**This is heavy. I wrote it through tears and I only wrote it because it is part of a healing process for me. I write to heal. I share it because I hope my story can help or change someone else’s heart and life. I wish I could restrict the age of the reader, but I don’t know how…I am being as candid as I can be in this entry, but I am only writing about the few situations that I can muster the strength to openly discuss. There are a lot of details not in this and I hope you all understand my need to leave some things unsaid.**
There are a few things in my life that have happened that I rarely talk about. Mostly I do not talk about them because I am ashamed….and because I just don’t want to hear or see that automatic pity response that I get from people. However, I am at a place where I sort of need to write about it because when I write I can fully release it.
For those of you who do not know, Olivia is not Michael’s biological child. SHOCKER! Not really, she definietely has her (half) Puerto Rican father’s skin tone. Before I go any further, Michael was her Daddy. He came into our lives when Olivia was 18 months old, and for the first nine months he was an enigma, a name, the invisible stuffed animal gifter. When Michael came home from Iraq we decided to move in together and we never looked back. Olivia went from calling Michael “Ike” to “Daddy Ike” to just plain “Daddy” and she did this all on her own. Much like Landon came to call Frank Daddy. He was and always will be Olivia’s daddy….I wanted to say all that because I don’t want my story to take away from what they shared together.
A little background, I met Olivia’s father when I was 17 and I immediately was infatuated with him. We became very good friends. I spent a lot of time with him and I was the girl that listened to him whine about “the one” whose attention he could not seem to capture. It is pretty silly when I look back now, because that is how in my naive mind I felt about him. I went off to college and he went off and found a girlfriend. At some point I came back to Jacksonville and him and I had a falling out. I don’t even know what it was about…I guess it doesn’t matter. We worked together and my daily life became completely miserable. I always worked the closing shift and so did he, so anytime I needed something I had to ask him and he would literally act as though he could not hear me. It was infuriating. Randomly 6 months later, after he made a public fool of himself with a girl at our work Christmas party, and I left in haste because I couldn’t take it anymore, he shared his sandwich with me. I am not even kidding. One day he walked up to me and said, “Do you want half of my sandwich?” That was in December, right before I turned 20 years old. Less than 2 months later we would plan (behind my parents back-a whole different story) to go to the Justice of the Peace and get civilly married. 5 days later he would leave for boot camp.
If I am honest I knew before we got married that I should run away, but I couldn’t. I don’t know if it was because I had been through a few other things and I finally felt…wanted. Or if I just made myself believe that things would be better some day. One day I was rolling silverware during a shift with my friend Robert, a friend that I valued and cherished, we were laughing hysterically at absolutely nothing, which was normal for us, and my boyfriend was outraged. He refused to talk to me for three days. It was not until I put a letter on his car that I was sorry for whatever I did that he spoke to me. It was (at that point in my life) one of the scariest moments that I had lived through. He came to my apartment, backed me into a corner, and screamed in my face about how it was an embarassment that I wrote him a letter and left it for him on his car. It didn’t make sense, but I was scared, so I listened and I apologized and eventually he left my apartment. This all happened after he gave me my ladybug ring (he called me Ladybug) and we decided to get married. Several days later I would go through with my promise…
After boot camp we reunited and inevitably conceived Olivia. My pregnancy was absoulutely awful, and there is a lot that I could say about what I went through during that time on account of others…but today that really is not important. I believe Olivia was 8 weeks old when my Uncle Harry died. I know that she was little, no more than 8 weeks old when I went to the funeral, and I know that my decision to go mourn my Uncle was costly, but one that I do not regret.
