Sometime in November of 1986, Daddy came home from work to tell me we needed a vacation. As you could imagine I was very suspicious. It had been almost a year since Momma had died and I could count on both hands how often he came home. His suggestion seemed to be totally out of the blue which got me asking why. I mean, the only reason he’d come home was because he was fighting with his girlfriends and he had nowhere else to go. Coming home to be with me was never his first choice. So, why volunteer to take me on a vacation? There was never a time we spend together that didn’t include me having to hear his yelling or experience his name calling. And as time went on he had started do make himself heard through more physical means. Like hell did I want to torture myself by going on vacation with him.
I just couldn’t help being suspicious as to why he’d want to take me. Even at 16 years old I was well aware Daddy wasn’t choosing to take me on a trip out of the kindness of his own heart. He had an ulterior motive. He ONLY did things that gave him a direct return and benefit. But, what it was I just couldn’t figure it out. Regardless of why he was wanting to go with me, the fact was I didn’t want to go with him. The thought of not only being trapped in the car with him for G-d knows how many hours but to be in a strange place with him was even (as my son says) a worser thought. Hoping I could somehow make something up like having a school commitment on the date he wanted to leave, I asked him when he wanted to go. He stuttered (as if he really hadn’t thought about it) and then told me we were going the following weekend. I tried my hardest to get out of it making up all kinds of excuses. But, I could not change Daddy’s mind and he made it very clear we were going together. He told me we needed to spend more time together and it would be good for us to get away. My heart dropped. It wasn’t as if we could handle what time we did have together. I was worried and my gut was telling me this wasn’t going to be a good idea at all.
I absolutely HATED to be in public with Daddy and then to be far from home on top of it was not something I was looking forward to doing. Daddy’s outbursts in public, were incredibly embarrassing. I was somewhat numb to his yelling, berating and physical abuse at home but I wasn’t numb to other people’s reaction when Daddy did it in public. He always made a scene which caused people to stare at us. If there was someone standing near him while he was yelling at me, he would look at them for support. And god help me if that someone was a pretty woman. In those cases, watch out little lady because there was no stopping him wanting to hit on her. In those situations Daddy was like a wild lion with his eyes on fresh meat. He’d do whatever necessary to get his catch. In a weird warped way Daddy saw me as the way to lure them closer which allowed him to flirt and talk to her. In those cases where he saw a pretty woman nearby it wasn’t uncommon for him to suddenly break out into this poor widowed man raising his ungrateful and hateful teenage daughter. He really should have been on the big screen with these performances. He’d act sad and even rub his head if he thought that helped. Once when one of the pretty women he tried to involve told him he was out of line, he dismissed her saying she wasn’t worth his time. Gosh, I’ll never forget it. We were at the grocery store which were always memorable trips. He had to go down each isle even if he didn’t need anything on that isle. When he did need a product he’d calculate on his calculator which brand was the cheapest. Inevitably he’d punch in the wrong number and would have to do it over again. It took forever! This particular day while he was doing his calculations I went to the tampon isle to get a box. When I returned, I put the box in the buggy. Daddy looked up from his calculator and asked me how much was that box. When I told him, he told me that was way too expensive. He demanded I return it for a cheaper brand. I was so embarrassed because Daddy was being so loud. I whispered to him it was the only brand that worked for me. Daddy got louder and said,”What do you mean that’s the only one that works for you? That can’t be!” All I wanted to do was to run out of that store to never ever return. He raised his voice even louder and demanded I go do as he said. But instead of doing what he wanted I told him I’d get a cheaper box of tampons if he got a cheaper box of body soap. See, he’d only buy one brand which was Dove soap because he said it was the only soap that worked for him. So, I figured I could play that game too. I remember thinking how ridiculous the argument was but most arguments with Daddy were. Why did this one have to be different?
Daddy followed me to the tampon isle to assist me in finding a cheaper box. In fact he was going to do a demonstration (and loudly I might add) on how to figure it out on his calculator. I refused to listen and to get a cheaper box. When Daddy started arguing and threatening I could see a pretty young lady approaching. And just Daddy’s type too. You know thin, big boobs with some hips and we can’t forget the short skirt. Aw man! Why now? Why couldn’t she be ugly? Lady, hurry! RUN away while you can. It’s for your own good (and to keep down my own embarrassment too)!
