Relationship Abuse: Your Kids Are Watching

I’m not a child anymore; I actually have a child of my own. However the memories of watching my own mother be abused by my step father seem not so long ago. My mother was a small woman, standing at barely 5'1", but had a BIG presence. She was beautiful beyond measure. Fair, light-skinned, with eyes that had a Smokey grayish-green tint (that neither my sister nor I inherited), that looked straight into your soul. However the soul behind those frequently battered eyes was tarnished and broken.

It seemed as though my mother and Roy didn’t date very long before they were married. Actually no one in my family, not even my younger sister or I were present at the wedding. One day my mom had a new boyfriend, next he was our “new daddy”.

Roy and I never warmed up to one another, even though he adored my baby sister. My sister and I had different fathers and at that time, I saw my father more regularly than my sister saw hers. My father’s presence made Roy jealous; as a matter of fact any man’s presence around my mother filled this man with jealous rage. That rage became violence and caused the bruises my mother tried to hide. My mother’s beauty was her glory. She had a beauty that no “America’s Next Top Model” contestant could ever touch. It was beauty Roy wanted to destroy.

Once, I remember coming home from school and entering my home to see this disfigured woman sitting in my grandmother’s bedroom. The right side of her face looked like something from a horror film. To my dismay, it was my mother, my beautiful mommy! What happened? It seemed that Roy got upset about a man looking at my mother on the street and decided to solve that problem by throwing scolding hot water into her face to disfigure her. No man would look now! By the grace of God and my grandmother’s healing hands my mother’s face was restored back to its natural beauty. Her inner beauty was another issue. With flowers in hand and tears in his eyes Roy came back and she went back. I hated him! He was the devil as far as I was concerned. I wished he was dead; I was barely 8 years old.

My sister and I lived with our grandparents, while my mother and her husband lived in a home across the street. My family knew about the abuse and did not want my sister and I anywhere near that man. One afternoon, I went to the corner store for my grandmother. As I come back down the street I see my mother running across the street in a frenzy right towards me. Something didn’t look right as she approached me, as she got closer I realized that she was still in her work uniform, but she was soaking wet! “It’s not raining”, I thought. “Mommy?” I said. before I could finish my thought I was scooped up as she ran towards my grandparents house. She was flustered and out of breath as she dropped me and began locking all the doors. I screamed for my grandmother and my aunt. After a shot of whiskey and a few towels my mother was able explain that after work she went out with some of her co-workers (all women) for a few drinks after work. When she got home Roy was furious with her, he knew she had been with “some man”, (a regular accusation). Not wanting to argue, and feeling she had explained herself already, my mother began to run the tub for her bath. He continued to yell and accuse her of cheating, She just walked in the bathroom still wearing her coat and work clothes. Before she knew what happened, he burst into the bathroom, threw her into the tub fully clothed and tried to drown her! She managed to kick him somehow and got away. Two days later he was back, same flowers same tears and again, she went back.

I hated him! I wished he was dead! I was barely 9 years old.

My sister and I stayed with my mother on the weekends. I hated it. It seemed like it took forever to get through just 3 days. We were just across the street, but it felt like it was across the ocean. I don’t know if my mother knew how this situation affected me. I was angry all the time, and I constantly felt like I had to protect myself. I stopped talking to her and I stopped believing in her strength and her beauty. But mostly, I felt sorry for her.

One weekend on one of our visits Roy was in a relatively foul mood. We watch him yell at mom all the time, but never hit her in front of us until this weekend. He wanted something to drink and my mother was doing my sister’s hair. Apparently she wasn’t moving fast enough and all of a sudden he jumped up and whacked her with all his might with the back of his hand, knocking my little sister over in the process. Mom’s lip was busted and bleeding and my sister was screaming in terror. My mother picked up my sister and looked at me with eyes of shame. I felt my whole body get hot and all I saw was RED! I hated him! I wished he was dead.

With the calm and icy tone I told my mother to go clean her face and I would get Roy his drink. He looked at me and then said to my mother, “You need to learn to listen like your daughter”. My mother took my still screaming sister in the bathroom and I followed behind going into the kitchen. I stood on a chair and got the tallest glass I could find. I got the orange juice out of the fridge and poured it into the glass. I looked over my shoulder to make sure no one was there. I looked under the sink “Yes! Its still there” The rat poison that my mother had bought a few months ago for a rat problem from a sewage back up. The box said the rats couldn’t even taste it, so Roy shouldn't be able to taste it in his juice. Two table spoons should do! One, stir, two stir. That looks good. I hated him! I wished he was dead! When I put the poison back and turned around my mother was standing right there. In my planning, I hadn’t realized that my sister had stopped screaming and the door to the bathroom had opened. The look of horror on my mother’s face burns in my brain to this day. I began to walk right past her hoping she would let me give him what he asked for. She grabbed me and just stared into my eyes. She finally saw the hate and anger, She realized that her baby’s actions were not done on a whim based on seeing her mother hit, but they were premeditated. She saw I hated him and I wished he was dead. I was barely 10 years old. She took the glass from my hand and smashed it in the sink. She took me and my sister and left. The next day Roy was back. Same flowers, same tears, same song. This time she did not go back.

It seemed like after that day Roy just disappeared. My mom got some of her light back but it never quite shined the same again.

When I was about 15 years old I came home after school on afternoon. My mom was in the kitchen talking to someone. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw Roy sitting at the table having a cup of coffee. My heart went cold. I walked in kissed my mother and began to walk out of the kitchen. My mother stopped me and made me speak. He was friendly, somewhat sweet. Telling me how beautiful I was and how proud he was of me. Was this guy ****king kidding me? I said thank you and left.

My mother come into my room later and told me I was rude and how that’s not how I was raised. She told me that Roy was dying and that he came to make amends. I was thinking “I finally get my wish”! She must have read my mind because she gave me this whole lecture on forgiveness. I rolled my eyes through the whole thing but then she said something that at 15 I really got. She told me if I hang on to what he did it’s like he’s still beating on her and now on me. He wins if I let the hate consume me. I realized that all those years I had done just that. I was still always so defensive and God forbid if I dated a boy and he yelled at me. I broke it off without question because I related that to Roy’s abuse and I wouldn’t let any man beat on me.

I won’t say I forgave at the moment, but after I found out he died a year or so later I did feel bad. I forgave and let it go. My mother is gone now. I still believe the shame and torture of that marriage haunted her to her dying day. She was never the same after that. Her light just got dimmer and dimmer until it was just extinguished.

She and I never spoke about the day I tried to end her suffering by trying to poison her husband. The suffering was not just hers alone. Even though I was not being physically beat, I (and our whole family), suffered the abuse right along with her. I wonder to this day if she would have stayed had she not seen me do what I did. Would he have eventually killed her and left my sister and me without our mother. Who knows?

I loved my mother and I still do.