I pulled into the driveway of the church at twenty minutes past nine. Garrett was already there, waiting on his bike. The full moon illuminated him and I noticed his dark hair was curling in the damp night air. And as always happens when I see my children, my heart melted. I parked parallel to him and stepped out of the Kia Sorento as he walked around the bike, in my direction. The rain of the past few days had turned the summer night air pleasantly cool and in the crazy way that happens in times of stress, my thoughts flashed back to similar summer nights of my childhood, summer nights at my grandparent’s house; swinging on the front porch swing with my cousins, counting stars, catching lightning bugs and putting them in jars, listening for the lonely, distant hum of jets flying in the night sky and making plans for the future. Plans that always included my Prince Charming and travel to faraway lands.
“Hey Mom”, my nineteen year old boy looked tired…drained, but he greeted me with a smile, a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
“Hey Bud. You had me worried.”
“I’m sorry about that. I just couldn’t stay at the house.”
“What happened?” I asked.
Garrett dropped his head and leaned against the car, he was shaking slightly.
“Are you hungry? Do you want to get something to eat?” I asked.
“No. I’m not hungry.”
“Tell me what’s going on”, I said.
“I don’t want to hurt you, Mom. I don’t want you to hurt again.”
“I need to know”, I said.
“I don’t understand why I always have to be the one to break your heart.” Tears formed rivulets down his face and dropped to the front of his shirt.
“Garrett, you have never broken my heart. I don’t understand why God has always allowed you to be the messenger of bad news. That seems unfair and I don’t understand it, but you have never broken my heart.”
Several long seconds passed while Garrett shed tears without words. When he finally spoke, his voice cracked with emotion.
“He’s at it again, Mom. If he ever even stopped. I doubt he ever stopped. I caught him red-handed.”
“His phone, at first. Then I checked into other things. Why did you marry him Mom? You could have had anybody else. Look at him! He’s nothing! He’s a pig. He doesn’t deserve you! He has never deserved you! He doesn’t deserve Lindsey! Why did you stay with him all these years? What kind of loser throws away the people that love him?”
My boy’s words spilled forth in painful, weeping sobs. He was indeed breaking my heart, though not for the reasons he thought. It was my son’s raw pain and his own heartache that shattered my heart. I wrapped my arms around him and tried to comfort him, attempting to ease his pain and wipe his tears. But how do you erase the pain of a little boy, now a young man, who’s been hurt and mistreated by his own dad? Time and time again he had been hurt by the one man that should have turned the world upside down to protect him.
The old saying is that time heals all wounds. I’m not so sure about that. Parents should delight in their children and when they fail to love them that much, and emotional pain is intentionally inflicted upon a child, no matter the age of the child, the memory of the incident may fade but it never goes away completely. As long as the memory is there the pain is there also.
“I thought I was protecting you and Lindsey. When he was screwing all those women… you know what kind of trash they were, I wanted to protect you and Lindsey from their influences. And from his influence and the way he behaved when he was with them. I thought I could protect you from all of that if we stayed married. If I had divorced him you would have been forced to spend summers, holidays and every other weekend with him and his women and redneck friends. If we were divorced, I would not have been able to prevent him from exposing you to who knows what. Sleazy women and drunken men. Probably drugs too, it seems.”
I was the one crying now. I saw my anguish mirrored in my son’s eyes and unbearable, physical pain rippled through my muscles. “I was afraid of the things he would expose you and Lindsey to.”
“I know you thought you were protecting us, but you didn’t. You couldn’t protect us from him, Mom. He exposed us, me anyway, I don’t know about Lindsey, to his women and his friends. I know you didn’t know, but staying only made matters worse”.
“I wish you had told me”, I said.
“I was a kid. He made me promise not to tell. Mom, there are things I’ll never tell you about him and what he did. I love you too much to hurt you like that.”
