|Four generations: Mom, Sister, niece, Grandma Lois|
He'd killed his first wife and her father, though he never got caught for it. We know he did because he tried to kill my grandmother in the same way they'd died. He tried multiple times. Thankfully my grandma had a crazy mother and knew how to deal with insanity - she simply refused to die.
But she would leave. After 4 years of terror and tantrums (the tantrums, of course, on George's part) Grandma left. But she couldn't just escape into the night, no. You see, George the sadist had 3 daughters by his first wife. Grandma Lois couldn't leave them to be beaten and berated til death or majority did them part. She determined to get them out too. The problem was, things didn't work in the 60s the way they work today - no matter how many times George's abuse was reported, the children were not taken away and the man was not imprisoned. There was only one thing left to do: buy him off.
The house was in Grandma's name. When George denied her custody of his children, she offered him half the proceeds of the sale of the house. By some great miracle (there IS a God), he agreed, on the stipulation that they go to a girls' home rather than be given to her. She said yes, found them a good home in Iowa, and put them on a plane. To this day she'll say letting them go was one of the hardest things she ever did, but she had to do it to get them away from George. The girls were raised in Iowa and ended up staying there. Though I heard the stories my whole life, I never met them.
Two weeks ago my cousin Desiree got married. Desiree is the daughter of my mother's half sister Dawna - the only child Grandma Lois and George had together. The oldest of George's daughters came out for the wedding, since Desiree is technically her blood niece. Meeting her was kind of like meeting my dead grandfather: a legendary creature from my mother's past come alive again. All the old stories were dredged up, but this time I got to hear them from Sandy's perspective too. Apparently he'd tried to kill her the same way he'd killed her mother. To an abused 9-year-old in the 1960s, Grandma's second marriage is the best thing that could have happened. She calls Grandma "Mama" - strange and childlike and affectionate to my ears since my mom and aunties and uncle just call her "Mom".
I went with Grandma and Aunt Brenda and Aunt Carol the day Sandy was dropped off to the airport cause, like I said, I'm terribly nostalgic. These family interactions mean something to me; the stories are buried in the vaults of my heart. I waited in the running car as I watched the four of them disappear around a corner to see Sandy safely off. When my aunties and grandma came back they were crying - all three. As Sandy said goodbye she had clutched them tightly, crying, and saying, "You saved my life."
It was the only time I've ever seen my grandmother cry.