“Lie still and Daddy won’t hurt you,” says 84-year-old Ivylene, over and over again.  Memories of childhood abuse are part of her, like the cascade of wrinkles around her eyes and mouth.


Ivylene hid her pain for the greater part of a century, but when her defenses broke down at the Shadyville Nursing Home, “Lie still and Daddy won’t hurt you,” was the first thing she had to say.  What does it matter who knows now?  Ivylene had out-lived her father-abuser; he died at 49 of cirrhosis of the liver.  Her mother is also dead; she can no longer shame Ivylene, for telling strangers about the family secret.  She never even told her children, who could not understood why Mother was so nervous, why the least noise disturbed her sleep.


Maybe now, after all these wasted years of agony and silence and shame, Ivylene can confess her secret, and find a way to forgive herself for having been a helpless child.  If only someone would listen to the old lady and take her seriously.


Perhaps the stain is too deep, like the yellow on her fingers from decades of smoking.  She mutters to herself, and tries to be quiet, but when someone comes close to her bed, she yelps like a kicked beagle.


By Kerry Vincent © 1993


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5 Responses to “Ivylene”

  1. woodnymph Says:

    Your work really stops the reader in her tracks so that she has to start over and read slowly word by word, and feel.


  2. Jill Says:

    During my years working with childhood abuse, I worked on a helpline many times….one of which was after a tv programme on abuse, and the saddest call I took, one which I have never forgotten, was from a woman in her 80’s who confided to me, who told her story to me and it was the very first time that she had shared it along with her regret for having kept quiet for so very long…it inspired me so much to deal with my own ‘stuff’ and to confront those who needed confronting, she gave me the courage to do so. Your story has that same feel 🙂

  3. kvwordsmith Says:

    I am glad your abused caller talked to someone so kind, who listened, and let her be heard at last. Ivylene is a fictional piece, based on a story a nursing home attendant told me about one of her charges who would say, “Lie still, and Daddy won’t hurt you” over and over again. The hurt is so deep, the healing so necessary, no matter how long ago it happened… Kerry

  4. jodhiay Says:

    It doesn’t really ever go away, does it? This is really powerful, Kerry, and heartbreaking too.

    Kudos to Jill for lending a kind ear. I’ve been in similar situations, working on a medical insurance customer service line of all things…I hope I was able to listen well.

  5. thalia Says:

    This frequently happens in hospice, too. As someone moves closer into the dying process, their memories tend to go further back in their lives as they unwind. Things that had been hidden become revealed.

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