Sunday, April 20, 2014

I'm No Savior

I really want to come clean about why I'm so angry about domestic violence. This shit is dangerous. This has been burning a hole in my soul (not to mention my stomach)  I am neither a victim or a survivor, just a girl who fell in love with the wrong dream once upon a time. Part of me is terrified to write about this. My parents will most likely read this,  and I don't want to cause them pain. The other part of me tells me to get this dirt off my shoulder and take a deep breath of clean air. Because I owe it to other women of my ilk. This is the raw,  brutal truth,  and it's not for the faint of heart.
My ex husband was violent long before we were married. I still remember the first time he hit me. Some stupid argument ended with him backhanding me several times across my face. I ran to the bathroom, locked myself in. My eyes were already swollen almost completely shut. The bruises were already forming, as were the petechial hemorrhages in my eyes. I forgave him,  he begged and cried that night. He brought me ice packs and vicodin to help ease the pain that he had caused. I look back on that night, more than a decade ago, and I think to myself   "Why?". There is no answer,  no logical conclusion. Over the next few weeks  he laid off my face. This isn't to say he stopped hitting me, just not my face, Mostly because those black eyes and broken nose caused my boss to tell me to stay home and until they faded. So that put a huge dent in our income.  I was waitressing at a very busy restaurant located on a well traveled highway. I was making damn good money,  but when that money wasn't there,  I was a fucking punching bag.
I've had people who know me now tell me that they can't imagine me not fighting back or allowing it to happen. I didn't start out going down with out a fight. I fought back,  and hard. I've always been a scrapper. However, he was bigger and stronger, and always told me that as an ex Marine, he could kill me with his bare hands. I believed him. I  mean, he obviously had  skills when it came to subduing me. There were so many times when I would come to with him standing over me saying,  "Get the fuck up,  you're still breathing"  At that point in my life,  I really did want to stop breathing. I wanted him to kill me so I wouldn't have to do it myself. There comes a time when you're just fucking tired. You don't have the energy to fight anymore, death starts to sound delicious, just close your eyes and never open them again.
When you're in that spot,  there is no light. No sunshine, no yellow brick road.
The worst part is, just a few  months after he broke something besides my nose, it was just my wrist, I went ahead and married him. It was an excellent wedding, enjoyed by all. I remember just soaking it all up, enjoying the little bit of his good  moods. People always said that we were a beautiful couple. We were,  we looked great in pictures. But what was truly going on was blackout dark.
He waited almost 3 months after the wedding to hurt me again. This time, he choked me until I passed out and then dumped dirty kitty litter all over me. When I got up and tried to go take a shower, he held me down and told me to "marinate in it'.
The next few years consisted of episodes similar to this. I always say that we had different needs. I needed him to get a job and act like a husband, he needed to lay around, drink beer that my two jobs paid for  and beat the shit out of me for sport.
By the time I was 24, he had broken my nose twice,  fractured three of my ribs, broken my left wrist twice, knocked out one of my back molars, and caused a curvature in my upper spine that still won't go away. And the best was still to come.
Eventually,I  could no longer keep us afloat. Always having to move,  never able to pay rent, evictions and repossessions were the name of the game
So we had to move. This time to Missouri, where. he was from. I hated the idea. And I could have stayed in California, if only I could have swallowed my pride, and told mom and dad that I didn't want to go. Unfortunately, I didn't. I went along,  thinking that the train wreck that was our marriage would  magically improve, and I'd be a fucking Disney Princess.
Things looked pretty good for awhile. He was in a great mood, catching up with all of his old friends. I was working (of course) he was actually in some pulling some income doing masonry work. It didn't last long.
Time out.  You may not want to read the rest of this. Turn back now if you're not ready for the gritty, ugly truth. I won't blame you one bit.
July 17th 2006 was the first time he raped me. Some people don't understand how a husband can rape his wife. Married or not,  sex should never be painful, you should never have to beg for him to stop. I  just had to stop for a second, and take a deep breath and remind myself why I'm doing this. Sometimes honesty fucking sucks. So get honest, Sarah. He didn't just rape me, he also sodimized me. Right now, I can't believe I just put that out there, and I am so tempted to delete it. It's humiliating and embarrassing. But fuck, if I don't say it, who will? I know I'm not the only one. And I was raised with the belief that silence cures nothing, it just creates more ugliness. So there it is. It's out there.
