Domestic Violence

In Memoriam – Domestic Violence Awareness Month

 

In November of 2010, my parents celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary, and my mother posted “Lordy, Lordy, look whose marriage just turned 40!” on her Facebook timeline. It would be her last. It reminded me of when my mother, herself turned forty. We lived in the backwoods of Mississippi, a little town called Van Cleave. It was a forty-five minute drive north of Biloxi, which my mother commuted Monday through Friday to her Civil Servant job at Keesler Air Force Base.

As a surprise for her birthday, my father’s idea, signs were taped to trees alongside the short road in the Lake ‘O Pines subdivision that she drove to get home that read: “Lordy, Lordy, look whose turning 40!” It is so amazing to me how the mind and memory work, how a connection in my brain sparked this memory and put these two separate moments in time, together as one.

It was December 20th, 2010, I had been making baked goods for the holidays like I love to do every year, when I received a call from my sister, Julie. She wanted to know when I last spoke to my mother. I told her that it had been a week or so ago. I knew, right away, from the tone of my sister’s voice, that something was terribly wrong. I had known, for years, the capabilities my father possessed and I then suspected that he had done something terrifyingly horrific to my mother.

Two nights earlier, I was suddenly awakened from a deep, sound sleep, like a buzz of electricity, and was unable to fall back to sleep. I feel now that it must have been a telepathic message from my mother that she was in danger. It was very peculiar.

I told my sister of the last time I spoke with my mother. Our conversation was a sterile one. It was one I had become so used to having with her so many times before. During these telephone conversations with her, I knew I was speaking to a person, whose spirit had been broken into complete submission; someone who had given up any hope of ever having their very own self. She was a piece of clay, dried hard throughout the years into a formed shape that suited only its sculptor.

We talked about the weather, and how she was getting more excited about the coming of Christmas, and the presents she wanted to get for my nephews. She was so happy when hanging out with her grandchildren. On our last phone call, she sounded like she always did when she wasn’t speaking in the presence of Jay, different; free.

When he was near her, her telephone conversations would seem happy and upbeat, but I had always known that it was forced and faked. Everything that she said and everything that she did, was to appease, and keep at bay, her Master. Jay. She would usually make references to interject him into the conversation. If confronted with a subject, during a telephone conversation not fit, in her mind, to share with Jay, she would blurt out a random and unrelated sentence to quickly change the subject without his detection. She had become a pro. My sister and I could always, I mean every, single last time, tell if Jay was in the room with her, or somewhere within ears reach, when we spoke with her on the phone.

She also had a “whisper voice”, one that she used when Jay was sleeping. Years of training, much of it through trial and error, taught her the perfect decibel to use when she whispered into the phone during his naptime. She knew the hell to be paid if he were to be awakened from his slumber. It is such a sad thought to know how terribly it must have physically and mentally affected my mother, after forty years in his control. I already knew how it affected me after a mere, but grueling, sixteen or so.

Alarm bells for Julie began, after repeated unanswered and unreturned calls to my mother’s cell phone during the last couple of days had occurred. My parents rented a house in Sun City Center, Florida, close to an hour drive from her own, so an immediate response was not possible. My mother’s brother, Travis and his wife, Alice lived in the next neighborhood over from my parents’ and offered to drive over there right away, to make sure that everything was alright.

When they arrived, my parents’ pearl white Cadillac was parked in the driveway. From all outward appearances, everything looked normal. Travis got out of the car and went to the front door of the 50’s built house nestled deep within the neighborhood of an average retirement community in Florida. He could hear my parents pug dogs barking and running through the house and the television, which was turned way up and very loud, tuned to MSNBC, or some other all day cable news channel. He knocked on the door and did not receive an answer. The police were called immediately.

Julie and her husband, Lance, drove as quickly as they could to my parents’ house. A call was made to the police to warn them of the imminent danger. The police said that they could not enter the residence without a missing person’s report being filed, but that a family member could enter on their own. Shortly, they joined Travis and Alice on the driveway of the house.

