First published as only parts of her life, this book brings together the full life story of the woman known as Annie O'Sullivan. Horribly abused at the hand of her father, it is a collection of essays that graphically recount memories of her life as a confused child and young adult as she careened through life without compass, to ultimately, and against all odds, prosper. Culminating in the event that brought a degree of closure to her torture, O'Sullivan brings the reader on an intimate life journey through the eyes of this child’s misunderstanding, will to persevere and desire to seek goodness despite her circumstances.
Terrifying, infuriating and uplifting, this book touches not only survivors; but parents, childcare workers and teachers; reminding us of the true vulnerability of children and our collective responsibility to protect them.
|Publisher:||Central Avenue Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||6.60(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Annie O’Sullivan served in the US Marine Corps and following a hospital stay and two years of disability she went on to log ten years of counselling. She has since earned two Masters degrees and maintains a rewarding career in land management. Her own successful family has grown to include multiple grandchildren, dogs, cats and several fish - all happy and well.
Read an Excerpt
Can You Hear Me Now?
By Annie O'Sullivan
Central Avenue Marketing Ltd.Copyright © 2012 Debora Boudreau
All rights reserved.
It Was That Bad
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT wasn't that bad? What do you mean it wasn't that bad?"
I am completely outraged speaking to my brother, John. "It was exactly that bad. You tell me you don't remember that particular beating. I didn't know you were taking inventory of the beatings! My recollection is we beat feet when somebody was getting their ass beat. We left the room, got out, and made ourselves invisible. We certainly never stuck up for each other!"
When one of us got a beating all I could ever think was, "Thank God it's not me," and got the hell out of there. The guilt from this was the topic of many therapy sessions.
My brother isn't saying much and I think to myself, "Wasn't that bad? The hell it wasn't! You must have forgotten about when you and Dad tied Gabe up to the broomstick and beat him until you broke his jaw. You must have forgotten the time he stabbed me in the arm with a paring knife over a dirty dish in the sink. Oh, yeah! You didn't see it, so the scar on my arm isn't really there! You must have forgotten the time they ground out a lit cigarette out on my forehead. Oh yeah, the fork mark in my left thigh? That's not there either. Maybe the scars on my back are from things that didn't really happen because you didn't see it!"
The conversation has stopped, but my mind is reeling in my anger at his denial. Maybe he forgot the time I was out in the yard with that sledgehammer. Dad was hitting me with a stick and screaming at me to kill a puppy. I finally got scared enough and been beaten enough to hit the puppy with the hammer.
I didn't know what else to do!
Dad got angrier at every passing moment. I botched it. I was screaming, the dog was screaming and my brother came running out from somewhere and finished it. My brother beat that dog to death with the sledgehammer I had been holding.
"It was exactly that bad!" I repeated it again.
I hate repeating myself. I do it when I'm upset and believe I'm not being heard.
This is the one brother I still talk to and it is not going well.
Once again, I am afraid for my future. In my early thirties I fell apart, but I emerged from my breakdown and went on to ten years of therapy that helped me pull myself back together. Never, not once in my life, had my family been there for me when I needed someone. Now in my early fifties, I need someone, so I tried again and called John.
My mother, Kate, was a beautiful woman; raven-haired with the red highlights of her Irish ancestry. At 5'7", she was tall, slim and long legged, and built like a Barbie doll. However, she lacked the confidence one would think beautiful women have. Shy, quiet, naïve, gullible and passive, she was the perfect woman for a man like my father. Mom stayed with him for twenty-five years and left him only when her mother discovered he was cheating. He cheated on my mother my whole life. I thought husbands just did that. Grandma had proclaimed, "We are not having that! What are you doing with him?" I can only imagine my mother's reply.
Bryan was my father. He was 5'7", the same height as my mother. While tall for a woman, 5'7" was short for a man. Mom never wore heels. "It bothers your father," she would say. Otherwise, he was attractive, well built, and charming. People always liked my father. We moved around so much I doubt anyone ever got to really know him.
Dad was a violent child. He had "problems". They called him "Poor Bryan". He couldn't seem to get along with anyone for very long and was passed around the family from aunt to uncle to cousins. At sixteen, he violently raped his cousin and as was the practice back then, the courts gave him an ultimatum: join the military, or go to prison. My father joined the military, got married, and went on to breed his own victims.
