Sitting back and watching the lightning dance brightly around the sky and listening to the rain beating down, the wind tossing my thoughts around, my mind returned to the early days of my marriage and I wondered what had gone wrong.
Getting married was very important in the early 60's. Most friends were getting married and I guess I did not want to be "different" and end up as the "old maid." I never really thought about age, but most of my friends were at least a couple of years older than I was.
My marriage started out as most others I knew. It was a whirlwind romance. I had met my soon to be husband in October, became engaged in November and married in December, two days before my 18th birthday. My parents did not object to our marriage, well, not too much anyway. They knew if they disallowed us to get married, we would most likely just elope as one of my girlfriends did. They knew me well!
Our married life together was wonderful for the first year and a half. Our first child, a daughter, was born a year after we were married. Following birth, I had expected to go back to work, but my husband did not want me to. He had felt that I should stay home with our baby and be a "real mother" as he would be able to "look after" us financially. At the time, this sounded fine with me. Being the early 60s, a lot of families only had one parent working to support the household. But as time went on, I felt it was a way for him to have control over my life.
The Onset Of Hell
I had one girlfriend we used to call "clumsy" as she was always getting bruised about her face and/or hands. The only explanation we got was the old classic of walking into doors in the middle of the night or fell down the stairs. She was a happy go lucky lady, never complained about anything - when her husband wasn't around. When he was next to her, she was very quiet and never said a word. Everyone knew that things were not good for her. I had tried talking to her about this one time, but she denied everything and said we were all paranoid but her. A few months later, she had committed suicide. No letter was ever found as to the reason why.
Another friend, who was a macho biker who played hard and rode hard, also committed suicide shortly after. He did leave a letter that stated he could not take the beatings anymore from his wife. No one ever knew what he went through. Being a biker, all the bruises and broken bones were thought to be caused by riding his Harley, so it was never questioned. Apparently, she usually waited until he was asleep and hit him with baseball bats or cast iron fry pans.
Spousal Abuse, a subject not readily discussed in the early to late sixties. In fact, the term "spousal abuse" was not used until the late 70's. When one noticed a friend with a bruise or broken bone, you believed their explanation of a car accident or the like. Deep down inside, you knew it was abuse by their partner but you never questioned this as it could become much worse for them.
By this time, I had given birth to my second child. The control by my husband had gotten worse since the suicides. I was timed going to the store in the evening. I had to give an explanation as to why it took longer than he figured it should. I had to report to him everyone I had run into or met at the store or on the way. Then the beatings started.
As he held the purse strings, he would give me $20.00 a week to buy groceries and other necessities. Buying baby food was expensive enough but to have to buy clothing and other things was about impossible. My mother at that time helped me out a lot with buying groceries and clothes. I just told her that my husband did not make enough money to support us all. I could not bring myself to tell mom about the treatment I was getting at home from him. I guess I just didn't want to be labeled a "loser".
I remember one time I was ironing his shirt for work - or so I thought it was for work. All of a sudden he grabbed the shirt off the ironing board, slapped me across the face, threw the iron on the cupboard and was strangling me. He told me I was not ironing it properly and he didn't want to be embarrassed to be seen in a rumpled shirt. Needless to say, I re-ironed the shirt and out he went. At least when he went out, it was peaceful in the house.
Another time there just was not enough food in the house for our children. I had in the past made flour and water pancakes for them, but tonight I felt they needed some real food. I went outside and took two of their pet rabbits, chopped their heads off, skinned them and made baked rabbit. I had told them that the rabbits must have been stolen. They ate heartily that night. Needless to say, I did not eat. This was the worse thing I had done in my life, but I could not let my children starve.
My husband had quite the reputation as a lady's man around town. Girlfriends of his would phone the house and had the guts to leave messages for him. I often wrote them down and gave them to him. One night, I needed milk for the baby and went to find him. I found him in one of the lounges with a girl and asked him for a dollar so I could get some milk. He tossed it on the floor. By now I was seeing red. I turned their table upside down and told him to go to hell and pick his own money up off the floor. I left knowing I would get a good beating later on when he came home. And I did.
