Duffle bags, carryalls and backpacks lay strewn on the basement floor packed and ready for our trip to the Oregon coast. A refrigerator for cold drinks, a microwave and full closet were extra amenities that made this area homey and self-contained. Bed sheets were crisp and perfectly made complete with hospital corners. A fragrant bouquet infused with tones of unknown annuals drifted through the room from hanging baskets just outside our door. Trips back from Saudi were spent here, up the mile long dirt road that wound and curved all the way to the house on the hill. Since our move back we spent many weekends and holidays in this very room, laughing and feeling the guarded freedom that we now enjoyed. This house held more than comfort and memories, it reminded me of the person that I had once been.
Sweaty fingers grasped the phone, holding the receiver, pushing buttons and finally disconnecting it from the wall. His words were clear, “You are a liar, a thief” and now it seemed as if his rages had permeated even this safe place and had leaked over to my mother and father. I heard my dad’s voice loud and bold “DO NOT CALL AGAIN” and then the phone was disconnected. I scurried around pushing bags, picking up clothing, pacing past each child, counting heads. It was 1 a.m., I surveyed the darkened room and stood ready, on alert thinking of a plan to pack and head back home. The urge to flee was muted by my mother’s calm yet firm reminders that we needed to get sleep and the vacation would go on as scheduled.
She paced back and forth on the grass just outside the slider, a pensive look could be seen on her face as she fiddled with a shirt sleeve. I surveyed the room, plastic buckets and shovels, treats stacked neatly on the dream bed mom had fashioned for me and the youngest children. I stood frozen staring at the childlike figure that walked back and forth through the early spring foliage. She held the grace and fury of a woman on a mission and she would not be dissuaded by fear and rancor.
Numerous voicemails containing threats and warnings instructed us to leave my parents’ home and return to the little apartment. He cautioned that he would be coming to take his children away if they went anywhere without his express permission. We were not allowed to have a vacation and no one would enjoy the company of his children if he was not along. I held the phone listening to each word repeatedly until her soft slender hands touched mine and removed it from my shaking fingers.
She shut the door and waited for the next call, walking past the window through the trees and bushes. An hour passed and her exasperated and shaken expression turned to sadness. The usual shame and guilt took hold realizing that my daughter now had to manage crazy that had no limits. I collected myself and lightly moved beside her as she listened to his raging voice, “YES I want your mother dead so I can take my children back to Saudi, yes dead!”
Her eyes welled up with tears, but numbness and strength coursed through my brain. It was finally spoken, heard and real and meant that maybe I was not the unbalanced and spoiled woman he had been “burdened” with.