Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like had my parents helped a lot earlier than they did. But I wonder what it would have been like had they understood the severity of what my husband did. Had they gotten me away from him the first time he beat me, maybe everything would be different now. They had the resources. And they did use those resources, but not until I had been homeless for 5 years.
I was always the black sheep of the family, a title which wasn't completely deserved. They didn't understand me. I didn't understand them. I was a handful. I was ADHA before it was diagnosable as such. I was so smart yet I failed at almost every subject at school. I froze at tests, I rarely actually did my homework and that certainly wasn't their fault. I was so bloody bored. All the time. I was different than my sisters, and they didn't understand different.
Having grown up so close to Broadway in New York, I got the bug early on in life. I wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be a writer, a director, anything that would let me hone my craft. I was always making up stories, acting out plays for my stuffed animals or neighborhood kids. I had this uncanny ability to mimic any accent I heard and to this day, I often talk like Maureen O'Hara from John Wayne's "The Quiet Man".
As I got older, I was often in school plays, choirs and as many afternoon activities as possible. I had horses and when I wasn't doing one of the above mentioned I was out riding. But it wasn't until I was an adult that these activities got me out my head. For those few hours of rehearsals or actual productions, I got to be somebody else. I got to live someone else's life, good bad or indifferent, I didn't have to be me for that short respite.
When I married shortly after my 18th birthday, I was already with child. That was an unforgivable sin as far as my parent were concerned. But it would have been even more unforgivable had I had the abortion they tried to talk me in to. They never believed that my ex-husbands dad had threatened their lives if I had the abortion. I married him out of fear. Oh I loved him, but we were both kids. Neither of us were ready for marriage. But I married him because although he was not part of the mafia, he had mafia family and having just seen the Godfather and having a wickedly vivid writers imagination, I just knew my parent would be swimming with the fishes or find my horses head in my bed if I didn't.
The first time I got hit was on our honeymoon. My husband had gone out to pick up dinner. I was supposed to clear off the table and make room to eat. Instead I got sick. I was pregnant and sadly my morning sickness came at any hour of the day or night. He was pissed. I hadn't done as he asked.
I had never experienced this before. My dad never raised a hand to my mom and being hit was just something that didn't happen to me. All I could think of was that I obviously hadn't done what he wanted so I was being punished. I just assumed that the spankings I got as a kid would stop when you got married. Not so in this case, but the child spankings had turned into an adult backhand.
At the beginning of our marriage, I rarely got hit. It happened alright but it seemed that as his responsibilities grew, so did his drinking and his anger. On the days when I was beaten, not just hit, were days when he was drunk. I can;t remember ever getting hit when he was sober. The beatings that were bad were when he was truly drunk. More often than not he didn't even remember doing it but he saw the results. Remorse inevitably set it and he would apologize, promise it would never happen again and beg forgiveness. If the tears followed he knew I would relent.
After one particular beating my mom and my sister came to the house. They saw the results of what he had just done. He went throw me across the room as he often did, by grabbing my shirt. I was wearing a tank top so instead he grabbed skin. His deeply embedded claw marks were all the way across my chest. My left eye was swollen shut and I had a missing tooth. they saw this and yet they did nothing. Oh they ranted and raved about how terrible he was but they didn't say 'We're getting you out of here.'
My folks moved to Tahoe when dad retired and one time he flew out to New York. He came out for a business trip. He saw the broken jaw. He saw the black eyes, he saw the bandaged wrist. He also said he had talked to my husband, who promised him it would never happen again, so I should stay. Another time the wounds were worse. this time my folks just said, 'You made your bed, now you've got to lie in it.'
Lie in it I did. I was married October 20, 1973. I finally left him for good on February 2nd 1979. I will tell you that story another time, but for now I'll finish this one.
In November of 77, an early snow had come. My husband would not buy coats for the kids, nor would he buy boots. With Dominick in a baby carrier and Val in the stroller, I walked the 3 miles to the nearest department store. I put coats on their backs, shoes on their feet and walked out the door where I was promptly stopped by the store security. They called the police. I was terrified. Not of going to jail mind you, of the repercussions once my husband found out.
When the officer, Sargent Bucuzzi came, he took a look at the paperwork. He saw the name and asked me which one was I married to. I told him and his response was "Tootsies kid?"
"Yes Sir," I replied. I watched in amazement as this police Sargent took his wallet out and paid for the things I had just stolen. He looked at the security guard and said to him "Let her go. She's got enough problems just being married to Tootsies kid. Let her go." They did.
My parents did actually try to help about 3 years into the marriage. They had a friend in another part of Connecticut who had gotten me a job in a convalescent home. Thinking I was free and clear after a month of him not finding me, I got a little too relaxed. He found me, although I am not sure how, went into my place of work and at gunpoint, made me come back with him.
My parents were horrified. Not for me mind you. This brought attention to the McPherson name. This brought shame to the McPherson name. They were mortified. They insisted that I should do everything I could to make my husband happy because they would not tolerate the attention I was bringing to myself anymore.
Did I tell you how I finally got the funding to get away from him? Probably not. It isn't something I am proud of so I don't talk about it too often. Since this will be in the book, I may as well say it here.
It took months of planning; months of footwork; months of risking jail time. I was desperate to get away from him. I would go into a store, buy something, then tear the piece of the receipt that said how I paid for it. I always told them the dog or the baby had gotten hold of the receipt. I would bring the item back to the store and get the cash back. It took four months of this back and forth thievery to save $3000. But I finally did, risking everything if I got caught. It was worth it.
The drive from Connecticut to California was long and tiring with two kids in tow. Somewhere around Oklahoma I picked up a hitchhiker. A man in a Navy uniform. He helped to drive. Somewhere between Oklahoma and Long Beach where I dropped him off, he had found my hiding place and had stolen the money I had just taken. That was the beginning of the end of my dreams of a better life for my kids.
So I cannot help but wonder what life would have been like had my parents understood the severity of what my husband had done to me. I wonder what my kids lives would have been like had my parents realized that although I was homeless by choice it was a choice that I should never have had to make. I wasn't bringing shame to the McPherson name to hurt them, or spite them. But that is what they believed. I was degrading the family name.
Although I am talking about it here, I do rarely wonder anymore what life would have been like
had they helped early on in my marriage. I don't have to wonder. I know that Val would have been an only child. I would not have had my Dominick or my Josh. I wouldn't have my grand kids, Lexi, Vienne, Shyla or Belles.
I wouldn't have my best friend Sharon nor my friend of 25 years who is accompanying me on this trip, nor my friends back in Oregon because I would have still been on the East Coast. But if I hadn't gone through all of that, I may not have known the God of mercy and miracles who I worship today.
When my parents finally agreed to help on April 3rd, 1984, more than 5 years after I left my abuser, there were several conditions I had to agree to before they would lend a hand. I met all but one.
Never again, bring attention to the family name. Sorry Mom and Dad. I think I'm failing that one miserably with this trip.