For anyone who has ever been in an abusive situation, you know it escalates. He became increasingly more psychotic.  One night, he stabbed me. Right below the left side of my rib cage. He used a K bar, for those of you who don't know, it's an extremely sharp,  double sided blade, meant to be used in close combat. I think he scared himself that night.. The knife went in a good inch and a half, maybe a little more. When he pulled it out, I went to the bathroom, cleaned it,  and used super glue to suture it.
It was at this point, I knew  that I was going to die. I looked into the mirror and was faced with my own mortality. I couldn't figure it out. What the fuck was I doing? This was not how I was raised.
But I still couldn't stand up for myself. I don't know why.
A few days later, I was going to go out with some friends I had met at work. He was from this area, he had been going out with the boys. I wanted a girls night. He said he was OK with it. And seemingly he was. Until I started doing my hair, which was down to the middle of my back at the time. I was curling my hair and he walked in, demanding to know why I thought I needed to get all dolled up,  since I was just going out with the girls. I tried to keep it light, telling him he always shaved before he went out, so why can't I curl my hair. Wrong move.  Checkmate. He grabbed me by the back of my head and slammed my face into the toilet tank. I could barely breathe , I was choking on the blood pouring from my nose and mouth. The last thing I remember before I blacked out was him saying,  "looks like it's nice and hot for you".  I don't really remember what it felt like when he raped me with that curling iron, I was barely conscious. My sickness continued. The next day, I was in the ER due to the nasty side effects that come with that sort of violation , I was actually texting him to ask if he was OK. Because he was so upset with himself, don't you know.
The point of me telling you this is not to scare you, shock you, or make you hate men. I love men, they're slightly retarded at times, but there are a lot of good ones out there. If you're in a situation , and you need help, there are lots of us out there to help you. I don't have all the answers, but I have resources. There are people who will make the safety and well being of you and your children top priority. We're here for you. You don't have to be alone.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Family Feels Like

Its sad, but there are far too many people in this world who know what its like to fall into the solid but comforting embrace of family. Fortunately, the universe has blessed me, and I know exactly where to turn when I need that sort of warmth.
Growing up, it always seemed like my family (my parents, myself, and my younger brother) were somewhat odd in comparison to other families I knew. For one thing, we were all together, under the same roof. Before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I am absolutely not criticizing families that are split due to divorce or anything else. I'm just saying that it was somewhat of a rarity.
That wasn't the only difference. Its hard to explain, its more of an essence or an aura that set us apart, rather than a list of black and white reasons. We were always (and still are) a tight unit. Through thick and thin, arguments and resentments, hurt feelings and other nonsense, at the end of the day, we're all Kirbys, and we love each other fiercely.
I'm the oldest Kirby child. Mom and Dad got married when they were 17 and 19, respectively. A little over a year later, I was born. Surprise!  Yep, neither one of my parents are quite 20 years my senior. In a sense we grew up together. I remember a lot of things, there were struggles and strife, no doubt. Mostly though, I remember always feeling safe and secure. Mom and Dad never failed me there.
When I was about 6 1/2, my brother Sam was born. I was perfectly content being an only child, but my parents had the audacity to go ahead with having another child without consulting me. Yes, even at that tender age, I had a bad attitude and a slightly diva-like temperament. I eventually got used to the idea of a sibling, and I must say, when he finally debuted on the scene he was pretty cute and entertaining. For all of you with siblings, you know that shit don't last. We grew into typical siblings. I was the bitchy, bossy loudmouth who always got in trouble, ( still am) while Sam was the quiet conniver. I laugh when I think of all the times I got in trouble because I have no ”inside voice" , and Sam would win, because he knew how to torture me silently. This is not to say that he was the villain, I was definitely meaner than he was capable of.
