Monday, August 9, 2004

PART 28 - Voices Carry

Self explanatory.

'Til Tuesday
Voices Carry

I'm in the dark, I'd like to read his mind
but I'm frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he's thinking of to tear him away
when I tell him that I'm falling in love why does he say

Hush hush
keep it down now
Voices carry

I try so hard not to get upset because I know all the trouble I'll get
oh, he tells me tears are something to hide and something to fear
and I try so hard to keep it inside so no one can hear

Hush hush
keep it down now
Voices carry

He wants me, but only part of the time
He wants me, if he can keep me in line . . .

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It was amazing how easily the kids fit themselves into our lives. Actually, they fit seamlessly into MY life; for the most part, he worked too much to be terribly involved with the kids at all. He enjoyed his little bit of evening time with them, and he always took Ronnie out and about with him on weekends, which thrilled Ronnie to death. Kimberly didn't like to be out and about; she preferred to be at home with her toys and me. She and I had bonded very quickly. She was starved for motherly attention, and I had been pining away for a baby for years, and we thoroughly enjoyed being in one another's company.

It became my mission to try to get her to speak. She had progressed to pointing and using simple signing to indicate when she wanted or needed something, and she would laugh and giggle when the mood struck her, but she still didn't speak a word. It seemed as though her voice was locked away somewhere inside of her.

Because I was still working, Kimberly went to a daycare center during my work hours. Ronnie was transported there after school, and I picked them both up at 6:00. The workers there said that Kimberly seemed like a sweet child and she was never a behavior problem, but she didn't interact with the children, and would only sit with a doll, alone. They were always surprised to see her light up when Ronnie got to the daycare in the afternoons, and she refused to do anything except stay by his side until I arrived. I regretted her being in daycare; I knew that she needed one on one attention to make up for lost time, but it didn't seem like there was a way.

Funny how things work out. In early November 1990, the Australians that bought our company decided to go back down under, and they took us down under with them. A few of us, anyway. The rest were unceremoniously laid off. When I came home with the news, he was frantic. Our bills were manageable with two paychecks, but they were overwhelming with just one. I did some quick calculations and discovered that unemployment + small pittance from DFCS + couponing + belt tightening = me at home. I was elated; he was resentful.

"Don't get used to this mommy at home thing, we can't do it," he said to me more often than not those first couple of weeks. I assured him that I only intended to stay home through the holidays. I reasoned that no one was hiring through the holidays, and that the kids needed me more at that time than any company did. He disagreed, often loudly and angrily. On the outside, I maintained my cool, but there had been a dramatic shift inside. "Kiss my ass, you pushy bastard. YOU were the one that forced me to sign on for this, and now that the kids are here and it turns out that I love them and love taking care of them, you wish you had never mentioned it. You never tire of telling ANYONE within hearing distance how great you are for being a foster parent, but you don't do anything for them - I do. You can't make me work - I am going to ride my unemployment until the last penny. So fuck you!" I would say very loudly in my head when he was ranting about me getting another job.

Those holiday months were joyous. Kimberly seemed so much happier to be home and not in daycare, and Ronnie loved riding the bus home after school to play with the dogs and have the whole afternoon to play and relax at home.

Kimberly and I "worked" together every day. She "helped" me around the house, following me all day long, and while she followed me, I would sing songs, and tell her stories and ask her questions as though she COULD talk. I let her play with wooden spoons and overturned pots and pans. When I held her for storytime, I would always respond with a crazy noise like "Beep!" or "Honk!" when she gently touched my nose, which thrilled her to death. I would always touch her nose, too, and even though she didn't say "Beep" or "Honk", she began to approximate something close, which made me more determined to help her speak.

I put pictures of her and Ronnie on the refrigerator, and I would always ask her "Who's that?". Usually, she would point to her chest, and when I would point to Ronnie, she would made an attempt that sounded something like "ah-ee" which I always made a BIG deal about.

We would stand on the porch, blowing bubbles and making noises. She loved hearing her voice echo in the eaves of the gazebo; so did I.

In the grocery store, we would talk about everything that went into the cart. I would tell her the name of each thing, and she would try to say it. Orange sounded like "ahjjj" and apple sounded not too different from orange, but I would always tell her "Right!" and tell her how smart she was.

It was right about this time that I got a call to schedule a supervised visit for the kids with Cynthia and David. Both of them were in halfway houses/rehab, so the visit was to take place at DFCS. Ronnie was so excited, he could barely sleep the night before the visit. Kimberly seemed less-than enthusiastic and a bit confused when I told her that we were going to see Mama.

