I have wanted for years to write down what it was like for me living with abuse in my own home. However, getting to that point has been harder than I had ever imagined. Where to start? After literally writing for weeks, I found it! Just know I have placed no expectations on myself to finish. For me it’s just getting my thoughts onto paper so I can in a physical way possibly separate myself from the many painful events. I realize that may change but for now that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. Writing has become cathartic for me. And now with Judah in school and free time on my hands, I’m going to go for it.
First, I want to apologize to Carol for my turrets in the night episodes. Apparently, it is common for her to hear me yelling things like, “Fuck you, G-d damn, hell and other very flowery words I honestly don’t typically say. The strangest part is I have no recollection of it. I swear. I have a funny suspicion I may continue to entertain her as I continue writing. Only time will tell. So, here it is: a daughter (that be me) living with an abusive father.
Daddy was an incredibly complicated man who only saw himself as worthy if he had a woman or two or three by his side. As a lawyer his profession was the perfect way to impress women or so he thought. And when Daddy saw a woman who he found attractive, there was no stopping him to find a way to talk to her. Not even when I, his daughter, was with him. I was especially embarrassed when I was a teenager but Daddy never cared. He’d only laugh and say, “Only when I’m 10 feet under will I stop.” And he was certainly right about that one.
Daddy had two extreme moods: loving/caring or absolutely raging mad. There was something very captivating about his charming side that made many of his women smitten by him. However, it always came to a point where his raging angry side emerged and eventually the women would walk away. When I was 15 and 16 years old I knew of at least 10 women who came and went. And let me clarify Daddy had no problem dating several at a time but of course he never told the women. When he was caring and loving there was no other way to explain it except it was spell bounding and you always wanted more. I know this sounds crazy but now I realize it. Daddy was a macho man who would cry at a sappy commercial or movie and would argue with any man that it didn’t make him any less macho. That was so ironic because if I or my sister cried we were either manipulating him or we were weak. Listen, only Daddy was allowed to make up the rules, change them at any point without your knowledge and best of all, he never had to abide by them. And when I say rules I mean in every single aspect of life when it required interacting with him. So, him being able to cry and it being OK was just an example of his rules.
I have to say there were many things I loved about Daddy. For one he was my Daddy. He was incredibly tall standing at 6 feet and always so strong. As a child when he’d swing me (by taking his hands in mine and swinging me between his legs) up in the air he exuded an energy that made me feel safe. He had a great belly laugh. I’ll never forget when I’d tickle him under his arms when he’d allow me, he’d let out the most wonderful infectious laugh that literally made his belly shake. Gosh, I can even hear it now as I remember it. His bear hugs were the best. There was never such thing as a little hug. His great, long protective arms surrounding me made me feel warm, safe and loved. I can still feel those moments of warmth and security. When I was around 6 there were times we’d talk for hours about life, death and everything in between. During those discussions Daddy would listen to me, ask me questions about my point of view and he’d lovingly share his thoughts. He’d even let me challenge him. To this day I long for those times but am so happy to be able to have them with my own son.
It does upset me that my son will never know that side of his grandfather. Sadly, I couldn’t take the risk of having my son around him because of Daddy’s sudden mood swings. A comment or story that made him laugh one day could send him into a rage of anger the next day. Because I lived in total fear of when he was going to explode I could not allow my son to be subjected to that erratic behavior. OK, the truth is my partner put her foot down and told me we could not subject our son to it. But, even though it was so hard to take a stand, I stood by my partner’s wishes because I knew she was right. It was so hard though for me to “dessert” Daddy that way. I loved him and only wanted to be loved by him. I had come to learn it was normal that the abused child becomes the abuser’s protector which was what I had done for years. I excused Daddy’s abuse over and over again and denied it for years. My teenage years after Momma died were pure hell. I did not deserve what he put me through. And yet, I protected him. And by choosing to protect him and to stand with him I lost relationships with family members who are no longer here and the ones who are still here I’ve had to rebuild those relationships to prove I am not my father. I do blame Daddy for putting me in this position but am proud of myself for being able to get out of it. Alright, I swore I’d be honest in my writings. I only stopped going back to Daddy after Judah was born when I made a pact with my partner to keep Judah away from him. And during that time I carried a lot of guilt for not contacting him. It was only after Daddy died before I could truly let go and no longer feel guilty. However with his death came a new set of emotions. But, I will write about that later.
