The first Saturday I started working on Daddy’s taxes, he decided to stick around to make sure I was doing it correctly. He told me the number of Saturdays it would take to finish his taxes depended solely on me and how fast I did the job. And so my job began that Saturday when Daddy woke me up bright and early at 7:00am.
Let me explain how my Saturdays worked. I was responsible for gathering all of the receipts and bills for his taxes and properly sorting them. Even though I unwillingly became responsible for doing his taxes I assumed that meant Daddy would at least be home while I was working on them. I assumed he’d just be doing other things in our house in case I had a question since I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. However, that was not the case. By having me do his work that allowed him to spend more time with any one of his girlfriends. After all why would he stay home with me when he could be with a girlfriend who cooked, cleaned and catered to him? One girlfriend would rub Daddy’s feet every time he sat down to watch TV. Who wouldn’t want that on a regular basis. Damn! Let’s see…foot massage or having to take care of their kid? Yeah, well, guess who won?
At first Daddy was just leaving me home alone over the weekends but by the time I turned 16 he was leaving me home alone for weeks at a time. I welcomed Daddy leaving me home alone because that meant the house was quiet. The frustrating part though was I never knew when he was leaving or coming home and I was terrified of being home alone. My best friend lived very close to me so she’d spend the night with me on occasions. Daddy didn’t like it because it meant she was a witness to how often he left me home alone. To keep me from calling my sister or a family friend and telling them what was happening, he told me if others found out I was home alone for that long I could be taken away from him. He then told me horror stories of what happen to those kids in “the System”. I believed him. But, it’s common for the abused person to want to protect the abuser and want to believe him. And that’s what I did by not telling anyone. Daddy had me more afraid of where’d I’d be taken than if I stayed with him. There were a few close calls when my sister would call and question where Daddy was. I’d just lie until I thought she was satisfied with my excuse. One of the times she called me it was a few weeks before my 16th birthday. She wanted to know what I was going to do. It was the one time I let my guard down and told her I wanted to have a party but Daddy didn’t even know my birthday was coming up. I was upset because as my sister knew our mom always made birthdays a special day. It felt good talking to her to share just a smidget of what bothered me. However, I got scared after I hung up with her because I knew I had shared too much. I knew Daddy would be so angry. I wasn’t to talk to her. I obsessed over that conversation for days worried if he found out about it Daddy would be mad when he got home. At no fault at all to my sister she called Daddy. I don’t know what she said to him but Daddy came home very angry. He was not happy I had told her I was upset. Because Daddy was getting angrier and angrier I lied about what I said to my sister. I told him I never said it. I hated doing that but it truly was about protecting myself. Meanwhile even though he was so angry with me and threatened me if I “talked too much” again, it was because of my sister speaking up that made Daddy to have agreed for me to have a birthday party. Years later thinking back on different things that happened I could see how Daddy manipulated many situations keeping me more and more isolated. So, sadly, I never spoke openly about my feelings to anyone for more than 20 years.
Back to Daddy though. As long as he had a girlfriend he was never home because he’d stay with them. However, even with his girlfriends he’d pick fights which would get him kicked out. Now remember he juggled many girlfriends at one time, so if he came home that meant he was rejected by all of them. And like usual he made it clear being home was not where he wanted to be. All he could think about was being with a woman. Once when I was 16 years old I called his office. I had to get a permission form from school signed and I needed to know when he was coming home. When he picked up the phone I said, “Hey Daddy.” Would you believe he thought I was one of his girlfriends? I remember being so grossed out because did that mean one of his girlfriends referred to him as Daddy too? ICK!
I want you to know he never told me the truth about where he’d go when he didn’t come home. He’d never tell me in advance. It was common for him to tell me just an hour before he’d want to go. And what was his usual schtick, you ask? Well, he’d tell me he had last minute business that he had to handle and he had to get it done. It was always an emergency that couldn’t wait. Regardless of what he told me as his excuse, I always knew what he was really doing. After all what last minute business and/or emergency continuously occurred on a Friday evening and lasted at first through the weekends? Funny how emergencies worked for him.
