This story is by Gloria Jainchill and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Where does a middle-forties woman go? What will I do? How will I make it? Will my children blame me? Will I lose of my children?
With these questions in mind, I sat in darkness in my living room. He worked third shift at MobilExtra. My children upstairs tucked in bed in our Cape style home. I loved living here in this small sleepy town of Farmington with its good schools. I felt safe, comfortable, good. Tears welled up behind my eyes as I sat on the floor with my back against the couch wrapped in my prayer shawl. I still denied my emotionally charged feelings. One street lamp several houses down shone through the picture window like a beam of light. I know he can be nice, kind, even sweet, around others. Alone his meanness and anger were fiery darts shooting at me followed by his verbal and physical abuse. Four years of “I am sorry, I will never do that again” rang in my ears.
Blurting out loud I heard in the silence “I can’t make this choice, divorce or stay married? I can’t allow his abuse to continue and I can’t lose my home or my children. God help me!”
Looking through the ray of light, I remembered my childhood, the fear, the pain. Dad, a loving man working multiple jobs to support our family of ten, lived in a Bronx apartment owned by his two brother in laws, they asked him to be landlord in exchange for rent. One year later they sold the building and gave us thirty days to find a new place to live. We couldn’t find one and we were split apart. Love lost, safety stolen, security gone, hope and trust vanished for me at age three. Four siblings and Mom moved up north to live with a third brother and his family on their chicken farm. A few weeks later Dad drove up north to visit and left me and Richard, his two toddlers, with mom’s sister on her fruit farm. My oldest sister Rebekah stayed in Long Island City with Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. Flashbacks of fear and how it felt clinging to Dad’s leg like a Panda to a Bamboo tree made me shake and tears rolled down my cheeks.
Though it was a lifetime ago, the images of being hit, slapped, pushed rolled in front of my tear filled eyes. The sounds of mean angry threatening alcohol driven words were audible. The memory of being touched inappropriately and confusion rolled before my eyes like I was watching a movie. Unable to speak or understand anything but abandonment at three years old, only the abuser and my aunt knew. Memories of pain, the filthy barn, the stench of their hired hand’s sweaty body against mine caused a momentary black out, fading away, I knew no one cared about what had happened to me.
It was forty years later when these memories surfaced. Reading self-help books and seeing therapists helped me understand and accept that I had been physically abused as a toddler. One common thread in all my healing steps stood out: abused children often grow up to be abusive adults.
The silence shattered once more as I said “I don’t abuse my children. How could anyone abuse an innocent child?” As if I was watching a TV show, an image of my beautiful trusting gentle sweet but fear filled little boy played in front of me. The next scene was of him as an adult pushing his wife against a wall, pulling her down the stairs, punching her in the stomach and hitting her about her body. I started shivering. Tears rolled down my face once more. An image of her beautiful bright happy loving smiling little girl appeared and quickly changed into a woman being punched and kicked by her husband. Shoulders shaking, cringing, I was horrified by the scenes playing before me in the beam of light.
When calmness returned, thoughts of today’s reality surfaced. Quitting my job of twenty years three years ago, my thoughts went to welfare, a north end apartment complex. I thought about my daughter being raped like I was. I thought about my son joining a gang like my brother did. I knew what could happen if I stayed married. What kind of role model was I giving my children?
“What choices do I have?” again broke the silence.
“Continue in this abusive marriage, or throw my children to the wolves.” I knew I had to choose. I couldn’t. I chose no action and stayed married.
Three years later, Bobby in grade school and Dakota in junior high, our marriage was acceptable because we were in counseling. The junior high bully on the school bus continued their intimidating and inappropriately touching behaviors of the newly arrived sixth grade girls. Four parents complained so far this year but still the school and town did nothing.
One Sunday after church this bully and friends shouted vulgarities at us from their car while still in the church parking lot. My fists tightened, fear reddened my face and anger rose inside of me once more. It was six months since I reported the abuse to the school and nothing changed, he got away with it again and I knew his tormenting would not stop. I stopped at a hardware store and bought a For Sale By Owner sign. At home with a large black marker I wrote the amount and phone number, and put it on our front lawn. Inside, I told my children we were moving and had to cleanup. Tuesday night sitting down after dinner eating dessert, the phone rang, someone came over and our home was sold. Bob and I decided to move across the river on the east side where housing was cheaper and schools still very good.
With so much to do, moving and the newness of our home, we stopped counseling. A year later I got a new job making half what I had been making, but it was a job.
On our second Valentine’s Day in South Windsor, my children were returning to their fear filled ways as Bob returned to his. To celebrate the day, Bob bought Chinese food. We sat down and said grace. Dakota dug into our favorite, pork fried rice. Scared, Dakota shrieked “there’s shrimp in the rice”. My allergies to shellfish, all fish, was dangerous.
“Shut up bitch” he yelled at Dakota.
“You’re trying to kill mom” Dakota yelled back with added profanities.
My mouth hung open as he started to rise and Dakota ran from the room.
I pushed my chair out to block his way as he started after Dakota.
He grabbed me and threw me against the wall. Hitting me as I clung to his shirt, Bobby sat in shock as I yelled “call 911”. Bobby ran the other way and dialed 911.
Bob heard Bobby’s frightened voice “my dad is hitting my mom”. The beating stopped, he let go, grabbed his jacket and keys and ran outside. Slumped on the floor, Bobby came and hugged me, tears streaming down his face. The sirens coming closer, Dakota came out of her room. This scene was not new but the sound of sirens were. Reality set in. The police arrived and helped me into a chair. I said no to an ambulance.
I contacted a lawyer and filed separation papers, one month for each of abuse.
Sitting in my living room on pillows because I had no living room, kitchen or bedroom furniture since he took it all, it was now twelve months later. I had to make a choice, divorce or continue my abusive marriage.
It was dark except for the stream of light from the street lamp. Tears fell down my face as I remembered how fearful my children were only ten months ago. Peace rising inside of me as I remembered their playing, laughing and happy smiles this morning. I felt relaxed, comfortable, even safe. My life savings gone, how was I going to pay the mortgage?
I got up, went downstairs and cried a thousand tears. Divorce or homeless. Which do I choose? Choosing the emotional health of my children over our home? I knew what to do.
I told my lawyer I wanted a divorce. I told my family and friends. They and strangers helped us with food, clothing and money. The job I had settled their union contract dispute and I got a $10,000 a year raise. Things will be tough, yes, but we will make it. Time to focused on healing our battered emotions.
My children are grown, I am still in my home, we made it. My children are married and living happy functioning lives. They have gifted me with three beautiful grandchildren. Getting divorced was tough, yes, but it was definitely the best bad choice.