My version of the cycle begins, as far as I can tell, with my mother's loss of her father at the age of 9. To put it simply, she had no father. Being that he died in 1956, her mother became the sole support of the remainder of the 6 children they had produced together. My mom became a surrogate mother to her siblings and some of her sibling's children. I tell you this so that you may recognize her lack of a good male role model in her life. She did not know what a marriage or a husband was to be because she had no point of reference.
She married her first husband right out of high school and just in time for him to be drafted in to Vietnam. She spent the majority of her marriage living with his family with no husband. He spent the majority being shot at by the Viet Cong. They grew in opposite directions as they grew up over the course of their "marriage". She was so exasperated with her life and him at the end that she just left. She took nothing but the clothes on her back and left.
Not long after, a beautiful man began paying attention to her. She had met him previously, but had not gotten to know him at all because she had been married. Now, with a marriage over, Sonny's attentions became very flattering. He wooed her. Whenever I ask her about it she shrugs and says with a sigh, "He was beautiful, then."
Eventually they married. I have recently gotten pictures of them in the early days. He was beautiful, she was beautiful, and they were glowing together.
I don't know when exactly things changed. Maybe they didn't. Maybe he was keeping it all hidden, waiting until he thought she couldn't get away. I wasn't even a glimmer yet, so I don't know. She's not talking.
He was fooling around on her. Pretty ordinary in itself, I agree. Sonny had his own way of doing it though. He would beat her within an inch of her life and leave her lying on the floor in her own blood, excrement, and vomit. Then he would go "whoring around", to use her phrase for it. When he would return a day or a week or however long later, he would white glove test the house. (Now I know many of the abused women out there know exactly what that is. For those of you who do not, he would put an immaculately white glove on his hand and run it over random surfaces in the house. If it ever became not immaculate in the course of the test, she failed.) He would test such areas as the tops of doors and behind furniture. It was an excuse to beat her because inevitably, she would fail the test if he looked hard enough. When she did, the process would repeat.
One of the worst stories I have heard about this man, is one that came because of a girl trying to kill me. Her name was Sonny also. Our mothers told us the truth, and she hated me for it. Her father and my mom's husband had been best friends. They shared everything, including her mom. When the woman became pregnant, she named her daughter after Sonny instead of her boyfriend. At a bar one night, drinking, they got into a fight over the situation, and Sonny killed his "best friend" by stabbing him in the stomach with a broken beer bottle in the alley.
I tell you this so you realize the type of man my mother was married to. Also, so you realize the kind of man she thought she had escaped.
She did eventually leave, and hid out for quite a time while she waited for the divorce to go through. In June of 1980, he found her. They were not divorced yet. He told her in no uncertain terms that she would sleep with him right then, or he would kill her. Based on his past she knew he was telling the truth.
After, she ran. She hid on the river, living out of doors until September. Then she realized she must get indoors for the winter. She began working three jobs, one of which was at the drive in theater. One of her favorite foods has always been (and still is) popcorn, but every night when she smelled it she became violently ill. She went to a doctor thinking she had a virus. He laughed at her and said, "No my dear. You are pregnant. About three or four months pregnant actually." She knew when, where, and who got her pregnant immediately.
I was born in March of 1981. Sonny was somehow allowed to be in my life, though I don't remember it. The only pleasant story I have been told about this time is one of him bouncing me up and down on his shoulders. My mom warned him that I had just been fed, but he persisted like any father playing with his child. I apparently puked right on his head. My mom still laughs when she tells that one. But, it's the only one.
On May 20, 1982 my father shot my mother with a .22 rifle. He came to her home with the gun to confront her brother about something or other. When she told him to leave, he fired at her brother, hitting her in the right side. My cousin who was there that day says when she saw my mom on the floor. It looked as if she was held together in the middle by a little strip of skin on the left side.
It was not the only shot he fired, though it was the only one to hit a person. As the bullets flew, the one year old that I was, walked to see what the flying things were. My grandmother grabbed me by the scruff of my onesie just as the bullets came through the door where I was standing. Sonny left.
My Uncle had to drive my mom to the hospital in his truck. To do so, he had to drive right past the house of Sonny's other children. Sonny was parked in the driveway. He pulled the gun from the truck to fire at them again. When he did, the gun went off, taking his head with it.
My mom's heart eventually stopped when she had only one pint of blood left. They used defibrillators to shock her back to life. That was the end of that chapter of the cycle.
When I was older, but still very young, my mom went to school. I would stay with my grandmother who was probably too old to be caring for me, least wise me and two cousins. On top of that, one of the cousins was severely mentally handicapped.
The other was his sister. She was a preteen before I started Kindergarten. I wanted to be her when I got older. Not like her but actually her. She was the only role model for growing up that I had at the time.
