Chapter 13, The Watson Pardon

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After leaving court that day, I had a few rough nights.  All of it came rushing back with such clarity, such detail, and unbelievable sadness.  I have often likened it to a filmstrip, a filmstrip on repeat.  I was back at work and somehow had to figure out how to function in a world of vast innocence; those kids brought hope and light into a very dark time for me.  On top of all of that, I had to find an attorney.  I think I had $85 in my bank account.  True to form, I had a friend with a check- book.  Crissy walked into the attorney’s office with me and we hired an attorney who made me tell him stories.  I could easily tell him the stories, because they filled my nights.  He wanted to know how it all started.  I am sure some of you are wondering the same thing.  I have been called many things for writing this blog and all of it catches me off guard when I run into people I don’t even know are reading; brave, courageous, strong—and maybe that is true now, but it wasn’t true then.  And for that reason, this blog has been the hardest for me to write.  But I land back at the purpose of this and I am willing to visit the pain, again, if somebody can be helped.  So, this is how it started.

With your back against the wall you would be amazed at the amount of things that can run through your mind, all at once.  That is where I found myself the very first time I got hit.  And my life would never be the same.  That moment—the one where everything changes- can ‘t be explained.  I don’t know how it is for other victims of domestic abuse, but for me I was absolutely stunned.  He was saying a bunch of words and as soon as he hit me I heard a pop and felt warm blood trickle down my face.  That eardrum-to this day-has never been the same.

I really can’t explain how confused I was.  And it didn’t stop.  It only ended when I was locked out of the house with the clothes I had on-and nothing else.  I made my way to the curb of the driveway-because he told me to get off his property.  My friend from across the street came over with some ice and took me over to her house.  The bleeding in my ear finally stopped and by that time he was knocking on my neighbors door asking for me.  And for reasons that I cannot explain, I followed him back to our house. 

I think some people are born to handle conflict better than others.  I was not built for conflict, not then and not now.  Always willing to just deal with hurt on my own, I think somehow I thought that maybe this was an isolated incident.  It never occurred to me to call the police.  I just shut down.  So, I don’t remember much more about that day.  The next day I woke up with a huge bump and bruise on my head.  Must have hit my head when he threw me across the room.  No doubt I had a concussion, which also may be why I don’t remember much else. 

After that day I started to fade away inside.  So many people had invested in my life and had done a good job of instilling confidence in me after so many had robbed me of my childhood.  On that day, the first day I got hit, everything I thought was true didn’t seem to be true.  I searched for whatever I did or said that turned him into a monster.  I was so embarrassed, so ashamed.  Born an over-achiever, I decided that trying harder to be a good wife would work-that somehow I could control the anger, the fury of another person.   I was determined to change him.  I was convinced it would never happen again.  I did not tell anybody.  My neighbor never spoke of it again to either of us.  I believed him when he said he was sorry.  Somehow at the end of conversations about it, I felt sorry for him.  His tears seemed genuine to me; I hate to see people cry.  I avoided thinking about it in whatever way I could.  Out of church with no support system, I threw myself into work.  I worked hard, and all the time.  I wanted him to love me; I wanted him to be proud of me; I wanted to be valuable to him.  So, I forgave, I never mentioned it to him again; until years later when I found my voice and my value and then I reminded him of this day.  But, for the most part, I let him off the hook.  I did not hold him accountable.

And, in a courtroom in Clearwater, Florida 12 years later, I did the exact same thing.

“Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk, because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt.  Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me because of you, I am afraid.”

 

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Chapter 12 Watson v Evil

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The day was finally here.  It was time to go to court.  This was not the first time a court stepped in to protect me from those who decided to hurt me.  Up until this time, I had managed to bury the pain, and the sealed off portions of my heart that I had decided nobody would ever see.  Going to court with me,  was my posse, and they flanked me on all sides.  We filled a whole row in the court room.  We were not sure he would show, and since my name is at the end of the alphabet, I had a long wait.

