2. Two Weeks

Two Weeks

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

Ephesians 4:25-26

September 27th, 1994.

Austin and I headed off for school. I walked with more pep in my step than he, eagerly anticipating my sixth birthday party later that afternoon. Back at home, mom was decorating the house. Once finished, she returned to the bedroom to share her plans for the party with dad as he readied himself for some freelance work he’d scored.

“Everything is ready for this afternoon. All I need to do is order pizzas for the kids.”

“No Jeannie, we can’t afford to order pizza,” he said forcefully, still lacing his shoes. “Go to the food bank and get some take-and-bake pizzas.”

“Dave, I can’t do that,” exasperation now adding to her tone, “I’m supervising eight kids, I won’t have time.”

“So is Thayer useless then? Why can’t he help?”

“You know that he’s just visiting, I don’t want to inconvenience my father while he sees his grandchildren.”

Anger flooded dad’s face as he looked up, locking eyes with mom standing in the small bathroom. He rose up from the bed, and met her with three steps. Fear and surprise now flashed in her eyes as her husband’s bold figure cornered her in the single exit bathroom.

Reaching out with right hand, he gripped her collar and pinned her to the wall on his right side. Forearm pressing firm against her neck, he leaned in close, his demonic eyes not more than three inches from hers.

“Jeannie, don’t you fucking get it?” His slimy, low toned, remarks oozed from grit teeth, “We can’t…afford…to order…pizza.”

Though he released the pressure from her throat, she remained for a moment as if still pressed. Dad headed downstairs, fury pounding with each step. Once he sped out of the room mom decided to call 911, nearly tripping as she turned to the closest phone down the hall. Moments later, hearing a knock and opening the front door, dad was surprised to see a policeman greeting him.

“The hell’s going on? I think you have the wrong house.”

“Sir, we received a call notifying us of domestic violence. Please step out,” the man ordered. “I need to ask you a few questions.”

Mom joined them and fearfully accused dad of choking her. When probed, dad claimed he didn’t literally wrap his fingers around her neck, only that he authoritatively handled her shirt and gave her a stern admonition.

The policeman arrested him as he adamantly appealed to the officer to let him stay. Money was tight, dad had a shot at earning some today. The policeman would not allow it. Domestic violence calls in the state of Washington guarantee at least one person will spend the night in jail. Mom felt sorry too, not knowing her call would lead to jail time. She only thought the authorities to give him a warning.

The officer took him away, dad’s head shamefully bowed as he sulked towards the squad car guided by the man in uniform. When my brother and I arrived home, we wondered where dad went. Mom said he had to go away for the night. Not thinking much of it, I proceeded to enjoy Domino’s Pizza at my Tom & Jerry themed birthday party.

February 13th, 1995

“I hate that fucking bitch! I hate my fucking life!”

Cutting, slurred outbursts abruptly severed my deep sleep. Down the hall in the living room, dad angrily vented to Craig on the other side of the phone. My attentive eardrums palpated his surging rage. I froze. I was on high alert, unable to ignore his fury that I’ve never witnessed. My bedroom lights were off with the door cracked open. Heavy, seething footsteps paced past me into my parents’ room, my mom sitting on the bed.

Their door slammed shut. More muffled shouts ensued, followed by my mother’s screams. Inside dad jerked the leash of his probation by throwing fists at mom, stopping inches from her face. If he hit her, his imprisonment would last much longer than a single night.

After a few minutes of the violent verbal exchange, dad flung the door open and pivoted down the hall. Fear overcame my now quaking body as I heard dad howling. Uninterrupted, bellowing wails intensified prior to each of three terrifying thuds. My ears then traced the sound of his forceful stomps as they hammered down the stairs finishing with the clash of the front door crushing its frame as he left. The outrage wafted out with him.

My memory skips. I don’t know what happened next. I must have fallen asleep eventually. The next morning, Mom woke me up.

“Ryan, get dressed, we all need to go. I’ll get Austin,” she said frantically. I crept down the ladder to find an outfit. As I stepped out of my room and ventured down the hall, crumbs of  drywall caught my downward gaze. I looked up to my right and discovered a head-shaped hole above me perfectly outlining the contour of my father’s forehead. Mom gathered us into the car as she drove off.

“What’s going on mom? Where’s dad?” Austin questioned.

“He is staying with a friend for a few days. Your dad will be home soon but we need to be separated for a little while.”

Austin and I cried. Our hearts emptied as our minds flooded with questions. We didn’t know why this was happening. We didn’t want him to go, as if we did not remember or care about the terror he caused several hours prior.

A child’s unmitigated love for his parents will compel him to do anything to keep their bond intact. Innocent babes forgive even the cruelest acts committed by their parents in order to survive. Sometimes this leads to further abuse, in other cases, it leads to death. Regardless, the desperate child knows not the sins of their parents. That is, until perplexing, contradictory emotions rear their ugly head in adulthood.

“When will we see him again?” I asked.

“Two weeks,” she tonelessly replied.  “We’ll be separated for two weeks.”

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