Lance checked all doors and windows, which all were locked and secure. The doggie door, built in to the kitchen door that led to the back yard, was accessible. I was on the phone with my Aunt Alice when Lance crawled through the doggie door and unlocked the back door of the rented house on Ojai Street. The same house that would soon become the Christmastime subject of police and media attention.

I heard my sister puppy-talking to my mom’s pugs with excitement, and a sort of relief. Lance directed my sister, Travis and Alice to remain outside until he cleared the house of intruders or danger. I lived in San Francisco at the time, so I could not see what my brother-in-laws face looked like when he came back out of the kitchen door after his walk-through, but it must’ve looked bad. Without warning, I heard a freakish scream in such a way as you might hear a mother scream after finding out her child has just been run over by a car. ”What did HE do to MY MOTHER! What did HE do to MY MOTHER!” my sister yelled repeatedly, and then, I heard Lance say, “Julie, they’re gone.”

I do not remember how the information was relayed, but soon it was clear to me what had happened. My father, the man that I instinctively feared capable of such a thing did it. He shot my dear mother, of whom I worried would someday succumb to just this sort of tragedy, in the head. She laid, as if peacefully asleep, in her bed, dead. Next to the bed, the murderer laid, also dead, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

The following poem shows the pure denial women in abusive relationships suffer. By this time in their marriage it was clear that Jay was a danger that my mother could not escape.

“The Strength of Our Love”

I couldn’t imagine a day without you

Where would I go and what would I do

For life would mean nothing without you near

You brighten up my days and chase away my fears

It’s been seven wonderful years that we’ve been together

Living and loving, but hurting never.

We’ve seen some hard times, yes it’s true

But together, we always saw them through.

We never gave slack for our faith in each other

                                   For it only grows stronger with each passing year.

The strength of our love grows with each passing day

Although it has been tested many times along the way.

And I know when I’m breathing my last breath of life

I’ll have your love locked up inside

For love doesn’t die when the body does

I’ll carry it with me when I ascend above.

by Lucy Pruett

I think of, and miss my mother every day.

Domestic violence is no longer a skeleton to remain in the family’s closet. It is a serious and deadly condition that can be stopped with the right amount of education and life-saving action. Please, please, please…if you know of a family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor who is facing such treachery, go to http://www.thehotline.org/, call 1-800-the-hotline, or inform the police right away. Your actions count!

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Domestic Violence

A Short Play – Jay & Lucy (Conclusion)

 

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/

 

Here is a quick background from part two, posted on Wednesday, November 26th: Jay and Jarvis got into a shuffle over a gun. Jay stabbed Jarvis in the butt. Bruce, Jarvis’ dad, is preparing to take him to the hospital. Trudy, Jarvis’ mother, entered the scene, she is appalled to find that Jay had a gun, and stunned her son was stabbed with a knife.

 

Jarvis: He said he was cleaning it (the gun), momma, and I asked him to put it away. The Spencers’ kids, and some others, were playin’ just ’cross the street.

Bruce: Jarvis, don’t upset your mother, we will discuss this whole mess after we get home. Now sweetheart, stay here with the girls, I’ll take him on over to see the doctor.

Lucy: (Comes waddling into the scene. She has a fairly good baby bump showing and large rollers in her hair.) What is going on out here? Where’s Jay?

Bruce: Lou, Jay stabbed your brother in the rear-end, with a knife.

Lucy: (Surprised expression.) He did? When? Why? What happened, daddy? (All of the questions run together as one.)

Trudy: (Aggitated.) Just now, young lady. He is a bad kid, Lucy we tried to tell you this before you ran off and married him! Here’s your proof in the pudding.

Lucy: (Approaches him and puts her hand on his shoulder.) Oh Jarv, are you okay? How did it all happen? I don’t think he would do something like this on purpose.

Jarvis: Yeah, right, Lucy. (He moves far enough away that her hand slides from his shoulder.)

Lucy: Well, why did he get mad?

Bruce: I don’t want to hear another word of it Lou, I’m gonna get your brother over to see Dr. Oliver. We’ll discuss this whole incident afterwards. And we’ve got to hurry before he bleeds himself to death.

