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Abiding Regrets

January 4, 2009

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. I have chosen one of this week’s prompts, “Living with Regrets”. I think everyone has made decisions they wish they could change. I know I have.

 

Abiding Regrets

 

John knew instantly something was wrong when he opened the back door. Breakfast dishes were still sitting on the kitchen table. Dinner was not cooking on the stove. The beef roast he had taken from the freezer that morning was sitting in a pool of dried juices on the counter. He walked into the dining room and found more signs of something grossly amiss. The table was not covered with the dinner tablecloth his grandmother had painstakingly cross-stitched shortly before her death. The dinnerware his parents had given us for our first Christmas was not sitting in their proper places. An overflowing ashtray from the two packs of cigarettes I had smoked that afternoon replaced fresh cut flowers from the garden as a centerpiece. I sat at the table, watching his eyes try to make sense of the unusual surroundings.

“What’s wrong? Where are the kids? Are they alright? When did you start smoking?” He fired questions at me one after the other without waiting for my response, which was not unusual.

I continued to watch his questioning eyes as I lit another cigarette. I inhaled deeply, taking note his concerned expression was slowly changing to anger. In a voice barren of any emotion, I answered his questions, “Kelli told me what you have been doing to her.”

John’s eyes searched my face for a sign of life, any sign that would prepare him for how I was going to react. He was startled by its coldness; no emotion, no humanity. His face went white. His legs weakened as he sank into the chair across the table from me. He held his shaking head in his hands. I continued to smoke, leaning comfortably back into my chair. Just when I thought he was going to deny Kelli’s allegations, he lowered his hands and cried, “I am so sorry. So, so sorry.” Tears were streaming down his face as he continued to tell me how sorry he was; how he could not believe he did such a horrible thing to his own daughter. He swore upon his grandmother’s grave it would never happen again. I leaned forward in my chair, stubbed out my cigarette, looked him straight in the eye and calmly replied, “You are correct John. You will never have a chance to hurt her again.”

Shaken by my composure and obviously uncomfortable under my steady gaze, John began looking around the diningroom. It was then he noticed his shotgun leaning against the wall under the trophy case, less than an arm’s length from me. I saw his eyebrows rise when he realized it was already cocked with the safety off, ready to fire at the slightest touch of the trigger. I watched his eyes begin to squint as the direness of the situation registered in his brain. There was no way he could get to the gun before me; there was no way he could get out of the room in time if I chose to grab for it. He had taught me to skeet shoot and proudly displayed the trophies we had won in numerous couple’s tournaments. He looked from the gun to the trophy case and back to the gun. He knew his prize student would be dead on at this distance. His tears stopped. His hands began to drip beads of sweat as they lay trembling on the table. The corner of his mouth began to twitch. John’s eyes moved slowly from the gun to me; again searching for any sign of humanity. He found none. With fearful reluctance, he lowered his eyes to the table. His shoulders began to sag. His neck became too weak to hold his head up. With a sigh of defeat, his head drooped forward, his chin now resting on his chest. In a voice just barely above a whisper he pleaded, “This is not going to solve anything. Cricket . . . Cricket, please . . . you have to know this will not solve anything.”

I stared at the top of his head. He was a foot taller than I and the balding spot had grown larger without my noticing. I found it odd; all of his weaknesses had expanded and I had not noticed. I stood up, the chair legs scrapping across the hardwood floors. John flinched but made no effort to rise from his chair. I picked up the gun and aimed it at the center of his head, my finger only a heartbeat away from the trigger. In the back of my mind, memories of our children drifted through; my little girl dancing in the spring recital, my son riding his John Deere tractor across the backyard, the mayhem of opening presents last Christmas, swimming at the beach, canoeing down the river, Jamie crying himself to sleep, Kelli confessing her father’s secret. I closed my eyes and made the decision I have regretted a thousand times since.

Making the wrong choice seemed to be a pattern for me. Twenty-five years earlier, at age four, I made the decision to tattle on my older sister for tormenting our younger sister and causing her to fall down a flight of stairs. The whipping Toupey received from our mother was severe. Her plan of revenge for my betrayal was cruel; resulting in being more ghastly than she could have ever imagined.

