Our sweet father, who was a contientious objecter during WW II because he couldn't reconcile killing, DID want to kill this rat bastard...
Beth is my younger sister by eighteen months. As a child she was shy and lacked self confidence. Her abusive rat bastard husband saw these traits and capitalized on them. Broken nose, broken arms, broken spirit, fifteen years. She never told anyone, but we knew. "The car door hit me in the face"..."I slipped and fell down the steps"...but the most chilling of all..."when you do stupid things, you pay the price". She somehow believed it was her fault.
They met after I moved away. They came to Tennessee to visit once. It was early in their courtship. Call it intuition, instinct, whatever it was, I immediately disliked him. It was during our no-electricity-or-running-water era. He was so vain, he drove a fifty mile round trip to a gas station for the sole purpose of blow drying his hair, just to return to a day in the woods. Strike one. He drank too much and talked down to Beth. Strike two. He was thoughtless. Strike three.
There wasn't much contact between us during the years of their marriage. In retrospect I realize isolation from family and friends is a common ploy implemented by abusers. Many of the things he perpetrated went under our radar. We could only guess at what she suffered and pray that she would find the courage to leave. Our sweet Father, who was a contientous objector during World War II because he couldn't reconcile killing, DID want to kill this rat bastard.
The final straw came one morning as Beth sat spreading jelly on her toast. The weight of staying married to him, to admit to herself that her life was settled and this was as good as it would ever get, came crashing down on her and it was more painful than anything she had ever felt. More painful than giving birth to her only child, more painful than looking at the rat bastard every day and not finding even a glimmer of remorse about him, more painful than all the broken bones. As she sat alone sobbing at the table, the force of those thoughts catapulted her through her fear and into action. She left and never went back.
Seventeen years later, she is a sensitive soul, waiting to be bruised by the world. Fear not only inhabits her, it surrounds her, like a wild animal out of it's element. Her guard is always up, constantly vigilant, taking offense at everything and at nothing. I gently remind her "life is good if you look for the positive". I want to drag the rat bastard out into the woods where no one will hear him scream...but...wouldn't that make me the rat bastard? Besides, there is not enough ugliness in me to do it. Where does all that ugliness come from? And for the briefest moment, shocking even myself, I feel a flicker of compassion for him. To carry that much darkness around, and worse yet, perpetuate it, makes me believe that once upon a time someone did horrible things to him. No matter, it doesn't give him the right.
We recently saw him at my nephews' wedding. We both knew he would be there. Not knowing how Beth would react, I tried to stay close by. Her loathing of him was superceded only by her fear of him. As she watched him enter the chapel, I slipped my arm through hers and we stood as allies, watching the enemy approach. Barely fifty, he looked a hundred. A freak accident at work several years back left him maimed and limping. Injured enough to be hobbled, but not enough to qualify for disability. Oh darn! A recent operation to remove cancer from some body part made him walk hunched over. What a shame! Suddenly I felt her body relax and my eyes shifted to meet hers. I saw the fear in her eyes melt away and a smile began to spread across her face. She squeezed my hand and said "life IS good"...and I knew the rat bastards' spell was broken.