Another time, a friend of his and his wife came to play cards one night. Well, in the middle of the game I all of a sudden got a punch to the face and knocked off my chair. The other couple got up and left! I guess they didn't want to interfere. He continued hitting on me, breaking my glasses and nose and putting me through the wall. I ran from the house in sock feet and no jacket. It was the middle of a cold winter. I ran down the street to a lady's house and knocked on her door. She let me in. I explained what was going on and she took me to her friends place so that he would not find me. I was there for two days.
I had nowhere to go so I went home, such as it was. He was not there at the time, only a babysitter was. I decided enough was enough that I would tell my mom all about it and hopefully find a place for the kids and myself. Well, before I finished packing some clothes for us, in the door he came - with a rifle. He beat on me first then I was told to sit on the couch, so I took my two children and sat on the couch. He said there were three bullets in the rifle, one for each child and me, so I best not move! He had been drinking and I was very afraid. I did not like guns of any kind. I sat with my small children for 7 hours, not moving a muscle. He finally passed out and I took the rifle outside and broke it to pieces. I then grabbed the children, their clothes and blankets and dog, and ran to the car and away we went. We parked on the side of the cemetery in the bushes, and then the thunderstorm began.
A New Start
After sitting out in the bushes for a couple of days, my children were getting restless and wanted to go home. I decided that we would go home and I would have a talk with my husband and see if we could work things out. I did not want any more beatings.
When we got home, he was there with a smirk on his face. I told him I came to talk and there would be no more beatings. He agreed to talk. And talk we did. We decided to try again to make this marriage work. He of course apologized for being cruel. I took him at his word.
Things did go well for about six months, then one night he did not come home. My dad had passed away that morning and I needed to find him. I went looking for him and found him at a party. It wasn't that he was at a party, but he was at my sister's place at a party, with her! I found him in her bed with her and another of her friends. Well, needless to say, that was the end of this marriage.
The End of a New Beginning
Dad's funeral was very sad. I could not look at my sister knowing how she had mistreated me. My husband was not at the funeral. I had told mom all about the life I had been living and that I was now on my own. She said she would help me wherever possible.
I found a new place to live with my children with a school right across the street. I found work in a lounge and worked nights. I had a wonderful babysitter and no worries, or so I thought.
Two years later, I went home from work one night and my children were gone and their clothes and toys, the dog was gone, the bird was gone, my photo albums were gone and even my furniture was gone. Everything was gone! I phoned the babysitter and she told me my husband had come and taken the children as I told him he could. I phoned the police and they said there were no custody papers so they could do nothing.
Well, $20,000 and many court cases later, I found my children. The courts awarded him custody as he had the children with him for five years. It was a sad day for me.
He didn't have them a month, and social services took them away from him for abuse. I had to reapply for custody, which took more money and time.
My children finally made it "home" to me!! They are now married and have children of their own and have done quite well with their lives. My ex-husband passed away about five years ago, a very lonely and sad man.
There are many more events in my life story with this man but it would take realms of paper and lots of ink to explain it all. All this happened within an eight year old marriage. I divorced him in 1970 and have been alone since.
I am not bitter and carry no hate. I feel all my experiences have made me a better person. I have learned a lot and have worked closely with others who are/were going through the same kinds of abuse.
My mother passed away not long ago and there are times I feel very alone. But I count my blessings that I have wonderful children and grandchildren and the best friends in this world. And friends really DO count!!
Life is too short to be lived in a prison. It must be relished. Enjoy the little things in life, those are what count. It is hoped that my story will help others to find the help they need to get out of an abusive situation before it is too late. Speak to you Doctor, your Pastor or Priest, your neighbour, anyone that can help you. There is help available and it is important to get that help while you are still able to! Life will be lonely for awhile, but it does get easier, much easier. Take the chance on life!
Domestic Violence information answers your questions and may save your life.