One of the things that happen when siblings have a large age gap like ours, is that you stop growing up together at a certain point. I became an adult (albeit a poor excuse for one). I moved out at 21, married later that same year. Sam was still in high school. Over the next few years, I lost myself in an ugly relationship, and an even uglier battle with drugs and alcohol. That's a whole different story, so I won't expand on it right now. Sam went off to college, and I moved out of state.  I remember during that time, I missed my family, but mostly Sam. I felt like I was missing a lot of really important stuff. For one thing, the kid was growing up to be a hell of a lot like our father. Smart, hardworking, honest. Also quite a bit like our mother, compassionate and headstrong. Good shit.
I eventually moved back to California, and due to Sam being on the  North coast, and me in the high desert ( and the fact that I still hadn't pulled my alcoholic head out of my ass) we only saw each other on holidays. My relationship with my entire family was extremely strained during this time. (Did I mention my head up my ass?) Long story short, I eventually handled my business, went to rehab, and set about getting a life. When I got out of rehab, Sam had been with Kalindi for maybe a couple of years, I'm not precisely sure. I had met her when Sam graduated from HSU, but I've always felt that people I met before I got clean in late 2011 should be revisited. So my sober self hadn't spent a significant amount of time with her. Until her, myself, and my mother sat and played marathon rounds offers rummy around Christmas that year. Wanna get to know someone? Play cards with  them for 6 hours or so. I definitely liked her, she fit in well  and didn't seem to want to run screaming into the hills, because Kirbys can be slightly overwhelming.
Let's fast forward again. After cleaning up my messy life, I finally graduated beauty school, and celebrated by catching a train up to Humboldt to see my brother and my sister in law. (That's right, I said it. I'd call her my sister but that would be creepy. This ain't Arkansas) I was stoked. Sam and I hadn't really spent more than 48 hours or so together in years, and I was really looking forward to getting to know Kalindi even more. I spent an amazing week with them. Doing nothing more than just chilling, talking, eating. You know, FAMILY stuff. I got completely reacquainted with my little brother, yes basically the same kid. Just taller, hairier, and more responsible, but with the same intelligent and creative spark in his eyes. Maybe even more importantly, I came to adore Kalindi. She's perfect for Sam, an excellent balance. When you grow up the way I did, with young parents and a sibling this much younger, its almost like being a third parent. You get a little protective about people who come into the life of the one you hold dearly. I have no worries, however. The day I left Arcata after my visit was bittersweet. It was a little teary, but its always difficult to leave something that makes your heart sing. On the sweet side, it was excellent to see that kid, who is the spitting image of our father, all grown up, doing his thing and starting a family with an amazing woman.
Did I say starting a family? OK, well it hadn't happened yet at that point. Several months later, I received the best phone call ever. There is a baby on the way.  End of next month sometime. I'm going to be an aunt. I'm beyond excited about it. I always knew he'd beat me to the punch, and I'm OK with that. At a point in my life, I swore I'd never have children. I may be reconsidering that. But I digress. That kid that our amazing mother father raised? He's going to be an amazing father, just like Kalindi will be an outstanding mother. I'm feeling pretty damn blessed right now, because family is everything. And mine is getting bigger. For some, family has nothing to do with blood or birth certificates, but the people who are there for you with a smile and a hug, who stick it out with you, accept your faults and admit their own. Family is a feeling. You can't buy it, trade it or steal it. It comes from a place within you that no one else can ever touch. Its priceless, hang on to it at all costs, its worth the fight, so don't give up the ship.
Here's to the future.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Follow Up

So, I haven't posted about Staceys memorial service. I haven't really felt like it, I felt like some things should be held close for a minute before we let them go. But here's how it went.
