What Did You Do Maria?
Ken had settled into his job but we had not settled back into each other since that night of the party a few weeks before. I was living in disbelief that he not only left me, but left me, a young woman, so far from home, wee hours of the morning in party clothes and heels and didn’t think of my well being and safety. The more I thought of it the more upset I got. I just couldn’t get over it. That man promised to love me, he made vows. He wasn’t supposed to be like other men.
Ken was riddled with guilt and because he was, he used it to be more spiteful and not talk to me, communicating with a vague yes or no in a grunt.
Ken would fly in a fit of rage sometimes, not necessarily at me but other random things mainly debts piling up and debt collectors pressuring us for payments. Mostly everything was in his name, so he took most of the grief. That’s when he started breaking things; the cabinet doors in the kitchen got smashed in, light fittings in the dining room, chipped wall in the living room, broken lamp shade in the corridor… I began to dislike our beautiful home, it was turning ugly. Every room had a sign and reminder of hurt and anger. The only signs of love was that of the children. Ken got in a habit of throwing things, in an argument about taking out the rubbish, he told me to take it out myself. He was being so ignorant for no reason and eventually grabbed up the two rubbish bags and stormed passed me out the backdoor which was made up of glass panels calling me a stupid bitch. It was a common thing now cussing me out. I shouted at him to go to hell and in that split second, he threw one of the bin bags back at me, as I shut the door to guard myself, it banged into the door and shattered two of the panels. I looked at him with disgust and he looked at me the same. He started cursing in the garden, something I detested and felt so embarrassed and ashamed. It was so hard to face outside after he made such a racket. What on earth did the neighbours think, what were they saying. I would stay inside for days after a huge row. If I had to go to work, then I would sneak out early and literally run to the car so as not to be seen or spoken to. Ken came charging into the house like a bull still ranting. It was just a bin for crying out loud, why was it such a big deal to put it out on time for the garbage truck? I turned and screamed at him to shut up, and to move his cricket bag from the middle of the corridor. as I stamped up the stairs, he grabbed his bag with all his uniform and equipment in it and threw it after me, it hit my back and I buckled down the stairs. I jumped up and went for his face. We wrestled to the floor and I just stopped, I had enough and my back was really hurting. I was deflated, out of breath ‘ENOUGH, ENOUGH KEN, what are we doing? WHYYYYY?’ He rolled off me and just sat there on the floor and began to cry. I wasn’t used to seeing him cry at all. I just stared at him, he looked pathetic. My heart was cold towards him and I was far from moved by his breakdown. I got up, fixed my clothes, dried my face and walked to the drinks cabinet.
Mum came over a few days later to measure up for new curtains, I was quiet and every so often I would struggle to hold back tears. Should I tell her? I wondered, maybe she could help. How much more excuses could I possibly have to explain breakages. ‘Maria how you looking like someone dead? What’s up with you, what happen?’ I sat down on my bed and begun to tell mum what happened a few days before with the dust bin and cricket bags. I expected her to be shocked and sympathetic. She listened and her first question to me was ‘What did I do to deserve it’ What did I DO? Tears stung me and I’m sure my heart had palpitations. I stopped talking. Yes, it was me, always me. Worthless, ugly, fat, childish, deserving of all things bad, deserving of rejection, wrongful seduction, deserving to be trampled on, slapped, and sworn at with degrading words… What did I do to deserve that she asks…? I sucked up those tears refusing for not one to drop. ‘I don’t know mum, I guess something.’ ‘Well Maria what can I say, talk to Ken, he is a good man. You make all these children and have the man under pressure to pay mortgage and other bills. Back off him a bit and allow him to be a man in his own right. Things will get better; all this is part of marriage.’
Wow, no ‘are you ok, do you want me and dad to have a word with him, how’s your back, how’s your joints??? Nope, just ‘I made the children by myself, what did I do to provoke him, to warrant this behaviour towards me.’ My goodness. I couldn’t be bothered anymore. I changed the conversation to talk of her approaching trip to Barbados. What was the point of talking about anything else? I should’ve known better.
I decided not to talk anymore and managed to nail a job as a weekend chef in a place called Victoria in London. It was a bit of a trek away and it meant I could no longer attend church on Sundays. There was a midweek bible class and I decided to go to that at least. There was no way Ken would take the children Sunday school so they had to stop going for a couple weeks. It wasn’t until the parishioners heard why I stopped coming, they rallied together and got together a few people who could pick the children up on Sundays which was lovely. It got them out the house as their dad was no longer fun to be around.
The old VIP events company were recruiting, and I thought why not, if I did three- or four-nights mid-week and nights after work on a Saturday. Surly my arms and back could manage that.
So that was me, three jobs seven days a week, plus looking after the house and kids. Now maybe everyone would think that’s fair! I hardly saw the children it was basically hi and bye. It wasn’t forever I guess and it was the sacrifice I was willing to make to bring more money in and take the ‘pressure’ of Ken. It also had me away from Ken so we weren’t in each-other’s faces which meant less fights. The numbers had grown at the nursery, although my hours were cut and there was less pay, the work load increased. I had to keep pressing.