The next day, we arrived at DFCS to see Cynthia and David cooing over Angela. David's mother had been caring for Angela and had arrived early so that they could have as much time as possible together. Ronnie ran down the hall to them and wrapped his arms around his mother's waist, burying his head in her belly, silently hugging her. She was a jumble of emotions as her facial expression changed from smiles to tears. Kimberly hung back and clung to my leg, reaching up for me to pick her up. I hesitated to, not wanting the parents to think that I was trying to prevent Kimberly from joining the visit. She kept insisting, starting to whine and cry, and I picked her up, striding toward Cynthia. "C'mere baby! Mommy wants to see you!" Cynthia said, her voice as happy and as chipper as she could muster. She took Kimberly from my arms, and Kimberly laid against her mother's shoulder, neither smiling or crying. I stepped away to allow the family privacy for their visit.

When I returned at the end of the hour, I found Kimberly in the corner, looking at a book, and David, Cynthia and Grandmother cooing over Angela with Ronnie buzzing around the periphery trying to gain entrance into the circle. It was clear to me at that point that Cynthia was one of those women that have "throwaway kids"; she was the most committed to David's baby, because she was currently with David. She had allowed and participated in the neglect and mistreatment of the older two, saving her admittedly limited parenting skills for the baby. It was a pathetic sight. As I led Ronnie and Kimberly out of the room, Cynthia was holding Angela, speaking in a baby voice, "Say bye Angela!" and waving the baby's arm at the kids. Maybe it was the only way she was able to cope with the separation, but I was pretty sickened by it.

That night, Kimberly and I once again sat outside watching stars. She couldn't sleep She had spent the rest of the day after the visit crying on and off, unhappy and unconsolable. She only wanted to sit in my lap with a blanket, and so we did.

By Thanksgiving, Kimberly was humming simple songs and saying simple words clear enough for others to understand. She babbled and jabbered all day long, and it was wonderful to hear. Her hair was beginning to grow back, and it was like spun gold. She was the prettiest little girl, and she was becoming a little more social with other kids and adults. Ronnie was doing well at school, and he had made friends with a few kids in the neighborhood. He played and ran with the dogs every day, and he seemed completely relieved to not have the responsibility and weight of Kimberly's care and happiness on his little shoulders. He had picked up some weight, which he desperately needed.

Christmas was joyful. Federal Express, his employer, had adopted the kids for Christmas. Ronnie got a new bicycle, and Kimberly got a playhouse, loaded. I have never seen kids enjoy toys more in my life - the new didn't wear off for these kids. Ronnie rode the bike endlessly, and Kimberly seemed to never tire of playing house.

As New Year's made it way to Valentines Day 1991, he began to pressure me about work again. The strain over the bills was beginning to show; he kept alerting me about the dwindling savings account as the months went by. I was determined to stay with the kids, mostly because I felt that was what I was supposed to be doing at that time, and partly because I wanted him to see how it felt to have to prove HIS worth. He had tested me for years, let's see how good a provider HE could be. I shouldn't have felt so entitled, but I did. All of the years that I had worked had entitled me to this, I thought, and even if he didn't agree, I intended to take advantage of the time as long as I could.

And truth be told, helping Ronnie and especially Kimberly felt therapeutic to me, as though somehow I was paying restitution to myself for creating some good in their terrible little lives. My work and time with Kimberly seemed to keep my depression at bay, and when I was busy with the kids, I didn't have time to dwell or worry.

As happy as I was with the kids, I was less than happy in the marriage. I had not really dealt with all of the aftermath of Daniel's presence in the house - I just sort of shoved it back when the kids came. Consciously, I didn't really think about it, but it was still gnawing at me unconsciously. I still had nightmares, and I still turned my husband away more often than not. He still ranted about my weight, and my refusal to have sex, and our time alone was either spent in silence, or with him lecturing me and me tuning him out.

Lectures about money quickly turned to lectures about the house, and my housekeeping practices. Because I was "home all day on my fat ass doing nothing" his expectations became more and more unreasonable. He would arrive home, usually just as the kids were getting ready for bed, and inspect the house. Just as I had done when I heard my father's key in the lock, when I heard his key in the lock, I made damn sure I wasn't sitting around doing nothing. There would have been hell to pay.

