“Stop hitting my mommy!”
Those words. Those. Words. I will never forget the first time I heard those words. I can remember every single detail from that exact moment. I wish I wasn't able to.
I was somewhere in my first trimester with my daughter. My son, boyfriend at the time, and I lived in Washington. I don't remember exactly why we had gotten into a fight, but I remember cowering in the walk-in closet of the master bedroom as my then 4-year-old son yelled, "Stop hitting my mommy!" Thankfully, he was told to go away and the apartment manager made her way into our apartment and took my son to her place while the cops were en route.
When the cops arrived, I lied, said I was overreacting and really shouldn't have been screaming. After some convincing, they agreed to leave and my son returned home. Thankfully, my son's father picked him back up and kept him so I could focus on my pregnancy and not have to worry about my son's well-being. Some mother I am right? If it makes you feel any better, I still feel a massive amount of guilt and shame for how horrible of a mother I was back then.
The months to follow were a roller coaster. There were highs and lows. We had some great times, but we also had some equally scary times. I remember pretending to hit my pregnant belly out of anger and in the hope that my boyfriend wouldn't leave. Dumb. Absolutely dumb. I remember blacking out in the hallway of our apartment after a bad fight. He made sure to avoid my belly but everything else was fair game. He was good. He also knew how to hit without leaving marks.
So many people had told me to leave. A handful of those people actually tried to help. I contribute my choice to stay with him to my lack of self-esteem and immaturity. I did not want to be a single mother of two children with two different fathers. If I could just be with one, I wouldn't look like a complete failure. What horrible logic, right?! I loved him, though. Despite the abuse, I knew there was a good guy deep down inside of him. I intended to do what it took to find that good guy. I was smoking marijuana to help with the morning sickness and to distract me from my reality. How completely and utterly wreckless?! I know. Thankfully, my daughter is a healthy, thriving young girl! God sure had my back!
The fights and arguments got worse. At this time, he was also AWOL, absent without leave for those who didn't know. He was stressed and it didn't help me any. He started to transfer his aggression to our cat. Unfortunately, my thoughts were "better the cat than me." Thankfully, that cat ran away. Lucky for him. My dumb self still stayed.
After he turned himself back in to his unit, they started the paperwork to chapter him out of the Army. In that time, he met some other guys who were getting out. Those fools were the ones who introduced him to crystal meth, the drug that ultimately lead to his demise. He would say the ugliest, most evil things to me. "I'm gonna kill you and cut the baby out of you and run away." Still stayed. "I hope you die during childbirth." Yep, still stayed. Are you starting to see how pathetic of a woman I was back then?
On Christmas Day 2009, we had another disagreement and he slapped me across my face. I had enough. One slap was enough to set me over the edge. I called the cops. He tried to run away. They caught up with him in the parking lot. I remember hearing them telling him to stop. Apparently he didn't stop because I then heard a tussle. He was arrested and spent four nights in jail. I was miserable, with a couple weeks left until my scheduled C-section. After he was released from jail, I paid for his taxi ride to come back. He promised to never lay a hand on me again. You know what? He kept his word.
On New Year's Eve, my water breaks and my sweet baby girl arrives. By then, my dad and stepmother made arrangements for me to stay in a hotel for a week and a half then travel back to California.
Ultimately, we left Washington and moved to California. Of course, I ended up going back to WA. I mean, why wouldn't I? I was a fool. After WA, my now-boyfriend again, newborn baby, and I move to Indiana, his hometown.
Indiana life lasted all but a month. He kept his word and never laid a hand on me again. He became verbally and emotionally abusive instead. He obsessed over my weight and broke up with me that final time because I had only lost 5 lbs in a week after we had done an intense detox diet.
After I had relocated, he had come to visit me and attempted to win me back. By then, I was already dating and very much in love with my now husband.
For two years, I had absolutely no contact with him. I had maintained a distant relationship with his maternal side of the family, but even then I was hesitant. Eventually, I felt safe enough to let him have my phone number. We began talking again and I would send him pictures of our daughter. I even mustered up the courage to ask him to sign his rights away. He was furious. Why wouldn't he be? After all, I was asking him to sign his rights away to the child that I kept from him for a little over two years. I bargained with him, with a bargaining chip that I was terrified to put on the table. I told him I would not lose contact with him, would send him photos, and would allow him to see her whenever his mother did. I didn't trust for him to see her alone, but knew that he would behave if his mother and stepfather were present. He didn't believe me, especially because he would have no rights to her. He agreed with my terms. He did not sign the paperwork, but instead let his time to appeal the stepparent adoption run out. He said he couldn't sign it and wanted our daughter to know that he never signed it. Whatever. Either way, my husband adopted the daughter he had raised since she was six months old. To her, that was her daddy. My ex thought that would be the last of his communication with us. He was wrong.
