There’s Always a Message

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Today the little check came in the mail, money from my mother’s estate. A few hundred dollars every month he believes he deserves and shouldn’t have to send.

When I finally left after three decades of non-stop verbal and emotional abuse, I stopped all communication with the beast. Much later, I told a counselor the only way I got out was on the run, hands over my ears chanting, “I know the truth, I know the truth, I know the truth.”

All others voices had to stop to save my family.

Early in our relationship, the Estranged learned that if he just keep talking long enough and loud enough,  he’d elicit some emotional response—fear, anxiety, guilt.  Any one of those in sufficient quantities and he knew I’d cave to his current demands. He’d put another in the win column. Nothing would ever change.

Confusion was his favorite weapon. Change the subject, get loud, get furious.  So once I was out and my family safe, I  turned off the cell phone and checked voicemail a few times a day. The kids knew how to get in touch. That’s all I cared about at that moment.

It took decades to understand that  the way he treated us defined abuse. The man was vicious and he enjoyed the carnage. I lost hope years back he’d ever change and while running and hiding isn’t exactly pretty, sometimes you just have to do the needful things.

Of course once the phone calls ended, the emails began. Those of a long and ranting nature (which meant every stinking one during those first days) met the trash bin without reply. Anything I absolutely had to address got the short and not-so-sweet treatment.

“The gas bill is in the drawer with all the others. Ida”

“Insurance is due in three months. You can’t find a copy because they haven’t sent the renewal yet. Ida”

“I will not return the car. I need transportation. Ida”

I deleted all the curse words before sending. Mom would be so proud. . .

My lack of communication infuriates The Estranged but then what doesn’t?  After three decades I know:

Anger is his go-to emotion.

Rage his drug.

 I’m his target.

Once the emails stopped, I started getting messages through friends. A six page, rambling letter (hand written, mind you) about how disappointed one woman is in my failures as a wife and Christian and how sorry she is to see that I’ve ‘hardened my heart against my husband.’ She understands because she has anger issues too! And if I’d just read these lovely books she sent on anger management, surely I would see the error of my wicked ways.

I keep this one on the shelf, tucked inside the book she sent. Someday, I just might send this Ivy League graduate a discourse on the difference between Anger and Fear.

Others messages were more subtle and bespoke the same confusion I struggled with day after day for so long.  My mother calling after a particularly long rant-fest with the beast, begging me to have my teenage son ‘just talk’ to his dad so the man would let up on us. A friend who’s support will always mean the world to me,  slipping into conversations about how my husband is calling hers and ‘You know he’s gone back to church, teaching Bible study now, doing all the right things’ and ‘he says you won’t even go to counseling.’

So when the check came in the mail today, the heart rate went  orbital. Recent messages have been subtle but oh-so-very clear. And in ways only another woman who’s ever spent the night thinking her husband’s coming up the stairs to blow out her brains could possibly understand—more threatening.

There was no letter. No note, no card. No meaningless little notation on how he’ll love me forever or signed, Faithfully, The Beast. Nope—that’s all over.

He simply wrote my name in big bold letters. He added Mrs. to the front. And scrawled a heavy underline beneath my last name to remind me who’s name I still carry.

Not for long you anti-husband you.

Not for long.

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