Sunday, February 17, 2008

Odds 'n Ends 'n Yucky Stuff

It is blowing snow wildly outside my office window. The wind chill is COLD. Taciturn is playing a game on his computer. We are having spaghetti for dinner, and I am having a glass of wine, which I allow one glass 4 days of the week on my Weight Watchers plan. We are happy in our life.

Speaking of Weight Watchers, I have lost 12.2 lbs in five weeks. It works when one follows it closely. And concerning other things in the physical health realm, my colonoscopy, over which I obsessed so last week, was boringly normal. I had no reason to think it would be otherwise.

And I have decided I will not visit T's mom and step father again.

As I said before, I started writing about the relationship or lack thereof I have with T's step father, the Angry White Man (AWM), got upset and put it away. The reason I put it away was that I saw a pattern of escalating verbal violence toward me that frightened me. As long as four years ago friends told me that they did not understand why I continued to visit. They also told me that they were afraid for my mother in law. I have mentioned that she will not sit down until he tells her where to sit. This was not the case ten years ago when I first met everyone in T's family. Although AWM was quick to raise his voice, his politics were right of conservative (he listens to right wing talk radio exclusively), and two of his children have not spoken to him in years, I thought he was somewhat reasonable most of the time, just not a person with whom I would choose to spend much time. For whatever reason, that has changed.

There were two trigger points between he and I that occurred over the years. One, he slapped me in a grocery store over a disagreement whether we should use a shopping cart or a carry basket, and two, in his deafness he thought I had insulted him when I was paying him a huge complement. When he slapped me (not hard, but he did smack me), I immediately got into his face and let him know in no uncertain terms that that was unacceptable behavior and he should never, ever do that again. I remember he said to T, "Your wife is out of control--do something." T, knowing that usually I can take care of myself, just shrugged. AWM told me later that he and T's mom continue to be worried for T's safety as I obviously fly off the handle easily and T doesn't respond appropriately.


The second trigger incident occurred when AWM made a lovely cream gravy to accompany the really tasty fried chicken he makes for us almost each visit. I'm a southerner by birth and upbringing so I love cream gravy. I saw it in the gravy boat and said, "YUM! White gravy!" Immediately he scowled and said, "Well, now it's brown!" as he shook some Brown Bouquet into it. Obviously he didn't hear me correctly but as I started to protest, R, my mother in law grabbed my arm and told me to let it go. She was afraid he would get even angrier from embarrassment. So he was allowed to think I had insulted him when I was attempting to laud him.

We eat brown gravy whenever there is fried chicken to this day.

Another time that might have been a factor was when I showed up to their house for supper and to spend the night unannounced--according to them. According to T and me, we had told them in separate phone calls that I would be there to spend the night (we were moving to the area and I got there while T was still in South Korea). I offered to get a motel but they insisted I stay.

I wish I had gotten a motel. My mother in law was well into her cups when I arrived. The more she drank, the angrier he got, and things happened that I wish I had not seen. It was terrifying. I told T that "he did things that he does not do when you are there." T paused and said, "My sister has said exactly the same thing."

After that evening, though, I became person non grata. My mother in law called my cell phone one evening while it was off and left a message. When I called back, AWM picked up the phone.

"Hi, this is Laura," I said.

"What the hell do you want?" he replied.

I was dumbstruck for a moment, then stammered, "R called and left a message on my phone. I am returning her call."

"I was not aware of that," he said slowly. Then he got her to speak. She had been drinking so we didn't speak long.

He has not spoken to me unbidden on the phone since. The last time I called and he answered, he did not speak when I said who I was. Then, to break the silence, I said, "Uh, I just called to say hi."

"Well, hi," he snarled. I replied, "Then can I speak to R?"

This is the backdrop to my visit between Christmas Day and New Year's.

He started in almost immediately. He has known for years that my grandmother was a Cherokee from Oklahoma. But for some reason, this visit he chose to exploit that fact about me. "Laura is going to have some wine! Be careful--you know she'll grab a knife and kill us all in our sleep! You know about drunken Indians!" He went on for an hour in that vein. He was gone hunting a good bit of that day and most of the next. He came in late on Saturday and T and I went to bed right afterwards; when I said good night to him, he responded angrily, "Good night!" "What'd I do now?" I asked T as we walked to the guestroom. He just shrugged.