“I’m so sorry I didn’t protect you from the bastard. You and Lindsey deserved so much better than him. You should have never been disrespected that way. You know, I always believed he would do better. When he started attending church and promised us he would never go back to that old life, I believed him. I wanted you and Lindsey to have your family intact. I realize now it was just a ruse. Church is what he did to maintain control over me. Over all of us. I should have left him the first time I caught him screwing around.”
“But you didn’t know, Mom. You did what you thought was best. And it probably was for the best. We’ll never know. You’re right, who knows what he and his redneck friends would have done to Lindsey and me. He wouldn’t have cared what happened, that much we know for sure.”
“I’m going to divorce him, Garrett. I told him the last time he did this that I would never put up with it again. And you stood before him and told him you would never keep his secrets again. He didn’t believe us or he didn’t care. Either way, I’m done”, I said.
“You deserve better than him mom. You deserve to be happy. You don’t have to put up with it any longer. And you’re stronger than you think you are. Just think; you could start dating again.” He smiled at me.
“Oh no, I don’t think so!”
“Mom, not every man is like that idiot. If nothing else you can go out for intelligent conversation. That’s something Crisco could never do…have intelligent conversation.”
I laughed. “You’re right about that. It’s one of the reasons he’s always degraded you. He knows you and Lindsey are more intelligent than he is.”
“It’s the reason none of the Crisco’s like Lindsey and me. They know he’s stupid and they know what he does is wrong but they cover his butt! Who supports a son and brother that screws up over and over again? Who stands behind a screw up that treats his family like dogs? Grandma and Pawpaw better not support him this time. I’ll be done with all the Crisco’s if they do.” Garrett’s jaw was firmly set, a surefire sign that his mind was made up.
“He’s emotionally immature and he’s practically illiterate, Mom. Did you know that when you married him? I mean, the guy can’t spell simple words. He can’t compose a complete sentence. Did you know how ignorant he is? You’re an intelligent woman Mom, how could you marry such a stupid man?”
“No, I really didn’t know. Oh, I knew he wasn’t the smartest guy I had ever dated, but I didn’t know the extent of his lack of academic intelligence. He kept it hidden very well. Did you know he told me he had an engineering degree from LSU? I didn’t find out the truth until we had been married a couple of years. I learned from his mom. He never went to college anywhere. I was sick at my stomach when I learned the truth. He had lied so believably well. And I had told many people about his days at LSU, because he had made the stories sound so believable. I was a fool. But you should know this about him; it isn’t that he’s really unintelligent. I believe he can learn when he wants to. He’s just too lazy to do the work or put forth the effort. It was just easier for him to pretend than to discipline himself and produce the work. Plus, his parents never encouraged their children to do anything with their lives other than get married. Academics were never important to your dad’s parents. His mom once told me she didn’t want him to go to college because he would only go to have sex and get a girl pregnant.”
“He never went to LSU? Oh my God. Everything’s been a lie, hasn’t it?”
Slowly, I nodded, “A lot of things have been.”
“Well, you can start over Mom. We all get a new start, a new life without Crisco yelling at us and trying to put us down and humiliate us. He can be someone else’s problem from now on. He fits in just fine with those redneck women he’s screwed,” Garrett said.
“Speaking of someone else’s problem, who was on his phone? Carla from Waffle Hut”?
“She was one of them. You knew about her?” He looked surprised.
“I suspected her and a couple of others. They call his phone all hours of the day and night. Even on his days off they call. I asked him about them and he told me I was a crazy, suspicious bitch and said he was only trying to help Carla with expenses. Carla doesn’t even work in his restaurant. She works at the one near Hobby Lobby and McDonalds, yet he said all the calls and texts were work related. I reminded him that Waffle Hut had conducted a spouse interview with me before they offered him the job and had assured both of us that employees were not supposed to call a manager, or manager trainees in his case, on their days off. Anyway, he had an excuse for it all, just like he always has.”