Later that evening, we walked to the outhouse for our evening visit before going to bed. We went in together, but Toupey finished first and went outside to wait for me. Just as I was pulling up my panties, she slammed the door shut and turned the wooden block. Darkness engulfed me. I fumbled with my clothes while trying to get to the door. I could hear her laughter fade as she made her way back to our house. I cried for help: no one came. I pounded on the door: no one heard. I finally slumped to the floor from exhaustion. I fell asleep in the midst of my tears and the nauseating smells of the outhouse. I did not know it at the time, but the cruelty was just beginning. What came next had nothing to do with any choice I had made.

I awoke to a flashlight shining in my eyes and my Uncle John running his fingers through my hair. “It’s about time sleeping beauty woke up.” he said. “I hear you told on Toupey today. Your mother sure whipped her good. Now, that wasn’t very nice of you to tell on her, was it? I think you should be punished for being so mean to her. But don’t worry; I don’t spank as hard as your mother does.”

Being disoriented from being awakened from a deep sleep, I did not resist as Uncle John pulled me up from where I was lying. It was then I realized the flashlight was not in his hand, but was sitting in the corner beside the one of the seats. I also saw he did not have his pants on; he was naked from the waist down. He sat down on the space between the seats and said, “We need to get you ready for your spanking.” He took off my dress and my panties and laid me across his lap.

 

 

The next morning at the breakfast table, mother reprimanded me for taking so long to go to the outhouse the night before. “It is a good thing your Uncle John stopped by. If I would have walked all the way out there in the dark to get you, you would have gotten some of what I gave Toupey.” (yes the irony of my husband having the same first name as my uncle has not escaped me)

I watched Uncle John stuff a sixth slice of bacon into his mouth as my mother continued to chastise me. He lifted his coffee cup to take a drink and noticed my eyes wandering back and forth between him and my mother. He took a drink, sat his cup down and looked straight at me. “Cricket, don’t you have something to tell your mother?” he defiantly asked.

As I looked into his eyes, I remembered his words following my ‘spanking’. “Well, that is done. Now, if you don’t want me to have to do this again, you will walk quietly with me back to the house and go to bed like a good little girl. Your mother sent me out to get you and she would be very angry if you started complaining about my kind of spankings.”

Uncle John interrupted my thoughts, “Cricket, I asked you a question. Don’t you have something to say to your mother? I told her I gave you a little spanking last night for taking so long, but I think you should also apologize.”

I looked at him and then at my mother. I lowered my head and tried to think of what I should say. It wasn’t my fault that I had not returned to the house with Toupey. But, she had already given me a grim warning that morning before we came down for breakfast. “If you tell on me for locking you in the outhouse, you will regret it!” I now knew to take her threats seriously. And, although I wasn’t old enough to know why, I knew Uncle John’s spanking was not really a spanking. My stomach began to churn as I remembered what he had done. Just as I had decided I could tell my mother only about what he did and not about what Toupey had done, my thoughts were once again interrupted – with a slap across my face that was so hard I tumbled from my chair to the floor.

“When your Uncle John tells you to do something, you better do it.” my mother hissed. I sat on the floor, looking up at my sister, my mother, and Uncle John. My cheek burned and my left wrist ached. But, I did not see faces of concern for my fall, only eyes of despise staring down at me. My self-esteem died.

“I am sorry mommy. I won’t take so long again.” I hesitated for only a moment and finished with, “I am sorry Uncle John.”  I chose to say nothing, then or during the next five years when I was at his mercy for many more ‘spankings’. A pattern of poor choices had begun.

John and I married the third weekend following his graduation from high school. It was 1968 and good girls who found themselves pregnant also found themselves walking down the aisle. John did not ask me to marry him and I never said yes. I had been ill for several months and my mother finally confronted me about the possibility of pregnancy being the cause. The shame I supposedly brought upon the family was grounds for the severest of severe beatings at the hands of her belt-wielding rage. Six weeks later, John and I answered “I will” at the appropriate time during the church wedding our mother’s had planned.

