In August of 1989 I headed to New York to meet the group I’d be spending the next nine months with in Israel. As nervous as I was, I was as equally excited. I was looking forward to my experience and probably for different reasons than my fellow group members. My top two reasons were I would be able to have three meals a day and wouldn’t have to worry about working 50 hours a week so I could pay mine and Daddy’s bills. It would be the first time in many years where Daddy was not an obligation of mine and I didn’t have to feel guilty for it. And because of that I felt liberated in a way. I felt the real me could come out without any ramifications or worry. With Daddy I had to be guarded and even then it didn’t always make a difference. But, always better guarded than not. Here’s the thing though. I still couldn’t admit nor see where Daddy’s behavior was totally abusive. Well, I’m not sure how to explain what I was thinking at the time. It was warped and a way for me to cope. I viewed Daddy in two different lights. One I wanted to believe and one I knew him to be. And quite frankly, it was easier to want to believe he loved me and wouldn’t want to hurt me. It was so incredibly difficult to see the abuse to it’s full extent because then I’d have to lose another parent. And I know some would feel that would have been better than to endure the abuse but you have to understand. Daddy had spent years initially manipulating, isolating and verbally breaking me down. I didn’t have a parent to counter act that behavior. It was what I knew. Where all other people referred to the ceiling as a ceiling, Daddy taught us to call it a floor. Of course not literally but that’s how upside down my life was with Daddy. He viewed every single thing in life differently than anyone else. And if I only knew that one upside down way even as harmful as it was, I’d have to get away from him, see more of the world around me. Then, learn what was the right way. I must have known in my gut going on this program would allow me that opportunity because that time away really opened my eyes.
While in Israel Daddy moved yet again to another city. This one was bigger and considered the second largest city in the State. He found a place across from the court house. Part of it was Daddy’s living area and the other half was his office. He told me he found a place that had a bedroom for me and he had already put my things in it. I was touched. Listen, I missed Daddy and I knew he missed me. When we spoke even though long distant calls were expensive he took the time to hear my stories and all I was doing. We corresponded with each other too. I wrote him letters and Daddy, who never wrote, would send me tapes of him telling me what was happening. And the tapes weren’t any of the negative crap he burdened me with when I was home. He told me jokes that were told to him and other neat stories. I loved our interaction and started to believe Daddy had changed. During one of my letters I explained I wanted to go back to college as soon as I got home. Daddy never responded, so I brought it up to him during a call. He wasn’t responsive and told me we’d talk about it when I returned. Knowing Daddy didn’t have the money to pay for it, I made it clear to him I would find a way to do it myself. One thing he said which had alarmed me was he was looking forward to me helping him but he’d explain it when I got home. But, I think I was in such LaLa land from how he was treating me on the phone, I dismissed his comment.
When I returned to the States Daddy picked me up from the airport and he was on time. I will never forget the look on his face as I walked into the waiting area. He was thrilled to see me as I was to see him. He embraced me with one of his wonderful bear hugs and gave me a kiss. He told me he loved me and missed me. It was nice. I couldn’t believe I was home. I felt different. I felt older in many ways than age. While we were getting my luggage I started telling him about me wanting to go to college. I knew there was a University in the town he had moved, so I could live at home while attending. Daddy kept ignoring what I was telling him and evading my questions. I let it go. While out of the airport Daddy told me I had gotten fat. Without missing a beat I said, “Thank you. I see you have lost your charm with women. Oh and you look old.” He smiled and told me that would have been exactly what your Momma would have said. I felt I had more of a sense of power and self respect. Now, the fact I had gained weight was beside the point. In the scheme of things it was not the thing for Daddy to say to me.
It was night time when we arrived at Daddy’s place. I wasn’t so sure about the safety of where he lived. It was downtown and in an area known for it’s crime. But, thank goodness I didn’t know much of that until later. The building he had his office and home was an old building from the 1900’s. It was a duplex from that time period which meant the downstairs was one place and the upstairs was another. We parked in a parking lot that was used for parking by the other attorney offices in that area. We were going in the back door but had to head up a narrow few steps before he could unlock the door. Once inside he dead bolted it three times. Yeah, that did make me suspicious. Then, we had to go up a flight of unfinished steep, narrow stairs before we hit another door to unlock. Apparently, when this house was built, the back stairs was used as the service stairs. Daddy with another key unlocked the second door. It opened into his secretary’s office. He was excited for me to see his office. We walked out of the secretary’s office into a long hallway which had other rooms coming off of it. Daddy’s office was to the left with a supply closet to the right. Further down the hall to the left was a room filled with boxes of the things he hadn’t unpacked and had no room to put anywhere. Back in the hallway there was a room to the right and just after was a long staircase heading down to the front door where his clients would enter. Daddy opened that room next to the staircase and it was my room. He had my entire room set up. My concern though there wasn’t a bathroom and my room was in the office area. I mentioned to Daddy that I thought he had a different living quarters. He motioned for me to follow him. He closed my door and walked past the staircase to another door. When he opened it there was a living room area, a bedroom to it’s left and small dining area, a kitchen and bathroom. He then told me that was his living area. I then said, “Oh, so when I wake up in the morning and it’s after 8:30 I will have to get fully dressed to go to the bathroom?” That was when he said we needed to do some serious talking but it could wait until the next day when we were more awake. I knew something was a brewing. It was at that moment I remember making a commitment to myself that I was not going to give up my future for Daddy. I was going to get into college and get my degree to spite him. Meanwhile, I’d have to wait for the next day before I’d know how his plan for me differed from mine. He told me to go ahead and get some sleep because we have to be up early. Um, you mean you have to be up early? Why in the hell did I need to be up? I gave Daddy a strange look. He said, “You see where your room is. I am running an office here. I can’t have you wake up whenever you decide running around in your night clothes while I have clients. And plus, there’s lots to be done that you need to do.” AH HA! So, that was his plan. I was mad and told him I wanted to go to school. He started to get angry and told me I was a brat because I expected him to pay for it. I refused to engage in the argument with him and simply told him goodnight and went to bed.
