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Purified


We spent the last three nights watching the Hatfields and McCoys on TV, did you?  The tone was so very dark and heavy, but there was also a powerful message.  I think what bothered me most was that the two men responsible for starting the feud both lived to be old, while their children and grandchildren died senselessly while still so young. 

There were two scenes in last night's episode in which fire was consuming the McCoy house, and in the end, the man who fostered such evil.  Watching the  flames conjured up this old memory that I originally wrote about for Sunday Scribblings in February of 2011...

It had been years since she'd returned to the town where it all began... her introduction to the madman who was to become her husband.

Travelling alone across the state on a journey to visit her parents, she had stopped at the cemetery along a stretch of rural highway north of town. Something inside her demanded that she go there to see his grave with her own eyes, to make certain he was really gone. The small military headstone bearing his name and vital statistics gave no clue to the nature of the man interned there, but she remembered.

Before leaving, she took a photograph to share with her daughter when the time came that she would want to know, that she too would want to be certain. Road weary from the journey of nearly a thousand miles, she decided to spend the night in a motel, giving her time to drive around and see what places and images still remained familiar from the those years of her life.

She drove past the nursing home where she'd worked as an aide. It hadn't been a good place then and she was glad to see it boarded up now, the souls of those she'd cared for long since ascended into heaven.

She drove past the small college where they'd both studied, and past the house with the tiny upstairs apartment where they'd lived when they first brought their daughter home from the hospital. She drove past the old hospital too, remembering so clearly that day more than 20 years ago when she first held her daughter in her arms.

She drove past the park where she used to take her daughter to play in the grass, where she would squeal with delight as squirrels scampered close by.

Finally, late in the afternoon, she summoned up her courage and turned on a familiar street not too far from downtown. Driving slowly, she spied the fenced playground of the old parochial school across the street from "the big house".... but where was the house? In the place where it should be there was nothing but an empty lot. Suddenly she found herself confused. Was this the right place or had the years played tricks on her memory?

But yes, there was the yellow house on the corner next door, the one with the teenage daughter that used to undress in her room upstairs with the window shade up, much to the delight of the young men in the big house. She stared again at the large, grass covered lot beside it, still not quite believing what she was seeing, or in fact wasn't seeing.

It was the right address, the right location, but the big house had vanished as if into thin air. The empty lot, with its neatly manicured lawn, held no trace of the large three-story white house with the sweeping front porch on which she's sat so many nights breathing in the evening air and praying to whatever gods there might be for deliverance and redemption.

It seemed like forever ago that they had lived there - she and her husband and their young daughter - serving as house parents for the dozen or so young men renting rooms while attending the local vocational college. She remembered each of them. For the most part they had been like brothers to her - caring and supportive, and enchanted by the little girl who delighted in their attention.

But there were two among them that she later learned were in alliance with her husband, and in allegiance to the power of darkness that he served. It was not long before that darkness began to seep into their lives and permeate the rooms they occupied. A shiver went up her spine as she remembered all the evil that had transpired there.

She was young then, and not nearly as sure of herself as she was now. She had cowered in fear, and remained obedient to the bonds that held her there, though she often considered leaving and at one time went so far as to investigate a nearby apartment as an option if things got worse. And they did, but still she stayed. She didn't understand back then that there are always other options.

When he graduated from college they moved to Denver so he could attend graduate school. Not long after, he decided instead to join the military and a year later found them living in Germany, the place where it finally came to an end as the marriage unravelled and she went her own way.

That relationship had come and gone at great emotional cost to her and her daughter. As she sat there in the car staring at that vacant lot, she couldn't help but wonder how differently life might have been if she had left him in the beginning instead of at the end.

Later on she did a little research and learned that a raging fire had consumed the big house one night, after standing a few years vacant. It was thought to be a case of arson but no one was ever caught or punished for the crime. Perhaps they didn't know, but deep inside she knew. She knew well his love of fire and his penchant for destruction.

