Authors: Sue Julsen,Gary McCluskey
Tags: #Biographies & Memoirs, #Memoirs, #True Crime
A Memoir of Heartache
Copyright © 2013
, Sue Julsen
Bitter Memories: A Memoir of Heartache & Survival
All rights reserved.
This book may not be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in whole or in part by any means, including graphic, electronic, or mechanical without the written consent of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews.
is dedicated to all survivors of abuse.
With special thanks to
Chandler Wickham and Kathy Joy
for believing in me throughout the aspiring-author stages,
and for your never-ending faith and love.
Table of Contents
1954, Somewhere on the Road
1957, Washington State
1960, Lubbock: Four Months Later
About the Author
Based on true events, this isn’t an easy book to read, but with the help from everyone who does read this author’s heartbreaking story, together we can help save another child from a life of suffering. Thank you for taking this journey to learn the author’s struggles and her triumphs.
Adult language and graphic content
Not suitable for children.
Other Books by Sue Julsen
Trophy Murders (Bitter Memories, 2
Cutter’s Revenge (Bitter Memories 3
From The Heart: A Collection of Poems and Stories
I watch them. Strangers walking down the street, smiling and laughing. I wonder: What was their life like growing up? Did they have a
life? Did their parents love them and tell them they were wanted? Were they told they were, and are, cherished?
As children, did they easily fit in with other kids, or did they go out of their way
to fit in? Did they succeed, or were they laughed at? Did they slink into a corner and try to be invisible? Did they beg their parents to let them stay home from school or other activities to avoid those uncomfortable “they’ll hate me” feelings? Did they get beatings—or whippings—or just grounded? Were they told how useless they were and that they never should’ve been born?
As adults, do they feel comfortable in their own skin? Do they have self-confidence, or are they intimidated easily? Are they afraid to voice an opinion? Afraid to be laughed at? Afraid to be ridiculed? Afraid of doing something wrong?
If it’s a man, could he go to his father and ask about growing into manhood?
If it’s a woman, did she go to her mother and talk about things that bothered her? Could she ask questions about becoming a woman? About love? About sex? Was her mother her best friend?
While watching these seemingly normal, happy men and women, I think: I didn’t have a mother to talk to…to be my best friend…and even if I could’ve talked to my father, I couldn’t have asked him
I wonder what I would be like today if Daddy hadn’t run off with me when I was two years old and then again when I was three. Would I be a better person than I am today if I’d had a
I wonder how many adult survivors have asked themselves that question! I know I’ve asked for as long as I can remember, and even now, I really don’t know. How could I? My life was as far from
as it could possibly get!
I have very few memories of being happy while growing up. I remember heartache, sadness, extreme hunger, and intense fear.
Starting at age three, I had a life no child should ever have. It was a life of sorrow, neglect, and abuse. As a kid, I wished time and again to forget all that had happened, but I couldn’t. I’d been left with scars from so many bitter memories, voices in my head, and nightmares. Horrendous nightmares that I felt sure would haunt me for the rest of my life.
While on the run, for many years I lived a life of hell with my father. But the craziest part of the entire ordeal? I still loved him! I feared Daddy, but I worshipped him. I thought my daddy could do no wrong.
I’d been thoroughly brainwashed.
Today, I wish I could say Daddy had been a kind, decent human being, but I can’t. Daddy was cruel. He was rotten to the core. As my story unfolds, you’ll learn he was a liar, a con, a bigamist, and a thief—and these describe the nicer side of my daddy. He only thought of himself and his own personal needs.
My story consists of things I remember, things I was told, and things I learned along the way. When the subject matter dealt with things I didn’t have firsthand knowledge of, I took what “nosy
ears” were not supposed to hear while the grown-ups whispered around the kitchen table or behind closed doors. I then put as many pieces together as possible. The remainder I filled in with what
happened when I wasn’t around by taking similar events and characteristics of each person that I did witness.
To protect the innocent—and the guilty—names (including mine) and places have been changed, but these are true accounts as I know them and/or believe them to be, or
based on the circumstances.
My name is Sarah, a little girl kidnapped by her father, trying to survive in a world of abuse, hunger, neglect, and terror.
This is a gripping, unforgettable, emotional journey.
This was my life.