“He can deny and make excuses all he wants. I have proof of what he’s doing and he knows it. He can’t get out of it this time. He’s tried to ruin all of us and he hasn’t been successful. And that pisses him off.” Garrett took a deep breath, seeming to relax a bit.
“You know this already, but I have to say it: You and Lindsey are not defined by who he is. You know that, right?”
“He’s the sperm donor, Mom. That’s it. He has nothing to do with who I am. I don’t ever want to see him again. I hate to even look at him. I know I’ll have to see him though because there are some things I need to say to him. But I’ll never stay another night with him in the same house. And I want you to leave. He’s evil, he’s dangerous. You need to leave.”
“I can’t leave yet, I know he’s dangerous, and I’ll be careful. I wish you would stay, but I understand why you feel you can’t. It’s your home though,” I said.
My son protested, “It’s never felt like a home with him in it. I don’t intend to hurt you with what I’m saying, but that’s how it is. No matter how hard you tried to make it a home it was cold with him there. I always knew he hated all of us. He wouldn’t have exposed me to the things he exposed me to if he didn’t hate me. And I don’t know if you completely understand what I’m saying when I say I can’t come back as long as he’s there. One of us will die; either him or me. One of us will kill the other one. I will never back down from him ever again and he’s not used to that. He’s used to kicking me around like a whipped dog, a kid that wouldn’t fight back. I’ve grown up a lot this past year living in New York City and working this past summer in Australia. I’m not the kid that left here a year ago. I’ve got some things to say to Crisco. I’ve got years of his insults to get off my chest and when I do it’s probably going to get very ugly because he’s used to me taking his crap. I’m going to give it a few days before I confront him, but he is going to hear what I have to say. And it won’t be done his way, the cowardly way, over the phone or in a text. It’s going to be face to face. I’ll never call him ‘dad’ again. He hasn’t earned that name.”
“I understand why you have to talk to him. And I think you should tell him how you feel, it will be good for you to get the anger out, get it off your chest. Just promise me one thing; promise me you’ll let me be there. I need to be there so I can call the police if he gets out of control. You know how bad his temper is and how quickly he escalates. I promise you I will sit back and say nothing, unless I need to phone 911. I give you my word I won’t interfere. If you don’t want me there then have Jack or Jim or Greg or Stephen come over. Just don’t do this alone.”
The thought of my son and Dick left alone to argue in the wooded solitude of our house was extremely frightening to me. Dick kept numerous knives, pistols, rifles and shotguns in our house and also in his truck. He had always owned lots of weapons, and in a few short weeks even I would be surprised to learn just how many weapons he actually owned. To this day I don’t know when he purchased most of them or where he got the money to do so.
Dick’s anger is quick and volatile and I knew he would not hesitate to use a weapon on his own son.
It’s ironic, really. He used to tell me he could never do anything he wanted to do because I was always “stuck up his ass”. Later, after he was gone, I learned he had said the same thing about me to others; “I can’t do a damn thing without my wife being stuck up my ass”. If that’s the case, how did I not know when he purchased his weapons, borrowed money from payday loan stores or went to biker bars? How was it he screwed so many women without my knowledge if I was “stuck up his ass”? The truth is, I was not ‘stuck up his ass’ as he claimed, nor did I want to be. I worked full time for a major airline; I drove one hundred and forty-two miles round trip every day for my job. I cared for our children and attended all of their games, school field trips, school activities and extracurricular activities. I kept our home clean and prepared home cooked meals and ran all of my husbands’ errands. I didn’t have time to be stuck up anything. His negative remarks were intended to make me look like a nagging, complaining wife while gaining sympathy for himself.
“Ok, I give you my word I’ll let you know when I plan to talk to him; I don’t mind if you’re there. In the meantime I wish you would get out of there. People love you, Mom. They’ll help you. Go to Nanny’s or the Robertson’s or Donna’s or Sherry’s. Tammaney would let you stay with her and so would the Kings’. Just get out of there. He’s a sick man, capable of vile things. Believe me; I know what I’m talking about, Mom.” His lips quivered and became dry as childhood memories formed words in his mouth.
