Men, Leave If It’s That Bad
I must start this true story off with a disclaimer: I in no way condone spousal abuse. There is nothing funny about it. However, every man has his limits, even good men, even my father.
My mother was not a nice person. She abused her children, her husband, her sisters, and her parents. Mom was mentally ill. She suffered from depression, anxiety, and I’m sure from some other serious disorders. Although her oldest sister said there weren’t any crazy people in our family. She insisted that Mom was just mean. My brother says they were all crazy.
My father was a gentle, honest, easy-going man who was affectionate and loving toward his children. My grandfather, my mother’s father, told me when I was 17 — Your father was a good man. Unfortunately, in 1958, he died at 37 in an airplane accident along with my 13-year-old brother, Ronnie. I was nine years old, and my younger brother, Kenneth, was 4-years-old. Mama was disturbed before the accident, but she really went off the deep end afterward. However, that’s not what this story is about.
Sometime during the 1950s, Daddy realized that he married a disturbed woman and wanted out of the marriage. In the 50s, both parties had to agree to the divorce, or you couldn’t get one. Once the divorce was granted, it took 2 years for it to finalize. My mother refused to give him a divorce. He languished in an unhappy marriage until his death.
Many years later, when I had children of my own. Mom told me this story:
She said she and Dad were lying in bed one night, and all of a sudden, he jumped on her and started strangling her. He obviously didn’t strangle her to death because she lived to tell the story. The next morning, he got up, packed his bags, and told her; If it’s come to beating up a woman, I’m leaving.
As soon as Mom got this story out, my thought was; Oh my God, I know how he felt.
I asked her what it was that she said to him to make him react that way. She claimed she didn’t remember. She retold that story repeatedly, always claiming she couldn’t remember what she said to him.
I remember where I was and what I was doing when Kennedy got shot. I remember where I was and what I was doing when the two planes struck the twin towers. I even remember where I was and what I was doing when two major earthquakes struck L.A. I would definitely remember what I said to make my husband want to kill me.
Dad did the right thing by leaving the next morning. His principles told him, you don’t beat up a woman. He probably realized he would kill her if he stayed. Mom knew the right buttons to push, and she took great pleasure in pushing them, much like a psychopath that takes pleasure in killing.
I told Mom’s story to my brother, Kenneth. He said I bet she sounded like an old Dodge warming up on a cold morning: Na naa, na naa, na naa. We both laughed because nagging us was a daily occurrence.
It reminds me of a story that William Wyler, a well-known movie director of his time, told on a talk show:
One morning, as he ate breakfast, his wife sat across from him, nagging like Mom must have been doing that night. There was half a grapefruit in a dish on the table. He imagined picking up his grapefruit and smashing it into his wife's face. However, he didn’t do it. What he did was ingenious.
That day he directed a James Cagney movie. He had a scene set up with Cagney and the actress sitting at the breakfast table. The actress was nagging at Cagney, much like Wyler’s wife had been doing that morning. When Cagney’s character couldn’t take it anymore, he picked up half a grapefruit and smashed it into her face.
I used to watch Dr. Phil on TV in the afternoons. He often gets couples on his show, and the man is a spousal abuser. Dr. Phil always tells them the same thing: You never hit a woman. It’s an unfair fight. If it’s that bad, leave!
Take Dr. Phil’s advice, guys: Leave if it’s that bad.
Unfortunately, the only way Dad could get out of that marriage was to die. It was either that or go to prison for murdering his wife. He would have had to wait until the 1970s, when the laws changed, to get a divorce.