Lucy: (Shaken and stuttering.) O o o okay, daddy.

Bruce: Trudy, I’ll call you, just as soon as I get any sort of news.

Trudy: Okay, but please call me right away, I will be here chewing my nails off from the worry!

Bruce: I will my love.

Jarvis: Don’t worry too much momma, I’ll be alright.

Trudy: (Nervously.) Well, you bess let the doctor be the judge of that, now y’all hurry on over there!

(Bruce helps Jarvis into the passenger’s seat. He walks over, gets into the car, and rolls the window down.)

Bruce: Trudy, I want you to go into the house, lock the door, and don’t open it for anyone until we get back. Do you understand?

Trudy: I will. I told you that boy was dangerous, Bruce!

Bruce: That means you too Lou. Not for anyone, I mean it.

Lucy: I won’t, Daddy.

 

Bruce’s car backs out of the driveway and speeds towards the hospital.

Mother and daughter go into the house. Moments later, the phone rings, and Lucy rushes to answer it.

 

Trudy: (Calling out.) Don’t stay on that phone Lou, you know we’re waiting on an important call.

Lucy: (While hurrying.) Yes Ma’am. (Out of breath.) Hello?

Jay: They better not call the police on me Lucy. (He has a strange tone in his voice.)

Lucy: What happened?

Jay: Jarvis knocked my fuckin’ gun on the g’dam driveway, and he did it on purpose. (Changes his strange tone into one that is obviously threatening.) He thinks he can boss me around, well he better think about who he’s messin’ around with, if he knows what’s best for ‘m. I ain’t fuckin’ around!

Lucy: Why did you have a gun out there, Jay?

Jay: I was cleaning it, that’s all. His fat ass came and put his nose in my business, like he’s a tough guy, or something.

Lucy: So you stabbed him?

Jay: He dropped my gun on the driveway and we got into a fight over it. He did it on purpose, but what I did, was an accident. (Begins to speak with dramatic groveling.) I love you darling, I don’t want to go to jail. Please make sure they don’t call the cops on me. You’re the only thing I’ve got in the whole world.

Lucy: Where are you, anyway?

Jay: I’m just down the road at the Dairy Queen’s pay phone.

Lucy: Oh, Jay, my momma’s steaming mad over it. You gotta stay away from here for a while.

Jay: (Scary sarcasm.) Well, if she thinks that was bad…I’ll give her something to…

Lucy: (Alarmed.) Jay! What are you trying to say? That is my mother you’re talking about!

Jay: (Tone becomes calmer.) You better just make sure they don’t call the cops on me that’s all I’m sayin’. If they do, they’ll only be able to hold me for a little while, and then…

Lucy: And then what? Don’t say such a thing, Jay!

Jay: Oh, so now you think you’re gonna be the boss of me too, huh?

Lucy: No, that’s not what I’m trying to do at all. I love you Jay. All I want is for everyone to get along. And, of course I don’t want you to go to jail Jay, we are about to have a baby. A baby needs a father.

(Screams from the living room-‘Get off of that phone, Lucy!’)

Lucy: (Speaking quickly.) Jay, my mom’s yellin’ for me to get off the phone. I’ll talk to them Jay. I’ll straighten this all out, don’t worry a bit.

Jay: (Hint of fear.) Well, you better, ‘cause they can send me off to Huntsville, or sumthin’.

Lucy: I will. I love you so much, Jay. I won’t let anything happen to you.

Jay: (Calm and sweet.)  I know you won’t. I love you too.

Lucy: Bye, my love.

Jay: Bye.

(As she moves to hang the phone up, she hears Jay threatening, ‘Don’t you let ‘em….’ She sets the receiver on its’ cradle. The look on her face is one nervous, confused, and afraid.)

End of scene.

*

The stab wound narrowly missed my uncle’s spinal cord, according to the story I heard. It could very well have paralyzed him, had it ruptured the cord. For a time afterwards, Bruce would make the family wait in the car, while he checked the house to make sure Jay wasn’t there. It must have been frightening.

