By Tonya Stevenson
A few months past my fourth birthday Mom and my stepdad drove us through a wintery day up the steep black canyons to our step Grandparents ranch. Switching quickly from our car to our step grandfather’s pickup they drove away. Leaving Jim, and I with our step grandmother. I remember the apprehension I felt being left there, yet we knew not to say anything. This time Mom was leaving us for a good reason, our little brother was coming.
It wasn’t Grandma that worried us, a pleasant woman standing around six feet. No, she always warmly welcomed us and gave us Fig Newton cookies. Jim loved Fig Newton cookies. I ate a few to be polite, I wasn’t fond of them. Jim and I played at her feet in her warm kitchen while she worked and everything was good; except for what we all knew…
As the day waned the living room door open, and a cold chill swept through the house. My step Grandfather was also about six foot with a dark glowering countenance that made me shrink. Grandma seemed to feel the same. She quickly handed Jim and I coloring books setting us at the kitchen table. We did not need to be told to be quiet, barely daring to whisper.
It didn’t matter, our very presence there seemed to enrage the man. His voice grew louder and angrier with each word. Grandma‘s pleas only seemed to stoke his blazing anger. Though out of sight behind the kitchen wall, I knew we weren’t safe. I remembered our car. I grabbed Jim’s hand and we ran out the door into the snowy dark, across the yard. I drug open the car door. As soon as I closed the door, I locked all of them.
Shivering in the car we watched the living room door open, spilling light on the yard around the large dark shadow that came stalking out to our car. He glowered in the windows, roaring at us to open the doors as he circled the car. I feared he would break our windows. We knew to obey, but I could not open that door my fear of this man was too great. He held in his hand a narrow leather strap that he angrily beat against the car as he walked from the driver’s door around the front to the passenger side now directing his orders at my three year old brother. Jim pulled the lock up. Before I could reach it the door swung wide. Jim was thrown out and a big hand grabbed my arm dragging me out next. He ordered Jim to the house in front of us. My step Grandpa still gripped my arm while lashing me with the leather strap, as he marched me back across the yard. He beat me hard, at least that night, he didn’t beat Jim.
Over the years I heard the adults talk of how he treated Grandma. My Mom would say, “She’s as big as he is, why take it?” Mom certainly did not. We were sent to our bedroom, when the fights began. The whole trailer would rattle. They knocked each other out, he choked her, they blacked each other’s eyes and more.
I remember Mom’s dad telling her, “Just tell me. I know he did this. Tell me, I’ll kill him! Mom denied it, perhaps because she knew he had good reason to be so angry at her. To be fair, I don’t remember that stepfather beating us kids.
At a family reunion on my stepfather’s side, all I really remember is Grandma’s sisters were just as big as she was.
I was nine when Mom traded in that husband for a new one. I never saw those step Grandparents again. When I was say twelve my maternal Grandmother showed me an envelope of pictures of us kids she was sending to my ex-Grandmother at a secret Post office box. Her husband forbid her to have anything to do with any us, including their own Grandchildren.
Years later, I heard that after Grandma died, one of her sisters married her husband. With the sole motive of getting even with him for the way he treated her sister. His health was not good then, it is said she did make him pay.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think she was right. However, God did warn: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Gal. 6:7 ) Makes you wonder about the promised 70 virgins, does it not? Yes, God is just and his justice will prevail, but he is also the justifier and that is what he prefers.