“Why me?” was the ongoing question I found myself asking.
Growing up in my family was tough. My dad preferred his booze over marriage, so truthfully, I think my parent’s divorce was the best thing for my mom. My older brother Taylor, my younger sister Al and I grew up travelling back and forth; every other weekend at dad’s, all the other time, we were at mom’s. At dad’s house, well technically our Nana’s house, we were able to see the negative effects alcohol plays on the human’s mind and body.
My dad had the disease of alcoholism, but in my mind my Mom had a disease as well… Hers just couldn’t be diagnosed. My mom’s disease was that she didn’t know how to be alone. She relied on someone, and if she didn’t have someone, or wasn’t busy, it was like she’d fall apart. Don’t get me wrong, she was a good mom, and still is a great mom, but her kryptonite was men.
Soon, my mom found a partner in our recently-divorced neighbor, Tom. He quickly moved in with us, turning “family time” into “Tom and Mom” time. He seemed nice enough at first.
It takes time to find one’s true colors. Tom’s true colors were black and blue along my brother and mother’s bodies. This became another routine for us. Dad’s house – watch him self-destruct and listen to drunken stories, Mom’s house – witness physical and emotional abuse. My mom would still wake up every morning and kiss him goodbye. She was happy… This was normal though, right?
But when people realize what they can get away with, they keep going. The violence between Tom, my mother and Taylor was becoming more severe. Al and I would hide in different closets to escape. I would pretend I wasn’t scared because she needed me to be the strong one, and so that’s the role I played.
“What’s Tom like?” my dad would ask. We wouldn’t give away any information, mom wouldn’t like that, and to be honest we didn’t know how our dad would feel about the truth anyway. We needed to play it safe. Soon, our weekends with dad were our escape from the real enemy, Tom.
We began growing up and Tom convinced mom to get another job, for we had moved into a fairly large house and bills were evidently more. My mom would leave for catering around eight and it would just be Taylor, Al, and myself left with the monster.
“Let’s play a game.” He’d say as our mother walked out the door. The games would typically involve him playing the bad guy, and us needing to escape him. Duct tape would be involved, sometimes pornography – the surprises were endless. Then at bedtime he’d make his way into me and Al’s bedroom, climb into bed with us, and continue being that bad guy he enjoyed being so much. When the bad guy heard the rocks crunching in the driveway and see those headlights, he’d slip back out from under the covers, and leave the room.
No more visits to Dad’s. He was too deep into his addiction now. We were stuck with the monster. There were nights where my mom would make us get into the car and we’d be on the run… I would have the smallest amount of hope, nevertheless we would always end up back with the monster. He had a way with words.
At the age of twelve, I could see how all of these traumatic experiences were affecting my little sister. She would wince whenever anyone got too close, or go hide in a closet when people would yell. I didn’t like this. I still needed to protect her.
Tom no longer visited her bed. When he’d get up to leave mine and join hers, I’d pull his arm back down. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I was her big sister. She is still fixable, I would think to myself. I wanted her to be fixed, when truth be told, I wanted to fix something that couldn’t be fixed.
The beatings and late nights continued. And I would devise these plans to tell the guidance counselor at school what was happening, but it was like my mouth physically was incapable of speaking.
It wasn’t until I was fourteen when things took a turn. We were in New Hampshire, helping family move. My mom stayed back to work, so it was just Tom and the kids who went. I was carrying my little cousin to her parents’ bedroom when I heard Tom’s calling me from the bedroom.
“Amanda, come in here.” the voice said faintly. “What?” I responded. He reached out for my hand and pulled me close to him. This was the day my innocence was unwillingly taken. This was the day I will carry with me for the rest of my life. This was the day I knew I NEEDED to make a change.
On the way home, the car was silent. When we got home it was late, which made it easy for me and Al to head straight to our bedroom. Tom started right in on arguing with my mom. As soon as we reached the room, I started packing our suitcases. The door opened, and I scrambled to my feet.
“Girls?” my mom peered in, then made her way into the room. She looked tired and like she had just gotten done crying. “He’s in a mood.” she stated. “How was the weekend?”
Without thinking, I got up and sat down on my bed beside my fragile, manipulated, and insecure mother. I took her hand and at that moment my mother did something I never knew she was capable of. She just listened to me. She didn’t question me, she didn’t allow his manipulation to take over her damaged outlook. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and promised we would leave. I believed her.
The next couple of months turned into police station visits and psych evaluations, but in the end, it was worth it to know the man that hurt my family was getting what he deserved. The man who hurt my sister got what he deserved.