My head had a heavy feeling to it like a dull headache, but I still wanted to go see mum and dad off at the airport. They were off to Barbados and Grenada to visit family and attend a wedding of a close family friend.
Camela, Patrick and my brother Curtis were also at the airport. We talked and laughed as we waited for their gate to be called. All of a sudden, I had a bad feeling like a panic attack come over me. I needed sugar fast I felt I was going to pass out. Cam passed me a sugar sachet from her food tray, and I emptied it in my hand and slowly licked it up. I was sluggish and couldn’t move fast. I felt one sided and really slow like someone had spiked my drink. I didn’t want to worry mum and said I felt much better, but I felt I was losing my mind. We said our goodbyes and I told mum I’ll call her and let her know I’m fine once I thought they were landed and settled. They went through safely; the flight was on time.
I left with Cam and Pat, I slept in the car for the fifty minutes’ drive home. When we arrived, I got out the car with difficulty but tried my best to look normal. I didn’t want them worrying and I had things to do such as pick the children up from school. I told Cam I’d call her later and that I most probably hadn’t eaten on time. My speech was so slurry but I guess it was due to the sluggish feeling I had. Pat helped me to the door and inside, I insisted that they didn’t worry, and I’d be fine and promised them a phone call later that evening.
I had just over three hours nap and had to get ready to collect Nadia, Rishon and Ethan. The school was just over a mile away. I got in the car, I knew I was not fit to drive but I had no choice, I couldn’t think straight. I got in the car and slowly did one thing at a time with deep concentration. The car was moving at twenty miles per hour but it felt like sixty! Only God knows how I made it to the school. Other car drivers just overtook as I was at least smart enough to drive with the hazards blinking so it would seem that the car was giving trouble and not me as the driver.
I saw my friend Mary and told her I wasn’t well and if she could bring out the children for me as a couple of her children were in the same class as them. Thankfully she did so and after reassuring her I’ll be ok, I set of home. The children seemed to know to be quiet as they saw I wasn’t quite right. To this day I don’t know how I made it home. There was also no other cars on my side of the street like there usually was outside our house so I was able to drive straight to a stop without manoeuvring.
I gave Nadia the keys to open the front door and told them I’d be in shortly. I sat there absolutely shaken. It was like someone had drugged me, I was here but not here, I could hear but struggled to make sense of what I heard. I got in the house and literally fell on the sofa
An hour had passed, and Ken arrived home. I asked him to ring my night work and let them know I was sick. I can tell he wanted to strop but he also saw I was in no way well enough to take on his shit. I went to bed… No, I called no one!
In the morning my speech was still dragging, and I called my gp. From hearing me speak he asked who was home with me. Ken was still there at home as he had a very late start. Dr Peterfield asked that he take me straight to the hospital and he would let them know I was coming. He said he wanted to rule out a mini stroke as he was concerned given my symptoms. I could tell Ken was more annoyed than concerned and I hated him for showing it. I told him don’t bother ‘I’ll ask our neighbour a couple doors down to take me’ He wouldn’t hear of it, only because he knew how shameful he would look to be honest. So he took me.
After seeing consultants, taken blood tests and a CT Scan I was diagnosed of having had a TIA (a mini stroke). After hearing about my ordeal they were shocked I still managed to drive and advised if it happened again, under no circumstances was I allowed to get behind the wheel of a car. I stayed in for a few days for observation. Ken had to take over and manage the house. There was no room for depression of bad moods, the children needed him. I needed him.
I finally got Ken to call Cam and my brothers to let them know what happened. When asked about the cause… Stress!
Whilst in hospital I had a few more TIA’s and my speech totally went, I could not form my words and sounded similar to a deaf person. I was unable to word find which made the sentences I was trying to form sound like gibberish. My vision was blurred and also had double vision, tinnitus was extremely loud in both my ears and the noise drove me mad. I had right side weakness in both my arm and leg.
I had suffered from multiple symptoms including vertigo. The doctors had me heavily medicated. I didn’t know my life could end up so bad, I was to be thirty and I was to meet this new decade disabled by a condition associated with old people. I had dreams and aspirations and not being an able-bodied person put those at risk of not transpiring. I was in a dark place.
I was discharged from hospital with physiotherapy to be done as an outpatient and was also to attend speech therapy every week to learn to speak again using Ladybird books such as the Peter and Jane series used in kindergarten for first time readers.
Kens cousin was a darling, Sammy took me shopping and helped me get to appointments. She didn’t live to far away and made herself available. I had confided in her quite a bit about Ken and I’s volatile relationship. At last I had someone who saw and believed and didn’t suggest I deserved any of it.
My speech was really bad and she was my mouthpiece when in shops as strangers found it hard to understand me.
I was under the outpatient care of Charing Cross Hospital as they have a hyper acute stroke unit. When I attended my appointment for the first time, the neurologist was shocked at the amount of work I was doing plus looking after three young children and said he wasn’t surprised that my body said enough is enough and shut down, he said I was under too much stress. I asked when I would recover? and he replied that the best thing for me to do was to retreat and convalesce away from the children and my present environment if it was possible and that may speed up my recovery. Other than that, he said the brain is a very complex thing that even as neurologists they have much to learn and he couldn’t tell me how long I would be like this or if I would make a full recovery. And that’s all I had to go by.
