Monthly Archives: November 2011
After Daddy’s funeral my sister and I discovered we had not been mentioned in Daddy’s Will. However, we were so lucky to have been allowed from the executor of Daddy’s estate to get things from our childhood and items that were important to us from Daddy’s home. I was able to get photo’s from when I was a little girl to be able to show our son. I didn’t have one picture because Daddy held them hostage. But, it was over. There was never going to be another phone call where he could call me names or threaten me. He could no longer hang up on me because he didn’t like what I said. The real question was how was I going to let go? I knew he couldn’t physically hurt me anymore but emotionally he could as long as I allowed it. After his death I had a difficult time sleeping because all I could think about was him. Even in death I was allowing Daddy to maintain his control over me. I knew I couldn’t give Daddy that power but also I knew I didn’t deserve it either. I needed to STOP carrying the pain and disappointment because it was only going to fester the same anger that fueled Daddy’d abuse. Like hell could I do that to my son. I had to figure out a way to let it all go and to give it all back to Daddy for him to carry on his own shoulders as his own bourdon. That’s when I realized that I could walk through that process by telling my story and by writing down my vivid memories of what I had lived through. It was time I came clean sort of speak and allowed myself to feel the pain of what happened. It was time to let those who were close to me in the past and present to know me. Daddy was gone. I needed to stop that madness of protecting him and finally put myself first. It was important for me to write about what Daddy did to me without making any excuses for why he did them. And it was crucial I admit in a somewhat public way that I had an abusive father (hence why I titled my writings as I did), so that I could begin to relinquish the piles of crap I have carried with me for years. Always easier said than done, it has been a tremendous obstacle for me to let go. Here’s the crazy part. I fought Daddy tooth and nail when he called me stupid or fed me some crazy rhetoric. However, I suppose still after so many years of being bombarded with such negative words I actually ended up internalizing them and believed them. I never wanted Daddy to win in that manner, but I have allowed him. Because Daddy felt self worth and value was determined by your wealth, I continue to see my life as a failure. It is such a battle for me. I can’t stop seeing what we don’t have and I find it hard to not use what I’m missing in life against me. When jealousy creeps into my head and I am pained because someone else has more than I do, I know that is Daddy’s evil way of maintaining control over me. But, the reality is, it is incredibly hard to shake. I continue to struggle with believing I have self worth and can be a productive person in society. I find I regress to the behavior that isolated Daddy and ultimately decided his fate to die alone. I know from where it comes but it was so ingrained for so many years, how do I change all that was familiar to me? I have a very hard time not believing I’m dumb and could ever do anything worth while with my life. Often I feel like the cowardly lion off of the Wizard of Oz. I walk around holding my tail and repeating over and over again, I am not afraid, I am not afraid. Well, that’s how I am on the inside but I attempt to be confident on the outside. I suppose I over compensate as I can create a hard exterior at times. In reality it is a daily struggle and challenge to keep myself from believing the many awful things my father said to me. The only time I don’t feel this way is when I am doing my art. The process more than the product puts me in a place where I am confident and at total peace. I am able to lose myself in it which allows all of those negatives to disappear. I am never reminded of my daily emotional fight when I am creating. It is my utopia and I love it. But, the reality is who can make a living off of it? This is where I struggle to fit into society’s cookie cutter expectations in order to make a living. I often feel as if I am that child’s toy where you place the correct shapes into the open holes. However, I am the square piece always trying to fit into the circle hole. As much as I try to “mainstream” I never seem to fit.
You know, I have been asked by many of my friends if because I was abused by my father was that why I chose to “marry” a woman. I do want to address this question. It is more complicated than the answer I’m giving but in essence, there is no proof in any study that suggests being abused by a parent determines your sexual preference. Here’s a statistic for you. One in every ten people are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. In those numbers there is no increased numbers of parental abuse compared to that of their straight counterparts. What does hold true for some who are abused is they do have a higher tendency to choose a partner who is abusive. They misinterpret abuse as love and aren’t able to break the cycle. But regardless of any study or statistic, I have come to realize some truths. For one, it matters to me not as to “why” I am in a lesbian relationship. All that matters to me is that I have someone I love deeply and she loves me. And out of that love we have an amazing son. I’d like to see that I received my family as my gift. I am proud of my family, love them dearly and I cannot imagine having any other. So, with that said, I will go so far to say I feel it was Bashert for me to walk through the doors of hell in order to enter into the gates of heaven known as my family. I have to believe my life experiences were never in vane and with out a purpose.
Listen, just as Kermit says about being a frog, “It ain’t easy being green.” It too ain’t easy being a product of abuse. It comes with a shit load of baggage. Because it didn’t take place over night, we forget about the many layers we created to protect ourselves to get through those abusive years. Only when we begin to shed them, we realize the depth of the amount of crap we created. As we are proud of ourselves when one layer sheds, we get pissed when lo and behold there is another layer underneath. What the hell? When will it end? The audacity of abuse! The audacity to force me to remember my past each time another layer has to be shed. The nerve of it!
