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The Courts – Part Eight

 

Tensions mounted as the time drew nearer for my father’s meeting with Lola. Other than closed door talks with my mother, and bully-like looks from him, Jay left me alone. Very few words were exchanged between us during the passing of the several days before the session. It was the quiet before the storm.

I was well aware that Jay would be questioned about his behavior towards me, and knew that his reaction would be denial and accusations, with the possibility of a complete meltdown. I figured he would hand the big blob of blame sitting in front of him, to me, as he so often did. He had painted me guilty for years, conveniently leaving his a clean, blank canvas. I also figured he would reason that I deserved to be punished for the things I had done…and, in his eyes, continued to do. Lola was not fooled. By this time, she had been a witness to the abuse.

I knew Jay well enough to know that once he was sitting behind the desk of a court-ordered social worker, who happened to be a female, and who was questioning his actions and authority, he would not have the self-control to pull off a sweet, fatherly demeanor. This meeting would not become a catalyst for a new and improved version of a relationship that had already been tainted. It would turn out to be something, though-

The day of the meeting arrived. I was picked up from school and driven to the facility by my father. The drive to Lola’s office was somber, yet filled with thickness.

“Do you realize the trouble you are bringing to this family?” My father asked me, looking straight ahead.

Out of all of the things I truly wanted to say, like how he was the one who brought and had been bringing the trouble, all I could mutter were the forbidden words, “I don’t know.”

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The Courts – A Side-Note

Before I continue, I’d like to stop and give you a little more background of the dynamic in the relationship between me and my mother. For many years I watched Jay mistreat my mother. I watched many times as she tried to leave him, to protect her children, and herself, only to be easily wooed back into the relationship each and every time, as if a spell had been put on her will.

I tried in earnest to intervene, and to reason with my mother in private; to get her the hell out of there, but did so to no avail. I knew, mainly by watching the Oprah Winfrey Show that there were programs that helped women leave abusive relationships, but she would not respond or take heed. I also learned through Oprah, this was a part of the abuse.

She was very subservient, which made my fathers’ over-dominate personality the stronghold that was the super-glue of their relationship. It was totally a ‘Me Tarzan you Jane’-type of marriage. I felt sorry for my mother, but it was like she was blinded by that kind of love. The sense of helplessness had an effect on me and on my sister.

No one would believe that a mother would stay with a man who was physically abusive to her children. I spoke out many times about the abuse, only to be let down by my mothers’ dismissals of my outcries. Her denial made me look like I was lying about how Jay treated us. My cries were made to look like the boys’ who cried wolf did. She witnessed, firsthand the abuse; and a mixture of fear, denial and love caused her to reject my calls for help.

This had a great impact on the way I saw her love for me, or, as I often thought, lack thereof. She told me she loved me, she showed her love many ways, ways by which I could not deny that she didn’t love me, except when it came to the relationship between her husband and myself. She was blinded. How could she? How could she allow him to do this to her? To me? To us? I asked myself these questions for many years. It was all so confusing.

It hurt me terribly to know that she would do that. Back then though, I didn’t understand that she thought she was doing it to protect us. Maybe she was, but I sure wished she would have listened to me, I wished she would have had more confidence to take charge, more trust in the system, and most importantly, I wished she had had more love for HERSELF. I think life for all of us would have turned out so much more gorgeous back in those far away days. But it didn’t, and that is ok, but still, I wish.

 

If you, or someone you know needs help please take charge!  http://www.thehotline.org/ – 1-800-799-7233 

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The Courts – Part Seven

Jay had been addicted to prescription drugs for several years. He had injured his knees in high school, playing football and contracted gout, which caused him great pain. He used these injuries as a cover to swindle his doctors into giving him droves of pain pills, of which he used to ease the pain and feed his addiction. At one point he worked night security at Keesler Air Force Bases’ Hospital, where he was able to snatch many strong medications undetected.

It surprises me that I haven’t mentioned this part of the problem until now. It had been going on for some time, and was definitely a player in the problems we all faced with Jay. As children, he would send me and my sister into the medicine cabinets of neighbor’s homes to look for the bottles with the red stickers with the sleepy eyes on them. If it had the sticker, he would order us to take several of the pills, leaving only a few left in the bottle.

When he mixed the pain meds with alcohol, as he regularly did, I knew my day would turn out badly. He became like a rabid hyena towards me, and many times towards my mother. Blaming me for all of the trouble I brought his way. Accusing me of ruining the family. He did everything in his power to make me and my mother take on the guilt he must have felt. He would ask me questions that no matter what the answer, he would become enraged and physically attack me. It was worse if ever I said “I don’t know”, like I told you about already.

I was a seventeen year old young man, who surely possessed the strength to overpower a drunken pill popping man, but still, I was afraid of him; like a child. My mother had faith in the Lord and blindly put everything in His hands, denying the severity of the problem.

