Life was pretty good as a kid in our neighborhood. We had friends to play with, dirt piles to build in, and empty fields to explore. I had a lot of fun during the days, and I even danced outside under my first hail storm, with pea-sized ice balls that looked like popcorn popping off the grass. We made some great friends around us and we were “normal”- if only for a while.
Now I haven’t really talked about my mom and her drinking, but she drank a lot. From what I understand, she had a problem from way back in her late teens, and my father believes it was a factor in their divorce. I also don’t know if she started drinking more in Colorado dealing with Chuck, or if Chuck drank more with us around; either way, they both could kill cheap whiskey like bloody sailors. My mom was a pretty funny drunk, Chuck was not. While mom had a history of drinking too much, Chuck had suffered from what now is known as “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder” (PTSD). I won’t go on and explain the disorder, but let me tell you when Chuck was not “in control” of his brain (by altering it with drugs or alcohol) he turned in a monster.
During the day I was Chuck’s favorite, I even dropped my father’s name and took Chuck’s. I did gymnastics back then and he believed I would be the next “Nadia Comaneci”- that is until I wrecked my chopper bike off a three-cinder block jump that put me out of commission. At night Chuck would drink and drink, and then I was the bane of his existence. He would pick fights with my mom over things I did, not all the time, but what I can remember my name was in the argument. Mom would not let him go to my room and wake me up (although I was already awake) to discuss whatever I did to him or his stuff during the day. As the alcohol took over his body, it caused real pain: He would have flashbacks from his time in the military. He would usually start yelling “I did my time!! I fought for my country, and THIS is what I am??!” He would get so angry, and when my mom would try to calm him down he beat her. He beat her so much.
My sisters and I always heard the fights. They occurred at least weekly. Sometimes my older sister would go out of her room to help my mom, but my mom would send her back. The other times my older sister would go out of her bedroom window and go to the neighbors to call for help. Mom never wanted us girls to witness her getting the shit beat out of her, so she was very protective of what we saw or what we heard. She could get away from him by either getting behind his chair, or moving towards his legs. He would start sobbing, which would lure my mom over to help him, and he would grab her again.
One of the more memorable fights was about me. I was playing some records on his record player in the special “living room” when I got the adaptor for 45’s stuck. (Look it up young pups!). Just my luck that night he wanted to listen to his records, and found out what I did. He was fuming! He wanted to go get me from bed and spank me. My mom told him to take care of it in the morning, but I had done it this time. He would not stop wheeling himself to my door and my mom tried pulling him back. They fought right in front of my door-while me and my younger sister hugged each other on our bed praying to God that mom would get away from him. She pulled him so hard at the same time he locked his wheels and he flipped backwards and landed on my mom. His handle from the chair went into my mom’s eye, and she screamed so loud it terrified us. I heard my older sister leave her bedroom and tried to help. The fight was right by my door so I pushed and pushed to get them away from my door, but I ended up going out my bedroom window and back in my sister’s room. We pulled and pulled Chuck’s legs off my mom and left him on the floor. We helped mom clean the blood off her face and we saw her eye was really damaged. The usual routine would have had my older sister go out her window and call the police, but that didn’t happen this time as she had to help my mom, so went sent my little sister. As we begged my mom to leave him, he begged her to help him get off the floor. We had pulled him into their closet so we could shut their bedroom door. He had pulled his catheter out, and he was bloody and covered in urine. My mom felt sorry for him and she went to the closet to get some clothes on and help him-totally against our warnings. When she got him back up in his chair he grabbed her, bent her arm around her back, and flipped her over his lap. He started pounding on her back with his fists yelling “I AM GOING TO KILL YOU! Again we tried to get her away from him, and he tried desperately to hurt her and grab me. At some point the police arrived with an ambulance and got the scene under control. They tended to my mom’s injuries, and advised her to go to the hospital for her eye, but she said “no”. She didn’t want to leave us with him, and the police would take us to a foster home for the night. We stayed in the house that night with our doors locked and mom with my older sister. Usually in the morning after the sleep sobering him up, he would apologize, and begged my mom to stay; but not this time. He was on the warpath. We stayed out of his way and mom stayed in the grass where his chair couldn’t reach her. She fell asleep for a few hours and we let her sleep until Chuck started up again and went after us girls. Mom woke up with a horrible sunburn, and when she came inside he got her again. He punched her, slapped her sunburn, and drug her by her hair. We got her away from him and finally convinced her to leave.
We spent a few days in a local motel that became our second home. We liked it there as it was safe, no one there to hurt her. As we were still pretty young, we were happy with motel life as there was a swimming pool with a slide! While my mom drank and slept the experience off, we splashed around and played with the kids in the pool.
I can’t remember how many times my sister went out her window to call 911 (999) for help, but it was a lot. During that time my mom started showing signs of long-term use of alcohol and ended up in hospital for her pancreas and sugar diabetes. We hated being in that house with Chuck, and we never mended our relationship. I used to pour his whiskey down the sink and fill it up with colored water, and he blamed my mom. I would put an empty container in the fridge, he blamed mom for us “unruly” kids trashing his house. Once he got so mad at me that he chased me through the house with his belt. I hid in the crack between the wall and bed where his belt missed me. When he gave up I ran out of the house and waited until my mom got home before I returned. Eventually we convinced my mom to leave for good. She was worried about how we were going to make it on our own, but we didn’t care about material things, we just wanted to be away from Chuck.
Looking back, I feel very upset about Chuck. He suffered like so many other veterans did with the horrors of their experiences living in their heads. They were left to just exist in conditions that were not fair, or supported by the military. Chuck struggled on his own for a few more years, but his life ended in a seedy part of town. He was found with his genitals burned, and his belt wrapped around his neck. My mom made us all go to his funeral, and through the sadness of my mom’s tears, I prayed to God to forgive him. I have prayed and prayed for amnesia to take away the memories of all the fights, blood, tears, and the 911 calls; but they still remain. I have accepted my past, and believe it has shaped me into the woman I am today; and when I look in the mirror, I like what I see.