Jim’ll Fix It

It seems inconceivable, I’m sure, that there is something my mother did to me that is worse than taking my stepfather back after finding out he had been sexually abusing me for years. I can see why, when you read this story, you will most likely disagree that this was the worst thing she did on that very basis. However, weighing up the level of upset and the sense of utter betrayal, her marriage to Jim was the event that was to change the course of things to come for my mother, Daniel and I.
As I have alluded throughout the stories that blighted my youth, my relationship with Mum became one where I was the parent and she was the daughter. She threw herself at inappropriate suitor after inappropriate suitor as I watched on from the wings in horror and frustration. We fell into an unfortunate cycle where she found herself many much younger men who moved in with us for the briefest of periods and she fell irrevocably in love with each and every one of them. Sure enough, when the time came that the fumes of her desperation overpowered their senses these young men left– but not before messing her around and torturing her. Heartbroken yet tenaciously gripping on to their ankles as they tried to walk away, she regaled me with tales of their every misdemeanour while bundling us into her Corsa to sit outside the home they usually shared with their parents and watch for the glimpse of an ex-girlfriend to turn up (she had a strange obsession with her partners getting back with their exes). I was left hating these boys for the way they treated my mother and the subsequent impact this had on the equilibrium of my life but when they returned to her frantic embrace days, weeks or months later she would drop their transgressions like grains of sand sliding through her fingers. I was left detesting them alone on her behalf while Daniel became an ostrich, burying his little head in the sand.
Mum and I were quite literally at each other’s throats about this ongoing saga. Over and over again we argued at decibels the entire neighbourhood could hear; about how I hated these men she was bringing in to our home and she was acting like a delusional, love-struck teenager. She flew to their defence each and every time, layering brick on top of brick in her defensive wall against me. There developed a great, tumultuous ocean between us: the land I stood on seemed reasonable and enlightened while her continent was overgrown with weeds of desperation and poison ivy curling around trees sprung from jealous, rotten roots. It scraped against my sense of loyalty that I consistently bent over backwards to protect and shield her from so much yet my opinions, my thoughts and my feelings meant so little to her. If there was a hierarchy in my mother’s life I very firmly knew exactly where I was placed. From the moment she met another new scoundrel or malcontent I sunk a fraction lower in her priorities until I was nothing more than a distant annoyance to her somewhere in the peripheries of her life.
And then she met Jim.
Jim was a very, very long way down a list of men who progressively got worse and worse as the years went on and the mileage on mum’s life expanded. I was now in my early-twenties and had moved back home after university. I was a qualified, successful professional battling with severe obsessive compulsive tendencies and pretty crippling anorexia. In short, I was an emotional mess. But, swanlike in my approach to life, I appeared totally serene on the surface as my feet heaved beneath my precariously low weight.
I made a promise to myself after the fractious, tempestuous drama of whomsoever the most recent man-child had been that I would butt out of the shit-show that was my mum’s romantic endeavours and let the proverbial chips fall where they may. As she began messaging yet another male I assumed to be a total loser she had found in the deepest abyss of unwanted tripe on Plenty of Fish, I decided I would be open to not ardently hating him with immediate effect. If and when the time came that I met the next one, I would be agreeable and unsuspicious and unguarded; assuming the worst had always proven me right when it came to matters of Mum’s heart but I needed to remember I was not her mother and I could not protect her when she was resolved not to protect herself.
I met Jim very quickly into their relationship and tried to ignore the sense of unease that set in instantaneously; I felt my hackles come up instinctively but soothed them back down – he was not my choice but I did not have to be with him, Mum did.
Jim was a chubby, short little man with lots of tattoos, each as shite as the next. He wore Reebok Classics with no socks and shorts all year round. He whistled and sang everywhere he went and spoke with a Bognor Regis twang which made him sound even more unintelligent than I already knew him to be. His white hair was spiked up in a perpetual plight to cling onto the youth that had long since left his rotund body; he shaved his armpits and cleared his nose out audibly in the shower. The very fact he drew breath in my presence repulsed me but I reminded myself that I needed to at least try not to hate someone just because they existed.
Mum moved him in like a shotgun and at first, it was just OK. I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was untrustworthy and I knew I didn’t like him on a personal level but for the sake of not creating an inhospitable environment in our home for the billionth time I gritted my teeth and embraced the cyclical change imposed upon me. He would be gone soon enough. Putting up with his actuality became more difficult though as Jim began to systematically close down my mother’s life piece by piece. It seemed she had finally met her match and karma had arrived in cargo shorts and a Superdry hoodie.
