Awakening in pain, fear or uncertainty my sister and I seemed to know when father beat mother. Sneaking out of our bedrooms, tears already streaming down our faces, we venture out to check on our mom’s well being. Hearing her scream, “Joe, NO don’t! Please stop”, seeing his fist flying, smelling alcohol in the air; these are some of the nights from my childhood.
They would see us cowering in our pajamas in the hallway. Mother would plead again for him to stop, but Joe tended to get inspired, an audience lifted his cruelty to new heights. It usually ended with Joe passing out, or Mother fleeing to our rooms, assuring us he normally didn’t hit her or that she upset him.
At times we fled to shelters, escorted by police, or secretly in the night. Fear can engulf you in a shelter; despair on the faces of strangers contaminates your soul. You quickly learn to give up hope, not due to the shelter, but because you know you’ll go back to HIM.
It becomes a secret to the family, the unspoken word, the dreaded return. There are many attempts at reconciliation, they are all failure. As children we wondered why she kept asking him back. A part of me conflicted with fear and hatred of this man, and the understanding that I am supposed to love my dad.
One particular night, he noticed my revulsion, and asked me “You think I’m a son of a bitch don’t ya.”
“Yeah, I do”.