I still don’t know everything my son knows about Dick. I still don’t know the whole of what he saw and heard. But I know this: My beautiful little boy had his soul tortured by the man who should have loved and protected him; a man who should have protected his son with his own life if necessary. Dick should have sheltered our son from men such as himself. Instead, that sick, pathetic, bile infested little man sacrificed his own child for a few minutes of lust. He used his little boy as a decoy, a pawn, an excuse to be with some of the filthiest women the world has ever produced. Looking back, I believe he tried to break the spirit of our son. But he didn’t. Because Dick Crisco is such a weasel himself, he greatly underestimated the resiliency and tenacity of his son.
“I refuse to let him run me out of my home. I’ve got as much time effort and money invested in the place as he does. It’s the same home he promised all of us we would never have to leave and I won’t just give it to him. I’ll be ok. I’ll sleep with a knife under my pillow and the phone beside me.” Even as I said the words, I knew it was pure craziness to live the way I had just described.
“As long as he’s there it won’t be a home Mom. You need to stop thinking of it as a home. It’s just a house. I know you’re attached to it because that’s where Lindsey and I have been for the last nine or ten years. But we don’t have good memories of Shotgun Road. Crisco ruined every possibility of us ever having good memories there.”
I started to ask a question and he held up his hand, “No…don’t ask. Just know we don’t like it there. Why do you think we both had to get away as soon as we graduated? We weren’t running from Cartersville or from you. We were trying to get away from him. It’s time to move on, get away from the creep. Go where you’ve always wanted to go. You’ve always wanted to live in Hawaii or St. Augustine or Tybee Island. Now’s your chance to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Go where you want. Live where you want. Lindsey and I will come to you.”
“I promise you I will start making plans. But what will I do? No money, no income, no income prospects. I will leave and I assure you I will divorce him, but I have to be smart about this.”
“I’ll help you! I’ll do whatever I can for you. Just leave before he hurts you even more!”
“Please understand this: I never want to be a burden to you or Lindsey. Until you graduate and begin working, you’ll have a difficult enough time trying to take care of yourselves. You’ve done that for the most part since you graduated high school anyway, but I was able to help some with extra money now and then. That will end. You know he will withhold money from me. It was hard to get him to help before; he will stop all efforts financially once he knows I’m serious about divorcing him.”
“I don’t want his money. I don’t want anything at all from him. I don’t want a relationship with him. In the past, when you’ve taken him back, you’ve always convinced me and Lindsey to maintain a relationship with him. And we have, but don’t ask me to try again. I won’t. I’ve tried and tried and he didn’t care. He’s never cared. I’m done with him, it’s over for me,” resolution settled firmly in my son’s voice.
“I won’t ask you to maintain a relationship with him this time. Heck, I don’t plan on having a relationship with him any longer either. I only asked in the past because I believed it was for the best, I had faith he would change his ways every time he said he would. I know now he doesn’t care about having a relationship with his family. I’m sorry I dragged this thing out for so long,” I said.
Garrett looked toward the full moon and began to sing, “Well it’s a marvelous night for a moondance, with the stars up above in your eyes…”
“Life’s going to get better for us Mom, it has to. We’ve lived in hell long enough.” With those words, spoken by my son as he looked me squarely in the face, the last twenty-three years flashed behind my eyes. I saw the foolishness of my efforts to save my family. I saw the disdain in my husbands’ eyes as he spoke to me. I saw the lust in his eyes when he looked at the teenage girl friends of our teen children. I saw the pain in the innocent faces of my children, pain that became anger as they grew older. Anger which became indifference toward their dad.
