So that meant the violence would end. Well, about 60% of it anyway. After all, there was no getting away from the egg donor. But getting rid of her husband, now, that meant something. He of the belt, he of the complete lack of control, he of the ‘take care of your kids,’ he of the ‘how many do you want.’
They met in California, working for the post office. One of many jobs, and one of many men. Something about this man took with her – probably the stable income. He was older than her, too.
He drove an ugly pale grey Volkswagen beetle that he called Peanuts. He had a disgusting little dog that he called Bobo. Bobo would lift his leg and pee on you if you sat down on the ground outside. You learned to watch for Bobo. But, they weren’t scared of him yet.
His parents and family were in Washington State, so it wasn’t long before she was packing up all three kids and heading off with him, disrupting their school halfway through the year. They rented a house at first, on a corner lot in a residential neighborhood one block off a main thoroughfare. She had her own room for the first time ever. She’d always shared a room with the boys, or slept in the egg donor’s ‘dressing room’ off her bedroom.
She can still remember the two of them waking her up in what seemed like the middle of the night to announced that they’d gotten married. They seemed disappointed that she didn’t respond with some excitement. What did they expect? She was half asleep. And she didn’t even know what married meant –they’d never used the word with her before.
There was a family across the street, and two doors down, and something was always happening there. The middle child didn’t really understand what, but sometimes the kids and the mom would be at her house, and the kids would be crying. She could feel the tension, but couldn’t have said what it was. What she didn’t know was that this was domestic violence let out into the open. What she would subsequently experience was oh, so not out in the open.
They moved the following summer, buying a four-bedroom house at the outskirts of an upper-scale neighborhood. Nothing fancy, just middle of the road. The house is when he began to lose his cool, slowly, little by little. It started with verbal intimidation, as the kids were more and more underfoot. Kids are loud and messy, and that was ok when he was in a good mood, but if he’d had a bad day… Well, they would try to stay out of his way.
But the first time he hit someone, it was the egg donor. He started with her. They could always tell it was going to happen because he would tell her to shut up, but she just couldn’t seem to leave things alone. They’d start screaming, and then he’d haul off and smack her. They didn’t see it, they never saw it – they were hiding. But they heard it, loud and clear, from their hiding places.
But despite the occasional loss of control, the façade of a happy family continued to be presented to the world. The egg donor was set on getting him to adopt her kids. She worked on him a lot, always talking about adoption, because their real dad left them and didn’t want them – or so she said, anyway. Funny thing, they finally had this kind of family meeting where she talked about him adopting and he asked them all if they wanted him for a dad. They were too scared of him to say ‘no.’
So it was legal. He was their dad. But they never, ever called him that. They always called him by his first name. When they talked to him, or about him, anyway. But things didn’t get better with the adoption, they got worse. He felt that the egg donor had tricked him, trapped him, into being responsible for her kids. They were never our kids, always hers. The violence picked up, and now he went after the oldest boy, who tried to fight back and really got it good.
And now the egg donor, frustrated at getting smacked around, was taking it out on the kids, too. She was left-handed, and they learned to beware that hand, and the cutting words that went with it. No one was ever good enough – they were bad kids who took after their dad, the dad that didn’t want them. And in an unexpected turn of events, in order to spend less time with teh egg donor, he took the graveyard shift at work. So they were alone with him during the day. And he was sleeping. The house was like a tomb, but still they couldn't be quiet enough for him.
She remembers hearing her younger brother come home from school, to be met at the back door by himself, very angry...about what, no one knew. She heard it from her bedroom. The punch in the stomach, the noise he made as the air went out, the thud as her brother hit the floor. The yelling at him to get up and not be a baby. The punch, the noise, the thud, the yelling, the punch, the noise, the thud, the yelling. It seemed it wouldn't ever stop.
Sigh. Let’s just fast-forward through the next several years, ok? I just can’t do it all right now. Let’s skip to the end of this little story.
Somehow, sometime, someway, there was a final straw. Something that resulted in him being out of the house, and them going through a divorce. Except that once he broke into the house and stole things. And he went into their joint bank account and took all their money. And they had to go to court. He was fighting for visitation, and suddenly they were his kids too. The egg donor had said it wasn’t safe, he was violent. He denied it. So they all had to go talk to the judge, with the egg donor and him both staring at them. They were afraid of both of them, so when the judge asked if they wanted to see ‘their dad,’ they didn’t know what to say. So they said yes.
And then came the day of the dreaded visitation. He picked them up at their house – a different house, cause they had to sell the old one and get a much cheaper one, across town – and drove them to his house. They sat in the living room, quiet as church mice, not knowing what to say or do, afraid. He didn’t even try to plan anything for them to do together, wouldn't even turn on the television, or let them go play; he made no attempt to make this easy on them in any way. He tried to talk to them, but any responses were monosyllabic. And then he lost control again.
You don’t want to be here, and I don’t want you here. I only went to court so your mom would have to pay the lawyer. I never wanted you anyway, and I never want to see you again.
The egg donor got what she wanted, though. A man with a steady job, who would be forced to pay child support because of the adoption – something she hadn’t got from the first husband. The first one – that’s for another post, another time.