Friday, February 22, 2008

I Cried.......The Final Chapter

My Mom, Beth, (pictured above) was sitting in her comfortable glider rocker, her feet up on the gliding foot stool; I sat on the edge of her neatly made bed, listening intently as she quietly told me of her last day of abuse from my father.

Mom was in the basement of the old farm house doing the family laundry that day. MaryHell, Dolores and I were there with her, a fact that I absolutely do not recall, although my clone, Dewe recalls it vividly. This part of the story was related to me by her, Mom didn't include it for reasons I will never know. According to Dewe, Mom was humming as she put the clothes through the wringer of the washer, while the three of us played in the background. Dad came down into the basement, apparently in a bad mood, and asked my Mom what the hell she was so happy about, striking her with his fist. He then proceeded the beat her nearly to death. Dolores remembers crying in fear and horror as this beating took place. MaryHell (who was four) and I blocked it from our minds. I guess it was too painful for us to see.

Mom began, that day in her room, by telling me she knew her time was short and she was so afraid, not of dying, but of having to see him again in the afterlife. She went on to tell me that the morning after the last beating, she woke up in severe pain, which engulfed her entire body and soul. He had punched her body and kicked her legs severely, leaving her bruised from her neck down. Both of her breasts were as black as night, bruises on her arms and legs as big a basketballs. This incident was the last straw. She knew she had to get out of there before he killed her.

It was planting time, Dad was out in the field, so she told one of the older kids to take the four youngest of us to a neighbors house for safe keeping.....she was leaving and would let him know, in a few days, where she would be. Her next words to me were:

"I didn't know what I was going to do or where I was going, but I stole the twenty-six dollar milk check we had received the day before, left the house with just the clothes on my back, and started walking to the highway, which was a mile from the house. I hurt so badly and was so sore, I didn't know whether I could make it, but I did. Once at the highway, I caught a ride into Pocatello, ending up at the Montgomery Ward store. They had a woman's lounge there, where I could go in and lay down to rest. As I lay there, I was scared to death, thinking of you kids, and of how I didn't have any kind of skills, except being a farmer's wife, wondering how in the world I was going to get a job that would support us. I wanted to get you kids away from there as soon as possible. I couldn't ask my mother for help because she had no sympathy for the life I'd chosen. She had always said, in times of past trouble, "you made your bed, you lie in it!"

"After I had rested for a while and a million thoughts went through my mind, I decided I would buy a bus ticket to Salt Lake City, where I felt it would be easier to find some kind of job. I decided I could stay at the YWCA for a while until I got enough money together to get a place to live and send for you kids. When I arrived in Salt Lake, I simply didn't know where to start and knew I couldn't do it alone so I took the last of the milk check money and bought a ticket to Los Angeles where my Aunt Ethyl lived. I knew in my heart she would help me any way she could. Upon arriving in the bus terminal in LA, I was exhausted and had only a few dimes left of the money I had. I went to the phone booth to call Ethyl and was surprised to see that the phones had rotary dials on them, something I had never seen before. I didn't know how to use that kind of phone, but some nice fellow, who must have seen the confusion on my face, helped me make that call."

"While waiting for Aunt Ethyl, I went into the Ladies room and tried to wash myself the best I could, after my two days of travel. She picked me up and while we were driving to her home, I told her what had happened and how I didn't have an idea of what I was going to do. I felt so alone and afraid, but she assured me that I could stay with her as long as I needed and that she would help me find work. She took me to a thrift store and bought me some clothes and to the Five and Dime store for underwear, since I had nothing with me. I felt safe and loved with her. When we got to her house, I sat down and wrote a letter to Bob, (my oldest brother) to let him know where I was and that I was safe, ask him to watch out for the other kids, and to tell him I would send for them as soon as I possibly could."

After about a week at Aunt Ethyl's, she received a phone call, with the news that Dad was dead. He had taken his rifle out into a field, somewhere on the Fort Hall Reservation and away from people, ending his life with a single shot into his temple. Her life with him was over, but those memories of hurt and pain remained, kept to herself, for the rest of her life until she shared them with me that day in early September, 1994. She passed away on September 30, 1994.

As she was telling me this story, I moved from the bed, sat down on the floor next to her and held her hand while looking up into her sad eyes. I felt her pain that day, wanting only to comfort her and assure her that she had no need to fear, for God would never force her to be with him again, He loved her too much. We sat in silence for a long time, still holding hands. She drifted off to sleep, I got up, covered her with a small blanket and quietly left the room to be alone with this new knowledge. My love and respect for her grew to new heights that day.

The letter to my Mom that I found a few days ago, dated June 1, 1951, was from my father, who died on June 3, 1951. Logic tells me that she did not receive it until after his death. In it, he is apologetic, promising to be a decent man from now on, begging her to forgive him and to come home to him and us kids, who needed her so much, and finally asking if they couldn't try, one more time, to love each other as they had in the beginning.

I cried.............and I wonder: why, in those years, was there no help for mentally ill people? (I believe, through information gained in my lifetime, that my father was Manic/Depressive) Why do I feel this anger toward him and at the same time feel a deep love for him and compassion for the pain he must have felt in his soul? I miss my mother greatly and I miss not having had a father in my life. Some day I will understand, when I know my questions WILL be answered, and I will cry no more.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Mental illness is such a sad thing, and affects us in so many ways