My Monster, My Hero

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

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A story of life as remembered, but not exactly true. Memories, dreams, and fantasies are mixed together in this tale of misfortune.

Innocence lost cannot be found. I will never be able to believe in myself. The anxiety is more debilitating than my deformity. How can you respect and despise someone so passionately at the same time? Can this carry over to others as well? So many questions,  but never any answers. 

Let's back it up. All the way up. I was born.

An eighties baby in suburban Los Angeles county. A teenaged mother, a military drop out dad, loving grandparents and so many aunts, uncles, and cousins I still can't count them all. Everything was looking up, considering. I'm sure I was happy to have been born; at least back then. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and beautiful... according to said fam of course. And moms Facebook friends, can't forget them.

Anyone who saw me when I was little would easily assume I was to lead a charmed life. Anyone who assumes anything is almost always wrong. Not entirely wrong, but missing a piece of the puzzle for sure.

You see, Daddy, had a gambling problem, and later a drug problem. He would never admit though. "Babe, you'd never believe it! I hit the Trifecta and won a ton! It was great! We were celebrating my win over a couple of beers, and then I was going to come straight home to you with flowers and the good news! Unfortunately,  some guys saw me gloating and followed me into the bathroom and mugged me, they took everything. My wallet, my ID, all of it." According to Mom, Dad got mugged at least once a week, and she resorted to hiding the rent money in the toilet. Needless to say they got divorced by the time I was 6. Months, 6 months old. Sometimes I look at their old shotgun wedding photos. Dad standing tall and happy with his 70's stache in a rented powder blue tux. My mom smiling from ear to ear alongside my aunts in hideous handmade early 80's ruffle shouldered dresses. A sham if you ask me. They broke their vows faster than it took to make the dresses and booked the church.

My only memory of the life they shared together isn't even really a memory exactly. Just a love for willow trees. Anytime I ever see one I daydream about lying underneath the canopy staring up into its branches. My mom explained to me late into adulthood that she would place me under one as a baby in our first home. You ever have a memory thats not quite yours, but the idea of it is comforting? It's something like that. Something unexplainable, something grand. Sometimes good dreams, or simply wishing hard enough for a better outcome than what really happened does it too. I'm pretty sure that's where de'ja'vu comes from. Or at least the strength to continue. 

Memories are a weird place. My next set comes from a studio apartment I shared with my mom. Her closet was my bedroom.  My toddler bed fit perfectly. I remember having a barrel of monkeys and a set of jacks to play with. The warm cup of noodles we would share for dinner, both still hungry. The various men in and out of the apartment. One I liked especially. He taught me to drive when I was 3. Others didn't phase me much at all, none of them bothered me, and if anything most of them seemed nice. I was just grateful for the wooden four foot partition wall separating her bed from the rest of the apartment. Or at least I am now, upon reflection and what I can remember of those days.

My great grandmother and great aunt lived in the nextdoor apartment. Another great aunt lived downstairs with a bunch of my cousins. A weird boy lived downstairs. He fascinated me. He was fascinated by the bees. He would show them to me and show me how to pet them. He was too weird for my moms liking though, and I wasn't allowed to play with him much. I guess she thought I was better fit to stay indoors with my elders. Elders who pinched your thighs till you cried, made you brush your teeth with baking soda powder, and eat dirt all in the same day. I remember being accused of things like being a pervert and eavesdropping. I was like 4. I didn't even understand the words used in the accusations.

That great aunt was a bit weird too though now that I think about it. I remember her brown afro like curly hair and the colorful mumus. She was the nice one of the pair. A robust woman  My great grandmother was the tough one. She survived an abusive giant of a husband, leaving him, and living in the ghetto as a single mum of 5 back in the 30s. An itty bitty tiny thing with short blue tinted grey curls. Man could she pinch hard with those tiny little fingers though. It was a skill. I can tell you none of us kids ever acted up on purpose around her! As far as old cranky ladies go though,  I still don't think I had it too bad. I vaguely remember going to the local food banks with them. There were always lines and a funny smell. This meant we got to eat my favorite for lunch, canned vienna sausages and government cheese. They looked after me while my mom worked. They were never abnormally cruel for no reason. Sometimes I'd even get a toy from the thrift store, or if I was really lucky a taste of chocolate. I wish I still had some of the things they had around the apartment that I loved. The framed butterfly collections that gave me an appreciation of all life forms. The beautiful bead curtains that separated the different areas of the apartment, brightening up the brown carpet and yellowed walls. Mostly of all, my weird aunts green thumb. She could grow anything,  because as previously mentioned,  we would taste the dirt. She could tell by the taste what they needed. To quote her, "God made dirt, so dirt don't hurt, just put in your mouth and make it work". It certainly worked for her. I on the other hand can kill a fake plastic house plant my thumb is so black. 

