MANSFIELD: Graveyard Love

That’s what old folks from down South call it, “Graveyard Love” meaning, “If I can’t have you no one else can. One of us will be in their grave and the other will be in the penitentiary for doing the killing.” Sick? Yes. But, alas, all too true — it happens all the time.

I know quite a bit about Graveyard Love. I was almost victimized by it nearly 50 years ago by getting married far too young at age 17 to a woman who was also 17 but going on 40, if you know what I mean. When I came into my manhood at around age 24 I attempted to renegotiate the terms of our relationship. I wanted to claim my adulthood, but since she had been in control of our marriage for seven years her response was essentially, “Who finally woke you up? Go back to sleep, little boy, I got this.” But try as I might I simply couldn’t.

And when I didn’t she began to suggest violence as a means of exerting control over the marriage. She has been raised by a Mississippi mother that beat all of her 11 children, so violence was a way of life for her. I, on the other hand, had been raised to never raise a hand in anger to anyone, especially someone you love — but eventually, I did.

After my wife hit me from behind (as I was walking down the stairs in our lovely home) with a tremendous blow that sent us both tumbling to the living room floor, I snapped. When I came to my senses I was on top of her and my hands were around her throat; she was three-quarters dead.

Thankfully, I came to my senses and when I released my grip I immediately thought, “My God, I don’t love this woman enough to go to prison for killing her.” Although it took me over a year to make my exit, at that point I was already gone.

She bought a gun. I took it out of the house and hid it. She bought another.

We tried family counseling but to no avail. Even the psychologist that counseled us whispered in my ear one day as we were leaving, “You have to leave, it will never work.” This was something I already knew. But Christine wasn’t having it. She was hell-bent on having her way or having a tragic ending to the union.

The hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life was leaving my then-wife, two children, and a very comfortable lifestyle. We really had had it going on. Plenty of money, good careers, but the specter of death haunted our house like a ghost; it hung around us like bad credit.

However, know this: We all, each one of us, once we are adults, have a responsibility to keep ourselves safe and out of harm’s way for ourselves and our loved ones. I plotted my exit and then ran away from the family I deeply loved like a scalded dog. I got out of Dodge, putting thousands of miles between me and the problem so no one would die.

I left town so that she would not be able to force me to hurt her while defending myself because I had made up my mind that if one of us was going to the graveyard it damn sure wasn’t going to be me. But by my leaving neither of us died.

So, no matter how disruptive it is to your life, no matter what you have to leave behind, when you know a person is dangerous towards you, you have an obligation to just get yourself out of harm’s way, even if, as the Bible says, you have to “exile yourself to the land of Nod, to the East of Eden.”

Or, if you want to stay you can always buy yourself a shiny pistol for protection and see how that works out.

From CoolCleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author at http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.



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