The next morning was awful. He fixed us coffee and then started in on me. He didn't know how I had met my husband, let alone marry him with my background; I was rude, I didn't know my place, my husband was a wimp for putting up with my obvious abuse of him (huh?), and on and on. The stark hatred in his face when he looked at me was frightening. When I fixed myself some toast, I asked T if he wanted some--and before I could say anything else, AWM said, "Well, it is obvious you don't care if I starve." I was simply stunned. I decided I needed to get out of that house, especially since T was going for a walk. I knew where a nice safe Episcopal Church was in the area. While I was preparing to go there, putting on makeup in the bathroom, I heard AWM in his office telling someone on the phone "well, he's all right. But that bitch he's married to--well, she's an Indian and you know how they are."

I thought I would throw up. I left the bathroom and went outside to find Taciturn; when I did, I told him what I'd heard. "I can't stay here," I said. He nodded. However, we had plans with AWM's one child with whom he still is in relationship for New Year's Eve, which was the next day. She is lovely with a heart of gold, we really like her, so we decided to stay for that day. But, after some consideration, we decided to leave New Year's Day, a day early.

But, I had to get through Sunday first. I went to church and prayed for the situation, came home, changed my clothes, went to Hunt Valley Mall to do some shopping by myself and eat lunch. I came home about 2:30. I sat down with a bottle of soda I had left over from lunch and he erupted in anger. Turned out he thought it was a beer and in his house, no one drinks before five. He calmed down when I showed it to him.

I don't remember that evening at all. Odd. But I do remember that I lay awake in bed for hours after T had gone to sleep watching the door just in case AWM decided to come in and do me in. After all, this is a guy who cleans guns when he is angry. He is not subtle.

I heard R ask him (the walls are thin in their home) why he was being so mean to me. I did not hear his answer.

The next morning he poured our coffee, giving me about 1/4 of a cup. I asked for more and suddenly I was living in the scene from Oliver! in which he says, "Please, Sir, I want some more," and Sir says, "MORE?" Then we were off again. I was so happy when his daughter got there as he tries to be nice (not always successfully) when she is around. She, T and I were gone the rest of the day. We spent that evening packing and left early the next day. The reason T gave them for our early departure was the weather--and it did get very bad the next day.

The way R hugged me over and over before we left was not lost on me. It occurred to me later that she really doesn't expect to see me again.

I've written a lot, but have left a huge amount out. I decided a long time ago that AWM is not a safe person to be around, but usually he behaves when T is there. T did not stand up for me at all on this trip. He has said before that it is tough on him that AWM and I don't get along. I think he is trying to placate AWM as he is the person who controls T's access to his mother (btw, R has a good job--I think she is just too whipped to leave). The idea of going there again makes me want to weep in terror and despair. I've thought of various reasons this behavior is going on--maybe dementia is coming on, who knows, or he just thinks he is 74, he'll do what he damn well pleases--but nonetheless, I'm not a verbal (or physical) punching bag. I'm concerned that the physical will happen again if I return. After all, there are lots of reasons to hurt me in his mind.

Be assured I pray for both R and AWM. T has chosen to sweep all of this under the rug--he states it is his mother's life and she has chosen to live it this way. At that house there are many elephants in the room.

Oh, by the way, I have not told T of my decision yet. I haven't found a good time, but that will come soon. We are planning a vacation in the fall with AWM's daughter and her boyfriend, and I really hope this does not interfere with that. But I won't go back, and if she cancels, she cancels. I have to feel safe.

I just wish I could be assured that R is safe.


FranIAm said...

Oh my dear Laura.

What a tale... what a tale. This is so sad at one level and it outrages me at another.

Having come from a long background of abusive relationships of all natures I can only say that you have chosen wisely. Do not return there.

There is more I want to say but I will need to reread this and to pray with this. You know I send you lots of light and love and prayers and for AWM, R and of course T as well.

Peace to you my sister and my friend.

FranIAm said...

This post has lingered for me and I am really sending a lot of prayers to you all.

You have a lot of integrity and courage Laura. God bless you.

Praying for everyone but for R in a special way.