Let me explain how I perceive the concept of “layering” for myself. Imagine there is a woman who whenever you see her is holding an open umbrella. You find her strange because she not only has an the umbrella open when she’s outside but she has it open all of the time when she’s inside. At first she used the umbrella just outside to protect herself from the occasional falling bird shit. But as the shit kept increasing and because it was so nasty, she started carrying that umbrella all of the time. Now, over time as the elements got worse, she’d have to produce another umbrella that was more durable than the last hence continuously having to had another layer of protection. And so that’s what I did. It was just that my umbrella was invincible. Here’s the thing though. Even though I hate what I lived through and I’d NEVER EVER want to do it again, my life as it was made me who I am today. My partner hates when I use the word, “journey” but for a lack of a better word, I had to take that journey for whatever reason. I was certainly damn lucky to have people who cared about me strategically placed along my journey to assure I took the right turns. And on the days I was alone I somehow found the drive to keep going. Looking back, I think that drive was fueled by my youth which contained a sprinkle of cockiness and a shit load of determination to prove Daddy wrong. I was once asked by a friend if I felt I would have had better opportunities or achieved more in my life if I had supportive parents? Possibly, but I would be dumb to focus on what could have been. It’s mute. Focusing on past events that can’t be changed doesn’t help me heal, live in the present and make my future better. I have to maintain motion and keep moving forward without stumbling back on the “what ifs” which only create more resentment and anger. I have to leave behind the anger and the questions of “Why?” Those things will only stifle me and prevent me from living today. Look at my own father as the perfect example. He never could let go of his anger and he spent a lifetime of asking “Why?” Let me ask you. Where did that lead him? What did it do to his quality of life? As you’ve read It led him down a path I never want to know for myself. Unfortunately, Daddy did drag me along for the ride for a while but watching him slowly self destruct was enough for me to say, “I NEVER want that for myself.” Daddy’s anger consumed him forcing him to throw away every friend he had and every family member who loved him. Over time there was no one left. And even as he stood alone, his anger took precedence. I can’t imagine choosing my anger over my family and friends. They are way too valuable and I need them in my life. It really was ashamed that Daddy was so engulfed by his anger that he never could see beyond it to a world where so much beauty did exist. Right there in front of him. There was the beauty of his two granddaughter’s. Their innocent smiles, their birthday parties, high school graduations and college graduations. He missed them all. There was the beauty of his grandson. His laughter, first days of school and birthday parties. He missed them all too.
The reality of it all as my months of writing about my abusive father comes to an end is that Daddy may be gone but his abuse will live with me for eternity. However, it’s really interesting what has come out of this experience for me. Now that I’ve written it all down, I no longer feel the need to remember what happened. I never wanted to forget the many details and how I felt at the time. It was important to me. But now, I can let go. I gladly pass the ownership of my pain and the details of my abuse to each of my chapters where they can now be housed. The comfort of knowing I can finally pass possession is cathartic and freeing. I’m sure my future will give me quite a ride. Let it be the best one yet because
One Saturday evening in mid November my partner and I were getting ready for a friends engagement party. We had a couple of hours to kill before getting ready, so we thought we’d watch a little TV. I was looking forward to the evening as it was mine and my partner’s date night. Our babysitter, funny enough, was the child I had babysat for six years while living in her family’s garage apartment. Our son loved her, so that made us feel comfortable to have her.
As we were relaxing and watching TV, the phone rang. I answered it. The woman on the other end said, “May I speak to MaLea, please?” Just as I heard her voice my heart sank. I recognized the voice as Daddy’s girlfriend’s daughter. We had spoken in the past and I had always felt the next time I’d speak to her she would be telling me Daddy was dead. When I answered that it was me who was speaking, the woman identified herself as who I thought she was. I sat on the edge of the couch waiting to hear why she had called. Meanwhile, I knew. She first apologized for disturbing me and then didn’t waste anytime to tell me why she had called. She was kind and so sweet. I really liked her. She said, “MaLea, I’m sorry to have to call you like this and to have to tell you like this but your Dad died.” Even though I knew why she had called, I was in shock when she said those words, “Your dad died.” Those were the words I had dreaded to hear for years. And yet I knew that was exactly how I was going to find out he had died. But even though I had expected it, it still didn’t make it any easier to hear.
