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Friday, July 14, 2017

Freedom Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I am not sharing this tidbit in a passive-aggressive bid to have you, my treasured readers, rush to shower me with birthday greetings. That you look at my Ravings at all is a gift that I get to enjoy whenever I put words on the page and you read them. But yesterday being my birthday is a central point of the true tale I am now going to relate. 

I've mentioned my sister Liz on several occasions in my posts, and this story is about Liz, Trent, and The Lunatic. My sister was married for a number of years to a man who was not the best person he could be. He wasn't a drinker or a carouser or a chaser of women. He was a cruel and abusive man. Many people have commented over the years, and likely still do, that the fact that his nickname was Dick was not a mere coincidence. 

I tried to like him because he was my sister's husband, but he made it very difficult. On the day that I met him, he turned the garden hose on her in anger because there was a splat of bird poop on her car. I forgot for many years that on one occasion shortly after I met him, he grabbed my arm very roughly and made it clear that he wanted to physically harm me (Liz was not in the room). By this point, I had been through some severe illness and had been diagnosed with lupus. As I once said to someone else, I had looked death in the face, why should I be afraid of him? I looked at his hand which was squeezing my forearm, looked in his eyes, and very calmly said, "Go ahead and hurt me if you want to. But I have to warn you that I bruise easily, and I will call the police."

He never physically hurt me, buy made it clear on many occasions that I was many variations on a theme which included a certain word that rhymes with ditch. As is common with abusers, he often did whatever he could to keep we sisters apart. And he heaped abuse on her, both verbal and physical, time and time again.

For a very long time I, along with many others who cared about Liz in varying ways, kept thinking that she should "just leave." If life was such misery, why didn't she simply move on? As a child whose abusive father killed her mother, I have always had particularly strong feelings about partner abuse. So it ate at me to think that history could potentially repeat itself.

One day in late winter or early spring of 2016, I had an incredible moment of clarity that hit me out of nowhere. I realized that if I were in Liz's situation, I couldn't "just leave" because I might not have a place to go or the means to do so. I said this to Trent and without even blinking he said, "She'll come live with us." Hey, we're apparently together for good reason. So we took the plunge and I texted Liz, telling her that we were going to make a place for her in our home for whenever she was ready to leave her husband.

Liz began to spend entire days with us, sometimes just sitting quietly stringing beads, or folding laundry for us (something she enjoys and I could gladly live without). From time to time, she would spend the night on the twin-sized pullout bed in the living room, sleeping more peacefully without her abuser at hand. Trent and I were pleased to see the changes in her. Just knowing that she had a place to go seemed to give her an extra bit of strength and confidence.

And then my birthday rolled around. Dick was notorious for making any holiday or birthday miserable for Liz. When any of these special occasions were on the horizon, he'd go out of his way to find some reason to be angry with her. At the very least, there were no birthday or holiday wishes. At the very worst, there was more verbal or physical abuse.

So on my birthday last year, Liz came over to have dinner with us after spending the day at work. We were relaxing in the living room after dinner when he called her in a rage. Even though she had her phone up to her ear, I could hear all of the vile things he was screaming at her. He informed her that when she got home she would have to spend the entire night cleaning the house because it was too dirty. Mind you that Liz has had a hip replacement and had additional surgery on the same hip early last year. She had also worked all day on her feet.  
She told him she couldn't because she had to go to work in the morning. And that's when things began to get even uglier. He said if she wasn't going to clean, she might as well stay with her sister. Then he asked her where she really was, because he knew she wasn't at her sister's. Who was she insert crude terminology for engaging in sexual intercourse with someone-ing? She told him again, truthfully, that she was with me and Trent. I offered to speak with him. When I got on the phone, he started screaming that it wasn't me, it was still Liz talking. So I asked if he wanted to speak with Trent to prove that Liz was with us.

Dick said that yes, he would like to speak with Trent. When Trent got on the phone, Dick started to tell him that he was glad that he could tell him what a horrible person he was married to and what kind of family she came from. My wonderful husband said, "This conversation is over. Katrina is my wife and I love her, and I will not listen to you saying nasty things about her. I'm done." I was overflowing with love and pride for my dear husband!

Liz was again on the phone with her husband. He told her not to bother coming home. She said that she had to come home for her pills and some clothes, and that's when it got even worse. His screaming and threats were insane. He told her that if she came home he would f-ing kill her, using the full word, of course. When she replied that she'd call the police, he said to go ahead - when they saw that the house was dirty, they would be on his side. He also threatened to "just throw all of your stuff outdoors." If she even thought of bringing me or Trent along to keep her safe, he'd throw us out or kill us as well. It was the stuff of a made for television film, only real. And nobody could ever make up something that horrible and insane.

Liz got off the phone and said she had to at least go home and get her pills. We made her promise to park about a block from her house, dial 911, and wait for the police before going into the house. The last thing Liz said through her tears before she left was that she was afraid she would end up like her mother. And then we waited.

At about 10:30 I got a call from a number that I didn't recognize, so I didn't answer. They immediately called back. It was a police officer wanting to get my statement as a witness to the phone call and threats. The officer told me that my statement matched up with the one from Liz, and that Dick was being arrested. He insisted that he would never say anything like what she claimed because he is such a nice old man. He spent that night and another couple of days in jail, while Liz was able to remain safely in the house. A protective order was in place until Liz could see about making it permanent. He showed up to one hearing with a walker, claiming that he couldn't even drive. An hour later, he drove his truck to the doctor's office and arrived fully mobile and without the walker.

A couple of weeks later, Dick's daughter (an apple that did not fall far from the tree) had her friend serve divorce papers to Liz while she was working. Liz had already started packing up her possessions. In true fashion, Dick engaged in lies about what his assets and expenses were, even stating that his monthly grocery/eating expenses per month were equivalent to what Trent and I spend in about four months. In January of this year, Liz moved in with us, the divorce became final, and the house was sold. 

Liz is finally able to breathe freely and spread her wings. She's a grown woman, and as such, she can go where she wishes and see her friends and do as she likes. When she gets home, nobody will scream at her or ask her who she was with or what she was doing or why she's home late. She finally has a chance to live a more normal life.

Last year, before Trent and I went to bed on July 13th, I remarked about the battle zone that was my birthday - happy freaking birthday to me. In retrospect, that weird birthday ended up being a gift. It enabled a woman to end an abusive relationship. It set her free.



A note from The Lunatic: It's no secret that because of my background, I have strong feelings about domestic abuse. If you are being abused, please seek help from any source possible. It could be a trusted friend, a community program, a religious advisor, and most especially your local law enforcement and county government. Liz was given help through the county's victim's advocacy programs. They help with things as varied as no- or low- cost door lock replacements and funding divorce attorneys. There are many people who care and are eager to help you.

If you know someone who is being abused, please do not try to force them to adhere to a timetable that you'd like them to follow. The changes and challenges involved in exiting the relationship can be as stressful as the abuse, and sometimes even more so. Sometimes the best support you can give is just being there. Researching local resources will help both you and your loved one know that help is out there.

Finally, we must always think of the children who may be affected by domestic abuse. Even if they are not abused, they may learn behaviors and expectations based on what they see every day.



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