For years, I covered for my husband. I thought telling the truth about our family was disloyal. I refused to be anything other than positive, upbeat and supportive which meant for the most part, I kept strangely silent.
My husband did not reciprocate. He took subtle jabs in front of company calling me such lovely names as dimwit and ninny. I shrugged and walked away. To any of our former house guests, in case you’re wondering, those are called ‘red flags.’ Normal, loving husbands do not call their wife a ding-a-ling and no, it wasn’t a joke.
Another favorite pastime involved covering for the anti-husband’s words and actions with the kids.
“Your father didn’t really mean that.”
“You know your dad loves you, he just has a hard time showing it sometimes.”
“Maybe what he said was a little over the top, but your dad had a rough upbringing.”
The day I figured out that—
a) yes, he really did mean every single word he chose to say with his very own mouth
b) he loved no one but himself and
c) his rough upbringing should’ve made him more compassionate not less
–was the day I started walking in truth.
I remember the day this Cover for Dad policy changed. I’d taken to carrying the cordless phone everywhere, 911 on speed-dial. I’d calculated how long it took the police to arrive at our home and kept a close eye on the clock. Things were about to break open.
I knew it. I smelled it. I wasn’t going down without a big fat fight.
The beast had been carrying on for days. Read that–hollering, yelling, stomping, screaming, slamming, cursing, muttering, raging, without taking a breath—for days. One afternoon things got particularly spectacular so I loaded the kiddies in the car and pointed the front fender southbound. After a few tense moments of silence I turned to the front seat passenger and said, “You know what your father’s doing isn’t right, don’t you?”
My son imploded. He sighed so loud I heard it over Travis Tritt on the radio. His shoulders slumped. He melted on the seat and ran into a puddle on the floorboard.
I’d finally told the truth and there was no going back.
I sat and listened while my son spewed and I did not say one Mom-ism the entire trip. All the kidlets knew—something changed that day. They still talk of it.
Apologies Not Accepted
I tried later to cushion my heinous crime just a little. I told the kids I was sorry for putting their father down that way. What I heard opened more than my eyes—I got a dose of reality nothing else could match. My kids unleashed. They said exactly what they thought of their dad and what kind of man he was (or was not in this case.) They were angry, furious, resentful, frustrated. And hurting like so many scalded pups in a washtub.
Not long after, my grown children took me aside and gave their silly mom an intervention. They said they didn’t want to hurt me but did I have any idea the things dad had been saying, about me, to them, when I wasn’t around? For years.
Well no, golly gee. I sure didn’t know that Bumpy.
The Truth Will Set You Free
Lying doesn’t help anyone. I may not have purposefully told windies but neither was I walking in truth. All my covering, dodging, and weaving just made everybody seasick. I added to the confusion. I was a linebacker, blocking so a man who refused to care for his own family could keep barreling on through, trampling everyone in the process.
I was not being loyal. I was not supporting my husband. I was providing cover, making it easier for him to get a clear shot. Big difference.
Talking to the kids since leaving has been tough. I struggle with how much to say and when to say it. Mostly I just listen and let them vent. The beast says I’m poisoning the children, but saying I’m at fault for finally admitting the truth goes beyond ironic and borders on the absurd. The fact that the man has no relationship with his progeny rests squarely on his shoulders because (duh!) he verbally, emotionally and physically abused and bullied the dog mess out of them. He refuses to admit he fed them a steady diet of arsenic all their lives and now, for some odd reason, they won’t have anything to do with him.
Several have tried talking to him. Each has come to the conclusion it’s hopeless. He fusses, he fumes, he refuses to accept responsibility saying they are–each and every one– a rebellious lot. Later when they quit taking his calls, he tried playing the god-card, starting with the ‘if-you-don’t-forgive, you-won’t-be-forgiven’ line but since I taught them the ‘bring-ye-forth-therefore-works-worthy-of-repentance’ retort back in grade school, somehow his biblical fuming doesn’t work so good.
I guess they’re smarter than their mama.
Saint Ida and Her All Girl Band
Before you get the idea that Ida Mae is a saint and all the little kiddies are gathered about, holding hands and singing campfire songs, let’s put that to rest. The kids are damaged. I’m not going to talk much about them here, not yet. They have their own stories to tell and I imagine some day they will. I doubt I’ll get knighted in any version.
Some are doing better than others. Some of the girls have problems picking men. Some of the boys are mad as hell. Oh wait, some of the girls are too. They show, in various degrees, all the effects of growing up in an alcoholic/abusive household.
One blessing—in every case, their faith is intact. For that, I am profoundly grateful. Now, I have to trust in my Heavenly Father’s care to finish the work He began in them, just as He’s completing the work He began in me forty-two years ago. It’s not easy. Some days it’s impossible.
But there’s always tomorrow and for that, I remain forever grateful.