Far, but Not Far Enough


There are people who will tell you that we need no such day. That everything is fine, that women are treated as well as they can be. Blah, blah, blah.

In the immortal words of Colonel Sherman Potter, “Horse pucky.”

Many women in the western world are indeed seeing improvements, but we still have a long way to go. So long as there are still religions seeking to dominate women and force them to submit to abusive practices, as long as those who can speak and should speak remain silent, then we still have a fight to teach men that women important for more than just pro-creation and housekeeping.

My grandmother was the last of six children born to a poor, farming couple in the South. When she was a baby, her 16 yo sister was caught kissing a boy. When my great-grandfather found out, he physically attacked my great-aunt, attempting to beat her senseless. My great-grandmother tried to stop him and he turned on her and instead beat her senseless.

This was 1928. My great-grandmother had no recourse, she had to stay. The only escape my great-aunt had was to marry the guy she was kissing. He turned out to be an abusive alcoholic who made her life and the lives of their children a living hell.

My great-grandmother was described as being strong to stay. My great-aunt was suffering the consequences of her choices.

During WW2, my grandmother took up a correspondence with a Marine who was stationed in the Phillipines with her brother. When he returned to the states at the end of the war, he went to see her. They got engaged and married. My great-grandfather was none too pleased and warned my grandmother that if she married my grandfather, there was no returning home. She’d made her bed and she’d have to lay in it, regardless of what type of asshole my grandfather turned out to be.

They moved immediately up to Michigan where several of my great-uncles and aunts had already gone. There was good work to be had…well, unless one had a temper like my grandfather, then there were a lot of jobs he ran through.

At home, my grandmother was told that if he (my grandfather) had to fight with her to live with her, he’d not live with her. After that, my grandmother kept her mouth shut. She knew now her opinion mattered naught and she had nowhere to go if my grandfather threw her out on the street.

They had two children and my grandmother settled into her life in Michigan surrounded by family and friends. Then, without warning, my grandfather decides to up and move them to California. This shocked the hell out of my grandmother because my grandfather hated his family. His step-father had abused him and his little brother their whole lives. It was why when the war came along, he dropped out of high school and joined the Marines. He had to get away from that hell.

But because the dog returns to its vomit, my grandfather returned to his “family.”

There was no economic reason to do so, but as you will see as I continue with my tale, there was definitely a reason.

In California, my grandparents had no place to live but with my grandfather’s mother and step-father. The “old man” as my grandmother always referred to him, was a cruel bastard to my grandmother and to my father and uncle. My grandfather said nothing, did nothing, only let them live in this abusive environment.

When they finally got their own place, my grandmother again set to building a new life with new friends. In their new neighborhood my grandmother met a woman who would become her life-long friend. They had a sizable chunk of land and my grandmother worked it with animals and a garden.

Then, just when she was comfortable, my grandfather up and moved them from rural Poway, to a trailer park right next to the 405 freeway in Hawthorne.

No friends, no family, no garden, no animals. Everything my grandmother loved taken from her, again.

A year later, my father, who simply cannot keep it in his pants, though he was practically engaged to another woman, knocked up my mother and they had a shotgun wedding. My grandmother was devastated, but she was happy to now have a grandchild.

I have always viewed myself as lucky to have my grandmother. My mother was severely abusive and neglectful, and my grandmother regularly took me, and later my brother, and cared for us. We loved going to her place, it was the only peace we had…well, unless my grandfather was there. Then we were constantly fearful, just as we were at home. We knew there would be a beating if we got out of line.

“Strangely,” though my grandmother never threatened us, we were usually pretty damned well-behaved for her.

When I was four, my grandfather again ripped my grandmother from her comfort and took her across the country to a place she knew no one. Worst to my grandmother was that he took her away from me and my brother.

For years I had nightmares about that time. Once I even had a dream that there was a monster trying to keep me away from her. The one person I was certain loved me was gone and every day my brother and I faced the monster knowing no one would be coming for us.

Throughout my life, I have always felt that really the only person who really loved me was my grandmother. And, really, I do believe she did, in her own way. But in the end, things were so bad with Zelena and he was so cruel and wicked and my grandmother kept telling me he was wonderful and that I really needed to find a way to make him happy then everything would be fine. The key was ME making HIM happy. This was the theme from her my entire marriage. Each time I came to her with a problem, that was her solution. Find a way to make him happy or he’ll leave you.

In the end, I could take it no more and I could no longer speak with her or anyone on that side of the family. Zelena was killing me, and I alone had to fix it because I was the woman and that was my job. A man shouldn’t have to worry about that. If he has a job, that’s all that’s required of him.

When I look back through my life, at all the things I was taught in the church, in my family, in school, in society, on TV, etc., my grandmother’s insistence on the supposed sanctity of marriage (divorce is the greatest evil) and her reverence for women who stayed married to their abusive husbands, is the single most important factor in me staying as long as I did.

Today, as I thought through events of the past week with the kids, I think to myself, “I love my kids, yeah, but I should have got the hell out as soon as Babycakes was born.”

But where would I have gone?

I had watched in my church, I knew how abused women were treated (hint: It’s God’s will for you to be abused.), I knew I had no recourse.

My mother had made it certainly well known that if Zelena and I ever split that everyone would know it was my fault and that I would find no help from her (she helped my brother and sister endlessly, but I have always known that I was the scapegoat so there would be no real help there). Obviously, my grandparents would be no help. They had insisted that the worst thing ever was divorce. That my children would be ruined. And a myriad of other horrible consequences.

To be fair, a lot of things they said were just bullshit they hear from the pulpit and from Dobson and the like.

Now, I know the resources available, though not to any overt effort by my current church. Most of the help I received was from elsewhere, though there were a few people in the church who helped.

But most women don’t. Most women I talk to are too afraid to leave. The church does nothing to empower abused women at all. Mostly because we believe Jesus is the answer to every problem and we refuse to acknowledge that at least 25% of the men in our midst are abusive.

We’ve come a long way since my great-aunt and great-grandmother were beaten that day by my great-grandfather nearly a century ago, but we are still too far from where we should be. The silence of the church is complicity in all these matters, when a church-going woman (and usually her children as well) is murdered at the hands of her husband who has been abusing her, her blood  is on our hands.

But we simply don’t care. Because if we cared, we’d do something besides pat the victim on the head and tell her we are praying for her.

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