Wednesday, September 11, 2013


I sometimes have to revisit my older blog posts, needing to repeat a message I'd hoped to convey earlier.  This one is a necessary repeat.  Over the years I've been through some things.  Not all of it has been pretty.  I've had female friends who've been through some things that were down right ugly. When I see or hear of young women dealing with mess that is polarizing to their young lives I want to reach out and shake them until they understand that they don't have to go through things.  There is no reason for any woman to deal with any mess from a man who is not deserving of their love. I have major issues with abuse in a relationship that is supposed to be loving.  So much so that I wrote about it in my book Graye, published last year.  I also touch on it in my upcoming book, The Sweetest Thing, coming in March 2014, and not in ways that readers might expect. And I periodically repeat stories I've told before. Sometimes women going through some things need to be reminded that they're not alone and that they have sister-friends who understand what they're going through.

Years ago you could not miss the bruise to Melissa’s face. Her left eye was black and swollen, a harsh contrast to her porcelain complexion. And her porcelain complexion was mottled black, blue, pink and red. She casually milled about the room as if nothing was wrong and those around her pretended not to notice. I don’t pretend and so I asked, others raising an eyebrow at me as if my doing so was catastrophically wrong. But I asked her what happened to her face, already knowing the answer, and knowing that her answer would be a lie.

She laughed, fanning a hand in my direction. “Teeheehee! It was so silly. I can’t believe it happened. I was brushing my hair and dropped the hairbrush and it accidently hit me in the face. Teeheehee!

I nodded and commented. “Really? It looks like that brush was still attached to your husband’s fist.” The room was suddenly aghast 'cause heaven forbid anyone say outloud what everyone had been thinking to themselves.

None of us saw Melissa after that, knowing that she often disappeared when her many bruises needed to heal. For years I had heard too many stories of how clumsy she was. She had randomly fallen out of chairs, and down steps, even tripping over the family cat at the most inopportune moments. But everyone knew her husband beat her and despite the best efforts of family and friends she continued to stay, believing that with four young boys she had no other options. Then one day she took a "fall" that put her in the hospital with life-threatening injuries. When she eventually left the hospital she refused to go back.  She hasn't tripped over anything since and she and her four boys have thrived.

I had a dear friend once who I suspected was being beaten at home. Then one day, I witnessed the abuse with my own eyes, her husband slapping her so hard that he sent her flying across the room. I picked up the telephone and called 911. Her husband told me that I would never set foot in his house again. And I haven't.  That night though I assured him that he would be leaving well before I did. I closed their front door behind him as the police led him away in handcuffs.  Hours later my friend was frantically calling family and friends to get him bailed out of jail. But days later, much to her chagrin, I was very vocal about what he'd done as I told the story in a courtroom.  They opted for mediation, hoping to work through their issues.  Our friendship is only a semblance of what it once was but her husband thinks twice now about putting his hands on her.  He hated being called out for being that kind of man.

Growing up, my beloved Granny use to say that a man only had to hit a woman one time. “Only one time,” she emphasized, her head bobbing eagerly against her shoulders. “After that he’ll have to fall asleep at some point,” she’d conclude. “I guarantee, once he falls asleep, he won’t hit any other woman ever again.” Then she’d tell me about her favorite crooner, Al Green.  Years ago, Al got into a dispute with a lover. Then Al fell asleep. Al found religion shortly thereafter. My Granny had a boyfriend who fell asleep once too. After an encounter with a pot of hot grits he also found some religion.  He also never hit my Granny again. 

I knew a woman once whose young granddaughter spilled the beans about the situation in her home. Her daddy ceremoniously punished mommy and big brother as the wind blew. Grandmother was taken aback by the bruises that battered her grandchild’s back and legs. She was appalled to discover them on her only daughter as well. Days later grandmother welcomed her son-in-law into her home with open arms and the lure of some freshly fried chicken. As son-in-law sat down, excited to be dining on a home-cooked meal, he was ill-prepared for what came next.

