Some of you may have noticed in my writing (and certainly in my videos) that I try to tie in some point about social issues to the story relayed. This post is a using different approach. There’s no social tie in, no easy answer, no glib quip aimed at any group.
If there is any message it is that this story falls within the realm of things humans do. If it resonates with you at all, take this away from it: humans do bad things to each other. As a society we should face this truth together, not each through our own ideological lens.
With that admonishment, let us hear the tale.
When I was 14 I left my dad’s house to go live with my mom.
The divorce had been messy. My mom had found a new religion (Jehovah’s Witness) which seemed to my 8 year old mind to be the primary cause of the breakup. Looking back, I’m sure there were other factors that I was kept from being aware of, but at the time there was only religion to point to. As is typical in child custody cases my younger brother and I were given to my mom. Atypically, she had moved out of the familial home and had gotten a new place. She had also gotten a new man.
My brother and I were thrust into the Jehovah’s Witness cult and our indoctrination began. We walked neighborhoods on Saturdays dressed in our finest clothes trying to “place” the Watchtower or Awake magazines. The pamphlets were only $0.05 at the time (has the price gone up?). We were told that birthdays were not to be celebrated and since Christmas was a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, it was not to be celebrated either. We were taught that Halloween was an evil holiday and was also not to be celebrated. Satan, it seemed, used treats to lure the faithful away from Jehovah. We were taught that we weren’t to stand during the national anthem, or to pledge allegiance to our flag. To say the least, we hated it.
We hoped that we would be allowed to live with our dad when the judge made his decision. Our dad celebrated birthdays, Christmas, Halloween, and other fun things. Our dad would allow us to play Little League baseball. Our dad didn’t make us go door to door on Saturdays.
My dad was advised that it was essential to re-marry in order to have a chance of getting custody of my brother and me. His new wife was nice and had a son from a previous marriage. My brother and I had a step brother (at least every other weekend). My dad’s new wife had parents who lived on 5 acres of land on the river. They had horses and a pier for fishing. It was a boy’s paradise.
Whatever arrangements that had to happen between the judges and the lawyers actually happened and my dad won custody. I was 10 years old. My brother was 6.
Fast forward 4 years and our stepmother had become a caricature of every wicked stepmother in fairy tales. I had tried to run away. My dad offered me the chance to go back to live with my mom and I took it. Things were so bad with the stepmother that I was willing to go back to the JW lifestyle to get away from her. I may go into the details of her psychological abuse in a future post, but for now I think that is better left out.
My expectations were not high. My mom had been estranged from us either by her choice or by my stepmother’s actions. To explain that last sentence, when I was picked up by my mom and my aunt (the same aunt from “Daddy Why Are You Crying” ) I was informed of the many letters my mom had written and mailed which I had never gotten. In one of them she detailed her falling out with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In another, her divorce and re-marrying. She’d had another child, also. I now had a sister. The drive to my mom’s place was very informative to say the least.
One of the things I learned quickly upon arriving at my mom’s was that my new stepfather had a temper. I was spared any physical abuse at his hand, but endured quite a bit of shouted vitriol. My mom, I feared, endured the brunt of his physical anger. There were never any bruises or cuts, and my mom always defended him, so I felt powerless to affect the situation.
Eventually, I suppose, my mom tired enough of this treatment to separate from him and begin divorce proceedings. We had moved from the apartment to a real house by then and my mom was awarded temporary possession of the home and custody of my sister.
This is where the story I want to relay really begins. Everything prior to this has been for background context.
At 15 years old, I was a fairly active young man. I played many unorganized outdoor sports with my friends. One evening a friend and I went out to play tennis. In Florida it’s much better to play in the evening under the lights than during the day. When my friend (who was older and had a car) dropped me off at my house, I was in a great mood. Well, I was until I walked into the house to find my mother weeping on the couch and being consoled by her female friend.
I asked the obvious questions, “What happened? What’s wrong?” The only answer I got from my mom was nonverbal; she simply shook her head no. The information I sought was finally pried from my mom’s friend. Mom’s soon to be ex-husband had come by the house unannounced and forced himself on her. The word used was “rape”. I tried to console my mom as best I could, but even while doing so I could feel my own anger building. I tried to get my mom to call the police and report the crime, but she would have none of it. My anger intensified. I understood at that moment why it’s sometime called “righteous anger”.
More friends showed up at the house including the boyfriend of the woman who had been consoling my mom when I walked in. He pulled me aside to talk to me. We went out to his truck where he gave me a shovel handle with the spade removed. He said, “You keep this in the house in case that son of a bitch comes back.”
Things eventually calmed down that night, at least enough to go to sleep and for the next two days things slowly began to return almost to normal. My mom cried less often but my anger did not dissipate. On the third day after the rape, he returned.
He walked right in without knocking. He seemed oblivious to the trauma he had caused and began walking toward my mom with a purposeful stride. I saw the shovel handle in the corner and him walking toward my mother. I saw red. I remember picking up the handle. I remember starting to swing it. Strange though, I don’t remember the feel of the impact.
I had hit him in the back of the head with a four foot long , inch and a half in diameter piece of wood. He went down immediately, his hand on the back of his head. Blood was flowing. My mom screamed. She told me to get a trash bag to protect the carpet from the blood. She sent me next door to call for an ambulance as we had no phone at the time. I called the emergency number and reported that a man had been hit on the head and was bleeding in our house. The operator asked me if it was an accidental or assault incident. I’ve always been a very honest person so I told the operator the truth: it was an assault type.
The police and ambulance arrived. The deputy talked to him, to my mom and to my mom’s friend. The EMT’s carted him away to the ambulance. I later learned he had to have 10 stitches to close his wound. The deputy took the shovel handle in his possession as evidence. I was arrested for aggravated battery, a 2nd degree felony. I was handcuffed and taken to the station. I did not waive my Miranda rights.
The deputy had gotten the full story from my mom and her friend and the decision was made after a few hours to release me back to my mom’s custody. This was something akin to “released on one’s own recognizance”. The deputy offered to drive me home to release me. On the way home he said to me, “I know what happened from your mom and just between you and me, I’m surprised you showed so much restraint. I probably would have killed him.”
I went to stay with my aunt for a few weeks while the legal gears ground the case to its resolution. The case was never taken to trial because a deal was worked out whereupon I had to serve 20 hours community service, Since I was a minor, the case was expunged when I turned 18. The ex-husband didn’t sue.
I would see him from time to time after that when he came to pick up his daughter for visitation. He almost always stayed in or around his vehicle and never once entered our house uninvited again. Even on those occasions when he came in the house, he was docile and respectful. He never touched my mom afterwards, which was really the only thing that mattered to me. It’s sad that some folks need a wooden reminder to keep their hands to themselves. It was the one and only time in my life I resorted to violence.
My mom was both appalled and pleased by the actions I took that day. She told me that while she wished I hadn’t resorted to violence, she was proud that I came to her defense.
My mom thereafter sought out abusive men for whatever reason. Transactional analysis may provide some insight into why that is, but I’m not an expert.
As I said at the outset, there’s no real tie in point for this tale. I just felt it was time to tell it.
It served as a lesson that sometimes there is no perfect outcome. Sometimes everyone loses a little.
Get some time.