I knew I did not love John and he did not love me. I learned he was cheating on me only a few days before my mother discovered I was pregnant. I allowed the societal pressures of the time and the crazed rampage of my mother to convince me I would have “to lie in the bed I had made.” Our first daughter died a few hours following a premature birth less than one month after our wedding. Kelli was born three years and two miscarriages later.  Three more years and another miscarriage passed before a son, Jamie, completed our family. Both of our children were shining lights in the darkness of my marriage. Knowing I had their well being in my hands gave me reason to endure John’s infidelity throughout our marriage. John was not only weak in moral character; he was also a spineless coward who could not endure the guilt of his affairs and would confess after each had ended. He would always cry and beg forgiveness, asking for yet “one more chance.” I never forgave him, but I never made him leave. A high school dropout had very limited job skills and I did not want my children to pay the price for my unhappiness. It was my decision to enter into a loveless marriage; it was my responsibility to live up to its consequences. It did not matter how much John hurt me, for my children’s sake, I always swallowed my pride and pretended to forgive him.

Six months before Kelli’s outburst, John shocked me by leaving me for his current affair. Our friends and relatives were stunned, and our children were devastated. Regardless of the problems we had, we always wore the faces of an adoring and happily married couple. Once I gained control over the initial humiliation of being left for the other woman, I found I enjoyed my freedom.  I began dating since Brian had the kids every other weekend. For the first time in my life, I was happy. The only blemish on my happiness was my son’s unhappiness.

Jamie adored his father and missed him terribly during the periods between visits. Of course John could have visited more often with his children, but his new girlfriend was not the mommy type. After several months, she decided she was not going to stay with a man who had to give a large portion of his income to support his children. Without so much as a good-bye, she packed her bags and left. For the first time in his life, John found himself alone.

John came into the house one Sunday evening when he brought the kids home from their weekend visit. He normally would say his goodbyes from the car, so I was surprised when he walked into the kitchen behind the kids. He sent the kids up to their rooms saying he needed to talk to me. He said he missed me terribly; he had made the biggest mistake of his life by leaving me; he realized he had not been a good husband, but now, if I would give him just one more chance, he would treat me the way I deserved to be treated. He wanted to come home. Now it was John’s turn to be shocked.  I said no.

He cried; I said no.  He pleaded; I said no. Once John realized I was going to continue the divorce process he had started, he appealed to the one spot he knew I would not be able to resist, our children, or more specifically our son. “Daddy said he will come home if you will let him mommy.” Jamie cried.

After a month of hearing my son cry himself to sleep every night because mommy wouldn’t let daddy come home, I finally gave in. John moved back in on a Saturday and I quit my job on Monday. John decided earning a living was a man’s responsibility and no wife of his would be working. Many women would have found this comforting, but I knew better. It was his way of controlling what I did, who I knew, and where I went.  He was home less than 48 hours and my life returned to what I had always known. Once again, I made the wrong choice.

The initial excitement of daddy being home soon wore off and the kids began to argue and fight. Actually, it was more Kelli picking fights with Jamie. She was being meaner than usual to her brother that morning. I left the breakfast dishes sitting on the kitchen table and I took her outside to talk. I demanded to know what was wrong and why she was being so mean. After a few minutes of silence, she blurted out, “I don’t want daddy to live here. You wouldn’t have let him come back if Jamie didn’t cry so much.”

I was stunned by her outburst. I couldn’t for the life of me think of one reason why she wouldn’t want her father to live with us. Despite being a lousy husband, he was a good father. Even though he would occasionally complain of my monetary indulgence on the children, he would spend several hours each evening going to ballgames, school events, helping with homework, or just playing with the kids.  But, I could tell by the look inKelli’s eyes and the sadness in her voice that something was very, very wrong. I asked her why she didn’t want her daddy to live with us.

“Because, I don’t want him to teach me anymore.” she cried.  

Teach her? . . . What in the world?  “Teach you what?” I finally asked.

“You know . . . about the sex stuff.” she whispered.

