I have one baby shoe. It is gray. The paint is chipping off of the toe. The shoe use to be white. I think it is made of leather, but I can’t read the label as it is covered in gray spray paint. My mother told me, “I asked your father to get your baby shoes bronzed, and he sprayed them with gray paint.”
I can imagine my father thinking, “I am not going to spend money on bronze baby shoes when I have a can of gray spray paint in the basement.” My father never bought something at the store if he could make it himself. If I showed my father a bookcase I wanted him to buy for my room, my father would say, “I can make that.” And then he made it.
I can’t ask my father why he didn’t mail my first pair of shoes to a bronzing company, because he is dead. He died on March 17th, 1998.
I can’t ask my father why he didn’t believe me when my mother told him I was molested.
My mother wrote a letter to my father after the man we called Uncle Carl left the house. She told my father Carl had exposed himself to me. I wish I had a copy of the letter my father wrote back to my mother. I want to hold it, read it, and photograph it. A document of the truth. The letter is gone. The words remain.
I can’t ask my father, “Why did you make excuses for Carl. I don’t care that his wife left him. I can not ask my father, “Why didn’t you talk to me, about what happened behind a closed-door, after you came home from your business trip? Why did you say it was probably nothing?”
I have not written about this story for weeks because it is hard for me to write that my father didn’t believe me.
The picture I want to portray of my father is one of perfection. But, my father wasn’t perfect. He made mistakes.
People have asked me why I am writing about something that happened years ago. Why would I want to write about being molested? I feel compelled to share my story. I don’t write because I want to. I write because I have to. The words need to be spoken. The words need to see the light.
The story of abuse I carried inside of me has felt like a growth inside my brain. There are files in my memory, files labeled: child abuse, worthless, shame, my fault. The files were mislabeled. I am valuable. The abuse was not my fault. I am not guilty.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
I didn’t tell my mother about the abuse until weeks after it happened. I wonder what I was thinking that kept me from telling my mother immediately. I had been told to keep it a secret. I tell my children there are no secrets from me and their father. I try to protect them from harm.
“Would My Child Tell? Teaching Kids About Reporting Inappropriate Touching” ,written by Jill Starishevsky, is the best article I have read about protecting children from abuse. Jill is an Assistant District Attorney in New York City. She prosecutes child abuse and sex crimes. She also lists Ten Tips To Keep A Child Body Safe in her article.
I have kept my one baby shoe to remind me of my father. I lost the other shoe years ago.
I like that my father sprayed the shoe with a can of silver spray paint. If my children show me a bookcase in the store they want me to buy, I say, “I can make that.” And then I make it.
I wish my father had believed me.
“Dad, I forgive you for not believing me. I love you.”
These writings refer to Carl Shaack, a Canadian man who died in the early 1990’s. Any resemblance to the name or likeness of any other person using the name Carl, Carl Shaack, or Uncle Carl, is purely coincidental.
The nest post in the series is