A month after Momma died when I was 15 years old Daddy made me “help” him do his taxes. What the hell did I know about doing taxes at that age? Remember, I was the person who washed my red pants (it was the 80′s people) with Daddy’s white underwear, served him raw chicken because I thought it had been cooked long enough and nearly burned down the house all while doing chores he demanded I do. And now he was going to rely on me to “help” him with his taxes. OK, now who’s the stupid one? But, according to Daddy being 15 was no excuse for not knowing how to do your father’s personal and business taxes. Daddy told me it was my responsibility to be eager in learning how to do the taxes. I was to embrace my new role in the family and jump in head first with enthusiasm and drive because I was doing a mitzvah. I was helping my poor, abandoned father who just couldn’t bare to do everyday tasks on his own. All he was asking for was just a little help and support from his ungrateful daughter. Did you hear the violins playing in the background? Did you have a moment of compassion for Daddy? I couldn’t believe he actually wanted me to be excited about helping him. Let me just jump up and down and yell, ” Yay! I get to help Daddy so he can yell at me for hours on end, tell me how stupid I am and oh yeah, shove me into whatever piece of furniture that’s next to me. Oh, goody!” I don’t think so Daddy!
The fact that he had not filed his taxes for 3 years meant this was going to be a complicated and drawn out chore. And because he needed to get all three years completed in a three month period, it meant he was going to be even more short fuzed. To say the least I was not looking forward to it at all.
In Daddy fashion before I could get started with his taxes he wanted to sit down with me at the kitchen table to give me very clear instructions on what I needed to do. He told me to bring a pen and legal pad with me. I remember looking at him and asking, “Legal pad? Can’t I just use a regular notebook that I had in my room?” For G-d sake what does a 15 year old know about a legal pad? Just give me one or have me bring a notebook. Why did it matter? But to the man in charge, it mattered a lot. It was always Daddy’s way. There was no such thing as compromise and certainly never flipping a penny over it. Nope, that was just something my sister and I did when one of us wanted to sleep closet to the fireplace when our heat was out or when on vacation both of us wanted the couch instead of the rickety paper thin portable bed. Now thinking about that I almost always one a penny toss with my sister, so I guess that really wasn’t much of a compromise. It was only that I beat the odds when having a 50/50 chance to win. Sorry, Morrie! The next time I’ll let you take the couch. Anyway, it was always Daddy’s rules even when Momma was alive.
For whatever reason I had to use a legal pad and my notebook would not due. Daddy told me I was quite a piece of work as he went to go get a legal pad for me which was in his briefcase that was a-l-l-l-l-l the way in the den. People we are talking a matter of feet, OK? It was so frustrating because everything was a hugh production when it came to Daddy. Nothing was quick and simple.
As I sat at the kitchen table with my pen and legal pad Daddy started to tell me what he needed for me to do to get his taxes completed. As I was listening to him I realized I was no longer assisting him with his taxes but I had somehow become responsible for doing them. How did that happen? What the fuck? They were Daddy’s taxes. On top of having to do 3 years worth of his taxes which I had no idea how to do, he told me I had only 2 months to complete all of them. I asked him about school. He looked at me dumb founded and asked me what did school have to do with it? OK, and I’m the dumb one here? I told him I had to go to school, do homework and study. With the most cunning grin as he leaned towards me he said in a whisper, ” Welcome to my world, honey.” Then, he leaned back in the chair and said, “That’s just life.” He told me I wouldn’t be allowed to do anything until after I finished his taxes. I was to eat, sleep and dream taxes.