First of all, Jim insisted on having Mum completely to himself. This was fine by me as she was an irritant to my existence and vice versa. However, he enclosed her in her bedroom from the moment he got back from work and Daniel, the dog, the cat and I were shut out. We now had to knock if we wanted or needed to speak to her at any time and the animals could whine and paw at the door as much as they wanted but when Mum and Jim retired to the bedroom they were not seen again until the next morning. I said nothing.
Next, the arguments and subsequent punishments began. Jim worked away as a shop-fitter and spent some weeknights in hotels. When he worked away, if he had left on a sour note, he would block Mum and not speak to her until he returned home up to five days later. They had blazing rows as he battered down her willpower, turning her into a crumpled, snivelling wreck begging him to stay with her. Victorious, all was forgiven until he decided to shift the power dynamics again and remind her who was boss. She became a shadow of the woman she had been.
What did they argue about? Usually the same thing: his ex. The story was a particularly shady one involving an Eastern European girl much younger than him called Cindy. The details were purposely left sketchy but Jim divulged he met Cindy at a hotel on one of his weeks away and she ended up moving in with him. Long story short, she contracted meningitis and this led to her hospitalisation – on a Paediatric Ward (fucking strange) and the amputation of both her feet. Cindy now lived with Jim’s father and stepmother and refused to speak to Jim, believing him to be the physical representation of her status as an amputee. Understandably she found his existence offensive. Jim, in turn, proclaimed he was wracked with guilt over the fiasco as he had not ordered an ambulance quickly enough and he blamed himself. On hearing this yarn spun for my mother, I felt ill at ease. Something smelt off about the whole situation.
Let’s face it; the red flag was billowing in my Mum’s face when Jim’s version of events were verbalised, but then the ‘truth’ (or his father’s version of the truth) later came out…
The truth was that the amputation of her feet had not been meningitis at all; Cindy had miscarried Jim’s child. The night it happened Jim refused to telephone an ambulance as Cindy bled and passed the unborn foetus in the bath, begging him for medical assistance. Jim’s Mum, instead, was called and supported with the emergency, fishing out the remains and flushing it down the toilet. Poor Cindy then turned almost completely blueish-black and, when an ambulance was finally called, it was too late to salvage her feet though she did escape with her life. A more horrific and traumatic story would be difficult to find.
Mum’s reaction to this revelation? I would expect any decent human to recognise that a young woman, far from home and loved ones who has just suffered such a horrendous ordeal in losing their child, having their limbs amputated and having to live with the parents of the partner you blame for all this should be met with nothing but sincerest pity. Not Mum though; she felt pure jealousy. Utter envy that Cindy still resided in Jim’s paternal household to recuperate; Why was she there? What purpose did it serve? Was she still in touch with Jim? Why did Jim’s nieces and nephews call her ‘Auntie Cindy’? She turned the frustrations and the torment he lumped onto her into resentment towards his poor, invalid ex-girlfriend who, by all accounts, was an amputee and a minor.
Mum divulged this information in the heat of anxiety and anger at Jim during one of their many altercations but once he came home and her fury abated she left me unaccompanied in my antipathy, not understanding why I loathed and abhorred his existence more with every breath I took.
As their relationship grew in intensity and weirdness the chasm between myself and my mother widened which Jim encouraged and massaged gleefully. He had picked up on the fact that I disliked him despite my greatest efforts to always remain polite and welcoming; most likely because Mum had thrown my aversion to him right in his ham-pink face in the heat of an argument. His ego could not bear to believe that someone could take umbrage to him and for that, I was struck out of the unit. Daniel no longer cared about anything outside of himself and his own relationship with the vapid sponge of a human he had attached himself to and had become more and more self-centred as the years wore on. He liked Jim because they could play golf together and Jim was the umpteenth replacement father figure Daniel had longed for. So once again I found myself as the one shunned from the familial embrace; it was familiar territory but it felt more hurtful this time because nobody really cared.
They got engaged, Jim dangling a £10,000 engagement ring over Mum’s head and promising her that if she behaved like a good girl she would get the nuptial prize she coveted. As the platinum ring slid onto her finger I felt as though the beginning of the end was nigh.
I became a lodger in my own home. It got to such an awkward, awful point that Jim no longer permitted Mum to speak to me. She was not allowed to include me in meals, the food was not there to be eaten by me (not that I was eating much in those days but the principle irked me) and my laundry had to be done separately. Of course, I was able to cope as an independent adult because I had done just that at University but it had never been this way until Jim’s arrival. Though she was a total nightmare as a human, Mum had at least included me in the meals and the food shop and the laundry but now I was out casted – separate and unequal. If they arrived home, Mum sometimes lingered in the doorway of the room I was standing in, mouthing questions at me as if she were scared Jim might see her talking to me and punish her for it. On the occasions he stayed away with work, our lives went back to normal and I was welcomed back into normality, allowed to move around the house freely and speak to my Mum and brother as I liked. We all pretended everything was the same as the pre-Jim days in those moments but things were undeniably different and I couldn’t fathom why neither of them was defending me, especially not my brother. There was no point defending myself – that would just play into Jim’s hands. But life was truly becoming unbearable – even more so than the horrors I had faced as a child in many ways. They could see it in front of their own eyes but they did nothing to stand up for me or have my back.