One day while grandma was asleep and we were alone, my cousin and I were playing. She left the room and came back with out a shirt. It was the first time I had seen someone other than my mother or grandmother in their bra. From there I honestly do not remember all of what happened. I remember small snip-its of time, specific events. I do not remember exactly how she began touching me or how persuaded me to touch her.
I remember many of the times it was structured as a sexual lesson. She would lie in the bed with me and say, "Now when you find a man you want to do these things with, he will lie next to you like this, (on her side) and you will lie facing him. He will put his leg between yours", and so on. Those are my most vivid images. I know that she touched me everywhere two intimate adults touch each other and I know there was what we would call "making out" if it were between to consenting individuals.
I also remember her telling me that we could not tell anyone least they think we were gay. She told me we would be in trouble, she would be sent away to Boys and GirlsTown, and god only knew what they would do to me. She also said that there was nothing wrong with it, she was teaching me what I needed to know as she had been taught, but the adults wouldn't understand. Of course, I know now that these statements were her way of protecting herself.
At some point, it seems like years went by, my mom took me to buy a new dress. I was sitting in the dressing room in nothing but my underwear when my mom brought me more to try on. That is one moment I will never forget. She was talking to me one minute and the next, she dropped all the clothes and hysterically said "Who did this to you?" I was entirely oblivious as she shook me and questioned me. I eventually realized what had happened. I was sitting cross legged when she had entered. I was having discharge from the abuse and it was showing through my underwear.
She questioned me tirelessly all the way home, both of us crying. I kept lying. Finally I broke by asking, "You promise me you won't kill her?" I will never forget my mother's face at that one word: her. She had always warned me against the evils of men. I know now that she is a bitter man hater, though I cannot say that I blame her. The thought of a woman doing such a thing to a child had never occurred to her warped, injured and yet still naive mind.
I remember also that night of confrontation. The tears, The denials, The fear. I wondered for many years why she didn't kill my cousin or at least do something. As much as I was afraid of what my mother would do to her, I wanted her to do something. I think now that she didn't because she realized my cousin was acting out of her own abuse. And so ended another chapter.
From the time my mom had been shot, her first husband had been coming around offering help. They dated for a while and he eventually started living with us on the weekend. He would stay at his home during the week to make his commute to work just a little easier.
He was the best thing in my life for many years other than my mom. He was my friend. He was Big Lug, and I was Little Lug. He was my best friend, my cheerleader, and my bodyguard. I prayed all the time that he would marry my mom again and be my daddy since I had never had one. It was all I wanted in my little world. Eventually he did and everything changed seemingly over night.
It had always been my mom and I against the world. We had little, but it was ours and we worked well together. She would come ask me to do whatever chore it was she wanted me to do. I would say o.k. but I wouldn't jump right up. I knew if I didn't get it done by the end of the day, my butt would get blistered. She knew I'd get it done by the end of the day, when I was done with whatever I was already doing. It was an unspoken thing. It worked for us and I rarely got in trouble.
He hated it. It drove him crazy. He said I was lazy. He would harp on me to do what my mom said right now.
When he married my mom, he quit. He immediately started saying "I don't give a fuck what your mom said, you do what I say now!" It didn't matter if I was minding my own business or if I had already started what my mom had asked of me. He wanted me to do what he wanted me to do, how he wanted me to do it, right then.
Then the fighting began. They would yell horrible things at each other, things I never should have been hearing. He would call her a whore; she would call him a whore-monger. I would beg them to stop and beg them not to divorce. He had adopted me and changed my last name. I had no idea what would happen to me if they divorced. I had no idea what would happen to us.
My mother would reassure me and would always tell me how much worse those fights could have been. She would tell me about Sonny and what he would have done. I was young, but I understood how much worse those fights would have been. She would always say, "At least he doesn't hit."
The first time he and I really got into it, I was in maybe third grade. I was at grandma's, which was in front of our house, when he got home from work. Mom was on call at the hospital. I went down to the house when he got there to say hi and discuss dinner. Grandma was already cooking dinner for us, so I was going to tell him that I would just eat there. I walked in and immediately asked, "What's that smell?" He informed me that it was liver and onions. He also informed me, in no uncertain terms, that it was my dinner. I told him about grandma already cooking, and he said tough shit. You do what I say. I said, no, I always eat with grandma when mom's on call. He threatened to hit me with the spatula that he was cooking with. I told him he wasn't my father, he couldn't tell me what to do, and he couldn't hit me. Then I left. My mom was furious when she got home the next day.
