When Rebecca was a teenager, a tragedy befell her. I’m only talking about the tragedy now because I’m telling her story in a book I’m writing and this chapter is necessary in order for you to understand her. It’s part of Rebecca’s backstory. Her tragedy is a nightmare that every parent fears and an event that would mark any teenage girl for life. It marked Rebecca and changed her and her life forever. I’m spending some time working on the backstory here on my blog. All of you writers and readers out there, I’d love your constructive criticism!
When Rebecca was a young teenager, her relationship with her mother was very dysfunctional. Her mom was a woman who was probably clinically depressed, though that was not a diagnosis typically made in the 1960s. She was very reclusive and laser-focused on Rebecca. She wanted Rebecca to study and make good grades. She didn’t want Rebecca to see her friends. Instead, Rebecca went to school and came home. She received constant warnings from her mom about what a bad influence her friends were on her, along with how she should not ever be around boys. When Rebecca was fifteen, her mother and dad had finally decided to let her go to selected places with her friends. She could never go anywhere like a school dance, but she could go to her friends’ houses, a drive-in restaurant, or a ballgame. Her dad would take her and come pick her up. Then something happened when sixteen was right around the corner.
Rebecca went to a basketball game with some of her girlfriends. SItting near them in the bleachers was a group of boys from the other high school in town. Rebecca didn’t know any of them. She didn’t even notice them. A boy from their group came over during the game and sat down beside Rebecca. They started to talk. She was very shy, but he drew her out and they laughed and talked a little during the game. At its end, he asked Rebecca out on a date. She told him she would have to ask her parents. He said he would call her and asked for her telephone number. Rebecca was thrilled. It was the first time she’d been asked out on a date.
As her dad drove her home that night, he told her that he had seen her talking to T.J. at the ballgame. She was scared to talk to her dad about it, but she knew she had to if she wanted to go out on a date with T.J. She told her dad T.J.’s name and a little about their conversation. A conversation between a shy, young girl and a boy who was a year older and more experienced. A boy who had already had a steady girlfriend. Her dad knew T.J.’s dad. After Rebecca asked if she could go out with T.J., her dad didn’t say anything for a long time. Finally, he gruffly told her she could. Rebecca threw her arms around his neck, even though he was driving. She didn’t see the tears in his eyes.
The tears in her dad’s eyes were not about that particular boy. Not then. They were because he knew he had to let Rebecca grow up. Had he known what would happen because of T.J. McNamara later, he would never have given his permission. He had no way to know.
Somehow, Rebecca’s dad convinced her mother that it was all right for Rebecca to go out with T.J. They never went out on school nights unless there was a ballgame. They dated throughout the end of Rebecca’s sophomore year in high school and through what would have been the first semester of her senior year in high school. Rebecca started college that semester. They became part of each other’s families. They were happy. T.J. had asked Rebecca to marry him.
Then, in the spring semester of Rebecca’s senior year, T.J. suddenly told her that he wanted to date other people. It was out of the blue. There was nothing she could do about it, and she and T.J. went their separate ways. Rebecca cried a million tears. One night, not very long after that, Rebecca went out with a group of kids in their car to the local drive-in restaurant. She didn’t even see T.J.’s car pull in, but before she knew it, T.J. jerked open the door of the car in which she was in and yanked her out of the car. Her friends started screaming for him to let her go, but he shoved her into his car and roared away. No one could possibly have caught him.
Rebecca doesn’t remember what words passed between them. As they pulled out of the restaurant’s parking lot, they turned toward the outskirts of the small town. The first thing Rebecca felt was T.J. hitting her in the face with his fist. He had never raised a hand to her during their years of dating. Things got fuzzy for Rebecca after that first blow. All she remembers is that he kept hitting her in the eye and face as he drove. She finally passed out. When she awoke, he was beating her in the abdomen, still driving the car, and she passed out again.
The next thing Rebecca remembered was being in T.J.’s car on the shoulder of the road leading to his parent’s house. He was talking to her even though she had been unconscious. He was asking her how they could cover up what he had done. She doesn’t remember answering. She was in a stupor. Not exactly unconscious, but not conscious either. He drove her to his parent’s farm which was a number of miles out of town. She remembers T.J.’s mother sitting down in shock when she saw them walk in and thinking she must look bad. The only other thing she remembers about that visit is T.J.’s parents telling him to take her home.
Rebecca doesn’t remember the drive home. All she remembers is waking up in a heap in her driveway and thinking that it was dark and she hurt and was alone. She supposed that T.J. just pushed her out of the car instead of face her parents. She was too weak to get up. She just laid there and cried for her dad. Somehow, her dad heard her or heard something and came to investigate. She remembers that he snatched her up, crying, and took her inside and laid her on the couch. She remembers thinking she’d ruin her mother’s couch with blood. He and her mother tried to get her to talk to them and tell them what happened. She doesn’t remember talking, but she must have mentioned T.J. Her dad put she and her mother in the car and drove them to the Emergency Room. Then he left, although Rebecca didn’t know until weeks later that he went to T.J.’s parent’s farm and tried to kill him with a 2’X4′ piece of lumber. His dad stopped him.
Rebecca was in the hospital for several days. Her eye was damaged with all the blood vessels broken. The bones in her eye socket were bruised and her jaw on the right side was cracked. The facial bruising was severe as was the bruising on her abdomen. She had broken ribs. Rebecca’s parents told her later that she didn’t speak to them or to the doctor’s the entire time she was in the hospital. She went home at the end of those few days, but she never went back to high school again. She did eventually continue on in college when she had healed. Physically. Rebecca didn’t ever emotionally heal. Not really.
Rebecca never talked to T.J. again. She never knew what caused him to do what he did. He was obviously an abuser. She didn’t even see him again for many years. When she did, there was no remorse on his face. Instead, there was a sneer. Many years later, physical damage from that terrible beating came back to haunt Rebecca.
The emotional and mental injuries were, by far, the worst. It was years before she went out on another date. She finished college quickly in that small town in eastern Tennessee. She did have many friends, but she didn’t see her high school friends. She left as quickly as she was finished with college and moved to the city. Except for coming back and visiting her parents, it was years before she ever spent time in her hometown again.
There was no doubt that Rebecca needed psychological counseling after the incident with T.J., but that kind of therapy was not widely available during the 1960s and 1970s. Instead, she buried that incident in her psyche and didn’t think about it for years at a time. Later in Rebecca’s life, she realized that it had shaped her relationships for all of her life. It was too late now.