Both Women Left Him- Why Sometimes That Is Not Enough
By Linda Dianne Kellett
Liberal, Kansas - It was after dark by the time the drunk passed out. She said she was shaking so bad she could hear her bones rattle, as she tried to steady her hand enough to get her finger into the rotary dial. This call was for assistance in an escape. She told me it was an eternity waiting and listening for the car to pull up outside. Every time the drunk rolled over or snored she was terrified he was going to wake and catch her in the act of leaving. He would kill her for trying to take his kids away even though he had been a horrible father. She wanted to get in his pockets to get any money he had there but she was too afraid. She couldn’t even pack a bag of belongings for us because she was sure he would find them and the plan would be exposed. She stuffed diapers, plastic pants and a couple of bottles inside her slacks. She put as many clothes on us as we could wear. There was money in the hem of the curtains she hid there. It proved to be an excellent hiding place for rent and food money. There wasn’t much though; it was hard to save money on a waitress’ salary.
When she heard the car she tried to pick up the two youngest girls and take them out but they were too heavy and bulky to carry two at a time. She took the baby out first and fiercely signing for me to follow her handed the infant off to the driver, the woman with him, her cousin, came in to help. Mom told me the two of them worked together in concert, anticipating what the other was about as only two women, two mother’s, on the same wave length can, quickly, silently, efficiently. Mom told me on the way out she pulled the phone cord in hopes it would slow him down in getting help to catch us.
The cousins drove us two towns away to make sure we were well out of town before they stopped, pressed money into my Mom’s hands and got her a bus ticket to San Diego County where her sister lived. So my Mother escaped her persecutor in 1955.
My mom had been abused for years and it started very soon after she was married. He had nearly succeeded in killing her a couple of times. She had been hospitalized with physical injuries and a nervous breakdown at one point. Mostly his abuse was directed at her, but she said he came home once and out of the blue had decided that their premature baby girl did not belong to him and threw her out in a snow bank. He wouldn’t let mom out so the neighbors rescued her from the snow. She was even made to cook breakfast for the ill fated girlfriend he brought home one morning. The list of abuses goes on and on ad nauseum until I feel it is overkill to continue recounting the horrors she told me of. As we would say today “there is way too much drama here” but how do you tell it any other way? My mom told so few people what had been done to her. She said her stomach got sick with shame, when they averted their eyes. Some of them knew she was being hurt and no one did anything. One woman even told her to quit doing what made him so mad. She felt the shame he should have felt.
This story could be the story of any of thousands of abused women. The only thing that sets this life apart is the fact that my grandfather, was the sheriff of Liberal, Kansas during that time. The denial this man was capable of must have been phenomenal. All the times he saw my mom beat up and all he ever did was put his son in jail until he sobered up and when he got home he was even more irate about being put in jail. This man allowed his son to run amuck all his life. A few years after we left; the citizens of the town demanded he be kicked out of town and he had to go live on a farm outside the city limits. The citizens were tired of his bullying, property damage, and fighting. He was ferocious; fueled by alcohol he vent his rage and aggression against lesser committed combatants usually in one of the bars but mostly at home.
If my grandfather had taken stronger measures with him he might have been able to save the life of the girlfriend he had when he was with my mom. It wasn’t long after we left that she began wearing bruises and I am sure they were even worse than what my mom received because then he had the added rage of mom’s “defection” with “his kids“. The woman ended up leaving him and staying with a friend. He used a small dog as a ruse to get a shotgun and snuck into town. He told the woman on the farm the dog was sick and needed to be taken care of; and so he gained access to a shotgun and snuck into town very early in the morning. He murdered that poor woman with three shotgun blasts and then turned the gun on himself; if it weren’t for God’s grace and mercy that could have been my Mom.
We were safely in California out of harms way. She had received threats from him but he never carried anything out that she let me know of. She married a Highway Patrolman who adopted all three of us kids. He treated her with great respect as a precious companion. We children called him daddy.
Headlines for women who were killed by domestic violence rarely stated the fact that they were chronically abused. Most headlines read something like “Man Kills Wife in the Heat of the Moment.” If a man beat his wife it was usually bumped from Criminal Court to Family Court where civil procedures were applied, usually 48 hours in jail. When the local newspaper in Liberal reported on the murder/ suicide, no mention was made that he had been beating on this woman for quite some time; or of a former wife who he abused for years, or an infant thrown into a snow bank.
It is more than a little ironic to me that the ASPCA was founded in 1866, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children was established in 1875. Both of these societies came very far in advance of any preventive measures to protect women.
Today there are many women who give a voice to the one who is abused and thank God for them. These outspoken women are now making it possible for the abusers to be prosecuted fully. In some places the option of pressing charges is no longer in the hands of the abused. They can be intimidated too easily. The law is clear the abuser goes to jail and awaits a hearing. Sadly it is too late for some, like my dad’s girlfriend. But now my daughter and yours have some protection in place. But laws will not force civil behavior on anyone who will not be civil and sad to say the problem with the human heart is still…the human heart.
All of man’s laws do little good. Maybe a little for some. But man’s law is just God’s law expanded on . Thou Shalt Not Kill!! How clear can it get? Husbands love your wives as god loves the church! Husbands love your wives as yourselves! Man’s law is needed “with teeth,” but on an unreformed heart it is barely a containment. Until the law is written in all hearts we will all be at risk.
Linda Kellett is a mother of four grown children and grandmother of five currently living in San Marcos, CA. Following after her dad in this story she became an alcoholic in her late teens and taking after her mom she is a survivor. A recovering alcoholic of eleven years; she now has a file full of life experiences she draws on to write She doesn’t write much in the way of feel good, warm fuzzy experiences. But she does keep focus on escape routes - and she attempts to blow denial to smithereens. Her favorite saying is “openness is to healing what secrecy is to illness.” A quote from someone she read that she has found to be key in her own life. She writes in an attempt to show those in the grip of addictions that there is life “after.” Life is doable and fun and totally worth the effort. She is a member of the Carlsbad, CA. Seventh Day Adventist church where she is the Assistant Treasurer; she also is part of the Grief and Military Ministries there. Today she feels God’s leading in the area of writing and the need to tap into that “file of experience.”