At this point in the marriage I had already had to sell my car, close my personal bank account, and change my cell phone number. I let on to everyone else that those were all my decisions, but not one of them were. Most of what I endured was minor compared to what would come. Like I said, my decision to go to the funeral was costly. I told Olivia’s father when he got home from work that my Uncle had died and that I wanted to go to the funeral and he told me that I did not need to go to a funeral and mourning my Uncle’s death was not necessary. He told me that if I went I would go without Olivia. She was so little and so precious and he pulled her from my arms and went into the bedroom. When I followed him he went into our small bathroom and when I asked for my screaming baby to be returned to my arms he refused. I cried and I was called weak, I reached for her and the first blow came. It was unexpected and it would be the first of many physical attacks that I would endure(and it was not the first thing that I endured in our relationship either). I couldn’t retreat, and I think that he knew that, because Olivia was in his arms, and I was so afraid he would hurt her. Over the next 8 months I would survive multiple physical attacks, in various forms, and severe emotional battering. I would call my parents and run home, I am sure that they had to have suspected, but I never told them the real reason why. The scariest night during that time for me was not much after I returned from the funeral. I don’t even know what started it, but I thought that I was going to die. I tried calling my parents several times and each time I picked up a phone it was taken from my hand and smashed. I don’t know why I thought my parents, who were 6 hours away, were a better option than the police…anyway…I grabbed his keys and I ran to his car, where he always left his phone. I came back into the house and hung the keys back up and then I was shoved back out the door. No keys, no phone. It was cold outside and I was in shorts and a tank top and my baby girl was in the house with him. I had a moment of clarity…or at least an idea how I could get back inside. The car door was still unlocked so I took out his CD’s…some very old ones that were hard to replace later…and rubbed them on the brick wall of our house. It is completely insane, and looking back I think that something inside of me snapped. The fear that I lived with was too much. The fear that Olivia was inside and I was outside with no way to protect her drove me to the edge. Scratching the entire surface of his CD’s was not enough so I just snapped them in half. The door was unlocked and the terror of that night was surprisingly over. I had to clean up all the shelves that were knocked over, the broken glass in the kitchen, I was in pain, but it was over…and Olivia was safe. I could go on and on with stories of the things that occurred over the next several months. There was a few times I had to dig broken glass out of my legs, twisted arms, and many other physical injuries…but the hardest thing was the gripping fear that something would happen to Olivia and that if I ever told anyone what was going on that he would kill us both, or my family. I couldn’t just call someone and leave, believe me I tried, and each time I came back. Each time he found a way to get me to run home. Something shifted in me that summer when my Aunt died. I went home, and it was her son that saw that something was not right with me. I remember him telling me that it was okay to leave and get a divorce, that everyone would still love me. I committed that to heart, but I still had to leave on my own accord.
I planned for the next three months how I would leave. I would stay there, with him, until it was time for us to move to CT. Very few people know that I spent those last months locked in the spare bedroom with the dresser and the bed in front of the door while he was home…now I guess everyone does. When he was gone I would come out and shower and eat or walk to the grocery store and then I would go back into my room before he came home until the next day. Sometimes I wouldn’t make it… If he had people over the house I would come out of the room and play nice. The only normal things that we did together was go to church. Yes, I am completely serious. Anyway, when we moved we planned on stopping where my family lives so that Olivia did not have to make the entire trip. Her and I would stay there and visit and he would come back for us. I didn’t exactly have that same plan. I told no one. I jus decided and waited. Prior to leaving with the moving truck that morning I endured what I thought would be the last attack, but I was wrong.
When we got to North Carolina my Mom and sister where the only ones at the house (that I remember) and I told them to stay inside with Olivia no matter what. Meaning, whether I made it back in or not Olivia had to stay with them. I went outside and I told him that I wasn’t moving with him and I needed all of my stuff off of the truck. This incited pure rage in him. At one point I thought that he was going to break my arm, and at another I had a confrontation with one of his brothers who had shown up. In the end, all I got off of the truck was my and Olivia’s dirty clothes. We literally had the clothes on our backs and the clothes that were in that laundry bag. It was November and it was getting cold. If it weren’t for my Mom and my sister both Olivia and I would not have had any warm clothes. They are the only reason why Olivia had a first Christmas. I tried, over the next couple of weeks to talk to Olivia’s father. Twice he tried to take her from me. The most disgusting part is that one time his physical attack was in public and people just kept on walking. It was in the Books a Million parking lot. He punched me a few times and threw me to the ground, but I held onto Olivia so he couldn’t take her from me. He took her car seat from the car, which meant I had to walk to go buy one because I had no way to get her home. I had been trying to make a good faith effort to keep him in her life…maybe a foolish attempt considering it all. The next time occurred in his parents driveway. To this day I do not know what they saw or how much they know. But I do know that their reaction was to try and get Olivia from the car too. I screamed at them as loud as I could and a lot of other stuff happened as I was trying to leave. Eventually, I got the doors shut and locked in his SUV and I drove away in it. When I got home to my parents that was it, I had no more resolve. That time he had slammed my head so hard into the gravel driveway that I had little rocks that had to be picked out of my head. That isn’t even the scariest thing that happened….there was this one time with Olivia that frightened me beyond belief and led to me barricading myself in the room. There were even confrontations with my parents at our family reunion because he took his rage out on me.