The scariest thing I remember during this time period was the Northridge Quake of 87. They canceled school for it though so even that wasn't too bad. I was too young to really know what was going on anyhow. Eartquakes were just a thing that happened when you're used to them from birth. The one in 94 was worse. Not that either were good. Most of these things you just feel rolling around under your feet. These ones shook you and everyone and thing around you to the core. Objects were flying off walls, entire buildings and freeways were knocked off their foundations and crumbled, people were dying. You did your best to hide in a bathtub or hold on to a doorjamb until the ride was over and prayed nothing flew at you. 

Somewhere in the midst of it all my mom ran into the football star from her old highschool. Dark hair, blue eyes, tall enough. He wasn't playing football anymore though, now he was a paramedic and aspiring fireman for the great city of Los Angeles. Quite a catch, according to good ole mom. She just couldn't help herself. I guess she never got the chance back in high school.  She was a catch too though mind you. Petite, long straight red hair, green eyes, long lashes, and one of the biggest smiles. Her smile fared her well on the cheer squad and on the dance and theater teams. Now she was merely a single mom, grateful that once in a while she could treat us to a 50 cent burrito from Taco Bell. 

This was the true beginning of my demise. A real true wolf in sheeps clothing. It wasn't long before we were moving into his house with him and his roommates. I had the pleasure of sharing a bedroom with them. Once again grateful for a room seperator. This one was better though. It went floor to ceiling and slid open and shut like french sliding doors. This is when the nightmare started. Only now recently as an adult do I finally understand it. It haunted me my entire childhood reoccurring as often as I counted sheep. It was fairly simple, but ongoing.  I was with my mom, and we went to a liquor store. She went inside and had me wait outside the door. Everything would be okay until the bad man showed up. He would chase me around the stores perimeter and I would just keep running and screaming and trying the door that wouldn't open for me. I'd cry out for my mom and this man would turn into a monster. He'd get taller, darker, scarier. I kept running and screaming afraid to see his face. And thats how it ended. With me waking up to my own screams and tears running down my face. I still do that. Sometimes in a full panic attack. I don't have that same childhood nightmare anymore though. The nightmares have evolved now and are much more vivid and more detailed. Sometimes I remember them, and sometimes I have no idea what's happening. The doctors blame it on PTSD. I'm just happy my now husband rescues me out of them and holds me until I stop shaking and calm down. Until I feel safe again. 

I could say everything started picturesque. A great love story to tell future generations. A single mums success story of finding true love again. I would be lying though. There were signs. I remember one time we stopped by to see him. The Television was on, it was loud. There were people there. There was a busty blonde woman on his lap. They were at least partially clothed. Mom didn't seem to like it though, and drug me out of there quicker than I could muster out a simple hello. I'm sure there were other signs along the way like the time he threw a beer can at moms head in a rage. Maybe the time he got mad and hit her so hard she miscarried one of his unborn. In the end I guess there weren't enough signs to keep her from marrying him.

It wasn't all bad I must say. I do have some good memories. He knew how to play the part. Or at least the parts she needed him to. He was nice to me in the beginning, and even spoiled me a bit. I remember trips to Knotts Berry Farm, and Christmases with so many presents that any kid would jump for joy. There were resort vacations, and the summer home on the river. My childhood is full of mixed memories. The good the bad the evil and everything else. I can't say I never learned any values from him. He worked hard to provide and saw things that shouldn't ever happen to do it. Even at home he worked hard, fixing up this or that, coaching our little league teams. Trying to be a father, despite his occasional drunken rages and manipulative bigoted words. This is where the respect comes from. This was the good side of him. The part that wasn't as hard to love. Mostly, I learned to never let myself become dependent on any man ever which was the greatest lesson of all.