The first child protection laws were enacted in 1966 when I was eleven years old. Until that time, to rape, beat, or otherwise abuse your own children, although immoral, was not a crime. People looked the other way. It was believed, and some still believe, that what goes on in your family is a private matter.
By my father's own words, I was six months old when we first "played house". I was told that I started it.
In my preteen years, during his time in the Marines, my father was in an explosion that blew his legs off and killed his colleague. Instead of being a wake-up call, the accident made him worse and encouraged his belief that nothing could touch him, since he was now a war hero.
I have three living brothers. I am the oldest. Curtis was nine or ten months younger than I and died a questionable crib death at six months. John is nineteen months younger. Gabe is seven years younger and Bryan the youngest, was born sixteen years after me.
John and I usually talk three or four times a year. I wanted to call him ever since I left the orthopedic surgeon's office thinking he would be the one I could talk to and feel better since he might understand what my body was going through. I could feel myself heading to a dark place. I thought he would be the one to understand. I was wrong.
John is a pothead of legendary proportions. He has suggested on several occasions I would be happier and less uptight if I would partake occasionally. He is married, has a child, and while he appears to be happy enough in his marriage and is making it work, he has no desire to have another child and his wife forbids him to discipline their child. John has a wildly bad temper and in his younger days, he was known for walking through glass doors. It was frightening to witness and I have been led to believe he has stopped. It is likely difficult to walk through a door if you're completed stoned.
As far as I know, Gabe is either drinking or on drugs. Decades into adulthood, John and Bryan found him and he looked terrible. He would not let them into his house, which had completely gone to hell. They saw him through the window. He looked unkempt and wild, was drinking beer and watching a small TV from a folding yard chair. No other furniture was in the room. The front yard was a desolate tract of tumbleweeds, rocks, and dirt from lack of care. The strange thing is that Gabe's house was always one of the nicest on the street. My oldest daughter stayed with him for six months while she was attending college. He was always scrupulous about his home and the yard and took great pride in them both.
John told me he hears things through extended step family. Gabe pays support for his child, so we'll always know if he is still alive. We know that his ex-wife has had several restraining orders taken out against him in trying to deal with his temper.
I look on the internet from time to time to see if I can track where he is living. I discovered he moves a lot. He refuses to speak to any of us. He has old friends who occasionally turn up wondering if we know how to get hold of him. We don't know why he won't talk to us. Gabe won't talk to anybody, not even our mother.
His ex-wife says she can't talk to us or let us see our nephew because apparently Gabe "would go through the roof and he is difficult enough to get along with already". I lived one half mile from her house for three years and never saw her or my nephew. Gabe's problems started years ago, not being able to sleep, drinking more than he should, smoking pot; he complained of getting violently angry and blacking out. He unsuccessfully tried anti-depressants for a time before turning back to alcohol. I'm sure everything fell apart for him after that.
Bryan, my youngest brother, was a toddler when I left home, so I never had a relationship with him. I joined the Marines and moved across the country. I attempted to keep in touch. I sent letters, cards, money on holidays and his birthday. Years later I discovered, as my father was dying, that Bryan never received anything but a few cards. He chuckled about "the damn old man" taking the money.
There wasn't much opportunity to get to know my baby brother once I left home. There have never been family get-togethers, weekend BBQs, Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner celebrations. We did not return to the nest. We didn't miss each other. After my father died, I thought maybe Bryan and I could start our relationship. For a short time we made some effort, but it didn't last. Neither of us had enough family glue to pull it off, nor did we know how to bridge the gap. The lies from my father's mouth would take a lifetime to sort out and ultimately heal.
In 2004, I moved from Alaska to Nevada, and John and Bryan came out to visit. Gabe already lived in Nevada. I'd called Gabe when I first arrived in town and he was angry. I called again when John and Bryan arrived but again, it just angered him and he told me not to ever call again.
Bryan and I sort of buried the hatchet and agreed to disagree about Dad. He refused to believe that his life could have been so different from the one John, Gabe and I lived. I thought and hoped fervently that with my father's death we could heal and be a family. Oddly, even John and I now talk to each other less and less.
