It started like this:
I stepped out of the genetic enhancement module and was all like a combination of:
I felt good about telling my story, and was grateful for the chance to join the donkey ranks here. The genetic enhancement module will do that.
The feeling lasted for about three minutes. Not the gratefulness part–that stayed. It was the feeling good part that took a hike, so then I was like, nah.
But here we are because I got myself together and claimed my calm.
This is what happened: about a year ago I woke up with a grunt, having swung a roundhouse right in the dream from which I had just surfaced. In the dream I had been arguing with my first husband (usually referred to distantly as “my son’s dad”–there is power in taking away someone’s name; sad but true…) and he had threatened me. I swelled up like She-Hulk, busted some logic like MC Lyte, and landed that bolo punch like Ali. He didn’t know what hit him. I was the champ, like all “Down Goes Frasier!” understand? I had him on the dream-ropes but threw the hook in real life. I woke up sweaty. It was the most satisfying dream I’d ever had about him.
Did I mention he’s dead? Yeah.
Happened in 1999, two weeks before my son’s fourth birthday. I had gotten up to use the bathroom; when I came back to bed, he slung his arm across me and I flinched. Hard. I had reached a point that I didn’t want him touching me. He felt it and moved, for once understanding (sort of, I guess) that I had no interest in being intimate (Really? After such charming foreplay?). A few moments later his arm landed against me hard and he made a weird noise. “What?!?” I said, which garnered no response. I flipped on the light and saw some nightmarish stuff. He’d just had a massive heart attack. I called 911, ran downstairs to open the front door, ran back upstairs, and gave a semblance of CPR. I could tell you about the paramedics, the sound of them working on him, my drive to the hospital after, but I won’t. Suffice it to say he didn’t make it.
Before you go whipping out your sympathy e-cards, did I mention that he was hella abusive? Yeah.
I was the cover-up queen, no small feat since I’d stopped wearing make-up in high school. I could fix my bent glasses, unswell a jaw, and stop a busted lip from bleeding all in less time than it took you to read that sentence.
He’d hit me if there was no “extra money” (read: if I wouldn’t give over the rent) for his occasional drug use.
He’d hit me if I didn’t get home from work fast enough.
When we only had one car, he’d hit me if I wasn’t there at the time he indicated to pick him up. Never mind that my shift ran until the same time as his (and. I. had. to. drive. there. in. city. traffic.). He solved that problem by deciding to drive himself, which left me to walk the nine city blocks with my in-the-stroller son every day. The most awesome time was when a big snowstorm hit the northeast: his job closed before mine so he went home and went to sleep; I pushed my son home those nine blocks through the blizzard because 1) I had no bus fare and 2) the storm was so bad they weren’t running anyway.
He’d threaten to leave me (huzzah! Right?) and take my son (um, nah). I could tell you how he treated his other kids (loved and cared for them, but had never married any of the moms though), how at first he told me he wasn’t coming into the delivery room to see my (our–I was the only one he married) baby being born (by C-section because my water broke at 29 weeks) because he hadn’t been there for the others, how he emotionally denied having a special needs son and never did much parental care (like changing, feeding, clothes-washing) because it was woman’s work, but I won’t.
Cast your best, biggest, shiniest stone: I wasn’t taking the chance (however distant or hard to believe, especially since I was the one being pounded on, right?) of losing my son, so I took the licks instead.
He had a big family. I had a small one. I was afraid to go to either of them. Yeah–I stubbornly tried to live out the screwed up marriage ideal that was put in front of us–in church (the one he picked for us), by some of his relatives (who were older and in my eyes wiser, or at least more experienced. Not. Many of them were living in their own special hell), and silently by my little clan.
But in the end, I was set free.
I could tell you about the two weird pseudo-flings I had the year after he died, but I won’t.
I will tell you that I had nightmares about him–coming back from the dead, not really being dead, trying to embezzle money because I’d remarried, beating on me–for about 13 years, off and on.
Until I had that dream where I threw the real-world punch in my sleep. That was last year. Haven’t had a single dream about him since.
What might have happened was that I took a trippy astral travel and my She-Hulk yin whooped his other-side yang.
Or not. It was more like I finally just accepted and owned my calm.
Despite all the maddening weirdness that life continues to throw, I am in a fantastically good place. If I could dance, I wouldn’t just dance. I’d futterwacken:
But I can’t, so I don’t. Instead, I live life to the fullest. I’ve grown old and wise enough to speak my mind and not take anymore crap. I can finally wear my big girl drawers proudly.
For that, and for surviving, and for love, and for you, I am thankful.