He had gotten a job working with a carnival that happened to come to TN. He asked if we would come by and spend some time there so he could see our daughter. After some consideration, we agreed. Even though his family was not present, it was a public event and my husband would be in arms reach the entire time. So we went and spent his 30 minute lunch walking around and playing a few games. In those 30 minutes, he continuously thanked my husband for taking care of "his girls." Girls? Plural? We assumed he meant me too. Either way, after we left, my husband said he felt bad. He could tell my ex was having a rough time, but, of course, had no intentions of just handing my daughter and I back over to him.
January of 2015, we visited his parents for a quick overnight visit where he got to visit with her for a few hours. We were running late because I had neglected to remember the time difference and he and I exchanged words via text message. I was frustrated. He talked about how I was inconveniencing everyone who anticipated our arrival. Ugh! It was an honest mistake! After we arrived at our destination, my husband and he exchanged words. There was no fight or argument. Our frustration came from the fact that he is not entitled to our timelines. He is owed nothing short of the fact that I promised it to him and that he should be grateful that even after his parental rights had been terminated, he still got to be in the life of this little girl.
I continued to remain in contact with him. When we went a month or two without communication, I would wonder whether or not he was in jail. He was in and out of jail for a variety of reasons. Sometime that summer, his girlfriend at the time asked if she could bring him to KY to come see her. She promised that they would stay in a hotel and she would keep him in line. We agreed. It never happened, but the fact that we agreed was big!
In the meantime, my husband was attending Reboot Combat Recovery. After the lesson on "forgiveness," he decided he needed to call my ex. He used my phone, because he knew he would answer if he saw my name on called ID. He did. My husband apologized for hating him. He apologized for wanting to hurt him for all the horrible things he had done to me in the past. He asked for his forgiveness. My ex was shocked and surprised. He accepted his apology and they started to discuss PTSD. I knew my ex had it. He never handled it well. He self-medicated. He transferred his anger elsewhere and it typically got him into trouble. Anyhow, my husband told him to call him if he ever needed to talk and that he needed to quit with the drug use. He told him that if he was off drugs and doing better, we could meet up more.
In December, we made another trip to visit his mother and told him to come by. This trip would last one night and two days. We arrived before lunch. Our daughter gave him his first Christmas present from her. She referred to him as "dad" because she referred to my husband as "daddy." She still got confused at times, but the important part was that she knew where she came from. She knew that mommy and dad made her but mommy married daddy and that's how that went. That day was a little difficult though. He didn't seem the same. He had lost a significant amount of weight and had just gotten out of jail. He and I had a long talk on his mother's front porch. He told me that he was glad I had a good life. He was regretful for everything that had happened in the past. I explained to him how good of a life he could have, too, if only he quit with the life he was living and got better. We had talked about the future. We invited him to our place for Thanksgiving 2016. Things were starting to look better. After that day, I barely heard from him and then eventually went weeks without hearing from him. I was especially surprised when I didn't hear from him on our daughter's birthday.
Fast forward, he passed away on January 17, 2016. He was the passenger in his vehicle and the friend who was driving wrecked. He had admitted that the occupants of the vehicle had all smoked meth prior to getting in the car. He was the only one who didn't survive. The driver is facing charges and his "girlfriend" who was in the back seat is now dating his "best friend." But I won't even get started on that.
I will never forget my abuse. I will never forget the best friend I lost to PTSD and drugs. I miss him. I told my husband about all the good times we had together. It helped my husband see him as more of a "regular guy." Of course, that won't take away from the bad things, but it gave my husband some perspective. He realized how important it was for him to get his PTSD under control and treated. He realized how important it was to seek help until you received the help you needed. It also showed him my amount of dedication to someone I love deeply.
(Does that mean you should stay with your abuser? No! I'm not condoning or promoting accepting violence by any means! By sharing everything with my husband, he understood why I stayed, he understood why I do some of the things I do now in our marriage.)
What makes me the saddest is knowing that my ex's story ended. There will be no triumphant recovery. There won't be a family vacation. We will not spend a holiday together. This is it. I will not get to praise him on his progress. He will not get to see our daughter grow up. He will from heaven and hopefully she knows he's there.
Rest In Peace, David. You're free. No more PTSD. No more pain. No more suffering. No more drugs.