Monday, February 1, 2010

Echos of the past

My older sister has come to stay with us until the end of the week, when little sister's ex is supposed to be leaving. Safety in numbers. It's a familiar feeling. Three sisters, carefully monitering the tension in the house, waiting for the next outburst, waiting for the blow. We are wary of making too much noise, drawing too much attention. We stay mostly within sight of each other, especially watching little sister, trying to protect each other.

Last night was an onslaught of screaming and intimidation, punctuated by brief, but strangely agonising patches of silence. Agonising because you knew it was just a prelude to the next onslaught. We fall into familiar roles. Big sister steps in, deflects the aggression towards herself to protect us. I mediate, defuse and attempt to deescalate. Little sister remains stoic, doesn't give much away, pretty much pretends to herself that it isn't happening, though I can feel her exhaustian under the constant barrage of verbal assaults and physical intimidation.

It has not turned 'violent' yet, in the most general sense of the word. The abuse is mostly verbal and emotional. But the presence of violent threat looms through standover tactics and words screamed directly into one's face. Things seem absurd. His actions are on the face spiteful, but have a malaevolent undertone. We laugh that he woke up in the middle of the night to dismantle the wireless, as he didn't know about my purchase of a pre-paid wireless modem for my laptop. We laugh that he disabled my little sister's car and cancelled her RACQ membership, because older sister was able to drop little sister at work, and then figure out how to get the car started. We laugh that his attempts to lock little sister out of the house, were thwarted because he didn't realise older sister had a set of keys for the other door. We laugh that he wakes in the night to shift things from the house to the shed so we cannot use them, dryer, washer, ect. We don't care about things, take what you want, stuff can be replaced. We laugh because his attempts fail to cause the discomfort intended. But we are also perfectly aware and wary of the intent.

It's a familiar feeling... not wanting to go home, not knowing what the night will bring.  We find ourselves laughing hysterically over stupid things, over serious things.... but we are all aware that scratch beneath the laughter, we are all bundled up with anxiety. My stomache aches, my head throbs, my hands are constantly moving. My therapist commented on it today in session... my hands, that flap and pull, tug and pinch, startle reflex honed into supersensory mode. "The body remembers" she said. Cliched, but true. Old patterns repeated, old coping mechanisms reengaged. Fight or flight response constantly on active standby.

My energy is low. Neither older sister or I slept much last night, as we listened to him creep around the house, doing his nasty little tricks. We saw him attempt to go into little sisters room, unobserved, only to realise, that we were both awake, watching, on standby. I feel to fragile to withstand this standoff, but there is little choice. She is our baby sister, if you try to hurt her, we will come after you, motherf*cker!

We have all the information we need to get a Domestic Violence Order place, we know his behaviour meets the criteria. But little sister holds off for now, and we have to respect that. Instead we spend the day planning, making lists, ringing real estates and shopping to replace items he has taken or destroyed. Tomorrow, we will make sure all the items he wants are ready to go... we will make it as easy as possible for him to leave. Leave, just leave for God's Sake.

Tonight has been by comparison quieter. He has been out most of the night. But the tension remains. And the vigil goes on. He could return at any minute and we need to be ready to step in if needed. We need to be on guard. Hopefully whereever he went, it wasn't to go on another bender.... the alcohol makes it much worse.

Same story. Three scared sisters. One large, angry, drunk man. 20 years on. Same story.

I don't know how much more of this I can stand.

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