A rush of emotions hit me as I echoed her words over and over again in my head. Daddy was gone. “It” was all over. There was never going to be any chance of reconciliation and Daddy was never going to say the words to me, “I’m sorry for all of those years I neglected you and abused you.” Daddy was dead and there was never going to be another chance of hearing from him or running into him in the grocery store. It was so hard to wrap my brain around the realization of it. My Daddy who I loved in spite of his abuse was gone. And above all the many years I tried to get Daddy to take ownership of his behavior felt in vain the very moment I was told he was dead. With those thoughts a huge wave of sadness hit me and I wasn’t able to continue to speak on the phone. I passed the phone to my partner as I went upstairs to be by myself. I know it sounds cliche, but I fell to my knees, rested my head on my bed and cried like I had never cried before. I know it sounds crazy but I was sad that my dad was gone. I spent my entire life chasing him, chasing a dream. I just can’t even begin to explain how I felt that evening. Not only did I feel an overwhelming amount of sadness but I also felt anger for him not wanting to repair what he had so seriously damaged. It felt good to punch my bed as I imagined I was punching Daddy for all of the pain he had caused me. That BASTARD! What a coward! As difficult as it was it actually felt good to let out the pain and anger that had been building for so long. And it was so poignant to be doing it for the person who found crying to be a weakness. It was a defining moment for me. I realized how I had wasted so many years for a cause that I could never change.
I found out that Daddy had died alone. It was what he said was his biggest fear. And yet, he chose it. Apparently, that day we saw him in the grocery store (two years before), he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Sadly, he had quit smoking four years prior but it was too late. A lifetime of smoking couldn’t change his outcome. The amazing part was Daddy didn’t tell anyone of his diagnosis. Incredible! That man spent his entire life telling others he was dying for this or that reason. And then when he was actually diagnosed with what would be his demise, he kept it a secret. There was just no way to ever figure out that man. Anyway, towards the end of Daddy’s life, he isolated himself in his home. He refused any treatment, so he basically was waiting to die. Just days before his death Daddy’s girlfriend’s daughter went to Daddy’s house to check on him because he was no longer answering his phone. It took Daddy a very long time to answer the door and when he did his appearance shocked her. His legs had open sores that were bleeding. He didn’t even know it and dismissed it when she asked him about it. He hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for days and he couldn’t remember what day it was. Not able to care for Daddy herself especially since she didn’t know what was wrong with him, she told Daddy she needed to take him to the hospital. He got upset and told her no. She could see something was very wrong with Daddy and she knew she couldn’t leave him home alone. The condition he was in clearly showed his lack of ability to care for himself. She felt he was in danger which he was. Against Daddy’s will, she called a State service to come and remove him from his home. And as they had to forcefully remove Daddy from his home, he at first was very angry. I was told he was screaming that they had no right to take him. But then when he realized they were not going to back down, Daddy started crying and begging them to allow him to die at home alone. To those around him who heard they said it was incredibly heartbreaking when Daddy pleaded for them to not take him away. After a day in the hospital Daddy slipped into a coma and died. No one was by his side.
My sister wanted Daddy to have an Orthodox, Jewish funeral which I supported. She made the arrangements and asked a Rabbi who had known Daddy to officiate. I didn’t sleep the entire night before the funeral. I needed to write how I was feeling. And so I did. After I finished I felt it was important for me to read it at Daddy’s funeral. I needed to read it out loud. I needed those in attendance to hear. I suppose I needed to finally admit what Daddy had done, so that I could move forward with my life and not allow him to hold me back. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure the Rabbi would allow me.
The day of the funeral, it was a beautiful one. It was just like the day Momma had died. The air was crisp and the sun was out. When the Rabbi arrived I asked him if I could please read something. He was very kind to allow me that and I was so appreciative. As Daddy’s coffin lied in front of me I took my paper, stood up and read the following for all to hear. It wasn’t important just for those present to hear me but more importantly where ever Daddy was, I needed that one last moment for him to hear. I finally had his undivided attention to hear my pain and to see me cry. Aside from the words I read that day I needed to express the pain I was feeling by showing it through my tears. To me it was a spit to the face of Daddy’s philosophy that crying meant I was weak. On the contrary it took all the strength I had to allow my emotions to flow that day without being inhibited by the absurdity of his insane rational. My crying was ALL about strength that day as I read:
I truly never thought this day would come. Even though you have always had physical problems, I thought you’d live forever. Today is such a sad day for me and now in death I hope you can understand my pain. I love you daddy. You will always have a special place in my heart. In that place I own a part of you where I remember the loving side of my Daddy. I remember the wonderful hugs and kisses you used to be able to give. I remember when we used to snuggle in your bed and I’d tickle you under your arms. I loved the laugh you would give. I will remember the bear hugs you would give when I was afraid at night of the monsters. I will always laugh about how you tried to tell me that there was nothing to fear but fear itself and I was only 6. . I will always miss our incredible conversations about the universe and where we go when we die.
Daddy, I know that you lived life with a lot of pain and as a result it cost you so much including your family. It saddens me that your life was enveloped with this pain and that it had to take away our Daddy. However, I understand that your pain and fears could not be overcome. Sadly, it owned you to the very end.
Daddy, I hope Momma isn’t giving you too much grief. I can see her right now with a rolled up piece of paper whacking you over the head saying, Norman, what the hell was wrong with you? And I’m sure she’s one of many in line. However, in my heart, today I see that this as the first day of a pain free world for you. Finally, you no longer suffer and you can be free of any demons and monsters you had been fighting with for so long. Daddy, I’m so sorry for your suffering. I am so sorry. I would have given anything to have been able to take that away from you. However, I understand it was something you could not relinquish.
