Nancy Bennett, one-and-a-half years old.

Education, my sister told me, was the key.

Sometimes, though, my rage would vent and I would find some way to get even. I would slap him when he lay passed out on the couch. I would dig pits for him to step in. I would break his bottles when I found where he stashed them. I wouldn't allow myself to love him.

My sister was brave enough to try and break free from the cycle first. Education, she told me, was the key. And so with two changes of clothes and very little money she headed off to university to learn how to teach. I don't know if she suffered the same things I did as a child. I do know how determined she was to get free and she became an enviable idol to me.

She was thirteen years older than I and partly responsible for teaching me to read and write at an early age. She was always left in charge of us, while mother took on a full time job to make up for the money dad drank away. I was not the best of students but she was determined that I should learn and get a head start on the other children.

For my education, I have a lot of people to thank, including my sister. For the endless hours allowing me to pour over literature, I have to thank every librarian from Saskatchewan to British Columbia. Books were my escape, my solace. In them I could find joyful and supportive families, faraway places where my imagination could put me, monsters like Shelley's Frankenstein and tales of heroic deeds. Stories and poems became my outlet, encouraged by strong teachers and by my Grandmother who lived with us for a time. For years I gave her my writing and asked for her opinion. She wondered why in my eleventh year I stopped.

My father discovered my writing, a book of poems, and shared it with his lover. He became drunk while my mother was away and told me my poems had convinced him and his new lover that it was okay to be together. He was going to leave my mother and he felt that through my writing he had received my permission.

I vaguely remember that the name of the poem was “Follow Your Heart.” It was meant for me, to encourage me to leave the cycle of abuse and follow my goals as a writer. But my father twisted my words and for years after that I never read or wrote anything willingly. I was numbed by the power of words and I swore never again to be responsible for influencing people that way. How little did I realize how my father was simply influencing me away from a different cycle, a cycle of learning and growing, his final act before he left for good. My life was turmoil for a while. I married a man, had two daughters, and when his attentions began to go suspiciously towards them I knew I had completed the cycle. Stuck in a rut with only the urge to break free.

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