Throughout life there are always moments and decisions that can have drastic impact on where we end up depending on the choices that are made at that time. Everyone can think of examples of these: What if I had gone backpacking across Europe instead of going to College? What if I never took that job where I ended up meeting my future wife?
For me the crossroad that has had the most impact on my life didn’t involve a decision by me. When I was five years old my mother chose to run away from my father with me and my two younger sisters. While I’m eternally grateful to her for making this brave decision, I still find it interesting to think of how life might have played out had we not left.
A bit of background
My mother was very young when she married my father. In fact I have a daughter who is almost the same age, looking at her, and thinking back to me at that age, it’s hard to imagine being prepared to make that kind of commitment. She was rebellious though and in my mind was likely using this marriage to run away from other problems.
He was an older bad boy type which I’m sure seemed very attractive to a teenager looking to get away. Right from the beginning though it wasn’t a healthy relationship, but soon they were married and she was pregnant with me. It’s hard to go crawling back to your family after turning your back on them. This man she married was jealous and abusive. He would fill her head with the notion that she was nothing, worthless, and that no one would want her. At the same time he didn’t want her to have any friends, especially other men. This kind of treatment was only magnified when he was drunk, which was often the case. The abuse didn’t stop with the psychological, he made sure to prove how unimportant she was by physically beating her as well. Depending on the crowd he would even brag about how you have to keep women in their place.
He was the only one married in the motorcycle club/gang and most of his friends liked my mother and treated her well. They would enjoy coming to their home to conduct business and have a home cooked meal at the same time. They would sit around the kitchen table talking socially but also writing notes on paper, passing them around, and then burning them in the ash tray full of butts on the table. This wasn’t so she or me a little boy playing in the other room wouldn’t know what was going on, but so the police in the parking lot with listening devices wouldn’t be able to hear.
Talking with my mother all these years later it was well known that the groups clubhouse and our family apartment were under surveillance. These aren’t things I can remember, the same as I can’t recall going on the back of his bike on drug delivery runs, but this was apparently the case.
Like many abusive drunks he would apologize and promise to change especially when he could sense she was close to the breaking point. He would even try sometimes and things would be happy for a short while. However it wouldn’t be too long before he was drunk again and instead of working to make her want to stay, threatening her with her life if she ever tried to leave. Usually this would be accompanied with physical reminders, and at least once with a loaded gun to her head.
One of scenes I can remember is screaming through tears at him to leave my mother alone. For a while I didn’t know if this ever really happened or if it was something I made up in my own mind. Reading through court document testimonials seemed to show that it did occur at least once. She was trying to leave with me before he arrived back from the bar. They didn’t make it away in time and he tried to physically pull her out of the car and back into the apartment, I screamed and cried for him to leave her alone.
What could have been
When I think about these stories I can’t help but picture life looking like a less glamorous Son’s of Anarchy. That would be if I wasn’t in jail or worse dead. Almost certainly my life wouldn’t look anything like it does today.
Chances are being exposed to that type of male influence for my whole life would have me involved with drugs, alcohol, and possibly all sorts of illegal things. My relationship with woman would certainly be different. If married, I doubt it would be the loving marriage I have now. Obviously not everyone ends up being like their father and many people are strong enough to purposely become the opposite. My worry, is would I have known, or seen, alternative options to follow?
As much as I sometimes let myself imagine what could have been, I don’t get very far before I don’t want to think about it anymore.
What did happen
Being a young single mother of three wasn’t easy and it didn’t make for the most luxurious childhood. We always had the things we needed but not much more than that.
Especially in the beginning a lot of time was spent being scared that he would find us. There was once in school at a young age that I remember breaking down crying because I had let my guard down a bit. A reporter for a local newspaper came and took my picture and story for the paper. I don’t recall if it was for being a member of the band or a science fair project. At first I was proud I would be in the paper, but then fear swept over me as I didn’t want him or someone he knew to come across it and find us. Still not sure he ever even had one of these for sure, but there was a certain style pick up truck that every time I saw one for years I was so scared it was him driving it.
Sometimes growing up I had wished I had a father figure to do father son things with me and felt like I was missing something. We always had good family friends who I would sometimes go do some things like that with them, but it wasn’t the same.
After the fear left for many years I had a strong hatred for him. As I’ve grown that has gone as well. There is absolutely no desire to meet him again, or even talk to him, but I’ve let go of the harsh feelings. For all I know he could be completely changed and a great guy. My hope is that’s the case. Not everyone changes, but if I was always judged on how I acted and the things I did in my later teen years it wouldn’t be a positive.
Again, I’m very thankful for the path my mother chose. It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world, and I know it was a hard brave thing for her to do. Everything that happened has has led me to where I am, and who I am today. There are few things that I would change with life today but they aren’t major and really have nothing to do with that crossroad. They are also things that can be changed and I’m working on them.