Grandmother started swinging a cast iron frying pan with every ounce of energy she had in her. The first swing cracked two ribs. The second broke his arm. Sum total Grandmother swung that frying pan twenty times, praying the following prayer as she did. “Lord, please forgive me my sin, but I don’t want to have to kill him for hitting my babies again. Amen.” Then she put down her pan and called him an ambulance. When help arrived, Grandmother told them he tripped and fell down the stairs. Son-in-law didn’t have anything at all to say. He also never hit his wife or child ever again.

With so many resources and support available to battered women I certainly don’t advocate violence as an answer to violence.  But I will help a friend or family member out of a bad situation faster than anyone can blink.  When the abuse is consistent and the excuses for a man's bad behavior start to pile up like dirty laundry, it's time to leave. Waiting for the right time might never come.  A man who will hit,, burn, hurt, or kick you today can also kill you tomorrow while you're waiting for things to get right.  And no woman needs to be any man's punching bag while he gets his life together and you both are trying to make things work.

No, I don't advocate violence as an answer to violence, but I can’t help but think that both those old women were on to something. Perhaps if Melissa had slapped her husband back with a frying pan the first time he slapped her, or maybe if she’d waited until he'd fallen asleep and then had helped him find some religion, those of us who cared for her wouldn’t have had to continually point out that she deserved better than bruises and black eyes. Her waiting for the right time to leave almost got her killed.  Melissa was lucky.  And I'll keep repeating these stories if it helps even one young girl know that she deserves better and there are always options open to her.  All she needs to do is ask for help.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013


Sometimes in life we have to sever ties with people who are not good for us.  Individuals who are toxic to our spirit, causing us more harm than good.  Severing ties with acquaintances and friends might hurt for a short time but usually proves to be for the best in the long run.  Severing ties with family is a whole other beast. 

Twice in my life I’ve found it necessary to sever ties with family who were toxic to my spirit and well-being.  Individuals who seemed to continually thrive in negativity and bitterness.  Life with them was killing me and every breath I took confirmed it.  The ex-hubby was the first.  My sister was the second.

Parting ways with the ex-hubby came with challenges.  We raised children together.  Six of them.  We have grandbabies and in-laws.  Our children took sides in the divorce and there were times when it wasn’t the one I wanted them to take.  After the dust settled we had to find balance again.  Navigating holidays wasn’t always easy.  Rebuilding family dynamics with a new partner was hard.  I imagine that if my divorce had been amicable those things would have been easier.  But it wasn’t.  It was ugly.  Resentments were harbored.  I was as toxic to my ex as he was to me.  There were too many nasty exchanges and I know that there were many times when my kids felt caught in the middle.  They didn’t always like or understand my choices but we have balance now.  My babies know that I love them with all my heart and there is nothing that I would not do for any of them.  I am their biggest cheerleader and I have been a great mother and grandmother without their sperm donor being in my life.

Parting ways with my sister was the easiest decision I ever made.  I agonized over it for months before I did it and then when the choice was made, I felt the burden of our relationship lifted off my shoulders.  Life was suddenly better than I imagined.  Even our parents seemed to understand, neither ma nor pa saying anything about our situation.  I imagine parenting us individually alleviated much of the heartache we had rained down on them over the years.  My mother rarely updates me about my sister’s life and when she does I have no problems telling her I’m not interested.  In all the time of our divide I haven’t once questioned my decision or second-guessed if I’d done the right thing.  My sister was toxic to my spirit and her negativity and bitterness was killing me.  Life without her has been good.
Recently we have encountered each other at my parent’s home.  We are polite.  Conversation is minimal.  When all is done we go our separate ways and exist without each other.  I was happy that all seemed well, even letting my guard down once as I pondered the possibility of our reconnecting.  And then my sister’s ugliness managed to reach a tentacle back into my life to cause pain. 
Had what she done affected only me I would have chalked it up to my sister being my sister, further cementing my decision to cut her from my life.  But it didn’t.  It also affected my children and that was unacceptable.  My sister managed to cast a pall on the recent arrival of my beautiful grandbaby and her contentious behavior and ill-spirited comments were nothing but hurtful.
The divide between us has widened even further.  We once walked that fine line between love and hate together but I suddenly feel like I’ve fallen over the edge into the dark side.  I hate that my sister is my sister.  And that is tearing at my soul because I have never hated anything so much in my whole life.