I don't really remember where my biological dad was during my early years. I spent plenty of time at my paternal grandparents house, and with his siblings and my cousins. They all treated me with kindness and I never doubted I was loved whenever I visited. I'm actually quite blessed in that department.  All of my Grandparents, Aunts, and Uncles on both sides are amazing people who gave me my best memories whilst growing up.

I have a few with Bio Dad. One was going with him to the track. I got to see the horses, and there was a playground. Not a horrible way to spend the day. I also remember us going to one of his friends houses for some kind of party. I'm not sure where my dad went off to, but someone there taught me how to roll a joint. It was a great skill to show off later in life whenever I got to middle school. He also took me to a movie once. It was Pet Cemetery. I got mad because he made us leave right before the end. I don't blame him now, I was maybe only 10. This set off my love for Stephen King novels, I needed to know how it ended.

Another time was when I was staying with his parents. We stayed at his brothers house in Arizona for the summer, and they took me to see him and my new baby brother. My brother was only a few weeks old. I enjoyed the visit. The next day my dad showed up at my uncles house crying with the baby in the carseat. I was rushed out of the room and later that day learned what SIDS was. This was the second child of his after me lost. The other had already been signed away to adoptive parents in another state. As an adult I now understand the only reason my mom kept me from my dad wasn't because of unpaid child support.  Not that he's a bad man, per say, but because he was in a bad place in his life unfit for children to be around.

I spent time every summer with both sets of grandparents. All four of them fantastic humans. They all had their own demons to battle of course, but most of my fondest memories from youth were in times spent with them. All of my grandmothers were strong willed women who were never afraid to speak their minds. They were hard workers with huge hearts. I believe it's from them that I get my strength and tenacity. 

I also loved spending time with my aunties. My maternal aunt I just thought was the coolest. She introduced me to Atari, Alf, and my first real crush, Billy Idol. I prefer to tell the first kiss story about him. I would kiss him right on the mouth on his album covers when no one was looking. I thought I'd marry him one day. Hell, I'd probably marry him now if he was willing and I hadn't met my husband. Anyway, my paternal aunt was a hair older, and would take me to the mall, and shopping,  and out for ice cream. One of the most genuinely sweet women in existence then and now. Beautiful too. We have an 80's glamour shot together somewhere and it's fantastic! Aunty beautiful actually met her husband by simply driving down the road. My now uncle was a police officer and pulled her over just to tell her he was in awe of her beauty and had to have her number. They're still married. Not always happily, but theres a reason and a theory as to why I never let myself seriously date any kind of man in a public service uniform. 

Obviously not everyone in my life  was a saint.  I want to say it started by the time I was 8. After the first biological son was born. The first of my younger brothers whom I adore. He was such a beautiful baby with blonde curls and big blue eyes. All of my brothers are handsome still, and super smart. Much better men than their fathers from what I can tell thus far.  I love them dearly. 

It was the mid 90s. The drinking had escalated. The hazards of the job were wearing on his pshyche. I'm guessing at some point after the miscarriage my mom made it clear he wasn't to ever hit her again. I guess she forgot to tell him the same went for me. Perhaps she wasn't always aware, but I know she wasn't oblivious to it all. She wanted to keep her family, her lifestyle, and didn't want to go back to our life before.

I remember one time he was playing Nintendo and I was folding the laundry. I had shaken  out a towel to fold and it blocked his view. He punched me above the pelvis so hard it hurt for days. It didn't just stop there with the physical abuse though. He would then call me a crybaby, a cunt, selfish, little bitch, etc.

That happened a lot as well. The name calling, the telling me how worthless I was. How I would be fat like my mother when I asked for something to eat. To shut my whore mouth when I asked to stop to use the restroom on long car trips and how the world didn't revolve around me. I had more urinary tract infections as a kid than most adults have had their entire lives. Its actually the only thing I ever regularly saw any kind of medical professional for.