My grandparents were ready to press charges, which would have sent Jay away, but my mother begged her father with everything that she had, to spare him. Against his better judgment, her father agreed not to press charges, on the condition that he join the service. Jay joined the United States Air Force and was soon on his way to boot camp. This incident was swept under the carpet. Forgive, forget, and move on. The Air Force never did make Jay a better man.

Some actions have a profound impact on the future, this was one of them. If you, or someone you know, is in an abusive relationship, or if you see the signs of a violent boyfriend, or husband, please get help as soon as possible. Press those charges! When you sweep things under the carpet, the floor underneath remains dirty.

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Domestic Violence

Forgiveness – Matthew 6: 14-15

 

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

 

This posting is dedicated to forgiveness.

 I forgave my father many times, and for many terrible, almost unmentionable wrongdoings, in the past. He did some fucked up stuff. I forgave, because the ones who I truly loved, and who truly loved me, told me that it was what Jesus said to do. The Bible said so. As the years and “events” rolled on, I found myself having to forgive him on a regular basis. I finally clued in to common sense, which the Lord (A higher power) provides each and every one of us.

Our Almighty Creator gave us the ability to think, to reason, and to evolve, right? Our brains are amazing machines that allow us to comprehend and to work things out. Mine did, and as time passed, something screamed, ‘Foul!’, from the depths of my gray matter. I thought this primarily of Jay, but it rings true for anyone, “If someone realizes they can be forgiven for any old thing they do, why would they stop doing those things? The people doing all the forgiving will continue to forgive them. The person will continue behaving badly, because forgiveness is easy for them to obtain. It is love and kindness that is taken for granted.” There comes a point when forgiveness, too, can be abused. 

Even though I write of terrible memories I have of Jay, and stories I’ve heard about him, I have forgiven him.  To the root of the issue, I looked and knew, right away, that his final action was none other, than one where forgiveness was crucial to my own existence. Even though what he did hurt me in a way I can’t even put into words, I knew I had to hold my own, stand up and keep moving forward. It may seem, to the reader that I have not moved on with my life, and am reliving it by writing about it. This is simply not the case. In my journey of forward motion, I am finally having the opportunity to tell my story. No, I do not close my laptop and skip around the house singing “It’s a Small World After All”, even though the ice cream truck has it on repeat, and drives about .05 miles an hour down my street, in fact, many times, after I close it, I cry of what I’d just written. It is a sad story, but it is one I feel compelled to get out there. It will definitely help me, and could possibly help someone else facing a similar situation. It is also a story of survival, which makes any sad story much, much happier.

Left-overs are calling. Peace, love and forgiveness.    

www.thehotline.org    1-800-799-7233

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Domestic Violence

A Short Play – Jay & Lucy (Part 2)

 

 

During the fight, Jay pulls a hunting knife from his waistband and stabs Jarvis in the ass. Jarvis screams in pain and falls onto the grass, near the driveway, writhing in pain, and holding his rump.

Bruce: (The crack of a screen door slamming shut rings out. Bruce rushes into the scene.) What’s going on out here? (Out of breath.)

Jarvis: It’s Jay. (Speaking through a clenched jaw.) He stabbed me in the butt, dad! Right in the butt! It hurts like fire!

Jay: (Still holding the blood-smeared knife. Wide-eyed and disheveled.) It was an accident, Mr. Bunn, I didn’t mean to do it!

Jarvis: Like hell he didn’t, dad! I told him to put away his gun and he started a fight with me over it! Dang dad, it hurts real bad-

With his dad’s help, Jarvis slowly stands up, holding his rear-end, and he walks over to the driveway. Blood quickly soaks the bottom of his shirt and jeans, and begins to drip.

Bruce: Put that damn knife away, and do it now! (Bruce looks at Jay with a very stern expression.) Jay, I think you better go on outta here, you’ve done enough harm, be it by accident, or not.

Jay: (Speaks fast, still out of breath.) Well, it was an accident. It really, really was Mr. Bunn. I didn’t mean to stab him!

Bruce: It very well may have been, but for the time being, you need to leave before I call the police. And do it now Jay, we don’t want any more problems with this.

Jay gathers his things and quickly shuffles away, power-walking down the street and out of the scene.

