Day 4: May 16th and July 1st of 2009 – Dates of Infamy

Out of all my prior entries, I think this one will be the hardest.

I was sick most of the day due to another incessant migraine attack. I thank God I am doing better in order to stay on track during this sabbatical and not break stride.

FDR said, “December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy.”  Because of the atrocious event that happened at Pearl Harbor, countless people lost their lives. As for me, May 16th and July 1st of 2009 are the dates that are deeply rooted within the heart and soul of this wanderer.

In 2009, this year was filled with a couple of events that would bring any titan to their knees. For the most part, I’ve never wanted to revisit the ghosts of this particular past. Deep down, I knew that I would not have the choice of dealing with just one but both.  For a long time, I didn’t know how to deal with one or the other. So, I chose to not deal with it all.

Why are these dates important? Well, May 16th is the day I graduated from high school in 2006; in addition, it’s the day my grandfather, Robert Lee Rogers, passed away. While growing up, I only had two grandparents. On my mother’s side, you had “Paw Paw”. My grandmother, his wife, had passed away while I was very young; I do not remember her at all except the stories my mother have told me and my siblings. Then, there is my grandmother, Leola Magee on my dad’s side of the family. Just like Paw Paw, Grandmo Leo is the matriarch of the family. My grandfather, her husband, passed around the same time as my other grandmother. So, Grandmo Leo and Paw Paw Robert were the constant pillars in my life. He was the only positive male figure in my life; I was very close and attached to him. I never thought the day would come when he would no longer be there.

Mother’s Day in 2009 was fast approaching. My mother, sister, and I wanted to visit Paw Paw. Suddenly, I caught an instant migraine. I was highly upset.  When it came to visiting Paw Paw, I was like a little girl – I would always get excited about seeing him. Paw Paw was big, stout, and tall. Every time I would hug him, I could never get my arms to fully embrace him. Also, he and my mom’s relationship was pretty funny as well. Whenever they were around each other, like any other parent and child, they had different views on how to handle certain matters. My mother would get so easily irritated with Paw Paw that he would just laugh. At times, I would too.

Anyways, I had to stay home due to me being sick. At the time, I was in a relationship with this guy who shall remain anonymous. All of a sudden, tears began to roll down my face profusely. I had no idea why I was crying. I had this strange feeling that I would never see my Paw Paw again – the foreshadowing served as a warning of what was about to happen.

Later that week, we received a call that Paw Paw was in ICU and in critical condition – he had an aortic aneurysm. I got scared; I wasn’t a medical person, but I knew the situation was not good at all. My mother, sister, and I rushed to the hospital. Since Paw Paw was in ICU, only two visitors could see him at a time. My sister decided she didn’t want to go in. So, my mother and I entered the room. I barely recognized my grandfather. He was very skinny, white towels engulfed his body, hooked up to some kind of machine, and unconscious. I was immediately heartbroken to see him in that condition. I wasn’t used to seeing my Paw Paw like that. I approached the bed and began to talk to him. While I was talking to him, the nurse and my mom were talking. My ears overheard the conversation, and I knew… I told Paw Paw that I loved him and ran out of the room in tears. I told my mother in advance that I would not be coming back; I couldn’t handle seeing Paw Paw like that. We went back home, and I went straight to my room. I called my boyfriend and relayed the news to him. While doing that, I said a prayer, “Lord, if it’s Paw Paw’s time to go, please take him. Don’t let him suffer like that.” I had a hard time finding sleep, but eventually, I got my wish.

Early, Saturday morning, May 16th, Paw Paw passed away while my mother was on her way to the hospital. Later, the staff told her that he was holding on until she got there. But, she was too late. My father was the one who broke the news to me; I screamed in pain. I’m telling myself, on the inside, “No! Don’t tell me that. Paw Paw’s gone…he’s really gone.” When Paw Paw died, a part of me died too. I really did not know how to handle that kind of loss. I’ve suffered losses, but this one…this one was…too close.