Stepdaddy Dearest was a trained paramedic and now firefighter after all, he knew how to make stitches, pack a wound, and throw me a frozen steak for the bruises. I remember one time he kicked me down from behind when I was getting ready for school because I was taking too long or something. The school actually saw my red tear stained eyes and bruises that time though. They called social services. Turned out he was a hero fireman and I was a 3rd grade liar. Needless to say I still don't trust authority figures, and have somewhat of a defiance or distaste towards them all. 

As some things got worse, some things got better. Mom put me in a bunch of extra curricular activities. Everything from dance and cheer to sports. Technically I had every tangible thing I ever needed. I was still somewhat a normal kid. I'd write songs and sing them to myself while rollerskating in my back yard. I had a few friends in the neighborhood. Ironically I wasn't allowed to go to their houses too often, as my mom was a bit overprotective when it came to things outside our home. Go figure.

At one point my mom talked stepdaddy dearest into coaching my softball team. What a disaster. Thanks for giving  him bats as weapons mom. I know she meant well, wanted us to bond. By the time the riots started in 1992 I was already hoping he would be one of the good guys shot down while fighting the line. My only saving grace was that either way those riots kept him at work, and not at home with me. We watched the news day in and day out, her praying for his safety, me for his end. Or mine.

At some point I turned into a teenager. It got worse. I would be grounded for entire summers for getting a C in school, for weeks just because. I wasn't grounded like normal kids though. I of course couldn't go out, or have friends over. I also had to do crazy laborious jobs during the day while walking on eggshells. Like dig a ditch, pull weeds, cut and stack firewood. Do all the dusting, vacuuming, dishes, laundry, and care for my 2 little brothers. I never did anything right. He told me so before telling me what a piece of shit I was. 

Remember the summer house on the river I mentioned earlier? Those were by far his worst benders as I got older. As a kid he just did mean things like throw a frog I just caught into the firepit, or make me stay inside cleaning all day while everyone else was on the beach. When I got older and wiser I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible on my own accord. I wasn't really allowed to go anywhere though, and he would eventually always find me. 

I'm going to sidebar here with three memories of our time at the river so you know how things went down the rabbit hole.

We were on the beach and some of his fireman friends were out on the boat. They suddenly came back crying and screaming.  They had hit a grandfather and grandson who were riding on a sea doo. ( one of those sit down jetski things) They had been drinking and didn't want to get in trouble so they understandably left them for dead.  Dead they were. And here all these guys responsible for it were chugging waters to avoid a DUI and the manslaughter charges they should've caught.

Stepdaddy dearest was drunk af. I was hiding inside trying to avoid him. He caught up with me. I don't even know what he was so mad about. I remember laying on the ground with him over me. Hitting, kicking, screaming, so angry. I was trying to block my face from the brunt of it. I'm not sure how it happened, but someone came in and got him off of me. My mom grabbed me, my brothers, and my friend that had come with us that weekend and bailed to a nearby hotel. (As was her MO everytime he got caught being violent or cheating.. lets just say there were countless time we took off to a hotel in the middle of the night) The beating was clearly visible and so bad that nobody who asked believed me when I told them the truth. 

Because of the last incident I begged to stay behind every future river trip. I would stay with my friends,  my moms friends,  family, whoever would take me. Until this time. I begged and pleaded and begged some more, but I wasn't getting out of this one. She made me go. Or maybe it was him putting his foot down. Maybe he needed his punching bag. Regardless we were off to the river yet again. I was 17 now, and still had no voice.

I tried to stay inside as was my MO. To avoid everything. To lose myself in a book that was about anything besides my actual life. To meditate and imagine a life I wanted. That wasn't good enough this time either. They were hosting my brothers soccer coaches and teammates parents and we had to play happy family. They didn't want me hiding out. They wanted me to come out to play. To be the good daughter who did as she was told and performed for their friends. I was pretty good at faking a smile by this point. No one even knows to this day how many times I tried to take my life just to escape him. Anyway, down to the beach I went to play my part.

They wanted me to take a ride on a sea doo with one of the coaches. They wanted him to drive because he had a drivers license and was older. I pleaded that my bio dads family lets me ride on my own, and therefore I was more experienced. They stood their ground. I got on the back. This is how we all finally killed me. Everything comes full circle as they say, and this was the day.

