Wednesday, 5 September 2007

MY STORY Chapter 3 - Early Family Life

I would like to acknowledge the help I have received in getting a new header up and running.
Linda of Crafty Gardener very kindly did this for me.
Like most others I'm sure I will be experimenting with different pictures over time.
For new visitors to my blog who might be interested, Introduction and chapter 2 can be found listed under My Story on the sidebar

Chapter 3 Early Family Life

In the last chapter I majored on my memories of life during World War 2. This chapter covers more personal family life up until the time I met Alan and we got married. Obviously it is only a flavour as it would take forever to go into detail. My childhood was painful and traumatic at times due to a violent and heavy drinking Father.

I don’t have a lot of memories of the very early years. We lived with my maternal Grandparents, my Father being at sea in the Navy for some of the time. I remember an elderly great Uncle also living in the house who was suffering from Dementia and to a small child this was very frightening. I used to run past his bedroom door, hoping that he would not appear. Also during the war years we gave a boarding base to 3 French sailors whenever they were in the country.

It was after we moved to our own home when I was about 5 that I recall things becoming very difficult. I remember one particular day when my Father sat me on the kitchen table and asked me who I loved best, him or my Grandfather. Being young I obviously did not understand the implications of the question so just told the truth – my Grandfather. My Father went into a rage shaking me violently and beating up my Mother. Looking back I realise that my Father must have been deeply jealous of the input my maternal Grandparents had in my life. For me it was a lifesaver. Also I now see that he was a very disturbed and unhappy man.

My Mother’s only sibling, my Aunt, did not marry until she was 38 so she lived at home with my Grandparents too and she was like a second Mother to me. She adored me as I was her only niece. She paid for elocution, tap and ballet lessons, bought and made me clothes, and generally made a difference in my life.

When I think of my home life the over riding sense is one of physical and emotional abuse, accompanied by constant fear and tension which increased the nearer it got for the time for my Father to return from work. There were many times when we were not even allowed to speak and I was very afraid to be alone with my Father. Once when out alone with him in the countryside in the dark I was absolutely terrified that I would not survive. To this day I do not know why. My Mother spent her time trying to ‘keep the peace’ and as a result suffered a lot of depression and ill health. We moved to a larger house when I was about 8 years old. I had 2 surviving brothers by this time and was able for the first time to have a bedroom of my own.

From a young child, I always had a deep awareness of God (I was told that I stood on the platform at church, aged 4, saying that I wanted to be a missionary) and in these traumatic times I came to know God in a personal way. He became my personal Saviour when I gave my life to Him at a Youth for Christ meeting when I was 11 and was baptized in water. Alone at night I remember really sensing the presence of God as I talked to Him and prayed.

When I was 10 years old I was awarded an Art Scholarship. I went to a Grammar school, my parents preferring this to the Liverpool Art School where the Beatles later went. I did not enjoy the Grammar school and always felt that I did not fit in.

Around this time my Father went to live in London. I never knew why, nobody ever said. While there out of loneliness he went to a Pentecostal church and gave his life to Christ. He then came home but nothing seemed to have changed except that he stopped drinking and smoking. He started breaking up lots of crockery in the home. Apparently this had been stolen and he wanted nothing more to do with it. For a child this was frightening and bewildering. I was still frightened of him and he became maniacal in his beliefs. We were forced to kneel down for ages in the evenings while he prayed long prayers. His God was not the God I knew, I did know that. We were not allowed friends in the house during the whole of my childhood and in a way I was glad as I did not want friends to know what was going on at home.

It was in this environment that I came to really know God for myself, I truly knew Him as a friend, comforter and Saviour. I would be locked in my bedroom at night, with no access to my Mother, too afraid to call out, even when ill, as this would disturb my Father. However I did know God as my strength and reality and would pray and talk to Him endlessly.

When I was 11 years old my Aunt married and went to live about 200 miles away, much further north and on the other side of the country. This meant that I was able to go and stay with her for school Summer holidays. I have lasting memories of the good times I had. When I was 13 my fourth brother was born. It came as a shock as that was the last thing I could ever have imagined at that age. As I was that much older I was expected to be very hands on in helping to care for him, so we bonded well. My Father took a special interest in him and cared for him in a way he never did the rest of his children. He always said that he felt he had been given a second chance with this child.

When I was 15 my Father took a glass of Guinness because he was unwell and that was the beginning of his drinking again and his walking away from God. He became more violent than ever and I was witness to some very unpleasant scenes of physical, mental and emotional abuse of myself, my brothers and my Mother. I would walk the streets at night crying and praying as I was often too frightened to go home.