I was signed of work from the nursery indefinitely and I had to hand in my notice on my weekend job and again the VIP events catering. We were back on one salary and Ken had not an ounce of compassion, he was livid that I was sick and refused to drive me to appointments and said if I was too sick to work then he was too sick to work too and that’s what he did, yep he stopped going to work fulltime and went part time telling them he was sick and stopped paying the mortgage. He sat around the house in a sulk and stopped talking to anyone. Looking back, I can’t imagine what was going through the children’s mind to have me so sick and their dad off the rails.
Ken started sleeping downstairs and came up to the bedroom occasionally and slept at the furthest side of the bed away from me. I was so doped with drugs I didn’t care. The drugs I had to take were so strong and had me more like a zombie than the actual stroke did.
At first I used to think I was having erotic dreams/nightmares. I would feel the sensation of intimacy but the scenes in my mind made no sense, it was either in bushes or under something like a dining table covered with a cloth or I was in a car or in a room I didn’t recognise, I saw different faces of men, some I knew and some were complete strangers. I tossed and turned and would wake up in cold sweats frantic and scared or sometimes in a surreal feeling of euphoria which made no sense as I was far from happy. Then I would realise something, my underwear would be twisted or not there. This was crazy what was this? I felt haunted and troubled by a dark spirit. No there was nothing ghostly about any of it. It was simply my husband taking advantage of my medication, waiting for me to be in a deep sense of sleep and being awake, he would have his way. I was not in my right mind, couldn’t fight him off. I craved being touched and loved but we both knew had I been in my right state of mind, there’s no way I would allow him to come near me.
When I realised what was happening I would angrily try to argue with Ken but the more I got upset the more my speech would collapse into a mess, and when it did, Ken would take the piss and mimic my speech in my face and walk away. Even sickness I was abused and treated with no value. I needed to get away.
My brothers and Cam put together and paid for a ticket to go to Trinidad to stay at family. Cam and Teddy finally saw what I was going through and they were worried that I would get so stressed I’d have a full-blown stroke. Sammy worked for an airline and got discounted tickets and booked to come with me. I had given Sammy my passport as I didn’t think it would be safe in my house.
It was May and going on five months since I had the strokes, the weather was quite warm. I had been taking little walks by myself. Just to local shops. I had worked on my speech and was understandable if I spoke short and slowly.
One day I took a walk to the local pharmacy. I had to go to the same shops all the time as I suffered short term memory loss and also forgot how to cook. Yes me, a chef, forgot how to cook, I couldn’t put a salad together, I couldn’t boil rice and an aunt used to cook and bring enough to last two days. Slowly people were seeing what Ken was doing to me and to our little family and many were mad with him which in turn made him more horrible in the things he did.
I went to the pharmacy and as I was at the counter I turned and saw a very dear old friend that I grew up with. He had come to my wedding and over the years I would bump into him as he was on the local high street giving leaflets out inviting people out to his church and church concerts. I remember there were rumours that a group of the guys on our old road had ‘found Jesus’
I hadn’t seen Winston since I was sick and he would freak out if he heard me. I needed to get past him without him seeing me, but he was right there by the front door and he was in deep conversation with no intentions of moving soon. I had to just try and walk past fast with a quick acknowledgement… as soon as I got nearer his conversation ended, what timing! There was nowhere to run or hide, he saw me… He broke out in a huge smile so happy he was to see me ‘Hey Maria what’s happening man, long time’ I smiled and I was scared to open my mouth, not sure of how he would react. He looked at me and was like ‘what’s up?’ I took a deep breathe in and said ‘don’t be alarmed’ and with that his face dropped and his eyes bulged out in unbelief of what he just heard… ‘Naaaa what happened, what’s wrong with you? how long you’ve been like this??? Maria what’s happened?’ I put my hands up for him to stop… ‘listen carefully, don’t be scared. It’s still me inside. I had a few mini strokes and my speech went but its much better now’ ‘What, THIS is much better?? I told him as much as I could, but I couldn’t talk long as my speech declined as I became fatigued. ‘’I’ve heard enough, Maria look you’ve tried doctors, specialists, physiotherapists, and look you still like this from since January. Do me a favour, try Jesus! What have you got to lose? We got a revival service on starting tomorrow and I’m telling you your life will change, you will get your healing. Just promise me you will come, will you come?’ What really did I have to lose? What harm could it be? I nodded. I burnt myself out by talking. I asked Winston to please drive me home as I was scared I’d get lost, I was forgetting my baring’s. He did. As he drove, he spoke highly of his church and made it sound so exciting. He wrote down the simple directions. It was just one bus and the bus stopped right outside the church. As he helped me out the car and to my door he asked me again, ‘you sure you will come, I want God to touch you.’ I smiled and nodded, too exhausted to talk. He understood and with that he said goodbye and I waved.
Tomorrow I was going to church.