If his uniforms weren't wrinkle-free, he would jerk the shirts and pants off of the hangers, throwing the laundry into the floor and demand that I "do it again, but RIGHT this time." He declared that I was a "fat lazy slob" when he dumped the contents of the pantry into the kitchen floor, shelf by shelf, and instructed me to order the cans left to right, labels facing forward, grouping by kind (soup, vegetables, tuna, whatever). He would do the same in the bathrooms, raking out the contents of the vanity cabinets out into the floor if he deemed them to be poorly maintained. He arrived home one Saturday with a bag full of tiny scrub brushes and demonstrated to me how to use them to scrub the corners of the linoleum and wood floors, and he was dead serious.

He was determined to make my time at home as miserable as possible. He refused to let up, and I refused to confide anything to him. It was a stalemate.

In late March, I received the call that I had been dreading - Cynthia and David had fulfilled their obligations to DFCS and the courts in order to get their kids back. They had completed their time in rehab, they had completed a parenting course, they had found employment, and they were now looking for an apartment. When they were settled, their case would be reviewed and the kids would go back.

I knew it would happen; that is the idea of foster care. Short term emergency care. The goal of foster care is to place kids back with their natural parents. This was a success story. The kids had flourished in foster care, the parents had rehabilitated themselves to a point that they had proven themselves to the court, and they deserved the chance. I tried to keep all of that in mind as my heart broke. I wasn't sure how I would ever be able to say goodbye to these kids - it felt like my heart was being ripped out.

He was relieved when the news came. "You knew they were going back home from the start. You should have never gotten so involved. But now that they are going to be ok, maybe you can get back to work," was his response to my tearful call to him at work. I had to compose myself for the kids' sake.

The next few weeks were spent preparing the kids for the transition. I told Kimberly every day about going to see her mama, and about how nice her new home would be. When we received the call that the apartment had been secured and that they were moving in immediately, we asked if it would be ok to take the kids over to see it. With permission, we drove over and found David and Cynthia moving a few things into a small, but clean 3 bedroom apartment. They both seemed happy and proud, and were overjoyed to see the kids this time.

Walking through the apartment, I noticed that they had next to nothing, and I asked Cynthia if she had more things. "No, we lost everything when we went to jail; the landlord put everything on the street, so we are starting over." I asked her if she would let the kids bring their beds from my house, and she welled up with tears and hugged me, thanking me for offering them and for taking care of her kids. "I can never repay you . . ." she said, and despite the history, I found that there was alot to like about this young woman when she was clean. Even David was polite and soft spoken, repeating her words to me. I left there with a good feeling, and although I would miss the kids badly, I was happy to know that this little family was getting a second chance.

The week before the kids were scheduled to leave, I tried my best to keep myself together and enjoy them. That Saturday morning, my friend Pam called to see how I was doing; she knew the kids were leaving soon. Pam and didn't get to chat very often, and since the kids were at my sister-in-law's that morning playing while I packed their things, I had a chance to sit and chat with her for awhile.

While I was talking to Pam, I noticed that he came into and went out of the kitchen several times. He was making trips in from the garage, and he seemed a bit agitated. Probably looking for something. In a few minutes, he came through the living room where I was and said in a voice loud enough for Pam to hear, "Get off the phone. Now." I covered the receiver and gave him an angry look with my finger over my pursed lips, trying to shush him. He redoubled his effort, saying even MORE loudly "Get off the phone!" I looked at him like he was crazy, and without bothering to even try to cover the receiver, I wasted no time in telling him "I'll get off the phone when I am done talking." He left the room, and I rolled my eyes and continued talking to Pam.

After we hung up, I went into the kitchen and poured a Coke for myself - I never could stand to drink out of cans - I am a glass and ice girl. When I had taken a sip or two, I heard him upstairs, calling me. "Rita, can you come up here for a minute?" With Coke in tow, I went upstairs and opened our bedroom door. Stepping in, I didn't see him right away, and I called out "What?"

He stepped out of the walk in closet toward me and slammed the door closed. "Don't you EVER talk to me that way again! You're trying to make me look like a fool! You want everyone LAUGHING at me!" he yelled, his face inches from mine, contorted with anger. I had had enough of his shit, I was past the point of hurt about the kids, I was just cold. "Kiss my ass . . ." I said, out loud this time, as I turned away from him and headed toward the door.

I felt myself being jerked backward - he had grabbed my arm, squeezing it as he pulled me close to him. He was muttering quietly into my ear "what did you say to me? what did you fucking say to me? hmm? you gonna tell me to kiss your ass NOW? Hmm?" as he began to twist my arm, one hand gripping my wrist, the other gripping my elbow, twisting . . . twisting. . . .