I had tried to make life comfortable and happy for my children. They had tried to be happy kids. But how could they ever have had a happy, sweet childhood with their dad constantly putting them down; a dad always angry; a dad always speaking to them in a condescending manner? I saw how pathetic I had been, I saw how pathetic I must have appeared to my children. I had unwittingly contributed to their pain and it was killing me. It was all so clear now. Why had it taken so long for me to see the truth?
“Call me when he’s at work and I’ll come by. Ok?”
Tears constricted my throat so tightly I could not speak, I nodded.
“I’ll be at the Lourden’s for a few days. I’ll be fine. We’re all going to be fine, Mom.” He gave me a hug and kissed my cheek.
“I’ll call you when I get to their house tonight.”
The muscles in my throat relaxed enough for me to speak, “Ok. I love you buddy. I’m so sorry, for everything.” I began to cry again.
“You’re a good mom. You were always a good mom. Lindsey and I are lucky to have you. I mean, just think; Crisco is drawn to whores like a maggot to rotting meat, what if you had divorced him and he had married one of them? Think of what would have become of us if we had a stepmom like one of those women! Smile mom. Life is about to get better. And Mom? You did save our family. Our family is and always has been you, Lindsey and me. Crisco never wanted to be with us, we’ve all known that for a long time. You saved the part worth saving Mom.”
Before going home I drove to Waffle Hut to speak with one of the women Dick had been seeing. Garrett had given me some of the details of the text messages and voice mails left by the different women, Carla was one of them. I knew which Waffle Hut Carla worked in and drove there to speak with her myself.
After leaving Carla, I returned to the house and found Dick on the sofa, watching a rerun of America’s Funniest Videos.
“Where have you been, Babydoll?” he asked.
“I was with Garrett.”
“Oh yeah? What was he havin’ to say?” Dick’s tone was light and playful.
“He told me what really happened last night. He told me why he left the way he did. He told me about the text messages and the voicemails. All day you’ve let me worry about Garrett. All day you’ve tried to lead me to believe that something was going on with him. And all along you’ve known what’s going on because it’s about you and your sluts. How could you do that?” I didn’t take my eyes off Dick, watching for the signs of his lies to appear. I didn’t have to wait long.
“What the hell is that little sonofabitch saying? There weren’t any damn messages from any damn body!” His playful tone was quickly replaced with feigned indignation as he raised himself to a sitting position. Dick placed both hands on his knees, one of his fingers twitched against the bare skin of his leg as he yelled at me.
“Stop it Dick. I’ve spoken to Carla. I’ve spoken to one of the cooks at Waffle Hut. I know what’s going on. I won’t fall for your lies again. Never again. I’m finished with your filthy game of charades.”
“He’s lying to you! But just like always, you believe everyone but me! I ain’t done a damn fuckin’ thing and you’re going to believe him! I’m sick of this fucking shit!”
Tonight I had finally admitted to myself that Dick would never take responsibility for his actions and would always divert blame to someone else. But our children? Our son? He would throw our own son under the bus and try to make this his problem? I was so disgusted with Little Dick at that moment that I became physically ill. I rushed to the back deck and released the bile that burned in my throat. All the while Dick continued to rant about how everyone was out to get him and blame him for things he had never done.
“Dick, I told you I would never go through this with you again and I meant it. I want a divorce. I want you to leave.” Hell’s tight hold on me began to weaken as I spoke those words.
“I’m not leaving! I’m not giving you a damn divorce! If you want a divorce, you file. I’m not doing it!” He left the den and made his way to our bedroom. I did not follow him. That night and every night after that I slept in our daughters’ bedroom.
The next morning I called my mom and told her the news.
“Oh my God, I thought he was past this nonsense,” she said.
“I thought so too. I hoped so. But he’s never going to change,” I said.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“Oh, I’m done. I’ll file for divorce and I’ll live in a cardboard box and eat cat food before I’ll stay married to him this time.”
“So you’re finally ready to get off this rollercoaster ride?” She had heard unwavering resignation in my voice.