As we were riding we collided head on with a boat. The boat jackknifed and we were hit by the tail end, and were sucked into the propeller. The coaches arm was shredded, as was the left side of my body. As history repeats itself these drivers also drove off, probably to sober up somewhere. Maybe to get rid of the women who were not their wives. Who knows.

I broke everything from my hip down. I lost more blood than a body can hold. We were floating upside down in the water. Something different happened this time though. Someone who witnessed the event actually did something. One man actually jumped off of his boat to pull us out of the water and kept us at bay from death itself while his buddy tracked down our offenders. These my friends,  are what you call true heroes. It wasn't their job. They didn't know any of us involved. They helped out of the goodness of their hearts.

During my life flight I died 9 times. I lost and was given 30 pints of blood. My body wasn't willing to live, but something inside me sure was. They say everything happens for a reason,  but I have yet to find it. I was put into a medical coma and woke up a week later wondering why I couldn't move my legs. And who was standing there by my side? Stepdaddy Dearest. My Hero. My monster.


The Aftermath 

The first thing I did was forgive him. I'm still not sure to this day if I had another realm death experience, or if maybe the hospital had sent in a priest. What I do know is that someone gave me the choice to live and preached forgiveness. Maybe it was my parents asking me for theirs for all I know. Regardless it was a message that sticks with me today. I still practice it. Judge no one, and forgive those who trespass against you. 

About 30 plus surgeries and several months later I was patched up and recovered enough to learn how to walk again. The boyfriend I had before the accident stuck with me. I was so mutilated I didn't think anyone else would ever want me so I stuck with him. I forgave him for cheating, and overlooked his manipulative and controlling demeaner. Just like mom did with Stepdaddy Dearest. Going off to college wasn't on the table anymore so there went that escape. I opted for the next feasible option. To get knocked up and focus my attention on having babies. To have someone to love that would love me back in the purest of ways. Here we are full circle again. 

I guess in a way we used eachother. His mom told him I was a meal ticket, and I wanted pretty babies. It kind of worked for a short while. Until I realized I shacked up with a monster worse than I was trying to get away from. Take an extra dose of verbal and emotional abuse, a little less physical harm, and the selling of your body for drugs. Because of his love of sex, swinging, and drugs, we still to this day don't know if our younger two children together are biologically his. 

One day when things did get physical, the police were called. Domestic dispute. The officer asked if I wanted to press charges. I declined. He then asked if he could now push me into the car behind us. I was confused and mumbled out a questionable no. He then asked why it is okay for one man to push me and not another. I didn't know how to answer. He then explained to me that no one should ever touch me in anger, and that I shouldn't let anyone hurt me no matter who they were. That was the day I finally learned that it wasn't okay. That I didn't deserve it. Any of it. That it wasn't legal no matter what. 

I went to the court the next day. I filed for an eviction notice to get him out of my house. He would still try to control me from afar. Even when he did pick up the kids he'd usually end up dropping them off at my moms for the weekend. About two years later, after putting myself through college, I sold the house, and moved across the country to get away from him. I finally escaped him almost completely. Only an occasional phone call with him talking to the kids was all I ever had to endure from him. 

Although I struggled as a single mom, I was happy. Because of my past issues I had a lot of issues with dating, but I always worked and had food on the table. I met some fantastic friends whom I'd swap babysitting with. I found good people with good hearts that supported me more emotionally and mentally than they probably know. I eventually married a man and had a 4th child. A beautiful and smart daughter who blows my mind. The kids were my greatest blessings. They gave me a reason to live, a reason to fight for a better life, and a reason to get out of bad relationships. That marriage didn't work out either. He wasn't nearly as bad as the other men in my life, but I still needed someone kinder and more gentle to feel safe. It took me a few years as a single mom of now 4 children, and another move back across the country to find the right person, but I did. I had hiccups along the way, and had to get counseling and read a lot of books to even understand myself,  but it was worth the journey. I'm now blissfully happily married to the kindest man who took the time to not just know me, but understand me. A man who wipes away my tears, comforts me during my panic episodes, and gives me the love, positivity, and nurturing I need to feel safe. To feel loved. To feel like I finally truly belong somewhere. In his arms.

Submitted: August 23, 2019

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