That night…

My Dad called one morning while me and my Mama were laying in  her bed. He wanted my sisters and I to spend the night at his and his girlfriends house.

Both my sisters had plans already, they were going to friends houses. I felt bad and even though I was sick I said I’d go.

My Mom stopped at the store on our way and got me some cold medicine and then we went to my dad’s to drop me off.

I was 10, almost 11. I was quiet and shy so when my Mom and I walked into his house and he came running out of the back bedroom in his undies, I knew something was wrong but I wasn’t the kind of kid to ask questions.

I remember him telling my mom that he and his girlfriend had gotten into a little spat. I felt uneasy all day after that.

My Dad and I spent the rest of the day listening to music and sitting around. I think the NASCAR race was on.

After it got dark we walked down the street to the store. He had been drinking so I’m guessing that’s why we didn’t drive his work van.

While we were in the store there were these men making remarks about my Dads weight. I remember being scared of what he might do to them. I thought there might be a fight since my Dad was rather scrappy.

I was relieved when he just walked right by them and right up to the counter to pay for our snacks. I got a can of fruit cocktail. He got more beer and a candy bar and a Pepsi.

On our way home we looked at all the lights people had strung on their houses. It was Christmas time. There was a huge cross lit up on the side of the road. It said “Jesus Saves”.

We got back home and I dug through my fruit cocktail and ate all the grapes out of it. I remember my Dad putting the rest in a Tupperware container. I knew I’d never eat the rest of it. Partly because I only liked the grapes and partly because I wasn’t feeling well.

My Dad dropped an alka seltzer tablet into a small class of water and told me it was time for bed. I sat the glass down on the bathroom counter in my room. I couldn’t drink it. It made me gag. I left it there and went to bed.

I couldn’t sleep. I missed my sister. We were very rarely apart and never at bedtime. We always slept together. All the way up until we had kids and left home. Every single night.

I wished so bad that she was there. Especially after my Dad’s girlfriend came home drunk and argumentative. I was scared. So scared. I heard men’s voices, I still don’t know who they were. I never left my room.

As things were being thrown and words were being screamed between the two of them, I was in my room running back and forth from my bed to the bathroom. I didn’t know what to do so I just drank that alka seltzer from earlier.

I was terrified. I knew things were bad but I had no idea how bad they would get. I heard them yelling about a gun and who did or didn’t have “the balls” to shoot who.

She was screaming for me to call 911. I didn’t. I heard “shoot me whore, shoot me!” And the gun went off. I thought she’d shot my Daddy. I jumped up out of bed and ran to looked out of the crack on my door. Scared of what I might see.

I peeked out and saw my Dad walking towards my bedroom door. I ran back and jumped into bed and I closed my eyes as tight as I could. I didn’t want him to know that I knew what had just happened.

He got down on his knees beside my bed and it seemed like he sat there for a lifetime. Finally he said “We’ve gotta get out of here!” He scooped me up and when we got to the bedroom door he told me to close my eyes. I wish I did. The house was absolutely torn apart.

We got into his van I felt relief that it was over but I was scared of what was going to happen to my Dad. He called my aunt and uncle and they met us at his office.

We all sat there in silence. Until my dad got up to go to the bathroom. They grilled me about what happened. I said nothing. They asked if I heard a gunshot, I swore I didn’t. I don’t know what I was thinking. I still didn’t know she was dead and I guess I was trying to cover for him.

It was the middle of the night and we were having trouble getting ahold of my Mom so they told me I was going home with my aunt and uncle. I just wanted my Mom. I cried and said “I wanna go home!”

after a little bit I finally got her on the phone. “Come get me!” I said. She asked what was wrong but I didn’t answer. “Are you still sick?” I said “YES!, please come get me!”

It seemed like it took her forever to get there because she was in another town at my soon to be step father’s house. As soon as I saw her headlights shine through the window I was up and out of there!

I jumped right into the car without saying goodbye. I watched out of the window as my parents talked. They hugged. “My parents hugged?This has to be bad!”

“He killed her.” My mom said really calmly to her boyfriend. “He said he shot her in the head.” She didn’t act surprised. I was still in shock.

We went back to his house when we left his office. There were lights and ambulances and police cars everywhere. My mom got out but told me not to say a word to anyone.

I clung to my Dad’s jacket he put around me after we left his house. It smelled like him.

My mom wasn’t gone long before she got back in the car and said “she’s dead”. It was a long drive back home. I slept on the couch that night cuddled up with my Dads jacket.

The next week my Mom dressed us up and took us to her funeral. To say it was awkward would be an understatement. Everyone starring and pointing at us. “Those are his kids…” I put myself in their shoes now and I understand why it was strange for them to have us there but it sure wasn’t a good feeling being there.

I remember thinking I was going to go to jail. I remember hating myself for not stopping it. It was my fault. I should have done something. They would have stopped fighting if I walked out of my room. I know they would have.

I still struggle with the guilt. I think about it every single day. It replays in my mind. Over and over. I kick myself over and over.

Every time I see Christmas lights I have a flashback. Anytime I see cold meds. Anytime someone argues. Anytime I hear the word “gun”. It all brings back fear and relentless anxiety. I want to go back and change it. I want a second chance to do the right thing.

Ive been in therapy on and off for years. I’ve been on PTSD meds, anxiety meds, depression meds and ADHD meds. Nothing helps. Nothing takes that night out of my head. I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that it’ll always be there.

My Dad is not a monster. I love him dearly. He was a victim of domestic violence himself. He was in a bad relationship and made bad choices. He spent years in prison and he paid his debts. I know that they were equally to blame for what happened. It’s so sad and unfortunate that she lost her life.

Everyone should take domestic violence more seriously. Things can get out of control in an argument quick. If ever you find yourself in a situation like that, walk away. It isn’t worth it.

 

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