Crazy enough it took me until Daddy’s death in 2007 when I was 37 years old before I could really verbalize the extend of my abuse caused by Daddy. At his funeral I read a heartfelt letter I had written. It was the first time I had ever publicly admitted what Daddy had done to me. With family, friends and strangers there, I admitted it out loud and it felt good. At that point it did not matter if I was believed. All that mattered was I was standing before Daddy and making him accountable for what he had done to me. I thank Rabbi S. for generously giving me that moment to speak about my love for my Dad, my anger for what he had done to me and an opportunity to stand up to him so I could move forward with my life in a happy and healthy way. Basically, the first steps to breaking away from his many years of control.
Listen, anyone who knew Daddy (whether they chose to admit it or not) were aware of his temper. I was angry at those people for not protecting me. I even felt betrayed by my sister who was married and starting her own family when this was happening. However, being able to look back now, I can see where she tried and how programed I was to protect Daddy. And Daddy isolated me making me believe no one could be trusted. It was a crazy world he created for me and until I was ready there wasn’t much anyone could do for me. It would have required me being removed by force, kept away from Daddy and given help to understand how Daddy was being abusive.
It was incredibly frustrating that Daddy’s rage gave no warning. He could be in a happy, jovial mood and then the next thing you knew he was raging with anger. It was as if he was two different people. It definitely kept me on my toes and scared every second of the day of what was about to happen. For example Daddy could be telling me he loved me and he’d always be there for me. He’d continue with promising to give me money and buying me things I needed (if he won whatever case he was working on at the time). While he would be telling me this he might have been preparing breakfast and have gotten the butter out of the fridge. When he opened the tub he might have noticed I dug into the butter with a knife creating crater. And because the rule was I was to slide the knife across the butter as to maintain it’s flat and smooth surface like when you first open it, this would be enough to send him into a rage of anger. This would easily be with in a 10 minute period. In that rage of anger he’d disown me and say anything for the sole purpose of hurting me. It was common for him to call me stupid, dumb, a bitch, crazy (like my Momma) and then he’d threaten to take my beloved dog away as an extra emotional punch. During those times there was no way to calm him down or diffuse the situation. It was typical for him to want me to apologize but when I did he’d change his mind and get angrier because he wanted me to say something else. Other times he’d want me to explain why I chose to dig into the butter but when I did, it was never what he wanted to hear which also made him angrier. And those weren’t my only choices. There were times he’d want me to not say anything at all. I had to guess which one he wanted and of course I always guessed wrong. He called the shots and I had to ride the wave which ever direction he chose to take. The frustration I felt at those times were beyond words. It was as if I was trapped in a world of chaos and paranoia and couldn’t escape from it. My own rage was building and it saddens me tremendously that I let that rage out on the one who loved me unconditionally. That was my sweet dog, Elspeth. I was becoming my dad and didn’t know it.
