My parents had been divorced for some time when Daryl, my stepmom came along. I think I was 7 when they married. My first memory of her is a night that my dad came home from work, the sun was still up, and my brother and I were very happy to have him home, as we always were. My father was great, not too serious, and always silly. He told us, “Your mom’s in trouble, we have to go rescue her.” My brother and I were up in arms as he told us how someone had beaten her up, and she was waiting for us in a safe place. My mother had been out of our lives so long at this point, that if it hadn’t been for pictures of her, I would have forgotten her face completely. I don’t remember the drive, put I remember going to a parking lot, where she was waiting in her car, my brother and I went up to the passenger side to see someone that I had not remembered seeing before that. I remember that notion in my head of, “why did dad say this was my mother we were going to rescue; I’ve never seen this lady before.” I honestly do not remember much else about that night, or any nights after that until the day of the wedding.
Their wedding was a big to do at our families’ church in Mission Viejo, Ca. It was presided over by our pastor, a lovely man himself, who had a way with us kids, he knew how to talk to us, and not at us about God. I remember being outside, taking pictures, the photographer telling us where to stand, to hold my brothers hand, and kiss for a picture or two; “yuck dude!” I don’t really remember the ceremony, I am sure I was the flower girl, because my brother was the ring bearer. I remember going to a restaurant, although now, the name escapes me, but they had put a ton of tables together, as there was a ton of people there. I don’t remember anything except the dinner, and afterwards, finding out that my daddy was going to leave me for this silly thing called a honeymoon! What an odd concept that was, why the hell would he leave me, that’s my daddy, these people were crazy if they thought that. I remember begging my dad not to go, that he could come on my honeymoon thingy if I could go on his! Of course, I didn’t go with them, and I don’t even remember how long they were gone, or the months that followed, or the first time it happened, or even the second or third time it happened. I just remember it being a way of life.
Daryl’s cousin came to stay with us while she and my dad went on their honeymoon, uncle something… I remember being at the dinner table, a very small table that only housed my brother and me for meals. Our kitchen in our new house led into a room that we called the mudroom, which housed all our canned goods. My brother Eric and I were eating dinner one night and we had disobeyed our uncle in some way; he spanked us, hard. It wasn’t the act itself that sticks in my mind; it is the manner in which it was conducted. He took us one by one, bent us over his lap, used a wooden 2x4 and wailed on us. No idea how many times, but I remember it being very painful to sit at the table on the hard chairs that night. I remember crying the entire time, crying so hard, it was difficult to swallow, to breathe; Eric and I both. I don’t remember trying to tell my parents, I don’t even remember their reactions, I just remember that the entire time our uncle was with us, we feared him.
I don’t remember when Daryl started hitting us either, whether it was before or after our uncle had left, I just remember that after it started, it was a daily thing. I remember feeling thankful for the escape of school. I believe that I have blocked out as much of the experience as possible, for self-preservation. I can see the fear and the physical scars in old pictures. I remember having to tell the lie that my brother and I play fought (which we did) and that that is how we were all beaten and bruised. I remember that I hated her brushing my hair. I had very long hair, and it got tangled all the time, as it does to this day. I would cry so hard every time she brushed. She would rip through the tangles, no matter how hard I cried. In public she would treat us like royalty, but Eric and I always knew that look she had anytime we did something wrong; “oh God, she’s gonna kill us.” That was a daily thought as well. She used to dig her long nails into the backs of our ears and pick us up in the air in that position as she screamed at us. I thought for sure my ears would come off before I was a teenager. I remember a time that she was screaming at my brother because he was kicked out of school for a fight. She had him backed up against the sliding glass door in her room and she was ramming his ribs with the pointy end of the kitchen broom. I was surprised he hadn’t vomited. She was always worse to Eric than she was to me, but he took blame for things he hadn’t done just so she would direct her anger at him and not at me. I remember he and I talking about how I couldn’t take it anymore. I remember working out a strategy for the beatings, when she does this, you know she’s coming for you, brace yourself.
