He circled me several times, yelling, with his arms extended out back and to the sides before he took off for the house toward the children. I ran behind him. I was still so weak at that point. My heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest. My head felt funny, and the trees and the ground shifted side to side, making it difficult to stay erect.  My equilibrium had never recovered completely from the incident in January.  Every time one of my feet hit the ground the pounding resonated up into my chest and then into my head.  But, I had to run.  I had to get in between him and the kids.

He beat me there and already had his finger pointed in the 11 year old’s face by the time I reached them.  He was yelling at him.  I tried to maneuver my body in between them and mustered a shaky, “You cannot treat the children like this anymore.”  It took every ounce of everything I had in me to stand there and say that.  He turned, glaring at me, and wildly threw his arms back and his chest out and demanded, “You want me to stop?  You want me to stop?”  I softly, almost pleadingly answered, “Yes, that’s all I’ve ever wanted is for you to just stop.”  The fluorescent yellow hue of his shirt was covering his arms and face.  I knew I was about to have another episode and I was panicked, but I fought it.  I didn’t want him to know that I was struggling to stand up.  He yelled, “I’ll stop alright!  I’m outta here!”

I felt instant relief.  I could hardly believe my moment had come!  It was what I had prayed for!  He was leaving!  Hallelujah!

Within a day I had replaced his photos with pictures of my children, my grandson, and me.  I boxed the very few items he left behind and put them up.  I rearranged rooms.  I swept his residue from my home.  I removed all mementos and possible reminders of our life together.

There are things to which he still clings though.  There is a residue of which I cannot rid myself.

My sleep last night was sweet and deep.  I awoke on my own feeling rested, which is highly unusual for me.  However, the very moment consciousness bullied my dreams into their boxes I became acutely aware of an intense pain.  It felt like someone had poured concrete into my muscles, ligaments, and joints, and it had hardened as my mind waltzed carelessly to the sweet songs of slumber.  My body often betrays my mind like this.

I can’t even remember all of the times he attacked me and all of the injuries.  My older children sometimes tell about episodes I’ve completely forgotten.  For instance, my oldest daughter shared with a long time friend of mine that she remembered him choking me and, while still holding me by the throat, throwing me onto the stove.  I had erased that one from my memory.

However, there are two instances that were apparently burned into the memory of every cell of my body.  I remember them clearly.

One was the time he was again choking me and slammed my back into the corner wall by the front door.  I could feel the sharp edge of where the two walls meet pressing hard along my spine.  His long, bony fingers were closing my airway and holding me still.  He shoved his forehead into my forehead and shoved hard against me.  My head snapped to the left under the pressure of his head as he still held my throat tightly.  There was an audible tearing sound and an instant searing pain.

Another evening several years after that incident I was lying on the living room floor in front of the fire.  I had a severe headache, and my neck and shoulders were racked with pain.  He came up behind me and took my head in his hands.  I asked him to stop.  He calmly assured me that he just wanted to help me, so he was going to stretch my neck.  I was afraid, and I was as stiff as a board.  He again tried to reassure me and told me that I had to relax.  He swore that he would not try to adjust my neck but that he would only stretch the muscles.  I took a deep breath and tried hard to concentrate and relax.  He moved my head slowly and easily from one side to the other and then……SNAP!  In one smooth movement he tried to snap my neck.  Again, an audible tearing sound was heard and was accompanied by an instant burning pain.

Now, today, the damage lingers, and I suffer.

That searing, burning pain all those years ago was not merely a physical sensation.  It was him etching himself and his cruelty into my body so that even once he was gone I would forever carry these painful reminders of him.