Friday, September 30, 2011

A day late...doesn't it always happen that way?

I was getting caught up on my magazines last night and there was an essay contest in one that for some unknown reason, felt compelled to enter. I wrote it all out (the essay subject was "when did you first understand the meaning of love") and as I was typing the submission email address I saw that the deadline had passed. (*note to self, read magazines closer to the time they arrive).

Anyway, since I can't share it with the thousands of people that read the magazine, I will share it will all three of you that read here.

My father was a charming, abusive, alcoholic. He was a pillar in the community, well liked, handsome, and in a position of power.

In her day and because she was Catholic, my mother knew that divorce was not an option. She endured his rages, threats and beatings not knowing what else to do in the era of the 1940’s and 1950’s. When I was born in the late 1950’s my mother was able to keep me sheltered, for the most part, from the turmoil but eventually one event led to a momentous decision for a woman in a small community in 1963.

After a particularly loud confrontation I walked into our kitchen in time to see my mother lying on the floor with my father standing over her in an alcohol infused rage. When she saw the look of terror and confusion on my face she made the decision, in that instant, to file for divorce.

Friends and family had to have known what was happening all those years. They didn’t know about the verbal abuse, or the times that the bruises and broken bones didn’t show. They didn’t know about the times she woke up with a gun pressed against her forehead with him asking her why he shouldn’t kill her that morning. Because of the era, and the way that “family matters” were not discussed with others, she never felt as though she would have any support and none was ever offered.

That morning, she didn’t care, the time had come. She told me later that she would not allow another child to live in such a horrid environment and that even if we had to live hand to mouth we would be safe. My brother had been witness to many episodes as he is a good deal older than I am, and ironically he has very little memory of any of the torment he was subjected to at the hands of our father.

So, knowing that she would be completely on her own with a young daughter, with no emotional or financial support from family and friends, and a community that would be stunned, she divorced my father because her love for me superseded everything else. It is an intense love that I thought I understood, but realized at the age of 32 I really never knew how intense it really was. That was when our first son was placed in my arms after struggling for eight years to become a mother myself. I got it. I finally really understood the whole “throw yourself in front of a bus for your child” love.

After word got around town that mom had filed for divorce, friends and family all quietly approached her and told her they wished she had done it years before. Everyone did know what was happening but because of the way things were, they couldn’t interfere in another family’s business, and they were also afraid of the ramifications from a powerful man.

Now, I hear myself telling my sons the same thing I heard from my mom for so long. They will understand how much I love them, when they have children. It took me 32 years.


Unknown Mami said...

I understand.

I'm sorry you missed the deadline because this is really good.

Tina said...

I am glad you missed the deadline so you could post it here. and i love you for sharing it.

Megan (Best of Fates) said...

What a beautiful essay. I second Mami, it's fantastically good.

Maggie May said...

This is wonderfully writ, and your mom was brave.

Anonymous said...

Uh...that is love and courage indeed. I could be wrong but is there another story to tell here?