Even though I hated being home alone there was nothing like the sense of peace when Daddy wasn’t there. I didn’t have to live in fear of his next explosion. I really enjoyed him being gone but as I said it terrified me to be home alone. Because of my fear and if my friend didn’t spend the night with me, I’d stay awake until sunrise when I felt safe enough to go to sleep. But, I couldn’t fully relax because Daddy could surprise me and come home. So, this meant I had to always listen out for him. He told me he didn’t want to tell me when he was returning home because it would keep me on my toes making sure I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. And yet, all I wanted was peace in our home and to feel safe so I could sleep at night. I just wanted my Daddy to love me for who I was and for what I was capable of doing. I wanted my sister back. The person who I remember as children I’d sit with for hours laughing about the silliest things. I wanted Momma to walk through the door and tell me her death was just a joke. Daddy took them all away and there I sat isolated afraid to tell anyone what was happening.
Needless to say, those nights I’d stay up till dawn on school days were a killer for me. I was so tired. It was not unusual for me to go to sleep when the sun came up for a few hours and then go to school late. Back then if a student was late you reported to the attendance counselor who had her own office in the front of the school. Typically, you had to present a written excuse from your parent to get into class. I was lucky. I had developed a relationship with Mrs. Foye. In the two in a half years I came to school late or I was absent, I never came in with a written excuse and she never questioned me. I discovered she lived just down the street from me, so I’m guessing with in a small town, she knew something wasn’t right with my home life. I liked her. She was always so kind to me and took the time to talk to me. She never said I was dumb. She was hated most most of the other kids but for what she did for me, I will always remember her with great fondness.
When Daddy started leaving me at home alone for weeks at a time it was more common for him to spontaneously come home on the weekends. This meant I couldn’t ever sleep late on the weekends. I had to be so careful even though I was so exhausted from not sleeping during the week. This meant I had to listen for his car pulling into the carport so I could jump out of bed quickly. Since my room was over the carport it made it a little easier to hear but so often I was extremely tired I remember waking up in a panic if I had slept too hard. I’d sleep in my clothes so there wasn’t a chance I’d get caught. Daddy’s unspoken rule was as long as he was awake I had to be awake. And especially when his taxes needed to be done, I was to spend my every waking hour working on them. So even on those weekends I never slept well because I always had the fear Daddy would come home and catch me sleeping. I was really terrified I’d fall asleep so hard that I wouldn’t hear him coming home. Luckily, when I did Daddy chose not to come home.
Listen, Daddy was never the straightforward type. You never knew what he wanted. Every conversation was an opportunity for him to manipulate. He saw everything as a game and dam-nit if he didn’t take score too. Nothing could be simple. That was too boring for him.
Only when I was an adult and it was pointed out to me by my partner did I recognize Daddy was narcissistic. He lived his entire life for himself and made decisions solely based on how they’d benefit him. As I have been writing down my stories it has become clear that he saw himself as the center of the universe and others were to rotate around him giving him what he wanted. He even actually said that to me once. When Daddy didn’t get what he wanted from someone he’d discard them as if they were just another piece of trash. For me (I can’t speak for my sister)) there was a huge sadness in knowing my lack of worth from my own father. That was an extremely hard pill to swallow and something I refused to believe for many years. Anyway by not giving me the information of when he was returning home it gave him (in his mind) more versatility to girlfriend hop and to not have to cut a visit short to return to me. G-d help him!