So many lives had been damaged and destroyed by his actions. He had returned to this town to live at some point after their divorce and his release from the military, and he had died there at the age of 35 - from heart failure the death certificate had said. But no autopsy had been done, and she knew there was more to that story too.

Heading back to her motel room she breathed deeply in the night air. It was finished... he was gone; the house was gone too. The ground had already purified itself and reclaimed the sanctity it once held. It was going to take a lot longer for her and for her child.

15 comments:

  1. Yes, we watched it. It was really dark..but good.

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    1. We thought it was good too Kristi, but it left me with such a sad feeling. Sometimes you just have to wonder about people, and how they let themselves get into the things they do, it's like their brains get stuck!

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  2. Haven't heard of the TV show before :-)

    I read through your post but now I'm a little confused. From your introduction it sounds like what you've written is based on real life - but the actual story line feels more like fiction. If it's real life then wow.... and I really feel for the lady! And if it's fiction, I would say great job in bringing a story so vibrantly to life!

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    1. This is a real story... my story... just one chapter of it from long ago. My life today is so different, and this is why I count my blessings!

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    2. Oh my goodness, Josie!!! That must have been so painful. I'm so thankful that you're out of that situation and that your life has so happily changed!

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  3. Keep on counting those blessings!
    Life sure has a way of throwing "stuff" at us... it is how we learn, grow and come out it all that makes us, well, us. Stonger, better and able to overcome challenges that we will be facing.
    :) Love that attitude of yours! :)

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    1. That which doesn't kill you does indeed make you stronger Chrissy. I've long since released my emotional bondage from that time, now it's just a story of long ago, and a person that was so much different from who I am now!

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  4. At first, I thought it was just a great work of fiction and I was wanting more of this story. Then I read through the comments and...

    Having learned that this actually happened to you, I am left speechless! I'm sorry you had to go through this.

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    1. There is a lot more to this story, to this chapter of my life, both before and after, Workingdan. The man was evil incarnate, a very dark and troubled soul. He also had a charasmatic charm that sucked others into the whirlpool. Back then I feared him, now I know that good is far stronger than evil, love trumps hate every time!

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  5. I missed it, but plan to catch it in rerun. I grew up hearing about it through family, so really am interested in this telling of the story. Great post!!

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    1. Supposedly it was done with a good deal of historical accuracy Annie. I thought they did a good job with it, but as I told John, if I had been either one of the wives I would have been very angry and bitter for the hell these two men wrecked upon their families. I wonder if either wife ever said "You caused this, this is what your hate did." Both men lost children that they supposedly loved. I wonder if they ever regretted the price they paid.

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  6. That you lived through this is sad, but it is a part of who you are today so it was an unkind gift. Your strength of character and determination is showing through, to say nothing of your talent in putting it in writing. I, too, am sorry you had to experience this horror, but I am not sorry about who you are today, so I'm counting it as a blessing in disguise :)

    Andrea @ From the Sol

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    1. Exactly right, Andrea, everything I've experienced has made me who I am, so if I had to I would do it over again to get to this place in life. In the Bible, God blessed the later years of Job's life more than the first, and so it is with mine. I am grateful I have survived, and I'm grateful for all I've been given. I am stubborn, seems I had to learn all life's lessons the hard way! :-)

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  7. It's a powerful, moving and terrifying tale, Josie. Evidence of what a 'madman' is capable of. It gave me chills.

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    1. It was a terrifying time in my life Selma, and who was I going to tell it to? Who could I ask for help? I had too much pride, and far more fear. I knew what he was capable of when people crossed him. There is a fine line between genius and insanity, he had one foot on both sides of the line. There are some memories that still give me chills, but I refuse to glorify the works of evil by writing of them here. As much as there is a God of love and light, there is a force of evil and darkness. I can testify to that, but it has no power over me. I am a child of God, because I choose to be!

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Your comments are always appreciated... they make me smile! :-)