My mind wondered to that Duval County Court House where the state of Florida told my mom she no longer had custody of me.  Well, actually, they didn’t tell her, she was a no show. They couldn’t even mail her termination of parental rights, nobody knew where she was.  I was flanked on that day too by my pastor and his wife who were determined nobody would ever hurt me again.  After 7 years of abuse from whomever/wherever I finally told somebody, I told Mrs. Dunning.  I was 14 years old.  They walked out of the courtroom with me and kept me for 18 months; really saving my life and giving me a chance to have a somewhat normal one.  It was a safe-haven for the white haired monster slayer–that kid needed some rest, and love and I got both.

It is so hard to write this and not compare the two court dates.   Those who read this and do not share my faith are probably asking how a kind God can put all of this on one person. In fact, those of you who do share my faith are probably asking the same question. I can’t say I haven’t wondered the same as the hits keep coming even now.  He took so much more for me but still though, there are times when I wonder if I missed something from Him and why all the pain, why all the hurt, and most of all, WHY ME?  I am not a theologian, so I don’t have the answer (at least not a cliche one) why bad things happen to people, any people, good or bad.  I certainly have been dealt my share of hurt, pain and abandonment–and I have tried being mad at God and it doesn’t work-just in case you want to try it yourself.  This isn’t a blog to preach at anybody, but it was only a matter of time before you would see the huge weave into a life full of trauma and that is Jesus, who is my very best friend–and who can take my questions.  The One Who holds my heart–when I let Him, and the One that wants this story to help people.  So often my words are empty and there are lots of broken hallelujah’s.

My daydreaming was interrupted by a  domestic violence “court advocate”, who went through some protocol with me.  I didn’t understand any of what she said.  My brain literally would not work.  It felt like I was in a different world.  How could this be happening?  Up into this point he had not showed up and I began to relax, we were even joking around a little, trying to keep it light.  Then, I heard the heavy court room doors open, my blood ran cold, I didn’t even have to turn around.  Michelle did though, and she grabbed my hand tight.  And about that time the clerk called for all parties for Watson, I stood up, Michelle by my side, squeezing my hand hard, and crying almost as hard.

“I wonder how it must have felt when David stood to face Goliath on a hill, I imagine he shook with all his might, until You took his hand and held on tight.” Avalon

The courtroom was big and I could not hear the judge.  His attorney spoke first and asked the judge to drop it or to move it to where he lives, and all other sorts of non-sense.  The judge stopped his attorney and addressed me, I could not hear him, and I certainly didn’t understand his hockey analogy.  He kept saying “we need a level playing field here, we don’t have a level playing field, we need to get you a Zamboni”(and yes, I just had to google the actual word).  The judge wanted me to get an attorney because he did not think it was fair that I did not have one.  But, seriously, I didn’t understand any of that I was just stunned, scared, sick, and apparently following the bailiff back to the judges chambers to set a date for a hearing when I had an attorney.  His attorney followed as well.  As I walked out of the court room there he sat.  The man who vowed to love and protect me forever, sitting on a courtroom bench with the most evil look in his eyes and smirk on his face.  I often think of that day, and am so confused how he got it so wrong.  He could have had a huge role in healing a soul that had many more marks than years, yet he decided to add to it.  I will never, ever understand that.

We set a court date, and I had to find an attorney.  Meanwhile, seeing him unleashed all kinds of PTSD flashbacks, for months, and sometimes even now.  The nights got harder and my body continued to break down.  The virus in my heart that I got from him continued to cause problems and to those around me it looked like maybe I had given up.  I had not, I think I just finally found my Hiding Place, my Narnia.  I went running to find Aslan, and I pictured falling into His arms where nothing could hurt me anymore.  If I was going to stay on the planet, I had to withdraw from the world for a little bit.  He and I had some work to do.  My world became small as I retreated to my Hiding Place.  There were and still are dark days as evil doesn’t like to be kicked in the teeth.  We will keep fighting though, even now.

“It was a beautiful letdown, when I crashed and burned, when I found myself alone, unknown and hurt, it was a beautiful letdown the day I knew that all the riches of this world had to offer me would never do” Switchfoot

 

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Cause You were there, You were there In the midst of danger’s snare.  You were there, You were there always.  You were there when the hardest fight seemed so out of reach, You were there, You were always there.