This is not going to be a long post, but most of you know the story of my stepmother Judy. Granted the poor woman was mentally ill, but I didn’t understand that during the time I went through hell with her waiving a gun at my head, throwing me up into the walls and such from the time I was 11 and a few other things that went on which I do not care to discuss.
However today, I saw a story that sent chills down my spine because I realize I could have been among this number. I realize how fortunate I am that I was not. For three years I lived in a prison from which there was no escape for a little over three years and those three years shaped my destiny. How I kept my sanity is beyond me. I don’t consider myself broken, damaged and such–but there are times I wake up in a cold sweat even 33 years after the fact.
Oddly enough Judy, my stepmother, died on 9/12/1978. I am always down on 9/11 for obvious reasons, but this anniversary is one I don’t know whether to feel grief, relief or both depending on the memories that come back. I wish she could have gotten help for her illness and there are some things I wish had been handled a lot differently. However, it was not meant to be. For some reason, I am alive and many others were not so lucky. Many nights that .22 was waived at my head and I was threatened but I always put myself mentally elsewhere. Other children did not make it out of their hells and their cells as I did mine.
I saw a story tonight that made me cry. The violence of it and the horrible things that this little girl had to see and hear make my stepmother’s abusive behavior seem like a trip to Disneyland. I realized tonight that I didn’t endure crap half as bad as this famous little girl did. Back in the days when this happened, there was not much Child Protective Services could do if the children wouldn’t talk. It was true at the time of my stepmother’s death and it was true at the time of the death of a little girl named Judith Eva Barsi (June 1978-July 1988).
Judith (Judy–as some called her) was an actress on her way to stardom. Despite the hell she endured at home, she always looked happy and cheerful…I call that the greatest mask because I too was able to wear it. At times I could go to school beaming as if everything was as fine as it would be in a Brady Bunch or Ozzie and Harriet household. However some of my teachers saw right through it. Did anyone besides the psychologist and immediate family see through Judy Barsi’s?
Why did CPS just speak to the mother and not interview the child alone? If they did would it have mattered? Most likely not. I find it ironic that a movie was not made about this because the headlines were almost too many to count from what I am reading tonight. On top of that, after 45 days or so, the judge tended to put the kids right back into the hell they were taken out of for the sake of “keeping the family together”. To me that is a load of pure crap in extreme cases. First time, take their rights and place the kid(s) elsewhere. That is what I feel should be done and ONLY in EXTREME cases–and to me this was pretty extreme.
If you don’t believe me look at the case of the Jahnke kids. Remember? The ones that shot their dad who was VERY abusive to them? I remember it, too. They should have been fully pardoned when it came out what they endured at this hands. Sorry if you don’t agree but these were kids–like me but they were a bit older when their incident took place. They did make movies about this incident, but I am not going to go into it here…They are out of prison and living quiet lives and I wish them peace and a full life.
Ironically, I could have fallen into either category–Judith Barsi’s or that of the Jahnke kids. I don’t know what stopped me to this day from pulling the trigger on my stepmother the night I had the opportunity to, but something did. On the other hand, I don’t know what the hell kept her from blowing my brains out. Does that make me sick or abnormal? I don’t think so. There is a big difference in fantasizing about killing the bully and actually carrying out the thought. I could never do it. Even now I know I could NOT do it. That is the difference between yesterday’s kid and today’s kid I guess. We had Columbine for a wake up call, right? Now if someone tries to harm one of my sons, that is a whole new ball game.
Aside from that there is something that people need to remember. Kids basically had very few rights then, but someone has to be their voice. Someone has to step in and take action when nobody else can or will. My hat goes off to every social worker who has ever had to risk his or her life to remove a child from a parent like Jozsef Barsi or from a parent like my stepmother. I salute every policeman/woman , firefighter and teacher who has ever stepped in to help in such a situation–and many HAVE done so. Many a teacher helped me as best as they could during my time of hell. Day after day, these brave people go in to face the unknown, and just like those less fortunate children that they are trying to protect, they might not make it home again.
As 9/12 approaches for me, I am grateful for all of these heroes–as well as the ones who will be remembered the day prior. We should never, ever take life for granted. We are all here for a reason and now I know this. Someday, maybe I’ll finish the book on it, but there are days that I simply cannot write in it. I still cry. I still struggle with whether or not to take that pen that I have created so many imaginary heroes and heroines with in their worlds and paint the reality of my world for all to see. Besides that, “Precious” was already out there to try to wake people up as well…I wonder if I am the only writer that goes through this type of stuff. I know to this day, I cannot watch “Precious”. Sorry but it is painful for me for other reasons. My niece warned me about it so I can’t watch it. If they make one about this case, I will not be able to watch it either.
Anyway, I feel that Judith Barsi is the long-lost poster child for the reality of what child abuse is. Her own father killed her and then killed her mother as well. Some say the song “Concrete Angel” by Martina McBride may have been written about her. I choose to honor her life here. I chose the video below because it uses a song that brings hope and not tears. She should be remembered with a smile for the sunshine she brought to so many. Her life was cut short way too soon, and I do not feel that she should ever be forgotten. If you know of a child going through hell, please, by all means pick up the bloody phone. You may be saving a life.