One night, I feared for my life. Jay was on a rampage and I was in his sights. I thought my own father was going to kill me that night. I ran from him as he chased me to my neighbor’s house. I had no other place to go for refuge. I pounded the door hard, as one might do if they were being chased by a crazed man in the middle of the night. My neighbor opened the door just in time, and I barged in and locked the door behind me. My father screamed obscenities at me through the safety of the dead-bolted door. My neighbor was rattled, but other than offer me the safety of their home for the night, did nothing.

The next day, upon realization of what he had done, he pulled out the roses. He always did that. My mom fell for it hook-line-and-sinker every single time, and I used to, but not now. No sir-E bob! I played along, having him believe that what he had done was water under the bridge…water under the bridge. My mom used to say that phrase when I tried to reason with her about the abuse. “Oh Shawn, that’s water under the bridge,” she would say. Pure denial. When there is a bridge and you are submerged in water, take the bridge, stay dry!

This time though, I was in a paddle boat paddling my ass off under the bridge and as far away from Jay as the current would carry me. The current finally landed me and my mother on the other side of Lola’s desk. After relaying the story of what had happened, Lola asked my mother about it. My mothers’ instinctual fear of her husband left her protecting and covering for him, while I lay wounded in the trenches with no one to tend to me. She always had and she always would. That is one of the scarier parts of domestic violence. When you’ve controlled someone for so long, as Jay did her, they will do anything for you. And she did, as God as her witness.

Lola saw that there was a reason to bring Jay in for a session and scheduled it. This meeting would change my life forever.

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The Courts – Part Six

After my stint at the detention facility, I was released into my parents’ custody. Jay had a satisfied look about him, as one may have after winning the biggest prize at the carnival, when they arrived to pick me up. It gave him great pleasure to know I was troubled. I do not know why, but it did.

The court ordered two monthly meetings with Lola. Generally, my mother would take me. Jay wanted nothing to do with it. During these visits, we would discuss life issues, and such things. As usual, the first few weeks spent with my father was bearable and I had nothing derogatory to say about him. Of course, you should realize that Jay knew our family life would be under a microscope while the courts had their finger in the pie and was on his best behavior. Luckily for me, his best behavior wouldn’t last very long at all.

During one of these meetings I was scheduled to see a psychologist, where I was diagnosed with acute and severe depression, self-esteem issues, and suicidal tendencies. I don’t believe this was a surprise to anyone.

Noting this, Lola recommended me to be a participant in an upcoming study. Jay signed the consent form, I’m sure the pen moved against his will, but he signed it, none-the-less. It was a trip for at-risk adolescents with esteem issues, and was funded by a Mississippi university. The group was headed by a professor of psychology and her team of students. There was a mix-match of subjects, six of us, if my memory suits me, all having and dealing with their own issues.

We could tell, right off the bat, that this was going to be a fun trip and quickly became a unit. To my elation, Lola was one of the social workers on the team. We were on our way to Tennessee to go camping, where we would participate in some esteem-boosting exercises. We drove a large white van, with a trailer holding all of our camping gear. During this trip “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, by Bobby McFerrin, was a hit that we quickly owned. When the song played on the radio, the volume was turned up, and we sang it out loud. It sounds so tacky these days, but it is how it was.

It is through this study where I would climb a mountain and repel off of the same mountain once I reached the top. Yup, little ‘ol me climbing a mountain. Take that to the bank and cash it, will ya! We also went spelunking during this trip. My memories are happy of these times and my main memory is that climbing the mountain was easy, but I froze when it came time to repel, though. I can still hear the calls from my camaraderie’s:

“C’mon Shawn, you can do it!”

“But I’m afraid I’ll fall!” I cried out in fear.

“We won’t let you fall!”

“You’re safe!”

“C’mon down!”

“Just take the first step, don’t look down, just do it!”

“…but.”

“We know you can do it or we wouldn’t have brought you all this way, c’mon Shawn!”

I finally made it down the mountain, and to the awaiting praises from all of my peers; my friends. If you are dealing with your own esteem issues, go climb a mountain!

The trip came to an end and my life resumed, somehow better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Courts – Part Five

Eventually, I was assigned a case worker, Lola, who would turn out to be the staunchest supporter I had ever known. She would also become that special kind of friend anyone needs when going down a yellow brick road; corroded and crumbly.

She began slowly working with me to get to the root of the problem that had sent me to her. She was tough as a Marine Corp. drill sergeant, yet had a gentle, almost motherly quality about the way she counseled me. We began our visits at a sterile, stainless steel round table with five welded chairs around it. They were inmate day room tables by day, and councilors offices afterwards.