I confided my woes to my grandparents, telling them I had to leave the house before I lost my mind. But they urged me to stay, advising me to ‘put up and shut up’ until I had a mortgage deposit together and could buy my own place. They fervently disagreed with renting. ‘Why pay someone else’s mortgage?’ they repeated when I moaned and groaned about how dreadful life had become. ‘Why let him drive you out of your home? You were there first!’ they insisted – and they had a point. Influenced heavily by them, I threw myself into work and saving as hard as I could. I turned my bedroom into a makeshift studio and I lived, unhappily, in my box for as long as I could take it.
Until one day, I snapped.
I returned home one morning to overhear Mum and Jim arguing in her bedroom. The door was shut but their voices were raised and I could hear every word. They were arguing about me. Jim was threatening to move out of the house if Mum didn’t kick me out. I paused outside the door.
‘I know what you’re trying to do Jim; you’re trying to make me choose between you and her.’ Her answer was weak and feeble, not the toxic, noxious woman who tormented my childhood.
‘I’m not living with her anymore. I want her gone.’ His West Country accent would have been laughable if it weren’t for the malicious intent behind the words.
‘She doesn’t bother you. She doesn’t speak. She doesn’t eat. She stays in her room. What more do you want?’ I think it was at this point, to the tune of her begging this callous walking affliction of a human, that I heard what I needed to hear in what she was not saying. Any mother should surely have told a man she had been with less than a year that he could fuck right off if he didn’t like her kids – even if those kids were adults and even if she was engaged to him. His hatred was unwarranted, unlike mine, and even she could see that. In not making an answer of this nature the starkness of reality struck me – I was never ever going to be prioritised over this man and I may as well go down fighting rather than lay like a doormat while he wiped the shit off his shoes on me.
‘Why don’t you come out here and speak to me about your issues rather than hiding behind the door like a little bitch, Jim?’ I queried through the door before I could stop myself.
What happened from the moment those words left my mouth I could not have prepared for.
The bedroom door dragged away from the doorframe so fast the suction of the air pulled my hair forwards. He threw himself out of the room, pigeon chested and puffed up like a popinjay. His arms were splayed outwards from his shoulders in an assertion of dominance as he yanked me into the bedroom and shoved me into the doorframe. I was now trapped between him and the wall. He was giving me the uncomfortable feeling I got from men when they were in my personal space. I couldn’t speak and I couldn’t move – I froze there while he tore into me. His face was quite literally mere inches from my own; I could feel the spittle from his gaping, hot mouth flying at me as he shouted.
‘You’re a fucking fruitcake, mate. There’s something wrong with you. You’re a fuckedup little man hater.’ On and on his insults flew at me as I pressed myself harder and harder into the wall distancing myself by millimetres to escape.
All I could return back was a thin, desperate ‘Get away from me. Please get out of my face.’ It truly was one of those times when all the retaliations in the world come to you at a later stage; usually in the shower. But at the time my mind was blank save for the overwhelming fear of being near this aggressive little man as he berated me.
And the entire time, Mum stood just the other side of the double bed that was between us. Watching. She never spoke. She never pulled Jim off me. She never came to my defence. She stood there and let him assert his hostile dominance over her daughter. Knowing how I felt about having men close to me and in my personal space, she still allowed this to take place. Knowing how I could lose my temper and I was trying my hardest to keep it in, she stood motionless and silent, arms folded.
When he had finished, he shoulder barged past me. In order to relieve myself of his presence, I helped him along by pushing back to move him away from me. He took that as an opportunity to throw himself across the hallway and slide down the wall opposite, insinuating my six stone of weight had somehow managed to possess superhuman strength and knocked him clean off his bare feet. The glass of water he had been carrying went everywhere, all over the both of us and this, finally, seemed to shift Mum out of her trance.
‘Oi! That’s gone all over my purple wall!’ she shouted.