When Daddy started telling me all that I’d needed to do to get his taxes done I thought he might as well be speaking another language. I didn’t understand anything he was saying. I’m to use this form if he decides to claim this and that form if his receipts total an amount that has something to do with his gross income… what the hell was he saying? After about fifteen minutes of Daddy talking this gibberish, he stopped. He saw I wasn’t writing anything down and asked me to repeat what he had said. Uh oh! This was always the kiss of death for me. I knew I had to make an attempt and hoped I’d be right. So, off I went at my all or nothing shot. I started by telling him I was to look through boxes to find receipts and bills. Before I could finish he interrupted me. To no surprise he was really pissed and said in a very angry tone, “And where the hell are you going to find those boxes that have the bills and receipts? Are you just going to pull them out of your ass?” Oh, I so badly wanted to answer him. There were many sarcastic responses that went through my head. But, instead I responded as he wanted. I told him I had to go to the attic to find them. Daddy told me I was stupid because I didn’t know what it meant to repeat e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. And because I didn’t get it right the first time I had to start back at the beginning and explain to him again what I was to do (without leaving any information out). I repeated to him that I was to look through all of the boxes in the attic to find receipts and bills and group them somehow… Just as that came out of my mouth I knew it wasn’t good. Can you guess why that last sentence would make Daddy angry? Well to say I was to group them somehow meant I didn’t know how I was to do it. That was not acceptable since he had already told me. I looked at Daddy and he was fuming with anger. He told me I was acting stupid on purpose. Then he went off on a tangent how he couldn’t rely on me because I was a selfish bitch. I’ll never forget what he said next. He told me, “If this is how you are trying to get out of your responsibilities kiddo, then you’ve got something coming to you.” He pointed to himself and added, “Cause this bastard doesn’t give up that easily.” I was so angry. To keep me from doing something I would have regretted I just sat there without saying a word and remained emotionless. Daddy continued complaining about me. The last I heard him saying was how many times he had bent over backwards for me and this was how I thanked him. It was the last thing I heard because I started to daydream and imagine if I were someone else. What about that really nice girl who was in my science class. Her parents adopted lots of kids because they wanted them. I wish I could be wanted.
Every now and then I’d shift my eyes or body to give Daddy the impression I was listening but go right back to my dream as Daddy continued.
Would you believe we sat there for another 3 hours until I could tell him every aspect of my task in a manner he found acceptable? If I made a mistake I had to start all over again. It took forever! Once I conquered that mountain (which not only had snow and ice but raging wind) Daddy told me to use the legal pad to write it down so I wouldn’t forget. After I wrote everything down Daddy looked at it. Because he couldn’t read it, he demanded I write it all over again. I got mad and told him the notes were for me. Why did he need to be able to read them?
Daddy stood up throwing his chair to the floor. He screamed, “G-d dammit, MaLea, why do you make every thing so damn difficult?” Upset, angry and tired I stood up and also threw my chair to the floor. I figured if I was going to yell at him I might as well give it the same drama as he gave it. OK, I admit it. I screamed back at him at the top of my lungs that we had been sitting there for over 3 hours (by that point) without being able to pass go only because he was never satisfied with anything I had done. There was no way to satisfy him. And he had the ovaries to tell me I was making it difficult? Daddy was furious I had “talked back’ to him so man, did he lose it. He lunged towards me shoving me (with what felt like his entire strength) right into the kitchen counter. I did not want to give Daddy the satisfaction that he was the stronger person so even though it hurt like hell I stood up very tall trying to stand as close to his eye level as possible. I could feel the tears building but because Daddy saw crying as a weakness, I refused to let myself cry. I was strong and like hell was Daddy going to win.
As I stood there I looked straight into Daddy’s eyes with the angriest face I could muster up. I wanted to throw Daddy across the room and even though he was much bigger than me I probably could have with as much rage as I had at that moment. My own rage scared me because I honestly felt if I had retaliated against Daddy at that moment I would have really hurt him or even worse, killed him. Being in the kitchen with an entire block of knives calling me, I knew I had to control myself if for anything only for myself. So, I just stood there looking straight into Daddy’s eyes as if I was a boston terrier standing up against a pit bull. I refused to look away from him. Daddy finally told me to get the hell out of his sight until he was ready to see me. WIth all of my 15 year old kid wisdom I stood there for a few more seconds until I felt ready to leave.
I went upstairs to my bathroom and turned on the faucet in the sink full force. I then took a towel, held it up to my face and screamed as loud as I could. After I couldn’t scream any longer I cried. Sadly, it was not even near the last time I’d do this. It quickly became my only release from the crazy world Daddy had created.
After roughly two hours Daddy called me back downstairs. He demanded an apology from me so we could move on and get the needed work done. I had fallen asleep while waiting for him to call me, so when I went downstairs I was groggy. I apologized. What else could I do? I wanted peace. Daddy then told me he loved me and only wanted the best for me. He walked over to me and gave me a hug and a kiss. He assured me everything would be OK. Foolishly, I wanted to believe him so badly.