I’m also sad today that you Daddy chose to die alone. My heart is truly broken not for myself but for you. No one deserves that. Even at the end, you still couldn’t reach out.
I know Daddy, you, made a lot of enemies in your life and I know you made many bad choices. You did many bad things to me. I will never understand why and I will never forget those things. A daddy should never do those things to their child. As my partners family always says- shame on you. However, in order for me to move forward so that I don’t pass on that anger, since of revenge, rage and pain that you Daddy so steadfastly held onto, I must bury those things today with you. I want Judah to have a fresh new start.
Daddy, I love you despite all of our differences. Please, tell Momma that I love her too and have missed her so much. Give her a kiss for me (after she stops being angry). Tell her about Carol and tell her that I’m happy. Please, y’all come for a visit sometime and be there to watch Judah in all of his life’s events. Please, stand next to me when I need my Momma and Daddy’s support so I don’t let my pain overwhelm me.
Today is an ending to a very sad story. However, today is now a new beginning. Thank you Daddy for (now) giving me that new beginning.
I love you.
It had been a few years since I had heard from Daddy. Every now and then I’d receive phone calls where I’d answer but there would be silence on the other end. I always suspected it was him. Just my gut telling me and the fact that when I would say, “Daddy?” the person would immediately hang up. In the Spring of 1999 Daddy not only called but he actually spoke instead of hanging up. He told me he needed to speak to me and my partner but because of the seriousness of it, he couldn’t do it on the phone. He told me it was crucial he speak to me in person. OK, what now? I figured it was him in his paranoid state wanting to go over this or that instruction for when he dies. So, as usual I played his game and my partner and I went to his house.
Oh about his house. He wasn’t living in an apartment anymore but living in the house of one of his girlfriends. The girlfriend finished medical school and moved to another city. Her intentions were to sell the house to Daddy as he promised to buy it. However, their relationship eventually became so strained she ended up giving him the house to get rid of him. I’m sure it was a well devised plan by Daddy to get what he wanted-a free house!
My partner and I went to Daddy’s house a couple of hours after he called. After all according to Daddy it was imperative he speak to us immediately and waiting until the following day just wouldn’t do. I had been to his house, well I mean to his girlfriend’s house in the past. It was a cute brick house with a nice garden in the front. When we arrived that day though, the house looked much different. The garden was gone and it was replaced by cacti. All of the windows had iron gates on them including the front door and garage door. Here was the thing. If Daddy’s neighborhood was not safe, one would not question the iron gates. But, that was not the case. His neighborhood was safe. So, what the hell was the deal?
We knocked on his front door. We could hear Daddy unlocking several locks before opening the door. He invited us inside, asked us to sit down in his den and wasted no time to talk to us. OK, for those of you who don’t remember 1999 that year brought about lots of doomsayers. In essence they thought computers had no way to transfer to the year 2000 resulting in the inability to access our money in the bank and other important tasks controlled by computers. And without the ability to do those tasks, our way of living as we knew it would drastically change for the worse. There were companies selling self sufficient heating and cooking units for homes in case there was no more electricity. Guns and ammunition sales increased as people thought they’d have to protect their homes from looters. There were many companies who cashed in on the fear of what was called, “the Y2k scare.” And of course who’s father was also sucked into the fear? Yep, my Dad. And yep, that was what he wanted to talk to us about that day. He wanted to prepare us for the horrors that were to come and to advise us on how to protect ourselves. Meanwhile, why couldn’t he have told us everything over the phone? Well, just in case his phone was tapped, he didn’t want anyone to know how much information he had about Y2k and all that was going to happen. He acted as if a special CIA person had dropped by his house to give him the news and then made him swear to keep it top secret. Listen, Daddy would have been more accurately described as being the wacky Get Smart character. A James Bond, he was not!
But anyway, as we sat there that day Daddy said in a very serious tone the dangers of what was to come in the year 2000. Daddy believed there would be massive food shortages and because of that people would have to eat their pets to survive. He thought civil wars would break out between Counties and eventually between neighborhoods leaving folks prisoners in their homes. He told us he had proof it was going to happen because he had a very reputable source. However, he wasn’t able to tell us that source because it was top secret.
I got to thinking. I had a friend of mine who was a doctor. He had a patient who claimed to know the winning numbers to the lottery because he said he was psychic and he claimed to have had a bionic penis. Would you believe my friend bought a lottery ticket with the numbers that guy suggested? Well, you think that same guy might have been the one feeding my Dad the crap about Y2k? Hey, if he could convince a doctor to buy a lottery ticket even when he openly claimed to have a bionic penis, it was conceivable he fed a load of crap to Daddy too.