My life outside of home was very different. I belonged to the Girl Guides and Rangers and spent many weekends camping. I was a Campanologist (Bell ringer). I bought my first bicycle at 16 and spent many weekends with friends cycling around the mountains of North Wales. Jobs were easy to come by in the 50’s so I tried a number of avenues before finding out what I really wanted to do. There were many happy memories.

However, there was one memory that was not a happy one, and it shows how different things could be in those days. I took a job in a company importing fruit and after some weeks I began to feel very uneasy. I sensed there were things going on behind the scenes that were not right. I was asked to go into work one Sunday morning and the scene I witnessed was so shocking that I could not write about here. I left abruptly. When I went in to work the next day my desk had been put out into the corridor and all my belongings piled on top of it. I was so traumatised by this whole event that I left the city and went to live with my Aunt for some months and got a job near to her. I did not even tell my parents what had happened.

In all this confusion and agony I began a serious relationship with a non-Christian and stopped attending church. I was looking for love and acceptance and ended up in wrong and sinful relationships. However, the more I travelled down this road I was aware of God prompting me (almost like a parrot sitting on my shoulder). He kept saying that there was no other way but Him. I felt that God’s hand was on me and that He would not let me go. I also did nothing about it as I felt too sinful. I somehow felt that I had to get my act together and become a much better person before God would accept me. Grace was something that I did not understand at that point. I also thought it was down to me and not God to change my life.

be continued……………..


Penless Thoughts said...

Oh dear Barbara, you have written so tastefully of a very difficult upbringing. I respect & admire your doing so. I can only imagine this was very heart wrenching for you to relive as you wrote it.

It is so wonderful that the hand of God was so evident to you at such a vulnerable time in your young life. I look forward to the story that will emerge as God works in your life. As you yield yourself to the True Living God who loves us so and become the lovely person you are :o)

Thanks for caring enough to share yourself with us.
Your Okie friend and fellow believer,

Cousin Pam said...

Dear Barbara
Your story has brought tears to my eyes. I wonder whether my mother and our grandmother ever knew the real truth. It goes to show how much influence the Lord has had in your life to make you the person you are today. Without him.....the prospect it too frightening.
Thank you for being brave enough to drag up painful memories and write about it all.
Love Pamx

Betty Jo said...

Oh Barbara I so relate as my father was an alcoholic too and my mother followed in his footsteps in later years. I truly enjoy reading of your life. God has been my true Father too, as he has yours, and it has changed my entire life. I wonder sometimes if we would appreciate Him so much if it weren't for our painful pasts. xoxo

Willow said...

Thank you so much for sharing your life. I will carry the story with me to school today and possibly look at my students in a new light. Interestingly, my father was saved at a Youth For Christ rally in Portland, Oregon, in Dec 1946. He went with my mother because he wanted to date her and she'd only go out with him if he went to YFC. Three and a half weeks later they were married!

Lorrie said...

Your story tugged at my heart. From such a difficult childhood, the Lord revealed himself to you. How great is our God!


Betty said...

How gracious you are to share the difficulties you faced growing up...needless to say I'm sure there are many who faced adversities also.

I, like you, loved God from an early age.....not that I've always been obedient but so thankful that our Heavenly Father is forgiving and loving. I'm so grateful He bestows mercy and not justice to His children.

I'll wait with anticipation to hear more of your story and the grace that He lovingly gave His child named Barbara....Betty

Sara said...

Your story is heartrending but also full of hope, and thank you for sharing it. I'm looking forward to the future installments. I know a little something about what you are describing, both from my own life and from some friends. Isn't it so wonderful how when we look back we can see that despite it all the Lord has had His hand on us and brought us to the places we now are, where we can praise and thank Him and maybe offer something hopeful to others too.

Maddy said...

All of those things make the person you are today, we can't change our past but we can be grateful that the past shaped our futures.

I'm sure the next instalment must be filled with love and happiness.


nikkipolani said...

I'm looking forward to you continued story, Barbara. How God has worked and guided and protected and comforted you. Truly, it is often through difficult times that we really draw close to Him.

melissa @ the inspired room said...

What a life you have had! Thanks for sharing it so we could get to know you better. I will look forward to more installments of your story.

Teresa said...

Barbara, the way you can put across such horror and devastation, without being judgemental or indiscreet is certainly a testimony to your wisdom. I am so sorry for all that you endured here. This is not my story, it is yours, but suffice it to say, we have traveled similiar paths. I think children that are abused, whether it be by negliect or aggression, feel such shame that they do not know how to fit in with others, and such pain and fear of further rejection, they would not risk trying to fit in even if they did know how. How wonderful that you had such a bent to our Heavenly Father. So often, we see God through the window of who our earthly father was. You saw beyond that. Praise, God!

I believe you were speaking prophetically, when you were on that platform. You are a missionary now, in your personal like, and in this blog. Thank you.