I had been in a car accident. Everyone was quite sure it was just a little whiplash and that I'd be fine in a couple of days with a chiropractor and some muscle relaxers. I made an appointment with my own doctor and to my surprise, was promptly referred to an orthopedic surgeon. I was told to go see him the next day.
When I arrived at the office the next afternoon, the receptionist said cheerily, "It's the C-4 woman!" I didn't understand what she meant and waited my turn. I was engrossed in a magazine when the nurse finally called me to see the doctor.
The doctor pointed out damaged areas of my neck that showed up on the x-ray and MRI, discussing my condition. It was bad. I was under the impression the damage was from the recent accident and in seeing this, I wondered how I had walked away. I didn't have to be a doctor to see that the bones in my neck were messed up.
The doctor went on to tell me that while the accident definitely caused some of my current problems, the deterioration he was looking at in the x-rays took years to acquire. He started asking me questions – what kind of accidents I been in when I was young, was I in a car accident previously, or was it motorcycles? Had I fallen out of a tree as a kid? I told him I had been in a car accident when I was sixteen when my dad hit a tree, but the doctor discounted that when I gave him the details.
When I asked about it, the doctor said no, this was not degenerative disc disease. Having no signs of arthritis, I had to have been injured as a child to show this kind of wear and damage.
I pondered: could it have been from that beating? That day so long ago? It was life changing then; it was apparently life changing forty years later. I was obligated to think about memories I had put on the back shelf of my brain.
On that particular afternoon all those years ago, my father was in a rage. I don't remember why and accepted a long time ago that 'why' was not important. Dad's routine was to have his anger traverse into a blind, spitting rage: escalate from screaming to beatings, and later would complete his cycle with a sexual assault of some sort. When all that was done, he would practically purr his love and devotion to my well-being. It varied little. The day that I would remember forty years later in a doctor's office, was not much different.
I relived that day right there and then ...
I feel like a rag doll as he throws me around the room. The living room has a wall of glass panels with a sliding door looking out on the back yard and blood is on three of them. It matches the curtains. I saw the blood spray. It's probably my nose. I'm not surprised or alarmed. It had happened before. The difference is this time was how angry it is making him. He is screaming, spitting in his rage, "You need to clean that up!"
My father grips my arm above the elbow, kicks me with his artificial leg as he sits in his wheelchair, and punches me with the other fist. The blows to my face, back, kidneys and stomach feel as if it they are happening all at once. His arms are like a gorilla's from using a wheelchair and crutches for years. I twist and turn, only hurting myself worse. He is very strong. At fourteen, and always small for my age, I weigh in at about seventy pounds and am 4'8" and no match even for a guy in a wheelchair.
I can feel my father taking hold of my ponytail and trying to yank it out of my skull. Thankfully, the hair tie comes loose. My hair is flying all over as he grabs a new fistful and at the same time, slaps my face. More blood flies. I see it splatter the window and floor. My arm is being twisted out of the socket and I sweat both with the effort to fend him off and with white-hot searing pain in my shoulders.
My face hits the floor; I'm startled. I didn't expect it. Did I fall? Did he throw me? Maybe he dropped me and I should run for it. I don't know. I can't run. He'll catch me later and it will be worse. I can't hide, he'll just find me. He is going to kill me.
Demerol would have been nice today. No one knew my father has been giving me marijuana and other drugs. At fourteen, I am using only when I think he is coming for me. I try to outguess him, outsmart him, or outthink him. Drugs are helpful, but I didn't take them today.
I'm so tired of defending myself, having pain, and lying to everyone about every aspect of my life.
The room is too small for me to get out. The air is too heavy and oppressive and presses me to the floor like a lead blanket.
Don't move, I tell myself. A couple more kicks in the head and I'll be gone. I'm tired and feeling a little numb, which is a good feeling. I only wish I could be still and just drift off. I can't sleep if he keeps kicking me. I'm going to die here on the floor in front of that ugly bloodstained window. If I'm dead, at least I won't have to clean it up. That's okay, I decide, just let it be over. I'm not fighting. I'm not crying. I am tired. I am not going to fight it anymore. I didn't know I could be so tired. He is going to beat me until I am dead this time, and I am not going to drag it out anymore; there is no point in trying to run. I can't run; if he doesn't kill me now, he'll just kill me later.
