How My Father’s Secret Altered My Life Forever
As a very young boy sheltered from my parents’ troubles, I thought our home was filled with love. Carefree with a full stomach, I was wrapped up in playing soccer, going to school, watching my favorite cartoons, and just doing the things growing boys did. I barely noticed my mother crying in the middle of the night—or throughout the day—or trying to scrape enough money to buy food. She wasn’t allowed to own anything; she could not even have house keys. My father didn’t even allow us to call her, Mom. I was to address her by her middle name, Susana, not even her first name, which is Silvia. I never called her Mom until many years later in America. She had been belittled not only by my father but by me as well, and I did not even realize I was doing it.
One particular night, everything felt different. My dad started yelling at my mother, spewing curses and verbal abuse, kicking and beating her. My sister and I were supposed to be sleeping in our beds. My mother begged him to stop, but there was no stopping him. She somehow managed to break free to the bathroom and shut the door so she could at least get some relief from the assault. When she was in there, my dad was on the other side shouting at her and trying to bang the door down. The bathroom door opened, and she ran out but only made it into the shadowy corridor.
Fueled by an uncontrollable rage, he picked up a nearby broom and began hitting her over and over and over. Covering her head with her forearms, she was crying and screaming for help, but no adults were in the house. In an instant, there was an eerie silence as my mother’s body became still on the tile floor.
Frozen in shock in my little bed, I felt like the oxygen had been sucked out of me. My six-year-old mind wrestled to grasp what had just happened. My father—my hero, the man I had idolized, whose voice had always been a peaceful source of comfort to me—had exploded, unleashing his fury on my mother and beating her with a broomstick.
Now, the same broomstick she used to clean her home had become a weapon against her. Watching from my bed, I wanted to rush to her side and shout, “Wake up! Don’t be dead!” Instead, I shrank back, my body paralyzed with fear. I was just little Mondo, confused and terrified that this man whom I suddenly didn’t recognize could kill me too. As he walked back into the room, fuming with rage like a fighting bull, I pulled the covers to my head and curled up, pretending to be asleep. I was terrified and shaking inside, hoping he did not notice that I had witnessed him beating my mother to what I thought was death.
My sister was yelling at him to stop. After glancing around, he walked away, leaving my mother on the hallway floor. She began to moan. She was alive, even if barely. My sister helped her up from the floor; grabbed a towel, water, and soap; and helped clean my mom up.
What’s crazy is the night before, my cousins, auntie and uncle, sister, and I were gathered in my uncle’s kitchen laughing and cooking, just having fun. It was our way. My sister and I were on “vacation” at my uncle’s house. After a few days away from home, we had started crying for Mom and Dad because we missed them. So my father told my mom to go get us. He also told her when she arrived to get us that she should stay for a week or so. His motives weren’t pure, though. He had plans involving other women. What my father didn’t count on was during our time at my uncle’s, my mom felt the need to start praying and accept Jesus into her heart. Through these prayers, something spoke to her spirit and told her it was time to go home. When the three of us returned home earlier than my dad had expected, it ruined his plans. This was one of the reasons he was so filled with rage.
For the first time in my life, my father wasn’t happy to see me. He screamed at my mother, “How dare you disobey me, woman, and come home early!” This moment changed everything. This would be the last night we would be a family. I would never call this place home again. It felt like my heart was being ripped out and slashed into a million pieces. After beating my mother, I heard him tell her, “I don’t want them anymore.” Those were the last words I heard him speak before we escaped.
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