The next day I woke up around 11. I could hear Daddy talking to another man but I didn’t know who it was. I needed to go to the bathroom but remembered it was in Daddy’s section. So, because he was trying to run an office I got fully dressed. As soon as I opened the door Daddy nicely yelled down the hall, “And the beauty queen is finally awake.” Before I could get to the other door to go into his apartment he told me he wanted to I introduce me to his secretary. Well, the other man’s voice I heard was his secretary. I liked him a lot. He would always stand up for me when he could. After I got dressed Daddy told me we needed to meet and he was having his secretary sit in with us. What the hell? I knew things weren’t going to go as I wanted. And I was stuck because all of my money in savings was gone. I was at the whim of my dad and that realization scared the hell out of me.
As the three of us sat there in Daddy’s office he explained that he had just started his law practice in this town. He needed time and help building it up and he could see lots of wonderful things happening (but only with my help). After a good 30 minutes of the cheerleader talk I asked him what help did he have in mind. What could I have possibly done to help him? That’s when he told me I was to do whatever needed to be done. My response to him? I said, “No Daddy. I want to go to school and if I don’t do it now I never will.” He was not happy and took a glance at his secretary. I asked Daddy why it was necessary that the secretary be there. He told me it was for his protection. Just at that moment as he said that, I felt my face turn red with total rage wanting to spew out from my insides. I hadn’t felt that in a long time and thought it had gone away. I wanted desperately to not show it. See, I knew he had set me up. He wanted the secretary to see I was the problem and not him. Thankfully, the secretary stepped in and suggested Daddy let me at the very least get the information on school. And if he didn’t have to fork over any money, then what harm would it do. I was certain he didn’t expect that from his secretary but I was grateful. Daddy told me I was to get that information and have it ready to present to him in 3 days. I told him only if I can get the I information in that time. He responded, “If you want me to consider it, you’ll have it ready in 3 days.” OK, so 3 days it would be whether I could get all of it or not I was going to have something that was for sure.
After Daddy adjourned our meeting I left immediately and headed to the University’s financial aid department only after finally going to the bathroom first. The woman who I would need to speak with happened to be there. I couldn’t believe I had a bit of luck. She sat with me for a good hour explaining how it all worked. She told me I’d have to be independent from my parents for 2 years before I could apply for any aid myself. She explained that I’d have to file my own taxes for two years which would be the proof of my independence. But, because Daddy had been filing his taxes with me as his dependent, I would need his tax forms to file for any aid. I was worried because I wasn’t sure Daddy would give me a copy of his tax form to show he was making under a certain amount allowing me to receive financial aid. I told her my concerns. She told me to talk with him and if there was a problem to talk to her again. I knew I’d be back.
I was really nervous the day we were to meet. I couldn’t believe I was practically having to beg Daddy to go to college but instead he wanted me for himself. At the time we met wouldn’t you know that Daddy had his secretary doing other things. Dammit! I was hoping I’d have him there for support. So, I told Daddy what the woman said at the financial aide office. And just as I expected he told me there was no way in hell he was going to “share” his tax forms with anyone. He then went off on how his Social security number is a private number not to be shared with anyone. Prepared for that answer I asked if he would please stop filing me as a dependent. Worse case scenario I’d have to work for a few years and go then. Daddy was furious and started yelling at me. The secretary came into his office and asked what in the world was so bad he had to yell like he was. Daddy told him and he said, “Yep, that’s how it works. Why are you so angry at MaLea?” Daddy’s face was red with anger. He told me to get the hell out of his office. I was angry myself and yelled as I walked out of his office,”I just want to go to school and I can’t believe you are fighting me.”
I was trapped in Daddy’s house. I didn’t know anyone where he had moved and I had no money. I had to figure out something. Lucky to have the secretary on my side after about a month of continuous talks and fights, Daddy said he’d pay for one semester of school and if I needed his taxes for the next quarter, he’d send the school the copy. He would not give it to me. However, there was a catch. I would need to help him around the office when I wasn’t in class. I was to get up by 7:30 and ready to go by 8:30. And if I helped him he’d actually pay me $7.00 an hour. I felt I had no choice so I agreed. Since it was too late to enroll in Fall classes I did so for the Winter quarter.
Daddy never had specific jobs for me and would come up with them arbitrarily. Once he asked that I straighten the room with the boxes. I was to find specific items, get them from the boxes and then neatly stack the boxes. I was supposed to get paid after each job but after each job Daddy had an excuse why he couldn’t pay me. I needed the money because I needed to buy things. I needed shampoo, toothpaste and other toiletries. So, every time I had to go to him to ask for money. But, he would never just hand it over. He’d ask me what I needed it for. If I told him I needed to get something from the drugstore, he’d want to know specifics. I had to tell him exactly what I needed before he’d give me any money. Meanwhile, technically it was the money he owed me anyway.
From the time I came back from Israel Daddy’s behavior seemed more erratic. However, he probably was the same but being away for so long allowed me to recognize it. The odd thing though was all of his girlfriends had left him except for one. But, she was a new one. Maybe, it was a little bit of both? Who knows but what I did know was he was angrier than ever and the next months would be some of my hardest.