Woke at four needing to get some of this down. It’s like knowing you have surgery the next day. Just spent the last couple of hours getting a first draft on paper and realized, I can’t face this again for awhile.
Usually, I get thoughts down, then sit on a piece like this for a few hours, going back through four or five times for clarity. Not sure I can this time around.
My apologies for the poor editing. When I’m able, I will go back and rework for clarity. It may be awhile.
My husband spent the next twenty-five years ruling our household through cultivating fear and the *threat* of violence
Following the incident related in Part Two, things get murky. When I try to wrap my mind around the last twenty years, I find disjointed fragments, ugly memories like buried splinters clogging my thoughts, popping up in the middle of sentences to block the flow.
My original intent was to work chronologically, but that’s just not going to happen. Some things happened so often they became almost daily occurrences. I’ve listed a few below in no particular order.
He beat and choked the dogs when angry. This started with our second dog, a high strung, larger breed that whined and barked constantly when outside. He held the dog off the ground by a choke-chain, feet dangling and beat the dog with a belt as hard as he could until I became hysterical. I’d scream at him to stop, he’d tell me to get back inside and not to interfere again. When he looked up, his eyes were empty. No emotion—almost like nobody was home.
This happened over and over until I talked him into selling the dog. I told him I wouldn’t ever put up with that sort of animal abuse again—it was morally wrong. I still see that dog’s tongue hanging out of her mouth, hear her crying. I wish I could go tell her I’m sorry.
Later, he confined his mistreatment of animals to shoves—his definition for kicking with a steel toed boot, sending the animals flying across the yard. Another favorite involved choking and dragging a dog by the chain. He would become angry at one of us and turn on the nearest animal, find some fault and let fly. Then he glared at us and stalked off. This happened so often, we learned to appease him so he wouldn’t mistreat the animals. When confronted he claimed ‘it never happened’ or ‘there was no connection to any of us and it was all in our heads’ and ‘we must have had a guilty conscience.’
Toward the last, he designated one of the dogs as mine—a small breed female with a yappy nature. He decided he hated my dog in particular and threatened her constantly, heaping verbal insults and threatening to throw her through a window or against the wall. She weighed less than ten pounds. I had no doubt he meant me, not the dog. The pup wasn’t the one who made meatloaf for dinner.
By the way, he was the one who insisted we have pets. For some strange reason, the idea of adding a new pet to the household met with mixed emotion.
However despite the fact that it was his decision, we were responsible for all care and training. As we were home during the day, this was logical however it brought an uneasy dynamic. The dogs were ‘disciplined’ for lapses in training which were ‘our’ fault because, according to him, if we had done our job and done as we were told, then the dog would be perfectly trained by now. But we were all ‘lazy’ and ‘never did anything right’ and ‘he was the only one who ever did anything around here’ and now ‘look what you did.’ Later, he simply mistreated an animal and glared at us accusingly before storming off. The message was the same. This animal is suffering because of you.
He constantly warned me and the children not to set him off because if we did, ‘he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions’. I heard this so many times, it replays in his voice inside my head. Another favorite line— ‘once I start, I will not stop.’
He seemed proud of his past and his capacity for violence, repeating the stories of unprovoked attacks against innocent bystanders who ‘had it coming.’ He said over and over that he ‘still had those thoughts’ (this with a faraway, half-crazed look in his eye) and “why, why, why didn’t God deliver him when he had asked and prayed and begged for so many years?” And then the kicker—“ But He hadn’t. You have no idea the kind of thoughts I have. You don’t know what I’m capable of.” The last part was delivered deadpan, glaring before stalking off and punctuated by cursing and door slamming.
He came home from work on a regular basis and spoke in very graphic terms of wanting to beat up his co-workers—of how he’d do it, how he couldn’t restrain himself forever what with them all being such assholes and how he couldn’t stand to look at them without wanting to bash their heads in. Later, I recognized the same expression on his face—the veins standing out in his neck, the purple, swollen look to his skin, the eyes bugging out—when he was angry at me for not having his laundry done or putting leftovers in his lunch when clearly, I should have read his mind and known he didn’t want that meal twice.
When I related some trivial happening by someone in the family his reply was always the same (but only if the story was about a woman.) It always caught me by surprise. I’d learned to keep most stories to myself and only related those I thought were funny. He would turn, that same furious, bug-eyed look and raise his voice—‘if my wife did *that* I’d put my foot so far up her ass she’d never sit again.’ There were several colorful variations on this one, but it always involved feet and a woman’s ass.
Which brings up another point. His threats were always aimed at me, but spoken as if speaking of another.
“If my wife ever (threatened to leave, spent too much money, refused to make dinner, went out with her girlfriends)—then I would (take the kids and she’d never see them, turn them against her, kick her ass, make her wish she never had, teach her a lesson she’ll never forget)”
“No woman will ever–(treat me that way, speak to me in that tone of voice, walk out on me, take my kids, refuse to do what I say, neglect the house)”
“I’ll never put up with some woman who–(disrespected me like that, spoke to me that way, treated me like scum)”
To which I’d say—‘hey, your wife is standing right here.’ To which he would glare and stalk off.
So either he had a whole boatload of other woman around or these threats were all aimed my direction. The thing is, I don’t remember ever doing even one of the things he mentioned. I never threatened to leave him, or charge up the credit cards, or take the kids away. I guess this was a pre-emptive strike. I do not remember one of these aimed at a man. When confronted, he simply said he was talking about someone else and never made any threats.
Early in our marriage, he was obsessed with knives. He had a huge collection and carried two at all times, everything from tiny pocket knives to huge sheathed hunting knives. Later, he added throwing knives and martial arts weapons to the collection and practiced knife throwing in the yard. When he felt ‘threatened’, he would open a long blade and walk around hiding it behind his hand, blade point held down by the fingertips, handle up past his wrist and walking with his hand next to his leg. He made sure I saw.
When I protested, saying there wasn’t any danger in the middle of the shopping mall, he assured me that ‘he could tell’ because ‘he knew people’ and ‘he would protect me.’ The men I saw him glaring at were usually much smaller than him and minorities and it sure looked to me like his staring was intended to provoke a response. I hated going out with him anywhere.
A few years later, his dad bought him his first handgun. Then another. And another. By my estimate, he had close to forty when I left. He also had at least twenty shotguns, and an equal number of rifles of all sizes and calibers plus many duplicates ‘as an investment’ and buckets of ammunition for every gun. He obtained his concealed handgun license, went to the range on a regular basis and kept a loaded pistol in the car, down by his feet. We had toddlers. I protested, fussed, begged but my objections to so many guns—loaded and unloaded—made no difference. He eventually bought a massive gun safe which was crammed to overflowing. It made no difference as he had way too many to ever fit inside.
For the last ten years or so, he had two loaded guns on his person at all times, one tucked into his back waistband so he could reach around and grab it easily and a tiny revolver tucked in the top of his boot. He seemed to take a certain delight in showing these off to other men at every opportunity.
On one occasion, a few months before I left, he confronted three of our grown children with a loaded pistol in our garage. He was angry because they came in late and claimed ‘he didn’t know who they were’ and ‘saw a suspicious vehicle on our road’ (his own truck.) Problem with that? His daughter recognized the pistol, knowing it was the largest he owned and buried at the back of the massive gun safe. It would have taken quite a while to find it, load it and wait in the garage for the kids to arrive.
That’s all I can stomach at the moment. More later.