Trudy: (From the behind the front doors screen door, she calls out.) Bruce? Bruce, what’s happened? What is all of the commotion about? Is everything okay out there?

Bruce: (Speaking loudly.) Trudy, I’m gonna have’ta take Jarvis over to St. Joseph. Grab a towel, my wallet, and keys and do it quickly hun!

Trudy: Oh my goodness! What’s happened to Jarvis?

Bruce: Gather the items Trudy, I’ll tell you in a sec, hurry! (He lifts Jarvis’ shirt to inspect the injury.) Oh, for heaven’s sake, Jarv, he got ya good.

Trudy: (She quickly, but apprehensively enters the scene, carrying the requested items speaking with a panicked tone.) Oh my gosh, Jarv! What happened? What did he do?

Trudy hands the towel, wallet, and keys to her husband. He remains calm and focused.

Bruce: (Helping Jarvis with the towel.) Now, let’s wrap this around your tail-end, Jarv, and we’ll take a ride over to see Dr. Oliver and get this checked out.

Jarvis: (His shirt and hand is bloody.) Jay stabbed me in the butt, momma.

Trudy: Stabbed you? (Holds her hand to her mouth in horror.) He could’ve killed you!

Bruce: He said it was an accident.

Trudy: Accident? (Frightened, but somewhat sarcastic in tone.) You don’t go around accidently stabbing someone, Bruce! You accidently step on someone’s toes, not stab them in the..!

Jarvis: (Interrupting.) It was no accident, dad. He did it just because I told him to put away his gun.

Trudy: (Surprised expression.) Gun! What in Heaven’s name was he doing with a gun around here?

Bruce: Trudy, we’ll get to that after I take him over to St. Joe. First things first.

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Domestic Violence

A Short Play – Jay and Lucy

boysandguns1

boysandguns2

NRAhandbook

I am not sure exactly how this transpired, I only know the basics. Jay and my momma hadn’t been married long and she was pregnant with me. It was a sign of things to come and went something like this:

Main characters:  Jay (You already know who he is.)

My uncle Jarvis (My mother’s big brother.)

Bruce (Paw-Paw, my grandfather)

Trudy (Nanny, my grandmother)

Lucy: (My mother)

Setting: Early 70’s. Driveway of my mother’s parents’ house in a typical American neighborhood in Texas. Jay stands behind a parked car tinkering with something.

Jarvis: (Walks into the scene.) Hey Jay, whatcha doing?

Jay: Oh, just cleaning my gun. (Jay holds the gun to his eye and looks through the barrel, then he sticks a long metal pole down it.)

Jarvis: Gun?! Can I see it?

Jay: Hell no you can’t see it, it’s mine!

Jarvis: Well, you shouldn’t be playing around with one of those around here, something could happen.

Jay: It ain’t even loaded, and besides, I’m not playing with it, I’m cleaning it. Have you been schooled in gun safety the way I have? Are you a fine marksman, as I am? (He pulls the metal rod through the barrel a few more times.) Do you even know how to clean a gun? Do you attend a Military School, like I do?

Jarvis: Well, no, but I sure as heck wouldn’t be handling one of em out here, even if I was. A shooting range is the safest place to do all of that sort of stuff. I surely don’t need to remind you that those things are dangerous, you bein’ a professional marksman, and all.

Jay: Hey, are you bein’ a smart ass, or sumthin’? And when did anyone give you the duty of telling me when and where I can clean my gun?

Jarvis: Well, this is my house and I don’t want you cleaning a gun around it, that’s all. Put that thing away.

(Jay sets the gun on the trunk of the car and approaches Jarvis, ready to fight. Jarvis steps back. He tries to deflate the upheaval.)

Jarvis: Now Jay, don’t want any trouble, alls’ I’m trying to do is keep everything safe around here, that’s it. There’s kids playing around, just ‘cross the street, see, and a gun isn’t the kind of thing we need to be handling out here.

Jay: You know, Jarvis? You’re right. I guess I shouldn’t be cleaning it out here, after all. (A tone of sarcasm is noticeable. Jay places the cleaning kits’ pieces back into their box.)