I was so nervous at first, and I told her I was. Even through unspoken words, though, it must have had to have been clear to see.  She told me, “You can put a Band-Aid on any old wound, but to be completely healed of it, a lot of honesty, and talkin’s gonna  have to happen,” and went on with her deep southern drawl, “Plus, as part of your court-ordered visit here at the detention center, you are forced to talk,” she reminded me; teasing-ish.

One thing was for certain, I was to the point where I would no longer accept the treatment I was receiving from Jay. It was time to finally come through and tell of the years of abuse, both physical and emotional (Just as before I had done, but to deaf ears.). He’d gone on too long getting away with it and I was through taking it. I was going to use this medium to finally break free from the man who bludgeoned my soul, my well-being, my self-worth and my trust.

I slowly and shyly began from the top and told her of the turmoil’s of life at my house under the control of Jay; the abuse, the name-calling, the alcoholism and all of the horrors that came with that. I told her of the denials my mother faced and how my father had brainwashed her into believing the treatment we all received was normal, and as it should be.

I let her know I was aware of his abuse for some time, but felt like the signs were ignored by the very people who could have helped me. She believed in me and turning the other cheek was not on Lola’s menu at that time. Her rosy cheek caught the fluorescence of the lighting and sparkled like glitter, on my hope. I finally had someone on my team. I can’t begin to tell you how safe it made me feel. The stainless steel table/chair combo became what I looked forward to each day I was locked up. Hard as steel, but a comfort like nothing I’d yet experienced.

Of course we talked about my behavior and how it infected a relationship that was prone to infection from the very beginning. I told her of New Orleans and Houston, but, somehow, she understood. Some of my actions she obviously was opposed to, but, she whole-heartily felt me.

Life for me at the detention facility was bearable, and I looked forward to the meetings I had with Lola; not so much for mealtimes. She promised me she would take care of me and I believed in her. Like all humans, the more time we spent with each other the more she learned and the more we bonded.

Even though I broke the law and got myself into that mess, the reason behind it all, would soon come roaring out.

 

 

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The Courts – Part Four

After the embarrassing process of redressing from my orange lovelies to the clothes I wore when I arrived had finally been accomplished, I was escorted to the waiting room of the get-out-of-jail area. It is where Jay waited, all prim and proper, with the concerned look of a concerned father masking his caring demeanor with sparkly ‘I gotcha’ eyes that only I could decipher. The look in his eyes, which I fought hard to ignore, were like laser beams burning tiny holes in the part of my skin he glanced. I felt his gaze move upwards and then down my body and could feel his distaste.

His body language spoke volumes; everything about him being there to pick me up were the tell-tale beginnings of a toss-and-turn nightmare that would soon begin. I would have nowhere to hide. My mother was not there, if she had been, it would have made a significant difference in my comfort level. Without her there I was more afraid than ever, but, then again, I knew she would have been even more of a wreck than I was, at this, the beginning of a long trip home. I was glad she wasn’t there. Sad and glad.

If my memory suits me, upon first sight of me, he said something like, “Have a nice little vacation, boy?”, or something of the sort. The officers at the desk got a good laugh outta his comment. Meanwhile, all kinds of answers to his question swirled around my mind like hungry dolphins swimming around their Sea World tank at feeding time. Sheer panic and fear kept my mouth sealed as tight as it might be if a spoonful of poison were trying to be introduced into my system. I said nothing. Jay was a poison no tight lips could escape, and the lurking shark, whose presence took away every ounce of appetite the dolphins once had, smiled wide with pride. Still, his question was a taste of the misery that my failed shenanigan would manifest.

When we made it to the truck, and to my total dismay and fright, he opened the glove box, made an ordeal about removing his Smith and Wesson, and then proceeded to remind me of his readiness to use it. He tucked it firmly inside his jeans. He was like a child with his guns. They were like toys for him. He had a license to carry them; a license to kill. Really, I think he was hoping he would get to use it. His tactic worked and I sat motionless; expressionless. I was scared of what he might do.

It was a grueling eight hour drive, sandwiched between Jay and a heavy-set friend of his who he must have brought as a stronghold of some type. My fathers truck was a Ford F-150 manual transmission bench seat.  If you’ve never been so unlucky as to be the third passenger sandwiched between two others with a long metal gear shift between your legs, you should take this bit of information as a lucky strike on your part. To make it even more uncomfortable than it already was, the factory AM/FM radio was turned off…the whole time. He knew with music, I would be able to take my mind away from the things he wanted to make sure stayed, right where he wanted them; in a place of ponder.  He knew I was in trouble, and so did I. This, I am sure, brought him great bliss. Silence makes self-condemnation torturous.

I doubt a minute passed that I didn’t think of escape, but I couldn’t, he made absolute sure. The whole drive consisted of complete silence, or worse; “You’re a bad kid,” or “You done fucked up, son,” or “Now you’re a criminal.”, or “Just wait until they get their hands on a pretty boy like you in prison,” spat with delight from my father’s cruel mouth.

