It was summertime. I guess I would have been about eight years old. We took a drive – my parents, my brothers, and me.
“Wait in the car,” we were told, as they took my younger brother across the street with them. They came back with a boat, and he came back with an armful of apricots. They sat him in the car, between my older brother and I, while they tied the boat on the roof. “Keep him in the car,” they told us.
I was on the drivers side. He climbed over my older brother, on the passenger side of the car, and forced his way out – though we tried to stop him.
He ran across the street to get an apricot he had dropped. My parents didn’t notice. There was no time to tell them.
He picked up his apricot, and ran back across the street. She came driving around the corner. She didn’t have time to see him, I guess. It was a little, blue car – or at least it remains that way in my mind.
“Why didn’t you keep him in the car,” my father screamed at us. My fault. My brother may die, and it’s all my fault, I thought.
I remember the dent in the silver bumper, where it had struck my brother’s head. The crowds of people that gathered around him. The ambulance that took him and my mother away.
My aunt watched us, as my parents spent the rest of the day in the hospital. We lay under blankets on the pull out sofa bed watching movies, as I remember it. They were home late that night – maybe around midnight. So strange, after such an accident.
My sense of time wasn’t great at that age. One morning, my brother didn’t wake up. We were dropped off at our neighbours house, as he was rushed to the hospital. In my mind, the two were connected. I was in my thirties before I learned otherwise.
He spent a large part of a year in the hospital – my mother there with him, leaving me at home with my father… He nearly died many times. Several times, he had died, when they brought him back to life. A string in his nose, a tube in his stomach, seizures, hallucinations… my fault. I should have kept him in the car. My fault he now has special needs, lives on disability, doesn’t think well… my fault. I should have held onto him.
It was somewhere around the same time. My younger brother was in the hospital again – he had been coughing up blood. My older brother and I were at home with my aunt. I was really, really sick. She gave me grape juice. I threw up all down the hallway – I couldn’t make it to the bathroom. She brought me upstairs to lie in bed. “Do you want Brandy to come with you,” she asked. Brandy was my dog. “No,” I said. I didn’t want her to get sick too.
My dad came home. He had bought me a pink canopy bed (I don’t know why he wasn’t at the hospital with my brother.) He left the door open, as he brought the bed in, and set it up. Then he went to move my Grandpa’s suburban that he had borrowed. He screamed my aunts name. My dog had been under the vehicle. He may have only clipped her tail, but she had a heart attack, and died.
If only I had brought her up with me… my fault. I killed my dog. Bad choice.
When I was in the eighth grade, we had a project for music class on composers. I was doing Beethoven. I had trouble working in the library with all my class there. It was too busy. I did my project at home, using our set of encyclopedias (no internet in those days.)
The next day, we were told the “B” encyclopedia had been stolen. The entire school blamed me – all the kids in my class, all the teachers… I tried to defend myself, and one of the girls in my class said, “my mom said that people who are in denial are usually guilty.” I had no way to prove myself innocent.
After a few days, the encyclopedia was returned (it was that girl who had taken it.) I never so much as received an apology. I knew I hadn’t done it, and felt guilty just the same. I learned then that I had no ability to defend myself. If others decided I was guilty, I would have to pay – even though I was innocent.
Shortly after I told on my dad at the age of fifteen, my parents got a divorce. My mom has been living in poverty, caring for my disabled brother since. When he died – though they had remarried by that point, he left her nothing, so that I wouldn’t end up with any of his money. She lives in poverty. My fault.
So when my kids were taken, and I was accused – I can’t defend myself. I always look guilty. Everything is my fault. Though others tell me the system is broken, I have learned to blame myself… even if just for the fact that I haven’t the ability to defend myself.
When I walk into stores, I feel guilty, though I have not stolen anything – what if they think I did?
When I talk to people, I feel guilty – as if I have hurt them, though we may have never met.
A few years ago, I was painting the siding on my house – alone. I was up on the ladder, in a very precarious position. My husband was out of town, camping (I had to work), and was driving home that day. The ladder shook. In that moment, I was terrified that I would fall and die, or my husband would be in an accident and die (all weekend I had been dreading something) and I was afraid for my son being left all alone.
I prayed so hard that we would be spared, for the sake of my son.
That day, as I came down off the ladder, and went in to read my Facebook, I found a man from my church had been killed when his tractor rolled on top of him. It happened at the same time I had been praying to be spared. My fault. If I hadn’t prayed to be saved, I would have died, and he might have lived.
Unreasonable, but that is how I have been taught to think.
So if you talk to me, or read my words, and think, “she sounds guilty,” know that this is why. I know I can’t defend myself, and much as I try to heal from this, I always feel guilty, for everything (I have learned) is my fault.