I felt my shoulder pop, and blinding pain shot through my body. His face was someone I didn't recognize. I was still holding the glass in my other hand, and I doused him with the ice cold soda, hoping to stun him back to his senses. As the icy drink dripped down his face, he was shocked and released his hold on me momentarily, but just as suddenly, he found the evil anger again and with a terrifying growl, he used his incredible strength to grab me and throw me into the bedroom wall. My head hit the wall first, and then the edge of the dresser again as I slid down to the floor, nearly unconscious.

As I was laying there against the wall, my right arm twisted and contorted, my head pounding, he was coming for me again. Shockingly, I was STILL holding the glass in my good hand. He was still quietly muttering obscenitites through clenched teeth as he came toward me, his hands clenched into fists. At that moment, I truly thought he was going to kill me.

Fear is an incredible motivator. In the split second it took him to cross the room and lunge for me, I overcame the pain to prepare for and perfectly execute a well-placed rabbit punch kick square in the nuts - harder than I had ever kicked anything in my life. He never saw it coming, he was so intent on grabbing me by the throat that his face was just inches from mine when he was bending over me and received the blow. He stopped dead in his tracks, eye open with surprise, mouth stretched in a oversized, silent "O", as he staggered back a step, doubled over and began to puke. He was still too close to me and I kicked out at him again, the heel of my foot landing squarely on his kneecap. His knee bent backward in a way that it was never intended to, and he fell to the floor, one hand holding his crotch, and the other gripping his knee. As I got to my feet, I gripped the wall; the room was spinning and I was fighting to stay conscious.

We stayed that way, he and I, in that bedroom for what seemed like an eternity, but was in reality only a minute or two. As he regained his composure, he seemed to come out of his trance, or whatever it was that had possessed him, and he looked at me with horror, wiping spittle and vomit from his face with the back of his hand. "Oh, baby, God, I am so sorry . . " he sobbed, as he struggled to his feet.

My voice was low and commanding, and my eyes bore holes in him. "Get out." I said. When he got to his feet, hobbling with his hurt knee, and held a hand out to me, I said louder "Get out!" Now it was me that was to the point of no return. "Get OUT! Get OUT! Get OUT!" I screamed at him. He tried to approach me, and I still had the glass in my hand. I let it fly, and it grazed his face and shattered into a million pieces against the far wall.

"GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!" I was screaming, spittle flying from my mouth, my voice hoarse already. The screams and the anger and blinding fear that spawned them were coming from a place that even I didn't recognize. Shocked, he hobbled down the stairs and I heard his truck pull out of the driveway.

The house was deathly quiet, and I sat for quite a while on the bed, not really able to piece things together. Had he REALLY done that? How bad was I injured? I needed a doctor - how would I get one? Nothing made any sense to me, but through the fog, I made my way to the phone and I called the one person I could always call. My sister. I told her to come, and she didn't ask why. She just came.

She walked in and found me at the bottom of the stairs, huddled and crying. After deciphering the story between my sobs and choking, she swung into action. "That MOTHERFUCKER . . . Get into the car, we are going to the hospital," she said as she led me into the car. I kept drifting into sleep, and she kept patting my face to keep me awake. She had no idea how bad my head injuries were, and she knew that sleep could be dangerous.

Even in that state, I begged her to take me out of town for treatment. "Everyone knows us, everyone will know. Take me out of this city," I pleaded with her. She took me to the emergency room in the adjoining town, where I had my shoulder reset. I had sustained 2 concussions, and I was covered in deep, blue bruises in the shape of the pads of his 5 fingers encircling my arm, and a shiner from hitting the dresser, and several others along my ribcage and back. The doctor was kind when he asked me how I had sustained the injuries. I hung my head, and my sister told him. He said that he had already guessed as much, and he had a domestic violence counselor waiting to talk with me when I was feeling better. He expressed his condolences for my injuries and was a little stunned but cracked a smile when I opened my eyes and whispered, "Yeah, well, you shoulda seen the OTHER guy . . ."

He sent me home with my sister and gave me a prescription for heavy painkillers. As I laid in her bed, icepacks on my face, I could hear the phone calls: her to my family, her to him (that one was filled with alot of screaming, threats and profanities), her to his sister to check on the kids (she was mortified, and said she would keep the kids that night and the next), her to my brother (the good one), her to my brother (the bad one).

The secret was out. He was exposed, and I lived to tell the story.

As soon as I realized that, I fell into a deep, deep, painless sleep.

No comments:

There was an error in this gadget