I grew up on a farm in a small town in Michigan. I can tell you that it was a good childhood in most respects. We worked hard on our farm, and we had a big family so there was always someone to play with or talk to. My brother, Johnny and I were very close and he was sort of like a protector for me.
One time when I was probably six or seven, we were picking asparagus for a local farmer. We were paid 50 cents an hour. Cash. When it came time to get our money, we would stand in line waiting for some guy to put coins into our dirty hands. Johnny watched carefully and caught that the man was trying to under pay me and spoke up, demanding my fair share. He was always looking out for me, and I knew I could tell him anything.
My mother’s parents lived in Honor, Michigan, which was about two hours away from us. Every now and then, my parents would pack us up in the DeSoto and we would head there for a visit. My Grandma was a stern woman. She always had an apron on and I can honestly say, I don’t remember seeing her out of the kitchen.
As soon as we would arrive, my brother Johnny and I would run straight to Grandpa because he would always have candy in his front shirt pocket, knowing we were coming. It was a fun tradition.
I don’t recall any other traditions or fun things about our visits there. Maybe because everything else is shadowed by what would happen at night in that house.
Grandma had cots set up in the attic, where she put some of us. It was a big attic without electricity, and just a small window to let any moonlight in. I’m not sure who else slept in the attic, I just remember having my own little cot.
I also remember that my grandfather would come in sometime during the night and get into my cot with me…
He would lay down behind me and touch me in ways that little girls shouldn’t be touched. I would lie there looking out that window, wishing for it to be over. After he left, I would feel so ashamed and dirty. And I would cry, but only on the inside. I was afraid if I actually cried, someone would hear me and I would have to explain what I was crying about. So I kept quiet.
This went on for years, and I never told anyone. I knew better than to. I didn’t want to hear “How could she do that to him?”. I was sure I would be blamed, so I kept my mouth shut.
Until I was in my 53…when I met another John. He was the first and only person I told, until recently. I don’t even know why I told him, but it just came out. He held me while I cried and cried. He told me it wasn’t my fault. He assured me over and over that I wasn’t to blame, and I was still a good person.
I have to wonder what would have happened if I had told my brother Johnny years ago. Looking back, I’d like to think he would have protected me.
I think I picked my John to share this with because I no longer needed protection, just love and understanding, and a safe place.
I’m sharing this with you now, because I believe you are a safe place too.