I took the chance of starting a new life when I came to the United States. By then my fear had subsided and the abuse became manageable. I strongly believed it would be enough just to leave Germany. I was wrong again. All my unsolved memories came with me. I knew I wouldn’t find relief until I confronted my childhood again. By feeling the pain I would be able to give it a name and see the abuse clearly.
Supported, accepted and loved by my friends and Alex, I was able to write everything down. The moment I stopped denying the abuse and expressed my feelings I started the healing process.
Gradually the mental child in me had a chance to grow and with it, the awareness of whom I really am. Since then my life has become livable. The haunting shadows from my childhood do not have a hold on me any longer.
My father never expressed any regret for what he had done to us. He believed to the day he died in 1998, that he had raised his family the right way. He said he needed to prepare us for life and society.
My mother died in 1979. She died of a heart attack. She had divorced my father and was 150 pounds overweight.
When she died I felt relieved, at first, but today I feel sorry for her. She tried to control my adult life as well as my childhood and I often felt helpless against her.
In her last years she was lonely and full of hate. She spun webs of intrigue among the scattered family.
During that time she not only borrowed money from the neighbors, but told them the most degrading stories about her evil children and how ungrateful and non-supportive we were.
In 1971, when mother came back from her seven year residence in Turkey I invited her to stay at my house for a week or two. She had a translation business in Istanbul working for the Turkish-German Consulate and the Turkish court system. She translated and prepared permits for Turkish people who wanted to work in Germany.
Her first act in my home was to interfere in my marriage by spreading lies between my husband and myself. She had borrowed money from a bank by giving my piano as collateral, which I had to pay back later. Shortly before I filed for divorce she made me an offer which sealed my feelings for her forever. It was my birthday and she said she had a present for me. First, she asked if I would like to live without any financial worries. Knowing her, I got suspicious and asked what she had in mind.
She told me about her rich friend who lived in a palace-like estate in Izmir, Turkey, just a few hours from Istanbul. The friend was 40-years-old and childless. “She would like to invite you and your child to stay with her for awhile.” Well, I thought, a week’s vacation sounded good. Mother was not finished. “If you like, my friend will take care of your son and pay you a respectable amount of money every month. You could live where ever you wanted to. You wouldn’t have a child to hold you back.”
Numb, I asked, “Are you serious?”
Ignoring my question, she continued, “Everything is arranged, all you have to do is say yes and she will send the tickets to Istanbul. All you have to do is sign a contract. You can see Ricky any time you feel like it.”
I could not believe what I’d just heard and walked out of the room. Dumfounded, I called Nigg. “If you don’t pick her up right now she will sleep in the street tonight.”
My mother called me irrational and told Nigg that I was an ungrateful fool. Nigg asked her, “How much would be in this deal for you?” She never answered the question.
That ended her stay at my house.
The same year, 1972, I divorced my husband. I left him everything except two suitcases filled with clothes, one for my son and one for me.
Grandpa died when he was 84 years old in 1970. He never saw Ricky, his first great-grandchild. Ricky was just seven months old and had bronchitis. I didn’t have a car and I didn’t want to risk taking him out in Germany’s wet winter weather. My aunt, whom grandpa lived with, told me that the heartache over my mother’s useless, wasted life made him very quiet in his final years. “Sometimes,” she said, “he spoke about you. You were his princess until the end, the joy in his life. He always said, ‘she will make it, no matter how strong the forces are against her’.”
My brother Nigg
My brothers are still locked in a power struggle of “who is best”. Once in awhile it lets up a little.
After my divorce I moved in with Nigg and his wife. The frustrations my mother created in their house were taken out on me. When I told Nigg I could not stand the daily fights and tension in his house, he hit me with his fists until I rolled up in a corner of his living room with my face covered. For 19 years I did not speak to Nigg, until the year before I left Germany. Today, we maintain a rather detached relationship. Nigg and Inge have two children, Tobias and Alexandra. Nigg separated from his wife in 1996. The reason he said was that he found out that his first child Tobias was fathered by his best friend. Nigg is a carbon copy of our father. Like my father, he lives in denial. He blames other people for his misfortune and believes that everyone else is stupid.
My brother Hans
I’ve had no contact with Hans since I was 16 and know little about his life, except that he is divorced and raised three children. Nigg told me that when he saw Hans’ oldest daughter he thought it was me who walked into the room. The last time I saw Hans was in 1970, the day Nigg married Inge.
My brother Siegfried
Siegfried had a terrible motorbike accident in 1979 and permanently injured his right arm. He was so ashamed of our family name, Jung, that he had it legally changed. I know that he has a son, but I have very little information beyond that.
The rest of the people in this book
I truly regret that Sylvia, the cousin who shared her Sunday dresses with me, stopped having anything to do with any of us. She married an American at 16. My mother called all Americans ‘the enemy’. Sylvia left Germany and moved with her husband to Kansas. Her mother, my Aunt Erna, the religious holy one, was ashamed of her daughter and called Sylvia everything but a good girl. Sylvia’s siblings, Serena, Remigius, and Tanya vanished from my life.
The only steady contact I have is with my Uncle Joseph’s daughter, Elfriede. She is deeply rooted in her upbringing and reenacts the imprint learned as a child. Unknowingly copies her selfish, obnoxious, flamboyant and controlling father, and reenact the submissiveness of her mother in her partner relationships. Displaying her need of having a family, she has tried to keep the members of this family in contact with each other, even though we are scattered all over the world from Holland, to Australia, to America.
The remaining family members on my father’s side still have the sting of a tarantula, unaware of the damage they do with their action. Most of them read my manuscript and some have condemned me for telling the truth, which they call lies. Later, three of my aunts contacted me one at a time and told me they didn’t know everything that was going on. Each of them said, “I wondered why you were always so quiet as you got older and became so defensive.”
Regretfully, I never found my friend Heidi or any of the people mention in my book.
The painful and harmful denial continues – and not only in my family.