Defeated, I moved away from the doorway of her bedroom and travelled toward the stairs – I knew I had lost the battle and I had to flee before things went from bad to worse. As I stormed past Jim, who was now picking himself up off the floor, he shoved me as if trying to rugby tackle me back into the bedroom I had just left. I missed my footing in trying to avoid him and fell down the stairs in a tangle of my own limbs. It really fucking hurt, obviously, but I refused to let him think he had got the better of me in this final frenzied attack. I got up, lifted my head to the top of the stairs and said in totally measured semblance of tranquillity, that he was a raging cunt and I wished him only the worst of things in life. I turned, picked up my car keys and walked out of the house with nowhere to go and nothing to take with me. It was all collateral damage.
The first thing I did was call my brother. He knew something very serious had happened because I was crying, and I don’t think he had ever seen or heard me cry – not for many years at least. I told him everything that had happened. I hoped Daniel would finally take the stance of the man of the house and tell Jim that it was my home and if he didn’t like it then he should leave. In short, he should say the things my mother had not. Daniel reassured me he would sort this out for me when he got home and that I should go to our Grandparents to calm down.
My Grandparents were furious. They telephoned my mother when they found out what had happened and were flabbergasted to learn that she and Jim had picked up their morning exactly where it has been left before the volcanic eruption of tempers had taken place – they were driving to Bognor Regis to visit Jim’s family for a delightful little BBQ. My Grandmother very firmly instructed my mother that if she did not turn the car around and come home to sort this out that neither her nor my Grandfather would speak to her again. They disliked Jim every bit as much as I did. Mum vowed to continue her day as if nothing had happened contesting I just needed to let the dust settle and then I could come home. The three of us perceived this self-delusion as laughable. The banks had been breached and there was no way to pour that Tsunami back into place. My final hope was my brother standing up for me.
But, and I say this with a really heavy heart, my brother did not stand up for me as I thought he would. He had always been a weak boy who never really liked to raise his head above the parapet and stand up for what was right. He was the one to hang back in troubled times, caring more about how good he looked and how much money he had than doing the right thing. But this was family, and this was an important moment to assert his authority as the commanding voice of our home. Instead, he telephoned me to advise ‘I’m not getting involved. I wasn’t there, I can’t say anything.’
I think it would be fair to say his weakness and reluctance to help was the single most hurtful thing anyone has ever done to me. I thought when it came down to it I could trust Daniel to have my back, even if he shied away from confrontation for the most part. He knew his inaction rendered me homeless and sent a clear message to Jim and Mum that what had happened was something that could be ignored. It spoke resoundingly of the lack of importance I held in my brother’s heart, the same brother who had always been the most important person in my life.
In spite of them, a little more untrusting and jaded than I had been before, I found a place to stay and I built my life back up. The rest of my family boycotted Mum’s wedding, leaving Daniel to give her away and a cobbled together conglomerate of distant acquaintances and voluntary members of Jim’s family to make up the guest numbers on the bridal side. It was very embarrassing and humiliating for her which I took great pleasure in. The day they married I raised a glass to the life of misery that awaited them both – the wine never tasted so divine.
Our lives, from this point, mirrored the metaphorical movement of a weighing scale. Mum’s life descended downward under the weight of loneliness she now had to face as a result of her choices. I predicted, while crying on my Grandparent’s sofa that awful day, that she would be all the vengeance I needed to reap upon Jim – and I was gloriously right. She became resentful and paranoid and made his life a living hell and he did the same right back to her. They were the providence the other fully deserved, tangled together in a whirlwind of fire and spite and anguish and fury and power. Unhappy, destitute and beaten down, they eventually divorced as I knew they would. Conversely, for me life began to ascend slowly and meticulously to the amazing space I am in now. There were fall-backs (Wes, for a start) and these were mostly due to my refusal to cut that final grizzled-string tying me to the family who had let me down so badly. But for each step I took backward I seemed to come back stronger and happier for it, surging three steps forward just to delight in my determination to carry on surviving.
There was one last drama to come with my family, and I use the term ‘family’ to mean them all in entirety including my grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins, brother, niece and Mum; one final nail to bond and bind the coffin shut but that is a story for another blog. Safe to say, this was the niggle that would not budge. It was the start of a cold and detached journey to sweet emancipation for me.
So the moral of the story is this. Surround yourself with good people and stay away from those who make you feel like you are difficult to love. I think it is most likely I represent the knowledge that my step-father wanted me more than he wanted my mother and that is where most of the bitterness and the unfounded hatred stems from. I can’t pretend to understand that mind-set, but I can rise above it. I sit now in a successful, content place with my cats purring at my side. I have good friends, I’m comfortable financially and I know who I am, where I’m going and what I want from life. My mother, on the other hand, is a haggard, penniless old witch scrabbling at beauty and youth which have long left her evil, bitter body. All the payback she needs is the knowledge that everything good that I am is in spite of her, she can take no credit for the person her daughter became.
She is unhappy. She is unkind. She is alone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: