And then Kermit changed his mind. He just wasn’t ready to get married. It was too late for me to keep my job or housing. He mailed me a check to carry me over for a month.
So Vince and I never moved to California. Instead, we moved into a friend’s unheated attic that winter until we could get a foothold and start over. Then we moved again, and that didn’t work out, so we moved again. Vince changed schools three times that year. I started working as a freelance writer so I could say I was self employed instead of unemployed. Also because I was too depressed to get out of bed, so woodenly depressed that I wasn’t thinking about Vince. Facing the impact of my behavior on him would have produced such massive guilt that it would have pushed me over the edge.
But wait, there’s more!
I went back to Kermit, after months of him apologizing, begging, wooing, and having massive bouquets of flowers delivered to my door.
And so Kermit and Vince and I flew back and forth, and the hurled Coke can turned into me being hurled—hurled, punched, kicked, and strangled. Once, in the course of strangling me, Kermit broke his own thumb. I can still see him standing over me, as I choked and gasped my way back to consciousness. “You bitch! Look what you did—you broke my thumb!”
A few years ago I had an x-ray for some reason, and the doctor asked me about my old neck injury. “Looks like you had a pretty significant injury,” he said. I had no idea what it could be, until a few days later it dawned on me that this was probably from the time Kermit had tried to strangle me.
The only ones who knew what was really going on were the St. Paul Police, St. Paul Fire Department, and Vince.
Kermit and I went camping in the Grand Canyon, where he beat me black and blue in our tent (but only where clothing would cover the bruises; he never hit me in the face). I escaped to the car, locked myself in, and shivered through the night. Back in St. Paul, I went to the police, who photographed my bruises. They couldn’t do anything because Kermit was in another state, but I thought telling others would keep me from going back to him.
When I tried to cut it off, Kermit would call 911, say he was my doctor, and tell them he feared I was having seizures. Would they go to my house right away and check on me, breaking down the door if necessary? I would hear banging on the door at 3 am, and find firefighters with axes posed to smash down the door.
I kept flying out to see him, spending money I didn’t have. That’s right, Kermit never paid. One of his recurring accusations was that I was a gold digger, so although he made at least 10 times what I did, he never paid for my tickets. He did fly Vince out for the World Series, and they drove up to Oakland in a limo. He bought Vince an A’s hat and jacket and full collection of baseball cards. Vince was in thrall to him.
Kermit and I took a road trip to Napa and visited vineyards. He bought expensive bottles of wine for his “collection” Which never made it back because he drained them all. He told me he had access to drugs he could use to kill me if I tried to leave him, and no one would ever be able to figure it out because, after all, he was a genius.
I can’t bring myself to write about how it ended, but it finally did, with an interstate restraining order against him.
Vince knew I had done the right thing but he was crushed to lose his idol. Was it this episode that set Vince on the road to prison—on top of not having a dad, growing up in poverty, having a depressed mom, and being genetically loaded for addiction, compounded by all his bad choices?
I was beyond moved by this entry, as I have been while readings others that you and Vince have written. You have owned your stories — both as individuals and as a family — in a way that most of us aspire to do. The cycle of abuse is nearly impossible to break, yet you did it. Take a minute to celebrate that fact today. I’ll be celebrating you, too.