I’m sitting outside as I type this, closing my eyes as I feel the mild temperature’d wind against my face, hearing the whisk of cars pass by while a basketball bounces in a neighbor’s backyard. The light blue sky is without a cloud, but I can see the faint remnants of a chemical trail (ugh)… I guess this scenario couldn’t be perfect, but damn is it close. I woke up this morning in a bit of a funk; I’ve actually been waking up between 3:30 – 5am the last three nights. I can’t exactly pinpoint what’s going on, but as I sit outside and allow my senses to take over, I’m simply able to breathe with gratitude. I suppose I’ll use that as a segue and express my gratitude for our guest writer, Sydney – I’m so glad we reconnected at our self-made 10 year reunion. Anytime there’s a pool, trampoline, and plenty of delicious food around, you’re bound to reclaim meaningful connections. Sydney so, so graciously wrote for Coffee With A Question, sharing her childhood traumas with us, not so we could be sad for her, but because she needed to write… sorry, Syd, I know you basically cover that in the first paragraph, but hey, I’ve been know to be a tad repetitive. With that, let’s jump in.
Hello, world. My name is Sydney Bogart; I’m 29 and was born in Farmington, New Mexico. I know we all have many battles throughout our lives; sometimes those wounds leave us yearning for sympathy, while other times, it’s just important to get the words out. In my case, it’s the latter. As you could’ve guessed from the week’s topic of ‘Childhood Trauma’, that’s what I’ll be diving in to.
My dad met my mom when he was 23, but if we want to rewind a bit further, I could tell you he has three older siblings – they were raised by a single mom who struggled emotionally and financially. He started experimenting with drugs and alcohol at an early age and as the cliché goes, he dropped out of high school, though he did decide to revisit the world of education and entered a community college in an attempt to piece his life back together. My mom was 21 when he walked through the doors of a travel agency and he immediately fell in love.
My mom grew up in a small town in Colorado with two supportive parents and four siblings; she was the quintessential small-town girl with a wholesome heart. She was a member of the Christian club, key club, and a varsity cheerleader, but these small-town victories wouldn’t suffice – she had her sights set on greater things. After high school, she received
her degree and traveled the world before returning home to work at a travel agency… the travel agency, where she would meet my father, soon after, moving with him to New Mexico.
It didn’t take long for them to exchange nuptials, and it seemed to take even less time for my dad’s addiction to rear its ugly head, along with a violent temper. My mom was pregnant with my oldest sister when the edges of their relationship started to fray, but as most addicts would attest to, manipulation becomes second nature. He would threaten her often, and ultimately scared her enough to stay, for eleven years, before she mustered the courage to
finally leave him. Unfortunately, even though she moved back home, the custody agreement stated the children were required to see him four times every year.
I was very young when my parents divorced so I don’t have any clear memories of what life was like before they separated. Instead, my relationship with my dad was built in the years following.
I remember visiting him when I was eight years old. My dad purchased a large piece of land on the outskirts of town, where he built his house – he had dirt bikes, 4-wheelers, and go-carts, which we regularly rode when staying with him. It was easy for him to remain intoxicated when he didn’t have to drive us anywhere. I remember begrudgingly agreeing to share a go-cart with another kid because the others were taken; I strapped in and we were off; seconds later, I was sure he had his foot pressed all the way down – we were zooming by everyone. I started begging the kid to slow down – he didn’t. Debris was flying up when he zipped around a corner and my body launched out; I hit a patch of gravel head first, my arms following shortly after, while the go-cart’s seat belt had my foot wrapped, causing my body to drag behind it for what seemed like years before the driver realized what had happened.
Despite my serious need for immediate medical attention, my dad and his friends decided not to call 911 as they were severely under the influence of illegal substances. I remember writhing in pain for over an hour, rocking back and forth, examining the large patches of skin that were no longer on my body before heading to the emergency room, which is where I learned I also had a broken elbow. I would miss about a month of school due to the severity of these injuries, but because he didn’t cause the accident, and there was no proof of his illegal intoxication, I would make another trip out to New Mexico in the near future.
