Pictoral History

Last week, I was sorting through some boxes in our guest room. A more appropriate name for the room would be “The place where we put boxes of things we think we need, but really do not need most of the stuff in them.” I sorted through a bunch of my husband’s stuff, keeping what was important and starting a box for things that should have been shredded a long time ago. I came to the bottom Rubbermaid container in the stack and pulled the lid off, expecting to find more of his paperwork. To my surprise, it was full of my photograph books and scrap books.

I paged through one book, finding pictures of many stages of life, in no particular order. There were shots from California, Missouri, Illinois, and New York. Various times, various shots of life. It was a fairly pleasant trip down memory lane.

The next book I picked up was a scrapbook I received for my ninth birthday. It had newspaper clippings, pictures of friends from elementary school, letters I received; normal things that are in a young child’s scrap book. I also found a picture and several letters from my pen pal. In my post, “A Friend And A Sister,” I wrote about finding her again after many years of separation.

Part of the words here are hers, but I feel them the same way. She was part of my foundation. She believed in me and cared about me when I was not sure many people did. She shared her life, her hopes, her dreams with me. We grew up together, even though we didn’t  meet until much later. We have known each other at least twenty-eight years, though neither of us remember exactly when we became pen pals. After some discussion, we both think it is actually thirty years. Good lord, that’s a long time.

Thirty years is a long time. I am so honored for her friendship. And I am looking forward to at least thirty more years.

After looking through the scrapbook, I picked up a FedEx envelope. As I looked at the front of the envelope, I knew where it was from. It was from 2006, when I did the interview with Jan Goodwin for O Magazine for the article, “Please Daddy No.” It was the envelope in which the photos I sent were returned to me from Oprah’s staff.

I did not remember what pictures might be in the envelope.  I opened it cautiously, a little afraid of what would be in there. There were several pictures of my family. All of them contained my father. At first, my brain went fuzzy and my heart clenched. These were not pictures I was prepared to see. But then, as I looked at them, I realized I could put them away. I could shred the pictures if I wanted to. I could burn them or tear them up and throw them away. The pictures of my father did not need to have power over me. I am not there anymore and do not need to feel fear of a picture.

Previously, the pictures filled me with dread. When the O Magazine staff requested pictures, I had to ask my mother for some because I didn’t have any. I didn’t want any. And realistically, I probably could not have had any without feeling terrified all the time.

I do not feel this way any more. I don’t particularly want the pictures, but I haven’t decided what to do with them yet. Until I decide, I can leave them in the envelope and not feel ill going into that room. He does not have that kind of power in my life anymore.

I cannot say what it would be like to see my father in real life, but I also do not feel the need. I don’t feel controlled by the place where he is anymore, nor do I feel drawn to it just to see if I feel the same way I always did. What he does now does not affect me. I have done everything possible to let other people know what and who he is. If they choose not to listen, I cannot change that. It will never keep me quiet, but I don’t see it as defeat.

I would love to hear about your experiences when you saw pictures of your abuser. It is okay to say that you tore them up and threw them away, shredded them, or burned them.

It is not easy, but I hope you are at a point, or get to a point, when the picture doesn’t have as much power over you. The shame is the abusers; not yours. You are an amazing survivor.