In that moment, I gave up on myself, God, family; everything and anything I'd hoped, prayed or thought might save me.
My lying on the floor like a lump infuriated him. I'm just waiting to die. I just lay there and let him kick me while he screams, "Get up!"
He can't reach me to pull me up, so he kicks me and rams into me with the wheels of his chair. I don't care any more. I enjoy being numb and I perversely and secretly enjoy his frustration at not being able to run me over. If I weren't so tired, I would laugh.
My mother is screaming as she runs out the bedroom. It's just off the living room and she is in a rage. I'm shocked out of my haze, thinking she is going to help me. I think thickly through my foggy head, "It's too late, it's too late; why did you wait so long?" I'm feeling good because my mother is going to help me. Maybe I don't really want to die after all. If she will help me, things will be different. You can think so many things in a couple of seconds.
She is screaming. What did she say?
"Get up! You get up!"
I find that I can't get up. I feel like lead. Mom is between Dad and me. As she reaches down to help me up she grabs my arm, crack! I hear it before I feel the slap on my face. I see stars as my head reels backwards from the force of the blow. This time I know I am falling to the floor. Did Dad hit me again? He's behind Mom. I'm confused. How the hell did he hit me from there?
"Get up! YOU GET UP!"
I hear this in my ear along with the buzzing. Oh God, I was so wrong. She is in a rage and she continues to scream at me, "Get up! You get up!" She calls me a little bitch. Well, I won't get up just so that she can throw me back on the floor!
I lay there at the wheels of my father's chair. I have now given up all hope. I marvel at their hatred of me and wonder why. I marvel at how long it takes to die. Dad has resumed kicking me and calling me names, and now my mother is in a frothy, spitting, screaming frenzy. I can't understand what she is saying. She is kicking me in the head! She's not helping me, not saving me. She's kicking me in the head and the stomach repeatedly, all the while screaming, "Get up! GET UP!" Well, I'm not going to get up! I lay there as if I was dead already. I give up. I won't help them kill me.
Excerpted from Can You Hear Me Now? by Annie O'Sullivan. Copyright © 2012 Debora Boudreau. Excerpted by permission of Central Avenue Marketing Ltd..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Sometimed painful toread
Exceptional life lived and used to now help others who are abused. A must read if ever there were one. You will see he ugly truth of abuse. My heart bleeds for this little girl and her family. Tragic
Annie O’Sullivan’s Can You Hear Me Now is a haunting story that I will never forget. This story of a little girl and the abuse she suffered is heartbreaking. I like that the story was told in the present tense, as if everything is happening right now. As the reader, I felt like I was walking on Annie’s journey with her. It made the story even more compelling because I could see each action and feel her emotions as if I was there with her. Annie is very brave to have written such a personal and powerful story about her life and the abuse she suffered by the hands of her father. The courage and commitment to picking her life up and standing up against child abuse is amazing and admirable. I truly enjoyed reading about Annie’s survival. It is encouraging to me to learn about what it took for her to get to where she is today. Although this story is hard to read in some parts because Annie does not dumb down or minimize the abuse that she suffered, it is an incredible story because it is a true story about a courageous person. There is a lot that we can take from Annie’s story. One thing I was able to take from her story is the encouragement to speak up and speak out about child abuse. If you know someone who is suffering, or someone has suffered and is afraid to speak out, encourage them to. Can You Hear Me Now is about speaking up and speaking loudly. Bravo Annie, for your courage and strength in speaking up and telling your story! I hear you. We all do. - Review by Felicia Johnson, Author of "Her"
I read this book with some trepidation because, as a child abuse victim myself, I was afraid of triggering long buried memories that I never want to revisit. I overcame those fears because I actually lived in the same community with Annie and knew her and her father during her teen years when much of her abuse occurred. I knew nothing of her abuse at the time, and she knew nothing of mine. That's how well kept these types of secrets are by the families who harbor them. Long story short, I ran into Annie again on Facebook about a year ago and, only then, became aware of her horrible past and amazing recovery. The book is a well written documentation of child abuse at it's most horrific. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who is squeamish about child abuse, incest, or animal cruelty. I would recommend it to anyone willing to face the truth about the ugly disease of child abuse afflicting so many innocent victims within our society.
great book, but sad... anyone going thru any type of abuse should read it.