It was too late. Daddy spotted her and had already checked her out from head to toe. He tried to engage the young woman in our argument. I could tell she was not happy with him and at first she tried to politely decline his offer clearly not wanting to get involved. Daddy was determined. He kept eying her legs and wasn’t discreet about it at all. I hated this. I was so uncomfortable. Daddy was not only looking for her support but more importantly he was on the prowl for another good fuck.
Finally, the pretty woman had enough. She told daddy he was an idiot who needed help. Secretly, I was cheering and saying,”You go pretty lady!” The best part for me was that Daddy didn’t even see her comment coming because in her Southern lady like way, she smiled the entire time. By the time she walked away though my guilt took over and I felt bad for Daddy. I found myself embarrassed for him.
Anyway from past experiences I knew I’d be blamed. And sure enough before we could get out of the grocery store Daddy was blaming me. He said if I had listened to him, the entire situation would not have happened. And if I had done as I was told he would not have had to recruit a stranger. So basically, it was me who made Daddy look like a fool. Because of instances like this one I was not looking forward to going on a long trip with him knowing what happened in the grocery store would happen on the road.
I was surprised when Daddy asked where I wanted to go on our trip. I loved the mountains and had thought that would be a good place to go. After all when Momma was alive we’d often go to the North Carolina mountains which held fond memories for me. So, if I was going to be miserable being with him at least I could be in a place I liked. He suggested going to Florida and asked what I thought about It. When I told him I wasn’t thrilled with Florida, he fired back saying St. Augustine would be the perfect place to go. Daddy had always liked going to the beach but that was not my cup of tea at all. He continued by telling me it was a very historical place and there would be lots to do there. He was so adamant about going to St. Augustine. It seemed so arbitrary to choose that city to take a vacation. I couldn’t remember taking family vacations there so it wasn’t even a usual spot to go. And St. Augustine was just as far as it would have been to go to the mountains. So, it wasn’t as if he could say it was closer. I just couldn’t help but think he had his own motive to go there and his reason was not for the sake of us bonding. Oh please! I felt even though he had asked for my opinion, he really didn’t care. His only suggestion was St. Augustine and once he suggested it that was it. I had to like it and be thankful. There was no discussion.
I was surprised when Daddy said we would be leaving so soon. Why? It just seemed so sudden. I thought it was all so strange and for whatever reason I felt this need to figure it out.
My first thought was he must have had a fight with all of his girlfriends because he would never choose to spend a weekend with me if he had other options. He just didn’t do things arbitrarily. He always had a reason and it always benefitted him. I just couldn’t figure out how going to St. Augustine could benefit him. I had theories of why but none of them were confirmed.
One thought I had was Daddy needed to get out of town because he owed someone money and they were looking for him. He owed many people money so this was certainly a viable reason for him to leave town. Maybe he got wind this someone he owed money to was coming into town a specific weekend which conveniently became the weekend we were leaving for St. Augustine. But, that wouldn’t account for why it had to be there except if Daddy had to leave town, was going where he wanted since the world revolved around him.
My other thought was his girlfriends were mad at him (possibly having broken up with him). In the day of no cell phones he wanted to get the girlfriends to worry about him. He figured if he disappeared and took me, his girlfriends would get worried when they couldn’t reach him. That still wouldn’t account for why it had to be St. Augustine. Daddy being so pushy about going there only added to my suspicion.