Jarvis: I’m sure glad you see the danger in such a thing. (Changes the subject.) So, what are y’all doin’ this weekend? I think I’m head’n over to a party near campus, supposed to be a real doosey, I hear.

Believing that calm had been met, Jarvis pulls himself up to sit on the trunk of the car. By doing so, he accidentally causes the gun to slide off of the trunk and fall onto the driveway. This infuriates Jay and a physical confrontation ensues. Jarvis easily overpowers Jay physically, he’s twice as big, but Jay has a trick up his sleeve. Ye olde knife trick, that is.

*

My father had a life-long fascination with guns. As a kid, he attended gun safety and hunting courses taught by the NRA. The photographs above are items I found amongst his things. Each is a brochure from the NRA to its young members. They are from the mid-60’s.

PART TWO TOMORROW

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Domestic Violence

Momma, Do You Love Me?

I’ve decided to skip a day of my New Orleans Story to share with you the strange, but loving, relationship I had with my mother, who I miss _________________. (Too many words fought for entrance into this space, so I left it blank.)

The years of abuse I endured from my father was bad, to put it briefly, but I couldn’t understand why my mother wouldn’t take me away from it, which made it much worse. It made me feel like I had no one to protect me. My mother thought it was alright that I was treated the way I was by my father. It gave him free reign to do and say whatever he wanted, which was most always terrible. Unbeknownst to me, she WAS protecting me, the best she could, with what she had to work with, which wasn’t much. I would later become my mother’s defeated protector and understand the brutal severity of the feat.  

There were several occasions that my mother packed me and my sister into the car and tried to leave my father. She would take us to, my Grandmother, Nanny’s house to escape, which was only an eight hours drive from Biloxi, where we lived most of the time during my father’s military career. The attempted departures were blissful times for me, but the reprieve was also predictably hopeless. The belief that finally, my mother was going to put her foot down and take all of us out of that situation, was absolute relief. The certain knowledge that she would let him talk her into coming back was always the unbearable conclusion.

Each time we left, there was a nervousness about my mother that was completely noticeable to me. It was fear. She, like me, was afraid of my father. Afraid of what he would do, not only to her, but to me, my sister and the whole of my mother’s family. It was told to me by my aunt Honey, years later, that my father had actually threatened to kill the family if my mother ever left. Knowing that made the heart ache of what I tell you much easier for me to understand.

The happiness I experienced during these tries of escape were, each and every time, realized with the fact that we were going to go back to my father. I knew there would be a fateful telephone conversation between the two of them which would put us back into his tight grip.

Nanny had two telephones in her modest house. One of them was in the hallway. It was a wall phone with rotary dialing and had a very long curly cord that could darn near reach the kitchen. It was the phone to be used for normal, everyday conversations; calls to the grocer, the pharmacy or any other call where privacy was not an issue. Her second phone sat next to her bed. This was her private telephone and used primarily by her. Shortly after we would arrive, the phone would ring. Nanny already knew that it was my father because she had talked to him several times before we had even arrived. “Take it in my room hun” she would always say to my mother.

I followed her into Nanny’s room each time, feeling, in my heart, that this time she would listen to me, take my side and tell her abusive husband to take a hike. She would answer the phone and her demeanor would completely change. She became sweetly forgiving and he lovingly cooed her through the receiver. I remember, clear as day, falling to the floor of Nanny’s bedroom with my hands clasped in a prayer position, mouthing the words “Please mom, NO!” and crawling up to her on my hands and knees.  I begged relentlessly, red-faced and grief-stricken, tears filled my eyes and fell down my cheeks. “Please mom, don’t let him talk you into going back” I cried, helplessly aware that we would soon be on our way back to the torture that was my father.

After the doomed conversation, my mother would tell me that this time things would be better. She would tell me he was going to change and life would be much better at home. I knew differently. The ride back home was treacherous. I felt like a fish not released, but fried crispy in a pan. Of course, like clockwork, two weeks after our arrival, he would be back to his deranged and abusive self, smacking, tormenting and bullying me. It would never change.

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