Friday, May 13, 2011

A Tough Story

I was thinking about something terrible that happened to our family when I was a child, and what better place to relieve one’s mind of childhood terrors than their own personal blog? I don't know what made me think of this story; just processing I guess. One can do that many years later, can't they? It took me one full day to get the courage {{not sure if thats the right word}} up to write the post and then two more days to write it and two hours to get the nerve up to push "publish post".

It is amazing what children can endure. I didn’t have the most horrible childhood; I’ve definitely heard far, far worse stories that make me thankful for mine. But it was quite rough. One of the hardest years I can remember was my eleventh year. In one year we had to deal with the story I’m about to share, the death of my grandfather and another major event that led to the falling apart of the entire family.

I spent the beginning of my eleventh year in an inner city school where there were daily fights, lots of gang related issues and many other things scary to an eleven year old. During this time my mom was seeing a man named Tim. He owned his own auto repair shop and was relatively successful. He was controlling. He was also a raging alcoholic {{no really, we were mixing his drinks before school in the morning, ‘for the road’}}. They fought a lot, too. They had a very volatile relationship and many of their fights turned physical. Despite their relationship, my mom stayed with Tim at his house, a lot during that time. My older brother and his girlfriend were living in our house so she was able to stay at his house a good majority of the time. Some nights after work he would come and get us and take us to his house where my mom would meet us and we’d all have dinner and hang out. Growing up my mom always taught us not to ever get in a car with someone who had been drinking. She also taught us not to question adults. Some of the nights he would come to get us, he would arrive to pick us up drunk.

One of his vehicles was this old truck. He would have my little brother sit up front with him and make me ride in the covered bed {{ALL of this is quite illegal in the state of California}}. One night my mom must have known he was beyond drunk and rushed home to make sure he didn’t try and drive with us. That night he was in a bad mood {{have you ever questioned an angry drunk? How about one that is forty years older than you?}} And when I climbed into the bed of the truck, I think I was crying and scared. She caught us about six blocks from our house and made him turn around. When we got back to the house she opened the back of the truck and started yelling at me, asking me what I thought I was doing put my little brother and I in that situation. This is one of my saddest memories from my childhood {{and I have a lot… maybe too many for one person}}. I had never felt so helpless. I knew not to get in the car with him, but I also knew better than to question him. I was eleven, what was I supposed to do? Question an adult if he had too much to drink to drive me around? {{Probably not}}Many years later, when discussing this incident my mom actually agreed that we were taught not to question an adult and we would have NEVER asked about their ability to drive.

Anyways, regardless of the fights and the drinking, sometime before Christmas, we moved in with him. My little brother and I changed schools and started going to a much better school. It was new and children weren’t from… well it wasn’t an inner city school {{If you catch my drift.}} It was very different. Our routine was very different now, too. In some ways it was better: we had family dinners together almost every night, having another ‘parent’ in the house helped make coming and going easier. But the fights just got worse and worse. He was controlling, not just of my mom but of us. The alcoholism really didn’t help. I remember witnessing two bad fights between him and my mom. There were many more that I didn’t see. The ones I didn’t see used to give me nightmares. In one of the ones I saw, she toed up to him and shoved him and almost pushed him down the stairs. In the other fight he broke the phone so I couldn’t call 911 and I remember trying to get a neighbor to let me call the cops but no one was home or no one cared. After both of these fights, he ‘quit’ drinking and promised to be better but if I remember right, he never made it past the painful part of detox before cracking the bottle again. In all their fights, the physical violence was never turned on us {{I honestly believe as I write this that is why we stayed so long}}.

Then one day, my little brother talked back about something. Probably because Tim was too smashed to carry on a decent conversation and even my nine year old brother could tell. My brother tried to walk away but Tim wouldn’t let him. My brother tried to run up the stairs and Tim tackled him. My brother swung at him to try and get him off of him and then Tim chased him in his room where I could only hear my brother screaming. My mom wasn't home and I had NO CLUE what to do. For a second I just waited expecting it to be my turn next. By the SWEET GRACE OF GOD the garage door opened right as all this was going on and when my brother started screaming, I ran out to get my mom. She ran in under the garage door before it even opened three feet. And when we got to the stairs, Tim started coming down. My mom demanded to know what he did. “What? He punched me, so I punched him back.”

I’m not 100%, but I’m pretty positive, that was the beginning of the end. One day my mom came to me and told me she had a plan to get away. It was hard because he was so controlling. We had to be quiet. We couldn’t talk about it and we had to go on like nothing was wrong or going to happen. It was imperative for it to work, for me not to do anything that would make it look like we were leaving. The day she told me I was SO excited to be leaving, I packed a bag and hid it deep in my closet, where it wouldn’t be found. I told a friend at school, but she didn’t believe me and she didn’t believe why. After that I didn’t tell anyone else. One day we were to just disappear and that was just the way it had to be. It took awhile {{or it seemed to}} and I almost didn’t think it would happen. Then one night mom told me, “Tomorrow’s the day.”

The next day we all got up and got ready for our day as usual. Mom got ready for work and my brother and I got ready for school and ate breakfast. Tim got ready for work and kissed us all goodbye and left. Literally as he pulled away around one corner, my older brother and my cousin pulled around the other with a U-haul. Now, let me tell you a little something {{else}} about my family; we’re a family of movers. I went to twelve different schools between Kindergarten and twelfth grade. Ok? We can pack crap like no one else can. That day, we had a little less than four hours to pack all of our stuff into the van get it to our house, lock it up and get away. I don’t think there has been a move since with so much teamwork and such little talking. {{We were packing CHAMPIONS that day!}} We knew what we had to do and we all busted our asses to get it done. Checking the window every now and then to make sure he wasn’t home. I want to say we went from not ready to move at all to completely packed and ready to go in three hours, maybe less. Unloading took thirty minutes as we rushed to get everything just off the truck and the house locked up tight before lunchtime; before there was even a remote possibility that he would be at home and see our stuff gone.
Afraid of the backlash from what we had done, my mom sent us to stay with my grandma while she stayed with a friend. We were very afraid of what he would do. I remember having nightmares about what he would do to my mom and him coming to steal us away in the night. But he never did. Actually, other than one time I never saw him again. {{Lucky me!}} I’m not sure if my mom sheltered us from any backlash there may have been or if there never was any. {{I should ask about this, maybe.}}

We finished out what was left of the school year at my grandma’s house {{at yet another school}} and when summer started, we moved back in with my mom into a new house that was just ours. It was a big house on a small dirt road. We had a huge yard and the house next door backed to a creek and we would go down and play in the water all the time. There was also a HUGE park with a city pool literally right across the street. That summer we played, swam, jumped on our trampoline, had sleep outs on the trampoline and did lots of kids things. That summer was like a different world. Things weren't perfect, but they were easier. At least for awhile.

Not to go all PSA on you, but I think it's probably a good idea to throw out there that it IS possible to get away. It IS possible to be happy and successful. And it IS possible to have good, true, honest love after abuse. It's not easy but it's SO worth it.

1 comment:

Phoenix said...

Even after 12 years of friendship, you still amaze me. I love you and you inspire me to be brave myself. I think that "people like us" (That is, us "Megan"s) need an outlet for our pain and crazy- <3