Wednesday, May 12, 2010


I was living in a four-plex on Weymeyer Drive northeast of Columbia. Ironically, his cousin, on his father’s side, owned it. A cousin he barely knew. Now married again, he moved in with me. Nathan had started kindergarten. As a harbinger of things to come, Nathan had spent his first day of kindergarten with the principal.

This is the actually apartment, second floor.

Many were the exploits of Nathan. He had been thrown out of Sunday School because he would climb in the windows and bark like a dog. Nathan was just like his mother. He learned even more quickly than I, that attention comes by acting out. He also had tremendous energy and creativity. He had the nerve to do the things he thought about. Considering all the trips to the ER, it is a wonder he lived.

I had gotten a job, a real job. I worked for what is now Shelter Insurance, then call MFA Insurance. I would descend to the bowels of the building on West Broadway to file thousand of little papers in hundreds of five drawer filing cabinets filling the basement. I had never learned to type. I still was not a high school graduate. Yet, I suppose for my qualifications, it was a good job.

The pay was so bad I could still get food stamps and some help with daycare expenses. If I had a sick day accrued, I’d take it. The supervisors behaved like prison matrons watching us scurry, yelling at us if we were not fast enough. Many a premium notice was put in the wrong file in an attempt to hurry or by a worker just tired. Shoving papers in random files was common.

I got a small promotion in spite of my poor work habits. I was made a list puller. This meant I would pull files and take them upstairs to the underwriters and claims adjusters. I was able to sit part of the time. Better yet, it meant I could leave the basement.

Before Alvin came back into our lives, I managed to get my GED. I had been told that no one could pass this grueling test without years of GED classes. Nevertheless, I decided to try. I not only passed but they told me they had never seen a score so high by someone who didn’t take the classes. On an IBM selectric, I learned to touch-type through adult education at Hickman.

I had a babysitter just before Alvin and I remarried.  I would not only pay her, but I was bring food that I had gotten with my WIC vouchers, food stamps and commodity foods to supplement. Nathan would complain they hadn’t eaten. I didn’t believe him. Jason, still in a diaper had horrible diaper rashes. The age of a grandmother, the babysitter seemed wise and competent to me.

One day I left work early and came to pick up the kids. My sudden appearance revealed the horrible truth. The children were corralled in one small space; they had been there all day with no food. Jason’s diaper hadn’t been changed all day. He was soaked with urine and feces. I never took them back there. I never found a good babysitter either. I went from one bad experience to another, always finding out too late that the babysitter was not caring for my children.
Alvin was back, things would change. I quit my job. The passion of being newlyweds again led to a pregnancy. The drinking had stopped. The abuse hadn’t. One night in October, the air turning cold, Alvin caught Nathan touching himself. Little boys do that. He grabbed Nathan and started beating him with a metal, long handled shoehorn. With welts forming on his legs Nathan was thrown outside, in the cold, to stand on the deck in his underwear. That would teach him never to touch himself again!

Knowing that the shoehorn could be used on me next, I still begged for Nathan to be allowed to come inside from the cold. Dressed only in his Underoo briefs, he was shivering and crying. Alvin relented. I held Nathan trying to comfort us both. I had made a mistake again. I had let Alvin back in our lives. Now I had vowed once again, for better or worse, to be his wife.  On top of that, I was carrying another child.

My mother became Mrs. Rowland Murl Martin just after Christmas that year. A bride is a bride. A bride turns her attention to her new husband. Her problem daughter frequently got in the way of her new life. She distanced herself from me. She made suggestions that I could not live with. Once again, she spoke of foster care.

The drinking resumed. He’d stay out all night. He was remodeling a trailer for two young coeds. He slept with them both between repairing and painting their walls. I complained to my mother-in-law who told me her tale of her first husband’s infidelity. She said:

You need to do what I did. I knew Bernard was sleeping with another woman. I waited until he came home in the wee hours of the morning. I waited for him in the kitchen, in the dark. Once through the door I grabbed him. I opened his pants and pulled that thing out. With a knife in my hand I told him that if he ever put that thing where it didn’t belong, I’d cut it off. That cured him.

She recommended the same threat for her son. Somehow, I couldn’t see myself doing that. If I had tried that, I suspect the threat of the knife would have been turned on me in seconds. I prayed. Oh how I prayed for my marriage to be "restored."  I had dreamed of the day we'd be together again. Sometimes prayers should not be answered the way we want. This was one of those prayers. Sometimes dreams should never come true. This was one of those dreams. I thought I’d had a miracle. This miracle, this dream come true was a horrible nightmare unfolding before my eyes. Another baby on the way, I had to stay. I had no choice.

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