One summer our mother became even more withdrawn, she passed the days in quite sadness. Finally one day she just snapped out of it and came back from her self- imposed world of isolation. Turns out she was making an important decision. Packing the four of us kids up she left our father and we returned to Texas. We went back to the Tonk Valley and the farm where she grew up.
In Texas away from our father everything changed. My brothers and I watched as our mother blossomed and for the first time in our young lives we saw her come to life. She seemed relieved to be in the protective arms of family and in the safety of that dirt farm she was once was so anxious to leave. She had a care-free air about her. She woke up and greeted everyday with a renewed interest in living. Fixing her hair with more style and putting on lipstick, she looked more like a twenty-nine year old woman should look.
Carried across the prairie on a gentle, late afternoon breeze our mother’s laughter could be heard as she ran through the yard to Poppy’s old car, hopped upon the fender and smiled for the camera. This must have been the real her, how she was before she met our father. We had never seen our mother like that…and we never would again.
With strong persuasion, pressure and guilt trips our father convinced her to return to California. Fortified with promises of changed behavior she was excited to resume life with the “new Park Long”. He was going to be different now. We were just kids and we didn’t buy it for a minute. We hated the thought of being with him again, we were scared to death of our father and he knew it, that’s how he liked it. Fear and dread hung over us as we waited for the “old Park Long” to reappear.
The “old Park Long” came back with a vengeance he had all new gear in his game bag. He raised the bar on the level of how mean and nasty he could be. Gary, Daniel, David and I, each in a different way increasingly showed signs of what life with him was doing to us. Our mother disappointed and tired of the battle checked out and emotionally shut-down. The joy of that Texas summer and the woman we briefly glimpsed became a far-away, distant memory.
Why our mother took us back to spend more time in hell with a brutal man I’ll never know. Sometimes I wonder if she had plans to attempt another escape that didn’t happen because she became so sick, I’ll never know that either. Five years after the trip that almost saved us she was dead at the age of thirty-six and we were left to go it alone.