The warm morning breeze disappeared, replaced with the revolting smells of the outhouse from my childhood.  I could not breathe. I fought to maintain consciousness and felt my knees give way. I grabbed the porch banister and held on for dear life. My brain kept screaming, “Oh my God!” “MY GOD!” “Oh, please God no!”

I realized Kelli was staring at me. My face must have been as white as the knuckles on my hands clutching the banister. I struggled to compose myself. I took a deep breath and in a quivering voice said, “No honey, I do not know. What has daddy been teaching you?”

On a beautiful summer morning, as I numbly watched the clouds float along a sun drenched sky, I learned my husband had been molesting our ten year old daughter for several years. He would go into her room at night once I was sleeping and teach her “sex stuff.”  He told her all daddies taught their daughters these things, but it was private and she was not to talk about the lessons with anyone, even with me.

“I don’t want to do it anymore mommy.” she cried. I held Kelli in my arms and told her I was sorry he did those things. I told her daddy was wrong for doing those things. I explained I did not know what he had been doing, but now I did and he would never do them again. Kelli quickly accepted my assurance and ran back into the house to play with her brother.

I stood on the porch trying to make sense of everything Kelli had told me. I knew I needed to be alone to think. She happily agreed to take her brother to her best friend Pam’s house when I suggested it would be nice for them to play there that afternoon. As I watched them walk down the street, hand in hand, I called Pam’s mother and asked if my children could stay until I came to pick them up later that evening. I only said there was something I needed to handle and would explain later. Being a good friend, she recognized the anxiety in my voice and asked no questions. I hung up the phone and noticed John had left several packs of cigarettes on the dining room table. I heard the theme song of The Price is Right come on the television in the next room. It was 11:00am. It would be six hours before John got home from work. I lit a cigarette, the first I had ever smoked in my life, sat down at the table and waited.

Throughout the afternoon I relived the miseries of my life. Although I tried to make good decisions, bad things continued to come my way. Over the years I had come to believe I deserved the horrors, the disappointments, and the humiliations. But that afternoon, I came to the conclusion that though I somehow deserved what I had lived through, my children did not. I knew I could not allow my daughter’s self-esteem destroyed by the degenerate acts of another heartless pedophile. I left the table only twice during the entire afternoon.

 

. . . His eyes moved slowly from the gun to me; searching for any sign of humanity. He found none. With fearful reluctance, he lowered his eyes to the table. His shoulders began to sag. His neck became too weak to hold his head up. With a sigh of defeat, his head drooped forward, his chin now resting on his chest. In a voice just barely above a whisper he pleaded, “This is not going to solve anything. Cricket . . . Cricket, please . . . you have to know this will not solve anything.”

I stared at the top of his head. He was a foot taller than I and the balding spot had grown larger without my noticing. I found it odd; all of his weaknesses had expanded and I had not noticed. I stood up, the chair legs scrapping across the hardwood floors. John flinched but made no effort to rise from his chair. I picked up the gun and aimed it at the center of his head, my finger only a heartbeat away from the trigger. In the back of my mind, memories of our children drifted through . . . Jamie crying himself to sleep, Kelli confessing her father’s secret. I closed my eyes and made the decision I have regretted a thousand times since.

I put the safety on and ejected the shell.

 

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2009 9:57 pm

    Powerful and disturbing. Difficult to read this but well written. G

    PS: I have a book writing challenge happening at MPP, perhaps you would like to join in?

  2. adamswife permalink
    January 6, 2009 12:26 am

    It was the right decision. Your children needed you more than they needed a dead father.

  3. January 6, 2009 6:12 am

    I admire you so much for not pulling the trigger, Cricket. You would have gone to prison and your children would have lost both their parents. I can understand your regret, however. If it were me I would wish I had shot him. Every single day.

    My heart breaks for you having to go through this. I am so sorry. Thank you for sharing what must have been a truly difficult story to write. XXX

  4. January 15, 2009 7:27 pm

    You are a very brave woman. I would have pulled the trigger. God is with you and always will be. You will be in my prayers.

    Love and Hugs,
    Joyce

  5. January 31, 2009 7:21 pm

    WOW, talk about self-control! I would have pulled the trigger…you made the right decision, the decision that allowed you to continue being a mom to your kids.

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