We made our own corn garden outside our bedroom windows, we were so proud of it. The first night we ate from it, she got food poisoning, and we were so thankful for the reprieve. On more than one occasion I remember having some sort of out of body experience, which I now see as blackouts. She would be hitting me and all the sudden I was dreaming about car crashes (always in black and white). Then I would violently be back in the room with her, hitting me, and screaming at me for whatever it was I had done wrong that day. I remember that happening one time, and coming back to her beating me and screaming at me about “you’re gonna tell the cops huh?” and hitting me even harder, I must have said it while I was dreaming, but I do not remember. I was so scared of her, and so scared someone would find out, and that my very hard working father would get in trouble. He worked so hard, and so much, that he would come home so tired. I used to take his welding boots and socks off him when he got home. They smelled so bad, but it was my little treat to him for all his hard work. He would leave before the sun came up and get home after it went down, but I remember never going without. He would plead with her to stop hitting us, but it never worked. She’d have us for hours after school, before he came home. My dad would spank us sure, but nowhere even close to what she would do. I remember him being on edge a lot, stressed out about everything, even seeming a little strange. I remember her sitting behind him for hours picking at sores on his back, and how odd that seemed. I even remember Eric and me sneaking food to our puppy, dad catching us, and knocking the front teeth out of the dog’s mouth. I couldn’t believe he’d do that. But he didn’t hit us for it. He tried to spoil us, when he could, which seemed to anger Daryl all the more. This went on for years, we didn’t get out of that until I was 10, I think.
I can remember Eric and I having talks that we wouldn’t live to see double digits. I remember thinking that would be ok, because at least no one would hit us anymore. I think the beginning of the end started when we changed school after my brother got kicked out of the one for fighting. The very first day of school I met a girl in my class named Tina. This was especially cool, because they sat me next to her and she was really nice. She actually talked to me. When we started talking, I found out that her birthday was the day after mine and the similarities went from there. We were asked several times to stop talking until the blue haired teacher kicked us outside in time out just outside the classroom door. The problem was, she sent us out the same door, at the same time, so we continued to talk. When the teacher finally realized it, she separated us onto opposite sides of the classroom. It is still a funny story to us about how we got kicked out of class the first day of third grade together. The neat thing about that school was that they did everything by last name with the students. Both our last names began with “B” so we did everything together; Sat next to each other, ate lunch together, went to assemblies together, etc. She was my best friend, well, next to my brother at the time; we were a neat little unit. It was only a matter of time that she would end up at my house. I remember the day my dad showed up to pick Eric and me up in my uncle’s little red Nissan truck. It was a little odd, because we usually walked, and dad was home so early. Tina used to walk with me until we got to her street, so when dad arrived, she was with me. We went down the street to her house, and us girls whined our way into getting our parents to let Tina come over for dinner. It was nothing special, but Tina was at my house, I was so happy to finally have a friend over. We were eating dinner, and I think Daryl was mad that my friend was over, and no one asked her… My dad had agreed to it, it was absurd! She pulled me out of the kitchen, I am sure, by my hair, and beat the tar out of me with my best friend in the next room, hearing everything; I was so ashamed. My dad took her home, I ran off to my room.