Many, many years later I found old slides from the 1950’s that could have been a clue. Daddy was vacationing with an unidentified woman and they appeared to be in Florida and possibly St. Augustine. That’s when I thought maybe the reason he wanted to go to St. Augustine was to reconnect with that woman. He probably took me as his prop. You know like getting puppy and taking it to the dog park to meet people. By having me with him he could use the excuse that I chose the location and while there he thought he’d look her up. Daddy was always impulsive and he never thought his plans through very well. The fact that everything was closed (off season) and it was too cold for the beach, I can’t imagine any teenager choosing to go to St. augustine. However, Daddy never asked for my opinion. This scenario would have made the most sense especially if his girlfriends had indeed broken up with him. He hated to be alone and he was always scheming to add another. It’s like the philosophy in the corporate world- you have better chances to bring back an old customers than you are with trying to get new ones. Using the same philosophy Daddy felt he would have a better chance of going after someone he had already dated than trying to meet someone new. It sounds crazy but that was my Dad for you- yes, crazy!
I dreaded the day we were leaving and it couldn’t come slow enough. And when it arrive it was very stressful. As I have explained in my other chapters Daddy had a procedure to doing everything and there was no changing it or speeding it up. Well, actually there was a little altering because on the days we needed to pack, he’d eat first, pack and then shower since he’d sweat so badly during packing process.
Each and every aspect of preparing to leave was a huge ordeal to say the least. First came breakfast which took a good two hours. There was the having to wait until his juice was at room temperature before he could drink it and then his usual preparation of his sardines, salad items and coffee. As I’ve said Daddy had an order and his entire breakfast would be ruined if it was altered in any way. And because Daddy always came first every family member had to do it his way. My sister and I were talking recently and even though so many years have passed, neither of us have forgotten the way in which Daddy did things. The thing is I suppose it wasn’t necessarily his process but it was his demand on us to do it his way. And if we didn’t we were incompetent, stupid or whatever else came to his mind to insult us.
OK, so after breakfast (as he got older and had more issues with his stomach) he’d have to go sit on the toilet to shit everything out that he had just eaten for breakfast. That was a good 45 minute process. After he was done on the toilet he would begin packing. To no surprise he had a very strict method to how things had to be packed. Because of that strict method there was no way he could pack the previous evening as he’d always tell me. Yes, I know. It doesn’t make sense but when it came to Daddy that was par for the course. Once he packed to a certain point he’d take his shower. The packing, showering and finishing packing was easily an hour in a half process, if not longer. It was incredibly aggravated the amount of time everything took when dealing with Daddy. However, no matter how frustrated I was G-d help me if I showed it on my face or in my behavior because that would make him really angry. However by now, I’m sure you’re asking yourself what didn’t make Daddy mad? And you know what? That was a great question.
The night before we were going to St. Augustine Daddy told me he wanted to leave in the morning by 9:00 am. He said I was to pack and be ready to leave by the time we ate breakfast. The next morning I did just as he asked and brought my suitcase down from my room on my way to breakfast. But as usual Daddy wasn’t ready at all. In fact he had not even started his morning routine which meant he hadn’t even packed. It was obvious we weren’t leaving at 9:00 am. As an attempt to speed things up I offered to clean up the kitchen from breakfast so Daddy could get ready. Since I knew it was going to be a good while before he would be back downstairs I went into the den to watch TV when I was done in the kitchen. I would have put my stuff into the car but that was not allowable. Only Daddy could pack the car because he had a specific way it had to be done. SURPRISE! And more than anything he hated when tasks were repeated for no reason. For example if I put my suitcase in his trunk and he had to take it out to put in his suitcase that was double the work which made him infuriated. So, there I sat waiting for Daddy. Soon I’d come to find out what a huge mistake that was as that was the day I had learned I was not allowed to sit and relax as long as Daddy wasn’t able. His spontaneous rules drove me INSANE! They were never consistent. What was a hard and fastened rule one day would change entirely the next day.
As I was watching TV I heard Daddy screaming my name from upstairs. As I had mentioned when Daddy called for me I had to get to where he was immediately. If I didn’t run quickly enough (according to his interpretation of quickly enough) he’d get angry. And if I didn’t hear him? Well, there was never an excuse for not hearing him.