When Daddy did return from any one of his long escapades it was crucial I had food in the food pantry and in the refrigerator. If I didn’t have especially any of his essentials Daddy would get very angry and it would usually send him into a rage. So, I tried to not eat any of the food in the house to assure stuff was there when he got home. And since I never knew how long he’d be gone there was no way I could risk any of the food to be missing. I bet you’re wondering why I just couldn’t go out and buy more food. That’s a good question. When Daddy would leave he’d rarely leave me money to buy food or school supplies. And forget being able to go to the movies with my friends. That was out. Every now and then he’d ask if I needed money. But here was the catch. Usually, he’d have just given me a two hour speech on how bad “our” finances were and how much Daddy was suffering because of it. So, I’d feel guilty and would usually not take it. It blew my freaking mind that often he would have left and returned over the course of 4 months and only then would he have asked if I needed money. How did he think I was eating during those other months? But, remember the world revolved around him. How I was eating was not his concern. I’d get so angry and hurt when I would find out he had spent money on one or all of his girlfriends and yet he couldn’t even give his daughter money for food. What craziness is that? The craziest part was he rationalized it and never felt bad for it.
On the occasion he did decide to leave me money, he’d never leave more than $20.00. And the money he left always came with conditions. When Daddy came back home, I had to justify where I had spent every penny. Can you imagine my embarrassment when I had to ask the lunch lady at school for a receipt for eating lunch? She thought I was crazy. If I didn’t have a receipt to prove where every cent had been spent then WWIII would break out. Because I wanted to keep as much peace as I could in the house I chose to use my own money (that I had saved since I was a little girl). I paid for all of my toiletries, food and school activities. If he did leave me money, I never used it. And in Daddy fashion when I returned the money he NEVER questioned how I managed without using it. He was just happy for getting an extra $20.00 back. Once when I gave it back to him he said, “Yeah, I have extra money to go out for a bite to eat.”
On the Saturday mornings Daddy was home he’d wake me up early. How he woke me up was always based on his mood du jour. In fact every moment of the day was based on his mood and his mood was based on many factors. What seemed to be key was if he was getting along with at least one girlfriend. If he was getting along with all of them he was on cloud nine. Those were the times I’d strategically be able to ask if I could buy a new piece of clothing or if I could go off with a friend. However because of Daddy’s volatile behavior those times were far and few.
On the days he was in a fowl mood, he’d yell from my doorway to “get my lazy ass out of bed.” During those times I’d jump out of bed immediately. I’d be so angry at him for having to get up so early to help him with his work. In protest there were times I’d stay in bed another 5 or 10 minutes even though I knew the outcome from my choice would not be good. That’s a teenager for you.
Even when Daddy started the day off in a good mood, I knew it was inevitable that I was going to be yelled at for something I had done wrong at some point. Because Daddy had his own set of rules which depended on what he wanted them to be at that given time, I could never be one step ahead. The results were always the same and for me it was like a bad movie playing over and over again. I suppose that was Daddy’s only predictability. I was subjected to hours of yelling all while being belittled for my lack of ability. Then, I would also be shoved, pushed, punched, hit and/or objects thrown at me because of not doing it the way he wanted. After he’d verbally and physically assault me he’d say it was my fault and I had caused him to hurt me verbally and/or physically. He’d always respond, “If you had only answered me correctly, I would not have had to shove, push, punch and/or throw something at you.” He’d also claim it was the only way he could get my attention since ” my brain was always out to lunch.” Meanwhile, believe me he had my attention way before he shoved and threw objects at me. His temper alone grabbed my attention as it usually scared the shit out of me.
I can’t remember one situation when Daddy got angry and his yelling and berating didn’t last less than a few hours. It was not unusual for it to go as long as six. Aside from him blaming me for his abusive behavior he’d also be sure to tell me how crucial it was for me to support him by cooking, cleaning and filling in wherever he needed. By doing those things it would enable him to make the needed money to care for me. He’d often tell me I played a pivotal role in our financial whoas because I refused to help him in any of the ways he needed. That never made sense to me and just as a 16 year old would do, I often challenged him how me doing housework would prevent him from making a living? Or how did me not cooking dinner put us in a situation where you couldn’t pay the rent? There were times he’d get angry that I’d ask any of those questions and other times he’d tell me it was because I took him away from earning a living as he’d have to leave work to do those things himself. What the hell did that mean? Hello! If Daddy wasn’t at work, more often than not it wasn’t because he was with me. I guarantee you he was with one of his many women. So how did any of it make sense? Also, I’ve got to tell you not only did Daddy NOT do housework but like hell was he going to come home to clean the toilet over going to his girlfriend’s house. Hell, he wouldn’t come home for me. Why would he come home to make dinner? That’s what his damn girlfriends were for anyway. Who would have thought that maybe he could have made a living if he actually worked!
