A Child’s Heartbreak

Selene Maldonado's personal narrative from Mr. Gibbon's English 1010 class, written September 4th, 2018.

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It was late at night, my mother and I were in bed. My dad stumbled in the room trying to get ahold of my mom, but all I could hear was incoherent mumbling. Next thing I knew my dad was dragging my mom outside, yelling. He was pulling her to where our adobe stove was. I was terrified as any four year old would be. I wasn’t sure what was happening or why; it was an everyday occurrence for my dad to come home late at night, drunk. This night he seemed more vicious and wouldn’t leave my mom alone. I don’t recall exactly how it happened, but I know he was hitting her and that’s when my mom pushed him back. She grabbed him by the throat and wouldn’t let go, I started yelling for help.

I was crying uncontrollably as everything froze, time seemed nonexistent. Tears streamed down my face as I stood anxiety taking over every inch of my little body. My frantic screams kept coming but the fear in my voice no longer seemed to be heard. I felt powerless as I had many times, I could see all the built up frustration in my mom being let out. She had allowed him to hurt and humiliate her for so long and she’d had enough. Eventually my screams were heard by a neighbor and they came running. They got my mom off my dad, and I could see the disbelief in his eyes. He was confused and scared, the look he had left on my mother’s face many times. The numbness in my chest never left. The rest of that night was a blur, I just remember waking up the following morning and going into town with my mom.

We went to town to run some errands, but this time she had a look of determination. She called my older sister to tell her what had happened, a few days later we left. My oldest sister had arranged for us to leave my abusive father behind. My mother woke my sister and me up one morning and told us we were leaving to “Los Estados Unidos”. We needed to leave before my dad got home, and catch a bus out of town. We took a cab to the nearest city and bought three bus tickets; somebody had told my dad. He caught up to us as we were waiting and told us he was taking us back home. I was relieved because I knew I got car sick on long rides, but I knew what was in it for my mom if we went home.

It was around noon by this time and all the stands around the plaza were starting to open. I innocently asked my dad if he could buy me a milkshake from the shop down the street and he said yes. I didn’t know that it would be our way out. When my dad walked away my mother picked me up and put me on the bus. As we were driving away I could see my dad coming back to where we had been standing. His eyes searched for us in the crowd as panic filled his face. The feeling of helplessness came over me; a feeling that I had felt so often in those first 4 years of my life. I didn’t know at the time but, now I realize that was my first heartbreak.

The bus ride felt like an eternity; by the time a couple of hours had passed I began to get curious. I asked my mom where we were going. She told me we were going to go with my older siblings and that things would be better for us. We were going to America. At this point I was excited, I couldn’t wait to go to this new place, and see my siblings. I thought well it can’t be bad they always sent me nice things and my aunts give me good gifts when they visit. As a four year old I didn’t understand how much my life would change.

The bus took us to our destination, once we arrived we met up with some relatives. I didn’t know but my mom had arranged for us to leave together. I was separated from my mom and sister they were going somewhere else. We stayed in a house for a couple of days it had one room and a bathroom; it had 2 beds. There was a women there and 3 other girls that were my relatives. The women would buy us tortas and sunny D juices, which made me happy because it reminded me of my father. I missed him so much and the juice brought me back to him, the taste of a drink he often bought me.

I wasn’t worried about my mother at this point; why would I be she said I would see her “en el otro lado” (on the other side). The girls cried sometimes and I would question their tears. Why would someone cry if we are going to America? They understood what was going on and that it wasn’t guaranteed their parents would make it. I was the youngest in the group so for me things seemed easy. I believed my mom, she said I’d see her and for me that was enough. As an 18 year old I realize how hard it must have been for my mom to leave me, and not know if she would see me again.

Once a couple days had passed, we went to a store. The lady bought us each an outfit and shoes. The next morning we were woken up early; it was time to leave. I was finally going to see my mom, at this point I wasn’t thinking about my dad. We rode a bus to the border and once we got there the officers got on the bus and asked us our names and a few other questions. Everything went well and the bus finished its route into America. I don’t recall ever getting off the bus or being reunited with my mother. I don’t think things were as easy or happy as I remember them but I was young and naive. I chose to forget the fear and stress associated with being away from my mother and only engraved the things that made me happy. I don’t know everything that went on in that house or who the women even was.