I attended the wake, but I didn’t go to the funeral. If I did, it would be real, real that Paw Paw really wasn’t coming back. To this very day, I don’t dare go to the city he lived in because of the little girl part of me. She’s still looking for her Paw Paw; she hasn’t grasped the fact that he’s not there, he’s not at home waiting for me to visit him. It was too much to handle, so I ran. I kept running because I didn’t want to believe reality – my life was forever changed.

After Paw Paw’s death, another trauma would occur. Just like his death, I didn’t see this one coming at all. The guy I was in a relationship was acting strangely: no phone calls, no texts, just absent. Even with him knowing the death of my grandfather, and I needed him for comfort, he was still nowhere to be found. The relationship between us was already rocky: abusive and declining fast. In the month of  June, we were having multiple arguments, and the violence quickly escalated. With our last argument, he left and gave me the silent treatment for 3 to 4 weeks.

In my mind, I had already made up my mind to just break up with him. As if on cue, he called and claimed he wanted to talk. He missed me and wanted to see me. I agreed to see him, but he wanted to come to my house. I told my mother, and she told me that her and my sister would be at home with me in case something happened.

July 1st, 2009, he came to the house. My mother and sister were in their rooms with the doors closed. My mom was listening to her vinyl records, and my sister was playing video games. So, the guy kept trying to move in on me, and I pushed him off and said, “I thought you wanted to talk.” He didn’t want to do that kind of talking. After I realized this, I moved to the other end of the couch and told him to leave. He sat there; then, he asked could he go to the bathroom. I just pointed in the direction of where it was located. For a split second, I had withdrawn within myself, just thinking, “I guess it really is over.” The next thing I knew, he jumped on top of me, overpowering me… (I won’t go into details.)

I was shocked and mad. How could this happen to me in my own home? I kept trying to push him up off me until he made it to where I could no longer do so. I closed my eyes crying and praying her just hurried up before my mother and sister walked in. When he was finished, he got up and fixed himself. Then, he pulled me up and fixed my clothes. He looks at me and says, “Whew. I sure feel better. What about you?” I looked at him and said, “I told you no, multiple times. You didn’t come down here to talk! You came for “that!” I ran outside and fell on my knees. Once again, I let out this agonizing scream asking, “Why? What have I done to deserve such a fate as this?” He came outside and handed my Bible to me. “Here, why don’t you find and read a scripture to help you feel better,” he said.  I just looked at him. He got in his car and left. That was the last time I saw or heard from him.

I was already half dead from Paw Paw’s death. The other half of me was struggling, fighting to the surface to survive. He just finished me off. So, I spiraled and took a plunge into the abyss and for 9 years…that’s where I stayed. Fear took over my life. I was scared to trust, let anyone in, or get close to anyone. I knew people would leave me: voluntarily or involuntarily. Not knowing how to deal with that trauma, I ran from it too.

In the beginning, I tried to split hairs by trying to choose which one to deal with first. I quickly realize I couldn’t; the floodgate would be unstoppable once it opened. Running just seemed easier, simpler. Now, I can’t run anymore.

Recently, I’m slowly accepting my grandfather’s death. And I do mean slowly. A month ago, I did drive down to the church to visit his grave. He didn’t have a headstone, so it was hard to find. I didn’t find it but just me finding the courage to finally go was good enough. I have my memories of Paw Paw. Yes, I still get sad everytime I think of him. But I love him still. I will never, ever forget him.

However, the rape is a different story. I don’t talk about it. I may mention it, but I’m afraid that scar will never heal. He took something from me – something I was saving to share with a husband one day. Now, I feel like damaged goods – unloved and unwanted. The cut was truly deep – twice upon my heart and soul.

I’m slowly getting better. But, I don’t know what will happen once July 1st is here. It’s right around the corner, waiting to ensnare me again. Every year, for the rest of my life, July 1st is a day I will never escape.

These two dates are so colossal. Whenever they arrived, my psyche is literally at stake. Sometimes, I’m telling myself, “I just have to make through the day, and it’s over.” Some truth to it. On the other hand, every year, the pain and trauma I have to relive are endless as time itself is placed on pause.

R.I.P. Paw Paw, Robert Lee Rogers. I sure do love and miss you more than you ever know.

*Blog entry for June 28, 2018.*

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