The next incident I remember was the first time we argued about his drug use. It was picture time at school and I had been given one by an older male friend. It was lying on the kitchen table from when I showed it to my mom. He was sitting at the table breaking up pot to roll a joint. He started looking around for something to scrape it up. He picked up my picture of my friend. I knew what the drugs were and that they were wrong. I had told him, in my innocence, that he should quit doing it. I blurted out, "Don't do that!" When he yelled that I don't tell him what the fuck to do, I said, "But now it is ruined!" I was thinking that I couldn't have the picture anymore because it had pot on it. He responded by tearing my picture into little pieces.
As the years went on it escalated from there, He began calling me names. Nothing I did was good enough. I would bring home a report card from school full of A's. He wanted to know why they weren't A+'s. I was lazy. I was dumb. I was fat (his favorite name for me was garbage gut). I heard it every day until I believed it. All of it. The only person who ever told me he was wrong, and did so emphatically, was my best friend, T.J. Still, all my mom would say was "At least he doesn't hit." She didn't count the whippings he gave me. I did. I don't think she realized what was really happening or how hard he was hitting me. But she would.
In high school, my mom taught me real fear and to lie. She was beginning menopause and I was a teenage girl. We fought. Most moms and daughters do when the daughters are that age. We knew that. Apparently he didn't.
We were arguing one day and he lost it. I saw him get up from the table and leave the room before I went into my room and slammed the door. I was laying across my bed on my stomach when he stormed in brandishing his belt. He immediately hit me with it as he shouted at me to get up off the fucking bed. He was hitting me so hard I was bouncing up off the bed. I couldn't do anything but scream. I eventually bounced and slid my way off the bed and landed between the bed and my night stand. I was stuck. He continued to hit me over and over, screaming at me the whole time. My mom never said a word.
The next school day I had gym class. I had to dress out in shorts. One of my good friends asked me what had happened this time. He was a close enough friend that he knew about all the times I had been hit before and all the verbal abuse. I told him the truth; I didn't feel I had anything to hide from a friend. He apparently got together with some of my other friends and they decided it had to stop. They called the Division of Family Services Abuse Hotline. By the end of the day I had been poked, prodded, and asked so many questions that I knew the shit was going to hit the fan. I was covered in bloody welts from my waist down. There was no way to hide it. It was obvious to anyone who knew anything about abuse.
They came to my mom's house on her birthday. She told me I had to tell them that I had been caught in the dog run while feeding the Dalmatian. She said if I didn't they would not only send him away making us loose everything, but that they would take me away from her because of his drug use. I was only about 13 at this point and though I wanted him out of my life, loosing my mom and my home was a huge fear. So I told the lie and they went away. He didn't.
My mom apologized to me for the whole situation. She told me that she didn't realize that he was "loosing his temper" like that. She assured me that there had been a conversation about it and that he was no longer going to be "disciplining" me. I questioned this and she assured me that this meant he would not hit me again or even touch me. The promise held longer than his temper.
The next time he lost his temper was the summer before my junior year. We were going to go to the river, the same one my mom had lived on, for the day. The three of us and my best girl friend piled in our Blazer. It was at least a hundred degrees out that day but he insisted on no air conditioning to save gas. He would burn money on pot but never anything else. The windows were down and he was driving fast as he could with the radio blasting really old country music the whole time. We drove for two hours. When we got to the entrance to our favorite swimming hole, it was closed. Instead of just going somewhere else along the river, he got really pissed off and drove us all the way back home. He and mom alternated between arguing and stony silence the whole trip. Sara and I knew better than to say anything audible.
Once we returned home, the fight reached new heights. Mom decided that she was going to take us to the pool so we could still swim. I think it was also to get us out of the house, away from him. As we drove away from the house, the mail woman passed us going towards our home. Mom turned around to go back and get the mail. She backed into the drive way to wait so we could just pull out after the mail came. Before the mail ever got to our house, he was outside being irrational. He was screaming and yelling. He was saying that mom was "racing the engine" on the Blazer trying to "blow it up." They screamed and yelled back and forth. He took his .22 pistol that he had with him for snakes at the river and tried to shoot out the tires. When he missed, he got in the Blazer. When she tried to get her keys, (the key ring had her set to the Blazer, her Camaro, and the house) he punched her square in the nose. Blood poured down her face as she staggered backwards. He tore out of the driveway headed God knows where.
I spent the rest of that summer anywhere but home. I spent as much time as possible at T.J.'s. He and his family knew what had happened and welcomed me with open arms. At first, I stayed away because mom didn't know what was going to happen. Then it was because mom told me she wasn't going to leave. She says she provoked him. He hit her so hard that he broke his finger and she had to have plastic surgery, but she still says it was her fault.