Daddy did claim to have a video that would prove what he told us was going to happen but we told him we didn’t want to see it. He offered for us to take it but we’d have to promise to not show it to anyone else and to return it. My partner told him it was not necessary for us to watch the video. The final clincher which made my partner doubt Daddy’s very sanity was when he told us our only hope of survival would be to move to Israel. To that my partner said loudly, “What? You’ve got to be kidding me!” She found Daddy’s philosophy on Y2k ridiculous and way over the top. Because I was so used to Daddy’s mentality, I couldn’t see the absurdity of it at the time. And it was very hard for me to watch my partner laugh at Daddy. Once again no matter how crazy something was of his, I wanted to protect him and to show he wasn’t that crazy. It was hard to accept.
When I told Daddy we didn’t have the money to move over seas, he replied, “That’s why I’m telling you guys this now. It will give you the time to raise the money and get out.” Here was the thing. I NEVER wanted to believe that Daddy was crazy. He was my Dad. Come on, Dads were so supposed to be the person a child could go to for advice and support. What the hell? Not me though! I get the dad who thinks his phones are being tapped by none other than the greatest secret service agency in the world, the Mossad. And I have the dad who believes all of the Y2k hype and spends a fortune to “protect” himself from any of the disasters to come as a result. How was it that I got the paranoid dad? Why did my dad live his entire life with an obsessive compulsiveness of death and destruction which kept him totally stifled from living? I will never know why. And as often as I do ask why and as often as I have been jealous of others who had a loving and caring father, I have to believe it was Bashert for me to be dealt this hand in life. It was just in my cards for whatever reason, good or bad. I may not have liked it and I may have suffered along the way but it was what I was given. And even though I had no control over the cards I was dealt, I did have the control once I got older to fold on the chaotic and painful game of life my Dad had created. Was I strong enough? Would I be able to do it knowing that meant leaving Daddy behind? Fortunately, I had a partner who was giving me that strength and showing me the healthier and happier ways through life. She grounded me during those times I felt guilty and wanted to run back to Daddy. And eventually after our son was born, she helped me to see the importance of protecting him from the evil that had taken so much away from me. I never wanted my son to know the pain, the abuse and the games of Daddy and the only way to keep him safe was to remove Daddy from my life. Even though I knew my son’s safety came first, it would be one of the hardest decisions I was to make in my life. A day never went by where I didn’t feel guilty or sad by the absence of my father.
As we left Daddy’s house the day he told us about the dangers of Y2k I was speechless. I wanted to believe him. I was sad. I was angry. I was feeling so many different emotions, my head was spinning. I suppose as more time passed with me not being in contact with him, the more clear it was becoming of how off kilter his mental state was. Over the next months we found out Daddy had stock piled food and prepared his house like a fort. He spent a fortune preparing for something that never ended up happening. And honestly, that truly was the essence of Daddy. Because he spent half of his time looking back at what he thought was taken away from him and the other half of his time looking forward, he truly missed out an entirely huge section of his life. He couldn’t live in the present and therefor couldn’t see the many wonderful gifts he did have.
In 2003 when our beautiful son was born I had not spoken to Daddy since the Y2k incident. He didn’t even know we were having a baby which I chose to not tell him. When I was pregnant my partner and I were at a local store when I heard a nasty and angry voice coming from behind me. With out even looking I asked my partner if that was my father. When she confirmed it was, I wanted to cry. He had not changed as I was always hoping he would. To no surprise Daddy was yelling at his girlfriend and an employee of the store over a package of toilet paper. He was mean, rude and so hateful. Because of that very behavior I promised my partner our son would be protected and be kept safe from the abuses of my father. Unfortunately, because Daddy was so volatile the only option I had was to live my life without him. It wasn’t easy. Here’s the thing. It was an easy decision but it wasn’t easy to do without the feelings of guilt and sadness.
In 2005 after several years had gone by without any contact with Daddy something unexpected happened that I am forever grateful. My partner, our son and I were making our usual weekly grocery store run. Since I walk faster I walked into the store first. When I did I immediately saw my Dad at the checkout line. I stopped frozen for a second. Daddy looked so old and was in a motorized buggy. He was joking with the checkout clerk. As I ran out of the store my partner and son were just headed into the area where the buggies were. My partner asked me What was wrong? I was out of sorts, nervous and afraid. I wanted Daddy to meet his grandson but I was stifled by an overwhelming feeling of sadness. I asked my partner to please introduce our son to him for me. I told her I couldn’t do it because I didn’t think I could be strong enough and separate myself from the emotional side of it. Just as my partner took our son to meet my dad, I felt a sudden wave of strength come over me. I heard my mom’s voice telling me it was important Daddy see me too. Just as my partner introduced our son to my Dad, I walked up to them. Daddy didn’t know who I was. I had to introduce myself. Listen, I didn’t expect Daddy to go all goo goo and ga ga over his grandson. After all he already had two granddaughters he chose to ignore. But, for me at least he knew about them and saw them. I needed him to see my child.
