more
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