After Momma died Daddy demanded I do all of the household chores that Momma once did. That included cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry and doing any other chores Daddy needed done. Because I never had to do any of those chores before Momma died I was clueless. However, that was no excuse for Daddy. I was required to do the task in an exemplary manner the very first time. Well needless to say, I was in no way even near perfect. I’m not even sure I was in the same ballpark. The first weeks I did the assorted chores it was almost like a scene out of I Love Lucy. And I even had the red hair to boot. Anyway, here’s just a few of the things I did: I turned Daddy’s nice white underwear into a pretty shade of pink, I nearly burned the house down (when I didn’t know Cornish hens had their inners wrapped in paper and stuffed inside them) when the paper had caught on fire, I served raw chicken for dinner with potatoes that weren’t cooked all the way and I accidentally used wax to wash the kitchen floor instead of floor cleaner which caused Daddy to slip a few times. I have to say that last one really was hysterical. First, I need to describe my kitchen before I can tell you what happened. Our kitchen had a doorway opening to our den. If you walked into the kitchen from that door and walked about 6 feet straight ahead, you’d be at the doorway going into our dinning room. Now both our den and living room were carpeted. My mom hated the carpet in the dining room because food would drop on it. But, that’s another story. Back to my description of our kitchen. I was standing at our sink at the time. If you drew lines from the sink, to the den, to the living room you’d make a triangle. OK, so I was at the kitchen sink and Daddy had called for me. Now when Daddy called you had to react immediately and run to where he was. However, I was cutting chicken and my hands were yucky. I quickly, so I thought, washed them off as I hollered to Daddy why I was delayed. He was just in the den so he could easily hear me. Just as I turned around and was headed to our den, Daddy came bolting into the kitchen. He was furious I had not dropped everything and gone right to him. Well, as soon as his left foot hit the kitchen floor (by the way he was wearing penny loafers which have a slick sole) he started to slide towards the dining room. At first he looked like he was on a surf board hitting the waves and if he had just gone with it, he would have simply slid into the dining room where the carpet would have stopped him. However, Daddy seemed to be using more of my sister’s technique in falling down. Daddy fought against the direction he was sliding and tried to get back to the den. He looked like he was running on ice all the while continuing to slide to the dinning room. Next thing I knew he was flat on his back on the kitchen floor. I laughed so hard I had to sit on the floor to keep from peeing in my pants. Yes, I know, Daddy did not find it funny at all and even accused me of doing it on purpose. I’ve got to tell you, there was no way in hell I could have set up that situation so perfectly even if I had tried. I remember Daddy was furious with me but what happened afterwards is a blur. All I seem to remember was not being able to stop laughing which did not help me at all. However, the fact that Daddy would make terrible fun of my sister for tripping over her own two feet, I secretly loved that somehow I had unintentionally given Daddy his do for making fun of my sister. And above all the way he fell reminded me of the many times my sister had fallen and how she’d be able to laugh and laugh with me. Yeah well, in this case I was the only one laughing. Between you and me, it was worth it regardless of how mad Daddy got.
As you could tell I was continuously in trouble for not doing the household chores properly.the harder I tried the more I screwed up and the angrier Daddy would get. He’d tell me I was a stupid idiot because of it. Oh yeah and more often than not I was shoved into a piece of furniture or a piece of furniture was shoved into me. What was scary was the strength Daddy had when he was angry and the ease he had in throwing a heavy item at me. To this day I get very anxious when I clean and cook and I inevitably ruin something. Amazing how I still carry that with me to this day and until this point did I know why.
Recently, my sister and I were talking about our Dad and his many flaws. But, there was one thing that made us really laugh when were remembering. And that was his routine of getting ready before leaving the house. It truly was an art form and even more so truly exemplified his narcism. Daddy never rushed or skipped over any part of his getting ready process even when we needed to be somewhere. That did not matter because he came first. The average person would think to wake up earlier to make sure they had enough time but not Daddy. He slept as long as he wanted and no one was allowed to wake him.
The first course of business for Daddy when he woke up was to go to the bathroom. And to be more graphic, it was pooping time. As a result of radiation treatment when he had testicular cancer, his intestines and bowls developed adhesions which caused constant diarrhea and an inability to stop going. By the way that was his reasoning. A doctor once told me that because of his adhesions he needed to stay away from certain foods that would irritate those organs causing constant diarrhea but in Daddy fashion he refused.