After a few minutes our son was wrestles so my partner took him to get our groceries. She asked if I’d be alright and I told her I would be fine. Daddy and I spoke for about 20 minutes. He had many questions for me. He asked about my sister. I was able to tell him she had breast cancer and how we were in touch. When he challenged me as to why I would be in contact with her, I asked him, ” What was the one thing you’d always tell me and my sister when we’d argue?” Daddy answered, “That you only have each other, so you should always love each other and be there for each other.” I was able to tell him that just because my sister and I are different in many ways that was OK. We could still love each other and talk to each other. I’ll never forget how Daddy raised his eyebrows and sat back in his chair in response. He asked about our son’s name and why I had not named him after Momma. I was able to explain the meaning of his name which totally symbolized Momma. Daddy tried to take time from our conversation to tell me about his heart attack he had 6 months prior and how his health wasn’t good. However after years and years of hearing about his ill health I changed the subject to ask him about some genealogy stuff on Momma’s side. Just as I did my partner walked up. She was done with her groceries. I wanted to talk to Daddy longer. For the first time ever he seemed medicated to keep his erratic behavior in check. I didn’t think that simply because of his unusual calm demeanor but also because of the way he transitioned from one topic to another even when he didn’t agree. He stayed calm which was highly unusual.
My partner knew the longer I stayed to talk to Daddy the harder it would be for me to leave. She told me we needed to get our son home to eat. And so we said our goodbye’s and walked to our car. No hugs, no kisses. Just the words, Goodbye.”
As we walked out of the grocery store and into the parking lot, my partner put her arm around me and said, “I think that will be the last time you’ll ever see your father.” Already crying, I looked at her and softly said, “I know.” Daddy sat in his car watching us until we drove away. His expressionless face as he watched us will be etched in my memory for a long time to come, but hopefully not forever.
Well after accidentally hanging up on Daddy, I thought it would be best to not call him back. Listen, he wasn’t like most people (as if you haven’t figured that out by now) where he’d cool off as time passed. Nope, his anger would escalate. But not calling him back had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. I didn’t want to deal with his temper tantrum, so I made the unusual decision to not call him. I had chosen to take the control. In the past I would have called him right back to apologize. It wasn’t as if I debated the idea either. I just didn’t want to deal with him and so I didn’t. I even thought about taking my phone off the hook so he wouldn’t have the chance to call me. But, he was the kind who would have called the operator, acted all frantic and worried making the operator think I had been attacked by a burglar which would have convinced the operator to check my phone line. Then, if the operator told him it was off of the hook, he would have called the family who owned my apartment to ask them to check on me. And because he didn’t have their phone number he would have called the husband at work and made a HUGE production out of it. So, knowing what Daddy was capable of doing I would do whatever was necessary to keep him from bothering/contacting any of the people who were providing for me. I was terrified he would ruin all that I had worked hard to have as Daddy was known for his destruction. Also, more than anything it totally nauseated me of how he’d pretend to be concerned about me when in reality he was only concerned about me when he needed me or my money. I wanted to keep Daddy away from those folks who had done so much for me. I never wanted him to insult them or say something out of place which I thought would ruin all that I did have. Listen, Daddy had a way of harassing people. My greatest fear was that my adopted family and the family whose garage apartment I was living in would have found it easier to get rid of me so they wouldn’t have to deal with Daddy. So, I did whatever I could to keep him separated from them.
Listen, even though I wanted to keep that separation it was hard for me. I felt guilty during holidays when I was invited to other people’s homes and Daddy was excluded. And yet I had a valid reason to exclude him. The thing was I wanted to be proud of my Dad and I wanted more than anything to have him in my life. But, I was learning that the way Daddy wanted to be involved in my life was of course not healthy but it also wasn’t conducive to living my life as I needed.
Once I did allow my guilt to wear me down and I broke my rule of keeping Daddy separated. It will forever be engraved in my brain the one Passover my adopted mother asked if I wanted to invite Daddy to join them/us for one of the Seders at her house. She did not know about Daddy’s abusive behavior as I never had told her. However, she knew there was something not right with him. Not that she ever said anything to me but I could sense she knew. Anyway, I remember feeling so confused. I wanted him there but I was afraid of how Daddy would behave. I didn’t want my adopted parents to hate me if Daddy behaved badly. Sadly, I was used to blaming myself and reaping the consequences if something went wrong. But that was my own projection never my adopted family’s. Even though I knew of Daddy’s great potential to make an ass out of himself, I still wanted to be with him especially during the holidays. Oh, how I tortured myself with being afraid of what I would say “might happen” (when in essence it always happened) and me wanting to be with my Daddy.
My adopted mother never expressed her anger or dislike for my father even when she knew he was neglectful. Instead, she remained neutral. Now, that didn’t mean she refrained from giving me advice. But, with the advice she never said anything bad about Daddy and only made suggestions that were good for me. I think at the time I wanted her to tell me how wrong Daddy was so I could stop blaming myself. However, I can see where I needed to come to that realization on my own. And the truth of the matter I’m not so sure I could have accepted that honesty about Daddy at that time anyway.
