Review: Bitter Memories
Take some blue and some black paint and a paintbrush and smooth the blue on one side of a face and the black on the other. Let them set and dry. Add some red blotches, welts and huge bruises, and what do you see?
Visualize the face that is covered with black and blue paint and bruises and you will see abuse, but not every kind. This is just the tip of the pain. Add to this a smack with a hand, the welts from a belt buckle or strap and the intense heat from a hot iron or scalding water and even then you do not have the pain and horror that some children encounter when their parents decide to destroy their innocence, take away their childhood memories and create their own private house of horrors, nightmares and pain. Some scars are left on the outside for the world to see and pity, others are more devastating as they are hidden within the mind, heart and soul of the victim, leaving them alone, cold and scared. Sarah never had a chance. Her father decided that for her as he stole her away from her mother at the age of three, teaching her how to live in a world filled with crime and using her for his own personal gratification and need. One precious child, one innocent youth many Bitter Memories.
Imagine moving into the home of your grandparents who did not think your father was worth anything. Imagine that they were right. Imagine a child of three hearing her parent’s quarrel over the fact that she had the nerve to be born and make their lives difficult. Imagine her mother going to work and wanting to earn a living and her father threatening her if she did not quit. Imagine hearing your father say to your mother, “If you wanted a kid you should stay home with it.” Why would you ever keep this man in your life? Why would you allow him to consider your child an object, an It? Sarah blamed herself and became fearful of her parents. All she heard was yelling and screaming and would take her only friend, her doll Judy and hide. Sarah prayed for the Lord to take her home to him in order for her parents to be happy. No matter how hard she tried her father did not love her. No child deserves this. Her mother had been married numerous times before, and her parents did not want her to marry her father. She should have listened.
In the middle of the night Sarah hears a voice in her ear telling her to get dressed and be quiet. Unconditional love is hard to find and that is why she never questioned her father and went along with him thinking they were going to come back and get her mother. What happens is frightening as her Uncle Henry saves her from what would happen again. Brought home to her mother they never figure that her father would do it again. Losing many jobs, injuring her mother, violent and cold to Sarah, everyone thought the worst was over. Once again her father came to her in the middle of the night but this time he succeeded. Placing her in the back of the car, mistreating her, mean and telling her to stay quiet, Sarah spent hours in the back seat of the car—cold, hungry, dirty and afraid. When they finally stopped, it would land them a home for a short time as her father befriended a waitress named Martha. But, after months of comfort and feeling somewhat secure a fight ensued and once again she was on the road with this sick and deranged man. Leaving the woman’s house in shambles they traveled many hours and miles while Violet, her mother became a drunk, violent, and despondent. With the help of her family and her sister who did nothing but make things worse, Violet eventually had to be placed in a sanitarium for her own sake. But, Sarah had no idea of her mother’s anguish, plight or fears being told she was dead and no longer a part of her life.
What happens next should never happen to a young child or any child. Her father calmed down and the end of her innocence is born as she is forced into a dreamlike world in order to exist when the man that is supposed to be your protector uses your love to gratify his male needs. Telling her this was the way he would show her he loved her and making her touch him, which she knew was wrong, was the way. Do you hear the angel’s voice whispering to her and protecting her? Hearing the voices in her head she would learn that she takes the humiliation and pretended to be talking to someone else in her head. Wishing he did not love her so much, she sent herself into what you might call a suspended animation. There were four voices in her head that would protect her and keep her safe from harm. Her father loved to con women and he managed to get what he wanted and free food too. The angel’s voice would haunt her and tell her how smart her father was. Women stayed for a day or two and expected him to work but he wanted to take from them and not work. Leaving some in the middle of the night, her father would trash their houses as a reminder that he was there, leaving them just like me with nothing. Added to his cunning and sick ways he even justified stealing from these women and taught her to do the same. No matter how many women he met they always left in a hurry, but once with one thousand dollars left in a cookie jar. Once again on the road and now in Wyoming.
Telling her about his brother and saying they would stay with him. But, the man she met and the reason she was introduced to him was not what you think. She would now learn what a trick meant and the raw meaning of the word used. Sent upstairs with the sons, she would learn another game and hear the angels speak. What happens next is sick, will make your stomach turn and truly turn your insides to stone. If she told, they would hurt her. But, no one would stop the boys and her Uncle from their sick and perverse acts, not even their mother. Sarah drifted in and out of consciousness, even her father thought she would die. Temperature so high they would finally call a doctor. When they finally left, Sarah would know the true meaning of HATE. Fever burning and hoping her guardian angel would protect her, they left hoping to find a doctor for her. Not able to communicate and tell them what happened, she thought they just were not listening as she recounts for the reader the reason she got sick. What the doctor and his wife saw alerted them to the fact that she was bruised and abused, so why didn’t they call the police?
When her father meets Janet and decides to remain there with her, Sarah’s life turns into more than just a living nightmare. Leaving her alone with this sick and demented person, she used Sarah to make money by selling Sarah’s body for twenty dollars to as many men as possible. A young child caught in a web of lies, deceit, hate and in her own world filled with four guardian angels, hoping they would save her from what would come next. But, when a break is made and her father decides to finally leave, she winds up with his sister and the abuse only gets worse.
When her Uncle Henry finally gets some information about her whereabouts and they finally bring her home, she hopes that her mother will remain with her forever. But, Violet is too far-gone and gets drunk and soon the worst happens. Somehow she falls off a banister and the truth behind her death lies buried. Living with her grandparents brought her some joy, but living with her Aunt Olivia and Uncle Henry, was no better than living with her father. The abuse continues, as her aunt did not really want her around, blamed her for things she could never have done and the loneliness inside of her never left. What does happen and how she manages to survive, you need to read for yourself.
When the reality of her situation finally hits her, and she gets the help she really needed, will Sarah ever be whole? Will she realize that what happened to her was not her fault and that she is special, really kind, smart and deserves to live a life that other kids have?
Told in Sarah’s own voice, you can feel the pain, the sorrow, shed the tears along with her and hide when the belt or worse is about to hit, as author Sue Julsen tells this true life story of what happens when everyone turns a blind eye and abuse is allowed to fester, but in the final analysis it does not win.
To all parents, grandparents, educators, pastors, guidance counselors and family members you need to report abuse when you see it. You need to protect our children and not let this happen to anyone you know. If you even suspect a problem, you need to tell. As an educator, I learned the signs and did not think twice about reporting abuse whether physical, mental or sexual to save a child. What frightens me is that somewhere out there, there is another Sarah. Thank you Sue for sharing your story, and thank you for the honor of reviewing your book. Let’s take that blue paint and black paint and spill them out and replace them with the color of the beautiful faces of all of the children in this world with perfect smiles.