1. a brother of one’s father or mother.
2. an aunt’s husband.
3. a familiar title or term of address for any elderly man.
When I was small, there were many men in my life that lived in the background. I had no father or father figure. I had five uncles. Not one of them took any time to enrich my life (even though my mother was their little sister). One of them was given the privilege of corporal punishment (and this threat hung over our heads, always). He would rest us over his lap and either spank us open handed or would use his belt.
He never beat his own children.
As poorly as this uncle treated my brother & I, there was one that was much worse.
Uncle Baddy, I shall knight him.
Uncle Baddy had a kind wife that spoke in a whisper. She was constantly ridiculed by my mum but despite this, I always admired her. I did not understand why she was with him. He was a huge, bearded man with a booming voice. He would come to our house and LITERALLY eat everything we had. I cannot recall one moment that I thought he looked happy.
Uncle Baddy liked to get high.
To fund this habit, he stole things. He stole from his friends, his employer & his family.
And when he could, he blamed my brother & I.
I was less than ten the first time I was falsely accused (which made my brother hardly school aged). My mum took his side and I was punished severely. Every single toy I had (which in retrospect, was not very much) was taken from me. I was screamed at for hours… I was told that I was an embarrassment, I was a mistake, I was a stupid nigger that could not help but to be like her father. I was sent to bed feeling completely worthless. I had no idea that my aunt kept her gold rings in a cup in her hutch. Even if I had, her fingers were tiny & pale and mine were fat & dark. What would I do with them?
And so the story was set – no one trusted my brother & I to be at their homes. The uncle that hit us would have us sit at a table in his kitchen so he knew where we were. We were not allowed to leave this table without permission. Everyone else was in the living room or playing outside while we sat in a kitchen under the gaze of accusing eyes.
The blame still came our way, though.
Years of this went by. I never stole from my family. I was framed for taking doll clothes from Uncle Baddy’s daughter (I was a teenager and did not own a doll to put the said clothes on). I had my diary read in front of Uncle Baddy’s new BFF, my mum’s racist boyfriend, W. They got their kicks leaving comments in the margin of my journal. One of them thought it was a good idea to masturbate on my pillowcase (and to leave a clay-moulded penis in my bureau).
Uncle Baddy was a tormentor all by himself… add in W, and sheer hell was created.
I was afraid to come home from school. I began withdrawing from everything that I held dear: friends, school, writing, band… I hardly slept or ate. I would hide under my bed when everyone was home to avoid the conflict that was always present.
I would listen to them talk, Uncle Baddy and W. I knew that they were stealing from the bakery they worked for. They did drugs at my kitchen table and talked about things that make my skin crawl, even to this day. Topics that I have never discussed with anyone. The cruelty that these two men had in them made me lose my faith in God and humanity.
And still, my mother would take their side in any fight. Her children meant nothing to her. Her brother and her lover spent her money and abused us. They created the laws, she just obeyed.
She had a stroke. The small amount of comfort that was available by her presence was removed. It was open season on us.
A friend of mine was attacked and raped on my driveway when she ran away from her house BECAUSE HER FATHER WAS ABUSING HER. She ran to me because she had no where to go.
I never did get the whole story. I know that W was involved. I know Uncle Baddy was at my house.
This friend never spoke to me again.
She was the only person that I had left.
I took the tie from my bathrobe and tried to hang myself on a branch of a tree outside my house. The branch broke. I was not tall enough to reach the branch above it. I cried myself to sleep on the ground with the terry cloth tie still around my neck.
That Christmas (a few weeks later), they had a party. W threatened my brother, then my mother (in front of his family, no less). Uncle Baddy took money from people’s bags. I had my room searched and when no money was found, I was cornered in the bathroom to be stripped searched.
I locked the bathroom door and sat on the floor with my fingers in my ears. I hummed a sound to drown the banging on the door out.
The police came and smashed the door open. W told the police that I was suicidal. He was not home when I tried to take my life, so he made it up to get his own way.
He lied to the police and told them that I was a druggie and a runaway. He suspected I was stealing from retail stores as well.
When I opened my eyes, a police officer was stroking my head ever so softly. He told me that it was okay, I was okay and I was safe. I could hear W bitching in the background about how I should be handcuffed because I was dangerous.
When I arrived at the police station, I was cold and damp and completely exhausted. This cop, whose name I know I was told but I forgot immediately, explained to me that he knew W, he was an informant for them and he knew Uncle Baddy and my mum. He apologised for having me in the station but I had to stay there until they figured out what to do with me. He reassured me that I was in no trouble, but I was clearly not able to go back home.
Then I heard stories.
Uncle Baddy was a known con-artist. What he did to his family was just a small part of his CV.
W, well… his story was worse.
And my mother, the woman whose only job was to protect me, let them both have free reign in our lives.
I never moved back home. At 15, I was a ward of the state and bounced from one locked facility to an orphanage to a group home. My mum brought me my things from home in garbage bags. In one of the bags was a dead bird, in another, kitchen and bathroom trash. Anything of value I had never made it to me.
They tried to get access to my savings account. I had two jobs, that no one bothered to notice. I saved every dime of what I made (if I ever had cash on me I had to be prepared that it would either be stolen from me or I would be accused of stealing it from someone else). The bank teller told me about what had transpired when I came in to deposit my check.
I tried to get my brother out. I told my guidance councillor that he was being abused as well. He told a story to keep my mum out of trouble. Say what you want, but a boy’s love for his mother is absolute. I hated that, once again, I was called a liar but I understood the position he was in.
Years later, my brother was accused of stealing jewellery from my mother. She cut him off completely. When I was told the story, I knew right away it was Uncle Baddy. She refused to believe me.
Even after she was confronted with the truth, we were never fully absolved of his wrong doing.
I grew up believing that I had no worth. For a moment, I became that person. I stole a watch from a friend while I was sleeping over her house. A watch that I did not even want. I took it, wore it once and never thought about it again. I cannot explain to you why I did this. I apologised to this friend. Her family was amazing to me. They would sign me out of the orphanage for the weekend so I could hang out like a normal teenager. They fed me, they praised me. I felt so cared for. And I ruined it.
I cannot tell more of this story because there are so many other people involved. Some have forgiven him. The others try to forget.
I have lived with this for decades. The destruction this man caused my life can never be undone. He has never apologised to me, though for a short while, he did try to play nice to me. It made me ill, every time I sat in the same room with him. My mum is excellent at throwing the covers over a messy bed.
I am not her.
I remember making him (and that other uncle) father’s day cards at school. It was a normal, end of the school year project. Everyone had a dad. You drew sailboats and golf carts and seagulls and hearts. I made cards for men that told me that I was too fat, too black, too smart-mouthed to get a husband (and I would need a husband because how would someone like me take care of herself?). They told me that I would sell myself like my mother did because that is all I could be good for. I had no father. I had no one to shelter my little girl heart.
I was treated like a criminal from the start. Never a child. Not for one moment was I nurtured or adored. I was constantly afraid. I knew I was a burden even before I knew what the word meant.