I ran to Daddy’s room as fast as I could. I even skipped stairs to get to his room faster. Out of breath by the time I got to his room I thought I had gotten there in good time. But, once in his room his screaming showed I was clearly wrong. He was furious because he had to call for me twice and I came only after his second call. The entire time he yelled at me from bathroom he said I was extremely lucky he couldn’t reach me to hit the shit out of me. Once he was finished yelling at me for being too slow he asked if I had any idea why the hot water had run out. When I reminded him I had washed the dishes he yelled, “You are a total idiot for doing that before I took my shower!” I tried to talk to him. It was so crazy because just before he went upstairs I had started washing the dishes. In fact he told me to make sure the dishes were spotless before placing them in the dishwasher. And according to his rules that meant to use hot water. There was nothing I could say to diffuse his anger so I just stood there with out anything to say. What could I say? It was a good 15 minutes I stood there being yelled at by my beloved father. Finally, he had enough and told me to get out of his sight. He said my stupidity disgusted him. I went downstairs to continue to watch TV.
A good hour had passed when I heard Daddy’s bedroom door open. I could hear him dragging his suitcase down the stairs. When he came to the doorway of the den he angrily threw his bag down. I thought he was still mad at me for the hot water incident. I was totally surprised when he yelled, “What, are you the fucking princess around here that you have time to sit on your ass doing nothing?” I told him I had finished packing and was ready to go. He was red faced by this point and started pacing as an attempt to keep from being too angry. Yeah well no such luck. He was really angry. He started yelling that as soon as I heard him open his bedroom door I should have jumped up immediately to help him with his bags. And after I was to help him with his suitcase then I was to ask him what else needed to be done. So since I couldn’t think for myself, I was to follow him around the house while he finished getting ready to leave. I was to watch closely and without him having to tell me help him when he needed. It was a fine line though. If I helped too much he’d get pissed and if I didn’t help enough he’d get pissed. The hardest part for me was to pay attention. To keep my sanity I would often daydream about being somewhere else.
It seemed to take forever for Daddy to finish gathering his things for the trip and there I was following him like a lost puppy. If I stood too close he’d shove me away and if I was too far from him he’d grab me to pull me closer. And not being perceptive enough as to how I could help him, he’d throw items at me telling me to be useful and put it where he needed it. When he threw his shaving cream at me I was looking in the other direction. It hit me in the head pretty hard. I yelled, “What the hell, Daddy?” With a wicked smile on his face he told me I got what I deserved since I wasn’t paying attention.
While he packed the car I had to continue to follow him around. For every little thing I did or didn’t do he’d yell at me. I was so flustered and exhausted. My brain was mush.
Just before we we were ready to leave, Daddy asked me to go to his room to get his toiletry bag. Knowing I had only so much time to get it, I rushed upstairs to his room where I saw a toiletry bag on his bed and one in his bathroom. Which one was it? I looked at the one in the bathroom and could see it wasn’t packed. The one on his bed felt packed but to be sure I looked inside. Sure enough there was his toothpaste, toothbrush and other toiletries. At that point he was yelling at me because it was taking me too long. I remember thinking, “Now that’s calling the kettle black.” But, I did not say it out loud.
I grabbed his bag on the bed, ran downstairs and handed it to him. Daddy looked at the toiletry bag I handed to him, he threw it at me and yelled, “G-d dam-nit! You got the wrong one. Do I have to do everything around here?” As he told me to follow him back upstairs I tried to tell him the other bag one was in his bathroom but it wasn’t packed. He wouldn’t answer me. Once we got upstairs Daddy walked into his room and pointed towards his dresser. I was still in the hallway so I had to walk into his room to see. When I looked to see where he was pointing I was shocked to see another toiletry bag sitting on his dresser. I tried to explain he had one in the bathroom, one on his bed and that one on his dresser. How could I know which one to choose? I didn’t dare tell him I hadn’t even seen the one on his dresser. Daddy shoved me into his dresser telling me I was being disrespectful. Then, he told me to get the hell out of his sight because once again I was useless. Beyond frustrated, it was a pleasure to walk away from him. At least I could stop following him around. I waited in the car to keep out of his way.
Daddy finally got all of his stuff gathered, packed and put in the car by 2:00 pm. It truly had been the longest morning of my life. My brain was tired and my eyes were swollen from crying all morning. Thank G-d we were in the car on our way to get this hellish vacation over.