The day I ‘left home’ is a bit of a hazy memory now. I think I remember what happened, but no-one who was there will ever talk honestly about it. I can only go on my own fallible memory.
It was a weekend, but I’m not sure if it was a Saturday or a Sunday. My brother had left home a few months before, and gone to live with my mum. I didn’t have anyone to protect any more, and I had become more reckless. I didn’t just accept what was happening as completely as I had before.
I was hiding from the storm brewing in my stepmother. My room was just across the hall from the kitchen/dining room, so I could hear her temper rising with the sound of her voice. My father was her target this time.
I couldn’t listen to my gentle father being abused any more. He never did anything that I saw to make her treat him the way she did. He did everything she wanted, turned a blind eye to the horrible things she did. But it wasn’t enough to stop her from screaming at him rather often.
So I came out of my room, shaking with fear but determined to have my voice heard. I still couldn’t stand up for myself, but I could stand up for my father. I felt like I might have deserved the abuse that rained down on me, but he most certainly did not.
I stood there and told her to stop. Told her that she couldn’t treat my dad like that. And I turned a fairly normal storm into a screaming tempest.
She screamed at me to get out, and the look in her eyes was enough to tell me that walking away was not an option. I had to run. Somewhere in all this my father told me to go to my grandparents’ place, a half-hour walk from where we lived.
I left with the clothes I was wearing. As I ran down the street, she threw crockery out the window after me. I hated to leave dad to deal with the tempest I had caused, but I had no power to change his choices, and he chose to stay. As ever, he chose his abusive wife over his victimised children. He may be a gentle man, a loving one, but his choices are still misguided, and the results are still awful.
My father came down a few hours later, and dropped off my school gear and some clothes. I was to stay with my grandparents for the forseeable future. I decided in that moment never to go back. I did return once, but that’s a story for another time.
I was fifteen years old, and I was out of my father’s home. A few months later, I moved out of my grandparents’ home, and struck out on my own. I’ve been more or less out for the past ten years, with a few brief exceptions. It hasn’t been easy, and the support of my mother and her family made it possible to survive some very rough times. It’s a life I wouldn’t wish on anyone.