November 04, 2005

*not edited because I am exhausted.

My mother left David the summer of 1980. She had returned home one night to find me asleep, my nose swollen, my face bruised from the blow of my shoe. He had come home in a rage. I could discern the coming tempest by the sound of the brakes as he turned into the driveway, the way he slammed the door, the sound of its echo in the carport. I knew there was nowhere for me to hide that I would not be found. Lacking certain innocence, but so full of childish hope, I extended polite conversation, got him a glass of water. He was seething. I was petrified.

I don't remember what it was exactly that set him off. I only distinctly recall being shoved down the hall and pushed through the doorway to my bedroom. He told me that I was going to bed. " At 5 o'clock," I stupidly questioned. Seeing stars, or at least bright spots of expanding, fading, overlapping light when sudden sharp pain to the face or head occurs is very real. The blood immediately began to rush from my nose and into my mouth, down my chin, past the curve to my neck, into my throat, choking me, soaking me. I began to sob and was berated. At ten, my breasts were barely budding, but enough was there to facilitate embarrassment when he raised my shirt to wipe my chin and upper lip and exposed my training bra, the little blue flower drenched from the stream that flowed past it, pooling against the strap beneath.

"Get into the bathtub," he commanded. I obeyed, my head pounding, my eyes throbbing with each pulse. The pocket door to the hall bathroom afforded me no stay of security as it was without a lock. I dared not look in the mirror, afraid of what I would see. I stepped into the tub and startled violently when he threw back the door.

"Is that how you treat the watch you grandmother gave you?" Around my wrist was a Mickey Mouse watch my grandmother, the only one I had, sent me as a birthday gift. The red leather straps had yet to become one with my tiny arm and were still stiff and difficult to maneuver when buckling.
"No," I stuttered. My lips felt soft and sluggish when I spoke.
"Take it off. Now."
I complied. He took it, set it on the side of the tub and stomped on it. The glass crushed, the blow breaking the mechanism. The watch had been a daily, hourly, reminder that someone, somewhere loved me, thought of me, considered me. Once during free time in Mr. Brewer's class, I had lain the watch across a map of the United States. It perfectly connected Oklahoma City to Washington, D.C.

My mother returned later that night from somewhere that she had been. All I knew is that she hadn't been there. I typically begged to attend meetings with her, to accompany her to dinners and happy hours at restaurants. She would sometimes acquiesce, but I would be awakened in the night by a glass of milk thrown against my face and told not to bother her anymore.

The next day, she wrapped all my clothes up in a sheet, tied it, and then packed her own clothes. We shared a mattress on the floor in a room in the house of one of her friends. He would call in the middle of the night, begging her to come back. I feigned sleep. Turning over on my side, I followed the paisley wallpaper pattern around and around while begging the God to whom I had never been properly introduced to, yet somehow believed, to keep her from feeling sorry for him, to keep her from returning.

We moved back two weeks before school started. It was awkward. He had committed to not harming me, but in order to do so, he had to drug himself into a profuse stupor. He once put the BMW into first instead of reverse and slammed into a retaining wall and crushed the garbage cans. He slept. A lot.

I had seen him once shooting up once between his toes while sitting on the toilet, and another near his ankle as he sat on the edge of the bed half dressed in boxers, broadcloth shirt and tie, one black sock, Gabardine sport coat hanging on the bedpost next neatly laid out pants. I mentioned it to my mother, thinking nothing of it. I recall her brow wrinkling, and being asked for specifics: what kind of medicine? where did the needle go? But she never asked for more and I thought nothing more of it. He was a doctor. Doctors gave themselves medicine.

One Saturday he took me to see Pete's Dragon. I made small talk; he didn't talk, and when he did, it was constrained to statements not requiring a response. The movie ended and I thanked him for taking me, telling him how much I enjoyed the movie. I attempted to talk about it. He, however, was clearly finished with the penance required of him for the day. I heard him tell my mother when we arrived home that I had been so sickeningly sweet he couldn't stand it.

The next evening, Sunday, October 19, my mother grilled hamburgers on the Hibatchi. She was making every effort to have us be the happy family. David had gone in to the hospital earlier having been beeped for an emergency surgery. My mother was expecting him soon. I was watching "The Jeffersons" on the Zenith in the den when the phone rang.

Her cries of disbelief drew me into the kitchen and I saw her sitting on the floor, her body supported by a chair. Each exclamation of "NO!" was punctuated by the sound of her head hitting the wall next to her. Seeing my mother like this was too much for me. I began to cry. She finished the conversation with minimal and shortened replies of yes and no. It was obvious the conversation was over when her grip on the receiver slackened and it slid into her lap, cradled by the excess of material from her still-too-big maternity overalls.

"David's dead." Pause.
"David is dead!" Sharp exhalation followed naturally by a quick inhalation not unlike a child between sobs and then, "My God, my God." I watched her small frame heave in attempt to hold the weight, but even for a brief second, she could not. I ran around the corner into the dining room and watched myself cry in the large mirror that hung above the antique Chinese buffet. I mourned not for him being gone, rather in seeing my mother's heart break before my eyes.

Later while she called his family, I went into my room and shut the door behind me. I listened to be sure no one had followed me, wrongly thinking I needed comfort. I cautiously smiled, lips together. I bit my index fingernail, filed the edge with my teeth. I practiced a mournful composure before returning to the living room where my mother and a few people had gathered. Someone handed me a Valium and quarter glass of wine. I don't remember going to bed, but was there in the morning. I had never felt such possibilities as when my eyes opened that next day, and in the same house, beneath the same roof, in another bed, my mother had never known such despair.

Posted by Rae at November 4, 2005 12:08 AM


Posted by: Altar Girl at November 4, 2005 12:16 AM

It is no wonder that you are able to hold the egg parts separately in one hand; you were forced to learn how to at such an early age with your joy at his death juxtaposed to your mother's sorrow (and yours for her.) I am glad that his wretched and pathetic flame of existence was snuffed out when it was (although if he was still shooting up somewhere, it would be quite satisfying to go teach him how to hold some parts separately in his hand; brain parts.)

Posted by: Kris at November 4, 2005 04:21 AM

oh, my.


Posted by: amelie at November 4, 2005 07:36 AM

Rae, your writing takes me back to so many evenings in my childhood when I would sit (hide) in my room and fantasize about receiving a phone call telling us that my drunken stepfather was dead in a car accident. The fear. The hate. The anger. The hope. The shame. No wonder this story is burning to get out of you.

Thank you for sharing this raw piece. Thank you for surviving and thriving and for being you.

Posted by: Alisha at November 4, 2005 11:12 AM

I have found that the best therapy in the world is telling the story.

Bless you, kiddo, for telling, for surviving the pain and heartache, but mostly for being you.

Posted by: Margi at November 4, 2005 12:09 PM

Next time I see you I'm hugging you to pieces. You're very brave putting it all out here. [HUGS]

Posted by: Ith at November 4, 2005 12:29 PM

Rae, I had no idea....I mean I had heard some things but this....
Sorry just doesn't seem right.
I have no words, just that
I love you!

Posted by: Sally at November 4, 2005 03:19 PM

As a brother in Christ, I send my love to you too.

Posted by: Randy at November 5, 2005 11:16 PM

Too bad there is no correct way to do vigilante work for the hands who "shed innocent blood" I see my girls and wonder who could hurt them. You know how I feel about these things. Your painful memories have made me more diligent to know more about the actions, friends and location of the girls in our care. I don't want them to live what you have had to endure.

Posted by: R at November 7, 2005 03:26 PM

Thank you Rae.

Posted by: Mark La Roi at November 8, 2005 01:18 PM
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