Sundays were the worst. I am not sure why but the really big fights usually took place on Sundays. As a kid I thought it was because he was sick of us by then having had to see us all weekend.
He would always start over something little like the dishes not being done or most often, him not being able to find something. Then the name calling would start. He would call us pigs, sluts, stupid bitches and names that should never be repeated. Then he would throw and break stuff. Finally Mom would speak up and defend all of us and then he would direct his anger at her physically. My sisters and I would hide upstairs. By this time, they would run into my room and we would huddle on my bed. They would cry and I would get angrier and angrier.
He would then tell us to get the hell out of the house. Sometimes he would start with Mom and then he would call me. Since he is my stepdad and my mom had me out-of-wedlock, he would call me the bastard child. Mom would fight for the girls to be allowed to leave too and once we were all in the car, he would start to throw rocks at the windows. Mom could barely see through the tears and we would take off down the long driveway of our isolated country home.
Those Sundays we would end up at my mom’s parents. It was like a broken record, three tear-stained kids all under 10 and my beaten up mom pulling into the drive time after time. I am not sure how my grandparents dealt with it. My grandfather would be angry and my grandma looked sad and they would talk about how we could come live there but a couple of hours later we would get a call from him and we would head back home.
Eventually, he started following us into town and a couple of times he made a scene on my grandparent’s front lawn. Once he even started tearing apart our car. My grandpa would yell at him and then my stepdad would hit him and Mom would beg them to stop and promise to come home.
I have no memory of abuse when they first married. I was 3 at the time and they had known each other only two weeks when he proposed. My grandma tells me my mom was in a daze for the month of wedding planning. They got married on my grandparent’s front lawn and the three of us moved West. My one sister was born pretty much nine months later and then the youngest was born two years after that.
I remember really hard times financially. My mom waitressed and my stepdad did a variety of jobs. I always thought they worked hard and appreciated that but there were days when we didn’t have food to eat and days when I had to miss school as there was nothing to send for my lunch.
Once they went away for a weekend and I was so happy for them as we never took vacations. I was alone with my sisters and woke the next morning to find my mom in bed and her face was unrecognizable. It was one of the worst beatings I had seen her get. Instead of even concentrating on my mom though, I panicked about where he was and how angry he was. She told me she left him at the motel when he passed out while beating her. She said the motel room was covered in blood and she thought he was going to kill her so she snuck out while he slept and drove home.
All day long we panicked about what would happen when he made it home. Hours later after hitchhiking home, he looked sad and said he didn’t remember a thing but woke up in a mess. He apologized profusely and made up with my mom once again.
She begged him over the years to go to counselling with her but he said he didn’t believe in that. She asked him to talk to his doctor but he said he didn’t trust doctors. We would have a couple good weeks and then it would start again – always over something so small.
It’s amazing how angry you can be. He made me so angry and I would dream of leaving. I begged my mom often to move out but she didn’t want to burden anyone and said she had no money. One of the times she actually called the police on him, they tried to talk her into moving into the closest women’s shelter. It was 40 minutes away though and that would mean we would have to change schools and she thought it would be better to not disrupt our lives. Selfishly, I was grateful for that as I had never told a soul about what he did and I liked that at school no one knew how messed up our family was.
As I got into my teens, his anger would be more directed at me. Instead of just calling me names, he started to get more physical. At first Mom would save me but eventually she got tired of breaking up our fights she said and told me to let him get angry and not fight back. She said it would pass faster that way. She was right, he would calm down sooner but I just couldn’t take it and not fight back.
Not long after I’d left, I got a call from the local high school guidance counsellor. He said my youngest sister was on crutches and I should come home to help my sisters. I came home and we pressed charges. We spent the next 2 years in court. They brought up drug charges, threatening to kill with a firearm (which he often did to us), etc.
During the court proceedings, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I watched her suffer with the disease and treatments in court only as she wouldn’t speak to us. At the end of the many times in court, he was given a restraining order and his guns were being held for a small period of time.
My sisters eventually had the restraining order removed when he won them over. I was the only one who stayed away.
I am better now but I was very angry for a long time as I had held onto the dream that someday he would leave her and that she and I would have a relationship again. I even imagined us playing cards and chatting with her in our old age. She died of breast cancer before I could ever see that happen. I feel cheated that I never got my mom back.
I always wonder how different my childhood would have been if the shelter was in our town, if my mom could have met with someone who knew how to help us, if the police could have acted on their own, and if the friends and family who did see the signs weren’t so embarrassed and knew how to help.
I am so grateful that there are more services, shelters, awareness and help today for families going through the same thing.
It is my hope that children should never fear living in their own home.