Leaving a Home of Abuse
When your tormentor is also your main provider, running away can be a difficult decision.
I am sitting on the couch with my grandmother. The television is on, but the volume is low. It needs to be, our ears are searching for his familiar sounds. The door snaps open and we both tense. I know that it is my grandpa before I even see him. He always brings the smell of gasoline home with him. I love him very, very much and he absolutely terrifies me. My grandmother begins to cry, and I tell her that if she stops crying, he probably won’t hit her tonight. She keeps her eyes on the television when he enters the room, and I mimic her. The shouting begins shortly after, and I am told to go to bed. The next morning I peek into their room, and they are in bed together, naked. My grandmother has no new bruises that I can see, and they are curled so nicely into each other that I assume all is well. But in the morning, we all have breakfast together and they kiss and look so adoringly at each other that I know we might have a whole week before he loses his temper again.
None of this was unusual to me at nine, this was just love. Screaming, bruises, and threats, yet my grandpa was always attentive and loving the next morning, and he would often tell me a story before he left for work. There was a print of Renouf’s “The Helping Hand” in our kitchen, and my grandpa used to tell me that it was a picture of him and I, rowing far away from our home, leaving behind my grandma on an island in the distance. Though I feared him more than anything, I still held a deep love for him, and part of me enjoyed this idea. I rationalized that without my grandmother in the picture, all of his violent tendencies would melt away, and that we could be happy. After both my grandparents passed, this print was one of the few things no one in the family wanted. I took it and hung it over my desk. I look at it now while I lay in bed and realize that his story was also a threat. He wanted my grandma and I to know how easily he could separate us from each other. The tender face of the girl in the painting looks so forlorn now.