Poem: losing my hero

I put him on a pedestal

I thought he was too great to fall

He was my protector

He blocked the punches.

He was the calm logic that made me feel safe

I’d always wished

my brother was my father

He was never a bully to me then

but he had his moments

He hit me once, repeatedly

a lump formed on my head

He hit me because I defied him

by saying, “I have the right to my truth.”

I said it over and over like a mantra

and he hit me each time

that was the first and last time he ever hit me.

But I guess after years of disappointing my family

especially our Mother

who was already a worrier

something in him switched off

from worry to judgement.

He shouted that I was responsible

for his mother’s death

but she was our mother not just his.

He wouldn’t accept me as a non-Christian

as if that could cause our mother’s cancer.

Cancer happens to believers and non-believers.

Cancer is not discriminatory.

My non-Christian status can’t cause or cure it

and nothing can bring her back.

I lost both my mother and my brother

in less than one week.

“Never return to Maryland.” he said. “Your evil heart shows up in your face and gray hair. You’re an old hag now.”

“I’m nearing 50 years old, why should I color my hair and pretend to be in my twenties? If I look old, it’s because I am old and I’m proud of it.” I said. “Don’t worry, I’ll never return to see You. You’ve broken my heart. You were my favorite person in the world until my son was born but it’s like you’re dead to me now. I’ll always love you but this is our last visit together. Have a good life, Brother. Good bye.”

“How dare she speak to me that way!” he said to our sister. “She’s always been so selfish…”

“You can talk about me all you want when I’m gone, can’t you wait until after I’ve left?”

He drove me and my son to the airport, circling the freeway several times. He got lost repeatedly, something he’s never done before. We barely made it to the airport. It was the last direct flight back home.

We had 10 minutes to go through security and get to our gate. We raced, shoes off and on, our overloaded bags searched and re-zipped, dragging three heavy carry-on-luggage with a backpack on, sweating profusely, but I managed to order my son and I warm soft pretzel snacks to go, while the passengers lined up at the gate; another passenger smiled warmly and said how impressed she was with me. It was welcome comic relief. I worried that other passengers would think I was feverish because of my sweating but no one seemed to notice.

He was my favorite person in the world before I had my son but because he hated what I wrote, (my sister showed him the short memoir story that I published), he decided to blame me for everything our mom had suffered. He hated that I revealed our childhood trauma of domestic violence to the world. Korean tradition valued silence as a form of respect.

Writing the truth has made us strangers now, but it’s always been a form of healing for me. I’m a writer, I’ve written journals and poetry since I was 8 yrs old. Writing helped me to survive, sanity intact. It gave me freedom of thought, freedom of expression, permission to heal through deep reflection and an antidote for denial and victimhood. I am a writer and I will not stop telling my genuine version of truth.

2 Comments

  1. Judy….. this is chilling, heart-stopping… and beautiful. And I know what it is like to suffer abuse and gaslighting… certainly in the blog-world anyway…. it’s awful… horrifyingly destructive… but far, far worse if/when it’s “in real life,” from an offline family member, as in your case. And it tries so hard to silence us… why? For the abuser’s own selfish reasons. Not for the good of the world at large.
    You are a true love warrior, and it will ultimately serve your family/people (because positive change is good — and the first step to positive change is awareness)… though you will bear the brunt of it at times — as you evidently brutally have.
    I salute you, gal. This is powerful stuff. It’s actually hard to comment on it, but I wanted to try. You are one brave, aware and kind mama. Kudos. 🙏🌷

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    1. Thank you so much, Nadine ❤️🙏, I’m grateful to receive your generous support. I feel lucky to be able to process my experiences through writing and getting kind and positive feedback is an extra bonus. I appreciate your insight very much❣️

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