Christmas Eve was the near future; my mom rented a house close to his so she could pick us up after we opened presents with him on Christmas morning. I hardly slept the night before, as you would expect from an eight-year-old, eager to hear Santa’s sleigh land on the roof. When it was finally an acceptable time to be awake, I ran to the living room with excitement, hoping Santa ate all the cookies we baked, and left us gifts for being so well behaved throughout the year. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, there were no gifts and the cookies remained untouched; I thought I was on the naughty list, but there was no coal that I could find. I remember the hot tears forming in my eyes as I ran to wake my dad and tell him what happened, but he wasn’t there; he’d left us in the middle of the night and passed out
somewhere. Obviously, this is the year I learned Santa wasn’t real, but despite this disappointment, my heart yearned for my dad’s affection. I wanted him there with us, sober, sharing hot cocoa under a blanket, just spending time together…
When I was nine, my sisters and I joined my dad for a trip in Mexico (note, my mom was working to void the visitation requirements at the time). On the second night, my dad revealed he had been with a prostitute the evening prior and was convinced she’d stolen his watch; he said he would pay me if I searched the camp ground and found it… luckily, I
did, and learned about prostitutes. The following night, I was in the truck with my dad when he decided to stop at a bar, instructing me to wait inside, coming out hours later, hardly able to stand. He threw me the keys, demanding I drive us back to the camp site… again, I was nine and the last driving experience I had was sitting as the passenger in a go-cart
where I lost chunks of skin. I couldn’t even figure out how to turn the key in the ignition and became paralyzed with fear; my dad passed out as I sat in the musty truck, crying for an hour until he woke up frustrated, and drove us back. I didn’t want to step foot back in that vehicle, or any vehicle for that matter, and I just wanted my dad to get that, to love
me and hold me and tell me everything was okay, but that’s not what happened. The following, and final night, I was back in the cage (truck) where I thought I could’ve died from fear, but fortunately, this time, he took me inside the bar with him. The dim bar, where everything felt wet and dirty. I sat on one of the spinning barstools, sipping a water as I
looked at the old people stumbling around on the dance floor. Twenty minutes later, I heard a loud commotion and saw my dad getting handcuffed – apparently, he’d damaged the property (of course). As I saw the policemen forcing my dad out front towards their car, my fear came flooding back, along with the tears as I pleaded with the officers not to take him away; I was alone and didn’t know where our campsite was. Fortunately, they had sympathy and drove us both back to the grounds. I didn’t feel relief though, I felt like my dad would never be the loving, dependable father that I so desperately wanted him to be, which would bring me massive shame and guilt, like I’d done something wrong.
I’ll fast forward through the details of the horrific accident he got into when I was 12, which partially paralyzed the left side of his body, and jump right into Christmas Eve at age 14… something about that time of year, huh? Up to this point, his anger would result in an impulsive sort of aggression, for instance, he would pick me up by my arm and let go so I
would topple to the ground, or he’d throw something hard at us, or, if we did something to upset him while he was driving, he would pull over, yank one of us out of our seat and throw us down onto the pavement. The outcome being scrapes and bruises, but in our mind, it was mild – we were technically okay. This time was different though… shortly after my mom dropped us off, we realized how overly intoxicated he was (okay, that part isn’t different) and he started bickering with one of my sisters. She said something (none of us remember what) that struck a chord in him, so he struck back… literally. It was like slow motion, I watched his arm pull back while his fingers clenched together to form a fist – his knuckles met her face with such force I immediately started crying. I saw the rage in his eyes, knowing he wanted to cause pain, knowing he wanted to see us hurt. The punching continued as he shared his rage with all of us, pinning some of us to the ground to pull out chunks of hair. As soon as my sister was able to move again, I remember scrambling to retrieve the house phone and bolting outside to call 911 with the rest of them. I still recall how calming the operator’s voice was, assuring me everything would be okay, and despite the terror we’d just endured, and despite our heart rates going through the roof, she was right, everything would be okay. I don’t know if he passed out from the exhaustion of beating us, but we waited outside for the police to arrive, and shortly after, he was arrested for child abuse. We would never have to see him again.
The memories (nightmares) would flash through my head in loops at times, and you can imagine the fears I faced when it was time to get my license. But he reached out four years later, during one of his stints in rehab, making a heartfelt amends, which I accepted, thinking he’d finally changed and could be the dad I needed. Unfortunately, his sobriety was short lived, as was our reconciliation.
As I navigated my way through college, I would think about him less and less, and as my relationship with my now husband grew stronger, the easier it was to realize I didn’t want my dad in my life. I now have a two-year-old son and couldn’t be more grateful that he’s growing up in a healthy, loving environment, with a father that would do anything to protect him.
Don’t worry, my childhood wasn’t all grim though; despite having a parent that thought of himself first and foremost, with no strong desire to tackle his demons, I had my mom, who always made me feel like her priority. She showed up to every soccer game (when you play for twelve years, they add up), she would bring me special lunches at school just to spend time with me, she would volunteer on school committees, and just be there, every time I needed her. So, thank you, mom, for doing it all – you’re my best friend and the reason I’m such a strong, resilient woman today.
Like I said, I just knew I needed to get my story out, maybe for the sole purpose of allowing some more healing for myself, or maybe it helps one person feel less shame about their own childhood. Either way, seeing how far I’ve come brings me so much peace of mind, as I can see how capable I am, to get through anything.
I told Sydney how much her stories made me look at my childhood through a different lens; I’d always wanted my real dad in my life, despite the fact that he was an extreme alcoholic. But we all go through our own turmoils for a reason, and that reason, I believe, is always to allow for growth.
So thank you again, Sydney, you special, beautiful soul.
Committed To Curiosity