Watching from my living room the vehicles lights as they made there way through the falling snow last Friday night. I was suddenly conscious of the fact that I couldn’t tell who any of the vehicles occupants were. Most were pickups or suv’s towing snow sleds on trailers headed for moose head lake for some snowmobiling, but some no doubt were neighbors going to or from home. The cars and trucks today all seem to look alike to me, no distinguishing features to tell them apart. Some different from where I grew up, or maybe it was when I grew up. Living on a dirt road in a small town in southern Maine in the fifties there wasn’t much traffic going by, especially at night in a snowstorm. My brother and I would always run to the window when ever we heard a vehicle coming and most of the time could tell who was driving, even at night. We could tell by the shape of the car or by the tail lights who might be passing our house in the dark. Those were different times, good times for the most part, a slower more laid back way of live. But they also harbored a darker side, a side that doesn’t come up often in conversation when people talk about the “good ole days”. I don’t think it even had a name back then, today we call it domestic violence.
This subject that is so much in the news lately, and that has directly affected one of our own members, was quite common place as I grew up. So I would like to take the time to relate a story from my childhood. A story that after fifty plus years is still vividly played out in my mine.
My family like so many others back then would get together on the weekends to play cards. This particular night everyone had come to our new home that my mother and father had just finished building. There was to tables of adults in the kitchen playing “63” and us kids playing games in the living room. The game of ‘63” is played with partners, who take turns bidding on the possible worth of their combined hands plus the five cards in the ‘kitty” which goes to the winning bidder. The cards have values attached to them which add up to a total of 63 points, thus the name of the game. On this particular night my aunt kept messing up the play of her cards causing her and my uncle to not make there bid. In short they were losing. My uncle then announced that he had to take my aunt outside and have a talk with her. I remember them coming through the living room and going out into the cold night air of winter onto a entrance way we had on the front of the house. What followed was a lot of yelling, then a “slap slap” sound that all us kids could hear from where we were playing. The outside door then opened, letting in a blast of cold air as my aunt came running into the house, followed in a few minutes by my uncle. My aunt was crying and her face was bright red as she took her place at the table. My uncle as he sat back down in his chair simply said “Alice is ready to play cards now”. As I stood in the door way to the kitchen I could see my mother and the other woman were all kinda looking down at their cards and making small talk, but they said nothing about what had just happened. My dad and the other men were all chuckling and making wisecracks, my favorite uncle even saying that women need a “tune-up” every so often.
This incident was only one of many over the years, but for some reason this one always stands out in my memories. I can’t ever imagine a situation today where a group us were gathered and something like this were to happen and no one was to say anything. Gains in domestic violence have been made. I don’t believe kids today grow up thinking its cool to smack your partner around? But us baby boomers sure did. My best friend from school days, the best man at my wedding went on to kill his girl friend after a messy break up and her dating some one new. I found myself one night standing at that fork in the road, only seconds away from joining my friend after a breakup in my own marriage. What is the difference in two kids that grew up together, surrounded by the same influences, one kills the other doesn’t. I think in our cases the underlying difference was in our parents, especially our mothers. Mine installed in me a sense of values that have serve me well all my live, a sense that I couldn’t do something that would let her down. Thanks mom.
As gobbler so amply put it at KK’s gathering. There but for the grace of God go I.
Well written . . .
I am glad to say that while I didn't have a perfect upbringing, to my knowledge my father never intentionally struck my mother . . . in fact my Dad was a reluctant warrior if you would who came out of Vietnam with a new, profound respect for life.
I am proud to say that while I may not have learned a lot from my Dad in terms of being able to tear apart a tractor and put it back together or how to do basic woodworking (my wife had to teach me that), Dad did teach me how to treat all people with respect.
vic, thank you for your article about domestic violence.
i know first-hand that even brothers can grow up in the same house and be totally different. my late brother-in-law was one of the sweetest, kindest men i ever knew. he loved his wife and adored his children. his brother, my ex, however is a sociopath who thrived on constantly dishing out verbal, emotional, mental and physical abuse. and at over 60 years old, his greatest pleasure is still tormenting any who cross his path.
domestic violence can happen to anyone. it does not occur only in areas where poverty abounds. it is universal. abusers can be male or female, and domestic violence can occur in same-sex relationships. it affects the rich, the poor, the middle class, the young, the old, the weak and the strong.
i worked with both men and women when i worked at the domestic violence project in hancock county. i was in an abusive marriage for almost 19 years and could tell these people from my own experiences that there was a better way to live.
i would point out to the women i worked with that so much has been written about children growing up repeating what they learn at home. many sons grow up to be as abusive, if not more so, than their fathers. not much is written, however, about daughters growing up to think that verbal, emotional, mental and physical abuse is the way "love" is supposed to be, because that is what they witnessed their mothers enduring.
one particular woman, a young mother with a beautiful 18 month old son, told me she was afraid that her son would grow up to be just like his abusive father. i pointed out to her that she had the opportunity of a lifetime to teach her son how to treat people, and especially how to treat the women in his life.
and i am here to say that not all children grow up to repeat what they learned. i have three sons who are pretty nice! after all the beatings and abuse they went through, i cannot believe that they even speak to me. i couldn't help them then, but they always knew that i loved them.
Vic - you have shared a story so often repeated in the era of your growing up. firefighterjake - your Dad probably saw more than any person should have ever seen, bless him - and the values he instilled in you. becket - oh, the stories you and I have shared......and you are so very right, we each can make a difference in the lives of our babies.
This story is timely - and thank you for sharing Vic!
I wish that as an attorney I could offer some reassurances that the system isn't "broke" and that so called "victim's rights" are a reality. The truth is that the system isn't well geared towards protecting the victims of abuse. Police are poorly trained and because the Courts are quick to dismiss these matters as "trivial civil disputes" the cops become unwilling to risk their well-being trying to invervene in matters to which the Courts only give lip service. All too often the abused come to court and tell the Judge that they "asked for it" and then request the withdrawal of the Protective order. If you know somebody who's being abused, refer them to a shelter and not to the legal sytem that is so poorly equiped to deal with these problems. While I generally support our legal system to a rule, those who look for and need the most most help in this area are not likely to find redress or satisfaction or protection. That's just the way it is. The abused need to separate themselves from the abusers....period.