1953 - Lubbock
I was two years old when Mama said we had to move back to
Lubbock and live with her parents. She said we couldn’t afford to stay in our house because Daddy had lost his job, again, and she didn’t know when he’d get another one.
Granddad said Daddy was a no-good bum and he couldn’t keep a job because he didn’t want to work and always got caught stealing. No one had called the cops—yet. Granddad wanted Daddy to go to jail. He said if he did, Mama wouldn’t cry so much.
When it was just the three of us, Mama and Daddy were happy, and they laughed a lot. We used to go to the park and do all sorts of things together as a family, but after we moved, everything changed.
We never went anywhere together anymore, and Mama and Daddy fought a lot. I heard Daddy say if it wasn’t for Mama getting pregnant with me things would’ve been different. I knew it was my fault they didn’t love each other anymore, but I didn’t know what to do to make them happy again.
Last year Mama made me a chocolate cake for my birthday and put one candle on it. Daddy gave me a doll, and a bunch of other presents too, but the doll, I named her Judy, was my favorite! I took her everywhere with me, and I brushed her long blond hair every night before we went to bed. Judy was my best friend in the whole world!
It was after that when things got worse. Mama got a job, and Daddy didn’t like that. He started staying out late, and sometimes he’d be gone for days. When he did come home, he’d yell at Mama and tell her she could get money from her parents and, if she knew what was good for her, she’d quit her job.
Then, Mama would yell back at him.
Back and forth they’d yell until Mama started to cry and agreed to quit her job. Then Daddy would say, “If you wanted a kid you should stay home with it!”
That made Mama mad. She’d yell: “Well, if you’d keep a job, I could stay home with
Their yelling scared me, so I took Judy and we hid on the back porch. When the front door slammed, I knew Daddy had walked out again and that fight was over. But from what I heard, Daddy wished I hadn’t been born.
I wished that, too.
Every night after I went to bed I asked God to take me and Judy to live with Him. I wanted Mama and Daddy to be happy again, like it used to be, and if God took me away they wouldn’t fight anymore.
I loved Daddy so much, and I tried to be good and not to cause trouble. When he came home I’d take Judy and we’d play on the back porch, and I stayed
quiet, but no matter how hard I tried, Daddy still didn’t love me.
If it hadn’t been for Judy, I would’ve been all alone in the world.
Daddy was very tall and thin with eyes the color of blue-grey steel, and black hair that waved on top. Mama was shorter and very slender, with blue eyes, short brown hair and glasses.
She told me: “Your daddy is tall, dark and handsome, Sarah. He can melt the heart of any woman he wants. There’s a charm about him that’s irresistible. I fell head-over-heels in love with him the moment I saw him.”
I thought Daddy was very handsome, too, and Mama was the most beautiful lady in the world. Together they looked like Prince Charming and Cinderella!
Mama’s parents didn’t want them to get married, and Granddad told me, “Your Mama’s head-strong and no one can tell her anything.”
I guess Granddad was right about that because Mama had been married six or seven times before she met Daddy. I didn’t know any of those other men, but Granddad said there’d been one man he wished she’d stayed with because he was good to Mama and he loved her very much. Granddad wouldn’t tell me why she left him.
Mama had a baby boy with the man Granddad liked. He was a lot older than me, and Mama used to talk about him all the time. She said she missed her son so much since he got married and moved away, but that I’d get to meet him someday.
Then, one day she just stopped talking about him. I didn’t know what had happened, but Mama cried whenever she looked at his picture. I wanted to ask her what was wrong, but I didn’t want to make her cry more. Mama looked so sad.
I hoped, someday, she’d talk about him again, but she didn’t. After a while I forgot my brother’s name, so I took his picture to Grandmother and asked her to tell me about him. She just cried and said she couldn’t talk about it.
Daddy came back for a few days, but then he got into another fight with Mama, and he’d walked out again. Mama said he went to look for a job, but he must’ve lost his way. Granddad said, “Good riddance!” Grandmother sat at the kitchen table and cried. I decided I didn’t want any more birthday parties since it had made everyone so sad.
Mama told me she was starting a new job tonight, but when I asked why she had to work again, she said since Daddy hadn’t come home, someone had to bring in the bacon. I told her we had bacon in the kitchen, but she just laughed.
I liked it when Mama laughed. She looked so pretty, and her eyes sparkled like shimmering blue sapphires.