The next day at school, I apologized to her for having to see that, but I didn’t want to talk about it. I could only imagine what she was thinking; probably thinking the worst of me. She begged me to tell someone, anyone, the teacher, the principal, anyone! I refused, and I begged her not to tell anyone, not even her own family about it. She agreed to keep my secret, but never stopped telling me I needed to tell. I remember going to her house on occasion, and thinking how normal her family was, that no one got hit, and when they fought, it was about normal stuff, it never got physical; I was so jealous. Months went by, and Tina had worn me down; I agreed to tell the principal. We agreed to do it one day after school; we went together into the office, I think we were holding hands. I remember how big the counter in the office seemed that day, ten times taller than it had any other day, almost as if I had vertigo just walking in the door. We asked to see the principal, but he wasn’t there, and we were offered the vice principal. Tina looked into my scared eyes and told me, you have to tell someone, I will be with you the whole time. I remember walking into his office, being scared out of my mind that Daryl would find out, and I remember him asking me if I had anywhere safe to go. I don’t remember much else. I flash from that to a time not long after that where my dad was on the phone with someone, and they were telling him to leave, but he refused. He didn’t want to break up his family. I know that at some point we had left for a time, but we ended up right back at home. My next memory is either near Christmas, or my birthday, I say that only because, my room looked straight into the living room, and I could see the Care Bear I would never get to play with… My dad must have had enough of her beating us, and he got physical with her. I remember seeing him hitting her, and screaming at him from my bed “Please daddy stop!” My brother and I both did. He was arrested that night, against our cries and pleas. Then she had all the time in the world with us. I hated that time; that was the worse time in my entire life. I hated going home from school. I was convinced we would be dead soon. I remember being so relieved when dad came home, but that did not stop her. Not long after that, my dad had found pictures of her modeling her hand made clothes, taken by a friend of hers (a male friend), and he flipped out. He was screaming at her, he was beating her; she was making these horrible noises, and Eric and I were screaming at him to stop, we didn’t want him to go to jail again. I don’t remember how or when it stopped, but I remember afterwards my dad came to our rooms to get us, and the three of us huddled in his room, in the dark, crying, hugging, praying, and telling each other how much we loved each other, and that the police were going to come and take daddy away. I remember being so scared, I didn’t want to lose him, and I definitely didn’t want to be left alone with her. The police came, arrested dad, and interviewed us. We ended up at the hospital; don’t ask me how or why. They had called my paternal grandmother, who came to get us that night. I don’t remember how long we were there, but I remember the day in court, weeks later. They had pictures of Daryl from that night blown up in the court room; it looked like she had had two giant plums under her eyes from where my father had hit her, they were so swollen, it looked like they were not even open. I remember this overwhelming feeling that even though he had done wrong, that she got what she deserved!
We were in the court room through the whole trial, which was the first time I had ever heard the word rape in my life. I remember not paying much attention to it; I think I thought it was another word for him hitting her at the time. I also remember the lawyers talking about a women not being able to refuse her husband, whatever that meant. (In my 10 year old head.) My dad was convicted of spousal abuse, failure to protect minor children, and I don’t know what else, but she was never arrested, never charged with anything… I remember going and seeing the judge (probably for the sentencing) and him asking us about what happened. We went one by one, and we both told the truth, about how terrifying she was, abusive she was, and how fantastic dad was, and we both begged not to be given back to her, that she would kill us. My dad was sentenced to 7 years in prison; Eric and I were sent to foster care. Even though my grandmother, and two uncles on my father’s side would have been capable of caring for us…. We never had to see her again, we were free.
My father still has nightmares about her to this day. I have a recurring dream of a doorway in an orphanage we stayed in for a time, I remember it vividly. It was a door with a window, and from my cot, I looked right up into a street light. My brother has not spoken of any of it since. I found out after my father came home from prison that both he and Daryl were addicted to speed, she was a user, and he did it with her as a way of bonding if you will. Not that that excuses either one of their behaviors, but it at least explains his odd behavior. My dad has told me that he found out that she had been cheating on him as well, and that that was what sparked the fight that night.
I have had very low self-esteem my whole life because of this. When someone tells you how much of a piece of shit you are every day, it’s hard not to believe it. I often let people walk all over me, and I have been told that I am too nice for my own good. I am very prone to depression, and I have a personal need to please and feel loved that never goes away. I often lose myself in romantic relationships because of this. I am so eager to please, that I forget who I am. Thanks to the relationship with her, my father’s relationship with her, coupled with my relationship with my child’s father, I have achieved an acute “fight or flight” attitude. The minute things get rough in a relationship, I try to bale! And now I am lucky if a romantic relationship goes past 5 months. There were a lot of times that when things were going bad with my ex that I thought about suicide. I have written a few suicide notes; I even called a suicide hotline, and they told me to admit myself to the psych ward, but I was so afraid that my ex could use that against me; that I never did. It took me a really long time to even consider therapy after I left him, because I thought he’d find out and use it against me; even though I had seen shrinks since I was a kid.
My past has altered my outlook on life, and parenthood. I rarely spank my child, and the times I have spanked her, I immediately feel like a worthless human being. I try to do everything either verbally, or with taking things away when she misbehaves. This is sometimes hard to do, but I vowed a long time ago that I would NEVER harm my child; there are other ways than by physical means. I will not continue this cycle of abuse.