The next time he lost his temper he also broke my mom's promise that he would never touch me again. Mom and I were talking about, of all things, underwear. Specifically that I had no clean ones for the next day and that I hadn't seen any in the laundry. She insisted that if they weren't in my room, then they were all dirty. I insisted that I had looked in the dirty clothes. He suddenly got up and stormed out of the room. Mom and I continued. He returned at a virtual run. He charged me, arm out stretched, waving a pair of underwear (that I had forgotten I even owned it had been so long since I had sent them down in the dirty clothes) and screaming, "What the fuck is this then, huh? Huh?" With that he scrubbed them into my face.
It had been only a few months since he had broken my mom's nose. I had honestly been waiting for this moment. All of my rage from all of the years of bull shit, from him hitting me, from hitting her, welled up in me. I punched him in the side of the head. He threw his weight on me, forcing me to the ground under him. He ground my 140 pounds in to my mom's Asian rug with all 200 of his. I continued to struggle, dirty underwear still in my face, kicking and hitting him in the kidneys as hard as I could. She finally pulled him off me. I got in my car and left. I don't remember for sure where I went.
My mom was mad at me when I came back. He had her convinced that he hadn't hit me, just restrained me while I threw a fit.
Years have gone by since then. I'd like to say that he never touched me again. I'd also like to say that she left him or that he left her or died. But I cannot say any of those things. I can tell you that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
I had spinal fusion for double major curve scoliosis the summer after my junior year to save my life. T.J. spent his 18th birthday in the hospital by my side because of it. I went back to school on time though the doctors told me not to. I spent my senior year at my friend's houses and T.J.'s parent's while he was in Navy boot camp. I graduated high school in May of 1999. I married T.J. in July of the same year and got pregnant on my wedding night even though they told me I should never have children. I moved in with T.J.'s parents while he was gone. I gave birth to Sam 14 days after I turned 19 while T.J. was on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Florida. I was in labor with him for three days because of my back. I did not have a caesarian. T.J. left the Navy by our son's first Christmas. I went to college entirely on grants and scholarships, some of them because of my back. We lived with his parents for about two years before we could get a place of our own. I graduated from JeffersonCollege in May of 2003 with my Associate's Degree in Education and English. I was 1/10 of a point from Honors. I chalk it up to working four jobs while maintaining a family. I then received a full scholarship with housing to the University of Missouri-Rolla to get my Bachelor's Degree in English with Secondary Education Certification. I will also have a minor in Psychology and Philosophy by the time I finish. All of this has happened and more including T.J. and I separating. Things change all the time. But some people never do.
Less than six months ago, I took Sam to visit his Nana, my mom while we were in town visiting T.J.'s parents. Her husband lost his temper with me again. I was telling Sam, who is ADHD, yet again to not interrupt people when they are talking. He got up from his recliner with the audacity to tell me not to raise my voice. I told him to back the fuck off. He shoved me and I shoved him off of me. He hit me in the face, busting my lip and I hit him back. He then punched me hard enough in the kidneys to cause my bladder to let go as he shoved me out of his house.
I returned to T.J.'s parent's and changed my clothes before anyone saw me. He caused it, but I was the one embarrassed. When they found out what had happened, my father-in-law called my mom's and told him in no uncertain terms that if he ever touched someone in his family again, he'd never get another chance to touch anyone again.
Sam rarely goes to see my mom anymore because she says I hit her husband instead of the other way around. She actually told me I wasn't her daughter at one point. I have given up on getting her to see the truth. She is getting old and has been scared of living alone and in poverty with out someone for a long time now. All I can do is explain to Sam that we love him and that we can't go there if Papa is there because of what he calls "the big fight." The cycle stops with him. I pray that my mom outlives her husband so that we can all have a few years without fear and pain.
T.J. still tells me emphatically that all the things her husband drilled in my head aren't true. I do my best to listen. All of the women at www.WomensSelfEsteem.com have done their best to convince me of the same. I try to listen to them too.
I still startle and cry at loud noises, but not all of them any more. I still have days where T.J. and everyone I know could insist fabulous things about me all day and I would still not feel good enough. I still have moments where I don't want to be touched and worry about the little girls my cousin has had since those many years ago. I still have days when I cry because I never got my one wish of a daddy of my own fulfilled.
I take my life day by day, hour by hour, and minute by minute. I do my best to walk away when I am angry so that I don't lose the temper that no one taught me to control. I am on my way to a life of self esteem and feeling good enough. Until then, stopping the cycle has to be good enough.
COMMENT : I just read the article The cycle stops here, i was really shocked at some of the details of your story. I am also very inspired by the fact that you seem like you have become a strong, independent woman. Also, you never once deserved all those horible things you went through, some people in this world are just messed up. Its a shame you had to meet so many of them.
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