If within my power… “Beth’s” plight

Caged_Bird_by_meijeanieIn my last post, I shared Feleicia’s story. Beth’s story is similar and it is unfortunate that these two sisters, my aunts, embrace the burdens that weigh them down.

I don’t have many childhood memories of Beth since she had already moved from her mother’s (my grandmother’s) home by the time I was a little girl spending summers and weekends at my grandmother’s home. Since Felecia was the youngest girl she still remained. Beth moved about an hour away to go to college. She didn’t finish college but put down roots in the town where she went to college. I remember her visiting home periodically and everyone begin very happy to see her. She did marry but I don’t every recall her husband visiting. I have vague memories of seeing him briefly during a visit we made to see Beth. Their marriage did not last long because he died of a brain tumor. There were rumors that he was abusive. These were snatches of conversations my little ears heard as a child.

Beth was a no nonsense kind of person. She spoke her mind but not in the same way that Felecia did. She was quieter. She seemed very independent and self-sufficient. She had her own life, but she regularly visited my grandmother. Beth was very religiously observant. She practiced a branch of the pentacostal movement called Pure Holiness. I was intrigued. During her visits, she regularly spent time by herself reading the bible. She wore no makeup, jewelry, or pants only skirts. Beth didn’t try to convince anyone to her religious way of life. Sometimes on her visits she brought one of her spiritual mentors who was more apt to try to win family members over to their religious worldview. We all liked her, but most just ignored her proselitizing. Beth would also bring someone else with her to visit, a beau. I’ll call him “Steve.”

As I grew up and began searching for authenticity in my religious experience and something different than the Baptist church we attended, I sought out my Aunt for guidance in spirituality.  How could I have that closeness with God and truly know that I was saved? I began spending weekends and spring break with my aunt. As fascinating as they were, time does not permit me to delve into my religious experiences at her church. I’ll leave that for another post. I was able to see first hand her relationship with Steve for a longer duration than the couple of hours he would spend when she brought him to visit the family. During both times, he struck me as a quiet, unassuming man who didn’t have much to say. They were not affectionate at all, but I attributed that to their strict religion. Beth met Steve through her church. I remember one visit where she shared serious reservations about him. The exact circumstances escape me now, but I suggested that she give him back his engagement ring if she didn’t want to marry him. Looking back, I was just a teenager so I am sure she didn’t take anything I said seriously.  What does a child know, right? They were a couple but something was not right. They didn’t seem to fit. Amy was outspoken in her own way, and he was just quiet. From the outside, he seemed what some would called “hen pecked.”

Beth began planning the wedding. At the rehearsal, Steve acted like a complete idiot. He was very uncooperative. It was very strange.  Beth didn’t seem to notice. She was just determined and focused. They married and bought a home or Beth bought a home. Steve commuted from their home to Atlanta for work. He spent most of his time at his mother’s house where he lived before they were married to be closer to his job. Time passed and Beth became pregnant with her son. When she delivered her baby without her husband, I went up to stay with her for a week. The strangeness got even stranger. Beth was at home, a new mom, with her baby convalescing a night gown. He insisted that she get dressed and berated her for being half clothed. He was hardly there the entire time I stayed with her.

As years past, things became worse. Beth was always financially secure. During their marriage, he has eroded her credit. She isn’t able to keep a job because he wrecks her cars thereby preventing her from getting to work. Her home is in shambles because she doesn’t have the money for regular maintenance. The city removed several junk cars from her property after complaints. I have noticed that she has become a different person. She is nothing like the independent, no nonsense person I remember. Over the years, she seems like she is a little off mentally. She speaks slowly and as if she is mentally delayed. I know that sounds harsh, but it is true. It may be the years of dealing with her husband. She eventually had another daughter and as the years progressed he became more controlling and domineering. She depends on friends and family for financial assistance and transportation. She has said that she will never divorce him.

I recently saw both Felecia and Beth at family cookout during July 4th. I was surprised that Felecia’s mother-in-law was not in tow. Felecia was as bubbly was ever, seemingly no care in the world. Beth and her children came compliments of my uncle. She looked neither happy nor sad.

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