The following was written by my Mom on Facebook as a followup to my “What’s in a name” post on patrickrhone.com. I am posting it here unedited and with her permission.
My Mother (a very personal story) by Tisch Jones on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 12:22pm
(Inspired by Patrick’s Rhone Note, “What’s in a Name)
My mother was something else. Most people will remember she was a professional and dignified academic and musician. But one of the nicknames given to her by some of her students was “Mighty Mite” For a little woman (5’2) she could pack quite a wollop. Sometimes this wollop was physical but very often it was vocal. The following is a true story and one that needs to be told because to this day I find it so unbelievable.
On March 7 1967, I married a man that I shouldn’t have. Married because of being pregnant which today I realize is not a reason to ever marry anyone. I moved to New York with this new husband, Jamaica, Queens. I was miserable. I hated being in the marriage and could not see a future. I stayed in bed most of the time and dreamed of ways to die. To me death was the only way out of this situation. I was trapped.
One day as my husband was going out with friends to play a game of basketball he told me he wanted me to get out of the bed. I refused to get up I was too depressed. So he decided if I wouldn’t get up, he would get me up. Then he began pulling me out of the bed which resulted in punches and slaps against my face and body. Keep in mind I was six and a half months pregnant. I tried to get away from his hand and I tried to get out of the door. Finally, I got out of the door barefooted and penniless and ran down the street to a neighbors and asked if I could use their phone.
I tried to call my mother but there was no answer. So, I called my aunt collect and told her that my husband had just beaten me. In the background I could hear my uncle telling her to hang up the phone because “those children are just playing.” I kept trying to convince my aunt and uncle that this was not play. See, in my family men do not beat or hit their wives so my claim seemed unbelievable to them. I kept asking my aunt how could I get in touch with my mother. Finally my aunt had to hang up. Thereafter, I continued to call collect but my aunt wouldn’t accept the charges.
Feeling devastated and helpless, I didn’t know what to do. But one thing for sure I didn’t want to return my husband’s home. Finally, I decided sleeping in a jail cell would be preferable to returning. I finally found my way to the Queen’s police station. As I stood at the counter, I heard an officer of the law say, “What happened lady?, Did your husband catch you sleeping with another man?” Evidently, my face was quite bruised. I told the officer ”No, my husband had beat me and I don’t want to go back. May I please sleep in one of your jail cells tonight. The police told me that they couldn’t allow that but probably I should go to social services. They then gave me coins for the subway.
Being underground waiting for a subway by myself barefooted, pregnant was scary. Every pay phone I saw, I would stop and call my aunt collect and tell her how afraid I was. I felt so desperate to get out of my situation that throwing myself in front of a moving train would be preferred to returning to my husband. But, she would not accept the charges. I lost my way trying to find social services. Before long, I was no longer in Queens, I was in Brooklyn and found my way to the Brooklyn social services.
At the Brooklyn Social Service Agency, I was assigned a black male social worker. I told him that i needed a place to stay for the night. He wanted to know why. I told him that my husband had just beaten me and I didn’t want to return to his home.
Thinking I would finally find safety, to this day I am still surprised at his response. He said, ”Husbands had to beat their wives to keep them in line. In fact he had to beat his wife from time to time.” I told him, “Men in my family don’t beat their wives.” He said, ” Yes they did, you just never saw it.” Then he recommended I call my husband to come and get me. Tired and distraught at this point, I called my husband as I was told.
Because the agency was closing, I had to sit and wait for my husband at a restaurant next door. When my husband arrived, he fell on his knees and broke down in tears and a told me how sorry he was and that he loved me and he would never hit me again.
When we returned home, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and realized the left side of my face was black, blue and swollen. At that point there was nothing more to do but hit the bed and sleep. I was exhausted from all this emotional upheaval and running. I also apologized for causing my husband to get so upset that he had to beat me. I told him that I finally understood that keeping wives in line was part of the husband’s role.
I know that you are probably wondering at this point how this essay is about my mother. Well, here it is. I awoke the next morning and walked to the front door and looked out the screen. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but a limousine parked in front of the house. When the limousine door opened, out walked my mother. She took one look at my face and said, “Patricia, what happened to your face”. I replied, “I got out of line and Chuck had to beat me”. Then my mother stepped in the house and told my husband to pack my bags. She said, “I gave my daughter to you in marriage, bit not for you to beat her”. As ordered, my husband started packing my bags crying “Please don’t take my wife”. Then she ordered him to help us get to Port Authority. My mother and I boarded a Greyhound to Ettrick, Virginia which is where my my mother;s baby sister lived.
What is amazing is that once out of a situation you can see the solution better. After two days in Virginia, I came up with a phenomenal solution, I asked my mother “Is it ok if I get a divorce?” She and my aunt both agreed that a divorce was possible. Then, my mother and I boarded an airplane and headed for Shreveport, Louisiana, secured a lawyer and filed for divorce. On October 1st, 1967, the day of the birth of my first son Patrick, papers for divorce were filed.
I still can’t believe that my mother Mighty Mite walked into the home of a married couple and told the grown 6 foot husband to pack his wife’s clothes. Then she took the wife away. Imagine her strength and lack of fear and her gutsiness. Did I ever thank her? I sure hope so.