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The Truth of the Matter was Known

October 12, 2008

Slice of Life Sunday is a meme dedicated to preserving the accounts of events cut out of the lives of average people just like you and me from all over the world. And like having ice cream with your pie, there is more to this meme than meets the eye – it’s a meme a` la mode. I hope you will join me and share a Slice of your Life.

This week I am sharing a very difficult time in my life written to the prompt of  “An Inconvenient Truth.” Sometimes it is hard to except the truth, especially when that truth leads you to make a decision you really didn’t want to make.

The Truth of the Matter was Known

 

Parents of teenagers go to bed each night thanking God when another day has passed without a major disruption in the family dynamics from their adolescent.  Increased use of drugs and alcohol, higher rates of car accidents, and teenage pregnancy on the rise are just a few causes of increased anxiety for parents and their teenagers. Teens face many challenges and make daily decisions trying to deal with pressure form their parents, pressure from their peers, and pressure from their changing bodies. It isn’t any wonder why high school graduation is one of the most anticipated events in a child’s life, and not just by the teenager. There are as many different ways for a parent to handle the unwanted news of an unexpected pregnancy of their teen as there are parents. I have talked with several female friends over the years about how they broke the news to their parents about their teenage pregnancy.  Emotions during these conversations ran high. Hearts were broken and tears were shed, but in the end sanity prevailed and decisions were made in the best interest of the beloved teen. Except in my house .

To be fair, my mother did not have the advantage of her daughter coming to her with the bad news. I did not tell her because I did not know. I had been ill for several months, but not with morning sickness which may have given mom a clue. I would become extremely nauseated on the bus ride home from school. I worked as a dishwasher in a nursing home after school, which only made the nausea much worse. Once my four-hour shift was over, I would go home and go right to bed. The week of our prom, two girls in my school had been diagnosed with mononucleosis and my mother was concerned I may have caught the disease. She made an appointment with our family doctor for the end of the following week just to know for sure.  Prom night came and went and I continued to become ill each day. The day before my doctor’s appointment, I was more ill than usual. I always stopped at my boyfriend John’s house after school to spend the hour before I was due at work. His mother Ruth decided I was too ill to go to work and made a call to the main office to call me off work. She then had me lay down in her bedroom in hopes my stomach would calm down. She was wise enough to set a bucket by the bed.

As it turned out, the stars and the moon did not line up for me that day. The main office failed to notify the kitchen where I was assigned that I had been called off work. The head cook called my house when I didn’t show up. My mother said as far as she knew I was at work. Once they convinced her I was not, she knew immediately where I would be. She grabbed her car keys and went straight to John’s house. Ruth answered her pounding on the door and explained I was very sick when she demanded to know if I was there. Ruth brought her into the livingroom and said I was laying down in her and Don’s room. She motioned to the open door leading from the room and mom stepped through it to find John lying behind me as I lay on the edge of the bed with my head hanging over the side. As she explained later, “I just saw red!” She did not notice I was vomiting, but only saw John and me “in bed together.” She came over and grabbed my arm and pulled me up from the bed. She began swearing and threatening to have John arrested because he was 18 and I was only 16. She also threatened to have Ruth arrested for allowing us to “have sex” while she sat in the next room watching soap operas. I was too ill to say anything and did nothing as she pulled me through the house and out to the car. All I could think about was getting home and going to bed.

Once we arrived home, I was not permitted to go to bed. Mom demanded to know why I was so sick all the time. I sat on the couch and said nothing for fear I would begin vomiting again. She went on ranting and raving about finding me and John in bed together and finally said, “You’re not pregnant are you?” I said nothing. I thought she was crazy because even I knew pregnant women got sick in the mornings, not in the afternoon. Not that I knew how a person got pregnant, but I had heard enough aunts complain about morning sickness to know that was the first sign. But mom took my silence as affirmation that I could be pregnant. “Have you been having sex with that boy?” she demanded. Again I said nothing, thinking to myself what that had to do with anything. Mom became violent and began hitting me in the face with her hands. “You are aren’t you?” she screamed. Again, I said nothing. Mom stomped out of the room and I laid down across the couch thinking she was done with her fit of rage. But I was wrong. She came back with one of dad’s leather belts and began beating me with it. “How dare you shame this family!” “You’re nothing but a common slut!” I rolled onto my stomach and hid my face into the couch with my hands crossed over my head as she continued to beat me. Each hit seemed to get harder and I must have passed out as I do not remember when she stopped. The next thing I remember was mom and dad pushing each other and arguing.

When dad realized I was getting up from the couch, he came over to help me. “Cricket, I am so sorry your mom did this. She was wrong and she won’t hit you anymore.” I said I just wanted to go to bed and went up to my room. Some time later dad came up with a bowl of soup. I told him I hurt too bad to eat. He told me to just rest and Toupey, my older sister would be up to look after my bruises. True to his word, my sister came up with a pan of cold water.  She filled in the details of what happened as she placed cold compresses on my back, buttocks and legs. She said she tried to stop mom when she realized how bad it was getting, but mom just knocked her down.  My younger brother also tried to stop her, but mom hit him with the belt too. She said she knew mom would have killed me if dad wouldn’t have gotten home. “She was just crazy! I’ve never seen her that bad before.”

