I talked a little about spousal abuse and mentioned it will be one of the big themes in The Judas Tree. I also mentioned this is a global epidemic. If people were to really know it and stop hiding from it, the outcry would shake the heavens.
But again, it’s often viewed as something that happens inside the home, and in my opinion, it’s one of the last taboo subjects in our culture. Law Enforcement often has it’s hands tied simply because the victim will later recant their testimony.
So, let’s look at what happens to the kids. As I mentioned, sons will grow up to abuse their spouse (gender doesn’t matter – it happens in Gay households, too). Daughters will wed someone just like dear old dad.
And on it goes.
So what goes on in the minds of the kids?
Let me tell a story one of my friends told me. You draw your conclusions.
“Dad was working for the county road crew when I was thirteen. They didn’t pay a lot so money was tight. To make matters worse, he started coming home bombed every night. He and his friend that he carpooled with started with one beer, and before too long it was several hours before he got home, and he was staggering. One beer had turned into several bottles of whiskey.
“Mom wasn’t at all happy about this and expressed her displeasure. Now as a child, I didn’t want to acknowledge things were far from good between my parents. There was always an underlying tension between them that I never understood, and from the perspective of being in my 60s and looking back, I can sometimes understand why dad drank.
“But during this period, things went from bad to worse. The screaming matches started, and got worse. One night during one of the shouting matches, dad shoved mom. I remember looking at it, trying to convince myself I’d seen what I’d just seen.
“The next night we (my brother and I) were in our room doing homework. Outside, the shouting match went on. Suddenly, we heard a thud and the shouting stopped. We ran into there to see mom on the living room floor and dad towering over her, his fist clenched. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what had happened, but it was by no means the end of this.
“It got worse. What had been a shouting match turned into a Cold War. I don’t know which is worse. The screaming matches or the ice cold fog that settled over our lives. It was like walking through a minefield. The wrong word, and things would explode.
“We waited in fear for what would happen next.
“What would happen next was Dad got the pistol. It was a revolver, and for hours on end he’d sit in front of the TV, pull back the hammer and squeeze the trigger. The gun was unloaded of course, but the constant fall of the hammer wore on our nerves. And he took the gun to work with him so it was always with him. I reckon he realized Mom would have hid it or thrown it away.
“After about a week of this, mom told him, ‘If you’re going to kill me, just do it.’
“He glared at her, and she escalated it a little more. ‘You’re not man enough to do it.’
“I remember looking in horror as he stood up, went and got the bullets (he’d hidden them so he knew where they were), and loaded the gun. The next few minutes were tense ones. He came in with a loaded gun and they’re screaming at each other, and then he brought the gun up, and pulled the hammer back. He had it aimed right at my mother, and I knew she was seconds away from dying.
“So what do you do when you’re thirteen and dad is getting ready to kill mom?
“I did the only thing I could think of. I stepped between them, and shoved my finger up the barrel of the pistol.
“Dad looked at me with absolute shock. ‘Are you f***ing crazy. This gun goes off, it will blow up in my face!’
“‘Well, it won’t do a hell of lot good for my finger, now will it?’
“It wasn’t until much later I realized I seen this exact scene played out in the movie, “Support your Local Sheriff.” But James Garner had a lot of help in that scene because it was given the gun was empty, and the script writer and director had set the scene up.
“I was committed into the bravest and dumbest thing I’d ever done in my life. While dad was pondering the statement, I reached up with the other hand and got my finger between the hammer and the frame of the pistol. Even if the hammer fell, it wouldn’t fire.
“I yanked the gun away from him, and handed it to my little brother.
“Dad looked at me, and said, ‘I’m going to beat the hell out of you.’
“I stood my ground, and said, ‘Let’s do it, but before you start, I’m younger, stronger (I’d been running the ranch day in and day out, and that builds a strong young man), and you taught me how to fight.’
“Maybe I actually scared him. Maybe some common sense broke out, but he backed down.
“I wasn’t finished. ‘Now here’s what’s going to happen. You two are going to sit down at the table and talk about it. I will not tolerate anymore shouting or screaming. And if either of you try to get up and leave without a resolution to my liking, you’ll deal with me.’
“What I didn’t know was taking a stand had changed things. Dad stopped drinking, but it didn’t solve the problems. All it did was cause them to live unhappily ever after.
“When I left home, I left home and never looked back. It was a battlefield anyway, and who wants to live on one of those?
“The bottom line was that day I’d lost complete respect for my parents.
“But there were some good things that came out of it. Or at least I think so.
“I disdain the use of alcohol, drugs, or anything like that. I had to learn to control my own upbringing, which is good because I have a good life now. And my son isn’t an abuser or an alcoholic and my daughters married good men.
“Hell of a way to break the cycle, but there you are.”