After going back and forth I ultimately decided to invite Daddy. But as usual because of my decision the weeks leading up to the Seder were excruciating for me. I was beyond nervous and worried because I couldn’t know how Daddy was going to behave. He could make an ass out of himself and in turn would make me feel so embarrassed. Then as I started thinking about what could potentially happen I got mad at myself for having invited him. What the hell was I thinking? Why did I do that to myself? What could I have potentially subjected my adopted family to and how would Daddy treat them? Why did I feel sorry for Daddy so much that I had that need to invite him? Dumb, Dumb, Dumb, I was!
The night before the Seder I remember wanting to numb myself with whatever drugs I could get my hands on but I was so frustrated because I no longer had those contacts to even get any. It was the first time in years I had that need to be wasted. I realized it had been triggered by my fear of Daddy. What the hell was wrong with me? That night I couldn’t stand all that was racing through my head. I was the problem! I knew it was me who was allowing Daddy to continue to hurt me over and over again. Where was my strength to stop him? I wanted the madness to stop! My head continued to race with so many thoughts that I couldn’t control. In the past it was the drugs that would help me. How easy it could have been for me to go back to that drug induced madness but I knew I couldn’t. I couldn’t ruin my life that way. But, how do I control my thoughts? How do I learn to stop allowing Daddy from controlling me? G-D DAMNIT! I LOVED MY DADDY! I wanted my Daddy. Why in the fucking hell did I want him so much? No father should ever treat their child in the manner he treated me. If I knew that then why was I letting him? As so many of these thoughts rushed through my head I sat in my apartment and started to bang my head against the wall. When the thoughts wouldn’t stop I’d hit my head harder against the wall. Why was I such an idiot?! As I hit my head harder and harder against the wall I remember thinking how I liked that the pain was taking over and clearing my head of all of my obsessive thoughts. I don’t know what happened next as all I remember was I woke up the next morning with a nice headache.
Well, the day of the Seder had arrived. My adopted parents sent their son to pick me up. He came a few hours early so I could help with any last minute preparations. I was very happy to be there. I was thankful they let me come early. It kept my mind occupied and most of all it kept me from pacing the floor with the unadulterated fear of what was going to happen.
I was in the kitchen helping put ice in the glasses when the doorbell rang. Someone answered the door. My heart stopped when I heard Daddy’s voice. I didn’t want to go into the other room. My adopted mother encouraged me to greet him instead of continuing to help her. And so I did even though I wanted to hide in the kitchen for the rest of the night.
Once everyone arrived my adopted mother called everyone to the table to take their seats. I sat next to Daddy. I was thankful most of that evening was going to be spent reading from the Haggadah which meant there wouldn’t leave a lot of room for Daddy to talk. That was always good.
I have to say the Seder started very well. As each person read their designated part, someone else would make a funny remark to lighten the moment. Several of the participants were cracking jokes and really livening up the Seder. I enjoyed the laughter and Daddy seemed to be enjoying himself too. For a moment I thought I had actually worried over nothing. But, no such luck. It was about 40 minutes into the Seder when Daddy’s mean and conniving side emerged. It was when everyone was eating dinner and when everyone was able to socialize. Because Daddy felt I had told everyone how terrible of a father he was he felt the need to show otherwise. And of course as a result, I had singlehandedly ruined his law practice which he had to rebuild. Anyway, Daddy gained his own bad reputation on his own accord. I never had to say a word but, nothing I could ever say would have convinced him of that fact. Lets not forget Daddy never did anything wrong.
So, during dinner Daddy started to tell the people around him about ALL he had done for me after Momma died. He told stories with half truths which made me so angry. Then he’d end the stories with saying how ungrateful I was. Daddy dominated the conversations and wouldn’t allow others to talk. He had a mission and damn it he was going to say what he wanted to say. And while Daddy was telling these half truths or half lies (whichever way you want to look at it) he’d give me hugs and kisses as if he was this adoring father. I just sat there looking at the people around us wondering if they really bought his story. I wanted so badly to yell out at the top of my lungs that I was a good daughter and I NEVER took from Daddy. I wanted so badly to yell at the top of my lungs that I loved Daddy and spent my money to care for him when he was sick. But, I sat there emotionless instead. Needless to say, I was elated to hear it was time to get back to the Haggadah to finish our Seder. But, that’s when Daddy’s behavior got worse. As different people were reading their parts from the Haggadah and others were making their funny comments, Daddy started to whisper nasty things to me. At first he started to call me names like stupid and idiot. I wanted to believe I had misheard him but as he continued there was no way I could deny what he was saying. I hated how he did it. It was under his breath and always with a smile on his face. And of course no one around me suspected what he was doing. I refused to react so he moved on to other more hurtful things to say like, “So, now that you have a new family, you can treat me like shit and kick me to the curb.” and “You really are a piece of work, MaLea. Do you think I’m an idiot? I can see exactly what you are trying to do to me.” and what made me finally break was “ You know, your Momma would have been so disappointed in you and what you’ve done to me. You should feel ashamed.”
