Thursday, December 4, 2014

Half a Lifetime Ago

On December 4,  1987 I woke up to a brand new world. I remember standing in my friend's living room and saying the words, "Today is the day I start my new life."

And I did.

I had just turned twenty seven years old, I had a three month old baby and a nine year old son. I didn't want to leave. I wanted my husband to leave. But he wouldn't. So I packed up a few belongings and an alarm clock and we left.

And we never wentback.

The police were involved. They could not insist my husband leave. He had rights. It didn't matter that I was the one who was in a vulnerable position and feeling threatened. It didn't matter that I would be the one taking responsibility for our children. It didn't matter that I had bought our house while we were divorced and it was solely in my name. He had rights. I didn't. We weren't safe.

So we left.

The final straw was so incredibly minute and insignificant in the whole scheme of things. All I remember is he would not let me watch "Knots Landing". I can't remember anything else about that evening. I don't remember how the police got there. Perhaps the neighbors heard? This was not the first occasion the police were called. For some reason, the details of that evening are blurred from my memory.

Something inside of me snapped and broke that night.

I didn't run to anyone or anywhere comforting and familiar. I ran to a hotel. I didn't want to be found. I didn't want anyone else's words in my head. I wanted to think my own thoughts. I wanted to know I was safe. So we ran where no one would find us.

That is why I took the alarm clock.

I wasn't sure if there would be a clock wherever we woke up the next morning. I needed to know what time it was. I took my son to school the next day. I think. All I remember is going to my friend's house. Standing in her living room with my innocent baby boy and telling her "Today is the day I start my new life."

And I needed to see my dad.

Dad was in a long term care facility at the time and I just knew that was where I had to go. Little did I know at the time, Mom had been trying to reach me to tell me Dad was not doing well. She reached my husband instead. He didn't know where I was which would have set off an avalanche of worry within my mom. Something drew me and called me to Dad.

That is where Mom and I found each other.

The sequence of events are so blurred. I talked with a lawyer. He told me I couldn't afford to stay in a hotel until it was safe to go home. I could have stayed with Mom but I didn't. I knew this time was different. I couldn't be where he could find me. We went to a 'safe house' for families in an abusive situation instead.

That decision redirected  my life.

I thought my own thoughts. I didn't have those-who-loved-me inserting their own biases and views. I talked with counsellors. I listened. I watched. Oh, how I watched. I saw myself in other women who were there. The ones who were still in love with the person who hurt them enough to 'be' there. I looked at them through eyes that had 'been there' and I knew in an instant their cycle would continue to perpetuate. At least this time.

I felt different than those women.

I was not driven by the pain of loving someone who hurt me. I was driven by a need to save my children. I finally started to see life as my children would live it, if I stayed. The thought of going back, trying to work things out or even returning to that house - the one that I owned - was the last thing on my mind.

I started to make changes that would endure the test of time.

Long story short, I did what it took to break the cycle. My husband did everything he could to make that decision impossible. The alarm clock I took from the house became a bone of contention with my husband and he wanted the clock back.  He didn't win that round (but I believe I may have eventually given him the clock).

We left for good, despite the fact he would not let me into the house to collect our belongings. He threw my clothes and what he deemed okay for me to take, out our second story bedroom window. I collected the remnants of my life while my little community watched on.

I learned that material things do not matter.

I had my children. We were safe. We had the support we needed to start over. And we did. We not only survived ... we thrived.

Those two young sons are now 36 and 27 years old now. They are succeeding in their lives and have moved on and past trying to know their father after some failed attempts. Despite it all, I hoped their father could change (one never gives up hoping) enough for him to know his children. Eventually.

I don't know 'who' my husband is now. I just know how he affected our lives, when he last tried to make contact with our children. He was a person who scared me more than I had ever been scared before. That was only eight years ago.

I forgive him. I forgave him a long time ago.

Our children are adults now. They can take care of themselves and are capable of protecting their own interests. We are two completely separate entities. Living two separate lives, with a province separating us.

I wish him well.

I hope he has found a life that fulfills him. I keep in touch with his family and I know 'enough'. His life has not been easy. But that stopped being my problem twenty seven years ago. I cut the ties. I moved on. I am living a good life. A very good life. I think our sons have succeeded in every level that matters. There is still a part of me that simply wishes him peace. Perhaps I still have the wish that peace could trickle down and through him into his sons ...

There is a great sense of peace that comes from living a life with no regrets. I know without a doubt that I did what I had to do. Sadly, I don't think my husband may feel the same.

I have lived that peaceful existence this last half of my life. And that ... is something worth celebrating. I cannot begin to compare the person I was to the person I am. I just know that who I am today was conceived on the fourth of December. Twenty seven years ago.

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