I mentioned in one of the first posts of this blog that I had unpleasant memories of my first marriage in West Virginia. That I had left that state and moved to Delaware. I’m ready to write about that now.
In 1988 I married my first husband in West Virginia. It was not long after we started dating that I realized things were not right. And this is embarrassing because it means that I allowed myself to be caught up in a strong current that led to a speedy engagement and wedding. I take responsibility for my part. I made those decisions and they were the worst I’ve ever made in my life. I’ve spent hours since trying to figure out how an intelligent woman from a normal, loving family, with good friends could act so out of character – to allow myself to be manipulated. In my defense, the abuse started slowly and after he had convinced me that he would treat me like a queen. I even remember the very first instance. He slapped my car keys out of my hand when I was trying to leave the house to get some distance from a disagreement we were having. I remember thinking Oh if you do not get out of here now you will be in so much trouble later. And I did not take my own advice. But self – recrimination serves no good purpose. I learned a lesson and moved on. But I paid and others paid. Dearly.
It took seven years of physical, mental and emotional abuse to force me out of the house and into an apartment of my own. I was trying to take a path that would not require me to move far away, pulling my entire life up by the roots. One year and one restraining order later things had only escalated. I finally admitted that putting great distance between me and my husband was the only answer to removing myself from a dangerous situation. And it needed to happen quickly. He had tried to ‘commit suicide’ in a desperate bid for my attention. Enough. But there would be collateral damage in leaving – and not just in the form of my human family.
At the time I was Mother to a stray barn cat named Precious, a rescued greyhound named Nadine and a diminutive Spanish Barb mare with an attitude, personality and talent for jumping that belied her physical height. I had raised and trained Thamar from a foal. She had been my athletic partner, my passion and my friend for twelve beautiful years. My throat tightens as I type this.
I left the hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, spitting, shoving, choking, filthy name – calling, lying and cheating that had become my miserable life. But in order to do so I had to leave a huge piece of my heart behind as well. I moved to Delaware and into a small apartment with a good friend of mine whom I had shown horses with. Although I had made attempts to keep my new location a secret, stalking by my ex in one form or another would force me to spend the next ten years filing police reports, acquiring and renewing restraining orders, and unlisting my phone number at home and at work. At one point Corporate Security stepped in advising my ex- husband that his advances were not wanted by me. It did no good. He remained delusional to the point that he imagined us not only reuniting in the splendor of our refound love, but also by informing me that he was leaving his new family to come to Delaware and join me. He would leave these calls on my voicemail at the bank in the early morning hours. I’m sure he was in varying states of intoxication. It was embarrassing and distracting. I often wondered just how long a person was supposed to pay for serious errors in judgment.
But the sun came through – doesn’t it always? Almost ten years after that disastrous union, I found the Love of my Life and married for a second time. Edwin was my first long – term and serious relationship in those twenty years. He and my ex husband could not be more different. I’m usually good about not making the same mistake twice.
And eighteen years after leaving West Virginia the carefully guarded wall around my heart keeping me from loving any furry critter was totally demolished by the wrecking ball that is Ca$h Money Carpenter.
I know that I have worked through and with a lot of residual issues resulting from those last years in West Virginia. If you’ve read this blog I guess that’s obvious. But I have one that I continue to struggle with:
Majorly Overprotective Mother Syndrome = M.O.M.S.
I have a friend who responds to my anecdotes in Facebook with his favorite standard of “Poor Edwin!” Indeed. I admit that Edwin is the unfortunate recipient of my many rules, demands and guidelines for keeping the Pit Bull safe. Neither Edwin nor myself has children. And we are not an ‘arguing’ sort of couple. But my determination to make certain that never losing another fur baby to bad decisions on anyone’s part had caused some head – bumping between us. As I’ve mentioned, Edwin is a Type B to my Type A. And our parenting styles often reflect that. We have numerous experiences that support this finding. Eighteen years had passed without the patter of Big Furry Feet in my life and I had forgotten just how much laughter a single goofy dog could provide – and what a balm that laughter is to the soul.
One Summer evening Edwin and I were resting on the couch with Ca$h. We heard a popping noise outside and as Edwin went to investigate, the Pit Bull flew off the couch and launched himself at the door. Again, the noise repeated itself – it was a firecracker. Ca$h has an odd reaction to these. He is not scared of the explosions. He gets angry and tries to hunt the offending origin down. Edwin stepped out onto our porch to show a presence and moved aside a gate I had place at the top of the steps. The gate allowed Ca$h to enjoy these nice days outside with his pack, under supervision. Cash had followed Edwin onto the porch. He is quite a presence himself. But Edwin was too slow shutting the gate and the Pit Bull squeezed past him, flew off the porch and down the stairs in a lather to confront the origin of the noise that was infuriating him. I heard Edwin yell after Ca$h, but the dog was totally focused and unresponsive. I caught a glimpse of several youngsters fleeing in every direction in panic. On my street when a Pit Bull is on the loose it is politic to run. Ca$h had no collor on – the hair on his neck is thin and I am in the habit of leaving it off while he is in the house. Feeling sick, I decided I was of no assistance to anyone without a collar and leash. I wheeled around and ran into the kitchen to grab them off their hook.
