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Daddy

Kimber's father has always loved her dearly, but our marriage was a fiasco.

Last Stand on Freedom Avenue

NOVEMBER 11, 2012 | PAULA WRAY

"We're gonna get rid of Mommy and get you a new Mommy." My first husband's words are forever seared in my memory. Arguing my fitness as a parent would be pointless and dangerous. But I made a mental note, "we'll see who we get rid of."

What a train wreck Kimber was born into. It wasn't the location that was the problem at Freedom Avenue Trailer Court, it's what went on inside that mobile home. We lived a life of dark secrets - drunkenness, poverty, domination, violence, hatred. How this existence is formed or what compels a person to stay I can't fully explain myself. Suffice it to say I lived in a prison and Rick was the jailer. I had no more regard for him than I would a rabid badger. Yet he was more miserable than I. Rick was not a mastermind of manipulation, but was only acting out the role he had been taught as the son of a misogynist alcoholic.

I think we both knew that we should not bring a child into this mess, but after 12 years of marriage, along came Kimber. I held out hope she would inspire a change in her father, but it wasn't to be. When she was two years old, the nightly commotion started disturbing her sleep, and I knew it was time to end this nightmare. My daughter was not going to grow up this way.

On December 23, 1990 Rick came home drunk and bullying as usual. We had repeated this scene a thousand times and knew our parts perfectly. His role was to unleash a torrent of vile and demeaning insults, heinous threats, and orders. Then he would pass out, wake up, and repeat. This could go on for hours. My role was to do exactly as he says, because his penchant for brutality was only exacerbated by any challenge to his authority.  I could put up some resistance during his sober hours, but arguing with him drunk was dangerous. He had pointed a loaded gun at me more than once.

But tonight I was ready to make my stand. College had given me a little self-esteem and motherhood instilled the resolve to make a better life for my child. And so that night I was not playing along. This was predictably met with a violent outburst that led to a 911 call and the phone being torn from the wall.

Kimber was still sleeping soundly oblivious to the drama in the other room.  I knew he would never harm his little girl. If I could make it out the front door, I could go for help. Anticipating this maneuver, Rick grabbed my car keys. I hesitated a moment, then ran out anyway, wearing only a nightgown and walking barefoot in freezing rain. Scanning the trailer court, I spied a light in a home at the far end. "I'll be back for you, Little Girl."

white coat

Today my daughter is a happy, newly-married, professional who works a stone's throw away, yet a million miles from, Freedom Avenue Trailer Court. She has a good relationship with her father who has been sober for 10 years.

Our lives can change with every breath we take.

― Billie Letts, Where the Heart Is