For the next few days I kept a low profile and tried to come up with a plan for my future. I told very few people what was going on in my life, yet people began to post comments on my Facebook page and leave messages on my phone: Praying for you; thinking of you; call me so we can talk, etc. And then, one post caught my attention, it was from my friend Missy:
“Wow! That was a powerful letter Garrett posted!”
I responded to her and told her I had not read it, so she forwarded it to me:
Missy: Here you go, Danita. I read it and cried because I could feel Garrett’s pain. The pain he felt as a little boy and the pain he’s feeling now. I love you and call if you need me.
Fathers, Who do you think you are?
By: Garrett Able
Written yesterday at 4:17 PM, August 4, 2009
Fathers, who do you think you are?
Who are they exactly? Dad, Father, Pops, all these names are talking about the first true hero in our lives, the first real “Man”. As kids we are always saying, “My dad can beat up your dad!!!” And the rebuttal, “Well, MY dad can lift that car and put it on your dads head!”
As kids we are so in love with our fathers. As we grow older we become more and more like our fathers because our admiration towards them is more than we can understand. It is so strong sometimes, you take on every characteristic of your dad. And to a loving father, this is the greatest sign of admiration! Of an unconditional Love that runs so deep…the jelly sandwich he made you the night before last was the most amazing bit of food you ever ate. And the one tomorrow will be better even than THAT one. What I don’t understand, is why do some wish they had a better life?
I was seven when my dad showed me his better life. Instead of doing what most dads do and leave their family, my dad was sick minded enough to take me along. Her name was Lorraine*, she lived in Pine Log, not far from my house. My “Father”, my “Hero”, would take me “fishing” but before we got to the lake we would pick up this woman from the country corner gas station. She would then join us and once we got to the lake I would take my rod and fish while my father left me. I was seven. A child. Once he had his fill of filth he would retrieve me. Tell me, ‘don’t tell mom I had a friend.” This continued for the longest time, this secret life I was forced to share with my father, all the while I was there watching, listening and hurting. I was seven years old when I became a bigger man than my father. On the way to tennis practice, we all ended up at the country corner store one evening…my mom, me, my father and Lorraine. I turned to my mom and told her, ‘this is dads’ friend”. She asked me what I meant and hell broke loose in the store when I described the relationship between my dad and this woman. In front of me, my father denied what I said. In essence calling me a liar. My father broke my mothers’ heart through me because he didn’t have the balls to tell her himself.
This happened two more times, (that I’m aware of), the most recent was two weeks ago. I am 19 years old. Except I feel like I have been 25 since I was 12. My father had a wife who would NEVER leave him. A BEAUTIFUL wife, a loving daughter, and me. His “Buddy” he called me. I am successful, smart, funny, talented, loving, compassionate towards others…but he didn’t want me enough to stay, or any of us for that matter.
The Love that ran deep has only made a scar. I am nothing like my father. At twelve I knew I didn’t want to be like him. My hero died on the beach of Lake Allatoona.
So this is to you fathers out there: If you are faithful, stay that way. You will be rewarded greatly with Love and happiness and moments where your children want to squeeze you because they love you so much. And kisses from your wife that make you melt like it’s the first kiss you ever had. You will see your children grow and look at you like, “There is Superman, he is sitting right there in front of me…across the table and he is my Dad. MY dad.” Your daughters will mold who they want to LOVE out of you!!!! You, who cuts the lawn and drinks out of the jug of milk and chokes on it when your beautiful wife comes into the kitchen and catches you. DON’T LET THAT GO!!!!!!!!!!
To those of you who are not faithful, it’s time to rethink the pros and cons. YOU WILL BE DISCOVERED!!!! YOU WILL BE UNVIELED!!!! YOU WILL BE MADE TO LEAVE!!!!! Because you are WORTHLESS!!!!!
But I do Forgive him.
If you are tagged it’s because you either already know, can help my mother deal with this, or because I think you should know.