It was common for his girlfriends to give him money. And because Daddy could never hold onto his money he always needed more money from them. I often felt that he resented me. I felt he was in a bad mood most of the time when he was home with me because he saw me as taking him away from his fun gigolo life. I became increasingly angry and hurt as Daddy continued to shower his girlfriends with gifts and attention as I was left home alone having to fend for myself. After a while it got to a point it didn’t matter that he was abusive when he was home. I got to a point that at least he was home paying attention to me. By that point I was numb to the abuse and I started to re-create a new father in my head. It was really strange but I have since learned it was a way for me to cope. When Daddy did something remotely nice that was etched into my memory and usually taken way beyond the reality of what he had actually done. I would speak highly of Daddy to others. The stories I would tell would be from those nice things he had done but fabricated. See, I loved Daddy so I often overlooked his abuse. I created excuse after excuse to justify why he shoved me or called me stupid. I desperately wanted the father I had fabricated and I wanted to believe he was that father. I needed my Daddy and even if it meant I had to make him up, so be it, I did. However, as Daddy grew more abusive and I fabricated even more (I’m sure to cope with the situation), my vision became very blurred to the real father who stood before me.
But, back to those Saturdays. I’ll never forget when I finished Daddy’s taxes and he handed all the work I had done to the accountant. Just as I had figured he would do, he never reviewed it. He only asked me if I had done what I was supposed to have done. And as far as I knew I had. What the hell I was a kid! He told me if I hadn’t done it properly I’d be in huge trouble because our livelihood dependent on it. I could make or break Daddy because of how I did his taxes. Man, the weight I carried on my shoulders!
About a month after Daddy gave his accountant his taxes, he made an unplanned trip home. He had only been gone for 2 weeks instead of his usual 3 or 4. And it was a weekday which wasn’t good. The thing was this time he called me long distance from his office to tell me he was upset with me and he was coming home to talk to me. I HATED when he did that to me. Daddy had about an hour’s drive from his office to home, so he had a long time in the car to stew when he was mad at me. And I had that hour to worry and be scared about what was going to happen.
That particular day I remembered when he pulled into the carport I was sitting on the couch with my school books in front of me trying to study. While studying I was also folding the laundry. I was so nervous about him coming home it was hard to concentrate on my studies. The way Daddy played his games, he enjoyed keeping me guessing.
When Daddy walked into the house, he clearly was not in a good mood. His eyes were piercing, intense and focused at me. What happened now I kept thinking? First, Daddy was angry I had not greeted him in the carport and helped him take his things into the house. When I explained I was studying and folding the clothes, he told me it didn’t matter and he was sick and tired of my excuses. He’d then tell me how hard he works to put a roof over my head. Meanwhile, it was me who paid for that roof over our heads because I signed my Social Security checks (that I received at the time of Momma’s death) over to Daddy every month to pay for our rent. I wanted to yell that at Daddy but he was already so angry it wouldn’t have done any good. Because I sat there not responding, he got mad kicking the coffee table into my legs. He then yelled how stupid I was. I
As I sat on the couch with the coffee table shoved up to my shins I could feel two nice bruises beginning to form. I refused to show Daddy how it hurt. I just continued to fold the clothes as if nothing had happened. He told me I needed to stop, look at him and be serious. Um, I don’t know if anyone noticed but I think I was pretty serious at that moment. No need to worry that I was going to break out a dance move or sing something like “Accentuate the Positive”. Come on! All I could do was sit there and listen. Daddy told me he had something very important to tell me and I was to be “all ears.” OK, I could make a joke, but I’ll refrain. But one thing I will say, “What a G-d damn production! Just tell me already!” OK, I didn’t dare say that to him but you bet your bottom dollar I said it in my head. Um, well, OK, I said a lot of things in my head just to keep some of my sanity.