Over the course of the next year and a half I would work 2-3 jobs at a time to make ends meet while I worked on my degree. It was frightening for me and I made a lot of mistakes. The best thing that came of this all was our (Olivia and my) freedom and Michael…then subsequently the boys.
So, why am I ashamed? I was ashamed because I had to get a divorce and because I fooled myself into thinking marriage (to him) was a good idea. I also believed that he would change. All the times that he said he would…I believed him. I am ashamed I put Olivia at risk too. There isn’t really anything anyone can say to me to take that away, I have felt that way for a long time. So, if you can keep the “don’t be ashamed” comments to yourself I would appreciate it. It isn’t really helpful, because I do, and nothing will change that. The only thing that I can say is that Olivia was the reason that I left. I could say a lot here about him and her and how things had turned out, even things that happened before I left, but I am leaving out a lot because there is a lot that I need to protect Olivia from. I think that there is a lot I need to protect others from too.
The main point of this post is letting go. I accepted what happened a long time ago. I am not bitter about it (anymore). I still have a hard time with things…things that Michael dealt with and now Frank also handles with me. Nightmares, unrealistic fears, panic, and anxiety. What I wanted to say is that I believe that what I went through occurred because he faced life with fear. His reaction was to lash out on me. I am sure that a lot of people would say a lot about his character…and probably everything that could be said would be true…but it also doesn’t matter to me today. I don’t agree with the decisions that he has made since I left. I don’t agree with all the decisions his family made…but I do forgive them all. Every single one of them. I forgive him for the terror that he put me through. He will probably never know that, because I don’t even know how to contact him today without getting a private investigator…but in my heart there is a small amount of pain for what I endured…but it is over. I was afraid a lot because of him, but I did not fear life. I think that he did. His fear manifested in a rage that was directed towards me and it certainly was scary but I learned a valuable lesson about life and people that I would be oblivious about today if it weren’t for all he did to me.
I am still amazed that after all that I believed love was possible. And then I am amazed again that after losing Michael, my human savior in it all, I was willing to try again. I can’t ignore my blessings…that I have been given the chance twice to have a happy life. A year ago I wouldn’t have said this…mostly out of anger…but I cannot ignore the fact that each step of the way there have been footprints in the sand next to mine, even in the loneliest of times. I am here for a reason, I believe that, because there is so much that could have gone wrong during that terror and even in my own mind after Michael died.
I face a new challenge today, it is not getting through Frank’s time away, that is a given in this life. It is again forgiveness. I had convinced myself that I forgave my brother for the pain that he has caused me, and part of me has, but I still held a lot of anger. I thought “How dare he put me through more!?”. My family might not want this to completely come out, but I can’t pretend like our family is perfect and intact. I have not had anything to do with my little brother in over a year. I truly think that it is the right thing for my children and I. As a result I am not a part of family dinners, holidays, and consequently this weekend’s family reunion. There is a deep sadness that I carry about this and a pain in my heart. However, I again think that his reaction to me and life has a lot to do with his own fear and lack of understanding. I do, today, fully forgive him for the things that he has done to me. I think forgiveness is important for him, but especially for me. I can’t be the person that I want to be with bitterness and hatred in my heart. So, I forgive him. I may not spend time with him, or allow him back in our lives, just like I can no longer entertain the idea of allowing Olivia’s biological father in our lives, but I forgive him and I have compassion for him. I sincerely hope that he finds a better path. Some people might not understand this, but forgiveness is not meant to excuse people of their actions. At least not in my understanding….so I can and have forgiven him, but I still can and have to protect my heart and and my children in this all.
Gosh, I never know if what I am writing is going to make sense and connect with anyone…but tonight it doesn’t matter because my eyes are literally filled with tears. I feel freer (is that a word) from more in this moment than I have in a long time. Everyone now knows a piece of some of my other struggles and I hope it grants you a better understanding of me and my life. There is a lot more that I still have to process, like my parents role in all this and how even their actions have hurt my heart. I will, in time, have conversations with each of these people as they allow it and as I can muster the strength, including Olivia’s father and his family…
“We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer, it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins, provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t we shall be forgiven none of our own….To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” C.S. Lewis from his essay on Forgiveness
***no proofing tonight