General Non-Fiction posted March 5, 2017 Chapters:  ...26 27 -28- 29... 


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contest entry & prose potlatch

A chapter in the book Family7

Not What You Think

by Barb Hensongispsaca


Everyone on fanstory knows about the untimely deaths of my twin sons and their wives, which, I believe is the saddest thing I could ever think of. Enough has been said and there are only certain times I want to be that depressed and bring my feeling to fanstory friends to 'get them out or bust'.

I want to take you to another time and another place in my life. It is not one that I am proud of, and yet, in a way, I am proud of the decision I made. Come back with me to a time early in my first marriage when the days and nights were full of torment and fear. The only time of each and every day that I had peace was when 'he' was at work or passed out drunk. My children were raised to be ready at all times for his shift in moods from one of laughter and encouragement to one of terror and tears. These shifts in moods were instigated by the number of drinks he had and what was disturbing him at the time. The ratio was never the same.

Since his days ended with the consumption of a case of beer, the mood swings happened all the time, every day. My daughter became an expert at reading her father's moods, and at the first sign of trouble, she would take my twin sons out of the room, knowing that I would be there to take the blunt of the pain that was to follow. She had no choice. What an experience for a six year old. Her job was to keep her four year old brothers busy and put them to bed when the time came.

The atmosphere on the weekends was more precarious. I would compare it to high wire walking because the mood changes were very unexpected. Sometimes, we lucked out and he would drink so fast that he would pass out for the rest of the day. That would be the day the kids would keep taking him beer and push him to keep drinking. They stayed on his good side and kept him happy at the same time. Little did he realize that his children were pushing him to pass out. Then we could breathe.

I recall this time because it was the saddest time in my life. I watched my children suffer without the caring of a father and that is hard for any mother. I gave them all the extra love and laughter that I could and made sure they were involved in outside activities like 4-H and Scouts. Even though they enjoyed the days away, we always had to go back home to a house with little laughter. The kids would do what they had to do, then they would find safety in their room.

Meals were a time of pure confusion. Sometimes talking was allowed, and maybe, even a laugh or two. Most of the time we ate in silence as we tried to figure out what stage of the drinking he was in at the time. Even then, it would change in a heart beat. One of the twins would tell a joke and we would laugh, then, instantly, his face would change and he would start to yell about...anything. We would finish eating as fast as we could, the kids would take their plates to the sink, ask permission to go to their rooms...then run. I would brace myself for whatever he was in the mood to play. I don't know if the yelling and accusations were worse to endure or the beatings.

I know most of you are wondering why I did not find shelter somewhere. Please remember, this happened in the sixties when what happened at home, stayed behind closed doors. Divorces were not common. If a husband was taken to court, there was always an explanation for everything. There was no help and no one that wanted to get involved. I was known as the clutziest mother around. I had an excuse for everything and I could think of one in a moment's notice. Everyone thought he was the most caring husband and father that you could find. The only betrayal was the sadness in our eyes that never went away.

One night, the yelling was extremely volatile. The children were in their room keeping busy. I did not expect the slap that sent me into the wall. I must have screamed, because when I looked up at him, I noticed that the kids were standing behind him, holding hands and crying. He did not see as I motioned them back to their room. I was so thankful when I saw them retreat to their rooms. I felt such hatred vibrate off him and for once I was truly afraid; but, for some unknown reason, he walked back to our bedroom and passed out.

When I felt enough time lapsed and he had not come back out, I quietly got off the floor and went to check on him. The light was out and he was passed out on the bed. I don't know how long I stood to watch him, but when I moved it was with determination. I woke the children, got them dressed, and took them to the car. Then I went back in, found his lighter and ash tray where he had left it beside the bed.

Without hesitation, I lit a cigarette and tilted it against the ash tray so that when it burned down to a certain point, it would fall on the bed. I closed the door and walked out. I went to the car to find the children crying. I realized they were the most important thing in my life. I was so afraid someone would somehow figure out what I had done and take them away from me.

I went back into the house and put out the fire that had already taken hold of the sheets. Then I brought my children back in and put them into bed. After watching them fall asleep, I went to the bedroom. I leaned against the far wall as mental exhaustion took over. I slid to the floor and remained there until he stirred in the morning.

I told him what I had done, fully prepared for the beating of my life. It never came. He looked at me, grabbed some clothes, then left the house. He never returned. Our sadness turned into another kind of feeling...a peaceful sadness.

The divorce was hard and, through lies of his friends, I lost my children for a year. He tried to brainwash them against me, but they remembered. After a year, I fought for my children and won them back.


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