I was driven directly to the Pascagoula Juvenile Detention Hall, in Mississippi, given the orange jumpsuit again, and thrown into a cell, a prisoner; lonely and scared. I think I cried for three days straight. I ate nothing and drank the bare necessity of water. The guards were not nice, as they are not supposed to be, I was in juvenile detention, after all. A bad kid. A menace to society, who was on a path of the no-gooder. If only they knew the reasons for my delinquency, maybe they would have been more sympathetic, but, at this point, in the eyes of the law I was a criminal. Jay basked in all of the glory of my demise.

 

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The Courts – Part Three

During this time, my father was still active duty in the Air Force. He would generally be gone by the time I woke to go to school, and wouldn’t get home until a couple of hours after I arrived home. I treasured those few hours; I knew that within only one hour, or so of his arrival home, he would be drunk. Once I heard the garage door open I would rush to my bedroom to take refuge from the hell I knew would soon be cast upon me.

Now, let me just remind you; Jay was not a happy drunk, in fact he was quite the opposite. He was a mean and nasty drunk and somehow seemed to have a knack to make me the mouse in his eye of the tiger. Every time he got shit-faced, I would be a target practice for his amusement. He’d find something to hone in on me about. Whether it be that the dishes were not done to his satisfaction, I left my shoes in the living room, I forgot to do something he told me to do…whatever he came up with wound up being a nightmare I would have to bear.

My mother dare not interfere, which, as you already know, was for the betterment of the incident. It still hurts to know that she was petrified of him, so much so, that she too was a trapped and caged animal unable to make the decisions to change it all, once and for all. I knew it was all fucked up, but I could do nothing to convince her to leave the man who brought so much grief and terror to our family. She, it turned out, was more afraid of him than I ever had been. She always believed that God would work things out. God never did.

Once, I remember her going through the house with a bottle of olive oil, anointing, his stash of vodka, or whiskey, beer, or whatever kind of alcohol he had in the house, speaking in tongues. She truly believed that the power of the Lord would save the man who was not a savable man. I could see the hope in her eyes; I could smell the disappointment that would come of it. I felt so sorry for her.

Just as I knew it would before I bound the bus to hell, the life I lived became unbearable. Name-calling, back-handed; lip swelling smacks, belittling, and bullying were as normal for me as it had been always. Drunken nights of his sick amusement on my behalf became the normal, once again. I knew all of this would soon be my reality before I boarded the bus back to Mississippi. I could go on and on of the wrongs that man bestowed upon me, but what’s the use? I should just leave it as simple as I can. He was inhumane and cruel towards me and a father no one would be happy to claim.

Escape plans muscled their way into my tortured mind. I had the hardest time realizing that my mother watched it all happen and did nothing. My options were limited: Kill myself and submit my torturous life to an unknown reality, or get the fuck outta there as quickly as possible. I was a God-fearing kid, so the latter would have to work itself out. Where there’s a will, there’s a way…Nanny used to tell me that, I think it may be in the Bible, but I’m not sure.

There was a gas station that my mother frequented on her way to work. All of the attendants knew her well. Plans were made with a girl from school who I was friends with, to drive me to the Biloxi Greyhound Bus Station one evening after dinnertime. It was my time to escape. You gotta do, what you gotta do, after all.

I called the little convenience store, pulled off an Oscar winning portrayal of my sweet mother’s voice and told them that I would soon arrive with a sixty-dollar check. I bought a carton of cigarettes with part of it, gave my friend a little gas money, and had just enough for a ticket back to Houston. Following the old adage, “Desperate people do desperate things,” I was outta there. Jay had been beating me up, tormenting me and making my life a living hell. I was a captured cat in a cage bound for euthanasia. It was the only chance I had to get away. Yes, I broke the law, I think you may have too, if you were in my shoes. Freedom, this time would turn out to be but a brief moment in time.

I took the Greyhound Bus back to Houston and went directly to my friend Kyle’s house. His was the only place I felt safe, I trusted him and his family. Knowing my mother would be worried sick, I called her ‘collect’ to let her know I was okay. It was the mistake that warrants this part of my story. Upon receiving the call, and most assuredly at my fathers insistence, my mother told the operator I was a runaway. I quickly hung up the phone, thinking that if I hung up, the call couldn’t be traced, you know, like they do in the movies. Damn movies, they lie!

The next morning I was awakened by two Houston Police Officer’s. I mean they had full guns drawn; the whole bit. It was very scary, as you might imagine it would be. I was taken downtown and to juvenile jail, where I traded my clothing for an orange jumpsuit, awful plastic sandals and a blanket. I stayed there for about a week, until my father came to pick me up. Jail seemed like a better alternative.

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