As Daddy was talking to me I could see his eyes shifting to look at the clothes I had already folded. I got nervous. I tried to position my body to sit in front of the clothes but it was too late. Daddy stopped what he was saying and walked closer to the stacked, folded clothes. One by one he picked up the item on the top, shook it so it wasn’t folded anymore and threw it on the couch. That day I had not folded the clothes as he wanted them done. The crazy part was some days I folded the clothes correctly and on others I didn’t. Can I tell you a secret? I folded those damn clothes the same way every time!
It was my luck that day he found them unsatisfactory. I got angry at him for undoing my work. I yelled at him for unfolding the clothes. In retaliation for yelling at him he grabbed my school work that I had sitting on the coffee table, crumbled it and threw it across the room. Then in the most evil and angry tone asked me how I felt when something of mine was treated like shit? I remember feeling explosive and having nowhere to let it out. All I could do was cry which made Daddy angrier. He said my crying was my way of manipulating him and he didn’t like it one bit. And not only didn’t he like it but he made it clear he wasn’t going to put up with it either.
Listen, I know I was a teenager and probably not the most respectful. I probably could have kept my mouth shut on more occasions. But, I felt I had to defend and protect myself. Daddy was always yelling at me. I hated that I couldn’t do anything correctly. I wanted Daddy to be proud of me and his outbursts were always so devastating to me as he’d continuously tell me how incompetent I was. As I was crying, he yelled, ” There you go again! I cannot talk to you when you are being unreasonable like this.” He told me to go straighten myself up and come back when I had calmed down. That meant I had no more than five minutes to do as I was told. I went to the bathroom and somehow mentally removed myself from the situation so I could stop crying. That way I could physically be there but mentally I could check out.
When I came back into the room Daddy was sitting in his chair. He was rubbing his head. He told me I was going to give him a heart attack because I was making him so angry. I just stood there. Daddy told me to sit down. I sat down on the piano bench. It was the piece of furniture that was the farthest away from him. After having to sit there for a good 20 minutes in silence watching Daddy rub his head he finally spoke. He told me he had an interesting call that day at work from his accountant. My heart stopped. What now? The accountant told Daddy he needed to re-do his taxes because they were done incorrectly. Daddy asked me why I had done them incorrectly. I told him I did them as he told me to do them. Daddy got mad and denied he had instructed me to do them incorrectly. He kept yelling, “Why would I instruct you to do them incorrectly?” Meanwhile, I knew he didn’t know how to do them and I think he had hoped the accountant would just take the information and do it for him. But, that didn’t happen. He finally told me to go to my room to think about what I had done. I was only allowed to return when I could tell him why I chose to screw up.
When in my room I knew I was going to be in there for a good while so I decided to go ahead and take a nap. After a couple of hours Daddy was really annoyed with me for not returning with my answer. He yelled for me to come downstairs. When I did he told me I was making him into a fool. I then had to sit there for another couple of hours while he told me I was worth crap and if I had given a damn, I would have done the work correctly. The best part was how he said I was trying to kill him because of the stress I had caused. He admitted he had bragged to the accountant that he had worked hard and spent countless hours working on his taxes which is why he said I made him look like a fool. He at least knew enough there was no way he could tell the accountant he had his 15 year old daughter do them. I have to tell you initially I liked he was made to look like the fool. But then he told me how his law practice would suffer all because of what I had done, so I ended up feeling terrible. It was amazing how he’d make me feel as if I had done something wrong when it was his fault.
I knew deep in my gut he was at fault but I refused to believe it. Daddy spent years brainwashing me and breaking down my spirit. I was young. I had created the dad I wanted in my head and I believed Daddy would become that father I desperately wanted. I held onto that hope for many many more years but it only resulted in many many more years of abuse and isolation.
As I continue to share my stories I hope there comes a growing understanding of how difficult it was for me to tell someone what was happening and why it was so hard to break free from it. It was not easy to come to a point of believing I had self worth and then to gain the courage to walk away from a parent I loved.