I stayed home from school the next day because I was too sore to walk. Mom took me to my doctor’s appointment after she got off work.  I never said a word to her on the drive for fear she would go crazy again. Once we were in the room, she informed the nurse that she wanted a pregnancy exam performed.  Dr. Huston came in just as I was getting up on the examining table. He could see the welts and bruising on my legs below the gown and on my back where the gown was not fastened. “What happened to this child?” he demanded. My mother began explaining she had whipped me because she found me in bed with my boyfriend. “Are you telling me you did this to your own daughter?”

“Well, yes, I did. I became so mad when I found her at her boyfriend’s house – in bed with him! Then when we got home she said she thought she was pregnant and I just saw red. I guess I may have gone a bit overboard, but she. . .” Mom never got to finish her explanation. Dr. Huston put his hands on her throat and backed her up against the wall. The nurse was so shocked she knocked over a pan of silver utensils and I watched as they fell to the floor. “This is completely unacceptable Barb. No child deserves to be beaten like this; I don’t care what they have done. If I ever find out you even lay a finger on this child again, I will have you arrested and this child removed from your home. Have I made myself clear?” He let go of her then and ordered her to wait in the lobby until he called for her.  To my amazement, she actually left the room without saying a word.

For the next hour, Dr. Huston tended to my wounds and asked me many questions. When I said I didn’t know how someone got pregnant, he explained it to me. I admitted that John and I did have sex “a few times.” Yes, that was a bit of a lie. He then examined me and found that I was indeed pregnant, more than four months along. He asked if John and I had ever talked about getting married. I said no we hadn’t and in fact I was planning on breaking up with him after he graduated in June.  I explained that John had gotten into trouble with the law back in the winter and I thought he might be cheating on me. He wanted to know if I wasn’t planning on spending my life with John, why I hadn’t already broken up with him. “Well, I couldn’t until after the prom and the graduation parties. Am I really going to have a baby?” I responded.  Dr. Huston and the nurse looked at each other and he said something about me being such a naïve child. Of course I didn’t know what naïve meant at the time and assumed it had something to do with my being pregnant.

My mom was called back into the examining room and was told I was pregnant. “Well, I figured as much. She is just going to have to marry that bastard Bickel boy. I never liked him from the first minute I laid eyes on that son of a bitch. And now look what he has done. Do you know how embarrassing this is going to be for me at work?” she sneered at me.  Dr. Huston immediately informed mom, “This is not about you Barb. This about your daughter and her life and the life of the baby she is carrying. And it will be up to your daughter to decide if she wants to get married. Being pregnant does not mean she has to get married.”

I listened to what Dr. Huston was saying but realized he was wrong. There were six other girls in my class who had gotten married the last few months and it was rumored they were all pregnant. I wasn’t sure what John would think about getting married, but I knew I wasn’t ready to be married. I didn’t even know how to cook. Then I thought about being pregnant and wondered if my belly would get as big as my Aunt Joan’s did. I began to shiver thinking about that as I remembered I had an appointment to have my Senior pictures taken in August. Then I thought, will I even get to go back to school and graduate? And what will I do with a baby? I had held a few babies and even changed a diaper once, but I had never thought about having one of my own. I was going to college and become a lawyer. So many things ran through my mind as mom continued to talk with the doctor. I didn’t know what, or how, or where, or when about any of the things running through my mind, but I did know one thing. I did have to get married. Staying at home and having a baby was not an option with a lunatic like my mother living in the same house.

The next five weeks passed quickly. My mom had called Ruth to tell her about my being pregnant.  After a few shared hostile words, they both settled down and began to plan a wedding. John never asked me to marry him, and I never said yes. We both just knew that was what was expected in 1968. The night before our wedding, my dad came outside to where I was sitting on the porch swing. I had a bridal shower that week and was writing out thank you notes. “Cricket” he began, “I know your mom had made a lot of plans for this wedding tomorrow, but I want you to know you do not have to get married. I talked with Dr. Huston and he thinks you do not really want to get married. Is that true?” I thought for a moment and said, “It doesn’t matter what I want dad. I am pregnant.” Dad cleared his throat and for the first time in my life I saw his eyes gloss over like he was going to cry. “Just because you are pregnant does not mean you have to get married. You have a choice here Cricket. Just say the word and I will call this whole thing off. You can have the baby and stay here at home. I can make the back room into your very own room, just for you and the baby.  And don’t worry about your mom. She is never going to hit you again.”

Again, I thought about what he was saying. And for a moment I almost believed him. How I wanted to believe him! “Dad, I know you don’t want to hear this, but mom has never liked me. Never once in my life have I ever felt she liked me. Most of the time I knew she hated me. And this, my being pregnant has only made it worse. It’s the truth and we both know it. No dad, I do have to get married. And I will do everything I can to make it work. You will see, it will be ok.” The next day my dad walked me down the aisle to marry a man who did not love me, and, who I did not love. Over the year that we had dated, we had said the word.  Neither of us had a clue what love was, but we both knew the consequences of our actions. We both said “I do.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2008 5:40 am

    I am so sorry to hear your Mom beat you like that. You poor thing. In so many ways this is a terribly sad story. It shows the dangers of not educating teenagers about sex as well as the damage parental disinterest can cause. The line that broke my heart was ‘Neither of us had a clue what love was.’ So sad.

  2. October 18, 2008 10:49 am

    I’m crying my eyes out over here. That is so sad. I can’t stop sobbing
    HUGS
    you’ve become one strong woman!

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