Tonight I’m going to the funeral of an abusive man. No, his wife did not kill him although how she restrained herself all these years is a mystery.
In fact, this wife was just about as mean to others as her husband was to her. She served him slavishly, catering to his temper, his drinking, his demands for total control over her and their nine children. As far as I could see, he contributed nothing. She turned her anger outward, lashing out at anyone offering friendship. She circled the wagons, developed a them-against-us attitude toward outsiders and twisted realities to fit her viewpoint, carrying those twisted tales to others and causing all sorts of mayhem.
I doubt she ever knew why.
Once years ago, long before I realized my own mess of a life, this woman called crying. She said her husband had laid out his current demands for a cleaner house, children who obeyed instantly at his command (apparently their ‘rebellion’ was her fault because she did not ‘follow through’ when he wasn’t around) and greater progress with the children’s academic work as she was clearly lazy and his offspring, all being geniuses, should be above grade level in every subject.
Listening to my friend, I knew her husband had her cornered. I told her he was being unreasonable. I said she needed help. Perhaps they could hire someone to come in once a week to scrub the floors and bathrooms? She said her husband contended that if she managed her time more wisely, she could get everything done the way he wanted. He believed the children should be cooking and cleaning but had zero tolerance for a learning curve, immaturity or ‘sloppy work’, spanking them if the cleaning didn’t pass his inspection. Even the toddlers were required to perform to adult standards or else.
I pointed out her workload which included a newborn waking her up randomly all night ( her husband couldn’t be bothered as he had to work the next day), three toddlers in various stages of potty training and five others taught entirely by her ranging from those learning to read to one preparing for the SAT, a huge home that in olden days would have required an entire staff to keep clean and an almost grown son who wasn’t allowed to help as this was ‘woman’s work.’
When she insisted they could not afford to hire a maid, I pointed out her husband could sell his private airplane and the monthly fee for hanger rental alone could pay for someone to come in weekly. She said I didn’t understand and I never heard from her again.
She’s right. I didn’t and I still don’t.
We haven’t spoken in years and I doubt she wants to see me. Knowing then what I know now, I would have approached things different, speaking to the root of the poison tree rather than the rotted branches. More than likely, our friendship would have ended regardless. But telling her to hire a maid when her husband had the entire family under lock and key makes about as much sense as insisting she sprout wings and fly.
She never thought of herself as abused. I tell myself many things can change in seven years and I pray truth broke through at some point. Call me cynical, but I doubt it.
My guess? She will now canonize the creep. In death, he will become the Godly Man of her Dreams he never was in her nightmarish life.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope for her sake and the sake of her children she found the truth. Otherwise, I suspect the entire bunch will repeat the pattern for generations to come.
Dear Lord above, please let me be wrong.