I throw that question out there, as I ponder it myself. After my father died when I was very young, I had moments of seeing or believing I was experiencing love. Not with a boyfriend. I look back and I see that what I thought was love, as an identification with other and the need to make it right for both of us. An uncannily strong instinct for child abuse victims. Of course we pick or are drawn to the very person who cannot love; and I leave that thought for another day.
One day I was thinking about moments when I knew love was present, during a time when love rarely manifested itself. By the time I was fifteen I had become a full fledged alcoholic, after my appendix burst in the early spring, late winter. Through incredible neglect I was not taken to the hospital until the poisons had reached the outside of my lungs, making breathing intolerable. I felt safe in the hospital, and morphine became a dear dear friend. The nurse who took care of me the most had been engaged to my father before he had married my mother. This nurse had loved my father and she was the first person I could talk to about him. His name was not allowed in our household. All of his pictures had disappeared. So in a way, I got a twisted view point of love here. The same nurse who talked with me about my father, once I could talk, also gave me my pain shots. The two made a heady cocktail. And a sense of safety. My mother and my stepfather were on their good behavior while at the hospital. I dreaded going home. This nurse did care for me, tho I do not remember her well.
But once I got home I began to drink on a daily basis to gain back that safe feeling. Liquid Courage. As I became stronger, I began working nights at a poultry factory, cryovacing broilers. It was a program for school kids who were not doing so hot in school. In reality, for those who didn't show up, like me. I got into an argument with my mother about the fact that she wanted me to pay rent, yet she didn't feed me. I had to hitchike to and from the factory. By this time my stepfather had left and men began to crawl out of the wood work. I told my mother that I hated the way she lived, and she told me to hit the road. I took my horse, Niko, grabbed some clothes and left. We stayed at different houses, but the place we stayed the most was my best friends house. My horse was welcomed there. So was I. This family was very poor and I would wait until I knew that supper was over before I would come into the house to eat. I would eat what was left over. Something I did often. My self worth, in my assessment was in the minus zone.
One day, I'd skipped school and went to party at Salmon's Pond. We were all drinking and smoking pot. Then someone got the idea that we should take the party to my friend Paula's house. A boy approached me. I knew him to be a school jock who wouldn't be seen speaking with me if he hadn't been drunk. He asked if I wanted to ride with him to Paula's house. I said, 'Sure if I can drive." He countered with, 'can we kinda go off somewhere and play around.' The guy creeped me out. It was his hipocracy. Nice white wonder boy all american. Someone who screwed whores and married virgins. So I said, 'sure, we can pull off somewhere, I know the perfect spot." I swear he was dribbling spit. My intent was to say that we were going to drive past Paula's to a wood road I knew of, except I would pull into Paula's and give the old, "Tough luck, Buddy. Next time." But we never made it to Paula's let alone a lonely woods road.
I didn't know how to drive. And this boy's parents had just bought a brand new Squire Stationwagon. The one with board paneling along the side. He was allowed to drive it because he was graduating that spring, in preparation for college. Dad and Mom were mighty proud of son.
As I drove on down the road, I wasn't doing so bad. The boy was sitting on his side of the car which relieved me. The year book was on the seat between us. After six miles or so, I became aware that I was traveling too fast; the car had begun to shimmy and I got scared. So I stepped on the brake to slow down,, only to have the car, in need of an alignment, begin to pull to the opposite side of the road. A dump truck, full of gravel was coming straight at us. I panicked, slammed the break pedal hard twisting the steering wheel to the right as hard as I could.
By the grace of God we missed a very big Oak tree, and then slammed into the side of a garage. The speed of the car had to have been between seventy and eighty, and when we hit the side of that building, I remember seeing white boards going everywhere, almost like Dorothy saw when the tornado began to rip up the farm. Inside the garage was a red convertable just back from being fixed after a snow plow had hit it the winter before. I didn't see the car, or even the oak tree. I learned these things from the local news later that day.
All became dark and soooo quiet. I think the engine had quit. I remember thinking, is this death? Then I hear a moan, and I looked to where it came from, which was the jock. He had a bit of blood on his face, but nothing earth shattering. My side window had been smashed, and the glass hit him going right on by me. The year book was bent up like an accordian. He must have been thrown so hard across the seat and into me that he folded his graduating class. As we began to climb out he said to me, "I was driving. A kid on a bicycle came in front of us. I swerved. My parents will kill me if they knew I let you drive and their insurance won't cover .' Sounded cool to me. Once outside I saw that we had pushed a car and a freezer straight thru the garage and the building had come down on top of us. Pretty wild.
Friends of mine stopped and the boy told me to leave. I was not arguing such sage advice. My friends too me back to the home of the family I was staying with, and I went inside to a back bedroom and passed out, more from exhaustion than alcohol at that point. Probably an adrenaline let down. I don't know how long I was asleep, but suddenly I was rousted out of bed, none too gently and hauled out into the living room. LLoyd the father of the family had a newpaper in his hand. On the front page was a classic picture of the accident. It was titled, "Tight squeeze."
Though I was stated as having been a passenger, it did not calm LLoyd one bit. He was furious. "We bring you in here. We take you and your horse off the damn street. And this is how you repay us? When you were supposed to be in school, you were out getting drunk and God knows what. What is this!"
I could only look at the floor. I had no idea what was coming next, but I was certain, from my early training in discipline, that I had entered the Twilight Zone. Lloyd kept ranting, and something caused me to listen. Closely. He was going on about how I had come home without telling anyone about the accident and went to sleep. I could have had a head injury. I could have died. Didn't I know that? Suddenly I had a moment of awakening. Yes, he was angry...enraged in fact. But not because I wasn't allowing myself to be controlled, not because he was using the situation to abuse me. He loved me. I was one of his kids as sure as his blood kids. He had taught me to drive a sulky right along with his daughters. He had shown me how to harness a pony and train them to a cart. And he loved me. Plain and simple. I know my Grandfather had loved me. And my father and even my mother in her way. But this was the first time I had ever seen anyone upset with me because I was endangering myself. Lloyde was scared for me. He didn't want to lose me.
And so that was my first realization of the difference between anger and abuse, and anger due to love. I always used that example when working with kids from the inner cities in Massachusetts to try to illustrate how abuse is not love, nor is it even anger. It is control. Anger to keep us out of the street from an oncoming bus, now that is love.