So, the time he was on the toilet could be as long as 45 minutes. Once again to the average person if they knew they needed to be somewhere and something unexpected occurred while getting ready that person would rush through the rest of their getting ready process and even leave something off so they wouldn’t be late. However, not Daddy because in his mind everyone else would wait for him. After all, he had a good reason. He couldn’t stop shitting.
Daddy showered every morning and in par with everything else he did, it was a long one. When he got out of the shower and dried off he’d put on this wrap thing around his waste. His first course of business was to shave. He’d lather up with shaving cream and begin the long and slow process. When done, he’d then have to tackle his hair. Now let me explain about Daddy’s hair. Well, how can I say this? Oh, I know- THE MAN HARDLY HAD ANY HAIR! He had one strip of hair that was on the back of his head that ran from ear to ear. He was bald everywhere else on his head. However, his hair, what little he had, was very important to him. First, he’d add hairspray. Yes people, I said hairspray. He’d pick up his comb and starting with the left side, he’d turn his head to the right a little (all while looking in the mirror). Next he’d fold down his left ear and begin combing the hair closest to his ear and systematically moved to the back of his head towards his other ear. Several times he’d stop to hit his comb on the side of the sink to help get rid of the extra water gathered on his comb. I bet you’re wondering how he could see the back of his head to make sure his hair was OK. Well, don’t worry because Daddy had that figured out. He had a smaller mirror with a long arm that attached to the wall next to the vanity mirror. He’d pull out the small mirror to the point where it reflected in the vanity mirror showing the back of his head.
Even though Daddy’s “hair” was extremely short, there never was a day he didn’t spend time on his hair. If he had a date, he spent longer. Once he was done with his hair it was time to get dressed (sort of). Because Daddy had not had breakfast yet, he only put on his underwear, undershirt and socks. And because Daddy did not want to get his socks dirty he’d put on his shoes which were often penny loafers. You know the very ones he was wearing when he tripped in our kitchen. When he’d come downstairs Momma had his breakfast items set out on the table. Just like Daddy’s routine to getting dressed, he had a routine with eating. Again, he would never skip any part. It was all or nothing and if it were nothing then that mean he was really mad.
For breakfast he’d open a can of sardines and place it on a paper towel. He’d debone it. Yep, you read correctly. He deboned his sardines. Once he was done, he placed it on his plate and added lettuce, onion, tomato and radishes. As you can see, no wonder he had diarrhea! As dip for his vegetables he’d add a scoop of mayonnaise. Think he’s done? Nope, he’d get a bagel and spread an inch of cream cheese on the top. OK, now he’s done. Well, he’s only done with the prep. He then had to eat it.
After breakfast we all knew he was on the home stretch. He’d go upstairs, take his shoes off and put on his shirt and pants. He’d tuck in his shirt and before zipping and buttoning he’d give his pants a shake. I don’t think I need to explain that one. Once his clothes were on, he’d grab his shoe horn to assist him in putting on his shoes, again. When we heard his money change jingling we knew he was on the last step of his routine. Even more so, we knew we needed to be totally ready to walk out the door. See, when Daddy came down the stairs he was ready to leave right then. If one of us had to use the bathroom (which was usually me), he’d get mad. It was irrelevant that we had been waiting for over 2 hours for him. During those times whoever went to the bathroom was the one who was given the blame for being late. Nothing like going to someone’s house and hearing Daddy say, “Sorry we were late ( by over two hours) but MaLea had to go to the bathroom.” Meanwhile, as a parent if someone said that to me, I’d think, “Good g-d! What is wrong with that child to have to be in the bathroom for so long!” It just dawned on me that was probably what was thought about me! Great. Now, I am forever embedded in someone’s brain that I’m the kid who shit and couldn’t get up.
Thanks Daddy! I may just have to pay you back when I get older by dying your underwear pink or serving you raw food or by trying to burn your house down. No, I’ve got it. I’ll wax your kitchen floor! (Enter evil laugh here.)