First, let me describe what I was wearing. A red dress, with one long sleeve and the other with no shoulder attached by a gold chain, and of course a pair of 6 inch heels. She had told me at one point to wear something trashy to her funeral. It wasn't totally trashy, but I feel like she would have approved. The service was held at a private home. it was a packed house. At least 60 to 80 people. There were chairs set up in a semi circle in a huge family room. Her two boys were there, looking like little men in their suits and ties. They were so polite to everyone who came by and said "I'm sorry for your loss". I said nothing to then. Just hugged them. Kaleb, her youngest said to me, "I like your dress. You smell really good." I kind of laughed and thanked him. I went to sit down in the third row, that's when Sergio came up to me and said "Come sit with the family". I've said it before, I have no idea what I did, but I'm honored to be considered part of the family. I sat down in the front row with the boys, Staceys mother, Sergio and his parents. There was a table with pictures of Stacey. Some alone, some with her family. One was right after the first time I had done her hair. She had so much hair. Immediately, my morbid brain jumps to that sick feeling I had the first time I washed her hair after chemo and it came out in gobs in my hands. Fuck that, this isn't about me. Stop having ridiculous thoughts. I'm looking at the people filling up all the seats. It's getting to be standing room only. I'm getting a little nervous. I'm really going to have to read this shit and say "dick sucking" in front of all these people. Kill me now. Please let a giant tornado come through and whisk me into oblivion. Yeah, that never happens when I need it to.
My incessant nervous foot tapping must have caught Sergios attention, because he leaned over and whispered "Check your phone". My phone was off, of course, and buried in the depths of hell that is my purse. I found it and read the text he had sent, "you'll be OK. Just read it. Btw you're up first"
What the fuck? First? Can I at least get an opening band? Guess now would be a good time to start breathing.  Here's my introduction.
"Friends and family, thank you for being here to celebrate the life of the love of my life, the mother of my children, and my best friend. I think you all know that Stacey was a special kind of crazy. There is someone here who I think can describe her better than anyone else. Sarah, no editing, please "
OK so this is not how I pictured my big moment. More like a thank you speech to the Academy. But here I go, devil in a red dress and a pair of hooker heels. Deep breath.
I read it. I did pretty good, no serious breakdown. I made sure I kept my head down, no eye contact. I got a few laughs, but who cares, this ain't Midnight at the Apollo. I just kept reading, knowing full well that if I looked up at her two now motherless sons, 13 and 9, her mother who couldn't understand why she was burying her  32 year old daughter, and a husband who was barely holding it down, I was gonna fucking lose it. I read through my first blog post, and I was OK. Until I got to the end, when I read this. "Stacey was not only my client, she was my friend, and a kindred spirit.  She he didn't lose the fight,  she finally took pity on the other team and threw the game. Girl , wherever you are right now, I hope you take pride in knowing you took care of your boys right up to the end. They will always have the memory of a mother was a fighter, a nurturer, and an all around badass. Someone who loved them with a fierceness that no one will ever match. The moment that Sergio  called me and said these three words to me,  "Sarah, it's over"  will always be in my heart as one of the saddest, but also one of the proudest of my entire life. Sad, because I'm going to miss your crazy ass, but proud because Sergio told me that I was only the second person he had called. I am beyond honored that you and your family considered me that important. I don't know what I did, but I am forever in your debt. You taught me some things. One of my favorite quotes of all time is "Tell them to fight faster. Don't give up the ship." Captain James Lawrence, his dying command aboard the USS Chesapeake, War of 1812. It fits you to a T, my friend. You just fought faster, knowing you were going down, but you'd be damned if everything else was going to fall apart in your absence. One of the last things you ever said to me was a text that read, "I read your blog. Who's dick do I have to suck to get a mention? “ I wrote about you that night.And still, no dick sucking required. I would tell you to rest in peace, but that ain't you, sugar. Give em hell, and fuck shit up. That's how girls like us roll. Stacey Renee Ridgemoore-Valenzuela you will forever be my main bitch. I love you."
So, I kinda fell apart when I was reading that, and before I was halfway through, her husband just came up and held my hand. Not in creepy way. Just like a hey, we're friends and we're gonna get through this kind of way. The rest of it is kind of a blur. Others spoke, there was so much to say about her. We could have been there all night, days even.
Sometimes,  on your journey, you meet someone special. You meet people who help to shape your life, and you usually don't realize it at the time. So embrace every moment, every friend, chance encounter; and every moment of your seemingly silly, insignificant life. It's cliché, but tomorrow really isn't promised. The pain of loss is nothing compared to the pain of an empty life.