Most people are well intended and I know that was true of the Hansen family. They were a product of who knows what kinds of upbringing and circumstances.
I once heard Dr. Ed Smith, of Transformation Prayer Ministry, say that people always do the things they do for a very good reason. What he meant by that was that people do what they do because of a belief that they hold. It's not a commentary on whether or not their belief is true. Instead, it demonstrates how strongly they hold it.
Why am I saying all of this? Let me step back a bit. A few years back, when I began writing this story, I was writing from the perspective I held at that time. Unfortunately, there was still a large degree of 'victim' thinking in my mindset at that time. When I wrote about people, I tended to lay blame to some degree. Today, I'm in a different place and I would really rather not point fingers at people to saddle them with all the responsibility for my experiences.
While it's true that we profoundly affect one another, each of us must own our personal response. In telling you about this family and the influence they had on me, I want to be clear that I chose to stay in that situation of my own free will. It was not my only option and even if it had been, I still could have responded differently in the specific instances where I fell into poor choices.
Back to the story.........As I said, this household was rather dirty and I suppose that reflects on those who lived there. Interestingly, I can recall that it was part of my responsibility when living there to do some cleaning, yet cleanliness seemed the last priority to the Mistress of the home.
It's difficult to adequately put into words what it was like to live in this environment so I guess the only thing to do is share a few of the specific dynamics that caused me unease.
Mr. Hansen was a very large man, and by large I mean 450lbs and about 6 feet tall. He tended to wear denim overalls and nothing else. No shirt, no shoes and, no underwear (sadly, this last bit was obvious to anyone in the vicinity). He was, as you might expect, completely sedentary as well. His primary activity was to yell directions at whomever was in earshot. These usually included demands for a drink, cigarettes or food. These demands might be followed up with an order to retrieve some trinket or other his Lordship required.
He always reminded me of that horrible smoking caterpillar from 'Alice In Wonderland'. Bulging and huffing and not very nice. He was witty, if you want to call it that, though I often find the acerbic wit people of his sort use to be more aptly described as cutting humor. Perhaps that was only a reflection of my own insecurities at the time, but I doubt it.
The thing about Mr. Hansen which most notably discomfited me was the fact of his common residence in his bedroom in a state of undress. Perhaps it seems that this should be a good place to be in such a state, but given that the only usable toilet was through his bedroom, his situation in that room proved awkward.
If I needed to use the bathroom, and walked through while he was there, I always had this feeling like I was doing something dirty. Clearly, I wasn't, but something about his manner seemed lewd. Perhaps it was his perpetual lack of undergarments? Or maybe the sexual innuendo that regularly comprised his comments?
Mrs. Hansen didn't help matters, for she frequently presented herself in a very sensual manner towards her husband. I can't say that I ever saw anything obviously inappropriate, but her eyes always held a look of seduction. Even now, I feel I'm grasping at straws. All I can think to say is that I often felt as though I shouldn't be in the room with them, as though she might leap naked into his lap at any moment and ravage him.
Just typing this out causes me to pause in thought as to what might be the difference between a loving glance between a husband and his wife and something more raw and sensual which is meant to be shared only privately.
Parents and teenagers are another thing altogether and this household had two parents and two teenagers. Now, this doesn't necessitate that there be weirdness. But in this case, the two children remaining at home, Carter and Connie, had a hunted look about them. They consistently drug themselves about the house, shoulders drooping, back hunched, never looking up. They were unkempt, scraggly little things and onlookers might suspect, malnourished. Surely the hunted, vacant look in their eyes could be related to Mr. Hansen's ever ready 'swatting apparatus'. That pretty much meant that whatever he held in his hand might be used to swat a passing child as he or she happened by.
While my own upbringing included some horrendous experiences, this particular type was not something I understood, at least not as coming from parents. My own parents had never had a flippant attitude towards us in quite the same way. If we were swatted, it was usually a result of some specific infraction and we knew for certain it was coming.(at least that was true most of the time). In the Hansen's home, the children never knew if one of their parents might fly into a rage and so I began to think that I was also in danger of a stray swat or two.
Pondering this, I'm reminded of the same feeling which did exist in my home, but coming from my siblings. I was the youngest by 6 years, quite susceptible to whatever my older siblings might wish to perpetrate upon me. The one thing that sticks in my mind as reminiscent of my above description of the Hansen household was the way my brother and sister would twist up the damp dish towels and play the game of who could 'SNAP' whom most squarely. As a smaller child, I was never going to come out on top and so, sustained quite a few angry welts at the end of a well-snapped towel.
I guess the bottom line for me was that I didn't feel safe. Sharing an opinion was a sure way to be on the butt end of Mr. Hansen's caustic tongue. Relaxing was a sure way to be given a job to do in the never ending list of duties on the property. Walking through a room might elicit some sort of inappropriate comment from either Mr. or Mrs. Hansen.
Yes! That is it! I often felt that I might be physically attacked in that home. Not that it ever happened, but it seemed the threat of assault always hovered.
I'll share a little something that I hope will come as an invitation into my heart. It feels vulnerable to share this particular piece of the story. I'm actually surprised by the emotions coming to the surface as I recall that time in my life.
I'm finding that taking the time to write this story is therapeutic, which isn't really a surprise, but I guess I wasn't anticipating all the things I'd shoved under the veneer until I started writing it all down. Hmmm, more to ponder and more opportunity for healing and wholeness! I am thankful.