Now Ca$h has never attacked a person that I know of. But I can only speak for the year and a half he has been with me. I did not know what form his aggression would take once he slipped off the porch in search of the firecrackers. I did not know what I would find when I ran back out the door after him.
The street was empty. I knew which direction I had seen Edwin head off in, so I kicked off my sandals to facilitate running. I saw several young toughs hanging out on the corner where they had been when the firecrackers had gone off. Part of this group had been responsible, I knew. There were about a dozen of boys and girls watching me sprint down the block with wide eyes. I felt like vomiting. I sprinted another block and came to a corner. An older man and his wife were watching the drama unfold from their porch. I called out to them to see if they had seen a man and a dog run this way. They had and directed me to go left around the corner. Sick, sick, sick. But I kept running. I rounded the corner and looked desperately around.
Perhaps twenty yards ahead of me and crossing the street coming towards me was Edwin. He had left the porch in only his blue jeans – no shoes or shirt. In his arms was the Prodigal Pit Bull looking like some overgrown infant. At least Ca$h had the good grace to look a little ashamed of himself. I was too relieved to fuss at the him, but I gave an ice – cold stare to Edwin that spoke volumes. He had been careless. How many times had I told him…..and still he had been careless. He slipped the collar over Ca$h’s head and I directed four terse words to him. Give Me The Leash. I did not trust myself to say more than that. Edwin walked towards the house as I followed yards behind him. My relief was truly immeasurable. I can remember it even now. But boy, was I cheezed at Edwin. This sort of stunt would get this dog lost or taken from us. The thought of it made my already weak stomach lurch again.
I noticed a car with two women in it approaching me and they pulled over to the curb next to me. One of them leaned out and said “Is your husband a stripper? ‘Cause I am fresh out of dollar bills!” The humor was exactly what I needed. I did think that Edwin looked fetching in his carpenter jeans and nothing else, carrying a hefty Pit Bull in his arms. But I would have cut my tongue out before telling him that at that moment. I grinned and answered “No, but you can tuck a five in his waistband – we’re not proud!” She and her girlfriend laughed delightedly and said “I know that’s right!” and moved on. We trudged towards home. So many folks were on their porches watching our return. Two small girls peeped over the brick wall of their porch and waived hesitantly. I waived back wryly. Another couple called out “Did you catch ‘im?” I affirmed. As I passed the house on the corner where the perp and his friends were staring at us uncertainly, I called out to them “I really thought you guys were going to help me catch him! What happened?” grinning as I did. The guilty party responded to me, “Naw! I thought he was coming after me! I was runnin’!” Our neighbors across the street congratulated us. They were new to the neighborhood and I believe this was our first time chatting with them. Lovely. It seemed that everyone had turned out to be part of the Big Excitement.
Inside the house I unleashed Ca$h. The humor was just starting (just a tiny bit) to make my more reasonable side come out. I tried to stay calm and talk to Edwin about his sometimes lax handling practices. What if Ca$h had seen a cat or a squirrel? What if he had run into traffic? Edwin was resistant and defensive. Finally I took him by the waist and gently turned him to face me. “Do you have any idea what it would do to me if we lost this dog?” He softened. He understood where I was coming from. He knew it would kill me. We agreed to close careless gaps. To be more aware of our actions with Ca$h and their consequences. I felt better. And I laughed when Edwin grinned and told me “You should have seen their eyes when Ca$h rolled off that porch! Kids flew in every direction! They even left their girlfriends behind to fend for themselves!” I do admit I saw the humor in it. And I doubted there would be any more instances of firecrackers in front of the Pit Bull house again.
I truly believe that all of the animals that have passed through my life have had a large part in shaping who I am today and the path that I am bound to follow. Precious, Nadine and Thamar all hold a special place in the compartments of my heart. I still feel the guilt of leaving them behind. Ca$h is helping to heal that as well.
One morning I was walking Ca$h near an assisted living residence. An elderly lady was making her way towards me carefully picking her way with a cane. I moved Ca$h to my right side so that he would not interfere with her progress. He was very frosty. We were near the reservoir and he had only thoughts for the possibility of bunnies on his brain. But instead of passing us, the woman stopped, looked at Ca$h and smiled at his energy.
“He’s taking you on an adventure!” she said.
He certainly is.