October 12, 2007
by Tammy Harrison
Age 11 at the time - Sixth Grade
In 1975, my childhood ended and my life became a mess; beyond a mess really. It was a mess that I had no control or say-so over. My dad had suffered a cerebral aneurysm burst in the back of his brain -- more than one blood vessel had blown up in his head - and my mother was incapable of caring for herself, let alone her five children. (But she tried!) After fighting with one of Dad's brothers to keep her five children, she moved us all back to our hometown to live with her.
Mom attempted to be both a mom and a dad to us. She got us enrolled in school and things started appearing normal again. I was in the sixth grade. Dad was still recovering in the hospital.
For some reason, there was a girl in my class who didn't like me. Glenda. I still, to this day, have no idea why she didn't like me. I rarely talked, as I was painfully introverted because of my family life. I had no friends that were in my class as all of my friends who lived in my neighborhood were either older, younger or went to other schools.
Glenda was just flat-out mean. And I was a prime target for her anger because I didn't talk back and didn't fight back.
She'd walk into class in the mornings, and I'd be sitting at my desk. If the teacher wasn't in the room, or if she had her back turned, Glenda would tower over me and pummel me. Right in front of everyone. She just pounded my head and arms. No one laughed. No one helped. They just watched and when Glenda was done, she went to her desk and sat down as if nothing had happened.
I did nothing.
My parents were both abusive alcoholics, which means that when they drank beer, they got mean and beat each other up. I'd lived a life of people hitting each other--all the time. If it wasn't my parents fighting, it was one of my brothers fighting. Or my aunts and uncles. Even at my young age, I'd decided that if Mom would just quit fighting Dad back, she'd spare herself a lot of pain, bruises and unexplained hospital visits.
So, I sat there and took my beating from Glenda.
Every school day from August through February of my sixth grade school year.
One morning, the hospital called and said Dad was gone. He died in February 1976. Mom gathered us around and told us. We cried because she was crying, but he'd been gone from our home for six months already, so we'd already had time to get used to not having him around.
I missed school for a few days to attend the funeral.
When I returned to school, I sat at my desk that morning waiting for my daily torture session from Glenda.
It didn't happen.
Instead, at my desk was a packet of sympathy cards from my classmates (including one from Glenda.) I don't remember what they said, or even what hers said. All I know is that from that day on, Glenda left me alone. She never raised another fist to me. I suppose she figured the pain I was now feeling from the loss of my dad was enough for her, she'd moved on to hurt someone else.
Thankfully we went to different junior high schools. Within three months of my dad's death, my mother got tired of his family's interference in our lives and she abandoned us. (Left us! My mother left her children while we were at school. I still can't believe it, over 30 years later!) I was put into foster homes since I refused to live with my dad's family, who had taken my sister and three brothers. Then Mom committed suicide the next year, because the family wouldn't let her have her children back. She killed herself because she couldn't love her kids again.
I was lucky though, because I had my Gramma from Tramma. She was my mom's mother, and she and I had a very special relationship. She loved me like no one else did and she treated me as if I were the princess in her castle.
It would seem all was okay, but I still had that old resentment. In my mind there was still retribution, retaliation and revenge to be had on Glenda. I took to this goal as my mission in life. She'd hurt me when I was already hurting. She beat me when I was already down. She could not have cared less about my feelings or my soul - she had her own agenda and that involved my oppression. In the world that I'd come from, I'd thought I'd never be free of my feelings towards her until I let her have it, once and for all.
I played basketball in the ninth grade. Our school happened to play her school. And there, walking into the gym, all cocky and excited with pre-game anticipation, was Glenda. I'll never forget the way I felt when she came into my view. I was no longer the introverted, gotta-take-someone-else's-punishment type of person. I had overcome a lot of issues, especially since defying my dad's family and living where I wanted to live. I wasn't taking anyone else's crap anymore. Glenda's included.
But, guess what? Glenda didn't remember me! She didn't give me a second look. She was all mouthy and still a thug, but she didn't single me out because she didn't remember me. This told me she'd treated many others the same way she treated me - and she was so self-confident that she felt she was above reproach.
When we went to the locker room for half-time the coach gave us a pep talk. He happened to mention something about Glenda and how she'd had a tough life, that she was a fighter on and off the court and that we were to stop her but be careful because she played rough. She came from a broken home and ran the streets getting in to fights and had been in trouble with the law because she didn't have anyone who cared about her.
With those words I suddenly felt lucky! I had love from my very special Gramma; love that will stay with me forever and ever--and Glenda didn't!
I smiled a very smug smile, knowing that her "tough life" was payback, and I didn't even need to lift a finger or say a mean word to her. Nope, I just stood there and took it with a smile that never left my face for the rest of the game. Glenda needed love - and regardless of how awful my life was, I had something that she'd never had-- love! I didn't need to take anymore action against her. My conscience was clear without me hurting her or myself. And I went home and called my Gramma and thanked her for loving me.