I recall looking out the car window at the sun scorched crimson rocks as we were arriving at our final destination. They dropped us off at my sister’s house in Nibley. It was an exciting new world. My siblings looked different and my oldest sister had two kids. We ended up in Cache Valley, but little did we know it wasn’t a new start just yet.

My father ended up coming after us, and showed up to my sister’s house. I was happy to see him after all that time away. He begged my mother to take him back, and made a promise to stop drinking. This was a promise that after 32 years of marriage seemed scripted. My mom thinking that being in a new country would help him leave his bad habits, took him back. After this we moved into a little trailer just us three. It was a big mistake, in just a few weeks he was drinking. He would come home angry with my mother, blaming her for all the problems in his miserable life; not realizing his alcoholism was to blame.

I was utterly confused. Why was he doing this? Weren’t things going to be different? He was the most phenomenal father anyone could ask for, he treated me like a princess and spoiled me rotten. My dad never laid a hand on me but wouldn’t question himself when it came to my mother. He was the most disgusting person to her, he was evil and he was scary. Two months later he got in a car accident, while being heavily intoxicated. He hit and ran but was arrested. My siblings bailed him out and threatened to cut him off if he didn’t change. Things were okay for a couple weeks while he was going to court. Around this time was my birthday and I was happy to have my family together.

One night, he got home and dragged my mom out of bed. I remember my mother yelling for him to stop, I ran out of bed to my mom’s side. I was shaking with fear as I knew what was coming, I lost my breath as my body filled with panic. I begged him “stop leave my mom alone”. My words were in vain, alcohol had taken over. He was trying to get ahold of her over the kitchen counter. I was clinging for dear life at my mother’s side hoping everything would stop. My mother got ahold of the phone and threatened to call the cops but I begged her not to. I didn’t want my dad to get taken away from me again. I cried for her to call my siblings so we could leave. She called them but by the time they arrived he had already got his hands on her. My mother has been punched over and over as I stood frozen. Fear rushing through my veins leaving me unable to move.

My siblings arrived, they pulled my mom out of my dad’s hands. One of them picked me up, I was so terrified I could not move. My dad still filled with rage ran to the kitchen and threw a knife at us as we headed out the door. We ran to the car, me still being carried. My dad ran after us but only to get his fingers caught in the car door.

We arrived at my sibling’s home, my mother said she would never take him back. She’d had enough. Even at five I still didn’t understand what this would mean for me. She convinced my dad to leave and paid for his ticket. My mother told him that if he didn’t he would end up in jail for a long time for his hit and run. He believed her like an irrational person would. He packed his bags and my siblings took him to the airport, and that was the last time I saw him.

As soon as he got back to Mexico he went back to his old ways except this time there was no one waiting for him at home. I would occasionally call him but he wasn’t interested in speaking to me he would always ask for my mom. Thirteen years later I haven’t spoken to him.

He will sometimes call my other siblings and ask about me but we personally don’t speak. It’s awkward for both of us. He doesn’t know me, what I’m good at or what I want in life. He is my father and I’m sure he loves me but, it’s taken me a long time to learn that.

I have tried to understand him and his addiction but it has been one hell of a struggle. It was extremely traumatic to experience so much violence in the first five years of my life. In psychology this is called the critical period, the first five years, when your nervous system is the most sensitive to environmental stimuli around you. I believe this to be the reason behind my anxiety, my fear of losing control and being defenseless. The numb feeling in my chest still creeps up on me when I’m anxious. My father was definitely my first heartbreak and I’m sure nothing will ever hurt as much or last as long. It has made me appreciate and love my mother more than is humanly possible. She is my rock, my heart, and everything I am. All I want in life is to make her proud and to understand why my father’s addiction was greater than his love for me.