I felt he was trying to get me to explode with anger as I once used to do so he could sit there innocently as if he had done nothing wrong. I was NOT going to ruin my adopted family’s Seder. As I sat there emotionless, my insides were in knots. I wanted so badly at that point to stand up and start throwing whatever was near me at Daddy. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs why was he treating me so cruelly. But, the longer I sat there, the more Daddy’s mean words swirled in my head and the more hurtful they had become. That’s when I wanted to disappear and cry. I tried to hold back my tears as long as I could. When I couldn’t any longer I excused myself and headed to the bathroom. I turned on the water from the sink, sat on the floor and grabbed a towel to rest my face as I started crying uncontrollably. It felt as if I was in the bathroom for the longest time. I couldn’t stop crying and I by no means wanted Daddy to see I had been. I didn’t want him to know he had upset me. After I was able to gain my composer I decided I did not want to return to where Daddy was. Instead, I stayed in the kitchen and started to clean up the dirty dishes. I must have been in there for about 30 minutes when my adopted mother came to check on me. You know I don’t even remember what I told my adopted mom that day but it really didn’t matter because I think my behavior told her. I remember trying to focus on cleaning the dishes and how I could help clean up. I didn’t want to think about Daddy because I was afraid I’d start crying again. My adopted mother could see something was wrong and when she asked me point blank what happened, that was all I needed to get me crying again. I was confused and didn’t know what to do. For one I didn’t want to leave the kitchen and be where Daddy was. And the other thing was I felt so explosive, I was afraid I would let it out. It was the first time I made myself hold back because I didn’t want them to see that side of me. But, I didn’t know how to control it. It was so difficult to hold back my anger and to keep it in check. And at the same time all I wanted to do was to cry. I felt terrible because I didn’t want to ruin my adopted family’s Passover. I didn’t want that to be my fault too. For me to have cried in front of my adopted mother made me feel guilty and mad at myself for not having better control. Meanwhile, would you believe it was the first time I had cried in front of someone since Momma had died over 10 years earlier. It was at the end of her funeral. My sister was crying and when she went to hug me, I lost it. I remember feeling out of control and needing to reign in my emotions. That 5 or so minutes was the only time I had cried in front of anyone and because of Daddy’s thoughts about crying, I hated how I felt.
Later, my adopted mother told me her husband said Daddy was no longer welcomed in their home again. It made me wonder what Daddy had said to him to insult him. I know it sounds crazy but I really did want other people to like him. I felt badly that many people didn’t like Daddy. And others dislike of him never came from me but from their own encounters with him. It was weird. Even though I initially felt bad for Daddy when my adopted mom told me what her husband had said it was also a life altering moment at the same time. How was it, you ask? Well, it was the first time I felt legitimized. I know it’s strange but it somehow legitimized my anger towards Daddy and what he had done to me. Also, it made me feel significant which I had not felt since Momma had died. I was not important to Daddy as his needs always came first. And most of all their ban on Daddy didn’t mean I was banned which was another first for me. Usually, when Daddy wasn’t liked, I was thrown out with him. So, to not throw me out with him that alone told me there was someone else who saw me as worthy to keep. Sadly, it was never Daddy so it coming from someone else was poignant and special to me. I remember standing up just a little bit taller and I said to myself, “Someone cared enough for me to keep me in their lives in spite of my Dad’s bad behavior.” I can’t even explain the way I felt because of that one little gesture.
From that point forward I didn’t spend a lot of time talking to Daddy or visiting him. He would call me on occasions and during those conversations it wasn’t unusual for him to curse and yell at me. Once when my partner and I were dating she was with me when Daddy let loose with his yelling. She told me to hang up on him. I never could. Hey, listen, I was making changes and as slow as they were, let’s be happy those changes were happening, OK? And even though there were times I did go to his home and he came to mine, I somehow grew stronger when I was around him. Now, when he wasn’t around me that was when I would feel guilty and second guess myself. But, I have to tell you, I never was able to get over that part of my father’s abuse. I know it’s crazy! He’s the one who abuses and me as the victim takes on the guilt. But, only those who have been abused by a loved one can understand the twisted turns the mind takes as a result.
When my partner and I started living together and after a couple more events which Daddy had caused my partner helped me to emotionally get farther away from him. It wasn’t easy and I’m not proud how I took out my anger on Carol during those early years. But I’m thankful I was able to work past it. It was crucial for me to find a place for my anger, so that I wouldn’t become isolated like Daddy had become. It also opened my world up in a way I never knew it could. By shedding my anger I found true love, I got my sister back and I became reacquainted with family members. Most of all it allowed me and my partner to be in a much better place to begin to plan for our own child we hoped to have. I knew I didn’t want to pass on my family’s anger and “Daddy’s way of thinking” to another generation. I may wrestle with my own demons gifted to me by Daddy for the rest of my life but I didn’t want our child to ever know those demons. I may not have had the strength or power to be able to fully stand up to Daddy but I did have the strength and power to not pass it to the next generation. Of that I was certain.