She tucked me in before she left for work, and knowing she’d be home when I woke up, I held Judy close and went to sleep.
I didn’t know how long I’d been asleep, but it was the middle of the night when Daddy came in, whispered in my ear, then shook me to wake me up.
“Daddy, you’re home!” I squealed.
“Quiet, Sarah!” he whispered. “We don’t want to wake everyone.”
“Okay,” I whispered. “I missed you, Daddy.”
“I missed you too, baby. But I need you to get up and get dressed. We’re gonna pick up your Mama and go on a little trip.”
“Oh boy! Where are we going?” I asked, still whispering.
“Just get up and get dressed, Sarah. We need to get on the road.”
He helped me get dressed and after putting on my coat, I picked up Judy, and we went out into the night. I was so excited that Daddy had come home, and he wasn’t mad anymore, and we were going someplace special. Just the three of us!
He put me in the back seat of his old Ford and we sped away from the house. Daddy didn’t usually drive fast, but I thought it was fun, and laughed the whole time the car swished back and forth down the dirt road.
He’d been driving for a while when he yelled, “Damn it!” and pulled to the side of the road and stopped the car. I didn’t know what was wrong, but then a man with a big flashlight came up to Daddy’s window, shined the light in my eyes, and told Daddy to get out of the car.
“What’s wrong, Daddy?” I sat on the edge of the seat. I was getting scared!
“It’s okay, Sarah. Just stay in the car. This’ll only take a few minutes.”
I watched them talking, but Daddy didn’t look very happy. Then the man put bracelets on Daddy, and they went to his car with pretty lights flashing on top. The man opened the back door and Daddy sat down in the back seat, frowning.
After a little bit another car drove up, and a man got out. When he came toward me I saw it was my Uncle Henry, so I wasn’t scared anymore. He opened my door, and told me he’d take me home.
“But, Uncle Henry, Daddy’s picking up Mama and we’re going on a trip.”
“No, Sarah. He wasn’t taking you to your Mama. Come on, honey, let’s go.”
Daddy was watching when I got into Uncle Henry’s car. I waved at him, but he didn’t wave back. I hoped he wasn’t mad at me for getting out of our car and going with Uncle Henry.
Mama came running out of the house the moment we drove up, and pulled me out of the car. She had tears running down her cheeks, and she held me real tight.
“Sarah, baby. Are you okay?”
“Sure, Mama. I was with Daddy. Why are you crying?”
“Thank you, Henry! Thank you for finding my baby and bringing her back home to me.”
“Mama, why are you crying?” I asked again, touching her wet cheek.
“Oh Sarah, your Daddy was taking you away from me. I thought I’d lost you.”
“But we were coming to get you and go on a trip, Mama. Just the three of us!”
“That lyin’ sonuvabitch! I want him thrown in jail, Henry.”
“He’s already on his way to lockup, Violet. I’m just thankful Dad woke up, saw which way he turned, and then called me immediately. If not, we wouldn’t have caught him so quickly.”
“Yes, I’m thankful for that, too. Come on, Sarah. Let’s get you back into bed.”
Mama carried me into the house and I saw Grandmother sitting at the kitchen table, crying, as usual, and Granddad was cussing Daddy, as usual, and Mama, well, she just seemed happy to have me there to tuck back into bed.
I didn’t see Daddy again for months, but when he came home he acted different. He wasn’t fighting with Mama like before, but he acted cold toward me, especially when Granddad or anyone else was around.
When I asked if he was mad because I got in the car with Uncle Henry, he said he wasn’t mad about that, but he wouldn’t tell me what he was mad about. Still, I was just happy he came home and wasn’t fighting with Mama, and it was okay he didn’t love me anymore because I still had Judy, and Mama was happy again, and that was all that mattered to me!
Grandmother wasn’t crying as often either and sometimes I’d hear her and Granddad laughing after they went to bed. Mama laughed sometimes, but not like she used to. I like the sound of laughter in the house. It always makes me feel better.
I told Daddy I was sorry, but he was still mean to me, and when I tried to sit in his lap he’d push me away, and say, “I don’t want a snot-nosed kid hanging on me. Go away!”
I’d run out of the room, crying, and go hide on the back porch with Judy. She still loved me even if Daddy hated me. But silently, I hoped someday he’d forgive me and love me again.
“Please, Daddy. I love you so much.”